Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Family Christmas

Now that the Christmas weekend is winding down, I can take time to reflect on our 2008 Christmas. It was wonderful having Anna, Casey and John home on Christmas Eve. Anna and I took MawMaw to the Christmas Eve service at our church, Hartford Baptist. It was the perfect way to begin our Christmas with carols, the nativity story from Luke, the Lord's Supper and ending with candlelight singing "Silent Night". By the time we arrived home, Casey and John were only a few minutes away, and we feasted on delicious grilled steaks and baked potatoes.

On Christmas morning, Nanny and MawMaw joined us to open stockings and presents (Santa had stockings for everyone!) We all got more than we needed, and it's always fun. Stacy makes everyone open one at a time, going around the room, so it took us almost two hours to finish -- then it was trash clean-up time! I got a great new bird feeder for the patio, several books by my new favorite author Jennifer Cruise, pillows for my sofa, a new sewing box, and lots of other neat things! John was most thrilled with his "grab-it" tool kit -- and I gave Stacy some Native American DVDs and a money sorter (that was broken in the box and I have to exchange now). Casey wanted mostly gift certificates to a photography store -- and Anna had picked out her major gifts and brought them home for me to wrap (after she had already worn them several times!) It was just good being with the family and enjoying our time together.

That afternoon, niece Jessi came over for our annual "Christmas Cookie Bake"! We've been doing this for years, and I'm sure Casey will continue with Kate when she is old enough to enjoy the dough-rolling and cutting-out and icing them. My kitchen was a mess -- but it was fun as always! That's our "girl time together"!

Christmas evening we all got together at MawMaw's with Stacy's brother Greg and Jessi for a traditional Christmas dinner of ham, dressing, fried okra, chicken & dumplings and MawMaw's rolls.

On Friday, Casey and John left to go to John's family in Wadley. That afternoon, Stacy's other brother Gary and his wife Carolyn arrived from Trussville with the newly-weds Brian and Amanda. Because we weren't sure what time Brian and Amanda would arrive, we decided to get "Oak Grove Fried Shrimp" for dinner -- which was excellent as always. Anna had been looking forward to the shrimp for several months!

The girls decided to take in a movie matinee Saturday afternoon -- "Four Christmasses" starring Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughan which was hilarious! It was good to laugh and enjoy the fun! Then that afternoon, my brother Walker and my two nephews Charles and Graham arrived and we all went to MawMaw's again for a big family "Low Country Shrimp Boil" -- because we just can't get enough shrimp and it's easy -- just throw it all in a big pot and boil. Yum!

So as I wind up today, Stacy, Anna and I went over to my mom's (sorry, but we skipped church because Anna had to leave at 1:00) and ate BBQ. Then after Anna headed back to Atlanta to pick up boyfriend Zach at the airport, Walker and I installed my mom's Christmas present -- new blinds for her windows. We got the 2" plantation blinds for her front bedroom, the den and kitchen. Wow, I was pooped when we got through -- but we weren't through! We went to Lowe's and got her a new mailbox and post (hers had been bashed by some pranksters and the post was rotting) -- then had a great meal at the new Mexican restaurant in Dothan. Enjoyed the Mexican band playing a Hispanic version of "Sweet Home Alabama" and Jimmy Buffet!!!

Walker and the boys return home to South Carolina tomorrow and I'll get back to work on Tuesday, but it has been wonderful having all of our family here during Christmas! God bless us, every one!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Last Minute Shopping

I knew better! Honest, I did! You don't go shopping on the weekend before Christmas! But I just needed a few more things to complete my Christmas list! So, after our Sunday School Christmas breakfast this morning, I took off to Dothan to finish up. And I didn't even go to the mall! Just the new "Target" shopping area on 231 -- and brother what a traffic jam! Just made it to Dick's Sporting Goods and Kohl's -- then I got out of there as quick as I could! Never even made it down to Target the cars were backed up so far, and I wanted a latte from Starbucks! After a couple more stops -- the traffic was horrible over at the mall too as I passed by in the other lane! Stopped by my Mom's -- and I was back home by afternoon -- exhausted! But I'm done now -- just have to do the wrapping.

