Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Parkmanville Pile-In

Cousins + Summer = GREAT!
Thanks for the great photo of the kids at the creek, Laura!

Last weekend, my sister Jill visited from Starkville, Mississippi.  She and I haven't seen each other since the half marathon in April.  Benjamin hasn't seen her kids since before Thanksgiving!  They haven't been to Ann's in several months.  Needless to say, everyone was excited that they were coming to Parkmanville for a long weekend.  Combined with the fact that it was the first weekend since the last day of school, my kids figured life doesn't get any better! 

The boys spent Friday evening wading and swimming in the gravel pit.  A number of years ago, when the land where Ann lives belonged to my grandfather Richard Lewis Parkman, the county "borrowed" gravel from the site.  A pond now exists in the shallow pit; we've called the pond the "gravel pit" since I was a little girl.  We walked a pretty good piece from Ann's house, down the dirt road, around the horse pasture, past the 10-year old planted pines, and through the food plot to get there.  Jill and I talked the entire time.  It doesn't seem that long ago since she and I were the same age as our kids, wanting to do the same type of things.  (Well, at least I did - I was such a tomboy.  I am not sure Jill really wanted to do these things when we were little.  Turns out, Jill was blessed with boys so she gets to do these things now, whether she wants to or not!)

Wading into the gravel pit, captured in photo by Jill

On Saturday, we spent the day at Callaway Gardens.  The Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center, the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, and Mr. Cason's Vegetable Garden may never be the same!  We packed a picnic lunch as well as a lot of activities into our time at Callaway.  More fun was had at Ann's upon returning to Parkmanville.

"We promise to behave in church - just let us sit together!" begged Ann's grandsons.

All Ann's daughters and grandkids joined her for church at Crawford Baptist Church on Sunday.  (Brother Steve Williamson preached a really good sermon!)  We went back to her house for lunch and spent the afternoon on the Uchee Creek, which weaves its way through the lower part of her place.  Later, we sat in the swing in the shade of the wrap-around porch - it's one of my favorite ways to spend time at her house.   

Ann, her girls, and the grandkids on her porch
Super job getting so many smiles, Joseph!

Thursday, May 26, 2011


Remembering Charles Benjamin Smith, June 17, 1937-May 21, 2010

A prouder grandpa there could not have been.  As Ben placed newborn Benjamin into his arms, the look on his face was priceless.  The camera captured his thoughts – pride, excitement, and perhaps a little nervous energy.  “How do I hold him?” he said.  When Charles Benjamin Smith, III was born, so was a grandfather. 

December 11, 1999

Charles Benjamin Smith, affectionately known as Papa, seemed to love being a grandfather.  He loved the visits from his grandchildren, all five of them!  Many funny expressions and comments were stated during his early years of grandparenting.  “He’s really coming along” is one phrase he often used to describe little Benjamin’s growth.  In those days, Ben worked in Lumpkin on nearly a weekly basis.  Each week he dutifully took baby Benjamin for a full day’s visit.  I believe Papa really looked forward to those visits.  I also believe he never changed a single diaper!

When we first told him that I was pregnant, Mr. Charlie promptly stated, “Well, I guess it will be a boy or a girl!”  He thought all of his grandchildren hung the moon.  We could be talking about anything, but he loved talking about his grandkids – Kenleigh, Lauren, Georgia-Lee, Nicholas, and Benjamin. 

When I met him, he loved talking to me about his growing up years in Alabama.  Being from Alabama, I guess that was his way of connecting with me.  Sometimes we talked about the same stories over and again.  As he talked about life in Alabama, it sounded like he enjoyed living there – the idyllic setting along the rocky creek, spending time with Sonny, Carolyn, and Joann, tending store with his parents.

Growing up in Alabama, with his favorite dog

Mr. Charlie had something in common with his other daughter-in-law too - basketball.  He loved it and she knew it!  Melissa played basketball in college.  Since Mr. Charlie coached it for years and watched it on television often, they immediately found a common ground.  Mr. Charlie liked sports of all kinds; he coached many during his professional years. 

