Always be extra. Unless it’s raining and you can take a nap.

Do you go the extra mile? Or are you the chip and dip person? We all know one. And let me say, THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH BEING THE CHIP AND DIP PERSON. In fact, I envy you. You know, the one when you’re having a function/party/shower and you’re making a list and they immediately sign up for chips and dip. Either they don’t wanna/think they can’t (which is always wrong bc cooking is easy and fun)/just ain’t gonna/don’t have the time to/would rather pay to have it done…..each and every one of you have already had a name cross your mind. It might even be you! And that’s OK. Y’all chip and dip people just stop what you’re doing and say a prayer for us folks I’m gonna call “extra”. We ain’t ok. In fact, we are weary. Mind, body and soul. Mostly mind. Our minds are like a rat on one of them spinning wheels.

I’ve talked about my Momma lots on here. Our Yaya. And how she was so crafty, and loved to cook and thrift and yard sale. And how I’m just like her now, even when I vowed I never would be. Now, while I got alot of my traits from her, being “extra” wasn’t one of them. She was simple. And plain. What I haven’t told you about is these other ladies I have in my life. I call them “the aunts”. My mother was an only child, but my Daddy has 3 sisters. And my Daddy’s Momma? My Granny Gracine? She was extra too. She taught her girls to be extra, and unfortunately, even though I’ve fought it for quite some time, the torch has been pitched my way. I won’t say passed, because they all so busy being extra they sure ain’t passed it. But they definitely turned it sideways and lit a fire under my end.

Aunt Di (Diane), well she’s the oldest. The nicest, too. I’m not gonna offend the other two. They know it. Aunt Di is soft spoken. When I look in the mirror, she is the one I see most looking back at me. I think I look just like her. She can sew, and cook, and multi-task with the best of them. Thanks to her I always had the best school play and Halloween costumes. And homemade lady finger cookies. Now Aunt Connie (aunt Funny as my son called her), she’s the middle one. She’s the fiesty one. The one I act like. The one who took my sister and I on vacations, was a mother to me in every way possible, and still is. She can multi-task too. To the point that I just sit down and give up if I try to keep up. And then there is Aunt Net (Lanette). The most laid-back, funny, youngest one. My sister looks just like Aunt Net. For a long time, I have to say I was more like Aunt Net. I did my part, but I didn’t feel the need to be “extra”. Somewhere along the way I drank the Koolaid. And it’s exhausting.

 

Now while my family is blessed, we’ve seen hard times. I mean hard. Loss of my Momma when she was just 51, my Daddy at 60 and Jason (my aunt Connie’s only child) at 37. My aunt Net recently lost one of her legs to diabetes. I’ve been mad, then sad, then mad all over again. But not for long. Never for long. These 3 ain’t gonna let you. My aunt Net could have sat down and just given up. But no, even when faced with the amputation, she’s laying in the hospital bed making US laugh. And she ain’t slowed down yet. Ain’t nobody got time to slow down. I have folks ask me all the time how I do all that I do. I’m like “If I slow down, I’m gonna get old”. Fact, jack.

So, even in our grief, and our hard times, these 3 makes lemonade out of lemons. They had the idea after Daddy died to start a Relay for Life team in his honor. The Bellomy Bunch we are called. We’re a large family, a loud family, a fussing/arguing/aggravating family. But we are family. And in times like these, we come together. We started off slow, with just a team and a table that year. We have morphed into a Relay for Life mega-crazed machine. After Jason passed away, we had a new purpose. Cancer done pissed us off. And if there is anything in the world you should steer clear of, it’s a pissed off Bellomy. Sorry. Truth will stand when the world’s on fire.

The Bellomy Bunch Bake Sales. I don’t even know how to describe them. These 3 ladies produce 97 pies, 46 triple layer cakes, 34 dozen cupcakes, and 216 moon pie banana puddings. Me and my cousins pitch in our 1 or 2 cakes, brownies and cookies. Oh and lets not forget my homemade crusty  no knead bread. And I quote my aunt Net when I put it on the table….”What the heck is that”? Have I mentioned none of us have a filter? That’s important here. Don’t like each others new hairdo? Outfit? Gained some weight? We gonna tell each other. I am literally embarrassed to get my meager offerings out at the Bake Sale. I try to sneak them in while no one else is looking. Slap it down in the middle of the table among their perfectly packaged creations. My aunt Di puts her 21 layer strawberry cakes on real plates she collects at thrift stores. Wraps it up with cellophane and a bow and a pretty label. They aren’t really 21 layers, but that’s close. Aunt Connie has her pecan bark cellophaned, bow tied and in a tin bucket or box for whichever holiday it is. I ain’t even gonna lie. These 2 make my plumb mad. Buncha over-achievers. And Aunt Net ain’t much better. She ain’t no fancy packager, but she makes up in volume with her 27 sheet cakes. Gimme a second while I text every one of them and tell them to kiss my foot.

Our bake sales are set 4x a year, before major holidays, so folks can buy desserts for their family gatherings and not have to cook, all while supporting a great cause. I am SO thankful for the community support these bake sales are given. But heavens to betsy, y’all just ain’t never seen nothing like it. Take Black Friday @ Belks when they got the boots for $19 or Walmart when the Pioneer Woman dishes are $15. That’s what these things are like. Especially the Easter and Thanksgiving ones. Folks are literally waiting on us to open the doors, or in most cases if we are outside for the stuff to hit the table. They for real serious about getting what they want. I had the big idea one time to “pre-sell” on Facebook. I think they’re all still mad at me about that one. I personally had to make 364 pecan praline cakes and my kitchen looked like it had exploded. But mine was a cake walk compared to theirs. Yes, these numbers are all increased and embellished. But you get the point. We make ALOT. And most times sell out.