The Sunday School breakfast was at Tony and SueEllen Messick's new home wayyyyyy back off the highway through the woods behind daughter Amy and Brian's home on Hwy. 123. It's beautiful back in there and they have a beautiful home. We had fun fellowshipping and stuffing our faces with homemade biscuits, grits, sweet rolls and sausage balls! I made Casey's "French Toast Casserole" that everyone loved -- they called it a "souffle" -- and I've never made a souffle! I couldn't find Casey's recipe, so I used one that sounded similar from the Internet -- and I've put it below.

Last night -- which was my anniversary that we celebrated by me going to a play and Stacy going to eat oysters! Guess that's how it works after 35 years! He got me a Circle E candle -- Bird of Paradise -- and a diffuser from Hartford's Florist and Gifts. Paul (the owner) certainly knows what I like and takes care of me! I got Stacy a bag of different candies he likes.

Anyway, I got sidetracked again -- must have inherited it from my mother! Last night, Mom, friends Rebecca, Lynn and Sharon, and our IT guru Adam and his wife Sarah, went to the Understudy Dinner Theatre to see "Tuna Christmas" written by Jaston Williams, Ed Howard and Joe Sears! I had seen it before, but it was so funny, even again! It's set in Tuna, Texas, and starred Ron DeVane (owner of the Understudy and the Dothan Dance Club) and a young but very talented Garrett Brolund. The play only has two actors who play all the characters -- which requires quite a few costume changes and wigs. They played a total of 22 different characters including Bertha Bumiller, Aunt Pearl, Inita Goodwin, and Vera Carp. There were so many one-liners that I wish I could remember, and we had fun. It's good to laugh like that!

The food was great -- especially the dessert -- scrumpshious chocolate brownie with fudge and ice cream!

Night Before French Toast Casserole

1 (10-oz.) loaf long thin French bread (18-in. long)
8 eggs
3 cups milk
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 Tbsp. butter, cut into pats
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
Syrups of choice

Grease well a 13 x 9 inch baking dish. Cut bread into 1-inch slices. Arrange slices in one layer in bottom of pan. Beat eggs, milk, sugar, salt and vanilla in a large bowl. When thoroughly mixed, pour over bread in pan. Bread will float on top of liquid.

Place a small pat of butter on each piece of bread. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Cover and refrigerate overnight, or up to 36 hours.

Place dish, uncovered, in cold oven. Turn oven to 350 degrees (325 if glass) and bake 45-50 minutes or until bread is puffy and light brown. Remove from oven; allow to set 5 minutes. Bread will rise to top with custard on bottom of dish. Serve with maple or flavored syrups. Yields 9 servings.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do something nice for Christmas

Dec. 19 is the 35th wedding anniversary for Stacy and me! And the 18th is Casey and John's anniversary -- so this is really a special time of year! Hard to believe that's us on our wedding day! I look so short -- still am! And I had threatened Stacy not to get his hair cut too short -- it was about shoulder length and his mom wanted it cut for the wedding! What can I say? It was 1973 and long hair was in!

Someone sent me an email today about sending a card to a soldier serving in Iraq through Xerox, and I got to thinking about low cost/no cost things you can do to make someone's Christmas a little better. You can even do it anonymously, which makes it even more fun!

  • Send a card to a soldier. Go to -- pick out a thank you card and Xerox will print it and send it to a soldier that is currently serving in Iraq. How amazing it would be if everyone serving overseas got one!! And it's free!

  • Send a donation to your local food bank -- or take non-perishable food items. The Salvation Army is another place that gives out food to people in need. With the economy like it is, there are more and more people in trouble.

  • Get together a group and go caroling -- Nobody goes caroling any more. You can do neighborhoods -- or concentrate on shut-ins or go to a nursing home or assisted care facility.

  • Send a Christmas card to a shut-in or someone who doesn't have family nearby. Better yet, invite them to your Christmas dinner!

  • Can't think of what to get that person on your list who has everything? Donate to a charity in their honor. It will make them feel special -- plus someone will get help who deserves it.

  • Give the gift of affection -- be generous with hugs, kisses and pats on the back.

  • Give the gift of laughter -- clip cartoons, share funny stories.

  • Give the gift of a written note -- send a 'thank you' note, write a letter to an old friend.

  • Give the gift of a compliment --a simple 'you look great today', a sincere 'thank you for a wonderful meal'.

  • Give the gift of listening -- no interrupting, no daydreaming, no responding, just listening.

