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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Happy Birthday To You!

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Yesterday, we celebrated my little girl’s 7th birthday.  I am still a bit in shock.  I just can’t believe she is 7 already.  It seems like such a short time ago I was holding this beautiful little baby in my arms.  She’s still my baby, though, and will always be!

So, as is tradition in our family, my little miss got a pancake breakfast…complete with 7 candles.  She went with a slightly more traditional approach than her brother did on his birthday.  She wanted her pancakes topped with butter, maple syrup, powdered sugar, and a big squirt of whipped cream.  Yummy!


And, of course, we sang “Happy Birthday” to the birthday girl…


Make a wish and blow out the candles!


The whole day revolved around my little girl.  She got to play the games she wanted, watch the shows she wanted, and pick the meals she wanted.  It’s nice to be pampered, especially on your birthday.

For lunch, my little sweetie chose a pasta dish I just recently “created”.  It’s a yummy cold pasta with Italian dressing, fresh tomatoes, Parmesan and Mozzarella cheeses, and fresh from the garden parsley and basil.  So very delicious and one of my daughter’s new favorite dishes.


After class, we took a swim in our pool.  This was the first swim of the year, so it was a special treat for my little girl’s big day.  The water was perfect and the kid’s had a blast splashing around…and so did their momma and daddy!



My little girl was also in charge of deciding what we would all eat for dinner.  And what did she choose for her birthday dinner?  Oh, just Chicken Tikka Masala!  You know, a typical dish for a 7 year old to choose…NOT!  I’m so proud of both of my kiddos for not being picky and (almost) always willing to try new things.  This dish has been a favorite in our family for years.  And my daughter was not disappointed with her choice, both she and her brother devoured dinner!


We had a wonderful, fun-filled day, celebrating my little girl’s 7th (boo-hoo) birthday!  Now, on to planning for her party this weekend.  I will be a very, very busy momma for the next 2 days, and my sweet little angel is worth every single minute of it.  I am so blessed!  Happy Birthday to you, my sweet girl!

Beans And Greens…A Country Staple

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I hope all of you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend as much as I did.  It’s wonderful to spend time with family while honoring and remembering the ones who have served our country and died for our right to be free.  We live in such a great nation with so many freedoms we take for granted on a daily basis.  I am proud to be an American and so proud of all those who serve and have served our country, including many of my own family members.

Although the recipe I am going to post has nothing to do with Memorial Day, I needed to take a moment to show thanks for those who have served and the freedoms we enjoy because of them.

Now, on to the delicious country dinner of beans and greens, which I’m quite certain any service man or woman would love!  This dinner is one of my favorites, right up at the top with meatloaf.  There is nothing like good ole country, stick to your ribs, beans and greens.  And no dinner of beans and greens would be complete without corn muffins to sop up the soup at the end of your meal.  I always dice up some onion to put in my beans, and for some reason, I always serve slices of cheddar cheese with beans.  And, for goodness sake, make sure you throw some of the ham hock in your dish of beans.  The whole combination of beans, greens, corn muffins, ham hock, onions, and cheese just seems to be perfect.  Hope you enjoy!

Beans and Greens…A Country Staple


Pinto Beans


1 pound dry pinto beans

1 ham hock

salt and pepper, to taste


1.  Place dry beans in a pot and cover with 6 to 8 cups of water.  (Make sure to check your beans for little rocks before you start cooking.)  Bring beans to a boil for 2 minutes and then remove from heat.  Allow them to soak for 1 hour.

2.  Now, you can either drain the water from the beans and rinse them, or not.  I know that every recipe I’ve ever read tells you to drain and rinse.  This soak and rinse method is supposed to make the beans cause less “uncomfortableness” after you eat them.  (You all know what I’m talking about!) I’ve never noticed any difference in soaked and rinsed beans and soaked and non-rinsed beans.  So, I just soak my beans to cut down on cook time, but do not rinse.  I think it takes away a lot of the flavor of the beans to rinse them, but the choice is up to you.

3.  Add the ham hock and salt and pepper to the pot.  Cook the beans low and slow, stirring often, for about 4 hours.  Always make sure the beans are covered with water, at least 2 inches above the beans.  Cooking the beans slowly, and on low heat, makes for a richer soup and keeps the beans from busting.

Collard Greens


These greens came straight from our box garden.  There’s nothing like eating fresh greens and knowing what goes in them and where they came from.  Since I garden organically, I know that absolutely no pesticides touched my greens.  And they are so very yummy!


1 bunch of fresh (or frozen) collard greens

2 cups water

4 Tbsp. butter

1 ham hock (from pinto beans)

1 Tbsp. sugar

salt and pepper, to taste


1.  Separate the stems from the leaves and throw the stems away.  Wash leaves in cold water.

2.  In a large skillet, combine water, butter, ham hock (just steal the one in your beans), sugar, and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil and add the collard greens.  Simmer over medium heat for about 1 hour, or until tender.