With each event comes more pressure, more Pinterest binges, recipe searches and my mind spinning. I ain’t gonna lie, sometimes I just say bump this and make what I can that looks whatever way it looks and slide it in on the table. But that extra gene has slowly crept up on me. I’ve looked on in envy (yes, I’m aware that’s like a sin or something) and thought, yeah huh, I’m a gonna show them one day. Which I kinda thought I was gonna with my crusty no-knead bread wrapped up all cute with a bow and a pretty label. Then Aunt Net knocked me back to reality with her “What the heck is that”? Guarantee she doesn’t even remember saying it and will read this and say “I did not” but it happened.

Fast forward to this week and a retirement party I was planning at work for a beloved coworker. I love fall. I love the colors, the weather, I love everything about it. I also love and appreciate this coworker more than words. So I decided the theme was going to be “We are thankful for Betsy” and it was Katie bar the door from then on. The decor was of course fall themed and colored. But did you know the food had to match also? Don’t even think about putting anything red or strawberry colored on this table. You gonna draw back a nub. With the help of some coworkers, we pulled it off and it was beautiful. The honey mustard pretzel dip was the color of an autumn leaf. The chicken ranch cheese ball was shaped like a pumpkin thanks to some rubber bands and a pretzel rod stem (yes, I wanted a green bell pepper one but they didn’t have any long enough at the store). The spinach dip was in the perfect copper hammered bowl. The dum dum tree was in a vase with fall rocks and a burlap bow. I hand stuffed cranberry sauce into puff pasty and twisted them into puffs 96 times.

And the apple harvest punch? That’s just a complete other story. Walmart didn’t have the frozen cranberry concentrate it called for. Most folks would just get cranberry juice in a bottle and go with it right? Nope. I had to call Aunt Connie for advice. Which turned into me taking my immersion blender (if you don’t have one, you need one) ahold of some canned cranberry sauce, adding some cranberry apple juice to it and pureeing the heck out of it and then freezing it in my Tupperware hamburger molds. Because you know just regular cranberry sauce wouldn’t be as strong as a concentrate even if you doubled it and well you can do whatever you want to but that’s not how Aunt Connie would do it. She literally shamed me to the cranberry sauce aisle after I had the juice already in my buggy. And you know what? That punch was the bomb. And it was beautiful. I even brought my Cracker Barrel peeler, corer, slicer to work with me and sliced some apples up to float in the punch. Because that’s what you call being extra. In a world where you can be anything, always be extra.

Get the good plates out when you cook for your husband or your family. When your 25 year old baby boy realizes he loves chicken casserole for the first time after you trying to get him to try it for umpteen years, make it for him. Often. Don’t go to your mother in laws on Sunday without taking your precious brother in law some sweet treat. Because even after an exhausting week of work and caregiving, Mickey is gonna take a bite and tell you it’s the greatest thing he’s ever had. And even though he says the same thing when you were too busy to make anything and stopped at Foodland to get a 7-up cake, there is more of a twinkle in his eye when you made it special for him. At least you feel that way inside. And when Granny O wants cornbread, make cornbread. Never, ever forget the cornbread.

May peace, love and extra-ness abound in your lives today and always.

Later, y’all.

Grandmother’s Macaroni, God winks and memories….

Our Smoky Mountain cabin has been blessed with bookings for the next few months. You’ve heard the quote “The mountains are calling, and I must go”, right? They been hollering, y’all. And when I realized there was a 2 day opening, well, with our current stress levels, need for mountain air and homesickness for the cabin, we weren’t gonna pass those days up.

He’s gonna kill me, but I took this about 10 minutes after we arrived. Folks love the Smokies for a lot of reasons. The dinner shows, the stores, the mountains, the strip. The good food and restaurants. But not us. We love it for the chance to just “be”. Sitting on the couch watching TV, sleeping in, maybe even wearing your nightgown all day (I won’t confirm whether that did or didn’t happen yesterday 😬). No agenda, no hurry up and get here or there. Just peace. Blessed peace. Yes, there are calls and texts and responsibilities back home. Our home A/C quit working while we were gone. Sorry, Dylan. Really.

We had some good friends checking out the day we checked in, and she left her groceries there for me. She knows how much I love to cook and plan meals at the cabin. I was like heck yeah, adjusted my menu and the rest is history. The husband likes to sleep. And rest. And I like to cook. It soothes my soul. I can just hear my Momma laughing now. Saying, “But you’re not gonna be like me when you grow up”….I can also vividly remember her standing at the stove. And the plates I ate and filled without a true appreciation for the hands that fixed them. And taught me how even when I didn’t realize it.

Michele is one of those friends I’ve known forever because as a young bride of 20, I married into a family where my mother in law had a huge church family. Small community, everybody knew everybody (and their business) and my MIL ran the local funeral home. So when I say she knew everybody, she knew eeeery-body. And their momma. Michele went to church with my MIL, and I can remember always thinking how pretty she was every-time I saw her. She was a little older than me and we were just the kinda friends who say “Hey, girl” when we saw each other. It’s funny how life uses tragedy and joy and sorrow and happiness to not only send us to our knees, but to bring us closer.

