Tuesday, May 23, 2017

RECIPE: MeMama's Tomato Pie

So I got a little carried away in my kitchen on Saturday afternoon, and then I posted this pic on my social media feeds:
Roasted chicken (Ina Garten's recipe) with roasted snap beans (from my neighbor's garden) and baby potatoes; tomato pie (MeMama's recipe with tomatoes from my neighbor's garden); corn on the cob (FIL's garden); and squash patties (MeMama's recipe with squash from my garden).  The only thing missing was cornbread!  And that's only because by the time I thought about it, it was a little too late in the game.

So, yes, I roasted a whole chicken.  Skin, bones and all.  I say this only because my FIL loves to kid me about my boneless, skinless chicken.  I don't do meat, and I certainly don't do bones.  But this recipe is so stinking simple that I can't help myself.  And it's something everybody eats.  That's a very rare win win in my house.
What surprised me was the reaction to tomato pie.  I learned several things.  First of all, tomato pie is definitely NOT a Louisiana thing.  My husband had never had it before, much less even heard of it!  Nor had his parents.  And then I had several Louisiana friends ask about it, too.  And then a few asked for the recipe.  Y'all, this is so super simple, it's super good and it's super southern!

But you know what?  I didn't eat tomatoes when I was a kid.  Nope.  Wouldn't touch them.  As a matter of fact, I kind of hated them.  What??!!  They ranked right up there with turnip and mustard greens.  I didn't eat them on salads, sandwiches, burgers or sliced on a plate with salt and pepper.  Tomatoes were a staple in my house growing up.  Especially during the summers when Granddaddy's garden yielded an ABUNDANCE of them, Mama would slice one up and put the plate on the table at supper time for folks to grab to accompany their meal.  As beautiful as I thought they were, I wouldn't touch them.  Now I'd eat crushed tomatoes in my sauce over spaghetti.  And there were always so many tomatoes that Mama would can them every year.  On Saturdays she'd cook a pot of pasta and then grab a Mason jar of those canned crushed tomatoes and dump them on top of the noodles.  That was one of my favorite Saturday meals.  But sliced and diced tomatoes?  No, Ma'am.

But a couple of years ago I decided I could no longer grow veggies in my garden that I didn't eat.  So I got hooked on BLTs.  And, I mean, I ate them every day all summer.  I don't always put them on my salad or even a burger, but they're on my sandwiches now.  When we were in Georgia for spring break, my mom made a tomato pie for supper one night.  I instantly knew that's what I wanted to do with all the tomatoes my neighbor shared with us last weekend.  

So, here it is.  My MeMama's tomato pie recipe:

Frozen pie crust (or, as MeMama said, you can make your own using 2 cups bisquick and milk)
sliced tomatoes (I used 3)
sliced onions (I used a little more than half an onion)
dried basil (I actually had fresh basil on hand so I used that instead)

Layer the tomato slices, onion slices and basil and then repeat.  Mix together 1 cup mayo (something else I don't eat but made an exception here!) and 1 cup grated cheese (I used white cheddar, but you could use yellow cheddar or whatever cheese you like.  Next time I'm going to mix some parm in there. I think it would also be delish with a little goat cheese.  And my mother just died.) and then spread it on top.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes.

That's it!  Tomato pie.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Dance Recital 2017: Peace Love Dance

Last Saturday was the girls' dance recital.  I should, however, say "recitalS."  Because, yet again, they were in two different recitals.  It makes for such a long day.  It really does.  We spent nine hours at the theater.  But.  I do enjoy focusing on only one daughter at a time instead of running between two different dressing rooms for costume changes and dealing with tights and different hair pieces all at the same time.
The theme for the recital this year was Peace Love Dance so each dance represented one of those themes.  My girls were so excited for this day!  Hannah Kate always looks forward to getting dressed in her costumes and dancing on the big stage.  Ellie's motivation this year was gymnastics.  I wondered if Saturday might change her mind, but she's still determined to give up her dancing shoes for the balance beam.  Actually, the other day she told me she wanted to take dance AND gymnastics AND horseback riding lessons.  I have no idea how the horses got into the equation here.  I told her she needs her own personal valet and chauffeur!

