How To Have Fun On Vacation

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IMG_1465       My family makes a yearly trek to the Smoky Mountains.  I’m not talking about just my family and me.  I’m talking about the entire family – all 14 of us!

My parents, my siblings and their families, my children and me, all descend on the Great Smoky Mountains for a week of togetherness.  We stay in the same cabin for a week and, somehow, still manage to like each other at the end of the week.

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(My parents, my daughter Erin, and I)

At some time during the week, we do our separate things.  But, at other times, we do things together.  This year, one of the things we did together, was visit the aquarium in Gatlinburg.  It is one of my favorite places!  There are some strange and wonderful things deep in the ocean.  When the Bible talks about God creating the world and declaring it GOOD! the ocean and it’s creatures were part of that.  I imagine God smiling as He created a jellyfish and a sea horse and an octopus.

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One of our favorite traditions during these trips, is each family picks a night and is responsible for supper.  Nothing elaborate, just good food.  My sister and her family usually do hot sandwiches for all of us one night.  They are really delicious!  My mom did her wonderful taco salad one night.  My brother and sister-in-law made incredible BBQ nachos.  My contribution was steaks, salad and baked potatoes with my dad and brother manning the grill.  YUM!

Before we left for the mountains, I had promised my nieces that we would make cupcakes one night for dessert.  They were so excited and so was I!  Making cupcakes with my nieces was one of the most fun things I did that week.  There was nothing special about the cupcakes or the frosting.  The special thing was laughing, having fun and making memories.  So, here is my recipe for Smoky Mountain Cupcakes:

Smoky Mountain Cupcakes

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1 box of cake mix – any flavor, any brand

All the stuff you need:  3 eggs, 1 cup water, 1/3 cup oil

Mix together and divide into muffin tins lined with cupcake wrappers.

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(breaking eggs are not all they are “cracked” up to be)

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Be sure to mix well.

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Fill about 2/3 full.

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 Bake for 18 minutes or until done.  (Forgive the pajama pants.  It’s vacation!)

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For the frosting:

1 pound confectioner’s sugar

1/3 cup cocoa (Leave this out if you don’t want chocolate)

1/4 cup shortening

water – enough for desired consistency  ( I usually use a little less than 1/4 cup)

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Mix together and spread on cooled cupcakes.

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ENJOY!!!

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(You can even eat Smoky Mountain Cupcakes with no teeth!)

If you hate cupcakes from a box, by all means, use your favorite recipe.  Smoky Mountain Cupcakes are about having fun and making memories.

You can even make Smoky Mountain Cupcakes when you are not in the Smoky Mountains!  Just don’t forget to add the most important ingredients:

a dash of giggles

a dollop of belly laughs

tons of fun

and a bushel of wonderful memories

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Mix together and laugh and bake and act silly together at every opportunity!

 

Until next time!

My Favorite

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Have you ever had a kitchen tool that you just fell in love with from Day 1?  There are a lot of tools and gadgets that make life in the kitchen so much easier.  From collapsible measuring cups to commercial ovens – they are all designed to make kitchen life easier and less complicated.

I love my stand mixer.  I burned up a lot of hand held mixers until I realized that spending the money and purchasing a stand mixer would be more cost effective and a lot easier.  Plus, it can whip up egg whites in no time!  As much as I love my stand mixer though, it’s not my favorite kitchen tool.

I have some really good, really sharp knives.  It is so nice to be able to slice through just about anything like slicing through butter.  Unfortunately, they also slice fingers easily, as well.  I really enjoy them, but they aren’t my favorite.

My very favorite kitchen tool is my rolling pin.IMG_1405

It is all one piece – so there is nothing to break.  It fits my hands perfectly and is just the right size and weight.  It is one of those tools that, after years of use, it becomes like an extension of my arms and hands.

I make lots of cookies and this is my go – to tool.  Rolling pins like this one are found in lots of places – just about anywhere kitchen tools are sold.

