Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Celebrating: Christmas!

Its hard to believe Christmas is just about here!  I have one of those electronic billboards outside my office window and one of the advertisements has had the countdown to Christmas and this morning when I glanced up it said 5 days to Christmas. Wow - that happened overnight!  As a child, it seemed to take foreveeeeeer to reach Christmas day. Now the time just flies once Thanksgiving passes.

No problems for me, this 5 days before Christmas for I had all my presents purchased and wrapped 2 weeks ago, so I have been able to enjoy the season.  I still have some baking to do, but I think that will be done this weekend!

Decorating was started the day after Thanksgiving with the Tree the last thing to complete.  It was being held hostage in the attic and I had to wait for someone to rescue it for me!  It was the first time in 3 years I have put up the tree since I have a VERY curious little four legged daughter.  I have decorated everything except for a tree each year, but this year I decided to press my luck, so I put up the tree. I did let it sit empty for a couple of days in hopes she would lose interest.  No such luck!  For the 2st 2 days after it was decorated,  the ribbon was askew, the tree skirt bunched and ornaments scattered across the house.  Eventually she did lose interest and the ornaments (most of the time) remain on the tree. I will admit to a little help with a spray bottle.

Below is my "kitty tree." The ornaments are "kitties ornaments" that have been collected for many years.  It was so much fun seeing these ornaments after 3 years and remembering where they all came from.  As you know, when someone knows you collect a certain item, that is the present you get for Birthdays, Christmas and other special occasions, so I have lots to display. I have quite a collection and had many that did not make it to the tree since I was avoiding any dangling objects at the bottom and just a swat away from being thrown from the tree.



The Kitty Tree

Can I just say, I loved my mantle this year. I was going for a vintage look and think it turned out quite nice.




I used my built in bookcase to display my Christmas collections of Santas, Nativity Sets and Angels. I always hate to put up all my Santa's for they make me happy seeing them all on the shelves.



So, this is  bit of my Christmas!  Hope you enjoyed my tour of decorations!

I wish each of you the very Merry Christmas and a Happy 2013!

Ya'll come back!


Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them Celebrate! Psalm 64:10 

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Celebrating: A Very Crafty Christmas!


After having found Pinterest a little over a year ago, I will have to say my "crafting" skills have definitely been exercised!  As much of a foodie as I am, I have to say I'm on the Craft and Holiday categories more than the Food sites!  Over the course of a year I have seen so many adorable things to make for the holidays.  And as I have stated before, the original idea may not be mine, but I can generally recreate what I see and have learned to adapt to the things I have on hand in my craft stash!  Those useless items I pick up on the Clearance rack at Hobby Lobby, can come in handy some times!

If you recall, last Spring I made a double Topiary out of Spring Flowers.  When making it last Spring, I thought it would fun making one for Christmas using magnolia flowers.  I knew exactly who I wanted to make this for...my friend Cindy.  Cindy's house at Christmas time could rival The Biltmore Estate. Seriously - it is spectacular and really should be on a Christmas tour of Homes.
Her kitchen and Dining Room are burgandy, so I decided to do burgandy magnolias. (she almost didn't get this, I wanted to keep it myself)



I saw Snowmen candle holders made from various sizes of Wine Glasses.  I took the concept and made it my own.  You can also display these a couple of different ways. This was a fun project!
Glasses and battery candles came from the Dollar Store and with just a little "elbow grease" you have a cute inexpensive gift.  I gave these to my "Bible study girls" along with a bag of Chocolate Bark.



 
I added  "footie" and set the battery candle in the dome for another look!
 
 
 


I saw some cute Jingle Bell Candle Sticks ON SALE for $44.50.  I loved them, but at that price, Amazon could keep them!  While in the (you guessed it) Dollar Store I saw a package of 8 large bells for $1.00 and my brain started spinning - how could I recreate those candlesticks .  The ones I had seen were red,  they didn't have red, but silver would work!  This project had a bit of a challenge.  The base and actual candle holder looked like cymbals from a tambourine and I just could not find anything similar.  So I started trying to adapt.  I found some wooden stars to use as the base and I do confess that I destroyed a toy tambourine we had to get the 4 cymbals. My jingle bell candlesticks just cost $1.00 for the Jingle Bells and $1.00 for the wooden stars, but when my niece finds out later that she no longer has a toy tambourine, I may just have to do a little damage control for that item.



I love being able to make adaptations - whether in the Craft Room or the kitchen.  The recipe (and I use the term lightly) below falls under the category of 'adaptable."   You just use a base of White Chocolate discs and the possibilities are endless.  I make Barks all the time.  They are quick and easy.  Sometimes I mix everything together, sometimes I pour out my chocolate on a parchment covered cookie sheet and top the melted chocolate.  There are also several difference colors available so you can adapt it to different functions!  Break up your bark, put it in Christmas treat bags and tie with a festive ribbon and you have a great Hostess gift! 

WHITE CHOCOLATE BARK

Melt chocolate, pour onto parchment covered cookie sheet.

Toppings

Cranberries and Pistachios make a great Christmas offering

Toasted coconut and toasted almonds

Peanuts or Raisins

Just open your pantry and let your imagination run! 

My favorite - I had several different kinds of mini candybars after Christmas one year.  I chopped up the candy bars, added peanuts and sprinkled over the melted chocolate.  Candy Bar Bark!  What a great way to use up that leftover holiday candy!

Ya'll come back!

Susan

May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them CELEBRATE!  Psalm 64:10

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Celebrating: A Gray Family Thanksgiving!

