Pumpkin, fruit fly traps and prayer. Lots and lots of prayer.

I know. We’re all in this crisis together. The self isolating. Mandatory quarantines. Finding out whether we are essential or non essential. Fear in our hearts. Worry in our minds. Skin peeling off our hands from the use of so much soap and hand sanitizer.

If anyone had told me a month ago we wouldn’t be going to work as normal, church on Sunday, into a store or restaurant for everyday items or a sit down meal, I would have laughed in their face. 3 weeks ago I was strolling the streets of downtown Gatlinburg, enjoying bread pudding french toast and outdoor air bluegrass music in rocking chairs.

Today I sat in the truck as my husband went into a grocery store for a carefully thought out list as I sat and watched in horror as families came and went, taking small children into the Foodland with them. I considered rolling the window down and screaming “What is wrong with you people” but thought better of it as I know first hand jails are human incubators. I sat silently as the anxiety built.

I’ve gone in to work to do those “essentials” they speak of, making sure I go when hardly anyone is there. I wore a mask the last time I went and politely refused the communal pizza they were having for lunch. I took a Clorox wipe to the vending machine to push the button for my Diet DP. Ended up wiping down the whole machine.

On weekends, my husband has taken me out riding and I’ve seen parts of my little N AL county I might not have ever seen. I’ve gotten out and taken pictures of wildflowers and old tires and small waterfalls. I’ve gone to my mother In laws today, sat in a lawn chair in the yard and maintained the “6 foot” space between us. I fretted thinking she got offended because I didn’t go inside.

I walked around her farm and talked to Charley the donkey and stalked a rabbit for 15 minutes, trying to sneak up and get the perfect picture of him. I sat on a bluff yesterday and ate take out from my favorite Italian hole in the wall with my husband. I’ve finally started “Where the Crawdads Sing” and I’m totally enthralled and been afraid the ending is going to scar me.

I’ve cooked more in 2 weeks than I have in 2 years. Pinterest has been my friend. Social media and the nightly news my enemy. Had a love/hate relationship with the leadership I see controlling our actions and destiny. Rented and raved about the lack of people who are adhering to the cry to stay home and social distance. Relentlessly mothered my 26 year old son as if he were 16 and just gotten his license, telling him not be out “carousing”.

I’ve known WHO was in control even when it felt like the very same person is testing us and teaching us a lesson. Yelled at Him and prayed to Him. Worshiped him in song. Felt a spiritual uprising I haven’t in a long, long time. Laid on a beach towel in the yard and looked up at the sky begging for Him to reveal the outcome of this to me.

I made a homemade concoction in a bowl to capture fruit flies (which I really call dog pecker gnats), and squeaked in glee when I finally caught two. Excitedly swished the bowl around, shoving it in my husbands face saying LOOK!!!! Thought to myself, it’s all downhill from here. I am excited over drowned dog pecker gnats.

But never fear. I just rearranged my canned goods and I have 7 cans of pumpkin. A can of coconut milk. I have never in my free born life used coconut milk. For anything! Now, please excuse me while I google recipes for canned pumpkin and fire roasted corn, which I have an over abundance of.

Stay safe. Stay home. Be thankful for FaceTime and boycott the news. Trust in God and remember His mercies are new every morning.

Later, y’all.

Back up thirsty gals!

So, I like to put in my earbuds while I’m at work, listen to different things and drown out the noise around me. Sometimes it’s music, sometimes it’s podcasts and sermons, and (I can’t believe I’m admitting this) my all time favorite. Episodes of Paternity Court. I know. I judge myself for it so y’all don’t even have to. That climactic moment of “you are/are not the father gets me every time.

But today, today I needed a boost. And the person who can do that best is Real Talk Kim, aka Kim Pothier. She’s a women pastor (GASP!!) who I love to hear. She’s like the hood version of Joyce Meyer. Street slang talking, Mohawk wearing keeping it real Kim. She fires me up even when I don’t know I need it.

Today, she told about getting into an argument with her husband over not taking the garbage to the road. It turned into one of those fights that lasts a few days but one night in bed she said it hit her. Why was she mad? She had a wonderful man. So the next morning she got up and proceeded to tell him he was the sexiest trash taker outer she’d ever seen. And she’s continued to tell him that every week and he’s never forgotten the trash again. I’m thinking, well my husband knows I appreciate him so I’m good.

