Pop’s Legacy

Charles G. Lawson
11/2/32 – 4/30/11
“Pop” and “Mae Mae”
One year ago today, this world lost a great man! “Pop” was a term of endearment to his family and those who were close to him! He was my best friend’s Dad. Growing up in Brundidge, the Lawsons lived just 2 houses up the street from me. Mr. Charlie was the Barber’s Milk Man when we were growing up! It was a really big deal to the children in our neighborhood when he let us climb into the back of the milk truck on a hot summer day and get orange or grape ade! Later, when he started driving a cattle truck, he let Pam and I go with him on a run to Donaldsville, Georgia one summer night. We got to eat in a truck stop in the middle of the night and sleep in the truck’s sleeper! Way too cool for two elementary school girls! He moved on to grow a very successful trucking company, Lawson Trucking,  but he never changed a bit!
Mr. Charlie had 3 daughters – Pam, Patti and Pennie – I could have been Parla! He always said that I could be his 4th daughter and he treated me as such! His acts of kindness to my family over the years are far two many to mention. In fact, if I told you all of them, he would probably look down with a look of disapproval. He did not do nice things for recognition – it was just a part of his make up!
At a very moving funeral service celebrating his life,  he was remembered by several people. Both his grandson and granddaughter spoke of the lessons they learned from “Pop”. Hunter offered 3 important lessons that that his beloved grandfather taught him 1)Always be a man of your word – if you say you are going to do something, do it! 2) Always be on time and 3) Never spend more money than you have – life lessons we could all use, whether you knew Mr. Charlie or not!
As I went through the receiving line at the visitation, his brother said to me “If Charlie hadn’t been sick, he would have had trucks helping in Tuscaloosa” (after the tornado) to which his safety director replied “He did send trucks to Tuscaloosa!” Even in his final days, when the devestating storm hit Tuscaloosa and much of Alabama, he was determined to help, even from his hospital bed in Houston, Texas.  This is the kind of person he was – incredibly successful but never forgetting the importance of helping others!
When Mr. Charlie passed away, Greg Botts, who grew up on the other side of Bowden Street said “I’ve lost my last role model that I had growing up” – he was referring to his Daddy, then my Daddy and then Pam’s Daddy. What a tribute! Mr. Charlie and his family were so supportive to my Mother and I during my Daddy’s hospitalization and subsequent death. It is ironic that the very day after my Daddy passed away that Mr. Charlie was admitted to the hospital with severe pain, beginning his decline in health.
I am so thankful for our friendship with this precious family. I am thankful for such sweet memories of growing up with them in Brundidge.  Pop’s Legacy lives on in each of them! Mr. Charlie, we miss you! Thanks for loving me and my family!

Home Sweet Tuscaloosa

This was the image of Tuscaloosa one year ago today as a F-5 tornado stormed through Tuscaloosa causing death and destruction still being felt today. Everywhere we go, if anyone mentions Tuscaloosa, people ask if we were affected by the storm. EVERYONE in Tuscaloosa was affected -maybe not physically, but emotionally. I think everyone could say – what if? What if I had been at Hobby Lobby where I frequently shop? What if I had gone to the DCH Credit Union that day? What if I had been driving past Midtown which I do almost daily? What if there was no James Spann and others to warn us? What if we had not listened? What if our school system had not heeded the warnings and not gotten our students home earlier in the day? What if our hospital had taken a direct hit (it was so close!)……………….For the first hour or so after the tornado passed through, that is just what was being reported on the radio (we had no power)  – that DCH Regional Medical Center was destroyed! I was speechless from that news – because of the impact that DCH has on caring for the sick and injured and because of the 20 years of my life that was invested there as employee! Fortunately, my in-laws could get television reports and were able to dispel that rumor. It was bad enough!!………………. I will never forget one night later in a very surreal moment, standing in an assembly line at a sorority house in the dark removing food from their kitchen to take to local elementary school to be used to provide meals for workers. Only the sound of sirens in the background! …I will never forget hearing Betty Terry tell the story of her and husband being buried under the rubble of their home, being rescued by a neighbor and finding her walker standing upright as she emerged from the rubble. She had just had knee surgery!… I will never forget taking a meal to a family in our church who lost their home and seeing the dazed look in their eyes from shock and sheer exhaustion!… I will never forget the call from our beloved sitter whose son and daughter-in-law had lost their apartment… I will never forget calling my neighbors who own Krispy Kreme and the relief in finding out they were OK….I will never forget realizing that my friend, Judy, lived in the path of destruction and not being able to reach her on the phone…. Today………….Hobby Lobby is back, Krispy Kreme just broke ground, the Terrys are in a new home, the Hubbards celebrate with an open house at their new home today, McDonald’s is back, Full Moon and Hokkaido are on their way, Judy is fine!……Tuscaloosa is not the same but one thing is for sure – we have great leadership, a great vision and an amazing community spirit! Thanks to everyone from near and far who have contributed in any way to the recovery of this great community! We are blessed beyond measure!