It was a beautiful day for a dance recital. 
Hannah Kate danced in the first recital.  All of her dances were in the first act.  We had a crazy fast costume change because there were only three dances between her ballet and lyrical performances, and we had to change tights AND headpieces AND that ballet costume was no joke this year.  It wasn't an easy change, but we did it.

Hannah Kate's jazz performance was her first dance.  She and Abbie both got to wear red this year.
Since Hannah Kate was finished dancing in the first act, we actually took a little break and went out to eat.  Don't judge.  We were hungry, and we still had a long evening ahead.  Ellie danced at the beginning of the first act and the end of the second act.  It wasn't too bad though because I put her street clothes back on and let her sit in the audience with us the majority of the recital.

Before she took the stage for her first dance, Abbie came in to give her a little pep talk.  I really at this point had no idea what to expect.  She did okay at rehearsal, but there's no guarantee about anything with this girl.  As much as she has loved to dance, she was scared to death when she walked out onto that big stage at last year's recital, and she barely moved.  I wasn't expecting that at all.  But this year was a different story.  Her tap performance was her first dance, and she nailed it.  I mean, I thought she was going to shake her hips off!
I have to say, compared to those weeks and weeks and hours and hours of dance class throughout the year, it seems like the recital is over in the blink of an eye!  Both of my girls (and my girl Abbie) did an outstanding job in all their dances, and it was such a joy to watch them dance.
Last week was just a crazy busy week.  Tuesday night Ellie had recital rehearsal at the theater, and Mason had a double header.  Hannah Kate had her history final the next morning so she had to bring her notebook so she could study during rehearsal and the games.  At one point I looked over at her and saw this:
She was counting down!  (All while practicing a little multiplication in a real life scenario!)  I posted this collage a couple of weeks ago of Hannah Kate's studio pictures.  I mean, she was barely three years old in that first picture.  So little, so sweet.  I personally think she favors me in the second picture.
And now, here she is having just completed SIX YEARS of dance instruction!  We absolutely adored her ballet costume this year.  It was her first time wearing a platter, and that was some serious business, I can tell you.  Remember what I said earlier about having less than three dances in which to change out of this costume and into another one?!
I recorded Hannah Kate's dances at her rehearsal with my phone, and I'm linking them below.  While it was just the rehearsal, and the actual recital was more polished in regard to lighting and spacing, I thought all the girls did a great job!

Jazz - Freeway of Love
Two classes actually danced to this number so Hannah Kate's class is the second one.  Hannah Kate is on the front row on the right side when they come out.  This is definitely my favorite jazz dance she's done.  I thought Miss Courtney did an outstanding job fitting the choreography to the girls in the class.
Ballet - Annen Polka
I was so proud of Hannah Kate for this dance.  Ballet is challenging, and Ms. Katherine expects a lot from her students.  But her classes are always, hands down, the most disciplined, focused, sharpest dances.  Hannah Kate is on the right side in this dance also.  You can't really tell from the video, but the rows are stacked.  She's on the front row at first, but it will look like she's third from the right.
Lyrical - People Help the People
Hannah Kate has been patiently waiting about three years to take a lyrical class.  She. LOVED. it.  And this dance shows just that!  I cannot pick a favorite dance, but the thing I love about this performance is just how much Hannah Kate loved it!  It was all she talked about.  This wasn't a big class, and I know it was challenging for Miss Courtney to choreograph, but, again, she did another fantastic job!  Hannah Kate is on the left and ends up third from the left once the girls are in a straight line.

And this little ballerina right here!  Y'all, I could just eat her up!  Is this costume not the sweetest?!  Part of me is a little sad the she won't be wearing a tutu next year.  I don't even know why.  I took dance for two years, and I could not wait to take piano lessons instead.  I begged my parents!  I just didn't really like dance.  I don't know why.  I guess because I had my heart set on that piano.  So maybe gymnastics is Ellie's piano.
If this in fact turns out to be Ellie's last recital, it was definitely one to go out on!  She totally nailed it both times, and she had fun.