Corn Muffins



1 large egg

1 1/2 cups buttermilk

1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups Buttermilk Self-Rising Corn Meal Mix


1.  Heat oven to 450F.  Place 1 small spoonful of shortening (I use Crisco) in the bottom of 12 muffin cups.

2.  Stir eggs, milk, oil, and corn meal in a bowl until smooth.  Batter should be creamy and pourable, so if it’s too thick, just add a little more milk.

3.  Put the muffin pan in the oven for about 5 minutes, or until shortening is hot.  Fill cups about 2/3 full with the batter (I use an ice cream scoop to fill my muffin pans, makes less mess), and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

For The Birds: Rescue Mission

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Yesterday, while spending some time outside with my kiddos, we encountered a little bird acting very strangely.  It was trying to fly, but was unable to.  It was also unable to stand upright and kept falling backwards.  I was immediately concerned that this bird might have a broken wing or leg, but upon inspection of the wings and feet, I found that they seemed to be fine.  I am not a vet or an expert, but the bird seemed to be moving its wings without problems, and was able to grip with its claws and move its legs.  So why was this little bird unable to stand or fly?


I put the bird, which I believe was a Wood Thrush, on a soft towel in a box with air holes.  The box was actually a Build-A-Bear box my son found for me to use.  So sweet of him to donate his box.  I called the Wildlife Rehabilitators who referred me to a vet in Charleston who cares for wild animals.  I drove over an hour to take this bird to the vet.  I had a bit of a let down when they just took the bird to the back without me.  I guess I thought I would get to go back to see what was wrong with it, even though it wasn’t really a pet.  I didn’t even get to say goodbye.  The receptionist couldn’t give me any information about what she thought might be wrong with this little bird and told me to call later when the vet had a chance to look at it.  The bird, if it could be healed, would be released from that location, not coming back home with me to be released where I found it.  So, I left, with no answers and no bird.


As soon as I got home, I called the vet’s office and was told that the bird had neurological issues and was euthanized.  No other answers, no other explanation.  I was very sad to hear this.  Such a beautiful bird that will never fly again.  I’m guessing this bird fell from its tree or flew into a window, as many birds do.  I know this isn’t the first time a bird has suffered from neurological issues, and I know putting it to sleep was more humane than allowing it to suffer and starve to death, but I still keep wondering if there was something more I could have done for it.


So, today I am mourning for a wild bird that wasn’t even my pet, but was just in my care for one short day.  I’ll always remember the way it looked up at me with such curiosity and trust.  I hope it at least felt some safety and love for those last few hours of its life.  And I pray there is a heaven for animals so this beautiful little birdie can fly and be whole once again.

In The Garden

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I promised a garden post yesterday, but got a little sidetracked trying to rescue a little birdie. (More on this in a later post.)

So today, I am finally blogging about my garden.  I love time spent in my garden…  working in the soil with my hands, pulling weeds while I sing to my plants, and finally, eating all the yummy fruits, herbs, and veggies that grow.  My husband and kiddos also love working in the garden with me and enjoying the rewards for their labor.  I think there is something very therapeutic about working in the garden, whether you grow flowers or edibles, or both.  Everyone should have a garden!


I have landscaped around my entire house with trees, shrubs, vines, perennials, and annuals.  I love walking out every day and seeing the beautiful growth and vibrant colors.  Since I also spend time bird watching, all these trees, shrubs, and flowers have provided a welcome haven for the little birdies and attract more of them for me to enjoy.


For my edible garden, I decided to build garden boxes.  Much of the soil around our house is fill dirt or red clay, and even though I was able to amend the soil for my landscaping, I didn’t want to fight with it every year for my garden.  With my garden boxes, I’m able to till the dirt every spring with a hand rake without having to break my back.  It sure makes gardening more enjoyable!


I have four garden boxes, and this provides more than enough food for my family to enjoy in the spring, summer, and fall, plus canned food for the winter.This is my greens box.  I grew collard greens, kale, romaine, and spinach this spring.  I just put down summer crisp lettuce seeds.  Must have greens all season!  I love my greens!


I have chives, garlic, onion, and leeks in this box.  These are my cooking staples.  I cook with garlic and onion almost every day.  And chives have so many uses…even the blooms are edible, and pretty, too.


I just put my tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers in the ground.  We’ve had a very cool spring, so I didn’t want to risk putting them in early and being hit with frost.  I have 6 different types of tomato plants including Better Boy, Roma, and Cherry tomatoes.  I plant red and green pepper, and slicing and pickling cucumber.  I always make sure to can plenty of crushed tomato to use in the winter, and lots and lots of pickles.  I love pickles!