What a difference a year makes!  Last Thanksgiving Mom was still in Rehab with her knee, so Charlene, Mom and I celebrated a very quiet Thanksgiving meal. And while it was a very enjoyable meal prepared by Charlene and me, it was just not Thanksgiving. Although we did not have a large crowd, the family was together and to me, that is what Thanksgiving is about – not so much the food, but the family.

We started talking Thanksgiving dinner menus in early November. .Charlene and I try to take some of the cooking duties, but as usual we got nowhere.  Then we tried to persuade her to “limit” the amount of food and when we tried to do that, we just ended up with a longer list for some reason...  “We have to have this” turned into a very common phrase as we were trying to create our menu.  She did let us contibute a couple of things, but that's it! So, I shall try to attempt to list the items we had…

Fried Turkey (courtesy of Eric), Pork Roast with Carrots, Honey Baked Ham, Dressing, Gravy, Stewed Corn, Peas, Fried Okra, Sweet potato bundles, Tomato pie,  Green beans, Rice, Cole Slaw, Marinated Vegetable salad, Deviled Eggs, Chicken Salad. Whew – I am full just typing all that!  To top it off, we had Pecan Pie, Gluten Free Killer Pumpkin Bars, Chocolate Pudding, Cookies and Cream, Apple turnovers and Fruit Salad. Sorry – no pics as I forgot my camera!

It was a wonderful meal, spent with the ones I love most!

The following recipe is a family favorite and makes an appearance often at the Gray residence!

Tomato Pie

1 pastry shell, baked                            3 tomatoes, peeled and sliced
1 med onion, chopped                         1 cup Sour Cream
1 med green pepper, chopped              1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
3 Tbs butter

Preheat oven to 350.  Saute onions and peppers in butter. Place in baked pastry shell.  Place sliced tomatoes
on top of onions and peppers.  Mix SC and Cheese.  Spread over tomato slices.  Bake for 25 – 30 minutes. 

 

May The Lord Bless his people with peace and happiness and let them Celebrate!

Ya’ll come back!

Susan  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Celebrating: Ava's Cinderella Pumpkin Carriage!


Well, Pintrest strikes again!  I saw this Cinderella Pumpkin Carriage several months ago,  pinned it and have been anxiously a waiting Halloween’s arrival so I could make it.
The best part – this adorable piece cost less than $8.00 to make because everything (excluding the pumpkin) came from the Dollar Store.   Not only that, but I have lots of jewels and glitter stickers left for another project.   It was not only cost friendly, but simple to make!

I made it for my 5 year old niece Ava. I think it got her approval!


Ava's Cinderella Pumpkin Carriage



 


And instead of tossing the seeds like I generally do, I opted to toast them for a snack.  I really wanted a sweet/salty combo, so I went on the internet to find a recipe.  I found exactly what I was looking for!

 

From Realsimple Magazine…

Sweet and Salty Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups Pumpkin Seeds
2 TBS unsalted butter (melted)
2 TBS granulated sugar
1.2 tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp cinnamon

Heat oven to 300 degrees. Spread send on a rimmed baking sheet and bake until thoroughly dry – about 50-60 minutes.
Increase oven temp to 350.  In a large bowl, toss seeds with butter, sugar, salt and cinnamon.
Return seeds to baking sheet and toast –tossing occasionally until golden brown.  About 10-15 minutes. 


Ya’ll com back!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them CELEBRATE!  Psalm 64:10

Friday, October 19, 2012

Celebrating: Being Crafty!


So many projects…so little time!  I have so many “”crafty” projects pinned on Pintrest, it would take me years to complete.  There are so many clever ideas that I see and think, now why could I not look at that and imagine making something from nothing! I am lucky in that if I see something I can generally reproduce – I just didn’t come up with the original concept. 

So far this year I’ve made a Fall Leaf Wreath for my Mom, a picture frame Halloween sign and witches legs.

The wreath is made from Dollar Store items. (Leaf cutouts and a piece of core foam) I used one piece of core foam ($1.00) and 4 packets of leaves (I did not use all –just wanted the different colors).  All I needed was a hot glue gun and I was set.  I wish I had made it a bit smaller, but it did look nice against my mom’s green door.  Total cost - $5.00.

 

The Picture frame sign – also Dollar Store purchases.  I got 3 assorted sizes of frames, orange ribbon and ribbon to hang.  I used paint pens and drew Halloween pictures and sayings.  Total cost - $5.00

 

I saw these “witch legs” and just had to re-create.  Thought it was a hoot!
Used 2 swim noodles $2.00. a pair of tights from Joann’s (50% off all Halloween- $4.00), a pair of red pumps from Goodwill ($4.94) that I covered with red glitter glue.  Total - $10.94   

 

While looking around the Dollar Store (or should be the $20 Dollar Store in my case)  I found some foam mini pumpkins and gourds in fall colors. I know I have some Harvest colored candles and clear vases to make a candle display for someplace special.  It will serve as double duty – Halloween/Thanksgiving.  Wish I could put it on my mantle, but I don’t dare put anything breakable on Krissy’s favorite place to jump!


 

One of the things I really look forward to when the temps start dropping is….making soups.  I love soup and like to have a variety in the freezer. There is nothing better on a long, cold day than knowing you can have a nice hot bowl of soup in minutes. Most recipes make 4-6 servings.  I generally eat 2 meals and freeze the rest.   The recipe below is one of my favorites.  I got this one from Hilary on the BC Board. 

