Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Before & After pictures of the yard

We're still playing in is a little post I created awhile back that never got shared. I am loving every minute of our crazy busyness here in the South. So far, over 612 pics taken..."fun" truly doesn't describe the last week and a half of our trip. Can't wait to share more warm MS memories soon!

When we moved into our new home at the end of April, the yard needed a lot of tlc. It had been awhile since it had been taken care of, but luckily a lot of the groundwork had already been laid by the owners while living there. We just needed to give it a little fixer-upper! Though it's far from done, we feel as if huge improvements have been made and can truly smile when we pull into the driveway and look at the fruits of our labor.

One of the things we love about our yard is the hostas. There were quite a few already planted all around the house and just in need of sprucing up so that they could bloom. After pulling and digging out the weeds and such, it was amazing to see what could transpire after only a few weeks. Because several of the back hostas were so large, we dug them up, split them in quarters and moved some to the front beds to fill in some gaps. Our neighbors are enjoying the remaining 6 from the separated hostas. :)

This picture below of the "seen-better-days" hostas was taken within 2 weeks of us moving in. The next picture underneath is a more recent one...isn't it amazing what change can take place in under 6 weeks?!
Clay and our neighbor Jeff did a lot of trimming and cutting those first several weeks. (It was so hard to work on unpacking boxes inside because of the beautiful weather outdoors; therefore, we found the larger outdoor tasks to be quite enjoyable and somewhat relaxing.) 
The picture below is just of the branches of 3 front bushes that needed to be pruned desperately. They will be bare this season, but start to really come alive next year!
I wish I had gotten a picture of this front flower bed before we started doing work on it. The whole thing was covered in weeds, branches, ground cover, grass...basically, it was scary enough that one might be afraid to go near it for fear of a snake or swampy character leaping out at them. Once again, the potential was amazing, it just needed a little work. We sprayed, dug, pulled, planted...this was about midway through the process....starting to look much better.
I took this picture of the bed below the other's not something you would see out of Southern Living or Beautiful Homes and Gardens, but definately easier on the eyes than what we started with!! We're happy and proud of it! We planted 3 new hostas from the back and will leave it as is for this year. (We are planning on adding 1-2 more lilies here, but I'm not sure when we'll get around to doing that) We decided to stick with pure greenery this season for several reasons: A. Low cost  B. Simplicity

...we did have a house that needed to be unpacked sometime in the near future! I had to laugh because my two boys would find the most interesting things that "needed to be taken care of right away" in the yard and would disappear for hours. Clay and Parker would come back up for sandwich lunches and then head back out to play! Thank goodness for rainy days; I was starting to worry after a few weeks that we would never finish the inside! ha ha!
We love our yard and our outdoor space. What makes it even more special and fun is watching Parker as he excitedly runs outdoors every chance he gets. He thinks we have the biggest backyard in the world as he believes that the 3 neighbors' homes to the left of us are all his for play and enjoyment too! ;) They wouldn't dare tell him otherwise. :) I love our neighbors.

The move was so worth it.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

"the lazy, crazy, hazy days of summer"

Last week, we flew in for some family fun in Mississippi...special events, family and friends, blueberry pickin' and just good ole' fashion playtime has been occupying our days and nights.

Thankful for these fun and busy times with family and friends...more pictures and memories to share soon!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Recipe for Strawberry Bread

Strawberry Loaf

My mama has been baking this for a number of years. She orginally got the recipe from a cookbook in Tennessee. Quite a few years ago, she and daddy took a weekend trip to the Hippensteal Inn in Gatlinburg, TN and enjoyed this sweet bread over breakfast. When asking about it, the waiter told her of an old cookbook that had not only that recipe, but other favorites from the area. The problem was tracking it down...the very last shop she and daddy visited, before leaving the area, had a few sitting on their shelves!

Mama passed the recipe down to me and it is now one of my favorite "breads." I baked 15 loaves to pass out to each of our cookout guests a couple of weekends ago as a parting gift and a couple of extras for our neighbors. Parker's daycare staff also got to enjoy a loaf! Rest assured, this will be one of your favorite recipes to add to your collection!

"Strawberry Loaf"

2 c sugar
3 c flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 Tbs cinnamon
4 eggs beaten
1 1/2 c cooking oil
2 c frozen strawberries thawed
1 1/4 c chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Grease two 9x5 pans (fill halfway)
In large bowl combine sugar, flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. In separate bowl beat eggs and oil together. Add strawberries.
Stir strawberry mixture into dry mixture.
Add pecans. Stir just until blended. Pour into prepared pans.
Bake for 55-65 min. Test center.