And I know – I know – just because I love it doesn’t mean that you will.  (Even though I think you will, if you give it a chance)  What is YOUR favorite kitchen tool?

Now, get out those rolling pins and give this wonderfully simple, delicious cookies a try!  They taste like a cross between a cookie and a brownie…YUM!

Chocolate Sugar Cookies

3 cups self rising flour

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened

1 1/2 cup sugar

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2/3 cup cocoa

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Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix butter, sugar until light and fluffy.

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Add eggs, vanilla and cocoa.

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Gradually add flour and mix until smooth.

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Wrap in plastic wrap and place in refrigerator for about an hour.

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Roll out cookie dough on floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness.

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Cut into whatever shape you’d like.  Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet for 10 minutes.

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These cookies are great just like they are.  If you’d like, make a cookie sandwich by adding a little frosting between two cookies.  So good!

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Until next time!

Sand and Sun and Family and Fun

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Sand and Sun and Family and Fun

I just had one of the best weekends ever!  My daughter Erin, my Shih Tzu Atticus, and I left after work Friday afternoon and headed to Florida.  If you are an empty nester, as I am, you will understand how rare and how special it is to spend an entire weekend, uninterrupted, with your child.

The drive down and back was almost as fun as the days at the beach and shopping.  We got to our motel late Friday night.  It was our first time in a pet friendly motel and it was so much fun to meet other pets and their owners on the trip.  Atticus loved the king sized bed!

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As we drove down, we discovered via Google that not all beaches are pet friendly.  Imagine that!  When we go back, and I hope we do very soon, we will know exactly where to stay and what beaches to enjoy.

After sleeping in on Saturday morning, we went over to Cape San Blas.  I just don’t have enough good things to say about it!  The white sand looked like sugar.  Our little stretch of beach was nearly deserted.  We had it – almost – to ourselves!  And we LOVED it!  As much as Erin and I loved it, just multiply that by 100, and that’s how much Atticus loved it.  Once he realized what the ocean and beach were, he couldn’t get enough!  He waded in the water, rolled in the sand, ran, chased birds, looked at sea shells, made new friends and smelled all the smells there were to smell!

There was a pet friendly mall nearby.  Atticus got tired so…IMG_1323

There were even several pet friendly restaurants.  (As long as we ate outside!)

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On the way home, we got to see something that I have always heard about, but have never seen…the Boll Weevil monument in Enterprise, Alabama!

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The entire weekend went by in a blur, leaving me wishing it could have lasted just a little longer.  Everything that we did was great!  But the greatest thing?  The very most wonderful thing…was spending three days of one on one time with my youngest daughter!  I think she had a fun time and I didn’t seem to get on here nerves too bad.  And having Atticus with us was just icing on the cake!  The only thing that would have made it better would have been if Emily could have gotten away and gone with us.  Maybe next time!

So, what other recipe should I share, but Pecan Sandies!  (get it?)  My family has loved these little cookies for years.  Some call them Mexican Wedding Cookies or Danish Wedding Cookies or any other of a number of names.  I hope you enjoy these delicious, melt in your mouth cookies as much as we do!

Pecan Sandies

1 cup butter

1/4 cup sugar

2 cups finely chopped pecans

2 cups all-purpose flour

powdered sugar

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Cream butter until soft.

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Add sugar, pecans and flour.  Mix very well.

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Shape into balls and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

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While hot, roll cookies in powdered sugar.

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Enjoy!

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Family Heirlooms

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Things just aren’t meant to last forever.  There are not a lot of houses still standing after 100-150 years.  Very few cars are still around after several years.  Even family heirlooms fray and tatter and fall apart.  We had a house fire several years ago and the majority of the family heirlooms and material things that I held dear were destroyed.  My family was safe and that was the most important thing.  There’s nothing like a disaster such as fire or flood or tornado to remind you about what is important.