Red Lentil Soup
3 TBS Olive oil
1 lg onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBS tomato paste
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Pinch of ground chili powder or cayenne to taste
1 quart chicken broth
1cup red lentils
1 lg carrot, peeled and diced
Juice of ½ lemon, more to taste
2 tbs chopped fresh cilantro

In a  large pot, heat 3 TBS EVOO over high heat until hot.  Add onion and garlic, saute until golden (about 4 minutes)
Stir in tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper and chili powder and saute for 2 minutes longer.
Add broth, 2 cups of water, lentil and carrot.  Bring to a simmer, then partially cover pot and turn heat top medium low simmering until lentils are soft – about 30 minutes.  Taste and add salt if necessary. (At this point, I will also add extra cumin or tomato sauce, just to adjust to my taste)
Using an immersion blender, regular blender or food processor, puree half the soup, then add back to pot.  Soup should be somewhat chunky. (I skip this step all together)
Reheat soup if necessary, then sir in lemon juice and cilantro.  Serve soup drizzled with a good olive oil and dist lightly with chili powder if desired.

Ya’ll come back!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them CELEBRATE!  Psalm 64:10




Friday, October 5, 2012

Celebrating: Tea for ...40!

It’s that time again! The Women of the Church Fall luncheon, that is.  Fall…it sure has gotten here fast!  We decided to do something a little different than the usual luncheon, so we decided on an afternoon Tea.
We had 5 people decorate their table for tea and we provided the Tea and Tea Treats.  I tried to channel my friend Martha and remember her tricks of the trade for setting a proper tea. 

We had a small intimate group of 40  ladies with some even decked out in hats!  The tables were just beautiful, as usual.  We have some very talented
“table artists” (as I call them) at our Church.

Our Menu

Cucumber Sandwiches
Pimento Cheese Sandwiches
Banana Bread with Cream Cheese
Pumpkin Bread
Shortbread
Tea Cakes
Cream Puffs
Mini Eclairs

5 tea offerings

Desserts


Breads



We had 8 per table and an item for each, plus we had trays with extras that we could replenish.  It was a fun afternoon and I really think everyone enjoyed their afternoon in England!  



Tea Cakes

3 1/2 cup all purpose flour
1 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Set aside.  Sift together flour, cream of tartar, soda and salt,  set aside. Combine sugar and butter.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  add eggs one at a time, mixing well after each. Add vanilla.  Add dry ingredients and mix until well combined. Transfer to a plastic wrap.  Shape the dough in a dish.  Refrigerate and chill 30 minutes. divide dough into 4 pieces. Working with one piece at a time, roll out dough  on a lightly floured board to 1/8 inch thickness.  keep remaining dough in fridge.  Cut with cookie cutter.  Place on a cookie sheet.  Bake 8 minutes.


Ya’ll come back!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let the CELEBRATE! Psalm 64:10

 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Celebrating: Cousins and Cold Plates!

As


As I have said before, I had an ideal childhood. I grew up in a small, lazy, southern town surrounded by lots of cousins! I had 4 cousins belonging to my dad’s sister right around the corner that I spent lots of time with. I had 2 cousins from Memphis that I didn’t see as often, but when we did it was a special treat. Then I had 3 more cousins around the corner that I always (and still do) called cousins. They are my aunt’s husband’s brother’s kids (now that’s a mouthful) and even though they are not really related, we always claimed each other as cousins! And, because we lived so close, whenever there was a family gathering, it was usually a combined event. Over the years I don’t see them as often, but we‘ve been able to catch up on good ole’ Facebook!

So it was a rare treat when several of us were able to attend a luncheon for my Aunt’s birthday (who is aunt to both families). We had my Aunt Mona, her daughter Deb, cousin Heather, my “faux” family, Aunt Peggy, her daughters Elaine and Beth and Elaine’s adorable granddaughter Kiley, SIL Niki, niece Ava and Mom who hosted us all at her home. We missed my sister Charlene and cousin Maleia!

It was an impromptu gathering, but Mom was up for the challenge! She prepared a “cold plate” for us all that would rival the Ritz. In fact, in my opinion – much better! A “cold plate luncheon” is a very old southern tradition that I’m afraid has been forgotten over the past years. Many years ago there were several fine dining establishments or tea rooms that featured a cold plate during lunch time. I’m proud to say that Mom is famous for HER cold plate luncheons! We “Gray” girls love any opportunity to entertain and this was no exception!



One of mom’s latest additions to her cold plate is this wonderful salad.

Strawberry Pretzel Salad

2 cups crushed pretzels
1 ½ stick butter
2 TBS sugar
½ cup sugar
8 oz cream cheese
8 oz cool whip
2 3 oz packs strawberry jello
2 cups hot water
2 10 oz frozen strawberries partially thawed

Melt butter. Add 2 TBS sugar and pretzels. Press into 9 x 13 pan and bake at 375 for 8 minutes. Cool. Mix ½ cup sugar, cream cheese, cool whip, Spread over pretzels, seal at edge. Let cool. Mix jello, water and strawberries and pour over cream layer. Refrigerate.

You HAVE to make this one day. I can just about promise that you will not be disappointed!

Ya’ll come back!

Susan

May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them CELEBRATE! Psalm 64:10

Monday, September 24, 2012

Celebrating: Lizzie!

As you all know, I celebrated  my 1st "blogoversary" and had a drawing for my followers. Thank you all for reading my little blog and I am in hopes of many more!

 The lucky winner - Lizzy!  Liz has her own blog "That Skinny Chick Can Bake," and it is terrific! 

Thank You All!

Susan

Monday, September 17, 2012

Celebrating - A little Hint of Fall!

There is a very brief hint that Fall is just around the corner!  It’s just the little things, a leave or two floating in the breeze, daylight is shorter, the morning is crisp and Pumpkin Spice coffee is back at Starbucks! I love Fall, it is my favorite time of year – that is until Spring arrives!  I seem to be very fickle when it comes to the seasons!