Thankful Thursday – Special Olympics

Annie’s Special Olympics Debut
After spending the day at Special Olympics, I completely changed my “train of thought” for Thankful Thursday! What an amazing day as special athletes from across Tuscaloosa experienced the thrill of participating in sports! Without Special Olympics, these awesome children would not be able to do so. Through the power of sports, people with intellectual disabilities discover new strengths and abilities, skills and success. These special athletes find joy, confidence and fulfillment — on the playing field and in life. They also inspire people in their communities and elsewhere to open their hearts to a wider world of human talents and potential.
Annie’s smile tells it all! The fact that she is wearing her first place ribbon in her hair (she participating in throwing a tennis ball and in assisted walking!) is symbolic of how Special Olympics adapts to the strengths of each individual child. Annie wouldn’t think of wearing the ribbon in a traditional manner so her principal pinned it in her hair bow! Clever and just perfect for her – her hair bow is just a part of who she is!
So…today I am thankful for 1) our athlete who was able to participate in Special Olympics for the first time, experiencing the joy of participation! 2) for her friends at Sprayberry who inspire her every day – fellow students and staff! 3) for organizers of the Special Olympics event – both the faculty of Sprayberry and in the community 4) for community volunteers who are there to help in any way and most of all who cheer the athletes they don’t even know! and 5) for our sweet friend, Beth, who has participated in Special Olympics for 30 years and inspires us all!
Annie with Beth and Debbie Anderson
Amazing Sprayberry Special Olympians!

What’s for Dessert? Strawberry Bundt Cake

Strawberry Bundt Cake

1 box strawberry cake mix
1/2 C. strawberry pie filling
3/4 C. frozen strawberries (reserve 6 T. juice)
4 eggs
1/3 C. water
Grease a Bundt pan with butter and sprinkle with granulated sugar. Mix all ingredients, except juice from strawberries, and pour batter into pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50 – 60 minutes. When done, remove and cool only slightly. Cake should still be warm when glazed.
Strawberry Glaze:
2 C. powdered sugar
1/2 stick softened butter
6 T. strawberry juice
Mix above ingredients in saucepan and boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and drizzle over warm cake.

Note: I made this cake on my daughter’s actual birthday since we had already celebrated with “birthday cake” several days before. She LOVED it! She has always been a fan of strawberries and she really enjoyed the addition of the flowers for decoration! It made a festive centerpiece for her birthday dinner as well!……I was inspired to make this cake by a friend who made one similar for a Bridal Tea we hosted a couple of weeks ago. The menu consisted of a variety of pound cakes on pedestals served with fruit and nuts – a very simple menu and perfect for a Sunday afternoon tea! The hostess displayed the cakes at different elevations on a table filled with satin, tulle and fresh flowers – it was a beautiful display! Will file that idea for the future!

What’s for Dessert? Granny’s Banana Pudding

I forgot to include the banana pudding in my BBQ Menu! That’s OK – it is so good, it deserves it’s own page! It was the most requested recipe after the party!

Granny’s Banana Pudding

Large Bunch of Bananas
Box of Vanilla Wafers
8 oz. Cool Whip
1 Can Eagle Brand Sweetened Condensed Milk
Large Box Instant Vanilla Pudding Mix

Prepare pudding according to directions on the box. To the vanilla pudding, add the Cool Whip and Eagle Brand Milk. In a large dish, layer bananas, vanilla wafers, pudding mixture. Repeat, ending with pudding mixture. Reserve some vanilla wafers to put on the top.

Note: This is my Mother’s most requested dessert recipe for a family get together. She used to make the cooked version but everyone seems to like this one more. She says that the bananas stay fresh longer with this one. It really doesn’t matter because this dish won’t last that long!!

