Friday, August 31, 2012

Chicken Cheese Ball & other dips

One of my new favorite appetizer recipes is for a "Chicken Cheese Ball" but I keep doubling it and then it is so large that I make it into a bowl of chicken cheese dip. It is really yummy and it is so stinkin' easy to make. Ingredients:
2 large cans of all white meat chicken breast
1 package dry ranch seasoning mix
2 blocks of lite cream cheese, softened (I rarely buy the full fat - I don't think fat free would work in this recipe)
Put the two blocks of cream cheese in the mixer and add dry ranch seasoning and whir until mixed.
Drain chicken and add to mixer and give it a another mix or two.
Shape into ball (if using the above recipe but if doubled, shape into a tupperware bowl and on a long skinny tray into a log shape).
Cover with chopped pecans.
Serve with triscuits or ritz crackers. Delish!!

My friend, Marietta, gave me another recipe that is one of my favorites. I've made changes to the amounts, etc. over the years but it is still her recipe and one of my favorites -- especially served with fritos (it is dangerous to bring fritos into our house!!!)
Sausage/Cream Cheese Rotel Dip
4 8-oz packages of cream cheese (I use light)
2 16 ounce tubes of breakfast sausage (such as Jimmy Dean) - one hot/one mild
2 cans of Rotel, drained (Diced tomatoes and green chilies) - I drain into a cup and usually add most of the liquid back in after it cooks a few minutes.
Cook sausage in a skillet.
Drain sausage and then add cream cheese and Rotel into the skillet and allow to melt. This can be done in a crockpot (cook the sausage first).
It is wonderful.

Another great finger food that includes sausage is this:
two pounds of sausage (one hot/one mild)
2 blocks of cream cheese
2 tubes of crescent rolls
2 cups of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
brown two pounds of sausage (1 hot/1 mild) and add 2 bricks of cream cheese (after draining sausage). Spread one roll of crescent rolls (the kind in the tube on the biscuit aisle) in bottom of 9 X 13 pan sprayed with pam.
Spread sausage and cream cheese mixture on top of crescent rolls and add 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese.
Top with second tube of crescent rolls.
Bake at 350 until done (top will be golden brown) --- about 25-30 minutes.
Cut into wedges - delish!!!   If I take this to Sunday School or to a breakfast meeting, it disappears quickly.

Last one - my daughter made this last year for Halloween and I didn't think I would like it and as a matter of fact, was not too sure after taking my first bite - then I loved it on the 2nd bite. (so remember that)
Black Bean, Corn and Feta dip
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can shoe peg corn, drained
1 6 ounce package crumbled feta cheese
4 green onions, chopped
Mix together in bowl.
Now whisk together:
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2-3 Tablespoons of sugar
Pour over bean/corn mixture and mix gently. Chill. Serve with tortilla chips.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Love, laughter and good food

I think this picture is great! Kim and Laura are both laughing. I love to be with friends who laugh a lot! Our lives are all crazy - we have grown kids and we work and we have struggles and sometimes health concerns but we love to laugh together. We have laughed at some of the craziest stuff over the years. I have no idea what they are laughing about - they probably bonged heads when I told them to put their heads together like the young girls always do.

Looks like Phella and guy and Allen are discussing something really important here - I have no idea what - possibly lighting issues . . .and is someone standing in front of Guy???  Oh yes - I just enlarged the picture - that is our friend, Fred.  He and Liz joined us on this evening for supper.  That is my cute basket in the front of the picture with the pink polka dot napkins.  I tried a new recipe -- Chicken Cheese Ball - delicious and easy!!  The ingredients are:
2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (1 ounce) package ranch dressing mix

1 (5 ounce) can chunk chicken, drained

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix the cream cheese, ranch dressing and chicken . . .I think I used the really large can of white chicken (or maybe even two cans), drained.  I always change recipes and I hate when I forget to write down the changes.  I mixed it with my mixer and it did well.  I mixed the cream cheese (and I used light) and dry ranch dressing first and then added the chicken and mixed again.  It was yummy.  I didn't make mine into a ball, I shaped it on a long skinny tray.  Cover with chopped pecans. 