See, earlier this year (way before we ever thought about buying this cabin), my friend Michele lost her 26 year old son in a boating accident. He was just a little older than my Dylan. And loved beyond measure just like I was by that community and church family out on Grant Mountain. And while we know that we will see Jaron again someday, my friend has a mother’s heart that is broken beyond repair. My friend that I hardly ever saw or thought about went to one that I prayed for. And railed at God for. Said, now listen here God. There you go with that not fair business.

So, when she messaged me that she was going to be our first guests at Blessed Nest, well, I was ecstatic. I knew by her fb posts she hadn’t been sleeping and for lack of a better word, she was just existing. I prayed blessings over her trip like I had never prayed for anything. When she messaged me and told me she had slept all night at the cabin for the first time since the accident, I won’t lie. I was having a bad day. Pity party. Tired of being a caregiver. Tired of work. But that message stopped me in my tracks. God don’t make mistakes, y’all.

Divorce is hard. Like really hard. Regrets are hard. I’ve said many times I divorced my ex husband, but not his family. And that’s true. Those are my people. This is gonna sound small, and dumb, but when I divorced I had lost my MIL and my Momma at that point. I remember having this thought of “I’m gonna walk into Heaven someday and Jan and Yaya are gonna meet me there and be so disappointed in us”. It haunted me.

So when I walked into the cabin, there on the counter lay a bag of macaroni noodles. I haven’t made macaroni and cheese since my divorce 10 years ago. I literally couldn’t. See, that was THE dish my MIL made. No one else’s could or ever will compare, but she took the time to tell us all her little secrets. Me, Stephanie, Amanda. So I knew that when you pour the boiling water off the noodles, you save some of that water to add back when you put in the cheese and butter and milk. I stared at that macaroni all evening Sunday and all day Monday. Almost threw it away. I mean, it wasn’t on the menu I had carefully planned. And would it really go with my pecan crusted chicken? And besides, I don’t even really care for cheese that much. Nope. I wasn’t doing it. Even leaned against the counter staring at it.

Fast forward, chicken and smashed red potatoes are in the oven, green beans are slow cooking, and I’m standing at the stove, stirring macaroni noodles and crying. Remembering a beautiful soul who was taken from us when she was just 41, who loved life and people. And she loved food. Her size 4 self could eat any grown man under the table. She loved Conway Twitty. She had a nightgown that said “Hello, darlin, I’d love to lay you down” on it. I’d give anything to have that gown. But hey, I’ve got the memories of it. And of Grandmother Jan.

I found myself sitting there telling my new husband the macaroni story, and about Jan. And then. Michele messaged me. Telling me about the last day of their trip, and how though her heart isn’t whole, those mountains and Cades Cove soothes her with peace and most of all with memories. About how when their kids were little they didn’t have much, and they would roll change just to have the gas to drive up for a day, staying in the Cove hiking and making memories. And how it’s the childhood memories of Jaron she holds most dear. So I tell her. About the macaroni, and my fear of getting to Heaven and Jan being disappointed in me. And she tells me of how Jan always asked prayer for us, and loved me. And that she’s pretty sure she understands and is gonna greet me with a smile. As will Jaron.

Until then, I’m just gonna thank God that even though there has been loss, great loss, his blessings have been too good to dwell. Michele is more than a “Hey, girl” friend now. She and I share a love of our son’s and of this cabin and a new friendship.

Fly high, Jaron Willmon. And when in doubt, make the macaroni. Always make the macaroni.

Later, y’all…..

I Am Not Alone….but I’m very, very tired.

I almost feel ashamed writing this blog post. I went to the beach last week (work trip for the husband). I’m even going to our cabin for the long weekend. But in my defense, it’s a last minute trip and it’s a miracle it’s gonna happen because it was booked. Not to mention my stepson has a HS football game tomorrow night and we aren’t leaving until after and we won’t get there until the wee hours of the morning. You’re still reading this thinking “Well bless her heart” in a really sarcastic tone, right? But in the words of Paul Harvey…..here’s the rest of the story.

I’m tired. I leave my house going to work on Monday mornings and I don’t return until Friday after work. I don’t see my dogs. Sleep in my own bed. Wash my husbands clothes. Cook for him. Much less greet him or be a warm body when he comes in at night. And that man, y’all. He has a stressful job. He needs that. As much as I need him. With all this being said, know what I miss the most? A leisurely stroll thru Walmart. Yes. Walmart. Everyone I know is posting about our new Walmart grocery pickup. And all I can think is BUT I WANNA GO IN!!

Can I just take a second and give a round of applause, a pat on the back and a hats off to the nurses and caregivers of the world? You are, without a doubt, my hero. I used to say being a Dispatcher for law enforcement was the hardest job I’ve ever had. It was a cake walk, y’all. One of them pie jobs compared to caring for my Granny. I had nights after stressful calls and adrenaline pumped high speed chases I would go into the bathroom at work and sink onto the floor and collapse into sobs. Only to wipe my face and get back up to face it again. But caregiving? I got nothing left. I feel like one of those jellyfish blobs lying on the beach last week. I.got.nothing.

