Sunday, July 31, 2011

shrimp boil

I love shrimp. Have I ever told you that? I really love shrimp. I like shrimp boiled. I like it fried. I like it broiled. I like shrimp blackened. I like it dipped in cocktail sauce with a lot of horseradish. I like shrimp on top of grits or with french fries. I love shrimp and hushpuppies. I also like a good shrimp boil and have been privileged to eat yummy food from a shrimp boil two different times this summer.

A couple of weeks ago, we drove out to our friend's house that is about 45 minutes away. We arrived to a big tub of ice filled with various drinks. I had been to my photography class that morning so I was practicing fun shots - I think this one was pretty cool! The shrimp boil was delicious - filled with yummy potatoes and little tiny bites of corn. We had oriental slaw as a side. I have never seen anything like what happened though - you know when you are eating outdoors, you usually have to fight off a few flies . . . .but on this night, every single time we uncovered the food, a horde of flies descended. Not just a few would arrive, but hundreds. I'm surprised you can't see someone's arm fanning the food in this picture!!

During the evening, some backyard fishing occurred. If you look really hard and squint your eyes and use your imagination, you can actually see the lake that is behind their house. But these guys weren't lake fishing, they were backyard fishin'! Mark asked Jason to give him some fly fishing lessons. Actually, I think he asked him to critique his fly fishing technique. Mark started whipping that line back and forth and Jason said, "Mark, you are doing it right. I don't think you need any more instruction."

If you look closely in this one, you can see the lake through the trees on the right side of the picture - look closely now.

It was a hot night, but they had ceiling fans underneath the deck. The fans kept a nice gentle breeze blowing but I do remember having some sweat running down the middle of my back!

Here is a picture of Jason in "instructor mode" - fly fisherman extraordinaire!

Jason was a like a magnet for the men that night. They all had to talk about it and discuss it.

Jason is giving some major instructions in this one. He is pointing that finger!!

We all participated in the dinner that night. Mark made his momma's homemade ice cream - the kind where you cook the custard on top of the stove and then chill the mixture overnight and then freeze it in the White Mountain ice cream freezer. He did a great job and it was delicious. Phella made a peach and blueberry cobbler which was also yummy. Nothing says summer like a cobbler with fresh fruit and homemade ice cream! We also had a yummy buffalo chicken dip that Bonnie prepared for our appetizer (it is ALL gone in the pictures!)

This was another of my practice shots with my camera. I think it turned out really cool, too. Donna had seen the Mason jars with candles in a magazine. She added the colored marbles around the base of the candle. I loved the idea so much that I went out and bought some jars (couldn't find Mason - had to buy Ball jars!) and used them last week and I am using them again this week for our centerpieces for our Tuesday night dinner.

While we were sitting outside talking, I could remember being a little kid and sitting on my granny and grandpa Walls screened in front porch. It would be hot like it was on this night. The adults would be talking about all sorts of things - I'm sure they were talking about things that I didn't understand. On this night we sat outside in the heat, slapped at a few mosquitoes, enjoyed the glow of candlelight and the whisper of the ceiling fans and we talked . . .and talked . . .and talked. We laughed a lot, too!! We could hear the cicadas in the woods just like when I was a little girl. What a special night with special friends.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Did you change your shirt?

A few weeks ago, we were invited to our friend's house to celebrate a birthday dinner with them. Mark and Gary have a tendency to dress alike on Sunday mornings . . .and lo and behold, we showed up and Mark and Gary were dressed alike again!! At some point during the evening, Gary came out of their bedroom with a different shirt on . . .he said that he spilled something on it :-) Such good friends. This picture just makes me feel good!!
Gary and Dona's island in the kitchen is the perfect place for serving food. It was fun being there with all of their family and also a few other friends. We've been friends since maybe 2004 and we feel like family. Dona would not allow me to bring a single thing for dinner that night. They had barbecue and baked beans and potato salad. They made homemade fresh salsa and they had chips for dippin'. Jan (Dona's daughter) made tomato and cucumber salad . . .man, I love that stuff. Everything was delicious.