David cooked brisket as the main course and it was delicious!!!  What a perfect night filled with love, laughter and good food!!

Saturday, August 18, 2012

lunches for Urban Kids

For the last few summers, our church -- Trinity UMC in Homewood -- has provided lunches for an entire week of summer camp for Urban Kids in July. (check it out!)
Different groups sign up for a day and we provide a nutritious and healthy lunch for 35-40 day campers and the staff.  Trinity's staff takes a day and we usually provide chicken fingers and biscuits and fruit and veggies.  Some of the Sunday School menus included things like all beef hot dogs and mac & cheese.  Now I know you are thinking to yourself, "that doesn't sound very healthy."  You have to remember that the object is to get these kids to eat the lunch and to slip in some nutrition.  Trinity's Young Professionals signed up for Wednesday and we made the lunches as our Tuesday night program.
Our dining room table has seen much use over the last 2 1/2 years and I am so thankful.  Our lunch consisted of a turkey and cheese (real cheese not cheese product) sandwich on white wheat bread.  We also provided pickles in a baggie and carrots in another baggie.  We sent baked chips and rice krispie treats for dessert.  We included little packages of mustard and mayo for the sandwiches and ranch salad dressing for dipping.  We also sent a baggie of grapes for each child.
The group works so well together.  They quickly clear off the table after dinner and dump out all of the supplies and get to work.  Let me just tell you that we had carrots out the wazoo!!!
We didn't have hair nets but we did have gloves!!!  This group never ceases to amaze me.  Mark and I cannot imagine our lives without all of them. 
We were able to store all of the perishables in our refrigerator over night and then Mark loaded up his gigantic cooler (the one that is large enough for a deer -- yes, it was clean - clorox does wonderful clean up!!). He and his work friend, Steve, delivered all of the lunches around mid morning.  We had planned to just leave them in the cooler in Mark's car but the temperature was already about 90 degrees at 8:30 so we called Urban Ministry and they allowed Mark and Steve to deliver around 10:30.  We also provided juice boxes - forgot those!!

Our dining room is used every week and that thrills my heart and soul!!  We put the thermostat on 65 each week because when all of those people are in our house, the temperature goes up dramatically.  The temperature in the dining room really rises when all of them are around the table working.  You can walk into the family room and then walk back into the dining room and it feels about 10 degrees warmer.  Body heat!!

Another successful mission project as a group!!  It is a good thing to be the hands and feet of Christ!!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Happy birthday toooooo yooooouuuuuu!!

I had lunch with a friend this week and while we were talking I told her that my mom died when I was a sophomore and my dad died when I was in my early 20's. She had no idea . . .and I didn't realize that she didn't know that about me. My friend knows my mother-in-law from various Bible studies and she asked about her while we were eating. I shared the things going on in her life and once again, I realized that I am blessed with a really good mother-in-law.  She has been a mother to me all these 28+ years. I guess I get mad at her just like I would a mother (like a week or so ago when I proudly shared my home-baked cookies with her and she said, "They would be better with nuts." Well, first of all they had nuts in them and second, couldn't she have just said, "these are delicious. I'm proud of you for baking them."  I immediately emailed Laura and said that I was sorry if I've ever done that to her and I'll have to tell Lauren as well.  I would love to take all Mark's momma's good qualities.) Well, that is neither here nor there except that gives you an idea of our relationship. We are probably as close as a mother-in-law/daughter-in-law can be. I call and check on her every day. So when her birthday rolled around this summer, I volunteered to host the lunch/party at our house.   She does incredible flower arrangements and it would be just like the baked goods - can't compare - so I just didn't go there.  We had pink balloons and a shiny star hanging from the chandelier instead. 