And it’s not just me. My sister Mona relieves me on the weekend. At least I get out of the house during the day when I go to work. She’s here 24/7 the 3 days she’s here. Not sure I could do it. Neither of us were made or designed to be nurses. Florence Nightingale I am not.

We are blessed to have a wonderful caregiver 4 days a week while I work. She comes for 8 hours a day, 4 days a week. I work 8 1/2 hours a day. No, I ain’t leaving her alone. Not even for a second. I’m going in late on those days, not taking a lunch and running to the vehicle each afternoon to hurry and get here to relieve her. There’s about a 3/4 mile stretch from my job until the turn off out of town where she lives. There is one store on that stretch. Family Dollar. Now I love me some digital coupons. And I love a bargain. But I just wanna go to Walmart. Not at a run. In a mad dash. In a hurry. I wanna get me a buggy and meander thru them aisles like I own that joint with nothing but time and money to burn.

Yes, I can go on the weekend. I can see my fur babies, sleep in my bed, and wash clothes. But I don’t feel like it. My house is a wreck. I have a chair full of folded clothes I’m pretty sure has taken root in my bedroom. I cry and tell my husband “I just want my life organized” and “If the kitchen didn’t look like a tornado I would cook”. I have a wonderful husband. But I would be lying if I said this schedule hasn’t taken a toll on our relationship. That along with a few other things I don’t know that I will ever blog about. Pity party of 1, please.

Am I proud I’m able to stay with Granny O? Sure I am. And I do have moments I enjoy my time here. It makes her happy and hey, Buck is waiting on me each day when I pull in the driveway I’m actually worried about having to re-adjust to my home life again someday. This is my new normal. And if that time comes and Buck is still here with us Good Lord willing, not sure I’m gonna be able to leave him. Been threatening to take him home with me since daddy died. That there is the best ole yellow dog since Ole Yeller. He’s something. In fact, he’s a whole other blog post. Stay tuned for that one someday. And bring your Kleenex along.

Anyone who knows me knows that I hang in there like the proverbial hair in a biscuit. As Granny O says, you may give out, but never give in. Repeat to yourself over and over, Kimmie.

This morning Granny O said “I want to go home”. I didn’t come back with my usual “Now Gods got you here for some reason so just hush”. Truth is I’ve mourned the loss of my Granny over the course of the last several months. I want nothing more for her to go home. This earthly body and earthly home is nothing compared to the one she’s laying claim on. What a day that will be, when my Jesus I shall see. And her daughter, my momma. Our Yaya. And Ruby. And Isaac. And Bill. And Jason. Her husband Raymond who drowned while she was still a young bride, pregnant with my mother. Home indeed.

And there ain’t no grave, gonna hold my body down. And there ain’t no grave, gonna hold my body down. And when I hear that trumpet sound, I’m gonna rise up outta the ground…..I can hear that trumpet. Can’t y’all? And it sounds glorious.

Later, y’all….

The Excuse Bench

You know when you have those moments in your life that just speak to you and stick with you? And you’re like “Well, I will be, how true is that”? The excuse bench story is one of my big ones. I mean BIG. I’m actually lying on the beach listening to “Girl, Stop Apologizing” and while Rachel is giving some sage advice, the gist of her book reminds me of the excuse bench.

When Dylan was in 7th grade he was beginning his “school sport” career. Mind you we had been little league footballing, Rec league baseball and travel balling for quite some time. “Daddy ball” as some called it. That kind where we all acted like there was a brand new Ford waiting on us in the parking lot if we win. I reckon we all thought we had the next Bo Jackson on our hands. What is it they say, “we all think our crow is the blackest”. Dylan was no exception. Mommas angel. I’ve long past asked forgiveness for my actions from those days. Lord, be near.

Picture it. Summer basketball pre-season tournament. Circa 7th grade Sboro Junior High glory days. In the old, old gym. You folks from Grant know what I mean. The thing about the old, old gym was this. They had those old wooden bleachers that really gave you nowhere to sit except right behind the team who was sitting on the front row. And besides, all us mommas had on our best black and gold. All perched up there like a buncha excited kids at Christmas. Our black crows were fixing to squawk.

Now, for those of you who know my child, he’s a good kid. I got real lucky. But one thing I have to say is his forte is not being able to take constructive criticism well. What I mean y’all, is, well, Dylan ain’t never done nothing that was his fault in his life. He’s grown out of this somewhat (I mean, he had ME as a momma 😳). Some of you know his daddy too. He comes from a long line of control freaks. God love him.

So, needless to say, during one of the first time-out huddles, us mommas were all leaned over just waiting for the praise Coach Arnold was about to bestow on our crows. I’ve always told Dylan if you look good, you play good. My legendary white baseball pant skills are for another post I’m afraid. I’m kinda a legend. Take a moment and bow to the Queen of Stains. Here ye, here ye. Fels Naptha should seriously pay me a royalty check.

Wait. What was that?? Coach Arnold dared to tell MY baby what he was doing wrong? In a pre-season tournament that was geared to get the jitters out and to practice their game and give them a taste of real games? Dylan and Hunter. No, they didn’t foul. They didn’t even do anything drastic. But their coach (look up the definition Bc I actually did that on the way home and read it over and over to D), got ON TO THEM! You could hear a pin drop on Momma Row. We froze. Black and gold shakers hanging low.