This was the main reason for the celebration. Dona's mother and Dona's daughter both have birthdays right together. This was a multi-generational party!! There were four generations of women from Dona's family there that night. I just can't imagine what it would be like to still have a momma and daddy. I just love being invited to celebrate with them . . .it gives me just a taste of what it would be like to have my parents still living. Momma died when I was a sophomore in high school . . .and I can't really remember celebrating any of her birthdays. I wonder if she had to bake her own cake. Daddy lived until I was 25 . . .and I'll have to think really hard to see if I can remember any of his celebrations. I have a vague memory floating around . . .seems like Glenine (my oldest sister) bought him a bright yellow grill one time. I don't remember my dad ever cooking anything on a grill . . .I'll have to ask my sisters. (Becky - are you reading?) Dona's little daddy is sitting between the two birthday girls. He is so cute. His picture was actually in a National Geographic Magazine during World War II (I think that is right). He and his twin (yes, more twins - we are surrounded by twins) brother both flew airplanes . . .One of Dona's parents doesn't see well and the other one doesn't hear well . . what a team!! Jan and her husband and kids had spent the day in their boat . . .and Jan is brown as a berry!!

It was a fun night filled with good conversation, lots of laughter and really good food. It sure is nice to be included as "family."

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

You are special! Yes, you are!!

I was looking back through picture folders and saw two different birthday celebrations . . .on Tuesday nights!! Kelly's mom sent a beautiful cake for Kelly's birthday and we had balloons and we sang Happy Birthday!!

Then just recently, Amy celebrated her birthday. Lynn and Emma were our bakers for the week and they had provided cupcakes - perfect for my cupcake holder. I found the cutest long skinny funky candles.

Amy and I are alike in the fact that we both love balloons. They make us happy!!

Happy birthday Kelly and Amy! You are both special to us!!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Say Cheese . . .Act natural . . .what setting?

I have a camera with me almost all the time (I guess you can tell that by the number of pictures on my blog). I know it irritates folks . . .but after attending the funeral of Bill F., a man who was just a few years older than I, I decided that I was going to "amp up" the picture taking. I want to remember all of these life events - both big and small. What might seem insignificant to others might be important to me.

So last year, I bought my trusty Canon Rebel T1i and I love it. I've never taken a photography class in my life and I've just been winging it (and yes, I know my lack of expertise shows!!). My friend Kevin graciously gave some coupons to a series of photography classes to me. The classes started last weekend. The first class was just so-so. The presenter was fine but not excellent. He was personable and knowledgeable about cameras.
This Saturday was the second class. It was photography 101 and the guy above was the instructor and he was fantastic. He was funny and knowledgeable and a great presenter. We actively participated in the class. We were working on continual focus in the picture above. He also had the class participants line up in two lines and focus our cameras on each other . . .walking forward and backward to see the differences. I feel like I learned a lot. He taught us all sorts of things to make our photographs better. I made lots and lots of notes. My problem is that when I go to take a picture, I can't remember everything. I think that might be a problem with middle-aged minds! He also taught us about the rule of thirds in photography and about "framing" our photos using natural elements or windows, etc. The class was interesting and the two hours early on a Saturday morning flew by.

I took quite a few pictures on Saturday afternoon and evening. This is in our little flower bed in front of the house. I like this picture. I "sort of" got the thirds - the right tip of the butterfly wing and the outside left edge of the flower. I was trying to take the picture with his wings open . . .

I finally got the picture but the handrail on the steps is visible. But just look at that butterfly. Look at the exquisite detail. I'm so glad that God not only created all of the animals and insects but that he took the time to make many of them so beautiful.

I really like this photo. Not sure that I got any of the techniques right in this one but I like it anyway!

We have two more classes and the last class will be taught by this same man and I'm really looking forward to what I can learn. We actually have homework this week! I need to get busy. Actually, there is a reason why I took copious notes . . .I've already forgotten the details of the assignment. I remember that it is to take 10 pictures of something . . .but I can't remember the details!! Thank goodness for notes!!

Friday, July 22, 2011

free give away!!

Look at this print!! It is so cute and it makes me smile and I would love to win one!! Check it out at . . .and you can register to win also~!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Celebrate L.I.F.E.!!