*Before serving, add a touch of warm butter or sprinkle powdered sugar on top for a perfect bite!

This bread is perfect for serving at a brunch or teatime...or for a midnight snack. ;)

Monday, June 21, 2010

a sweet reminder about friendship

Documented Saturday, June 19, 2010
Conversation with Parker:
After playing for several hours with friends/neighbors, Alexia and McKenzie, Parker and I came home for a quick lunch and nap. He was sitting at the kitchen table as I was preparing our lunch. I asked him what his favorite thing was about playing at Alexia and McKenzie's.
His response: "Ummm, paying wif Lexie and Kensie." (sounds something like Lesee and Tensie)
I responded, "Well, what is your favorite thing to play when you go over there?"
Parker: "paying with Lesee and Tensie."
Me: "That's fun. Do you like to play with the lawn mower and help mow the grass?"
Parker: "Yes."
Me: "Did you have a good time playing in the pool?"
Parker: "Yup."
Carrie (thinking he didn't understand the original question): "So what is your very favorite thing to do at Alexia and McKenzie's?"
Parker (very confidently and matter of factly): "Umm, paying with Lesee and Tensie."

It hit me like a ton of bricks. I am such a fool sometimes. My two and a half year old had just reminded me of a very important lesson. Life should not be valued from your material possessions, but the relationships that you carry daily. Here I was trying to get him to understand and correctly answer my question by telling me his favorite thing about playing at his friends' house and he was stating the response all along..the simple, sweet and pure answer.
His favorite thing about playing at Alexia and McKenzie's house has nothing to do with's simply being able to play with his friends

Thank you, Parker, for that sweet reminder.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Treasure in books...

Earlier this week during the morning hours, I walked in Parker's bedroom to see what my quiet little boy was getting himself into doing. When I peeked in, this is what I empty Ritz cracker package that he had helped himself to from our pantry & practically all of his Little Golden Books poured onto the floor. He was happily flipping through each one of the bound stories, pointing to fun objects and stating very confidently what the particular characters were. I love that he loves books and hopes this continues throughout the rest of his years.
P.S. Notice the slight farmer's tan...ha ha!

"There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island."
-Walt Disney

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Strawberry-Chicken Salad Appetizers and Mrs. Terry's Classic Homemade Chicken Salad

Strawberry-Chicken Salad Appetizers
This was one of the appetizers I served the other night at our cookout. I believe they were a hit because Clay said they were gone quickly (& I restocked them 3 times!). Also, I have to admit that when I tried one I could have easily consumed a dozen or more of those things! Sooo yummy!
Typed out below is the original recipe that I got out of an old Southern Living magazine. Below the original recipe, I will include the slight alterations I made to my batch.

Arrange 36 spinach leaves on a large serving platter.
Divide 1/2 pound deli chicken salad evenly among spinach leaves (about 1/2 tsp each).
Sprinkle evenly with 3 Tbsp. chopped, toasted pecans; 1/2 cup slivered strawberries; and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Makes 28 appetizer servings. Prep: 20 min
If desired, cover platter with plastic wrap, and chill for up to 30 min. Once removed from the refrigerator, serve within an hour.
To add a Southern touch and make them easier to manage, place each spinach leaf atop a cornbread cracker (we used Town House Bistro brand) and then serve within 1 hour.

**Carrie's alterations: Instead of buying deli chicken salad, I used my mama's homemade chicken salad recipe, which I honestly think makes the appetizer! I will include her delicious recipe at the bottom of this post. I prepared the chicken salad 2 days prior to the party; therefore, the evening of the cookout, all I had to do was put the ensemble together and add the strawberry slivers on top. It took less than 10 min! A simple but delicious and elegant touch for any gathering of friends!

Mrs. Terry's Classic Homemade Chicken Salad

Since I was a little girl, I have always been a fan of chicken salad and have tried it in many different states in many different ways. I have found a few variations from the classic chicken salad (ie. using pineapple, etc) that I really enjoy, but my mama's classic one is still to this day my very favorite. I hope you enjoy as well! This makes perfect summer sandwiches!