Since Fall and apple season is quickly approaching, Mom, Aunt Mona and I went to Jaemore Farms on Saturday .  We always love to go there and I am looking forward to spending the day with them.  I have company coming for dinner Sunday, so I’m sure several fun things will go into my buggy!

My dinner guests will be my neighbor, Linda and her houseguest from Germany, her good friend Inge.   Linda and I have been neighbors for 10 years now and honestly if she moved, so would I!  She has become a special friend and I truly appreciate her friendship over these years.  And, Linda is not only my neighbor, she also keeps me straight in the office, where she is the part time bookkeeper, computer whiz and “fixer” of many other things that I don’t like to deal with!  Inge is visiting from Germany for 2 weeks and from what I understand, she has been doing her best to help our struggling US economy!  They have had great fun hitting the shopping trail!

We began with an “appy” of Peach Sangria, Havarti Cheese, Grapes and Crackers

 

Dinner will start out with a Fall Favorite salad  that I got from the Contessa Board. (thanks Hilary!).

 

Followed by Squash casserole, mashed cauliflower, (I may never have mashed potatoes again), rolls and orange glazed BL/SL chicken thighs.   I also spied something interesting at Jaemore’s…a jar of Dilly Green Beans. I thought that sounded like an interesting addition to our plate! And, I was right, I put 2 beans on our plate for some color…it was just enough.  I prepared our plates, and I must say – they looked scrumptious.

 

Dessert  was Fresh Apple Cake, drizzled with caramel and topped with cinnamon whipped topping.

 


Fall Salad

Maple Dressing

¼ cup mayo
¼ cup maple syrup
3 TBS white wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
½ cup vegetable oil

Combine 1st 4 ingredients. then add vegetable oil, and whisk til gradually thickened.

This is a great versatile salad dressing.  I fixed individual salads of baby Greens, sliced pears, cranberries and toasted walnuts.  Hilary’s original recipe calls for Granny Smith apples and Dried Cherries, which I have also prepared and is equally as good.

Dinner was a success!  Good Drink, Good Food and GREAT company!

Ya’ll come back!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them Celebrate!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Celebrating: Sissy Celebrates!

Happy Birthday Sissy Celebrates!  I cannot believe that a year has passed since my first blog, August 20, 2011.  I also cannot believe that it took me so long to begin!  Starting this blog has been one of the best things I have ever done for myself. Never did I imagine what joy and completion it would bring me.  I have discovered that I “crave” writing sometimes.  And yes, there have been blogs written, but gone unpublished simply because it just felt good to express myself. Turns out, it is good for the soul, or mine at least!   When my “blogs” were deleted last month, it literally felt like I had lost a friend.  In fact, I felt a little like I had lost my “mojo.”  Niki, again, you don’t know how much I appreciated getting my words back!  It was kinda like a second chance!

Its funny, the intent of this blog was to be cooking and entertaining related, and by chance it has evolved into a glimpse of my life.  It’s not glamorous or action packed, but it’s my life and I have taken great pleasure in telling my stories!  I thank you all for indulging me!   I do want to incorporate more recipes, so it is my goal to leave you each time with some of my favorites!

To celebrate my 1 year anniversary, I’m having a Blog “Giveaway.”  Become a follower of Sissy Celebrates to be entered in the drawing.  I will pull a name in September  20, so stay tuned!  My “Giveaway” is a Cheese Knife set, perfect for entertaining!  I have one myself!


Thank you for reading my blog!


One of my favorite easy appy’s!  It takes a little time – but so worth it!

Cracker Bacon Wraps!

36 club crackers
12 slices bacon
½ cup parmesan cheese

Cut bacon slices in thirds.  Wrap cracker with bacon.  Place on a baking sheet.  Sprinkle cracker with cheese.  Bake 2 hours at 250.

Ya'll come back!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them CELEBRATE! Psalm 64:10


Friday, August 24, 2012

Celebrating: Girlfriend weekend!

One of my BFF's, Cindy contacted me last month to see if I was interested in joining her and two other friends for a Weekend Getaway. Since I've not had a vacation in a couple of years, I jumped at the chance!
So last weekend, Cindy, Sherry, Hallie and I loaded up the car (and I do mean loaded) and headed up to Pigeon Forge, TN.  Her fiance Greg graciously donated his Time Share, so we had a fabulous 3 room condo overlooking the little town of Pigeon Forge with a magnificent mountianview backdrop.

We had to laugh before we left, because we were e-mailing our drink/snack contributions and it appeared we would need the turtle shell for the top of the Suburban since we were each bringing so much stuff for cocktails!  Considering none of us are "lushes" this proved to be a standing joke throughout our trip.  Once unloaded, it did look a little like we were going to film an episode for "Girls Gone Wild."  We did have some good Ruby Relaxers and Mango Margarita's!

Saturday morning we enjoyed a leisurely start to our day, then headed to a place called Cade's Cove.  We stopped at Subway for a picnic to take and headed up the mountians.  Cade's Cove was a settlement dated back to the 1800's complete with houses dotted throughout the area with several Churches.  So hard to fathom the way people lived so long ago.  I can hardly imagine living without cable, much less electricity! It was so pleasant, eating our picnic subs and enjoying a spectaular view!

Saturday night we headed toward Gatlinburg!  My, has it changed in the 20 years since I had been there!  I recognized nothing!   We walked around the town and found a great place for a late night dinner - Smokey Mountian Brewery.  It proved to have good food and good entertainment, as well.