My sweet mother-in-law's birthday was on Monday. We usually celebrate ALL family birthdays on Sunday but decided to celebrate on the actual day this year. George and Alice offered to host and Alice planned a great menu. She bought a honey baked turkey and I made a "baked potato salad." I wasn't sure it was going to be good but it was actually delicious. The recipe was in our church cookbook. Alice also made a salad that was lettuce and a chopped granny smith apple and walnuts and feta cheese. It was yummy!! I bought a caramel cake at the Pig (which was the cake she wanted!). I decorated it with lots of pecan halves.

I snapped a few photos before dinner while everyone was sitting around chatting. I was practicing some of the techniques that I learned in my photography class last Saturday - like using the right settings on the camera :-) I think this one is wonderful of Grandmother (that is what I call my mother-in-law) and Grace (my niece).
This was the crew sitting around in the living room. Starting on the left - grandmother and Grace and then George and Uncle John and Mark and Laura.

I used the "close-up" setting to take the photo of the candles.

Grandmother was a good sport about blowing out the candles!!


Alice made a pretty centerpiece. I love those sunflowers.

The birthday girl had lots of presents!

Bill and Rebecca watched grandmother open her gifts.

Look at that cool lamp behind Alice. I think it is so unique. Alice has lots of neat pieces of furniture and fun decorations that she has "inherited" from her family.

What a great day! Another year celebrated in the life of a wonderful southern lady. I hear many of my friends complain about their mother-in-laws - as a matter of fact, I've even heard about the "mother-in-law from hell." I'm not saying that I NEVER complain about grandmother because I do . . .because that is just life . . .BUT I think that Alice and Rebecca and Bob and I have one of the best mother-in-laws around.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Such a Holy Place

We are having our Summer Week of Prayer at Trinity United Methodist Church. We have emailed a prayer a day to the congregation. Our staff members have prayed some incredible prayers!! Our chapel is always open for prayer and our prayer list is sent to the prayer warriors twice a week. But for this special week, we borrowed a portable labyrinth from another large UMC in our area and it is set up in our gym for the entire week. (I have to give Mark a lot of love on the set up - he crawled on his hands and knees on that hard gym floor to put the whole thing together for me on Saturday - such a good husband!)(I have to tell you that I had on a black skirt and nice top yesterday and layed on my belly on the nasty gym floor to take these pictures . . .I was so hoping that no one would come in while I was lying there!!!)

So you might wonder, "What is a labyrinth?" "Is that a Christian thing to do?" Well, a labyrinth is a series of winding paths - a long walkway that finally leads you to the center. You pray (so yes - it is very Christian - labyrinths have been used for a couple of thousand years!!) as you walk "in" and as you pray, you release those sins that hold you back. You can actually pray anything you want - there are no rules. Yesterday as I walked "in," I prayed for my family. I prayed for a teaching job for Laura. I prayed for Glenn and Lauren to find a home church in their new town and for them to find a group of Christian friends. I prayed for our young adults on Tuesday night. I prayed for forgiveness of my sins. I prayed for the John Wesley class and I prayed that God would use me as teacher and facilitator. I spent a lot of time with God talking about all sorts of things. When I reached the middle . . .which is a place that kind of represents a moment of grace from God (those are my words - not a true definition) I cannot describe the sense of peace that I felt.

As you walk back out, you pray for God to prepare you for the world - to be his hands and feet. You can pray for him to lead your steps (I always have to pray something like this, "Lord lead me instead of allowing me to rush through my day dragging you along behind me.")

Yesterday was one of the times that I was "working" the labyrinth (the staff person sitting down there with it so the candles don't catch anything on fire). A young man came and walked the labyrinth while I was working and as he made his way toward the center, I felt as if the "air" in the gym changed - I can't put it in words exactly. When he got to the center, he sat down cross-legged in the middle with his back to me. At that moment, our gym was transformed into one of the most holy places on this earth. As I've retold that story this morning, I have chill bumps all over. I actually picked up my laptop and stepped outside the gym because it was obvious that he was having some important time with God and it was even more obvious that God was with him. I've been a Christian pretty much all my life and God still amazes me. It is amazing that a dirty old gym (actually ours is pretty decent!) with a piece of canvas on the floor and a few candles can be the holiest place on earth for a few moments.