I used my silhouette SD to make place cards for everyone.  I thought they turned out really sweet.

I tied some pink raffia around three glass canning jars.  By the way, it took me over an hour to unwind that raffia and tie it on three little jars. I think I could have learned how to arrange flowers in that amount of time. :-)  We had pink and white polka dot napkins.

I didn't use pink because it is her favorite color. I just thought that pink made a "fun" girl birthday party. Of course, I had my camera because all birthdays should be recorded. Laura and Grace and Alice all three looked so pretty.

Back to the baking . . .Alice and I just aren't going to compete with the baking.  Grandmother loves caramel cake and there are a couple of places in town that have delicious caramel cakes.  I know it is certainly better than I could bake.  I buy bags of pecans every year (I wonder if that is a southern thing?? -- one of the high school dance lines here in town sells pecans every year as their fund raiser and I stock my freezer).  I whipped a bag of those gorgeous pecan halves out of the freezer and decorated the cake and ta-da!!  We had a gorgeous birthday cake with pink candles that tastes delicious with no hurt feelings.  We are so smart!!

Alice is the cake bearer and George is following closely behind.  I have no idea why I felt the need to tell y'all that fact.  I'm sure you could have figured it out by looking at the picture!!!

Grandmother did not know that I was going with a pink and green theme but look . . .she matches!!  She looks pleased with the cake!  Yay!!!  She loves pecans and she loves caramel cake so I knew that would make her happy.  Funny story about the cake.  Our local Piggly Wiggly grocery stores carry this wonderful caramel cake that a lady down in the southern part of the state bakes.  I went to buy one on Saturday (before the party on Sunday) and my Pig (what we call the piggly wiggly) only had two halves - no whole cakes!!  I stood in the store and tried to figure out if I could stick the halves together with more pecan halves . . .instead I quickly called Alice because she only lives a block or so from a different Pig and she went and bought a whole one at that store.  Alice saved the day!!

Grandmother received some nice gifts.  Alice shopped for us - Talbots - much like caramel pecan cake - can't go wrong.  I also printed some photos from Christmas for her - of the grandchildren and children (that is my generation - children - yep, we are.)  I think Mark's momma (yes, I call her either Mark's momma or Grandmother - Lauren, if you are reading this, please call me something other than Glenn's momma) . . .back to the thought, I think Mark's momma is a pretty lady.  She always dresses just so and she always fixes her hair (she does not go to the beauty shop every week!!! - she does her own hair and just gets it cut about once a month)

I looked down at the other end of the table and what did I see?  Two laughing monkeys - oops, I mean two laughing brothers - twin brothers dressed in the same color shirts!!

All in all, I think it was a great birthday celebration. Everyone stayed around until about 4:00 chatting and talking. As a matter of fact, all of the girls were still sitting at the dining room table!! I think that Alice and I planned a great celebration and we were so happy that it was Rebecca's off week so that she could come. I don't have any pictures of Bill and Rebecca but they were there . . .and we were glad!! Good food, excellent dessert, pretty gifts and a happy birthday girl - no matter how old we become, we are always the happy birthday girl!!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Awesome Wedding Cake . . .and the wedding was pretty cool, too!

We are in that stage of life (middle aged mom and pop) where we receive lots of wedding invitations. I am so thankful for all of the friends that our kids have had over the years. We've been to some really cool locations/rehearsal dinner venues/reception venues over the last two or three years but we recently went someplace new!! We were invited to Jamie and Jenn's wedding and it was held at Oak Island on Lay Lake. We found driving directions and started our drive. The location was about 45 minutes away and we travelled some roads that were new to us.  We saw lots of fields planted with tomatoes and other veggies.  We also saw the horse farm where our dentist lives!! 