Sunday afternoon was spent laying around the picturesque pool deck.  It was a cloudy afternoon and just perfect for a good book and a Mike's Lemonade!  It felt good to be lazy!  We decided to take in a dinner show Sunday night and of course, we had a number of choices.  We settled on the Hatfield & McCoy show, which included a dinner of Possum soup, Fried Chicken, Pinto Beans, Mashed potatoes, Rolls, Cornbread and chocolate pudding parfaits.  The show was just corny enough to be entertaining!
After our show, we were not ready to go home, so we stopped at one of the many Putt-Put courses on the strip.  Dresses, high heels, and mini golf are a lethal combination!  We had quite a lot of laughs and mishaps throughout our course!

Monday morning was spent at the Christmas Village, where we meandered through room after room of every Christmas decoration imaginable!  My friend Cindy was in "Hog" or should. I say "Elf" Heaven!  Her house would rival the Biltmore House at Christmas time!   We ended our short trip at the Applebarn Restaurant, where we enjoyed yet another good meal of southern delights.  They had a great gift shop, candy store and winery to wonder through before we loaded back into the car and headed home.

It was such a fun weekend!  We did alot of giggling, alot of eating and even more talking!  There's just nothing like a  Girlfriend weekend  to rejuvenate the soul!  It just reminds me of how much I appreciate all my girfriends and the joy they bring to my life.   The best part of the trip - spending time with my BFF Cindy & adding 2 new girlfriends!   And, in case you were wondering, all the "libations" that were  hauled in, were hauled out..in anticpation for another trip!  Can't wait!

Ya'll come back!

Susan
May the lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them Celebrate!  Psalm 64:10

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Celebrating: My friend Judy!

I came here on Thursday to write this blog.  If you read my previous blog, you know that I had a MAJOR catastrophe.  I have to be honest with you, I was so devastated , I just didn't have it in me to write.  And that would be a tragedy in itself, because you would not hear about one of my favorite people.  My friend, Judy.  Many years ago, Judy came to us from Minnesota to become the new Youth Director at our Church.  This particular time period in my life was when I had strayed away from being a regular "Church goer" and more of an Easter/Mother's Day/Christmas goer.  Heck, I'll admit it, Saturday night usually turned into Sunday morning and brunch at Bennigans was far more appealing than Church.

My sister Charlene was a youth adviser at Church, so she and Judy became fast friends.  Charlene kept telling me how much fun Judy was and that I really needed to meet her.  My response..."I already had enough friends."  We still laugh about that statement, BTW.  Charlene finally wore me down with this concept..they were starting a singles group and would I be interested in coming to a meeting.  So the story goes...I met Judy... she and Charlene lured me back to Church and to top it all off she eventually asked me to become a Senior High Youth leader.  And the rest is history!  In fact Charlene. Judy and I were housemates for a couple of years until they both got married!


Judy


Judy has had to face many trials over the past years.  To make a very sad and long story short and to also try not to diminish the facts, here is a very brief synopsis. Three months into marriage in 1993 her husband Troy was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  Unfortunetly, Troy lost so much that take we take for granted.  He lost his ability to speak, but he spoke in so many other ways.  He was confined to a wheelchair, but he "walked" taller and stronger than most men.  His comprehnsion was compromised, but he was sharp as a tack and kept the same ole Troy sense of humor. Many would say that Judy and Troy had been denied their future .  But Judy didn't let the naysayers take control.  She made a life for both of them.  Troy went everywhere with Judy! They went to the movies, sports events, concerts and even skiiing in Colorado.  Many surguries and close calls came and went throughout the years, but Judy remained the rock that Troy needed.  Sadly , we lost Troy 5 years ago after his long and difficult illness. 

And throughout the many years of Troy's illness, she maintained a full time job. After being our Youth director for many years, she started working with Canine Assistant.  She became familar with them after Troy was matched with his own service dog, Kay.  She worked with families similar to her own story, to help them find the exact partner (dog)!    

Judy and Troy had once dreamed of working together in the Mission field.  Now that dream has become a reality for Judy. She is headed to Guatemala in September. Even though she will be pursuing it without Troy by her side, I just know that he will be with her in spirit!  She has touched the lives of so many people here and will now continue to do that with our neighbors further south!  She will continue to enrich lives and spread her contagious enthusiam for life and all that it has to offer

Of course, we could not send Judy off without a proper goodbye!  We had a farwell party for her just to let her know how much she has meant to us and to give her our best wishes.


Judy's Favorite dessert
Peanut Butter pies







And to end on a bright note...Judy has found a new companion, Bob.  I had the pleasure of finally meeting Bob last week and I have to say, he is terrific!    I'm so happy that she is getting this opportunity to start anew, once again!

I love ya, Judy!

Ya'll come back!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them celebrate.  Psalm 64:10

Monday, August 13, 2012

Blogging Tragedy

Last week a tragedy occurred here at Sissy Celebrates!  I accidentally deleted most of my posts.  I was able to find them and re-post.  Unfortunately, if you subscribe, you received them all again in your reader today.  I just wanted to take a moment to apologize for filling up your reader today.  I hope for both of our sake that this doesn't happen again.

Actually the above was written by my sister in law, Niki, on my behalf.  She has spent her whole day restoring my blog for me.  Last Thursday I accidently deleted 25 of my posts.  I have to tell you, I was physically sick.  I honestly felt like I had lost "part of my soul."   I had no back-up and my words were gone.  I never realized how passinate I was with writing (this blog) until this happened.   Niki has given me a priceless gift.  Thank you for getting my words back! 

Thanks for following!!