One thing that does last from generation to generation are recipes.  And if you are lucky enough to have someone teach you exactly how Great Grandma made a certain dish, you are a lucky person indeed!  There’s nothing like an old recipe or a familiar aroma to jerk you back to a favorite time in your life or to a time well before you were born.

I love caramel cake.  This frosting recipe has come down through my dad’s family for a lot of years.  I think I remember my mom telling me that my generation is the fifth generation of my family to make this recipe.  My grandparents are in the bottom right photo.  The other photos show all the way back to my great, great, great grand parents.

            

I am very excited to share this recipe with you.  It’s not hard, but it does take constant attention.  I tend to multitask when I’m in the kitchen and I have ruined this frosting several times because I don’t keep my mind on what I am doing.  So resist the urge to multitask!  It will burn in a heartbeat if it doesn’t have your full attention.

As far as the cake is concerned, make whatever cake you’d like.  I have baked a banana cake, a chocolate cake or just a plain yellow cake from a box.  My mom uses this frosting on her jam cakes.  The frosting is the star here, as far as I am concerned. It will make just about any cake you decide to make, incredible.

Ingredients:

2 cups sugar

1 1/4 cup milk

3/4 cup sugar

pinch of salt

Directions:

Mix the 2 cups of sugar and the 1/1/4 cup milk and boil.

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Melt 3/4 cup sugar in a heavy cast iron skillet, stirring constantly, until honey colored.

Add melted sugar to the sugar/milk mixture.  Cook until mixture reaches soft ball stage (between 235 and 240 degrees) on a candy thermometer.  Remove from heat

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Add a pinch of salt.

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Beat with a long-handled spoon until thick.

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Quickly spread over cake.

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And, that’s it!  So incredibly thick and delicious.

Cherish those family heirlooms, but, above all, cherish family.

Until next time –

Suzanne

Blue Houses

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I grew up in a “blue” house.  It was just like everybody else’s house – we went to church, to school, to work – we played, we fought, we laughed and cried. Our house just had a patrol car in the driveway.

I was proud of the fact that my dad was an Alabama State Trooper. It made him stand out – not that his 6’4″ frame didn’t cause him to stand out, anyway. In my mind, he was just a little more special, a little more wonderful, a little more brave than others.

I grew up knowing that he faced danger. I grew up knowing that everyone is not good and kind. I grew up knowing that if anything bad were to happen, an entire community would have had our backs.

I don’t see how kids in “blue” houses stand it now. How do they come to terms with the fact that there are people actively hunting the badge the same way hunters hunt deer?  How do they let their moms and dads in blue go, after a good bye hug?  And who has their back?  They don’t live in a country led by leaders who cheer the men and women in blue, like I did as a child.

Were all the police officers honest and good and fair?  Of course not. Its not that way now, it wasn’t that way then.

What have we done as parents, to raise a generation that has no respect for anyone? No respect for authority, no respect for family or friends, and no respect for self.  It seems as if it has only taken a generation or two to completely destroy the heart of this country. Is it impossible to think we might restore it just as quickly?

I’m not loudly political. But I don’t understand how we, as a country, keep electing officials that only care about power and self and their own agenda and then we are shocked when those same officials use opportunities like the murder of police officers too push their own agendas, flaunt their power and speak only what they think is important.

It is comforting to know that God has the backs of all those kids in “blue” houses. They are going to need Him. We all are.

 

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10 Years Already

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10 Years Already

More cakes than I can count.  Enough cookies to fill several boxcars.  Pies, pies, and more pies. Pounds of Poppy Seed Chicken Casserole, a plethora of Poulet, fountains of fudge, bunches of bread and on and on and on.

And none of it means absolutely anything without customers.  Especially customers who have become friends.  Those very special customers who regularly enter.  The customers we worry about when it’s been a while since we’ve seen them.  The customers who have made us a part of their celebrations and special occasions.  The customers who have made us a part of their plain old Tuesday nights and Thursday lunches – a part of their lives.  We ask about your “mama and ‘nem” and you ask about ours.  Customer that aren’t customers anymore – they have become friends.