Mrs. Terry's Homemade Chicken Salad Recipe:
4 chicken breasts, boiled
2 eggs, boiled
celery - 2 or 3 stalks
salt & pepper

Boil chicken and cut into small pieces. Boil eggs and chop small. Chop celery and cut grapes. Stir all together. Add mayonnaise. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Carrie's notes: In my mama's recipe, she doesn't specify amounts in salt, pepper, grapes or mayonnaise. She knew that everyone's tastes might be a little different so she says to "eye it and taste it to your satisfaction." Also, your measurements will differ depending on how many actual chicken breasts and ingredients you are using. For the recipe I made this last week, I included 5 large chicken breasts, 3 eggs, 3 celery stalks and a bunch of grapes. :) I believe I used about 4 (maybe 5..I can't remember) large spoonfuls of mayonnaise. I like the mayo to be ever so slightly thicker than my personal taste, because the consistency will change after stirring and setting in the fridge for awhile. I add a pinch of salt but a good bit of pepper.

This recipe will always be one of the cherished ones that is included in our family cookbook.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Happy 30th Birthday Clay!!!

Happy Happy 30th Birthday to my Baby!
I love you more and more every day that we are together & can't wait to spend the rest of my life with you!

I love how you love being around people...I love how you miss your family & want everyone to be together all the time...I love how you will shave my corn off the cob because you know I won't eat it otherwise...I love watching you play with Parker...I love how into projects you get (especially when they're fixer-uppers or outdoor projects)...I love how you need me to remind you where everything is all the time (well, sometimes I love that!)...I love how you like to surprise Parker & me & even spoil us...I love how you & I enjoy traveling together...I love how you love to take me out to eat (just so I can't be multi-tasking at home while we're eating)...I love how you love sports & anything outdoors (I love watching you play sports!)...I love how you love to teach Parker new things...I love how much you love to talk about snowskiing & how you're ready to go again...I love & appreciate how hard you work for our family...I love how you call me several times a day (on the days you can!) when you're on trips...I love how much you know about so many things...I love how you love watching all those outdoor & history shows when you can (ie lumber something, whale watchers something, war shows, how things are made...if it's educational you love it!)...I love your cute behind --did I really just type that on this blog?!...I love your laugh & smile...I love how financially smart you are & how much you enjoy talking about finances...I love how you like things in order (to a certain degree!)...I love how you can pack 102 boxes in a space that fits 100 boxes & it actually look organized & better than if someone else threw in 86 (in other words, I love your spacial organization)...I love how you can fix & have a solution for anything & everything & you act like it's no big deal...I love so many different things about you...and continue to love even more about you every single day that we are together...
but mostly,
I love the way you love me & our family!!!!
Happy Birthday to my Sweetheart!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

our week in summary & one fun summer cookout

This is a quick glimpse of our week: Monday-Friday

Furniture shopping (Parker didn't last long...perfect time to nap...when there are 100's of sofas available for tired little boys), hubby fixing up an old piece of furniture, sanding it down & spray painting it for me (thanks Clay!! This picture was taken around 2am! He's such a hard worker.), making chicken salad for lunches for the week, a morning trip to the zoo, some afternoon summer inspiration out on the deck, simple but fun playtime on the deck one sunny afternoon after naptime, 15 loaves of homemade strawberry bread made for guests at cookout Friday night, & Friday night Cookout!!!

Friday evening Clay flew in for a rest night from a 6 day trip. We jumped on the opportunity to have our Sunday School class over for a summer cookout. I wish we could have these once a month! What an amazing fellowship time we had with the 30 guests. The house was filled diaper bags, pack n play's...I LOVED it! I believe there were 5 or maybe 6 newborns in can imagine who got all the attention that night... ;) Our original plan was to have everything outside. An extra table with chairs were going to sit out on the grass where a couple of the older kids could sit up, play, enjoy the grass, etc. Due to heavy rain earlier in the day, we kept it to the deck & inside the house. Although by the end of the evening when it hadn't rained anymore, the guys pulled out some yard game that they really got into for a good hour or so.

I do wish I had taken more pictures of people, but I was lucky to get the shots I did. The only downfall to hosting is that you can't spend 75% of the evening taking pictures of everything that's going on, because you're the one doing everything! Clay & I had a wonderful time visiting with our dear friends & are hoping that everyone had as good of a time as we did. Appetizers were served around 5:30...Strawberry chicken salad, chips & salsa, vegetables with Creamy Vegetable dip, and a simple cheeseball with crackers. On the dinner menu: Pineapple Chicken Kabobs, sweet corn & a delightful pasta salad. Desert was a surprise birthday cake for dear hubby who celebrates a big day this weekend!

Thanks to each of you who came to celebrate summer with us! And thanks to our dear neighbors, Jeff & Heather for letting us use your grill as a second cooking space. Oh, & thanks to other dear neighbor, Kat, for running an egg over to the house Thursday night (at 10:30pm...isn't she great!) when I ran out before my last batch of bread.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Me at 27

On Sunday I turned 27.

