Monday, May 2, 2016

Cut Footloose with a Country Barbecue

Carson stepped outside his comfort zone recently to two-step his way through Oak Mountain High School's spring musical, Footloose. He had a blast and is already planning to perform on stage again. Much of the production is set in Texas, so before the Saturday night show we invited family to join us for a country-style barbecue inspired by the Lone Star State. Here is a peek at our menu of summertime favorites, along with a couple of delicious recipes from the evening.

I made this Slow Cooker Texas Pulled Pork for the party. Starting the meat the night before and cooking it on low all day yielded a succulent and flavorful main dish.

Vases of daisies topped a red-and-white checkered tablecloth for our festive gathering.

My blue-and-white Spode transferware took on a country look with burlap place mats and lace-edged linen napkins. I made the napkin rings 20 years ago, so it was fun to pull those out for this occasion.

Votives in jelly jars cast a soft glow on our table.

Texas Caviar

Enjoy this garden-fresh dip with tortilla chips.

1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup chopped green onion
1 jalapeno pepper, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 (15-ounce) can corn
1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained
1 (15-ounce) can black-eyed peas, drained
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup zesty Italian dressing
Fresh cilantro

In a large bowl, stir together yellow onion, bell pepper, green onion, jalapeno pepper, garlic, tomatoes, corn, black-eyed peas, and coriander. Pour dressing over vegetables, and stir gently to mix. Add fresh cilantro to taste, and stir gently. Refrigerate to chill. Before serving, add more cilantro, if desired.

Buttermilk Ranch Dressing

My talented friend Loren, a chef and test-kitchen professional, shared this delicious recipe with me. One taste, and Christian said, "Mom, we never need to buy bottled ranch again."

1 cup mayonnaise
1 pint cultured nonfat buttermilk
1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 teaspoon garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Whisk together mayonnaise and buttermilk. Whisk in chives, parsley, dill, garlic, salt and pepper. Refrigerate to chill.

We invited friends from church who came to the show to join us at home afterward for sundaes. Along with vanilla ice cream, we served chocolate chip cookies, chocolate and caramel syrups, sweetened strawberries, whipped cream, candies, and star-shaped sprinkles.

Well, enough with the opening act and on to the main event!

Carson, third from the left, played Garvin. These guys did a great job singing "Mama Says." When my firstborn delivered the line "Who cares what Mama says?" before the music began, I knew he was a gifted actor. (Smile)  

From first scene to curtain call, the show was a great success. We already can't wait for next year's production!

"Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music." ~Ronald Reagan

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Friendship Party for Birds of a Feather

Springtime has granted us so many occasions to celebrate this year! Mary Ashley, a sixth-grader, will be joining our church's youth group this summer, so we wanted to give the girls in her class an opportunity to bond before they make that transition.

We decided to plan a casual Friday-night sleepover with a simple dinner menu, fun activities and an easy brunch.

I asked her beforehand if it was acceptable for me to decorate, and she was all for that. So I gathered fresh spring flowers to fill birdcages from Michael's. Pink roses highlight this centerpiece.

And white blossoms fill this smaller arrangement.

We made simple invitations to invite these birds of a feather to fly to Mary Ashley's nest for the party.

Notebooks and pencils at each place provided little surprises to greet the girls upon arrival.

And cupcakes from the bakery at Walmart added a bit of sweetness.

A rounded vase was perfect for this birdcage. Usually I slip a few stems into the arrangement, close the lid, and tuck in the last blossoms for a birdcage centerpiece. These blooms were so full, though, that I let the flowers spill from the container.

Mary Ashley's menu of choice for Friday night was pizza. We also kept snacks and sodas on hand for the evening. In the morning, we enjoyed a pancake buffet, bacon, and lemon slush punch.

The activities for the night included making scented lip balms (a craft kit one of the guests bought), decorating pillowcases to pack for upcoming youth trips, and writing each other encouraging notes. Plus there was plenty of singing, some movie watching, and maybe just a little sleeping.

Our group was small, but this party of five could not have been sweeter. They seemed to enjoy being together without any of the drama that can sometimes put a damper on the fun for girls this age.

With our family's hectic spring schedule, I wasn't sure if we would be able to work in this girl time. But in the end, I am so glad we made it happen.

Because as I told the girls before we offered thanks for our food, the friendships that will sustain them throughout life will be the ones with their Christian sisters.

I hope they had a great time last weekend.

And look forward to watching them grow into young women over the next few years. Our youth group is about to get even more special!

Have a lovely weekend!

Monday, April 18, 2016

An Enchanted Evening

"Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed." ~ Walt Whitman

Our sunset stroll through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens was a highlight of this past weekend's festivities, which included a slumber party for the sixth-grade girls of our church on Friday night; prom for Carson and his sweetie, Mallory, on Saturday evening; and Carson's birthday on Sunday. I have been wanting to visit the gardens since we moved here and cannot wait to go back. Here are a few of my favorite photos from our visit.

I cannot believe my baby is 17! It seems like just yesterday he was a preschooler, snuggling up with me to share PB&J's after spending the morning reading or swimming together. It makes my heart smile to remember all those little moments of watching him grow -- how quickly the years have passed! This year Carson asked for peanut butter pie instead of cake, which brought to mind all those sandwiches we shared at the kitchen counter. So today when we went out for a birthday lunch after church and he asked to sit beside me, I felt very special. As he is growing more independent every day, those moments of togetherness are truly a gift to treasure.

Mallory and Carson are as sweet and funny and kindhearted as they are gorgeous! Mallory's mother, her friend Claire, and I had such a lovely time taking photos of the two of them. Here are a few of my favorites from our time together. 

"Love is a springtime plant that perfumes everything with its hope ... ." ~ Gustave Flaubert

Monday, April 11, 2016

Emma at 10

"Well, one can't get over the habit of being a little girl all at once ... ." ~ Lucy Maud Montgomery

On Easter Sunday when the children obliged me in taking a few photos, I knew to save Emma's individual session for last. This happy girl loves to twirl and pose in front of the camera, which allowed me to capture a bounty of images of her at 10 years old. This child is so full of joy, I can't help but smile whenever she is around. Here are a few of my favorite shots from our afternoon among the azaleas in Georgia.

"A daughter is the happy memories of the past, the joyful moments of the present, and the hope and promise of the future." ~ Author Unknown

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