It’s been sixty-eight days since I last wrote about some of my favorite things. Much has happened since then, and it’s amazing how quickly life can change and give you a new perspective.
One of the things I mentioned in my last “Five Things” post was the fun we all had celebrating Kendall’s birthday. It was such a blessing to be able to surround her with all of those who love her. My dad was one of those, and he enjoyed getting to meet Kendall’s mother and her grandparents, and I was so happy he got to be here with us. On May 16th, my dad’s journey on this earth ended, and his eternal journey with Jesus and my mama began.
Needless to say, the sixty-eight days in between my last “Five Things” post and this one have been tough. I’m now trying to figure out how to navigate this world without both of my parents, something I never dreamed would be my future just two years ago. The good news is I have some really great friends. Drew and I are surrounded by a ton of awesome people who we can count on during the hard times.
I’m also learning how great my dad’s siblings are. Actually, I’ve known it for awhile, but now I’m getting to know them in a different light and form new relationships with them. My grandparents are really great, too, and they would move Heaven and earth for those they love. They do it for those they don’t really know on a regular basis, helping those who truly need help after crises strike.
Because of these people and how much I love the community around us, I believe the first of my five favorite things for this post would have to be my family.
I’m not talking about just blood relatives because some of the most precious people to me wouldn’t show up as a match on ancestry.com, but apart from my grandparents, my brother and my mom, I wasn’t raised by “blood.”
I was raised on a farm in the Tennessee country, with my dad’s older brother next door on one side, his twin sister next door on the other side, his older sister about two minutes down the road and a brother just over the hill on the next road. Dad didn’t have to take me in as his own, but he did and never looked back, giving me a childhood I deserved, a big family to spend the holidays with, and a lifetime of memories I’ll hold on to forever.
His visitation and funeral were held a little over two hours away from where my husband and I live and work. My coworkers came. Several members from the church we worship with came. I realized then how big my family truly is.
I work with a great group of people, one of whom is my best friend. She’s been a steady source of encouragement and someone willing to tell me what I need to hear when I don’t want to hear it. She’s also been a steady supplier of GIGANTIC zucchini squash perfect for zucchini bread and muffins, so I’m pretty grateful for her.
Then there’s our church family, more of the people who have shown us they’re willing to drive two-hundred miles, round trip, because they know it would encourage us to see them when we we're hurting. They’ve done that for me in the past, too, when my mom passed away, and they continue showing up for us during the good times and the bad. That’s why God made the Church, and I am grateful He did because in this world, we all need a village of folks who will pick us up when we’re in need of some “heavy-lifting.”
I’ve also got the world’s best husband. My grandparents tell me that often, despite my inquiries as to why I’ve never heard them tell me he’s got the world’s best wife—ha! They’re right, though. He’s as patient as they come, kind with his words and so very steady, which is everything I’ve needed during these months that have often felt so unsteady. He supports me and encourages my wildest dreams and makes me feel like I can do anything.
If you can’t tell just yet, my family is very important to me and absolutely one of my most favorite “things.” I don’t know what I did to deserve them all. My grandparents are the cream of the crop—two of my closest friends and the reason I pick my head up and keep pushing forward.
If there’s anything I can say, I would encourage all of those reading this to do everything you can to foster these relationships with those closest to you because when you do, the joy they can bring into your lives will be invaluable. That I can promise.
You know there’s NO WAY I could talk about my favorite things without mentioning some of my favorite recipes I’ve made over the last few weeks, and there have been some really good ones!
One of my favorites of all time is the Lemon Curd Cheesecake Tartlet desserts I made a couple weeks ago. They are the easiest desserts, and they are sweet, tangy, creamy, and everything I want for a dessert in the middle of this heat!
The caramelized onion, mushroom and thyme puff pastry was a huge hit, too! That melted Gruyère cheese will make your taste buds do a little dance. If you haven’t tried it, you can find the recipe here.
My new online shop
I am a shop owner! This is something I am so thrilled about, it’s not even funny—like, silly excited! When I started this blog, I thought I’d share mostly recipes. I knew I wanted a way to get specialty pantry items into the homes of my readers, but I wasn’t sure exactly how I’d do it. I definitely didn’t expect to form friendships with the sweet people behind products I’d eventually share. That’s the power of the internet!