The labyrinth will be in place through Sunday night at 8:00 p.m. We have to whisk it away at that time because our Vacation Bible School starts early the next morning. I'm working again on Sunday night from five until eight . . .and I can't wait to see what God has in store for those who come . . . .and maybe for me. (if you live anywhere close by, come on over - we would love for you to walk the labyrinth)

Monday, July 11, 2011

one of my favorite "toys"

Two years ago Mark (with my help!) bought one of my all-time favorite birthday presents. I wish I had more time to use this wonderful machine but it seems like my time is running away :-) The silhouette SD is a "cutter." I have a program in my laptop and I open a new document much like you do in Microsoft word or other similar programs. I can then add all sorts of designs which I have already downloaded into my own library or I can purchase a new design for about $1 from a website and immediately download (or is that upload?) it and use a new design. Technically, I think I can even design my own but the odds of that happening are slim to none! Last weekend I was determined to use my machine to make thank you cards for several folks. I've used the machine for making baby shower invitations (which were cut into the shape of a "onesie") and I have made lingerie shower invitations which were cut into the shape of bustiers (I had to look up how to spell that and I typed in "how to spell bustier" and the first hit was so funny - someone had written, "how do you spell booost-tee-aye" - found my answer and I was right all along!). I made the invitations for the Baby Recognition Sunday at church on my machine last year. I've used the silhouette SD for scrapbooking (which was the use for which the machine was originally purchased) but I can't seem to find the time to scrapbook anymore.

These cards weren't my very best efforts simply due to time . . .but the red one on the far right has fireworks and the top green one has a giant pink cupcake. The yellow one has a place setting thanking Drew for taking me to lunch for my birthday. The one to the right of the yellow one has a bright sun - thanking Mollie and Roger for a wonderful day at the lake. I tried to make most of the cards "fit" the reason for the thank you note. Karen's just has yellow circles left over from the inside of the suns. Hers was the last one I made and it wasn't fancy.

I know why hand-made things always cost so much. Even with a machine to do the cutting and even using simple designs, I worked all of Saturday afternoon into the evening making these. Now I must admit that I derived much much pleasure from the time spent creating so it wasn't a "chore" at all but as I was working I was thinking about how much "fancy" greeting cards cost. Mine weren't "fancy" but they were from the heart.

I love writing and I love receiving thank you notes - that definitely sounds like the musings of a middle-aged mom!!

Fourth of July Fun

Thanks to Mark's first cousin Mollie and her husband, Roger, we always spend the Fourth of July on Lake Mitchell. Mark's immediate family and Mollie's family have always been close. When they were all growing up, they lived on the same street. We are always together on Christmas Day night for dinner (along with a few other folks) and then Mollie always invites us for the Fourth. Mark and I are almost always the first to arrive. This year, I helped for a few minutes in the kitchen when we first arrived and then went outside to sun bathe!! We all play for a while and then come in to eat a feast. Everyone brings something so we have a ton of food.

That is Nancy on the left (Mollie's sister - also I am married to Mark because Nancy invited him on a canoe trip many many years ago - I knew Nancy before I knew Mark!!) Mark is serving something onto his plate. You can see Mollie on his right. Grace is in the background and George is sort of blurry. Laura's friend Dustin was invited this year. Mollie is always so gracious to let us bring folks along.

I love getting together because it is so multi-generational. At this gathering, Grace was the youngest (she is in middle school) and I guess Aunt Mary is the oldest. Aunt Mary and Susie (my mother-in-law whom I call "grandmother") are sister-in-laws. Aunt Mary was married to Susie's brother, Uncle Billy. Just last week, someone was asking me to tell them once again how we are all related.

Nancy's three girls always bake some fun treats. I loved their cupcakes made into a flag. They did a great job.

I think I caught Aunt Mary with food in her mouth but I still think this is a sweet picture of the sister-in-laws. They both have on their red, white and blue.

There is a great sunroom where many of us spend time. There is a ceiling fan so when you get too hot outside, you can come in and cool off a little. The older ones (not in this picture) usually sit in this room because they can see all of us down on the water and they have the pretty view.

These girls are so much alike - Laura and Lydia. They like a lot of the same things and even though quite a few years separate them, they have always had a sweet friendship in addition to being related!!

I walked out on the boathouse and saw Laura and Dustin reading. Laura is reading The Hobbit which I find really interesting. The Hobbit is not usually the kind of book she reads. Maybe Dustin is broadening her horizons.