But then. Then she hit home. She started talking about these ladies she calls “Petty Crockers”. 😬 Was I one??? Uh oh. Petty Crockers complain and nag about the little things. Know what happens to Petty Crockers? One day, their husband is at the water fountain at work and one of these “thirsty women” slide in with a compliment. You see, these thirsty women would love to pick up your mans dirty socks you’re complaining about. I promptly called my husband and told him he was the sexiest laundry helper and folder ever! True story. He acted like he was afraid I needed a mental evaluation. But I explained about them thirsty women!! No way no how. Ain’t getting my man. Sisters better back up.

Yes we laughed. But her words today reached me deep down. Made me look in the mirror and think about what kind of wife I am. And need to be. Now y’all know I’m a Betty Crocker and cook for him all the time. But am I a Petty one too? First order of business was to come home and make a cake. True story again.

Then I sit down and I’m scrolling thru fb and I see where a friend of mines family had a loss today. The grandfather of the family, the patriarch had passed away. Leaving behind his wife of 61 years. I sat and looked at their pics and thought that’s what I want! Now I love my husband. Beyond reason. But I can’t even fathom that kind of love. And while I know at our age I’m not gonna get 61 years with mine, I’m going to make every single second count.

Yes, I know I will still nag. We will still argue. But all of these words today changed me. The verse she left us with absolutely humbled me.

So tonight I’m vowing to tell him he’s sexy whether it’s trash taking out or cleaning up dog poo. I’m vowing to be more thankful for this wonderful man of mine so these thirsty women don’t weasel their way in. Because I already know that isn’t gonna work out for anyone. And will result in my best friend somehow sneaking in diet mt Dew into the jail where I’m serving a life sentence.

Thirsty women, beware. Other ladies, heed the warning. Tell that man he’s precious. Every day.

Later, yall.

Pinterest, Kitchenaid and Jason Crabb

A few months ago I blogged about my burlap no sew curtains I installed at our cabin. The ones I had found on Pinterest that just went throw, swag, roll and drape and like Cinderella’s dress they were a farmhouse dream? I likened Pinterest to ole Satan himself. Called it a liar.

Now I’m over here pinning and singing Big Daddy Weave because well, Pinterest is REDEEMED! It’s set me freeeeeee….my husband and some of my friends think I’m a genius and Ma Ingalls herself couldn’t cook this good. And while normally I’m a little pinch of this and a little pinch of that kinda cooking gal, baking is an art all of its own. Me. The girl who hated to bake, but love to cook. I am hooked.

Santa brought me a new kitchenaid mixer, with a bigger bowl capacity and a lift stand and with each whirl of the dough hook and paddle my confidence has grown. Soared. My kitchen has looked like a train wreck and I’m pretty sure there is flour embedded in every crack and crevice within 30 feet. My aunt Ruby’s vintage Bundt Pan has a tiny pin hole in the bottom I wasn’t aware of, and I pert near set the house on fire today when the melted butter from my buttery pull apart bread spilled into the bottom of the oven. But that bread? Stop it. That recipe is a keeper. Pinterest is an Angel. Sent from Heaven above.

I have mixed, rolled, patted, chilled, sprinkled, dusted to my hearts content. All while jamming to Jason Crabb. Pretty sure if he heard me harmonizing with him he would ask me to come on the road with him. During one rousing rendition of Through the Fire my dogs ran and hid under the bed. It was something about that rolling pin and the Holy Ghost being in the same room and well, I just couldn’t help myself. “JUST REMEMBER WHEN YOU’RE STANDING IN THE VALLEY OF DECISION” indeed. Whooooo, sister. Them was some good cookies. God, Pinterest and Jason Crabb. Yes, please.

Are you like I used to be? If there was more than 5 ingredients you just rolled on past that recipe? STOP IT! Like the guy who yelled out in The Waterboy, “You can do it”!!!! Make that shopping list and send that Walmart grocery pickup order in. Now granted, it took them 3 times to find my dried buttermilk I keep on hand, but hallelujah and pass the biscuits I have a fresh supply. I’m always tired but never too tired to make some cornbread. Get you some of that buttermilk too.

The moral of this blog post? Go out on a limb and make something you think exceeds your food network watching limits. Embrace that inner Ree. She’s in there. Walmart will even add her mixing bowls and baking sheets to your pickup order to cook with. Be really good this year (you have 11 more months) and ask Santa for a stand mixer.

I’ll be right here, cheering you on. I got faith in you. Southern root, gospel music listening, alto singing faith.

Later y’all.