And just what did my child do? He made an excuse. Which made his bff Hunter kinda brave and HE made an excuse. Go back to the Never done anything that was his fault bit. What did Coach Arnold do? Grabbed them both BY THE ARM (this has been significant when I relive this story) and slung, yes slung those 2 onto the bench. Wait a minute here. Their 2 faces said it all.

The words that changed my life. And I hope Dylan’s. And Hunters.

“Those 2 are on the excuse bench. Anyone else wanna join them”?

Pretty sure no one spoke up because the game resumed and we had enough players to head back out. All while these 2 were riding the pine.

Mommaville erupted all at once. “Are you gonna let him talk to him that way”! and “He grabbed him”……those that knew me well expected the eruption of all eruptions. Of epic proportions. For once I’m glad I disappointed. I sat back and said “I sure am”. I chuckled, even. Looked at his little incredulous face that had turned around to me and gave him “the” look. The one that said say one word. Dare you.

It was the first time I had ever been glad my son failed. For real. Did Dylan go back into the game? Sure he did. Did I ever see him make an excuse again? Nope. Not that I could hear. Have I used the excuse bench many times over since that day. Sure enough.

With Dylan. With work. With friends. With family. With jail ministry (oh, especially here!!), but most of all with myself. Sitting here listening to this book and hearing someone else tell me that there is no one but myself to blame for my endless running around with my chicken with its head off schedule? And that if you truly want something you need to hustle and do whatever you have to do in Order to make it happen?

Before the excuse bench, I would have said, “Hey. She don’t know how hectic my life is”. Granny O. Work. Me time. The endless guinea pig wheel in my mind that spins endlessly with idea after idea everyday.

Post excuse bench thinking I’m over here fist pumping and heck yeah’ing and making folks on the beach near me question who or what they’re sitting by. Headphones are the devil at times.

My son went on to have a wonderful school career. It just happened to be in baseball. That was his love. He played 3 years of college ball and still loves the game. The excuse bench came along. He was his biggest critic. And I was his biggest fan.

If just one of you reads about the excuse bench and applies it to your life, or your kids lives or just well, anything, it was worth foregoing my beach nap and running my battery down out here. I wish I could make an excuse for old me who just had the chair rental boy change my umbrella to full shade. But hey, can’t make excuses.

Later yall….

Simply Yaya

I could write all day long about the things I learned from my Momma and never get done. Pretty sure there wasn’t anything she couldn’t do. But the truth of the matter is that I never realized just how much she was teaching me just from me watching. We thought there was plenty of time, I guess.

My momma did something for me everyday of my life. The sun rose and set in Dylan Scott Rice. His Yaya was his world and he was hers. They were always doing something. I wish I could say I was fascinated and interested in their projects, but I wasn’t. I used to laugh at them. From Capri sun purses to soap to clocks made out of old pot lids with buttons, it was like Martha Stewart made over. My momma subscribed to her magazine, and pored over every one, trying to come up with what they were gonna make next.

And cook. Lord, could she cook. Her mushy fried potatoes are the things dreams are made of. Never made a pan of cornbread that stuck in her life. The pork roast she made on the stovetop in her Lodge Dutch oven? I would give anything to be able to fix that delicacy. She only used salt and pepper. It would just melt in your mouth and fall apart as you sliced a serving off. My sister would give her right kidney for one of her chicken casseroles. And every Christmas she made homemade turtle candy to give for gifts. The world needs more Yayas.

She loved to go to yard sales, thrift stores and never met a stranger. She loved old things, cherished anything she had that had come from her family before her, and the stories that went with them. Up until a few years ago I would have told you I was nothing like her. My, how funny things change. But the best thing about my Momma? She was kind. To everyone she met. Rich, poor, young, old. My momma loved people. And people loved her.

We lost her in 2005 at the age of 51 to a massive heart attack. I went to bed one night and had a momma and somewhere before morning I didn’t anymore. 14 years later, it’s safe to say I still haven’t fully grieved for her.

I dove in to doing for others the things she was doing. My granny. My sister. My stepdad. I would go by her house on my way to work and make his bed in the morning. Fill the fridge with food because I just knew he would starve to death. I mean, my momma kept his tea glass full when he ate meals. Finally, one day, JP said, “Kim, you know you gotta quit doing all that for him, right”? “He’s a grown man and will be fine”. Hello, wake up call.

I’ve tried to find a way to honor just what my momma was all about. But how? She didn’t put on “airs”, to be honest she was a quiet soul. But kind. And she loved to share with others. If you came to her house, you ate. And more than likely went home with some of it.

You all know from my last blog post I’m a Pinterest junkie. I see stuff all the time on there and have these “AHA” moments when I see super simple crafts, recipes and hints. I wish my life and my home were as organized as my Pinterest boards. Alphabetized and with clever little names. It’s a thing of beauty. To look at them you would think I have it all together. NOT.

But one thing I can do. I can talk to folks. And I really, really like to. I would talk to the wall if nothing else was around. And I like to help organizations and causes I care deeply about. Like the Michael Scott Learning Center. It’s dear to my ❤️. Like my friend Crystal who is the director. They do so much for so many. Kids, ARC workers, summer and after school programs. Good stuff, y’all. Stuff anyone with a heart would be proud to take part in.

It took one text to Crystal with my brainstorm to get an emphatic “YES” from her. Her mind is a lot like mine. It goes in about 834 directions at once. So what, just what, if we hosted once a month classes at the MSLC and taught simple household things? Fun things. Stuff that Yaya would have done. We decided to call the classes “Simply Yaya”. Because that’s what it is. Simple and in honor of Yaya. And because I needed something else to do right?