Y'all come back!!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them celebrate!  Psalm 64:10

Celebrating: Life in the Treehouse!

Celebrating: Life in the Treehouse!: Treehouse Apartments, that is!  Many years ago, poised to take on the world, I moved into my first Apartment.  One of my BFF's Cindy and I decided it was time to take the plunge and start our new life "on our own."  So one Saturday we hit the pavement to find "the" perfect apartment.  Didn't have to go far - it was only 5 minutes from my parent's and perfect it was.  It was a 2 bedroom 2 1/2 bath townhouse that had just been renovated.  But the perfect part had to be the pool deck!  Large pool surrounded by a large sunning area and more importantly a large volume of boys!

We embraced the "single and without parents" life quickly.  Nothing compares to the satisfaction of your very first "home away from home." We stayed out late, threw parties and played the stereo loud. Life was good!  Then a month after we moved in, 2 girls moved in next door and we immediately welcomed them to our new found world.  Margaret and Karen became a great addition to the party.  Margaret especially, since Karen went home frequently.  I still remember vividly on summer Saturday mornings getting up at 8:00 to take a towel to reserve a good spot (because the right spot was everything) at the pool, going back to bed and then sashaying back to the pool around 11:00.  I realize now that we probably made quite a few people mad using this tactic!   A couple of years later Margaret's friend Donna came down from Wisconsin to scope out Atlanta, and like Margaret (also from Wisconsin)  they both planted their roots here.

Of course, all good things come to a close...Margaret and Cindy got married and Donna and I set out on new adventures as well.  It was a fun three years, we had the best time and I think we were the first to pioneer the phrase...."If it happens at (Treehouse), it stays at (Treehouse)!"

And, you know how life sneaks up on you, you just don't stay in touch as often as you like.  Cindy & I see each other often, but Donna & Margaret live about 25 miles away.  It doesn't sound like very far, however if you are familar at all with Metro Atlanta you can relate.  So I decided it was time for a "Treehouse Reunion."  It had been a couple of years since we had all gotten together, and I REALLY wanted an excuse to use my 4th of July tableware!  So brunch for 4 using the "4th"  plates sounded like a plan!  


4th of July plates with "take-home goodie"
Apple jelly in a champagne flute and homemade bread


I decided on a breakfast brunch.
                                                                  Menu

Sunrise Mimosas (orange juice, cranberry juice and champagne)

Tropical Fruit with toasted coconut
Stuffed french Toast  -stuffed w/ strawberry rhubarb jam/cream cheese or  honey/cream cheese
Maple bacon
Pepper, onion and Tomato Tart
Coffee, Juice

The tart was the star in my book!  There was no recipe - I simply looked through the fridge and started pulling out ingredients I thought sounded good.  I had a bag of yellow, orange and red mini peppers, a red onion and some slow roasted home grown tomatos from a casserole  made earlier.  Pulled out eggs and cheese and a trip to the backyard for fresh basil.  And of course, I had roll-out pie shell on hand, because you know my relationship with dough. It turned out really good, if I don't say so myself!  


The Tart!


Stuffed French toast


We talked and laughed and had a great time catching up and reminiscing.  Remembering soaking up the rays  for hours, our only care in the world was deciding what to wear out that night. There were so many stories to remember (hence the What happens at Treehouse phrase).  I am so glad we have stayed in touch.
We may not see each other often, but when its does happen it makes me appreciate the value of friendship.


Ready to eat!


Girlfriends...you just can't have enough!

Ya'll come back!


Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them celebrate!  Psalm 64:10 

*Originally posted  July 27, 2012

Celebrating: Summer's of "Yesteryear"

Celebrating: Summer's of "Yesteryear": I love summer!  As a child in elementary school, that last day seemed to take forever to arrive.  As I recall, I wore my Easter Dress on the last day, because after all it was a "special occasion" in my book.
Summer days were spent outside all day and into the twilight.  We only came in to have lunch or to put on our bathing suit to play in the sprinkler. Friends Terri, Teresa and I were inseparable!  We played Kickball, 4 Square, Colors and Hop scotch all day long.  Then one summer, the best thing happened...Terri's dad built a tree house in their backyard and we spent many hours up there playing games and talking about boys.  We even spent the occasional night up there, when we were at at each others house for a sleepover! 

We always took two trips in the summer.  One week was spent in Calhoun City, MS to my mom's childhood farm.  What a great place for a city girl to visit!  We would venture under the house in search of fresh eggs, roam the dewy garden for vegetables first thing in the morning,  and sit outside under the huge oak tree and churn fresh peach ice cream in the evening.  Talk about eating at its finest!  There were horses to ride, cows to pet and blackberries to pick.  Visiting the farm and my grandparents, was and still remains one of my fondest childhood memories.

Our other vacation spot was Florida, either Daytona beach or Panama City. I still remember getting up at about 2:00 in the morning, sleeping on a pallet in the back of the station wagon and waking up just in time to top the hill to see the Atlantic ocean.  It was such a magical sight.  We always had a tradition -, whoever saw the ocean first whistled.  I loved the sound of 5 whistlers whistling in harmony! We spent the morning at the pool, came in for lunch and stayed 2 hours, because you did not dare get in the water right after you had eaten!  Afternoons were spent at the beach where we would play in the sand and jump the waves.  In Daytona there was a Boardwalk carnival that we would go to and ride rides and spent lots more money than it cost for a small stuffed animal.  My favorite was always the spin art and I would proudly take home a picture every year as a souvenir.