And none of it means absolutely anything without friends.  Those friends who cheered when we began this journey.  Friends who helped start the dream.  Friends who continue to stand and cheer and support and love.  Friendship is one of the greatest blessings God has given us.  That great Creator who fearfully and wonderfully made us all, who blesses us and blesses us again, saw fit to bless us even more with the ability to love and be loved by friends.

And none of it means absolutely anything without family.  My poor family!  They have listened to my tirades, borne through all-night baking sessions, shared my tears and shared my joys.  They were there at the beginning and, I’m confident, will be there throughout the ride – however long that might be.  These cakes and pies and cookies have put two girls through school, helped out through their college years, seen one through a wedding and one through nursing school.

And none of it means absolutely anything without my God.  My God who has seen fit to allow me to live out a dream  My God who has placed people in my path to help fulfill my dream.  And my God who loved me so much that I have a hope beyond this dream to an eternal home.

So many people have walked through those doors at 1207-F East Forrest Street.  So many friends, so many family members, so many strangers.  And each person has played a part in the building of a dream.

I must lovingly mention Mike and Nikki Ogles, who have done more for me than even they know. My parents, Ronald and Judy Chandler, who have loved and supported me even when I didn’t deserve it.  My children, Emily and Blake Persell and Erin Schrimsher, who have borne the brunt of it all.  Also my church family who have helped out when I needed a hand and have been my most loyal customers.  And, all of my employees, both past and present.  I’m so afraid to name everyone for fear of leaving someone out.  Thanks to them, things somehow, got done.

So today, on the 10th anniversary of the opening of “Suzanne’s Bakery and Eatery”, I want to say thanks to all who have prayed for, worried with, helped out, laughed with, cried with, encouraged, listened, advised, and bought with us for the past 10 years.  It’s been quite a ride!

Trick or Treat!

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Does it make me weird that Halloween is one of my favorite days of the year?  I love a day dedicated to fun and adventure and pretending to be someone else.  There’s no pressure of producing a big meal for lots of people.  There’s no pressure of finding just the right gift.  How fun it is to be someone else for a day (or evening)!?!  And even if I don’t dress up, I absolutely LOVE handing out candy to supermen and spidermen, and cowboys and princesses and the occasional ghosts and goblins.

I have been told ghost stories my entire life.  Some of my favorite memories are of listening to my Mama’s mother telling ghost stories…and she knew a lot of them!  While I don’t believe in ghosts, I love that little tingle up my spine when I hear a good ghost story.  Here’s one of my favorites:

My great-grandparents lived in a house up in Tennessee that sat up off the ground on rock pillars.  You remember the kind of house…where on hot, southern summer afternoons, you could scoot up under the house and lie down in the cool dirt underneath.  It made the perfect playhouse, the perfect hideout, the perfect napping place.

Late in the evening, on certain evenings, a light the size of a man’s pocket handkerchief would come rolling out from under the house.  The light would roll out from under the steps, roll around the well, roll around the yard and eventually, roll back under the house.  This happened night after night.

 My great-grandfather got fed up with this annoying light, so he hatched a plan.  He decided he would shoot that light and do away with it once and for all.  He waited as the evening progressed.  Finally, the light began to make its rounds.  It rolled out from under the house, around the well, and as it rolled he took aim with his shotgun and fired.  The shot was good and that light flew into a million little pieces.  But the little pieces kept rolling and rolling and rolling until they rolled back together into a solid light the size of a man’s pocket handkerchief once again.

I have never personally seen that light-but I would love to.  I’ve only heard about it all my life.  I have seen a newspaper story about the light.  Does it still make its path from under the house and around the well and around the yard and back under the house? 

Possibly.

I like to think that it does….

 

One of my favorite Halloween treats doesn’t have a name that I know of.  It is wonderful, delicious and yummy.  It tastes like a Payday candy bar.  With chocolate.  What could be better?