  • Give the gift of solitude -- spend some time in silence and prayer, help others spend some time in silence. Know a harried mother? Keep her kids for a couple of hours and let her take a break!

  • Give globs of gratitude. Send appreciation to someone who has done something kind for you. Send a 'Thank You' card to someone who's helped you when you really needed it. Write a letter to an old teacher who influenced your life. Call your grandparents or parents and let them know how they've impacted your life. Email a friend to thank them for being there for you through hardships. Send an e-card to your husband or wife to tell them how much you appreciate having them in your life.

  • Meet others with a smile -- especially while shopping or standing in lines.

  • Be a courteous driver -- Let someone walk in front of your car in the shopping center parking lot -- or give up that parking space you've been waiting for, smile and wave! Is there a long line of cars waiting to pull out in traffic? Let someone out!

  • Leave an extra tip for a friendly or helpful waitress or waiter.

  • Leave some cookies or snacks in the break room at work with a smiley-face note to help themselves!

  • Clean up litter -- while walking down the sidewalk or up to a store, stoop down and pick up that piece of trash someone randomly threw out.

  • Tape the exact change for a soda to a vending machine or a payphone.

  • Pay the toll for the person behind you.

  • Leave flowers in front of someone's house.

  • Bake cookies for your neighbors.

  • Put quarters in the laundry machine for the next person.

  • Send cards with beautiful messages to anonymous people.

  • Leave chocolate on the desk of your co-workers.

  • Treat someone to a cup of their favorite cup of coffee.

  • Clean out your closet and take the extra clothes to a local nonprofit thrift store.

  • Write a card with a beautiful quote or a blessing and leave it in a doctor's waiting room or other random place for someone to find.

  • Pay for the person behind you at a drive-thru.

  • Rake someone's yard.
Need more ideas? Visit Help, Acts of Kindness.

Great charity ideas:

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Brian & Amanda's Wedding

We enjoyed sharing our nephew's wedding on Saturday at the American Village in Montevallo, AL. It's a beautiful recreation of old Williamsburg, and the chapel was perfect for a wedding -- beautiful windows, woodwork and balconies draped with live garlands and her colors of navy and sage green. Amanda was so lovely -- and the wedding was so special and fun and original. They make a beautiful couple, and we know they'll "live happily ever after" as their slide show of their lives said! The reception was beautiful as well -- great food -- the wedding cake was so pretty wrapped in green ribbon topped with a pearl "H" that Amanda made from family pearls. So many great ideas -- the centerpieces on the tables were tall glass cylinders with calla lilies swirled inside.

Our niece Jessi was a bridesmaid, and Casey and John (you can barely tell she's 6 months pregnant in that dress) and Anna and Zach all came. It was great to see Aunt Jeffie and her son Tommy -- and her grandson Rob and Trisha and their new baby Graham. He's adorable and looks just like Rob!

If you're surprised by the opening photos -- those are from the Rehearsal Dinner held at the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in downtown Birmingham. I just had to take photos of Ralph "Shug" Jordan, Auburn's famous coach my first year at Auburn (1972's 17-16 game, punt Bama punt) and the large "Bo over the top"! Again, the food was wonderful and it was so fun to be able to share in this time with Gary and Carolyn and the families! I thank them for including my mom in the activities as well. She and MawMaw really enjoyed themselves! And I apologize to Carolyn for not catching her for a photo! I'll have to wait for the official photos to get one of the complete family!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cattle Methane Tax Update

Ok, I know I was on my soapbox earlier about the environmental tax proposal on cattle farmers for the amount of methane gas the cows produce -- but I've just about had my fill of activist tree-huggers trying to ruin this country. I'm all about taking care of this earth and our land -- I live on a farm, by golly, and I don't want it ruined and I want to keep living with the fields and grass and trees and cows -- I could do without coyotes and snakes, though. And maybe mice, but at least they're small and I can catch them in traps. And mosquitoes, they're a nuisance.

Anyway, I'm getting off track. Today my brother Walker, who lives in Spartanburg, SC, and works for a company that produces that clear wrap for meat products, sent me an email that the tax proposal has been whipped! Yea, for once common sense has prevailed. I'm sure it wasn't my comment that changed their minds -- probably it was the national Farm Bureau getting their goat (or cow)!

He said, "I subscribe to online news from Excellent information on meat industry news. This is the article posted today. Took a little media attention to break their intentions, but guess it worked. Sounds like EPA is also trying to cover their tracks to the crime scene as well on this one."