Tap - Baby Love
I recorded her rehearsal just like I did Hannah Kate's, but Ellie wasn't thrilled at rehearsal, and she didn't move much.  Or, at least, she didn't move like I knew she could.  We were sitting on the third row at her recital so we were up close and personal.  Seth recorded her dances with his phone so that's what I'm linking here because she did such a great job at the recital.
Ballet - Tiny Dancer
So, look.  At one point, her little friend's hair piece falls out.  I couldn't tell if Ellie was giving her the stink eye about it or if she wanted to stop the dance, pick it up and pin it back in her hair.  All I know is that I was screaming in my head, "JUST KEEP DANCING!  JUST KEEP DANCING!"  And, whew!  They did!  I'm convinced Ellie knew this entire dance by heart.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, was Hannah Kate's SIXTH dance recital and Ellie's second recital.  It was, as usual, a special day.

Monday, May 15, 2017

My Preacher Man Nephew

Two weekends ago (meaning the first weekend in May), we went to Houston for Youth Sunday at Troy and April's church.  Avery was chosen by his Youth Minister to share a testimony and God's Word during the service.  He began working on his "sermon" a few months ago, and we were really looking forward hearing him bring it.
We headed over on Friday and spent part of the afternoon at the Kemah Boardwalk.  It was a neat little place to waste some time while we were waiting to check-in to our hotel.   
I'm not sure why my children think they need to hug every shark and large sea creature they come across, but they do. 
We went to the aquarium to feed the stingrays.  Now.  By feeding stingrays, I had in mind those hard pellets of food you get at the zoo to throw to the ducks and the fish.  But, alas, that's not the diet of stingrays.  Nope.  Instead we were handed a little tray of smelly, slimy, sardine-looking fish.  Real ones.  I mean, they were dead.  But they were real.

Those stingrays must've been really hungry.  They were practically jumping up out of the pool.
As soon as we got to the hotel, the kids claimed their beds and crawled in and turned on the television.  They love hotel rooms.  I mean, who needs Disney World when you can have the Holiday Inn? 
On Saturday we attend Avery and Beau's concert band concerts at the University of Houston.  Beau plays the trombone in the middle school band.  You can see him there on the back row, the first trombone on the left side of the conductor.   
I have to say the band sounded really good!  Beau will move on up to high school now, and he's decided to lay his trombone aside so he can have more time to focus on golf. 
And then it was Avery's turn.  These kids are very talented, and the entire band was very impressive. 
Maybe Avery will play his saxophone in the marching band at Baylor. 
And then Sunday morning we headed to church to hear my preacher man nephew share the Word. 
He spent three months or so preparing for this day, and he was mentored by his Youth Pastor.  It was a very organized, detail oriented process.  I also have to say right here just how much I appreciate and admire those youth pastors who are pouring themselves into the students of today and discipling them.  They are real difference makers and kingdom builders, and their ministry is invaluable in the Church.  So you need to right now honor your Youth Pastor and tell him/her how much you appreciate them!  

I asked Avery at Easter what Scripture he was using, and he said he was starting with Abraham's story in Genesis and throwing a little bit of 1 Corinthians and James in there, too.  So that was all I knew.

And let me tell you something.  I couldn't be more proud of Avery!  He nailed it.  He started out by talking about what a die-hard LSU fan he was and his parents were.  So his plan all along was to attend college at LSU.  But the one thing he just couldn't figure out what his major.  And you know why?  Because going to LSU wasn't God's plan for him.  God has called him to Baylor University where he will be a freshman this fall majoring in entrepreneurial studies.  So he has realized that as much as he had his heart set on LSU, all the years he thought that's where he would go after high school, God had a DIFFERENT plan for him.
And, oh, how I just had to chuckle.  It reminded me of all the many times in my life that God's plan has been different for me than my own.  Hello, Louisiana.  Homeschooling.  Seriously.

I took notes on Sunday morning.  And I told Avery I took notes.  Because in a couple of years, maybe sooner or maybe later, I'd be reminding him about what he said.  He told me he'd probably never forget it.  And, being the annoying Aunt I am, I told him I'd be reminding him anyway because it is most important, most imperative that he DOES NOT FORGET and that he LIVES IT OUT.

In the words of Avery (with my thoughts in parentheses):

God has the perfect plan for us.

