Peach Cobbler via I-65

Peach Watertower at Exit 212Pin
Peach-zilla at Exit 212

If you have ever traveled in Alabama you more than likely have spent some time on Interstate 65. This well traversed corridor connects the tippy top of the state all the way to nearly its southernmost point (which is Sand Island Light off the coast of Dauphin Island).  Dauphin Island was once my hometown so I have spent quite a bit of time traveling across the state.  I-65 basically bisects the state at the largest cities, Huntsville, Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile.

Just south of Birmingham, in Clanton is a landmark that delights all the children who see it, and can cause quite a stir with adults as well.  It is the big Peach Water Tower.  Although it is a novelty for most on the road, it is actually the X on a treasure map and the prize is peaches, of course.

We stopped at a little fruit stand just underneath the peach and bought a few peaches and some green tomatoes and I was in Little Ol’ Southern Lady Heaven.  You know you are in for a treat when the peach in its natural state smells good and fills your car with the promise of good things to come.  So it was just plain sinful to make them into Paula Deen’s Peach Cobbler.  I usually doctor recipes or change things a bit according to my own tastes or that of my family but this one needed no changes or substitutions.

It was warm, bubbly and not too sweet.  The peaches balanced out the sweetness of the cobbler itself and even with vanilla ice cream wasn’t as sweet as some cobblers I have had in the past.

So if you are looking for a great peach cobbler recipe, Paula Deen’s is worth a try.  It certainly worked for me!



Best Summer Toy

When summer comes, keeping the kids entertained without allowing marathon TV watching or breaking the budget can seem daunting to near impossible. We have taken many trips to the dollar store as a result and while we do get many fun items, most of the toys do not last the riggers of active children for very long. My kids can break even the most indestructible toys. It seems like they are playing a game called “Titanic” and they are the iceberg.
Thankfully, I have found a fantastic toy that the kids love and is relatively inexpensive. When the neighborhood kids come to visit they love it too, and it provides large blocks of time for me to read without interruption clean.

This wonderful toy is the Gazillion Bubble Hurricane Machine.  It seriously produces a ton of bubbles! For $9.99 plus tax, each summer I can get anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 hour of the kids playing outside everyday without constant parading back and forth inside the house.  They really enjoy running through all the bubbles and play together nicely in the process.   An added bonus is that the kids don’t play with the machine itself, just the bubbles it produces so the likelihood of it breaking is decreased.  You see I said decreased, because my kids will find a way.  It think it is one of their superpowers.

A strong word of caution, use Gazillion Brand Bubbles and don’t refill with cheap bubble solution. Like many other things it pays to buy the real thing.  I will never be convinced that the generic version of toaster pastries tastes as good as the Pop Tart brand and similarly, not all bubble solutions are the same.  We used up the 4oz bottle that is provided in about 30 minutes and I added some cheap bubble solution from the dollar bin and was surprised at the difference in the production of bubbles.

Also, it does require 6 AA batteries that do not come included.  Either have some on hand or be sure to pick up a pack at the same time so that you don’t have disappointed kiddos.

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I do need to replace it every summer because we leave it out on the back patio all year. The bubble well is open and I don’t want it carted through the house.  After awhile of sitting out in the elements the innards get a bit goopy.   Plus, it collects bugs like a pitcher plant and who wants that mess in their house?  That is just crazy talk.
Bubbles! 012 editedPinAs you can see, this bubble machine works for me and my kiddos! Check out those gazillion bubbles!



What Summer Tastes Like to this Southern Girl!

It is officially here…summer! Olaf from Frozen is probably twirling in a field of dandelions singing of the virtues of great combinations. In his case, hot and cold. For southerners, it is food pairings usually only found in the summer. One of my favorites is fried green tomatoes.  Even my vegetable avoiding husband feels the rumbling in his Georgia born belly when I serve up a plate of Beer Battered Fried Green Tomatoes!

I buy tons of red tomatoes all year long but there is something wonderful about the firmness and tartness of local tomato encased in the crispy blanket of fried batter.   As a native Alabamian (although I did have a brief 8 year stint in North Carolina), I grew up less than 10 miles from Irondale, the home of the Whistle Stop Café from Fannie Flagg’s book, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café.  Fannie Flagg also has a cookbook available with the official Whistle Stop Café recipe which I recommend as well.  Perhaps it was my geography that gave me a special place in my heart (and tummy) for fried green tomatoes.