BBQ Menu

When I posted Elle’s “Country Style” backyard BBQ Birthday Party, I didn’t include the recipes so I thought I would share those now. We had a pretty traditional BBQ menu that was enjoyed by the youth and adults. Enjoy these recipes!

BBQ Boston Butt
Boston Butt, Any Size
1/4 cup of water
Salt and Pepper
Your Favorite BBQ Sauce
Sprinkle Boston Butt with Salt and Pepper and place in crock pot with water. Cook on low overnight for the day you plan to serve it. Prior to serving, shred meat with a fork. We served Sister Schubert’s Dinner Rolls, baked and cut, as an alternative to the traditional bun. Provide your favorite sauce(s) on the side. We served Dreamland Sauce (www.dreamlandbbq.com) and a homemade White BBQ Sauce.
Note: One of Elle’s classmates commented at school that the BBQ was his favorite part of the party, to which she replied that her Mom made it. A discussion followed as to whether her Mom really made it or not. Apparently, that wasn’t believable for some. It is true – I made it, it was good and it didn’t take much time with everything else I had to do! I recommend the crock pot method!
White BBQ Sauce
1 1/2 C. mayonnaise
1/2 C. cider vinegar
1/4 C. lemon juice
2 T. sugar
2 T. freshly ground pepper
2 T. white wine Worcestershire sauce
1 t. salt
Whisk together all ingredients until blended! We served in a squeeze bottle, but it would work just as well in a bowl, using a spoon to dip.
Note: This is a recipe that I have used several times over the past several years. It is always a hit and is usually to preferred choice of guests, although I don’t usually serve opposite Dreamland Sauce. Dreamland will win every time!
Marinated Cole Slaw
1 medium cabbage, cut in small strips
1 onion, sliced
3/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. oil
3/4 C. vinegar
1 t. salt
2 T. sugar
1 t. prepared mustard
1 t. celery seed
Mix cabbage, onion and 3/4 C. sugar in large container and set aside. Mix marinade ingredients and bring to a boil. Pour this over cabbage mixture and toss well. Marinate in refrigerator for at least 8 hours.
Note: I prefer marinated coleslaw over the creamy kind. I noticed that about half the guests placed the coleslaw on the BBQ meet while the other half served it as a side. Either way is yummy!
Crock Pot Baked Beans
3 cans baked beans (I used Bush’s Original Recipe)
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 C. molasses
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 1/2 C. ketchup
1 t. dry mustard
2 T. Worcestershire sauce
1/2 lb. thick sliced bacon
Combine all ingredients in slow cooker and cook on low for, at least, 5 hours.
Note: Both my girls really like this recipe. It’s the only baked bean recipe I have ever used that included garlic and I like that addition!
Macaroni and Cheese
4 cups uncooked macaroni
1 egg, beaten
4 T. butter
1/4 C. all-purpose flour
2 1/2 C. milk
2 t. dry mustard
1 lb. shredded cheddar cheese
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. seasoned salt
1/2 t. black pepper
Cook macaroni. Drain. Beat egg. In a large pot, melt butter and sprinkle in flour. Whisk together over low-medium heat. Cook mixture for 5 minutes, whisking constantly. Be careful not to let it burn. Pour in milk, add mustard and whisk until smooth. Cook for 5 minutes until very thick. Reduce heat to low. Take 1/4 C. sauce and slowly add to beaten egg, whisking constantly until smooth. Pour egg mixture into sauce, whisking constantly. Stir until smooth. Add cheese and stir to melt. Add salts and pepper. Taste and add more as needed! Pour in drained, cooked macaroni and stir to combine. Pour into a buttered baking dish, top with extra cheese, and bake for 20-25 minutes or until bubbly and golden on top.
Note: Among my Mac and Cheese recipes, we have those with egg and those without. We don’t mind either. Mac and Cheese is always a safe bet to serve at a children’s party!
Hope you find a recipe(s) to use for your next Backyard BBQ!

