Monday, July 29, 2013

Down in Georgia

It's hard to believe it had been a year and a half since our last visit to the rolling red clay hills of Pike County.  But it had.  So last week we journeyed across the southeast for a much needed visit with family and friends.  We came back home with lots of memories, a bunch of gifts and some Georgia peaches that ended up in a scrumptious peach and blueberry cobbler.

We arrived to some birthday presents for our July babies.  Ellie asked for some outside toys for her birthday so Pop and Mimi gave her this little push car.  She loves it!  And I love it, too!  I can easily ride her around while I'm watering the flowers or working in my garden. 
One of the only things Mason asked for was a new bike.  He'd outgrown his old one.  And I can tell you that he was certain he was going to get a bike for his birthday; however, he was disappointed when he opened his gifts from us only to discover there wasn't a bike.  He didn't say as much.  But I could tell.  So I couldn't wait for him to see Pop and Mimi's gift to him.  They'd actually already sent him a little happy in the mail so he thought that was his gift.  He was really surprised to see this:
Even our little December birthday had a little gift waiting on her.  She's so excited she even strikes a pose.  Seriously.  I don't know where she gets it.  I'm pretty sure I was not like that as a child.  Her hand would be propped on her hip . . . you know, the trendy hand-on-the-hip pose in all those Facebook and Instagram pictures . . . were it not for the fact she's holding that big ole bag.
And, oh my, was she ever so excited for this!  She'd been a bit upset with me earlier in the week because I didn't buy her the super cute hot pink backpack she spied while we were school shopping.  She forgot she'd picked these out back in February.  Unlike the rest of us, this girl is counting down the days until school starts.  I find it hard to believe she's going to be as excited when it really comes down to it . . . and I just might be a tad bit disappointed if she is . . . because I've already told her how much I'm going to miss her, to which she responded, "Well, I'm going to miss Ellie."  Ellie?!?  Well, WHAT ABOUT ME???  
After the anticipation of a long day's drive, presents and just being at Pop and Mimi's house, we finally settled down for the night.  We had big plans for the following day . . .

Uncle Donnie and Aunt Harriette had invited us over for a fish fry.  The plan was that we'd go fishing that morning and then fry 'em up that evening.  Jennifer and her family and Denise and her family were joining in on the fun, too.  So we'd packed our poles all the way from Louisiana.  My husband . . . well . . . he was skeptical, to say the least.  I believe his exact words were, "Well, we're going to be in trouble if we're depending on yall to catch our supper."  He also said, in no uncertain terms, that there's no way we'd catch enough fish to feed all of us.  He might've even said something about "going hungry."  At last count, it was something like 19 people we were going to feed.  My response?  "Well, I know you aren't used to catching fish out of a pond like that in Louisiana, but that's how we do it in Georgia."  I couldn't help myself.

And, like Jennifer said, we didn't have a back-up plan.  We did it all the time when I was growing up, and we never had a back-up plan.  I never even thought we needed one.  I think, though, that Jennifer and Denise at this point started thinking about it.  And it didn't help that the night before, one of Denise's boys accidentally let loose in her kitchen all 100 crickets that we were going to use for bait!  So I guess you could say we almost ended up at the fish counter at the local Kroger.  Almost.

Mason was so excited to go fishing.  And I was so proud of him!  He fished his way all around that pond all by himself, casting and everything!   
And finally his efforts were rewarded.  Here is Mason holding his very first "bask" (as he calls it) that he caught all by himself!
 Hannah Kate fished that pond, too.  She had a little bit of help though.
And here she is with her first catch, a bream.
Everyone caught a fish.  Or, in Maggie's case, several fish.  Here she is with one of her beautiful bream.
Jada and JJ reeled these fish in at the same time.
And, so, contrary to popular Seth's belief, we caught three baskets and one cooler full of fish!  We fed 19 people with plenty of leftovers to spare!
And . . . not only did we catch plenty to eat . . . but somebody caught one to mount!  This 8-pound bass will go on our wall this Christmas.  There are few things that excite my husband, but this is one of them!  He could hardly stand himself.  I took this picture with my camera, but I have one on my phone, and he is actually smiling.  I don't think he smiled in our wedding pictures!      
While we were fishing, Ellie was spending some much needed quality time with Mimi.  And do you know what they did?  Mimi followed Ellie all around her house and took pictures of every little thing she did.  Ellie loved playing at Mimi's house and especially loved riding along in the crazy coup!
That evening we went back to Uncle Donnie and Aunt Harriette's and had a great time of fish and fellowship!