They have built this wonderful screened in porch on top of the boathouse. We had not been outside playing but an hour or so and Laura came in bleeding. When they were little there was no screened in porch and it was a right of passage for everyone to jump off the top of the boathouse - even I have jumped off - ONCE - but I've done it!! Laura was going to jump and there is just a tiny tin ledge and she was perched out there and George came up behind her like he was going to push her in and she jumped . . .and caught her foot on that corrugated tin and sliced it open. Since we were surrounded by medical folks (two doctors and a nurse), she was in good hands. They determined that she didn't need stitches but she did have to get a tetanus shot on Tuesday.

Later in the day, I was sun bathing and a horse fly landed on my leg and bit me . . .and my skin reacted in a weird way. It made a huge red raised place on my leg (that has not totally cleared up). I was going to the dermatologist anyway last week so I asked him to look at it and he gave me some prescription steroid cream samples which helped tremendously. I was sitting in a beach chair on the little pier reading a book when he bit me. As I slapped him away, he pulled off my leg and blood ran down my leg. Nancy (nurse) was in the water on a noodle and she yelled, "Put your diet coke on it." I even questioned this. I said, "Put my diet coke on it?" She said, "Yes." So I opened my diet coke and poured some on my leg and she started laughing. She said, "No. I meant put the cold can against the bite!!" I said, "Well, I thought that sounded weird to pour Diet Coke on a sting/bite but I thought that you would know what to do since you are a nurse." When I told the story to Laura, she said, "And people wonder why I am the way I am." I know this is not nearly as funny to you as it was to me but even typing it, I am chuckling again.

I thought that since we didn't have any little kids . . .no one would need band-aids and first aid. Wrong!

I came on back home with Laura and Dustin but Mark stayed a few hours longer. He just felt that Mollie had done so much work to get ready for us that he needed to stay with his family. We had beautiful weather all day at the lake, but while we were driving home it started raining and rained all the way. When Laura and Dustin dropped me off, I took a quick shower and changed clothes and drove to our friend's house. We ate dinner together - wonderful grilled burgers and all sorts of sides and dessert (I took the dessert that is made with ice cream sandwiches and cool whip and chocolate syrup and caramel syrup). Then we all walked up to the crest to watch Thunder on the Mountain - the local fireworks show. It had rained a good bit that afternoon but it stopped just in time for the fireworks. I don't know why . . .but I love fireworks.

The Fourth of July was spent with family and good friends and it was such a great day. I am happy to live in a country where we are free to live and worship and I am thankful for the men and women who have fought for that freedom. My daddy was a SeaBee and I am thankful for him and wish I could tell him!!

Here is a picture of the fireworks and you can see the little (though he is really big) statue of Vulcan just to the left.

It was a good day!!

Click! Whirr! Spin really fast! Beep! Beep! Beep! Unlevel - the machine or me? or both?

Our washing machine died a couple of weeks ago. It was such a good machine. I think it lasted 19 years. Before shopping, I sent out a plea on facebook - should I buy a front loader or not. The responses were amazing. A few folks liked them but more folks hated them . . .and the ones that hated the front loaders had some good feedback. So we went to Sears and I went to the cheapest ones. I had been looking on Consumer Reports and had just decided to get an cheapie. Well, Mark was with me and he said, "Let's buy a more expensive one than that." So we bought the Whirlpool Cabrio. It cleans and operates very similarly to a front-loader but the top doesn't "seal" so there is not supposed to be a problem with that mildew smell. So far so good!

I'm having to really re-think the way I do laundry. You can see my paper plate signs beside the washer. Clean out all pockets and do not overload. You also have to "sort" more - I've always mixed towels and sheets but this machine does better if you really separate stuff. As a matter of fact, I washed a t-shirt in with some towels the other day and it didn't do too well.
When you put the clothes in and pick all the settings and push start, the machine squirts a little water into the tub and then you hear "click" . . .and the top has locked. I did figure out how to stop it and open it to add something this weekend. This washing machine makes all sorts of interesting noises while it runs. When it spins, it SPINS so fast! At the end of the cycle, it beeps several times to get your attention. This machine is supposed to be energy efficient and it is supposed to use way less water. That is one of the things that I'm having just a little bit of a hard time getting used to. Yesterday, Mark wanted to wash his dirty farm clothes from Saturday. In my old machine, I would have made sure the water level was over the clothes. You can't pick the water level in this machine . . .you just have to trust!! They seem to be clean.

