Friday, July 29, 2011

My Natural Highs - A List

There are things in this world that make me smile matter how the day is going, whether or not I've fit the bill, made mistakes, or done my best. Natural highs, the things that take little effort to send me over the moon, are the stuff life is made of. These are some of mine..... What are yours?

1. Falling in love.
2. Laughing so hard my face hurts.
3. A love note.
4. Taking a drive down country roads.
5. Hearing my favorite song on the radio.
6. Listening to the rain from a porch swing.
7. Hot towels fresh out of the dryer.
8. A bubble bath.
9. A diet coke.
10. A good conversation.
11. The beach.
12. Phone calls that last for hours.
13. Drinking from water hoses.
14. Laughing for absolutely no reason at all.
15. Having someone tell me that I'm beautiful.
16. Inside jokes.
17. Snoozing my alarm.
18. Puppy breath.
19. Footsie.
20. Someone playing with my hair.
21. Sweet dreams.
22. Throwing a party.
23. Road trips with friends.
24. Sunsets.
25. Holding hands.
26. Knowing nothing every changes with old friends.
27. The end of a good book.
28. Sunshine.
29. A boat ride.
30. Finishing a to-do list.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

A Family Tradition

 I have a favorite weekend every year.  It involves anywhere from 13 to 16 women in my family, piling up together, to stay up late, eat ourselves out of house and home, laugh ourselves silly, tell ghost stories, cry, eat some more, play games, make crafts, and love on each other.  It's the "Niece Reunion."  'Cause we all get together, 21 years later, because Aunt Vivian started it all, this little reunion at her house, because she wanted her nieces around her to love.  Aunt Vivian (or "Vudda") is gone now, but we still get together every year, because that's what she'd want, and we do it up right, themes and all, just like always! 

You can read about the last few here and here.

My Mimi had 9 siblings....Aunt Vivian was one of them. Here are all the girls.  You can tell we're girly girls in our family, we have reunions just to honor them!  If you were one of my college roommates, you probably remember this little jig....hold on to your britches....."Eutora, Nettie, Vivian, Bid Bud, Lil' Bud, Lawrence, Millie, Mae, and Maaaary!"  Ok, so not so much a song...but there's a tune.  I just typed to it.  It helps us remember's better in person.  You'd just die.

So, there's the history.  Now for the weekend.  Our theme this weekend was "Camp Vudda."  Love it.  Mama, Aunt Nancy and I pulled into Selma (where cousin Betty Carol lives, and our host for the weekend) up to a beautiful river house on the AL River.  She had a tent set up (for looks only!) name tags and camp snacks waiting on us! 

Friday night when everyone arrived we chowed down on delicious chicken off the grill, and started the first of many crafts....because we're at camp of course! 

Saturday we took a little field trip to what we've always called "The Country."  It's where Mimi and her sisters and brothers were raised, in Sweetwater, AL.  We visited the graves of our great-grandparents first, and saw many other family members in this quaint country cemetery.  Mimi was only 3 when her mother died, but Aunt Vivian and the others remember her.  I can't imagine how much Mimi must hold on to the few memories she has.
 Next we went to the land where their home stood.  It's since been torn down, but the property is still in the Luker family.  The original bricks to the home are still there, and we all placed our Luker feet where FIVE generations of Luker women have walked.  Amazing, right?

 Here's where the house was, overlooking this beautiful hillside.  We're smiling for you, Mimi, and Aunt Vivian, Aunt Hattie (Eutora), Aunt Nettie, Aunt Mae, Aunt Mildred.  Okay....and Big Bud, Lil' Bud, and Lawrence too!  This is a lotta Luker love!
 Speaking of pretty is my sister?  She busted out her gee-tar during craft-mania on the porch and led us in old southern gospels that sent chills down my spine.  (There may or may not have been a little Jimmy Buffett slipped in there too.....)
 That was a sidebar...we're still in "the country" folks....  So after cemetry and seeing the house (kinda), we stopped at Ezells for lunch.  Ever had it?  I think everyone 80 and above loves this place.  In Sweetwater, at least.  It's all about catfish here.  Anyway, we dined by the Tombigbee, listened to stories our mothers tell that their mothers told them of "the country", and took one more photo opp before our last stop....
 Which was Sweetwater High.  Who coincidently are State Champs this year in their Division (1A of course).  But Go Bulldogs!  Most of the buildings have been replaced or renovated, but word on the street is the auditorium is original to when Mimi and her seesters attended. 
 Jessie, Rachael and I felt led (or more accurately we were forced by our mothers) to lead the crowd in the orginal, the REAL, Sweetwater High cheer.  This is the one our grandmothers have been telling us for years.  Mimi's voice rings in my ears, so does Aunt Vivian's chanting this!  So here ya go....again, hold on to your seats....