The next day we had a little birthday to celebrate.  Since this was our first trip in a year and a half and Ellie's first trip to Georgia ever, I invited my family over for a small birthday party.  It was supposed to be just cake and ice cream.  But then there were cucumber sandwiches and cheese straws and spinach dip and chocolate butterflies and homemade butterfly and dragonfly sugar cookies and pink gumballs.
And the most beautiful flowers ever by one of the most people people ever!  All I do is say the word and Cindy works her magic!  I was just in love with this arrangement of hydrangeas and roses.  There were even little butterflies here and there.  This picture doesn't even begin to capture how beautiful they were!
Here's the birthday girl!  I wasn't sure how she would react to so many new faces in one place at one time.  But she warmed up quickly and really enjoyed herself.
I also wasn't sure how she was going to feel about her cake.  She cried and hid from it the first time around!  But this time . . .
 . . . she dug right in!  And, just in case you didn't notice, she's surrounded by so many balloons it was hard to count!  Again, Cindy just spoils us rotten!
Jones was so super sweet!  He went up to Ellie while she was eating her cake and had the sweetest little conversation with her.
She's really starting to dig in now.
She's lovin this cake!  And, who can blame her?  My cousin's wife is the talented Cakes By Dawn.  So this was a "Dawn Cake."
This is one of my favorite pictures.  Big sister is holding one of the balloons behind Ellie so I could get a picture.  And Ellie is just too excited about her cake!
She sat in her highchair (which, by the way, was MY highchair when I was a baby!) for at least 30 minutes eating on that cake!  She was as content as could be.  I was worried she might have a tummy ache later, but she didn't.  
After a wonderful visit with my extended family, there was one last gift to be had.  This one was for Mason.
Pop was super excited to give his oldest grandson his very first "real" gun, a 410.
Now.  I know nothing about this except that it's a shotgun (I think.  Seth is asleep so I can't ask him.  But I think this is a shotgun and not a rifle.  Don't ask me the difference.  Because I can't tell you.  I just know that you don't use this gun to shoot deer.  It would be for rabbits and squirrels and such.)
The next day was Sunday.  We went to church and afterwards drove up north of Atlanta to see some of my bestest friends from college.  My bestie hosted us at her house.  Kenneth and his family were there, and Meriam and her boys were there.  The two hours we spent together were not enough.  I just soaked it all in as best I could.  I'd not seen Meriam since 2006.  I'd not met her boys.  I think the last time I saw Kenneth was sometime around then, too.  It'd been two years since I'd seen Barbara.  Too long.  But, you know what?  At that moment, it didn't seem like it'd been that long.  The miles and the time between just faded . . . to me it was like we were in college all over again . . . except with husbands and wives and children and a little bit older.  Oh, how I would love to be closer, to see them more often, to have the conversations of marriage and children and church and life with them.  I miss these friends more than words can express!  
And our children . . . they had the best time!  I just know Mason and Hannah Kate and Ellie would be best friends with Kendall, Connor, Caroline, Andrew, Will and Matthew!  Mason said as we were leaving that he would like to move to Alabama so we could be a little bit closer to them and Pop and Mimi but still be a little bit close to PawPaw, too.  Caroline and Andrew asked Barbara if we could "move next door to them."  Oh, if only it were that easy.  We tried to get a picture.  And I'm sure Barbara or Meriam or Heather got a better picture than I did.  I took about 20 . . . here are my favorites . . . this is about the best one I got:
I love Andrew's expression here:
Will is sticking his tongue out:
And I'd love to know what secrets Andrew and Mason are sharing!
We have to do it again, friends.  Soon.  Real soon.

The next morning we went for a visit to Cindy's Florist and Robbin's Nest.  They'd already gifted Hannah Kate with several matching outfits for her and Ellie and Emily and Marie Grace.  Because it's important that you match not only your sister but your American Girl dolls, too!  Here's Hannah Kate and Marie Grace in one of her favorite new outfits by Robbin's Nest.
She returned from that visit with more new outfits for Emily and Marie Grace AND her bitty baby!

We went to Lanie Bugs after lunch for some ice cream.  I will admit that I tried all of their flavors.  And it was really hard to decide!  I almost go their specialty, the sweet bacon or something like that.  But I opted for the pistacio ricotta honey instead.  It was SO GOOD!  I stopped by Safehouse Coffee to visit an old high school friend.  And we went by the "new" Kroger in Griffin.

Later that afternoon Rob, Kristi, Jones and Judd came over.  Mimi wanted a picture of all her grands together.  Well, this was the best we could do!
Jones was so super sweet and so excited to get to "hold" Ellie.  He asked to hold her, and then he looked at me and said, "She's sitting on me!"
Then we got our swimsuits on.  Ellie had such a great time playing with Judd.  They were best buddies.  When they were leaving, I was holding Judd, and Kristi was holding Ellie.  I got really close to Ellie with Judd and told her to tell him, "Bye."  She reached out her arms and pulled her to him in a little hug.  It was the sweetest thing ever!
Jones loved shooting Mason with the water gun.  Of course, Mason loved Jones shooting him with the water gun, too!
Mason loves Jones!  He talks about him all the time.  And I'm pretty sure Jones loves Mason and thinks he's the coolest thing ever!
We grilled burgers and ate outside on the patio.  I should've scooted Ellie over into this picture, but I didn't.  
And then it was our last day.  I guess you can say we saved the best for last . . . MeMama got to meet Ellie for the first time.  She was so excited!  She was all dressed up in her pearls and pink lipstick and pink cheeks, too!  
We had such a good visit!  Mason is just smitten with MeMama.  He loves to be reminded how old she is.  In case you're wondering, she's 96!  Mason calls her his "Great MeMama."  I guess that's because I've explained to him that she's my grandmother but his GREAT grandmother.  One day he told me, "You know, Great MeMama is the oldest person I know!"
And here we are, four generations.  I didn't get the memo though . . . Everyone else was in navy and pink!
After our visit with MeMama, we headed to Gregg Farms and bought some peaches.