When we arrived, the first thing we saw upon entering the house was this cake.  How cool is that cake?  Jamie is in medical school and is obviously an Auburn grad.  I love this cake.  The Fondant icing is yucky tasting (why don't they make it taste better?  Tastes sort of like a stale marshmallow smashed flat) but you sure can do lots with it.  The inside of the cake tasted like a hoho (I think that is what those little cakes were called) - maybe Little Debbie made them????

The bride's cake was lovely also but just couldn't compare to the groom's cake.  Recently I found out that having a groom's cake is a southern thing!!  Who knew?  I sure didn't.

We had to wait in line for the restroom and when we came out, I heard someone call my maiden name.  I was thinking how weird is that?  Anyway, the person who now owns Oak Island and Antebellum Weddings went to high school with me.  She and her sister (also went to our high school) were both there.  What an incredibly small world.  Then we turned around and our sweet daughter-in-love, Lauren, was there.  Glenn was in the wedding and we were excited to see both of them.

This venue is so cool for lots of reasons.  (they are not paying me to write this article - as a matter of fact, they don't even know I have a blog)  The outside location is spectacular.  Huge green lawns surrounded by water.  The inside of the home is beautiful also.  I really loved all the white lights.  One of my favorite things about Oak Island is that the wedding party met there on Friday night and had the rehearsal and then they had the rehearsal dinner.  I don't know all the details but I do know the wedding party had to help clean up after the rehearsal dinner??  Anyway, I'm sure that alcohol was served and the beauty of this location is that the wedding party was able to spend the night!  What a great idea.  It was like a great big house party for them all weekend.  Glenn and Lauren took us upstairs to show us where they slept.  They were on the third floor and there were several bedrooms and bathrooms and a small kitchen and a huge playroom area with a tv and games, etc. 

We were so excited to see so many of Glenn and Lauren's Auburn friends at the wedding.  We have missed all of them.  Levi was there.  We are so proud of Levi - he is going to seminary!!  He will shake up some church in the future!!

That pink building is the boathouse.  We didn't go inside but I've never seen such a fancy boathouse from the outside.  The groomsmen all walked in with sunglasses on.  They looked so cool!

After the wedding, we all made our way back up to the house.  Oak Island is truly one stop shopping.  The reception was also held there. I love how all of the brides and grooms are doing different things as their "guest book."  Jamie and Jennifer had a huge picture frame and we all wrote a message on the mat that will surround the picture.

Here is Mark with his sons.  Mark is a happy happy man when he is with these young men.  Glenn is on the left and Kaylor is on Mark's right.  Levi is next and then Michael.  We truly love these boys almost as much as our own kids.  I first typed as much as our own kids then I thought - not exactly - but almost!!  Mark has always had names for each of them - one is the good son - I've told y'all this before in a previous post . . .another wedding!!!

This is a sweet group picture.  Michael and Laura P. were the first ones of the group to get married.  Glenn and Lauren were next.  Kaylor and Sarah seem pretty serious but I don't have the scoop on that one.  Levi is single right now.

I was one happy middle-aged momma because I got to see my boy.

Here are a couple of pictures of the inside of the house set up for the reception.  Really lovely.

Our friends, Tim and Marietta, were in charge of the light and sound.  They are such good people and such good friends.  They did the music at Glenn and Lauren's wedding reception also.  He does it because he loves these boys.  (that is my opinion :-) Tim had colored lights - the kind that change - for the "dance floor." I think the dance floor is also the parking pad for the house.  You can just barely see the car in the background.  It was an antique car and I believe it was Jamie's grandfather's car and he drove them around the house a couple of times as their "going away" and then they came back to party some more.

Tim and Jon and Marietta created this light monogram.  It was so unique.  I had never seen anything like it before.  I loved it and I'm sure that Jamie and Jennifer loved it, too!!  Tim and Marietta and Jon are all three so talented.