"Now the LORD had said to Abram:  "Get out of your country, from your family and from your father's house, to a land that I will show you.  I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing.""  ~Genesis 12:1-2

Every time God makes a promise like this (see above), something EPIC happens.  (I mean, I think the word "epic" is totally overused these days, but it's spot on here!)  How many times does God have a BETTER plan for us?  (Huh.  Truth.)

"But as it is written:  "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.""  ~1 Corinthians 2:9

God's plan for me was not LSU.  God had a different plan.  And God's different and better plan will always test your faith.  Abraham had to wait TWENTY FIVE YEARS for the promise!  And then, in Genesis 22, Abraham was told to sacrifice his son!  God works in ways we don't always expect.

""For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD."  ~Isaiah 55:8

I don't need to understand God's plan.  I don't always need to know.  I just need to trust.  (Man, that's hard, isn't it?!  I have to remind myself ALL THE TIME that, even though I don't know, God knows.  He does!  And absolutely nothing takes Him by surprise.  So I can trust Him.)

God's plan is ALWAYS better.  

(I have to constantly remind myself of this one, too.  Because here's the deal.  I can either do it my way.  Or God's way.  I can do it my way.  Or I can do it the BEST way.  I can do it my way.  And fail.  And totally miss out on the best.   Or I can do it God's way and watch Him work in ways on my behalf that I can't even imagine!  The choice is mine.  And the choice is yours.  Avery made his choice.  And I couldn't be more proud and honored to call him my nephew and to be a small part of his journey!)

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Ellie-isms: pit hair, popcorn and cups (but not the drinking kind)

So maybe it's the end of what's been a really long week, and even though tomorrow is FriYAH, you just can't imagine getting up in the morning to do it all over again before the weekend.

Or maybe you just lost your sixth ballgame in a row.

Or maybe the seven graduation gifts you purchased last week accidentally got taken out and thrown in the garbage can.


Not that I would know anything about any of that.

But just in case, here are a few Ellie-isms for you . . . seriously, everybody needs an Ellie in their lives.  I sure hope you have one.  But, if not, you're more than welcome to enjoy mine!
Putting this in context . . . Mason and the boys down the street get together in our front yard, put the bases out and play baseball or kickball or even some game they made up where they hit the soccer ball with the bat.  Hannah Kate is out there in the middle of it all playing just as hard as they are.  Ellie doesn't much care for it because that means Hannah Kate isn't playing with her.  She has no interest in being out there, and she doesn't want Hannah Kate out there either.

A couple of weeks ago after I picked Mason up at Sequitur, this is the conversation from the middle row.  Keep in mind that we have three rows of seating in the Tahoe, but all three kids insist on sitting on the middle row together.  I was driving so I didn't see how she was sitting, but I guess Hannah Kate had her arms up.

Mason:  Uuuggghhhh!  Hannah Kate!!!!!  You have a hair growing out of your arm pit!

Ellie:  Yep.  That's what happens.  You get pit hair when you play baseball.  And Hannah Kate's been out there playing all that baseball.

Last week one morning at breakfast:

Ellie:  I wish we could live in a hotel.

Me:  Why do you want to live in a hotel?

Ellie:  Because they have popcorn.

Me:  What?!

Ellie:  You know, at that hotel at Aunt April's, they had popcorn.  Even though you wouldn't let us get any of it! 

Me:  They didn't have popcorn at the hotel.  All we did was sleep there.

Ellie:  Yes, they did!  It was right there when we walked in the door.

I realized she was referring to the hotel we stayed in last fall, and the little convenience store in the lobby that sold various items.  Note to self:  next time, get the popcorn.
Now, this last one isn't exactly an Ellie-ism.  But it's just too good not to share.

A little background . . . before baseball season began, the coach called me to make sure Mason had sliding shorts.  Sure.  He has athletic shorts and pants.  Same thing, right?  I assured him all was good.  So the next day, the coach sent a text to all of the parents again talking about sliding shorts.  And then he said that all of the players were required to wear a cup.

What?  So after thinking about this for awhile, I realized the "sliding shorts" must have something to do with the cup.  I had a brother growing up, and he played sports, but I definitely wasn't in "the know" about these things.  And I'm still not in "the know" about these things.  I mean, I can put my girls in make-up and buns, but I'm really not good with this boy stuff.