What’s for Supper? Crock Pot Chicken Recipes

Recently, I have discovered 2 new crock pot chicken recipes
 that I know I will do again! Both are super easy and so tasty!
Crock Pot Chicken Barbecue
2 boneless chicken breasts
1 1/2 cups of ketchup
3 T. brown sugar
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
1 T. soy sauce
1 T. cider vinegar
1 t. red pepper flakes (to taste) – optional
1/2 t. garlic powder
Combine all ingredients for the sauce in the crock pot. Add the chicken and coat well with the sauce. Cook on high for 3-4 hours until chicken is cooked all the way through. Shred the chicken and return to the sauce. Serve on buns or rolls.
Crock Pot Chicken Fajitas
3 sweet peppers, sliced
1 1/2 pounds boneless chicken
1/2 C. chicken broth
1/2 t. salt
2 T. cumin
1 1/2 T. chili powder
Squirt of lime juice
Fajita Fixings
Combine sliced onion and peppers in the bottom of a greased crock pot. Lay chicken on top of veggies. Pour chicken broth over top. Sprinkle everything with cumin, salt, and chili powder. Give a nice squirt of lime juice over the top. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours. When meat is done, shred with two forks and stir back into juices. Serve meat mixture with slotted spoon on tortilla and your choice of fixings.

Celebrating "Country Style"

Elle’s 11th Birthday Party!
The Invitation
To celebrate her 11th birthday (which is actually the 18th), Elle invited her friends and family for a Backyard BBQ featuring the music of her favorite country music singers, Scotty McCreery and Lauren Alaina (2011 American Idol Winner and Runner Up) – Invitation printed in Microsoft Word on Kraft Paper Note Cards from Hobby Lobby

The Supper Menu

Chips and Salsa
Chocolate Covered Strawberries
BBQ Pork on Sister Schubert’s Rolls
Baked Beans
Marinated Cole Slaw
Macaroni and Cheese
Birthday Cake/Ice Cream
Granny’s Banana Pudding
The Decoration
Silver wear wrapped in bandanna
print napkins, tied with jute
Cowboy boot/cactus lights in the
 tree (purchased from Party City)
Country Store candy package in burlap bags from http://www.pickyourplum.com

“Thanks, Yall” Note Attached created in Microsoft Word

Sunflowers from Hobby Lobby with Cowboy
Hats from the Dollar Tree

And Red Checked tablecloths
Geraniums with bandanna wrapped pots and Lauren Alaina
and Scotty McCreery CDs
Banner from Hobby Lobby western birthday supplies and cow print balloons
from Hobby Lobby

   The Cake – “Miss Me” Jeans, Cow print and Red Bandanna by Sweet Treats Bakery
Celebrating with Great Friends

“Georgia Peaches” and “Water Tower Town”

“Ain’t nothing sweeter than Georgia Peaches”

More “Georgia Peaches”

 “I Love You This Big”

Tie A Yellow Ribbon Game 
 After searching the yard for pieces of yellow ribbon,
each team of 3 tied the ribbons together to see who had the longest ribbon – Fun Game!
Thanks to all of Elle’s friends and family for celebrating the big #11 with her!

Thankful Thursday – Stories of Survival

Jeremiah 33:6 – Nevertheless, I will bring health and healing to it; I will heal my people and will let them enjoy abundant peace and security.

As I pause today and reflect on thankfulness, I am forever and always thankful for my own personal recovery journey as well as those of others, some of which I will share with you today in hopes of inspiring you or others who may be going through a personal health crisis.
 Yesterday, at Auburn University, Shon Coleman returned to the football practice field! Shon has battled leukemia since signing with Auburn in 2010. Read more about him…

Last week, a new book was released – “Radiate” by Marley Gibson. I’ve mentioned it before, but now that I’ve read it, it bears repeating. “Radiate” tells the story of a fifteen year old cheerleader who survived cancer – the good, the bad and the ugly! I read the book, knowing the outcome and so thankful that Marley whose personal story was depicted in the book, is a published author, traveling the country and living her life to the fullest!
Quoting Marley,  ” I “had” to have cancer because it made me a better person. It made me stronger so I could face the even stupider obstacles yet to face me in life. Things that were a piece of cake next to defeating cancer. I had to have cancer so I could share my story of triumph and overcoming in the hopes that just ONE other person would know that they could beat it too…that they weren’t alone…that people cared…people were praying…and people were cheering you on..” Well said, Marley!
 Thirteen years ago, former University of Southern Mississippi Baseball power hitter, Michael Artman, battled testicular cancer and won! Two days ago, Michael Daniel Artman, Jr. was born! You see, after all the chemotherapy and radiation that he required, Michael didn’t know if he would be able to father a child. Congratulations to Michael, Katherine and Daniel, their “miracle baby”! 
Read more about this former USM baseball player and his amazing story!
Quoting Michael, “I mean, I wouldn’t wish cancer on anybody, but I learned so much about life from it. It’s made be a better person, a stronger person. I hope I can pass some of those lessons along to Daniel.” Well said, Michael!
Shon, Marley, Michael, myself and countless others who have faced the diagnosis of cancer will never look at life the same! Everything means more! So thankful for God’s healing power! So thankful that we can learn and grow from adversities in life! Let’s not take life for granted and be thankful for each and every day!
God bless you today!