I took this picture so I'm not in it but these three women and I have raised our families together.  We were together many years ago in a "circle" at church.  We've been in various Bible studies together.  We all have sons that have remained close friends over the years.  Jon is not in the picture with Mark (the "sons").  I think he was helping his parents at that point.  Marietta had been working all day and had only time to run in and freshen up.  I thought she looked lovely and fresh as a daisy!!

The one thing that I wish I had known was that lunch was not provided for the wedding party on Saturday. To be honest, that is something I could have offered to do if I had any idea. It would have been easy to gather some picnic type items and take it down to the location. Glenn said they went into town  and went to the dollar general and bought frozen microwaveable pizzas and had those for lunch (which by the way, this venue is located in a tiny town in Alabama - not a city). There weren't any fast food restaurants, etc. around. The location was beautiful, the wedding and reception were fun and we loved being with friends and family. Our prayer is for Jamie and Jennifer to have many years of a good strong Christian marriage!!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Related by blood . . . .loved dearly!!

If you've known me long or if you've read many of my posts, you know that my mom died when I was 15 years old - a sophomore in high school and my dad died when I was 25 years old. By the time I was as old as my kids are, I had neither parent. All of my grandparents are also deceased and they died many years ago also.

On my daddy's side, all of his siblings have died and have been dead for many years, too. I do have a few first cousins but we aren't very close. I do know that I could go to at least one of them if I needed him and he would be there for me. We have stayed in contact - but only once or twice a year. When all the parents die, it is hard for the next generation to stay as close.

On the other hand, I am fortunate to have married into a big family who loves me as their own. Mark's momma is still living and he has two brothers and a sister and we have nieces and nephews and cousins (as seen in the fourth of July post). Mark's grandmother lived to be 95 and I had the privilege of knowing her for our dating years and our first year of marriage.

I've written posts about my sisters. I'm very close to one because we lived together after our mom died but she lives in Texas. Thank God for cell phones. Before cell phones, we talked for an hour every Saturday morning. Now we talk everyday (almost!). My other sister and I aren't as close but I imagine it is because she married when I was very young and she is 13 years older than I and she has a granddaughter older than my children. But they are both my sisters and I love them.

My mamma lived a very hard life growing up. She was in foster care at various times and I think she was probably abused in one of those foster homes. My mamma loved us and protected us and our daddy was a fine man. He could out cuss the best cussers around (boy, that sounds southern!!) but he was a moral man whose love for us never dimmed - no matter what we did. Believe me, Glenine and I gave him some reasons to wonder (not Becky - I think she was perfect - Becky, are you reading???) My momma had several half brothers and sisters. I loved Uncle Henry so much. He was one of momma's younger half brothers. I know that momma and daddy both loved Uncle Henry. Even more importantly, I KNOW without a shadow of doubt, that Uncle Henry loved me. He loved me because I was family and he also loved me because I reminded him of my momma and he loved me because - just because. I'm 54 now and my mom had just celebrated her 50th birthday when she died. She was a tiny little thing and I'm not but I still look like her. Uncle Henry married Aunt Faye many years ago and I know that she loves me,too. Over the last few years, we have tried to spend more time together - meeting for lunch, visiting at Christmas. I am so thankful for them because they are MY family. We have the same blood running through our veins (I have no idea whether that is really medically correct or not but it sounds good!!). That blood just happens to have a lot of Cherokee Indian blood in it and I am proud of that heritage.

We met for lunch a few weeks ago while my cousin, Cathy and her daughter and grandson were in town. Her sister, Cindy lives here so when I would meet Uncle Henry and Aunt Faye for lunch, Cindy would join us. This family has had so many heartaches over the last few years but they cling to their faith in God and they continue to put one foot in front of the other each day and they are able to have joy in their lives even when their hearts are sad. They are MY family and I love them and I am so glad that they are a part of my life and I am so proud to call them family!!!
Cindy is on the left and Henry (uncle Henry's namesake) is peaking out and his momma, Amy is peaking out also. Cathy is in the back and Aunt Faye is in the front. I sure do love them. They are my family!!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Fourth of July