Thrifting is Most Uplifting

My Momma loved a good thrift store. I loved Parisian. Which is now Belks. She would burn the brakes stopping for a good yard sale. I would circle the mall looking for the perfect parking spot. She would ooh and aah showing me the things she had found for “just a dollar”!!! I would proudly boast that my platter was Arthur Court. She took my Grandma Brandons vintage baby gown and hung it from a shelf in her room and made it her most prized possession. I filled my home with wall hangings from Kirklands and Hobby Lobby. Greenery from Trees N Trends. She found joy in the history of an item. I saw dirt and rust and dust. I was nothing like her. Never would be. Yeah, right.

Fast forward several years, to the good Lord taking her entirely too early, a disastrous divorce that made me look at “material” things in a whole different light, along with a million other things that would take all day to tell you, and here we are. My name is Kim and I am a junker. A thrifter. A lover of all things old, and dusty, and rusty. It took me a long time to get here, but I’m so glad I did. You can barely walk thru my garage, and you have to eat your Wheaties before you go thrifting with me. It’s a marathon, not a race.

A conversation with me will leave the average person dazed and confused. “So I found this vintage grease can at the KARM store, a wooden rolling pin for $3 at the AmVet (someone sure underpriced that dadgum thing), some old lace at 12 Bushels and I’m gonna take some tea and stain it and make this fabulous American flag I found on Pinterest, and a wooden dough board at the Goodwill that had flour in the cracks of it that HAD to have been there since the Civil War”. I say all this with relish and enthusiasm and the giddiness of a kid at Christmas.

I rarely pay more than $5 for anything, and I have an alert on my phone each month to remind me of the 1/2 price day at my favorite Goodwill (as if I was gonna forget it). I march in there like a boss, and even though there are around 127 folks in there that day, none of them seem to grab for the items that “spark joy” in my heart. I silently gloat when I see someone looking longingly at something in my buggy. I pout and have been known to stalk someone who has something in theirs I want, in the hopes they might change their mind and put it back. I smack my husbands arm and say “How did we miss that”????? Come across a bucket or bin of kitchen gadgets? My heart starts beating fast and my ears start buzzing and everything around me ceases to exist. Be still my vintage hand crank mixer’s heart.

Rest assured, there will be no Marie Kondo’ing going on at my house beyond the way I roll my socks and underwear. Pretty sure she might have the proverbial stroke if she came to my house. Rolling brown sugar cinnamon rolls on my vintage dough board gives me the warm fuzzies. I learned the hard way you can ruin a solid walnut piece by applying chalk paint when you should leave it in it’s natural state. A Flea Market Flip marathon can cause me to stay in bed all day. Simply put, my junk makes me happy. Having a husband who entertains my whims and fancies and compliments me on my thrifting “eye” is just the icing on the cake. I wouldn’t trade my Saturday Goodwill and Cracker Barrel dates with that man for a full day shopping at Belks with dinner at Chris Ruth after. God is great, junk is good, and I know I’m crazy…..

Later, y’all.


For the Love of Buck. How an old yellow dog helped heal my ♥️….

If you’ve ever been to Pikeville Store for a burger, you’ve probably met Buck. Buck greets you at your car when you pull in, and at the door when you leave, hoping for leftovers. To a few (not many, grant you), he’s just an old dog. But to many, he’s a Pikeville fixture. He’s just supposed to be there. But to me? Oh, he’s so much more.

You see, Buck was my Daddy’s dog. And my little brothers. Keep in mind I’m a grand old 46, whole my brothers are in their 20’s. My Daddy started over later in life. I used to say my little brothers were the best thing he ever gave me. Those are some good boys. I couldn’t ask for better. But Buck…..

You see, I wasn’t a Daddy’s girl. We were like oil and water. If he said black I said white. Him and my momma divorced when I was 14. But even before then, it wasn’t the typical father/daughter relationship. Without airing too much dirty laundry, let’s just say my Daddy changed after the divorce and remarrying and having my baby brothers. For the better. Lots of folks have asked me if I resented that fact. No way. In fact, for no other reason than the fact that my little brothers are the bees knees, I’m happy he changed.

Time marched on. I had a wonderful Stepdad. A wonderful Momma. Who did something for me and Dylan everyday of my life. And then I lost her. When she was 51. I went to bed one night and woke up without her. I probably shouldn’t admit this, but I was furious. MY MOMMA? Instead of a whole bunch of folks God could have taken but her? That well, didn’t do anything for me? That didn’t love me like she did? But Buck……

My entire immediate family (both sides, now) lived in Pikeville. Most within a very short distance from one another. With Pikeville Store smack dab in the center. My aunt and uncle ran a super successful grill in this old country store. My aunt Connie was my daddy’s sister, and my uncle Dwayne was my mommas 1st cousin. I’m gonna stop there Bc the more I talk the more confused and inbred you’re gonna think I am. Needless to say, you’re kin to everyone twice at Pikeville. Sometimes 3 times.