I saw a post about bruschetta pop up on my Instagram news feed one day, and it looked sooo good! I couldn’t wait to try it. One little conversation led to another, and that small business became the first producer of one the products I am selling in my shop. Not only do I love them and their kind, genuine business practices, but I also think they make the best bruschettas I’ve ever tried and I am beyond honored to carry them in my store.
The garlic and tomato bruschetta features whole cloves of roasted garlic, and it is divine served over pan-seared chicken with a little balsamic glaze and fresh herbs, and the olive bruschetta makes me feel super fancy when I eat it…ha! It’s my favorite to eat with some sharp white cheddar cheese and fruit.
I’m also getting to create new recipes with some incredible jams. I just made a thyme-crusted, spiced plum pork roast last night with one of my jams, and it was out of this world good! The blueberry and lavender French toast I made with a loaf of vanilla brioche bread was incredible, too--like a little taste of Heaven in every bite. If you haven’t purchased one yet, now is the time because I can promise you haven’t tasted jams like these before! Strawberry with Wild Rose, Fig with Pear and Honey, Cherry with Cardamom…they’re all so delicious!
I’m also in love with the tea towels in my shop. I’m pretty sure you can all tell I come with a little sentiment and a whole lot of sap. I’m a “feeler,” for sure, and I love the opportunity to have these little reminders of life’s blessings in my home.
Kendall is at camp! I am officially an old lady. Ha! I can remember Mom telling me about how much she loved this camp when I was a camper, and I thought that must have been a super long time ago because in my eyes (as a child), she was old. Well, considering it hasn’t been long at all since I was a camper, and I just had the conversation with Kendall about the “good ole days,” I guess old is exactly what this makes me.
That’s ok, though. I’ll absolutely take it because I am THRILLED she is at Mid-South-Youth-Camp. I don’t remember a more magical place as a child than that one, and I spent as many weeks there as I possibly could when I was a kid. The friendships made, the fun, the hikes, the mud—you just can’t beat it.
Bennett is ready, too. He’s not too happy about having to wait another two years until he’s old enough to go to camp, but I’ve promised him the wait will be so worth it.
I will add, though, that up until this point, I was always the camper. I was the one having a tug-of-war in the mud puddle, making all the crafts and spending as much time as I could at the pool. This is my first time in the seat of a parent leaving a child in the hands and care of strangers while hoping I did a good enough job explaining to Kendall the importance of brushing her teeth every night and making sure she showers daily.
All jokes aside, I know she’s having a blast, and I am sooo grateful for the internet because I do get to see little snippets of the fun she is having.
I think this one will always be on the list of my favorite things. I’ve been blessed to have so many wonderful memories, and I’m constantly reminiscing about them, so I want to share the joy they continue to bring me.
The first weekend of every June, my dad’s family unplugs for a weekend to spend some time with one another for a family retreat. I’ve never seen siblings closer or more respectful of one another than his, and the honor I know they bring to their parents is something I am very proud of. Over the years, our family has grown tremendously, but no matter how busy we get, most of us will still be together on that weekend.
For years, we stayed at a small lodge in the middle of nowhere, Alabama. We loved it! If you can imagine one common room surrounded by quaint little rooms we all slept in, that’s what Paintrock was. We were all together in a small area, playing games until midnight, sharing a game of “Granny Ball,” which is basically baseball with a ball made of tape…and eating. Lots of eating.
My dad was one of six kids who all had children and grandchildren, so there are lots of us, and it is always nothing but fun and connection. That’s a HUGE blessing! That’s not all we do, though. Our family retreat is a spiritual retreat, where we have daily family devotionals and a worship service together on Sunday morning before going home. It’s always a very special time.
This year was tough. We were missing Dad, and it was a little different because the location has changed, but it was still a great weekend with lots of laughter, spiritual growth, and again…food. The fried pies are my favorite! My Aunt June is pretty famous for them.
I hope your family gets to enjoy things like this, and if you don’t yet, this is the BEST time to start! For me, these are memories that I’ll hold on to forever and it’s the memories that are most important.