Another summer highlight was setting up a Kool Ade stand.  We didn't have the run of the mill stand, we had a stand with not only Kool Ade, but homemade treats made by Mom.  We had popcorn balls, cookies and peanut butter candy!  One day we ran out of peanut butter candy and my sister Charlene (who was no more than 4-5 at the time) went  in for more and came back with something she made.  Apparently, we were out of candy, so she made her own. Peanut butter, sugar, salt and pepper mixed together and painstakingly rolled in balls. I can't recall if we sold any, but my guess is that if we did we may have had an unsatisfied customer!

Summer was the best and mine was a continuous Norman Rockwell painting!  We may have had just one TV in the house (without a remote!) , no computer, no Gameboy, no i-pod or pad, but I wouldn't change a thing.  No sireee, nada, nothing. No hand-held devise in the world can replace the memories I have of farms, beaches, Kool Ade stands,  a slice of ice cold watermelon with juice running down my arms, or the sight of my best friend at the door first thing in the morning waiting for you to come outside and play.   It was a good childhood, spent with good friends and filled with good memories!

Mom's Peanut Butter Candy

3 cups sugar
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1/2 stick butter
cook in pot to a soft boil (approx 3 minutes)
add a jar of marshmellow cream
3/4 cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy) 
1 tsp vanila 
stir till all incorporated 
pour onto sheet pan, cool and cut





Ya'll come back!

May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them celebrate! psalm 64:10

Susan

*Originally posted  July 20, 2012
  

Celebrating: Home Growns!

Celebrating: Home Growns!: Tomatoes, that is!  Is there anything more delicious than that 1st home grown tomato sandwich of the season?  Its amazing how something SO simple can be SO good! For me, the perfect sandwich is sliced tomatoes slightly salted and peppered on white bread thickly spread with mayo. And, if you don't have a little tomato juice dripping off in your hand, you just haven't made it right!  On into the season I will change it up a bit, but that 1st one has to be just like that!  For me, that sandwich signals summer is coming!


From Eric's Garden!
I plant tomatoes every year in pots on my deck.  This year it is... Susan: 3 tomatos VERSES various critters and bugs -the rest that were on the vines!   I haven't had much luck this year, but the good news is that my BIL, Eric has! While they were on vacation this past week I fed their little cat, Chloe, and was given "carte blanche" of the garden.  The first day I picked a sackful, brought them home and tried to narrow down what I wanted to do with them.  I decided that since it was so hot, a bowl of gazpacho would be delightful.  So I got down the blender and prepared to get started.  Gazpacho is another one of those things that doesn't really require a recipe, so I opened up the crisper and started taking out veggies. Onions, bell pepper, cucumber and of course tomatos.  Cut and into the blender it all goes. I just used 1/4 of a cucumber since I'm just not a cucumber fan, however when I tasted it, all I could taste was cucumber, so I just started adding tomatos.  Finall got it to the consistency I wanted, added a bit of tabasco,  a squeeze of fresh lime a pour of EVOO, S & P,  gave it another whirl and  it was just like I wanted it to be!  Cool and refreshing. But, since I had to add more tomatoes than I had planned, I had depleted my stash and ended up with about half a gallon of gazpacho!    Good thing I like it!



So next time I went to feed Chloe, I had no choice but to raid the garden again! This time I knew exactly what I was going to do with my tomatoes. Fresh uncooked tomato sauce is one of my all time favorite summer meals.    My friend Becky on the Contessa board talked of her uncooked sauce several years ago and I have been making it ever since.  Its another one that requires no recipe - just let your tastebuds lead your mind!  Chopped tomato, red onion, bell pepper, capers, artichokes, cilantro or basil, top with EVOO and a little red wine vinegar and serve over a bowl of pasta.  You can also top it off with a little crumbled goat cheese or shaved parm.  Just whatever suits your mood at that moment!  No rules here!  I'm sure you've heard the expression "summer on a plate", well I think that expression was made just for this dish!





"Summer on a Plate"

I still have a few tomatoes left from my stash (thanks Eric for your green thumb), which just may turn into a fresh salsa this weekend!  I have a large bag of small tortillas that will make a great batch of chips.  Luckily my tomato cravings will get satisfied for a couple more months here in the south, as the local farmers markets have been well stocked. Tomato Basil soup is going to be my next great Tomato Caper!

Ya'll come back!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them Celebrate!  Psalm 64:10.

*Originally posted  July 12, 2012

Celebrating: Fireworks & the 4th!

Celebrating: Fireworks & the 4th!: One Nation under God! How lucky are we, as Americans, to wake up in this great nation every day.  I am afraid that I take this privilege for granted.  I complain about this heat yet half way across the world there are men and women defending our Nation, in far worse conditions, to ensure that I have  freedom.    So on the 4th I will celebrate their sacrifice for me, as well as the sacrifice of our forefathers who had the great vision of the United States of America. Yes, sir, I am proud to be an American!

And celebrate we do...road races (Good luck Peachtree runnners!)  parades, cookouts and the grand finale...fireworks! We have always been fortunate enough to have fabulous fireworks displays on the 4th.  Lenox Square has a great one along with a wonderful musical program and you just can't beat Stone Mountain's show!  However, usually half of the metro Atlanta  is at one and the other half is at the other - which generally involves a 2 hour traffic jam that kinda erases that  "feel-good" feeling about your fellow American.  So where do I go??? I go to Snellville!  Snellville is a little town right next to me and they have been doing a show for years. In fact, I have quite a few shows to choose from...Norcross, Lawrenceville and now Lilburn is having their 2nd annual show.