I thought that I was going to catch up - get all of my July posts written before the new month of August (how could that possibly be????? august already?????). Here I am just now writing about the fourth of July - still running about a month behind.  If this is a fourth of July post, then why does it begin with a picture of a dog with a man's finger in the dog's mouth???  That is Sport and he is a cutie pie.  Sport is Mollie and Roger's new dog . . .and we spent (and have spent it with them for many years) the fourth of July with Mollie and Roger and various other family members.  Sport greeted us as we all arrived and he is such a sweet dog.  He and Uncle Bill struck up an immediate friendship.

Uncle Bill was talking so sweetly to Sport and Sport was loving the attention.
Uncle Bill is actually Mark's brother but since my kids call him Uncle Bill that is what I call him most of the time!!  Bill rode down with us because his wife was working at Children's Hospital.  Bill has Parkinson's and it is better for him not to drive long distances.  Bill is an engineer by education and he knows a little bit about almost everything.  Bill operates in much slower motion than Mark or I but when Bill does something, it is done perfectly.  He is a pretty interesting conversationalist in the car.

We have those in the family who do not swim and sunbathe anymore.  We are blessed (and I know that.  yes, I know that --  even when I complain) to have some of our older generation still healthy and able to celebrate with us.  Mark's momma (yes - that is what I call her or either I call her Grandmother) and Aunt Mary have been sister-in-laws for many years and I think they have been friends even longer.  They are dressed in their red, white, and blue.

We also have some of the younger generation and they are the ones who make the day so much fun.  These girls are so sweet and smart and funny!!  Our children have all grown up together and it has been so interesting to watch them grow and become adults.  We are so excited that Lydia has been coming to our house on Tuesday nights for the young adult group.  She is a great addition to the group.

Here is a picture of all three girls with their momma.  Nancy is Mark's first cousin and she is the reason that Mark and I are together.  I met Nancy way back when I first started attending Trinity and she planned a canoe trip for singles and invited her cousins . . .Mark and George . go.  I also went on that canoe trip and I knew on the day that I met Mark that we would get married someday.  I wasn't even in the canoe with him.  I was in the canoe with some other guy whose name was Peter!!  But that has nothing to do with fourth of July and neither does this . . .Let me tell you about Nancy.  Nancy is a strong woman.  She has battled breast cancer and she is doing well and we love her so much!!!

This glassed in porch (sunroom?) is a wonderful place for those who aren't playing in the water.  The porch looks out over the water and those sitting there can chat away in the airconditioning and watch those of us who are outside.

Mark and Mollie were working on the ice cream, I guess.  I really have no idea what they were doing but that looks like a box of rock salt in her hand.  She always makes really good homemade icecream.  I never ate any this year.  I think she had vanilla and fresh peach and I am sure that they were both delicious.

We had a great day visiting with family and relaxing in the sunshine.  We ate some great BBQ and side dishes and we spent time chatting and laughing.  Mollie works herself to death getting ready for all of us.  She always goes down the week before and has to clean, etc.  She picks up the BBQ and other snack items and drinks and makes the ice cream and we all bring a side to share.  We had baked beans and slaw and fresh fruit and all sorts of dips and chips and potato salad and  tons of desserts.  She and Roger are so gracious to share their lake home with us.  There have only been a few years where neither of our children was with us.  This was one of those years.  Mark is blessed to be a member of a large family.  There are four "kids" (now grown ups) in Mark's immediate family and there were four "kids" (now grown ups) in Mollie and Nancy's family (they are sisters).  Those first cousins grew up down the street from each other and went to the same church and have remained close even though some live out of town now.

I've typed way too much on this one post so I guess I'll end for now.  Funny though - as I've been sitting here I've been thinking of stories about Mark and all of his cousins that have been told to me over the last 28 years.  Maybe I need to write down a few of those stories - some are pretty funny!!!!