Our first class was last Friday night. I sure had no idea what to expect. Except somehow I knew there was gonna be a blessing involved. Me and crystal both knew it. Beyond a shadow of a doubt. We were so right.

Folks from all areas of my life signed up for the class. Most I knew, some I didn’t, but when we came together it was like God himself had made the attendance list. A dear lady whose son went to school with me and served as room Mother’s with my momma was there. She knew exactly what I meant when I described my momma. I could go on and on about every single soul there, but we would be here all day.

Let’s just sum it up and say we laughed, new friends were made and we can’t wait until the next time. Folks that came alone fell in with their table of guests like they had known each other forever. A table of sisters and daughters who at one time weren’t even talking because their family was torn apart by addiction giggled and mixed up brown sugar like nobody’s business. Get back, Devil. No room for you here.

We made homemade butter that we shook up in mason jars, laughing for the entire 7 minutes as we shook and jiggled and complained of how out of shape we were. Young adults were amazed that we could do this! And have buttermilk left over?? Well, I ain’t never.

We made homemade brown sugar like my friend Katrina had taught me last month at Home away from Home farms. We used my handy dandy new blender I couldn’t figure out how to use to to make powdered sugar and we made homemade pancake syrup using the brown sugar that we made. We simply had a blast. And I can’t wait for the next time.

As I drove home Friday night, thinking about the blessings I received that many in the room didn’t even realize, I felt better and lighter than I’ve felt in a long time. My feet hurt, sure. But you know what else? I hadn’t looked at my phone for 3 hours. I felt so liberated! I actually rolled the windows down and hung my arm out the window. True story.

Thank you, Lord, for your blessings on me. I’m not worthy, but I’m oh so glad you did.

I hope I make you proud, Momma. In my mind you will always be young and you will always be beautiful.

Later, y’all……

Pinterest is like the devil and fear….it’s a big ole liar….

A few weeks ago I shared how excited I was about this journey with buying the cabin we were beginning. Once it sank in that this was really going to happen, well, I did the first thing any woman would do. I set out on a Pinterest binge.

If you don’t know what Pinterest is, stop reading right here. Save yourself. Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. For the love of all that’s holy. Don’t start. It crack for DIY’ers. Crafters. Overachievers (like that bunch of aunts I was born into 🙄). I would elaborate on the Aunt thing, but that’s another post for another time. That one would take all day.

Forget wine and Netflix. Give this gal Pinterest and a diet dew, and I’m ready to take on the world. My ADD kicks into overdrive and one second I’m looking at all in 1 dishes and thinking “Who is sick or having surgery I can fix that for” and 2 seconds later I’m convincing myself I’m going to retire from making shower melts from Vick’s vapor rub. Yes, we laugh about this, but both of these are true stories. Truth will stand when the worlds on fire.

Fast forward 2,539 pins later, 378 thrift store runs, and 97 hand scribbled lists that I managed to lose half of, and it’s time. Time to turn this cabin into my vintage, farmhouse dream. With bears. I have to have bears. I’m kinda obsessed. Gah, I love bears. Especially nice bears….told you I had ADD. 🙄

Thursday morning. Time to hit the road. This was after me asking my husband to be up and ready to go when I got there. The man had one job. Wash his hind end, pack and be ready. I had done the hard work and gotten all the stuff we were taking together. I walk in and he’s walking around in his drawer tail, hair sticking up like Shaggy from Scooby Doo with a confused look on his face. Let’s just say that went over like a turd in a punchbowl. Then we had to backtrack to go cash a check, pick up my wallet I left at Granny O’s and run to the pharmacy. Let’s just say our ducks aren’t in a row.

Y’all, I literally pinned ALL THE WAY TO SEVIERVILLE. I walked thru the door at that Hobby Lobby like Joanna Gaines herself. I had remembered my list and I was on a mission. My biggest project of the weekend? No-sew burlap swag curtains this woman had just “thrown up” over some large twigs she found in her yard. This gal here is the first one on my list. I will hunt her down and roll her yard when I’m not exhausted.

Number 2 on my list? The fabric lady at Hobby Lobby who said that the Pinterest lady was wrong and I should NOT use landscape burlap but regular burlap. In a moment of Pinterest doubt, I agreed with her. I mean she cuts fabric at hobby lobby. Who am I to doubt? All I gotta say is she better be glad I can’t drive good at night and my hubby refused to take me back. There would have been a royal rumble on the fabric table. Y’all, there were tears. It was bad.

I decided to wait until the 2nd day to tackle the curtains. After climbing the cabin stairs 94 times to unload what was the equivalent of an American pickers monthly haul, I was exhausted. And besides, all I had to do was sling it over the rod, tie a knot and ravel the ends. Easy peasy!

Day 2. Beside the tub looks like something out of Southern Living. My vintage brick mold is hanging on the bathroom wall. My little wooden bear is perched on the brick mold. The new shower curtain is hung. Hey, Kim. Better get to work on the curtains.

How many of you know burlap isn’t easy to work with? It doesn’t smell pleasant, it isn’t soft at all, and as an added bonus, I’m apparently allergic to it. And it’s heavy. Especially when you have a whole bolt of it and you can’t cut it because you don’t know how much one window will take. It was at the point I made my first “wrap” something told me this wasn’t going to be easy. Now keep in mind I was coming down from a successful Pinterest recipe I had just made that was impressive. Paula Deen who? Here I come, curtains.