So later in the day, I was driving home after picking up one of the kids at Sequitur.  All three kids were with me, of course.  Seth called to tell me something.  So during this conversation, I was discreetly trying to tell Seth that he needed to step up the game in the boy department because Coach sent a message saying that Mason needed sliding shorts and "the other."  And I didn't even use the word "cup," and I was talking as low as I could.  Because, if you know me, you know why.  So here's what happened behind me.

Mason:  Yeah, Mom, I need a cup, too!

I mean, and he was practically yelling I NEED A CUP!

Hannah Kate (dying laughing):  A cup?!?

Mason:  Yeah, I have to wear a cup this year.

I mean, and I can't even stop the conversation, and Seth is still on the phone, and I'm about to run off the road.

Hannah Kate (laughing so hard she can't help herself):  Wear a cup?!?  WEAR A CUP?!?  I mean, what are you going to do?!?  TIE IT ON YOUR FACE??!!

YES.  I. DIED.  (And I wasn't laughing either.  I. was. mortified!)  My main concern was Ellie.  I did my best to stop that train wreck before it happened, and she heard something that I wasn't yet prepared to explain to her or wanted her to repeat to anyone anywhere else!  But before I could even get over myself and figure it out, Mason immediately lowered his voice and started whispering to Hannah Kate.  I couldn't hear a word he said, and I don't even know what she said back.  Needless to say, I promptly changed the subject!

I bet you'll never look at a cup the same way again!

You're welcome.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Georgia (on our mind)

The week after Easter, we took a little break and headed to Georgia for a few days.  It was a quick trip, and we hardly left the booming metropolis of Hollonville.  We didn't get to see everyone or do everything, but it was good just to go.  Jennifer asked me how many trips I've made since Thanksgiving.  Four.  It doesn't seem like that many, but it was.  I was just glad I didn't have a funeral to go to this time around.

The kids made a short little list of what they wanted to do.  The list basically consisted of people they wanted to see.  Honestly, I have pictures of only the last day we were there!  I'm not sure how that happened except that it was just nice to slow down and unplug for a bit.
So we spent an afternoon with our beach buddies.  My kids ALWAYS ask to see H and O.  Ellie especially loves spending time with O.  We spent the day with the J boy cousins.  I can't believe I didn't take the first picture of the kids together, but I guess my sister-in-law and I were just too busy talking and catching up.  We spent the last day with Jennifer and Denise and their kids.  Because I think Ellie talks about Kennedy EVERY. DAY.

The kids had a blast fishing and kayaking in the pond.  Pop came along for the fun so he could catch some fish for supper the following week.
It wasn't long before Mason reeled in the first catch, a nice bream.
I just love this picture of Aunt Harriette cheering Hannah Kate on as she reeled in her first fish.
Another nice bream.
I turned around, and Mason was reeling in this little bass.  We threw him back though.
And then it was Ellie's turn.
She caught a cute little bream, too.
Hannah Kate reeled in this nice one.
And then it was time for kayaking.  My kids had never been kayaking before, and they absolutely loved it.  They didn't want to get out.  They also have a new item on their "wish lists," but, you know . . . alligators in these parts.

While my big kids were kayaking, Ellie was doing gymnastics.  Jada was so sweet to spend some time with Ellie and give her a few "lessons."  Jada is a cheerleader and takes gym to help her with stunts.  First she taught Ellie how to step into her cartwheel.  I have to say . . . Ellie's cartwheel has come a long way, and I think it's quite impressive for a four year old.
And then Jada worked with her on a handstand.  Ellie's handstands currently end up in back bends, which I guess is perfectly fine.

And then they practiced toe touches.
After supper, Pop and the big kids would play a round or two of HORSE.  I mean, there's nothing like balling in your crocs!

And that was our quick trip to Georgia.  

Thursday, May 04, 2017


Only a little over two weeks ago, it was Easter.  And, yet, it seems like forever ago!  I don't even know why because two weeks really isn't that long.  I guess it's because we've been a lot of miles during these past two weeks and done a lot of things.  So here's our Easter.
We dress up, and we do baskets.  We do egg hunts.  But we also make sure to be super intentional with reminders and activities that celebrate our risen Savior and Lord.  This year we really tried to focus on Holy Week in its entirety, beginning with Palm Sunday, and talking about and studying Jesus' last week here on earth . . . what He did, where He went, what He said.  