For a long time, my Daddy hadn’t been well. Looking back, it was pretty obvious. But like him, I think we all just ignored it. Then boom. One day he finally went to the doctor and BOOM. There it was. Liver cancer. Advanced. Originated they thought in the bile duct, had been there for no telling how long. Slow growing and toxic. Daddy died the same week of his diagnosis. I was sad. I cried. I hated it. Mostly for my brothers. But Buck…..

Shortly after Daddy died, Buck showed up at the store. My aunt Connie, who is SO not a dog person, fell into the routine of feeding him, and well, he kinda just stayed. He went home too, but never for long. I worked on weekends some, and Buck was always there to greet me. Yes, everyone loved him, but me and him had something special going on. I found myself calling him “Sissy’s Angel” and having full blown conversations with him. Bringing him treats.

Fast forward a few years and my aunt and uncles only child, my 1st cousin, was diagnosed with the dreaded C word also. Liver. Just like Daddy. They shut the store down and never looked back. Taking him to treatments, doctors, taking care of him. Then God saw fit to take him. At 37. Thats a whole other story. There aren’t enough hours in the day. That one is to be continued. But Buck.

Pikeville Store sat empty. The community mourned Jason along with the feeling only Pikeville could give them. Not to mention the burgers. My Granny O, who was in her 90’s lived right next door. On my Sunday trips to take her out to eat and to the store, there was Buck. He didn’t understand why no one was at the store, but he still had all of us. He moved from house to house, staying mainly at my aunt and uncles. But when I was at Granny O’s, he was with me. I took a sense of pride in that. He picked ME!

Rocking on until 2018, at the age of 93, and Granny O fell. It would begin a year of tears, sleepless nights, frustrations and turmoil we never saw coming. My sister and I found ourselves in the role of full time caregivers for an extremely independent, seasoned woman. On my days and evenings there, I just wanted to be at home. I had a million things to do, blah blah blah. But Buck….if I was there, so was he. I loved giggling when my uncle D said, well, Buck hardly ever comes back up to the house anymore. Inwardly I gloated. Sissy’s angel.

And besides eating burgers, Buck liked to do one thing. Chase cars. We lost count of the times he got nicked and bumped over the years. It was just his thing. But getting older (Buck is about 13 now), he couldn’t bounce back as fast. So in February when a girl came into the store and said “Hey, I hit your dog” (the store had new owners then), Buck got down. His back end wasn’t working hardly at all. We tried to keep him quiet, hoping he was just sore, but there’s no such thing as keeping Buck still. The vet said he had nerve damage, and all we really could do was try to contain him and give him his medicine to see if it helped. But you know that line “Nobody puts Baby in a corner”? Well, nobody puts Buck in a cage. Or indoors for that matter. He was MISERABLE. To which my aunt and uncle just said the heck with it and let him loose.

We talked about what we should do for him. Many times we KNEW what should be done, but no one wanted to speak it aloud. So we let him do what Buck does. He went where he wanted, a lot slower than before. Lots of times he couldn’t get up. I sat in the corn field across the road from my Granny’s hand feeding him at night. I may or may not have sung you are my sunshine every night too, but there are no witnesses so….Buck got ice in his water. And when Granny O got to where she didn’t feel like eating, half of every meal Granny O didn’t eat. Oh, she complained about that ole stinky dog on her porch, but let me not be able to find him. She asked a 100x until I said “he’s out here, Granny O”.

The last few days of Granny O’s life Buck sat in front of that door like nobody’s business. He knew. I saw it in his eyes and he looked right back at me and saw it in mine. If inside ever got the best of me, and Lord, did it, all I had to do was step outside and pet Buck. He made everything right again. When I would get to her house everyday from work, I could count on Buck to instantly make me feel better. He was my rock.

I worried that after Granny O died, Buck would get worse. And it was getting cold. I was terrified the cold weather would wreak havoc on him. But Buck….Buck has bounced back the last few weeks like I never could have dreamed. I went to see him today and he practically ran down to Granny O’s when I pulled in. Sissy’s angel.

Who while guarding the door, and eating burgers, and chasing cars, and greeting me under that tree of the evening after work, healed my heart. Gave me a peace and understanding of why me and my daddy were like we were. Made all those wrongs right. An angel in the form of an old Yeller dog. Best dang dog in Pikeville. In the world, even.

Later y’all….

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…..