Sensing my frustration, my husband asked if maybe we could wash it to make it more “workable” and pliable. Wait. Didn’t the Pinterest lady say the landscape burlap was more pliable? Note to self: Hobby Lobby woman was not your friend. She tricked you. Off we go to the laundry mat. Google said wash it but don’t dry. Ok. We got it. We take it and stretch it across the porch to dry overnight, hoping like heck Lester the raccoon who visits doesn’t tote it off. Husband mentions we may have to iron it to get all the wrinkles out that washing had put in it. I blocked out his words (Bc remember this is a whole bolt, not just a yard or two) and go to bed. Saturday it’s on like a chicken bone. I was gonna have a burlap fairytale in that cabin. Slept like a rock.

Day 3. My last shot. Do or die. No, really, die because someone is checking in tomorrow and they won’t have curtains. The burlap wasn’t dry. Back to the laundry mat to dry it. Walk into the middle of an argument between the attendant and a guy who was only wanting to dry his river soaked clothes. She told him he had to wash them first. Hey, their business right? No, he has to tell me that I have to wash my stuff too and blocks the dryers. Pretty sure he and the attendant saw the crazy in my eye when I said “I’m putting this in that dryer” and marched past them. They knew better. They went back to arguing among themselves.

I literally watched that burlap spin for spin around that dryer. It was almost as if I was willing it to come out a soft, pliable dream. I was also trying to keep my eyes focused on something besides the young girl with the daisy dukes on had the front of her shirt stretched back over her neck, showing all of us what the stork brought. God love her. I know she had a mirror at home. She did, however, do a nice rendition to “Last dance with Mary Jane”….glad my honey walked over to Ace Hardware because he might have run off with her.

Ok, here we go. My wonderful husband irons every inch of that bolt of burlap. I wish I could say with love but he was on the porch and it was hot. Did I mention there were mosquitos galore this weekend?

I set out with my knot, wrap, fluff, wrap again, try to make the distances between wraps the same. Give up 2 or 3 times. Sit in floor have a red headed fit. Convince hubby to go back down the mountain for safety pins. No way it was staying without. In my mind I’m picturing the Pinterest lady and the hobby lobby lady and I convince myself they know each other and set me up. I start plotting their death.

My safety pins are here. I’m on the back of the couch, my plantar fascists riddled foot with the heel spur is burned into the couch frame with the intensity of a roaring flame. I have 6 splinters in my hand from free falling and sliding down the cabin wall. I’m crying. Whining. The crying begins to reach a fevered pitch. It is now after 1 AM. I hear my precious, kind husband mutter something under his breath. I freeze. “What did you say”?? He looked at me so calmly and said “To the ground. I will burn this cabin to the ground”. I believe there was a mention of him shooting me in the process. Delirium has set in. On both of us.

What happened? Well, the curtains are on the windows. They have enough safety pins in them to fix every woman in the Smokies falling bra strap and they looked like hammered Doo. Nothing like the Pinterest picture. . But they are done. And the cabins still standing. And well, he didn’t shoot me.

But I am sure of one thing. Pinterest is a liar. And I ain’t falling for it again. Well, maybe for that vintage rope pully/tin bucket thing full of flowers that would look SO GOOD on the cabin porch……Jesus, take the wheel.

Later y’all…..

Kissing pigs, mayo making and fellowship….the perfect GNO!

If you know anything at all about me, you know I love to cook. And that I love animals. And vintage things. And ways of life. So when I found out there was an opening in a local homemaking class that included all these things, well, Katie bar the door! You can have the bar scene, the dinners out with the girls, all that laying by the pool. No ma’am. You wanna hang with me, this is gonna be the perfect GNO (Girls Night Out)! Luckily, I have a bestie who just goes with my unusual flow and hops in for the ride. When I can get her out of the house, that is.

I’ve followed the Home Away from Home farm page for a while now. Every time I see the pics and posts about the monthly homemaking class, I ooh and aah over how much fun it must have been. When I see the pics of the pigs they raise, I’m done for. They raise Kune Kune pigs (and if you don’t know what that is, it is adorable pigs). All you need to know. Katrina Brown, the lady in charge of this far, along with her husband and completely ADORABLE kids have a good thing going on. She’s just a modern day girl choosing to live simply, and embracing everything around her, whether it be milking a cow, raising pigs or making homemade yogurt. And y’all. She just glows from it. Even though I had never met her, I knew who she was instantly when I walked into her home. I was like, “That’s her”. I only saw a tad of nervousness from her the entire night. And all it did was make her a little more endearing.

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I’m going to attach her blog at the end of this post so all of you can read about her. She’s just fascinating. And kind. And well, we could all stand to be a little more like Katrina. Her kids say “Yes, ma’am” and “No, Ma’am” and sweet little Ax said “It was so nice to meet you, I hope I get to see you again”. If you know my partiality to little boys, you know at this point I was like “See that white Nissan over there?” “You can just go hop in the back seat and go home with me”. Then I thought about what I had to offer him at my house and knew within minutes of being there he would be demanding I return him. Sure, I have dogs. But not farm dogs. I got spoiled dogs. Not dogs that meander among baby pigs and big pigs without the slightest bit of aggravation. Nope, a PS4 and satellite TV can’t compete with what this family has going on. Yes, they have modern conveniences. Come on, she has a facebook page and a blog and a DELUXE Kitchanaid mixer (yes, I slobbered over it a little). But it’s obvious Katrina and her family march to the beat of a much simpler drum. I could see where folks might leave these classes feeling like they are lacking. I mean, she made homemade yogurt. And went into detail about the consistency that she liked vs what the kids liked and how she had found a happy medium. But the only way I can tell you I felt when I left was inspired. And blessed.