Although this garden box looks empty, there is a lot of work going on beneath the soil.  This box will be full of corn and beans soon.  I have 3 different varieties of corn, bush beans, and pole beans.  With boxes, you can plant the corn closer together, which helps with pollination, producing a better crop.  So even though I won’t have a large crop, those ears will be full and yummy.


I also added a few garden pots this year for my herbs.  I have an Italian herb pot with Rosemary, Oregano, Italian Parsley, and Sweet Basil.  All the makings for any Italian dish.  I also have a pot for my Mexican meals.  I put Cilantro, Jalapeno Pepper, and a small container Tomato in this pot.  I see some yummy salsa in my future!



I am also experimenting with carrots and squash in pots.  I found this idea on Pinterest, and decided to give it a try.  So far, they look good…we’ll see how it turns out.



All these wonderful herbs and veggies will make for some very yummy food and some very yummy recipes for me to post on my blog!  Here is a sneak peek of my next blog post.  It’s gonna be a southern dinner you won’t want to miss.  This meal has cooked collard greens, and they are delicious.  Here is a picture of the greens just added to the skillet, wilting around a big chunk of ham hock.  Oh, they’re good!


Flowers In Bloom

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I love this time of year when everything turns so green and lush.  All the flowers are blooming, so full of color and life.  My garden is full of yummy greens, and I am waiting ever so patiently for that first ripe tomato to grow on the vine.  The sun is shining warm and bright.  I spend the whole day outside with my kiddos just soaking up the rays.  This time of year makes me feel more alive.   Here are some pictures of just a few of my spring blooms.  I hope they bring you as much joy as they bring me.






Have an absolutely beautiful day!

Buttermilk Biscuits With Pan Gravy

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I’m not much on big, heavy breakfasts, but I love breakfast for dinner!  We like to call it “brinner” in our house.  Last night, we really wanted some “brinner”, so I made some super yummy buttermilk biscuits and smothered them in pan gravy and served them up with a side of bacon.  Oh, my, that’s some country goodness right there!  And it’s such a cheap and easy meal. It’s friendly on the budget and the time, which most of us are in short supply of.  I hope you enjoy this “brinner”, or breakfast, as much as I did!

Buttermilk Biscuits and Pan Gravy



1 package bacon

2 cups self-rising flour

dash of salt

dash of sugar

3 Tbsp. shortening

1 1/4 cup buttermilk

2 Tbsp. butter, melted

6 Tbsp. bacon drippings

6 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk (or more)

salt and pepper, to taste


1.  Preheat oven to 400F.  Place bacon slices on a sheet pan, and bake in oven for 10-12 minutes, or until done.  Place slices on a paper towel lined plate and set aside.  Reserve 6 Tbsp. of bacon drippings for later.

2.  Preheat oven to 475F.  In a medium bowl, mix together self-rising flour, dash of salt, and a dash of sugar.  Cut in 3 Tbsp. shortening until mixed with the flour.  (I use two knives to cut in my shortening, but they actually make a handy, dandy tool for this, so if you have one, use it.)  Add the buttermilk and 1 Tbsp. of the melted butter.  Mix lightly until all ingredients are just mixed together.  Do not overmix.  Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead two or three times.  Pat the dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness.  Cut dough using a biscuit cutter.  Do not twist the cutter, this seals the edges and won’t allow your biscuits to rise properly.  You should get about 12 biscuits.  Place them in two round cake pans and bake for 10-12 minutes or until golden brown.  Brush with the remaining Tbsp. of butter when they come from the oven.

3.  While the biscuits are baking, heat a skillet over medium heat.  Add the drippings, and stir in 6 Tbsp. of all-purpose flour.  Cook until lightly browned, stirring constantly.  Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups of milk.  You may need to add more depending on how thick you like your gravy.  I always end up adding a little more.  Add salt and pepper to taste, and continue cooking over low heat until the gravy is smooth and thick, stirring constantly.

4.  Put a couple of those golden brown buttermilk biscuits on a plate or in a bowl, drown them in that smooth, thick, rich gravy, stick a few slices of bacon on the side, and dig in!

The Juicy Lucy Burger

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Here is another one of my favorite burger recipes.  I love this one almost as much as the Butter Burger.  The pickle and onion on this big guy with all that gooey cheese oozing from the center is unbelievably delicious!  I serve mine up with hand cut fries (leave the skin on, it makes them crunchier), and ,of course, a Coke or Root Beer float in a nice frosty mug.  Hope you enjoy!