"Peas, Beans, Okry, Squash!!  Sweetwater, Sweetwater!  YES, by Gosh!!"
 Back on the ranch later that night, we were given the most awesome t-shirts to remember this special weekend by!  And things, as always, get a little out of hand.....
 Sweet Ellie modeled the back for me.
 As always, there's a lot of love going around!
 And lots of cuddlin' too!
 Sunday came way too soon, and we slowly packed up and hugged everyone goodbye.  I love these women with all my heart.  Each one has had a special hand in raising me, and as crazy as we all are, I am so blessed to call them my family.

The first generation from Aunt Vivian's sisters and brothers.  (We missed you Andrea!)
 And their babies: the 2nd generation.  There's more, but no boys allowed! :)  (We missed you Allison and Nicole! )
 And now....a 3rd generation!!
 Together we are one big, loud, crazy family.  Who I wouldn't trade for the world!
 ESPECIALLY these three!! 
Next year's host will be Jessie....destination: Fairhope!!  I cannot wait to see what she has in store!  We love you Aunt Vivian, and the bond you've created in our family that gets stronger with each reunion!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

85 Years Young

 As of yesterday, my precious Grandmother is officially 85 years old.  So what's the most logical thing to do when such a special occasion occurs?  Well, pile 12 Simpsons, including a new son-in-law, a cute boyfriend, a birthday cake and watermelon all in one condo in Orange Beach for a weekend of course!

It began for us Friday afternoon with the longest drive of our lives from Columbus to Orange Beach, through rain and wrecks, and state troopers watchful eyes....finally landing at an unknown restaurant, Lester's, for dinner with my family and G-mother.

 Who of course got her first sweet treat of the weekend to begin the celebration!  A chocolate and peanut butter bread pudding with six spoons....
 It was clear from the moment I got there my sister missed me.
 All jokes aside, one thing is VERY clear.  I am my sister's biggest groupie!  When the band upstairs at Lester's started playing a song...but forgot the words, my oh-so-shy sister stomped up the stairs and the next thing we heard was her voice on the mic!  HA!  She came back down in a few minutes, joined us "little people" for dinner, and informed us she'd been asked to open their next set for them!  So Jeff and I hung around after dinner (I acted like a total psycho fan with a camera) while my sister snagged this guy's awesome Gibson guitar and played the ENTIRE set and sang her little heart out!  (They sang for her as backup!  HAHA!)  Yes, she is available for "gigs" me for bookings.
 Saturday morning it wasn't clear exactly if the sun ever rose, for all the clouds in the sky...but we were just happy it wasn't raining!  And this cute cousin was itching to show off his mad wakeboarding off we went!

 And I just loved being on the water that I love with the people that I love!

 Grandmother even took her spin on the boat, and I know she loved every minute of it.  She loves the water like I do.  I suppose she and Granddaddy are where I get it.  I can tell she loved every minute of her birthday weekend (not because she keeps calling and telling me) but because of this sweet smile on her face!
 We all got cleaned up for dinner later and headed to Cobalt, where cousin Lindsey used to work and she and Uncle Pat had the hook-up for a swift jump to the top of the waiting list where NOWHERE at the beach takes reservations.  We got a great table with an awesome view, but before sitting of course we took the necessary birthday girl pictures with her grandkids. :)
 And mama with her boys.
 And then we ate!  I had swordfish, I believe for the first time.  I will definitely add this to the list of things I want fresh off the grill at home.  And this yummy appetizer of tuna and avocado.  Why is food so important to me....sheesh.
 Oh look....another food picture.  Grandmother's cake was from Columbus Corner Bakery, tasted like heaven, and looked like the beach.  Topped with a scoop of vanilla Bluebell, it wrapped up the night perfectly.
 I love these people to the moon and back.  I'm so glad we were able to get together and make this happen for Grandmother.  She deserves a special day, and I think we gave her just that.  Happy 85th Grandmother!  I love you!
Oh, and for the sake of documenting all events....Jeff and I again drove home in a monsoon...making yet another 5 hour drive 6.  This time it might have had something to do with the potty break (I only needed one!!), gas fill up, a necessity every beach trip....roadside boiled peanuts (and I think we've finally found the winner at "The Peanut Shack" east side of 431, south of Dothan, whoop whoop!).  And that last little stop to some random antique store we thought was just a pottery place.  We went in for some pots for the patio....came out 45 minutes later with 4 GIANT pots, a well bucket (yes, like ol' timey going to fetch the water well-bucket, it's amazing....) and last but not least, a chicken.  for the kitchen.  and believe it or not, that was all jeff. 