Article: "EPA report doesn't mean livestock will be taxed to curb methane emissions," By Janie Gabbett on 12/10/2008

"The fact that a 570-page Environmental Protection Agency rule-making report on ways to implement the Clean Air Act included a discussion of ways to curb livestock methane emissions does not mean the agency will actually tax farmers for their livestock, according to two EPA spokesmen. The report has generated outrage in the agricultural community. The American Farm Bureau Federation estimated the report's exploration of farmers who own 25 dairy cows or 50 beef cattle being asked to buy permits for each ton of methane their animals released could cost farmers $175 per dairy cow and $87.50 per beef cow.

"On a conference call yesterday with local journalists, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) cried foul over the idea and said he has written to the EPA calling on the agency to scrap any consideration of imposing such fees.

"EPA spokesman Dale Kemery, however, denied that the agency is proposing a cow tax, calling the rules notice simply an "in-depth exploration of the opportunities and challenges that the application of the (Clean Air Act) authorities would present," according to the Rochester, N.Y. newspaper The Democrat and Chronicle. Similarly, the Albany, N.Y. Times Union newspaper quoted EPA spokeswoman Catherine Milbourn as saying the EPA has not proposed a tax and hasn't said it will target farmers as it decides how to enforce the Clean Air Act."

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Hartford's Hometown Christmas

It's been a busy week after my last post after Thanksgiving! I'm watching the Alabama-Florida game right now -- go Gators -- gotta love the orange and blue -- especially when they're playing ultimate rival Alabama! And especially after Auburn's whipping last weekend! Looks like the Gators have pulled it out -- but it's was an exciting game!

I helped hostess a baby shower for Brooke (Justice) Smith this afternoon (expecting baby Brody in Jan.) with Kay and Shera Parker and Barbara Hughes. It was so much fun, and I got to enjoy Sophie, Jill's daughter, and Lilly Claire, Mindy's 6-month old! First it's Brody in Jan. -- then our baby Kate in March. Brooke received so many cute little outfits and baby accessories. It's amazing to me what is out there for babies now that we never even thought of when I was pregnant many moons ago! Photos below . . .

This morning I drove the Co-op "green" car in the Hartford Christmas parade, and Jerry and Cindy Sorrells followed in a bucket truck. That's what I love about our small town -- I drive the car in the parade and know half the people on the sidelines who wave and say "hi!" Then on the Square you get to see so many more -- alot that I haven't seen in a long time since I'm not out in the front at the office any more. Scattering seeds had a table set up to sell the cookbooks, and it was fun to sit and talk to Lynn, Patricia, Susan and Debbie. I also got to see Holly, one of Darin Moseley's "daughters" that I met this summer at Youth Conference, and it was fun to talk to her and see how she's doing. And of course, Abigail, Darin and Lisa's daughter -- she has grown so much!

Tues. nite we had the Wiregrass Electric employee Christmas party in our community room with grilled steaks (melt-in-your-mouth cooked by Joe Howell and family) and shrimp! Our entertainment was a "Barney Fife" impressionist. He was hilarious and sounded just like Barney! It was fun getting everyone together in a casual setting to just have fun!

Thurs. nite we had the "girls at work" Christmas party at Robbie's with what has become our tradition - homemade chilli and all the fixings! It was fun playing dirty Santa for the ornaments we swapped! I was #2, so I had mine stolen several times -- got to open alot of presents that way! I tried out a new dessert recipe Anna found for Tiramasu. It was really good -- and easy!


1 pkg. (8 oz.) Cream Cheese, softened
3 cups milk
2 pkg. (3.4 oz. each) Vanilla Instant Pudding
1 (8 oz.) Cool Whip, thawed, divided
48 Vanilla Wafers
1/2 cup brewed coffee, cooled, divided
2 squares semi-sweet chocolate, grated
1 cup fresh raspberries (optional)

Beat cream cheese with mixer until creamy. Gradually beat in milk and pudding mixes. Stir in 2 cups Cool Whip. Line 2-1/2 qt. bowl with 24 wafers; drizzle with 1/4 cup coffee. Top with half the pudding mixture and half of the chocolate. Repeat layers, starting with wafers. top with remaining Cool Whip and raspberries. Refrigerate 2 hours. Makes 16 servings.