The Juicy Lucy Burger



1 lb ground chuck

4 slices American cheese

1 Tbsp. butter

1 small onion, diced

salt and pepper

Dill pickle slices

4 burger buns


1.  Divide the meat into 8 balls, then form into thin patties.  Fold 4 cheese slices into small squares and put in the center of 4 patties.  Top with the other 4 patties and crimp the edges together to seal in the cheese.  Set aside.

2.  Warm the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the onions and cook until browned.  Add 1/2 cup of water to the onions and cook until water is gone.  (Makes a nice, soft onion for your burger!)  Transfer onion to a bowl.  Do not wipe your skillet clean, all that flavor from cooking the onions just adds to the yumminess of the burgers!

3.  Add the patties to the skillet, season with salt and pepper, and cook until done, about 6 minutes per side.  Don’t worry if some of the cheese comes out, it just makes a yummy, cheesy crust on the burger.

4.  Put pickle slices on each bottom bun, top with cooked onions and a patty, then put on the top bun.  Slice each burger in half so you can appreciate the cheesiness.  Watch out for that cheese, though, it’s super hot!

Oh, my, would you look at that yummy, cheesy, deliciousness!  Enjoy!


Meet Mr. Toad

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You may recall that my children are on a mission to find as many reptiles and amphibians as they can this year.  At my last reptilian post, I believe we had 16 frogs (plus hundreds of tadpoles), 5 blue-tailed lizards, 1 salamander, and one lovely little turtle named Boxy Roxy.

Now, we can add a handsome little toad to the list.  Meet Mr. Toad!


Such a cute little warty guy!  He loved sitting in my hand for this picture.  What is it with all these photo loving animals?

My kiddos decided to name this guy Mr. Toad because of their love of the stories of Mr. Toad and the classic Disney movie.  I think he looks an awful lot like the character from the book, don’t you?


My sweet little children were so happy with their find.  Ribbit, ribbit!


Now, the list for reptiles and amphibians found by my two little explorers consists of 16 frogs (plus tadpoles), about 20 blue-tailed lizards (we’ve found more!), 1 salamander, 1 turtle, and….one lovely little toad!

Maybe we’ll find a few more today.  Hope your day is “toad-ally” awesome!

Slip-Sliding Away

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Finally!  Warm weather is here!  I just hope it’s here to stay for a while.

You know it’s warm when you have to pull out the slip-n-slide and the kiddie pools.  My kiddos and I finished up class early yesterday so we could spend the afternoon enjoying this beautiful weather.  Ah, the joys and freedoms of homeschooling!

This momma even gave her kids a tutorial on how to properly use the slip-n-slide, and ended up walking around with a wet front all afternoon.  I had forgotten just how much fun those things are!


Mr. man loved taking a big, and I mean big, run and sliding.  He even let his toy lizards join in the fun.


Little miss…slip-sliding away!  Look, there’s her toy lizard sliding, too.


I think sis won that race!


After all that “hard work”, it’s time for a relaxing soak in the pool.


Why, yes, that is a sandal floating in the pool.  It is a “boat” for all those lizards and snakes.

I really love and cherish this time with my kiddos…and I love their fun little imaginations.  Hope you are enjoying this warm weather as much as we are!

Mother’s Day and Mocha Caramel Sea Salt Cupcakes

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Happy Mother’s Day to all you other momma bloggers out there!

I had a most wonderful day with my kids and my momma and the rest of my loving family.  When hubby asked what I wanted for Mother’s Day, I couldn’t think of anything because I have everything I need.  I have been so blessed.  However, I did get a morning serenade, breakfast in bed, and homemade cards from my little kiddos and hubby…so sweet.  When I asked my mom what she wanted from me for Mother’s Day, she said, “Make me some of those Mocha Caramel Cupcakes.”  So, along with a few other gifts, she got her cupcakes.  We don’t need much to be happy…just love and cupcakes!

I thought I would give all of you the recipe for these super easy, super yummy cupcakes as a Mother’s Day gift.

(Or a Happy Sunday gift if you aren’t a momma.)

Mocha Caramel Sea Salt Cupcakes



1 box Yellow Cake Mix (I prefer Duncan Hines)

2 containers Chocolate Frosting (Ditto)

3 Tbsp. Coffee Extract

Caramel Dessert Topping

Course Sea Salt


1.  Prepare cake mix according to directions on box.  Add 3 Tbsp. Coffee Extract (more or less according to taste).  Mix.  Pour into cupcake liners in a  muffin pan.  Bake according to directions on box.  Allow to cool.

2.  Frost cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  I used a No. 2A round tip to frost mine.

3.  Drizzle caramel dessert topping over cupcakes.

4.  Sprinkle course sea salt onto cupcakes.

5.  Devour!  Mom likes to devour hers with a cup of coffee.  I like a mug of milk.  To each their own!

Here’s a picture of me with my sweet momma many years ago.  Aren’t mommas the greatest?


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