Me at 27:
I eat a piece of chocolate every day, 23 weeks pregnant with baby #2, happily married to my hubby of 4 1/2 yrs and loving each and every day that we are together, chasing after my busy 2 1/2 yr old 24/7, enjoying the everyday moments more & more, thankful for family & memories, blessed by my friends, loving the Lord & His grace, praying lots, happy trying new recipes in the kitchen frequently, I talk to my mama every day on the phone (usually multiple times), still stressing daily about the little things, promising myself (for the 12th year in a row) not to stress over the little things this next year, organizing and cleaning for fun more than as a chore, missing hubby more and more each time he leaves for trips, dreaming about upcoming projects to get my hands into (half of which have to do with scrapbooking/recording memories), excited about my first herb garden & having a backyard to play in this summer, looking forward to sippin' sweet lemonade & chocolate covered strawberries on our deck over the next several months, photography is just a small obsession, excited about new opportunities & adventures, looking for something to decorate &/or organize every day, a planner who has learned to have a little more flexibility... loving life to the fullest!!!

One of my girlfriends & I were chatting the other day about how funny it was that we used to think "30" was so old. Now, being only a few years from that point, I realize how mistaken we were!!! I will admit that when I go home & see kids I used to babysit for graduating highschool & starting college...that does make me feel old. It's fun to watch them though & remember back to that time of my life (well, for a short time anyway!)

I love my life & where I am at with it. Though every month & every year brings new challenges & some not so fun changes, I am thankful for the time & the experience of "getting older." I feel alive & happy. With each challenge brings a reward in the end. Whether those rewards are confidence, wisdom, lessons learned, closer relationships...they are indeed there. Some hidden maybe, but there for us if we will accept them.

So here's to another year! I can't wait to see what 27 has to offer. I plan to seize each opportunity, enjoy more simple, everyday moments & be thankful for everything that is in my life at the given moment.

Friends of ours at church had a celebration at their house following their daughter's baby dedication Sunday afternoon. Lauren & Jonathan are from the deep South as well, so it has been fun getting to know them these past couple of months. I have to say...Lauren entertains in true Southern fashion. Everything down to the smallest detail was planned out. She had a tent set up in the yard along with vintage fair games for the older children. Parker loved the Duck Pond where he could pick up & play with the many bright colored ducks. Although, after the rental game was turned into "Let's bob for apples!" he got confused as to what you were actually supposed to pick up with your mouth. We had to continously tell him that you're not supposed to bob for the ducks & to please place the little creatures back in the water. Ducks or apples, it didn't matter. He had a blast playing in the water & being a carefree little boy!
The pink & white decorations were exquisite...they matched Lauren & Eleanor's (Lauren's daughter) sweet personality perfectly!
Each of the moms posed for a quick picture with the sweet babes...Parker & I were the only ones not in it because he was too busy running off enjoying a cupcake that one of the kind ladies had offered him. :)
I love these girls & am so thankful for our Sunday School class; Clay & I have been blessed with many new friends this year that I know will be lifelong friends of ours.
(L to R: Yu Wen, Katie, Lauren, Stephanie & Katie)
All the guys had to get out in the yard & play baseball while the night was still young. My favorite was watching the kids' observations of the older guys out there tossing the ball around.

At the end of the evening celebration, Lauren handed out sparklers to each of the older children along with some fun candy. I think Parker's expression below says it all:

What a fun memory! I remember how excited I would get twirling around sparklers in the dark, night sky when I was younger (& actually still do!) so it was fun to experience this new wonderment with Parker.

It was a fun day getting to spend time with family & friends. The week has been a busy one...more on that tomorrow. Right now, I've got to go get my bread out of the oven. :) Have a good night!

Friday, June 4, 2010

A carefree boy

He makes his mama smile...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Beautiful sunrise

Picture taken by Clay via iphone while airborne in April at 6:33am

"Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see."
Hebrews 11:1

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

a delightful weekend spent outdoors

Here are a few of my favorites from the weekend! Although we had plenty of indoor time as well, we spent the majority of our days working out in the yard, visiting with neighbors, & enjoying grilling out. Parker was asking to ride his bike every 5 minutes, so although there are no pictures of him on the bike from this weekend, that was definitely one of his favorite pasttimes.
We had clouds & a little rain one day; the rest of the time was beautiful & sunny! I'll mention a couple of our simple yard projects in a later post with before & after's. Enjoy another delightful day!!! We plan on getting out in the yard a little more today & then working some indoors during the earlier part of the afternoon.