You know, sometimes it takes me awhile.  And I honestly can't believe it took me so long to get it.  But when I started looking at how much each of the New Testament Gospels tells us about Jesus' final week on earth, I realized I never thought about just HOW MUCH of those Scriptures is devoted to Holy Week.  Matthew devotes the last 8 chapters to Holy Week, Mark the last 7 chapters (and there are only 16 chapters in all), Luke the last 6 chapters and John the last 10 chapters.  That's nearly half the entire book!  And then I began to consider the progression of Jesus' teaching during His final week with His disciples and followers, and I realized just how intentional He was in teaching them and telling them about His kingdom and what was to come and how to get there.  It just goes to show that no matter how much you study God's Word or how long you've been studying God's Word or how many Bible studies you've done, how many sermons you've heard, there's always, always, ALWAYS something new every time you take the time to dig in to the Word.  The Lord always has something for you!

Since the girls love painting, they did hand/finger print paintings for most of the days during Holy Week.  They began on Sunday with Palm Sunday and worked through Jesus' resurrection.  They both agreed that the Garden of Gethsemane was their favorite one.  They enjoyed picking out the colors for their flowers.  

This was the entire project once they were finished.  On Palm Sunday, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey (top print) while the people were waving palm branches and shouting, "Hosanna!"  Then we moved forward to Thursday when Jesus observed the last supper with his disciples (grapes and wheat), prayed in the garden and was betrayed by Judas who received thirty pieces of silver.  On Friday Jesus was crucified. And the girls are holding their Sunday paintings of the resurrection.  They really enjoyed working through this, and it was a great visual for Holy Week.
On Good Friday we went to church for lunch and a devotion.  I'd say it was much more than a devotion though!  Let's just say I have something new to study now.  We came home, and the kids made resurrection rolls.  I used to do these every year with Mason and Hannah Kate when they were younger, and I realized I'd never done them with Ellie.  So I made the big kids promise secrecy while we worked through it with Ellie.
This is another super fun activity and awesome visual depicting the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus.  The marshmallow represents Jesus' body which was anointed with oil (melted butter) and spices (cinnamon sugar) before being wrapped in a linen cloth (crescent dough) and placed in a tomb (oven).

So after all the marshmallows were dunked and wrapped, they were placed in the oven (tomb).  The oven door represents the large stone that was rolled in front of the opening to the tomb.
After our rolls baked for 10 minutes (we pretended it was three days), we took them out.
The best part was Ellie's reaction when we cut them open, and the marshmallow was "gone" (because Jesus' body was not in the tomb when the women arrived on the third day after His crucifixion because He was risen).  So here they are with their hollow crescent rolls.
Good Friday night we went to a fish fry with good friends and family.  Seth used to catch a lot of frogs back in his younger years, and his best frog hunting buddy is still at it.  So they fried up some frogs, too.  Nope.  I didn't eat them.  But I'm pretty sure they taste like chicken.  
Saturday morning the girls went to the annual community Easter egg hunt at church.  Mason declared that he's now officially too old for egg hunts.
But Hannah Kate still enjoys finding eggs.  Something tells me though that it won't be much longer before she's "too old" also.

I didn't actually get to see this one hunt her eggs.  My girls and Cierra's girls are in two different age groups so we just had to divide and conquer to get pictures of our girls before they scooped all their eggs up.  I was with the older ones, and she was with the younger ones.
These two little bow heads are just the cutest things.
The Houston cousins were in town for the weekend so the kids spent the rest of the day with them.  Somehow we ended up cooking crawfish bisque again.

And then it was Easter Sunday morning and time to rise and shine bright and early for the Sonrise service and a full morning of Bible study and worship.  
I have to say I really enjoyed preparing for and teaching my Bible study class that morning.  We did something a bit different from what we normally do, and I hope it's something they will remember.  But we began class with a friendly competition between the guys and the girls to see which team could construct the best bunny using only peeps and toothpicks.
After church we ate lunch together, and I was promptly ready for a nap!  It really was a special time of celebrating the greatest act of love ever known to man.