Oh, and had cereal for dinner. Life.

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Photo Shoot and A Special Visitor!

 My Independence Day Weekend was spent with my favorite people,lots of pool time, grilled veggies and a fresh catch off the grill, and even a little manual labor.  And yes, it did include a photo shoot and a special visitor too! 

To be more specific, it started Saturday morning with Jeff picking up two Guatemalans in a parking lot off Veterans Parkway to help with a little project we've got in my backyard.  And work they did!!  But more to report on that at a later date....  (the project, not the Guatemalans, we just dropped them back off with fifty bucks and a cerveza).

Anyway....on to Jeffro's for some dinner.  And as the sunset, I couldn't help but beg him to bring me my camera (as I lay on my chaise with my own cerveza after all my manual labor earlier).  But the sunset escapes me, and instead, things get a little silly.  (Don't worry, you're getting the highlights, there's about 30 others just slightly different I will look at myself and smile.)

Which is just how I like them.
 He might just be the most patient man I know (and that's saying a lot!).

I'm not sure what Roscoe did here, but it obviously wasn't very polite.
 But someone still loves his dog.  And I still love that dog's someone.
 Next was dinner, who's suprised?  Big ol' honkin' ribeyes and grilled veggies.  If you drew my blood I'd test positive for bovine and squash I'm almost positive.
 Ok, now the best part!  (And the best of the best part is she knows she can't get me for posting this picture because she's already hopping the next plane....sorry, charlie!) 

My bestie Haley came into town!!  Or more adequately, came in the country!  Korea is oh so far away, so I was so excited when the flight was finally set in stone like last week.....only to be so dismayed when she arrived Saturday with food poisoning.  Pitiful.  But still had a smile! 
Needless to say, Haley did not eat her steak, but I was so happy to see her feeling better by Sunday.  We didn't go to the lake as planned because bumpy boat rides don't really mesh well with healing tummies, if you know what I mean, so a few friends came over to Jeff's for the afternoon.

This is Tami and Lane, two of her dearest friends from college.

 And their two munchkins, Luke and Samuel.  Let me just say this:  if Jeff brought out one tractor, he brought 12.  And I died laughing as he tried his damnest to teach a 3 and 4 year old that the best tractors made are Catepillar.  And I quote "Now boys, you say it: The best tractors made are Catepillars."  He meant it with his whole heart, people.
 Samuel keep track of the weather by running off the porch into the rain, and checking the status.  I don't know if he wanted to go swimming more, or just play in the rain!
 The sun did come out after a little afternoon shower (which we're quite grateful for) and we all got in the pool.  Jeff and Haley hogged the super squirter watergun, and Samuel, Lane and I went down the slide like the big kids we are. 
 Dinner, you ask?  Oh course my love was back on the grill.  We dont really do many dishes if we can help it.  We grilled snapper and baked sweet potato fries.  And I made my mama's peach cobbler.  And nailed it!  (I'm just sayin...)  Oh, and Haley ate on the special plate as our guest of honor!  :) 

You know I think the farm is heaven right?  It's breathtaking in my opinion.  But I like to keep it real people.  I put this picture up to show my sweet thing and his mad grilling skillz, but then looked in the background.  It aint all red-n-white PB cushions and green, green grass.  Clearly I got some cleaning to do!  I just cracked up looking at the pool cleaning nets in the corner, and the window seal lined with wasp spray, then Miracle Grow, then bullets.  That's how we roll.  And I love that dusty old grill, but as always, it's what's on the inside that counts!  Moving on....
 Monday was an undocumented day, which makes me a bit sad.  Jeffrey left with the clowns for the mountains for a little vaca, so that morning he professed his unending love and affection and told me I was the most beautiful thing ever to cross his path..... asked me to hurry up and brush my teeth and give him a kiss, he had to load the cooler and hit the road....and not the tear up the house while he's gone....oh, and to feed the chickens and dogs, and water the garden....and other romantic stuff like that.  ;)

So Haley and I had peach cobbler for breakfast, frozen pizza for lunch, and Ashley Clements came over (with sweet Mallory in tow) to get some sun with us and catch up with Haley!

Tuesday Haley and I went to dinner with some friends from Ft. Benning, Renee, who works at the Corps with Haley, and her hubby Armando, who is a sharp don't make him mad!  We had a yummy dinner at Houlihan's, and when back to the house for a little more girl time before crashing on the last night of a great visit!
It was a wonderful weekend, lazy buy fun, full of eating and swimming, and laughing and talking, everything that makes me a happy girl!!  Haley, come home again soon!  And Happy 4th everyone!!  Let freedom ring!