We always get there early to ensure a good spot and also to tailgate - for what would the 4th be without food?  We were keeping it easy this year as Charlene and her family were leaving for vacation early the next day. My contribution was cupcakes (so easy with a mix) and I also made a pasta salad.  Pasta salad is one of those foods that require no recipe.  Open up the pantry and just dump in what sounds good!  Since it was going to be outdoors, I decided on a mayo free salad.     I peered in the fridge and pantry to see what I had on hand  and decided upon a mediterranean inspired salad.  Boiled up some bowties and added capers, marinated artichokes, chopped onion,  green olives, tomatoes and feta cheese poured Italian dressing over the it and there you have it!   Turned out so good! In fact, its what's for dinner tonight!    I'm adding shrimp and it will make a terrific cold summer salad to be enjoyed with a glass of crisp white wine!


Pasta Salad
leftovers great with addition of of shrimp for an easy light summer supper!


Cupcakes - made with a mix, but decorated by me!



It was a fun night with great food, great company and a great show!

Ya'll come back!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let the Celebrate!  Psalm 64:10

*Originally posted  July 6, 2012

Celebrating: The Red, White & Blue!

Celebrating: The Red, White & Blue!: Over the years, I have adopted the idea of decorating for the 4th! This year I saw a few patriotic ideas on Pinterest that I just HAD to do!  Of course, I found out the hard way, that the mantel decorations needed to be unbreakable.  Imagine waking up in the middle of the night to the loud clang of metal hitting marble!  Thankfully it was not the crystal candle holders, that are now up there just for a photo op!  I'll just say Kris will be glad when the decorations are gone and she can have her mantle back!

Back to Pinterest...I had seen a couple of different ideas that gave me ideas on using stuff I had on hand. Love when that happens!  I had a canvas and red duck tape to make the focal point of the mantle.  All I had to get was the blue star on the middle.  Last Sunday, my niece Ava and I made Popsicle stick Flags that turned out so cute!    We had such a fun time making them! I had several tin buckets in my garage, so I just added a little red, white and blue bling for a great Flag holder. A red painted mayonnaise jar with a ribbon makes a perfect non-breakable vase for the daisies!  Everything else was from my own collection of decorations. 


Popsicle Flag


Blank Canvas & Duct Tape



Holiday Mantle


And the now best new addition!  Mom and I were at an Estate sale a couple of weeks ago where most of the stuff was a little over priced, so when I spied this set, I figured it would be much more than I would be willing to spend, especially when I picked a piece over and it said "Pottery Barn."     Much to my delight, they were labeled $1.00 for each piece, and just $2.00 for 4 napkins.  Needless to say, they came home with me! Gotta love a bargain!


Mug & Snack Plate







Let's hear it for The Red, White and Blue!

Ya'll come back!

Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them Celebrate! Psalm 64:10

*Originally posted  July 3, 2012

Celebrating: My Own Little Oasis

Celebrating: My Own Little Oasis: What is my own little oasis...my deck!  When I bought my house 10 years ago, I had the standard postage size concrete slab, that was a sorry excuse for a "patio" in my opinion! However, I did have an awfully small backyard, so I couldn't expect much.  So, one of my 1st major home improvements was to build a deck, so that I could enjoy my little backyard.  My friend Chris designed and built the deck and he created just what I needed.  Since my "lawn" is taken up by deck, now, I have potted flowers scattered about for color.  I also have my tomato plants in pots, as well as several herbs.  I have several green tomato's and am impatiently waiting for them to turn red.  Unfortunately a bird  enjoyed my 1st one!  I have  basil, rosemary, cilantro, parsley, dill, thyme, dill and chives.  I love having them at my disposal.  I would also like to get a mint plant, as well.   I found a great recipe for Mojoto's!

I so enjoy getting up early on Saturday mornings, go out on the deck with a cup of coffee just to sit and do absolutely nothing but soak in the goodness for a few minutes. It's impossible to look up at that periwinkle blue sky, listening to the chirp-chirp of the birds, smell the fresh air, feel the sun warm your skin, and not take a moment to thank God for our earth and the glory of nature. It is a calming, and peaceful way to start a hectic weekend! 



Often I will take my breakfast out there to continue my lazy morning! And, if I really want to linger (translate - put off doing housework), I will take along a  magazine or book.   As it gets warmer, my hot cup of coffee is replaced by iced coffee and the Pioneer Woman has the very best recipe for iced coffee that can be kept in the fridge and ready at your beck and call!  (I call it my "Suebuck" coffee - get it - Susan /Starbuck).   It was a sad day last Saturday when I realized I had forgotten to make another batch for the fridge!





And at the end of the day, I often find myself back on the deck.  The coffee mug is sometimes replaced by a wine glass and  I sit in the dusk, gazing into the darkening sky, the stars peeping out, the June bugs chirping , perhaps a gentle breeze on my arms and it is impossible not to stop and thank my God for another day on his earth.    It's a calming and peaceful way to end the day!

Pioneer Woman Iced Coffee

1 # ground coffee  
8 quarts cold water

Pour coffee in large container and cover with cold water.  Cover and let sit at least 8 hours (or longer in you like)  When time has passed, grab a separate container and place mesh strainer lined with cheese cloth over container.  Slowly pour steeped coffee through strainer. Must be patient at this point, because you will want to put this in the fridge til it is cold!  Add your favorite creamer, sugar or sweet in low.  When you really want to indulge she suggests Vietnamese coffee.  Add a spoonful (or 2)  of sweetend condensed milk to the coffee!  I use Sugar free hazelnut liquid creamer  - just as good and half the calories!     

I half this recipe! keeps in the fridge for at least 3 weeks!

Ya'll come back!


Susan
May the Lord bless his people with peace and happiness and let them Celebrate!

*Originally posted  June 20, 2012