Batter recipes can be as varied as BBQ sauce recipes in the south and sometimes can similarly be based on geography.  North Carolina is known for it’s vinegar and pepper sauces while Alabama tends to favor ketchup based sauces.  Tennessee likes mustard based and ketchup based depending on what side of the state you find yourself.  I have found the same applies to fry batters.  While I was a student at Auburn University (War Eagle!), a wonderful little eatery called Veggies-To-Go offered fried green tomatoes (seasonally) in a cornmeal batter.  My mom, from Birmingham, used the most simple and delicious recipe I have come across of flour, salt, pepper and beer.  Her fried green tomatoes always came out crisp and light.  In Texas, they sometimes add sugar to the batter and in Louisiana the tomato dish isn’t complete without remoulade sauce.

I found this recipe on and doctored it a bit to come up with my own Frankenstein’s Monster of a delicious batter.   I added two different kinds of bread crumbs, some spices and omitted the lemon.  To me, the green tomatoes have enough tartness not to need any added to the batter.

Here is my recipe!  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did!

Caren’s Beer Battered Fried Green Tomatoes

3 Large Green Tomatoes, thinly sliced; less than 1/4 inch is ideal

1 Cup All Purpose Flour  ( I used King Arthur.)

1/2 cup of seasoned bread crumbs

1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs

1 tsp of salt (plus extra for season the tomatoes before dipping)

1 tsp of pepper (plus extra for season the tomatoes before dipping)

1 tsp of baking powder

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp smoked paprika

1/4 tsp of chipotle chili powder

Almost one entire 12 oz bottle of beer ( I used Shock Top Honey Bourbon Cask Wheat)

vegetable oil (enough to coat your cast iron skillet; it will need to be added to at the start of each new batch)

Slice the tomatoes and lay them out on a piece of wax paper.  Salt and pepper each slice on both sides.  Add all the dry ingredients in to a medium sized mixing bowl and reserve 1/2 cup of the flour and bread crumb mixture.  Lightly coat each slice of tomato with some of the reserved dry flour mixture.  Add beer to the bowl of flour/bread crumbs until it is the consistency of pancake batter.  Dip each floured tomato slice into the wet batter mixture until it is nicely and uniformly covered.  Fry in a skillet set on medium high heat until each side is golden brown.  Let drain on a paper towel covered plate or cookie sheet.   Enjoy!

Leftovers can be refrigerated in an air tight container between sheets of parchment paper. Reheat in the oven at 350 degrees on a cookie sheet so they crisp back up.  Just as good the second day!

Fried Green Tomatoes editedPin

This recipe certainly worked for me!


Hope is a Wish With a Little More Clout

Hope Card scaled image with wmPin

This little card was a long over due “Thank You” and “Thinking of You” card for a truly sweet and giving lady.  She was married to my uncle but was also my Sunday School Teacher for many years as I was growing up.  She would give us scraps of fabric and lovely buttons to sew and then would read to us the story of Joseph & his coat of many colors.  The sewing would take us awhile and would illustrate the care that it took to make Joseph’s fine coat, but also the care that God has in taking care of us.   Even while I was in college I would receive lovely care packages from her.  One included autumn leaves in contact paper with a magnet on back which lived on my fridge for years.

A few years ago she was diagnosed with a particularly virulent type of cancer and she lost her battle last month.  I made and sent her this card only two weeks before her passing.  She loved hand made and crafty items and never met a bottle of glitter that she didn’t like.  I am glad that I followed through and sent the card, otherwise, she might not have known how much each of those care packages and Sunday School lessons meant to me.

I hope that I can always thank those folks in my life who have shaped and influenced me in this life.


Mother’s Day is coming!

CAS Heart CardPin

This is a very Clean and Simple card that I wanted to make for my mom.  The idea came about back around Valentine’s Day but I made her this mixed media project instead.  I saved the idea and created the card that I will send to her for Mother’s Day.

It is a simple concept but was painstaking when applying all the pearls to each little flower but I am happy with how it turned out.  These are definitely flowers that won’t wilt.