I then headed to the lovely little town of Senoia for an impromptu lunch with another one of my favorites.  This is another of my heart friends from college.  I miss this girl, too!
I don't have any pictures, but I also visited with more friends.  This would be my super smart IT friend who made my day (probably my year and my life, too!) because he fixed my brand new Mac that one of my favorite then-4-year-olds spilled water on!  That happened last August.  Apple wanted $1200 to fix it.  So I walked away pretty dejected with an only 8 month old laptop in my hand that I thought was forever lost.  It sat in my dining room for six months and then it became imperative that I do something because my old desk top was on the brink of computer death.  I was going to buy a new computer, but I'll just make a very long story very short by saying my smart friend fixed my Mac, and it's like brand new again!  And he did it for A LOT less than $1200!  And if anyone even dares look at my computer, they best be wearing a face mask so the minuscule vapor droplets in their breath don't come near me!  I could still just pinch myself because I can hardly believe it!  I have my computer back!

And that was our trip to Georgia. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

And then the not-so-lazy days of summer

UPDATE: I actually began this post two weeks ago, but I never finished it.  This really took place the 4th weekend in June . . .

So last week our lazy days of summer turned into the not-so-lazy days of summer.  As Jennifer put it, they came and busted up our lazy party.  It was so very exciting to have my Aunt Hairnet (Harriette), Jennifer, Carter, Maggie, Jada and Kennedy make the 9-hour drive from Georgia to visit us in Louisiana.

When they got here, Aunt Harriette kept asking, "Can you believe we are here?!  Can you believe we are REALLY here?!?"  My parents have visited, and my bestie has visited.  But this is the first time in the 13 years I moved away that family has come to LA to see us.  I was so very excited to see them.  I really needed something familiar, something from "home."  So it was just a much needed breath of fresh air for me.

We grew up right across the street from each other, went to the same school, same church and same college.  Jennifer and her sister both stood with me on the day I got married.  I babysat them (even though I'm only three years older than Jennifer) when Aunt Harriette was completing her education degree and had night classes (we won't talk about how Jennifer used to lock me out of the house!).  So, yes, it was so . . . odd . . . to see them in LA and not GA.

Here we are . . . Jennifer holding Kennedy, who is hiding from the sunshine in her eyes, Aunt Harriette, Maggie Grace, Carter, Ellie, me, Mason, Hannah Kate and Jada.
When they got here, we "beaded" them!  Mardi Gras beads are a must when it's your first visit to Louisiana!
For supper that first night, Seth and I prepared a little Louisiana buffet . . . fried speckled trout, fried eggplant topped with a creamy shrimp sauce, mini crab cakes, crawfish etoufee and bread pudding.  I'm showing off my pot of crawfish etoufee.  It was my first time making it, and it was the right color!  Because apparantly that's important here.  One would rather eat something that's the "right" color but doesn't taste too good than something that's the "wrong" color and tastes nasty!  I don't eat crawfish, but my husband said I did good.  And he's hard to please.
The next day we all went to church together.  Afterwards we showed off our little town of Grosse Tete.  We visited the Swamp Shop . . .
We visited the Welcome Center / Tourist's Information Center . . .
Here they are posing with the alligator heads in the Swamp Shop.  My favorite thing about this picture is Mason's expression . . . because this is so Mason!
And the Mardi Gras room at the Swamp Shop . . . everyone loved the masks.
We went swimming and later grilled hamburgers and hotdogs.

The next day we went to New Orleans and toured the French Quarter.
You can't go to New Orleans without eat beneits (French donuts) at Cafe Du Monde.
This Kennedy girl cracks me up!  The beneits were gone, but there was still plenty of powdered sugar left in the bottom of the bag.  She, however, took care of that!
And you can't go to New Orleans without dancing to a jazz band.
These two girls are such kindred spirits.  Hannah Kate had such a good time playing with Jada.  They have a lot in common.
And then the day after that we went on a swamp tour in the Atchafalaya Basin.
We were looking for alligators, but they were all hiding.  The water was still pretty high, and there had been a lot of boat traffic because fishing was good.  So we saw a baby one but that's it.
Here's my Ellie girl on her first swamp tour.
I don't think Kennedy had enough beads!
Carter really wanted to try some fried alligator.  I wasn't exactly able to accommodate that, but I did find some alligator jerky at the French Market in New Orleans.  So we brought some home, and he loved it!
That evening after the swamp tour, we visited downtown Baton Rouge . . . saw the state capitol grounds . . .
We even went to LSU and visited Mike the Tiger.

I've not been to GA in a year and a half . . . February 2012 was the last trip.  So it was really fun that GA came here!  I think they enjoyed themselves enough to come back one day!