All you do is mix a bag of candy corn, salted peanuts and a bag of M&M’s in a bowl.  Amounts are up to you.  If I make this, I have to have company over because I will eat the WHOLE thing.  And that’s something I don’t need to do!

 

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My very, very, very favorite picture of Emily and Erin at Halloween.  This was taken about 16 years ago.  Erin is an Alabama State Trooper (just like her granddaddy—that’s his hat she has on), and Emily is handcuffed to her as her prisoner.

An Anniversary

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Tomorrow, October 17, is the 8th anniversary of our little bakery.  I call it “our” bakery because so many people have helped to make it a reality.

The bakery came to be at the lowest point in my life.  I was going through a nasty divorce, had lost my job, and thought that my life would never be a happy place again.  It was at this time that my friends Mike and Nikki Ogles offered to help start “Suzanne’s Bakery and Eatery”.

Mike and I have known each other since the first grade at Athens Bible School.  He was one of the boys that, during high school, would barge into the HomeEc room and eat what the girls had made for class that day.  Even then, we talked about opening a bakery together… some day.

“Some day” was October 17, 2005.

The bakery has been a first job for several teenagers around town.  Both of my daughters worked there and my nephew, Ethan, is working there now.  It has been a gathering place for family and friends and a lifeline for me.

It has taken a lot of hard work…more than I ever expected.  It has taken a lot of sweat and tears…more than I could have imagined.  And it has given me so much joy…more than I could have ever anticipated.

I have learned a lot…and I’m learning more every day.  I have made lots of new friends and have solidified my relationships with old friends.

And it has taught me that God is good, all the time.  Even when it felt as if the world had turned it’s back on me, God knows and sees and cares.

So, come and visit.  Eat lunch…or a piece of cake.  Relax and enjoy!

Thank you God, thank you family, and thank you friends.  It’s been a great ride, and I am ever thankful.

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We have cookie decorating parties…and have tons of fun!

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We play games, eat, and decorate cookies.

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At Suzanne’s, you can have your cake and eat it too!  Stop in if you can, and if you can’t…go ahead and drool!  I won’t tell!

A Wedding, Revisited

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A Wedding, Revisited

It’s been a year (yesterday) since  my oldest daughter Emily, got married.  Where did this year go?  I have thought a lot about her wedding over this last year and have come to a major realization.  I don’t know how people pull off an event like a wedding without the help of family and friends.  My parents went above and beyond the call with all they did to help this wedding happen.  My family and friends descended on my Grandmother’s farm the day before and the day of the wedding (and many turned out days, weeks, and months before) and turned that farm into a fairy tale.

If I thanked everyone involved on a daily basis, it still wouldn’t be enough.  Judge for yourself, if you’d like.

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This is my grandmother’s barn, ready for the wedding.  It was a rainy fall day, but the rain stopped and the sun came out right before the wedding.  So many of my friends showed up decorating, arranging wildflowers, placing candles and hay bales…so much work…so much fun!

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Did I say “on the cheap?”  Yes, we decorated with wild flowers and they were gorgeous!

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My brother performed the ceremony.

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My daddy gave the bride away.

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We decorated the back yard of my grandmother’s house for the reception.

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The bride’s cake.

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And the groom’s cake.

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One of my favorites from the wedding.

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They left the wedding in my Granddaddy’s pick-up truck.

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Of course, no wedding is complete without the required flower girl meltdown with the ring bearer looking on in amazement.

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The ceremony started at dusk and the reception finished up in the dark.  Here’s the happy couple at the barn after the ceremony catching a couple of minutes alone.

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And what wedding is complete without some last minute advice to the groom from the new mother-in-law?  Poor Blake…the one fellow in a family of women.  I am so glad that he and Emily found each other.  He’s a keeper!

Thanks for looking at these pictures.  It was a wonderful night.  Thank you, friends.  Thank you, family.  We couldn’t have done it without you.