Card Materials List:

  1. Hearts Aflutter Framelits Die
  2. Stampin’ Up! Card Stock (Whisper White, Bashful Blue, Blushing Bride)
  3. Textured Embossing Folder (Woodgrain)
  4. Itty Bitty Shapes Punch
  5. Adhesive jewel pearls


Easy Pom Pom Garland

Pom Pom Garland 1 APin

As I was preparing for Lydia’s 3rd Birthday, I spent a lot of time searching through Pinterest for party ideas and inspiration.  She had been insistent on having a Hello Kitty party and because I knew we would have a small party at home,  I wanted to have a lot of decorations that would be unique and created by me.  And let me be honest, after 8 years of Thomas the Tank Engine, SpongeBob Squarepants, Angry Bird and Lego parties, I was ready to pinkafy a birthday!

I found many Hello Kitty party ideas on Pinterest and during one of my searches, discovered pom pom garlands.  I am a big fan of pom poms, so much so that I even made a virtual board dedicated to all things pom pom! I have crafted with pom poms many times but had never made a garland.  It was so simple and easy that I can’t believe that I hadn’t done it sooner!  And as far as decorations go, it is quite inexpensive to make yourself.

You will need a bag of pom poms, a needle, and embroidery thread.  I purchased a bag of 100 pink pom poms from Hancock Fabrics for $1.99.  Many other craft stores sell bags of pom poms most of which contain muticolors and various sizes of balls.  I knew that I wanted uniform sizes and colors and the only place I could find them was at Hancock Fabrics.  I picked a fancy (i.e. more expensive) embroidery thread because I knew it would show on my garland and it matched the color of the pom poms best, but you can go with any type of embroidery thread.  In fact, I bet fishing line would work if you were making garland and the balls all touched.   I used a needle I had on hand but was sure to pick one with a sharp point and a large eye.   It is very important to pick a needle with a sharp point.  Making the garland did not take long because I didn’t need to struggle to thread the balls together.

Once you have your materials, determine how long you want your garland to be and cut your thread accordingly.   Make a small knot on the tail end and trim the excess.  Begin to add your pom poms by spearing each one in the center with the needle.  Continue with each pom pom until your garland is the desired length and knot the end.

Pompom materialsPin

It was so simple and easy that I made two while watching TV in about a half hour.

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N Love

N is for NettePin
N is for Nette

Trendy grandma names have become the norm in my neck of the woods.  So much so, that it is hard to find a grandma anywhere.  The former matriarchs of my family included a Mam-maw, Granny, Grandmother and a Grandmother Mimi.  I never had the privilege of meeting them but I also had a Big Mama and a Granny Great.  All those sweet ladies have gone on to their great reward and so have their monikers.

In my family alone, we now have a GG, Mim, Gram, Mimi, Nana (we have an abundant amount of  nanas) and a Nette.  I know of a Peach, Oma, Tish, Wisty and Chick.  And according to my friend Rebekah Sanderlin, a journalist who wrote this article for NPR on the phenomenon,  it is not a situation unique to my friends and family.

Trendy names aren’t just for the grandmas who wish to belay aging or the appearance there of.  I wasn’t entirely surprised when my dad refused to be called Grand-anything.  He never wanted anyone to know his age and wasn’t keen on celebrating his birthday.   For awhile he was Daddy Jim to my nieces and nephew but by the time my kids came along, he was simply Jim.  I must point out that I was never allowed to call him by his first name but we all know what happens to our parents when the grandkids come along.  They go soft in the discipline department and mayhem is allowed and sometimes encouraged.

Mom’s logic for a grandma name was pretty complicated as well.  When you are wife to a Jim you can’t exactly be a “Grandmother”.  She wanted something short and sweet but also didn’t want anything associated with nannies or goats.

So the problem with holidays when you have a trendy and unique grandma name is that you can’t find a pre-made card with that particular  moniker.  Hallmark and American Greetings haven’t quite caught up to the trend.  I will say one can find a Nana card here and there.  Plus, I am realistic that there will never be a Nette card.  This Valentine’s Day I was feeling extremely crafty and productive so I decided to make Valentines for my family.

I started with my mom.  I knew she should get something more than just an ordinary card.  I found paper mache letters at Hobby Lobby and picked out the N for “Nette”.  I decorated it with mixed media.  Much of it was Stampin’ Up!  papers using Stampin’ Up! tools.  When I finished it, I asked my hubby what he thought of my finished “N”.  He said it was pretty, but wanted to know its function. He asked, “What does it do?”  (This came from a man who doesn’t like hushpuppies, and can’t appreciate the artistic nuances of fried bread balls!)  He is also an engineer which explains a lot.  Well, it may not turn on lights or solve complicated mathematical problems, but it did bring a smile to my mom’s face and reminded her that her daughter and grandchildren love her.  Sometimes that can be the best function of all.