This morning, I was washing our sheets and a blanket before work. The blanket drifted over to one side and the machine started rocking . . .and then stopped. I walked into the laundry room (I didn't take a picture of this) and where that 17 is in the above picture . . .instead of a number, there were letters - "U L" . . .I guess this means unlevel (by this time it was after 8:00 and I needed to be at work by 8:30 so I didn't have time to find the manual and look up U L) . . .and the machine had stopped. I had to take the time to open the lid and spread everything back out and start again.

My day has been a little "U L" . . .unlevel . . .I kept hitting the snooze button this morning and so after getting up 30 minutes later than normal, I didn't have time to read my Bible and pray. I sent three BIG work emails from home (by remote access) and I did a load of laundry and I started the dishwasher and I got ready for work . . .but I didn't take that time with God. So my day has been "unlevel." I've found myself irritable and a little grumpy and so I've stayed in my office quite a bit :-) When I get home, I need to take a few minutes and spend them with God . . .and adjust my load. He is willing to help. . . .maybe tomorrow I'll even take the time to walk the prayer labyrinth.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Girl's Night Out

While we were at the beach, my friend Lynn called (actually I think she sent me a text message)and asked if I would like to go to Brio the next week for dinner to celebrate my birthday Since Mark doesn't like Italian food, I love to go to Brio with girlfriends!! I know that they have all sorts of things that don't have marinara sauce or Alfredo sauce - he hates both of those sauces and is not particularly fond of pasta. We had been married for years before he told me that. He always ate whatever I put in front of him. Such a good husband. He will go to Brio if everyone else in the group picks that restaurant but it is definitely not his favorite. I, on the other hand, love it!! Lynn posted the "event" on facebook and announced it in Sunday School. We ended up with a nice group of girls. We've had girl's night out several times but it is usually a movie night - chick flick!! We always end up with about the same number of folks each time but not the same people. We belong to a huge class so it is nice to do things in smaller groups sometimes.

So here we are waiting at our table. Even though it was a weeknight, the restaurant was still fairly crowded. We had a long table and Brio is a fairly noisy restaurant . . .so unless you got up and walked around the table, you were only able to chat with those sitting on either side of you. On my left was Angela (and she isn't in the picture!) and then Frances and Phella and Laura and Kim. Lynn and Dona and Jan and Donna N. were all on the other side of the table . . .did I take another picture of the other side of the table? No - I guess I put the camera down and started talking . . .or maybe the peach Bellini made me forget to take pictures!!

I kept asking everyone, "What are you ordering?" I changed my mind numerous times so it was probably a good thing that it took us a long time to place the order. The problem was that I wanted a salad and an entree' and most everyone else was getting just a salad or just an entree'. Since we were celebrating my birthday, I decided to go for it and I ordered my favorite . . .the lettuce wedge salad. I remember going on a cruise when I was about 20 years old and I remember that Hub Lane ordered a lettuce wedge salad quite often and I couldn't understand why anyone would order a "hunk" of iceberg lettuce. Well, maybe it is because I'm old now . . .or maybe it is because Brio is a nice restaurant . . .who knows why . . .but I love lettuce wedge salad. It is so crisp when you cut and bite. The flavors mix together so well!! I ordered an entree' too but for the life of me, I can't remember what I ate!!

We asked our waiter to take our picture. I handed the camera to him and showed him how to take the picture. Simple, right? Well, it flashed three times and I was thinking to myself - good job - now we will have several to pick from . . .not so. I turned to Angela and pressed the button so we could view the picture . . .and there was a picture of goats - yes, old goats - not a group of beautiful women (hee hee!) but old goats. What a trick. How did he do that? He didn't . . .for some reason, there were no new pictures on the camera. I think he only pushed the button halfway which focuses but doesn't snap the picture. So Jan (Dona's daughter who came to celebrate with us) took our lovely picture. I ran around to the other end of the table so she could get everyone into the frame . . .and ta-dah!! We have a picture of everyone minus Jan.

We had so much fun that we are thinking of going out to dinner once a month to celebrate birthdays of the month.