Now, I’m not so dumb that I think I’m gonna be making most of these things from now on. Naturally, I don’t have my own cow to milk. Nor do I have that handy dandy cream/milk separator gadget she has on the counter to pour her fresh milk into. (Chanda still hasn’t figured out the concept to that machine. The description of how it worked left her with a puzzled look on her face. Yet, she still dove into this class with enthusiasm. Initially, she said “I’m just going for the pigs”, but she ended up loving everything about it.) So, I’m afraid I’m out on the butter and yogurt made with fresh milk.  But am I going to make my own mayonnaise again? And brown sugar? Sure will. I have each and every ingredient we used in my pantry. And my own Kitchenaid mixer, although it isn’t a deluxe model. But it was my Momma’s. We bought it for her the last Christmas she was with us. Every time I use it, I think of Yaya. Who embraced craftiness and a lifestyle like this like no one else I’ve ever met, until now. My Momma would have loved Katrina. She would have fit right in. My soap making, yo-yo quilt making, crotchet baby blanket making Momma would have loved everything about last night. She would have run her hand over that old cook stove and admired every cast iron skillet with awe. Not sure I have felt as close to Yaya as I did last night since her death 14 years ago. Mirror, mirror, on the wall. I am my mother’s child after all. And I couldn’t be prouder.

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Katrina hosts a different homemaking class each month, free of charge. Each month a different topic, ranging from soap making, to herb drying, to candy making and quilting. Her classes, since held in her home, are of course space limited, and preference is given to repeat attenders (I think that’s me, now, y’all). She sets up a donation box near the door, and 100% of the money that goes into it is put back into supplies for future classes. The ladies attending pour in with smiles and homemade dishes and “Hey, how are you’s” and it turns into a good ole time of fellowship. I am totally ashamed to say that I didn’t do my research about the class and didn’t realize that you were supposed to bring a dish. Now if you know me at all, you know I was beyond mortified. If you tell me to bring something, I’m immediately on a 3 day pinterest search for THE perfect recipe, one that guarantees at least a few admiring glances. The food last night was beyond amazing. The homemade salsa/pico de gallo was my favorite, and Chanda’s was the pasta salad that had “just the best green onions I’ve ever had, I mean the BEST”, according to her. This is my one apology over my error. Next time (if they let me back in), it’s gonna be on like a chicken bone. Kimmie’s got homemade game and I’m bringing it with me!

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Chanda and I were lucky enough to end up at the table with Martha and Cindy, a mother/daughter combo who blessed me more than they will ever know. Martha kept us all in line, made us laugh and took notes. Serious notes. Note to self: Be more like Martha at the next class. Martha made me not only miss my Momma, but to sit and reflect and remember her and appreciate her for the wonderful cook, Momma and Yaya that she was. Martha was alot like Momma, I could tell. Pretty sure I forgot to tell Martha last night, but thank you for inviting the two oddballs to your table bc as you said, “There are only 2 of us over here, and we can share our mixer”. God don’t make mistakes. And he puts us right where we need to be and are meant to be, even in a room full of ladies making homemade mayo. All the Martha Mommas out there take a second and take a bow. You’re a rare bird in today’s world. You and Katrina.

Here are the things we made hands on last night:

Butter

Yogurt

Mayo

Brown Sugar

We took home a homemade chocolate sauce Katrina made that we didn’t have time to get into, and also the recipes for everything plus a few more.

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I went home (well, I mean to Granny O’s bc it was my night to stay) all smiles and needing to tell everyone in my path how much fun I had. Granny O’s caretaker Tammy and my husband got the honors. I went on and on about what we made, about the dog named Annie who looks like Shine (“Look, Tracy, it’s a baby Shiner!!) and the pigs and the kids and their manners, and the creme separator and the pigs and the good food we ate and the pigs. Did I mention there were pigs? Just making sure. The runt took a liking to me and the feeling was mutual. Once I picked it up, it kept following me around, so I picked it up again. Phoenix dashed my excitement when he came around the corner and said “Oh, be careful with that one, it likes to poo and pee on you”. Talk about dulling my shine. One quick kiss and I put the pig down. Let’s get real. Did anyone think I was gonna go out here and not kiss a baby pig? I think not.

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It’s safe to say a good time was had by all. I highly suggest reading Katrina’s blog and learning more about her and her little farm. I was a tad dismayed last night bc Chanda hadn’t read any of it, and she just didn’t have ANY IDEA about the story of how God sent Katrina a dairy cow, and really, how could she appreciate the fresh milk if she didn’t understand that GOD HAD SENT KATRINA THAT COW. Y’all, it’s exhausting to be me sometimes. I have all these ideas, and plans, and passions that it’s hard to slow down and enjoy the simple things sometimes. Thank you, Katrina for a night that let me do just that.

Later, y’all.

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