Sixlets – Made in a facility that does not process nuts.

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When you or someone you love has a peanut or tree nut allergy you may struggle to find chocolate treats.  As I was shopping for Valentine’s Day treats for my mom’s treat box to mail to her, I came across Sixlets.  We had a phone conversation about them just the day before because I bought pink ones for baby girl’s upcoming  birthday party.  My mom said she had never seen any so when I found them in the dollar bin at my local Target, I had to add them to her Vanlentine box.  I also bought a bag for Baby Girl because it is safe for her and chocolate flavored.  (Hey, beggars can’t be choosers, right?)

What I found amusing is the wording of the allergy label, “Made in a facility that does not process nuts.”  It was the first time I had seen a label with that particular wording and I read it several times because it threw me off.  Usually, I see “Made in a Peanut Free Facility” or “May Contain Peanuts or Tree Nuts.”  It seemed peculiar to me but it just points out that there is really no standard format for allergen labeling by the FDA when it concerns cross-contamination.  Many manufacturers include a warning that the facility does process allergens but it is not required to do so.  The FDA requires  labeling only if the product contains an allergen as an ingredient.  So for now, I am thankful for all those companies that include allergy advisory labels.

And Sixlets are pretty tasty too!

The “Eyes” Have It


The eyes have it, all 100 of them.  Our family members are no strangers to 100th day celebrations.  The United States Military Academy, who boasts a long history of creating traditions that seem to filter down to the civilian world, seems to be able to claim 100th Day Celebrations as well as the senior class ring.  Beginning in 1871, the senior class, or Firsties, as they are called, started the tradition with a night of skits and revelry to celebrate only 100 days left till graduation.  The first time I ever heard of celebrating the 100th Day was when I was invited to the 100th Night Banquet at West Point by a handsome cadet who later proposed that night.  ( I said “yes”, by the way, and we have celebrated over sixty 100th days together now!)

I wasn’t aware that our elementary schools had begun to mark the 100th day as well until my little man came home from kindergarten with coloring pages, special stickers and needed 100 pipe cleaners to count in class.  The difference is that the schools are celebrating the 100th day of attendance whereas West Point is counting down to the last 100 days of school.  Perhaps I am dating myself to the dark ages, but we never celebrated 100th Day when I was in school.  I may be feeling a bit left out right now, until I realize that these 100 day projects are really mine to accomplish because I am not crazy enough yet to let my 2nd grader use the hot glue gun.

These projects seem to escalate quickly.  In first grade, Dylan had to decorate a hat with 100 things.  Little Man and I spent an afternoon counting out foam stickers to hot glue on a black foam top hat that Dylan proudly insisted was an “Abraham Lincoln” hat.  He even put notes inside the hat because that is what Abe Lincoln did with his speeches.  This year, for second grade, we were told that the students could wear a shirt with 100 things on it for that Friday.  The email with the assignment came in on Sunday so of course, I forgot about it until Tuesday which meant shopping on Wednesday and creating on Thursday.  Nothing like waiting till the last minute, but that is my typical M.O.

On Thursday night I found myself staring at a blank white tshirt and 100 googlie eyes.  I could have glued all the eyes onto the shirt but I didn’t think they stood out enough, that and I am a craft overachiever.  I did a little “research” on Pinterest to cement some ideas on how to make the eyes stand out and make the shirt boyish.  Many of the ideas that I found were great for girls but not so much for boys.  I was inspired by Sara and the 100th day shirt she created.  I really liked this idea for girls and maybe will remember this idea in a few years for Lydia.  I need something for a boy that was an easy silhouette and could be made with fabric scraps that I had left over from other projects.  I saw a few drawn on alien shirts and thought that a monster shirt might be the way to go.  I free handed a monster body on my brown fabric scraps.  To make sure that it was symmetric, I folded the monster in half before cutting.  I finally found some red fabric that I cut in a semi-circle for the mouth.  He is a friendly monster so he’s smiling of course.  I also knew that Dylan would not be thrilled with the pink felt I first found for the monster’s mouth.  After all the cutting and gluing it only took about an hour to an hour and a half for this project.  I was pretty please with the finished project.  Dylan was too.  He loved it and wants to keep it for next year!