Heard it Through the Grapevine…..

Anne is 9!
Believe it or not (and I find it hard to believe, personally) our sweet Annie turned 9 yesterday and what a celebration we had! Our “Heard It Through the Grapevine” Party was just perfect for her birthday.  If you don’t know Annie, let me introduce you to an amazing little girl – Annie was born April 9, 2003, after a normal pregnancy. This time 9 years ago, we were wondering what the future held for her since she was born with a somewhat rare syndome, called Caudal Regression Sydrome. No need for great details here, but, if you are familiar with Spina Bifida, the presentation is similar. Annie spent the first 2 months of her life at The Children’s Hospital of Alabama in Birmingham. Much of that time, she was dependent on a ventilator. After a very serious spinal cord surgery, she came home with a trach and on oxygen. By the time she was 14 months old, she was rid of all of that and hasn’t had a respiratory problem since. She has had several orthopedic surgeries in her early years. Now, she is medically fine. Cognitively, she is not at her age level by any means. She does not speak words but can communicate in her own way. One of her strongest methods of communication is in her expression – she laughs alot and gets very excited about things she likes such as Chick Fil A, chips, and other things, depending on the day. You know, that’s how girls are – always changing their mind! She is working on communication with her own Ipad, and takes a few steps independently with canes! We are so thankful for her progress, for her school, Sprayberry Education Center, and for her Circle of Friends group at Valley View Baptist Church! As Barry and I talked about yesterday, we wouldn’t trade her for anything in the world!
Let’s get this party started!!
The invitation –  here is how we came up with the the theme. Annie loves music and although she has no words, she has tunes – she chooses a sound (like B or E) and “sings” it to a tune! One day her tune sounded like the background to “Heard It Through the Grapevine” and thus the party idea was born!
Tip: If you are planning a party at school, be sure to check the school calendar! We were out of school for a weather day and I didn’t know, so, we had the party at home yesterday and celebrated with her classmates today!

With the California Raisins singing in the background on CD, we served

 Pimento Cheese Spread, Grape Punch, Chicken
Salad on Croissants, Grape Salad, BBQ Chips, Granny’s Cheesestraws (made by my Mother) and  “Grape” Themed Cupcakes by Sweet Treats Bakery
See Recipes Below
Annie with Friends and Family

When Annie came through these doors 9 years ago, we didn’t have any idea of what was in store for her! But, look at her now! Seeing her standing tall with that big smile on her face, knowing that she inspires us tells me how blessed we are!
Happy 9th Birthday, Annie!
Pimento Cheese Spread
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
2 C. shredded cheddar
1 C. mozzarella
1 C. parmesan romano blend
1 C. mayonnaise
1 small jar pimentos, drained
1 T. minced onion
2 t. garlic powder
Black pepper, to taste
Mix ingredients until smooth and creamy. Serve with your choice of crackers. I used Triscuits and Club crackers.
Grape Punch
4 cups red grape juice, chilled
4 cups, white grape juice, chilled
2 liters lemon-lime soda
Pour all ingredients into punch bowl just before serving. Serve cold or over ice. Pretty purple color!
Chicken Salad
3 C. diced cooked chicken
1/2 C. Craisins
1/2 C. chopped celery
1 T. minced onion
1/4 C. chopped pecans
6 T. mayonnaise, more or less depending on preference
2 t. lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients and mix well. Serve with crackers or on bread of choice. I used croissants.
Grape Salad
(Aunt Maude’s Great Grape Salad from “When the Dinner Bell Rings at the Governor’s Mansion” by former Alabama First Lady Patsy Riley) – Great cookbook!
2 1/2 lbs. red seedless grapes
2 1/2 lbs. white seedless grapes
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese
1/2 c. white sugar
1 8 oz. sour cream
1 c. chopped pecans
1/2 c. brown sugar
Wash, dry and drain grapes on paper towel. Make cream mixture (cream cheese, white sugar and sour cream) and set aside. Layer grapes and cream mixture alternately, ending with cream mixture. Sprinkle with brown sugar and chopped pecans. Chill before serving.