Some folks just have a personality that makes them memorable, makes other folks like them and enjoy being around them.  Mr. Charlie was like that.  All over town, people knew him.  Many knew him as “Coach” – most still called him that too, even though it has been more than 20 years since he coached anyone.  That likeable and friendly personality of Mr. Charlie’s is truly a gift.  His son Ken has it – the quick smile, the ability to put others at ease, the friendliness.  I am glad I got to know that Charlie Smith.

Son Ken may have gotten some of his personality attributes from his father but so did Ben.  Mr. Charlie really marked him too.  I see much of his father in Ben.  Often it is a little expression or in the way he stands and sometimes in his comments or the way he talks.  Because of his father, Ben is an excellent father today.
Wedding Day August 14, 1960 - Mr. and Mrs. John Elby Smith, newly married Mr. and Mrs. Charles Benjamin Smith, and Mr. and Mrs. Starling Peeples Owens

Grandfather, father, and husband – the life he built with wife Ava was full.  Just shy of 50 years together, they were right on track to celebrate their golden anniversary on August 14, 2010.  The pretty thin redhead from Fitzgerald really caught Mr. Charlie’s eye, and apparently his heart, during their college years at Georgia Southern.  Coaching and teaching many of the kids in Stewart County, this couple moved through those days of the working years and settled into a relaxed retirement.  In retirement, the couple could most often be found “at the lake” rather than in Lumpkin.  However, even during their working years, they found time to go to the lake to water the red tips, fish, and enjoy relaxing with friends and family.

Friday, May 20, 2011


School's out for summer!  The kids like to do something special on their last day of school, which is usually a half day.  This year, we met Mammy, as they affectionately like to call Ben's mom, for a picnic.  She suggested we meet at Old Creek Town Park in Eufaula.  The picnic area was shaded by tall pines and large oaks.  The kids were instantly attracted to the wooden playground. 

While they played, Mammy and I prepared plates.  We enjoyed a relaxed picnic lunch as the kids chattered about school and summer plans.  The shade trees blew gently and provided a soft breeze to keep us cool in spite of the climbing temperatures.  
 School's Out Picnic Menu
Georgia-Lee's turkey and provolone rollups
Multi-grain bread topped with pimento cheese
Garden salsa Sun Chips
Watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries

After our lunch, we toured Shorter Mansion, owned by the Eufaula Heritage Association.  Our tour guide told us that the home was purchased by the Association in 1965 for $33,000.  Definitely a steal for the impressive Greek Revival mansion!

We walked one block north of Shorter Mansion to find the Tree that Owns Itself.  The tree that stands there today is actually the third tree.  The first tree was a post oak tree that was thought to be more than 200 years old!  It was deeded by the City of Eufaula in April 1936.

The Tree that Owns Itself in Eufaula, Alabama; approximately 1940
Photo:  Alabama Department of Archives and History

We finished our Barbour County afternoon of tourism with a stop at Backyard Orchards.  The kids picked strawberries.  Allie, at Backyard Orchards, told us the strawberries are nearly gone for the year.  Although they were a little small, the berries are fragrant and oh-so sweet! 

Summer's here! 

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fried Onions

They didn't make it far from the grease.  As soon as Ben got the fried vidalia onions out of the grease, we salted them.  Not long after that, they were gone!

Ben's Fried Vidalia Onions

Thinly slice the vidalia onion rings.  Dip in mixture of one-half milk, one-half buttermilk.  Dredge in flour.  Fry in hot grease, about 1/4-1/2" deep.  Salt immediately and enjoy!

Benjamin and I devoured the first two batches.  Ben reserved the last batch for Georgia-Lee, who had been playing in her playhouse.  They were a delicious appetizer for the fried quail Ben cooked after the onion rings.

Georgia-Lee loves her daddy's cooking!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Those Sweet Onions from Vidalia

If you haven't noticed already, those sweet onions from Vidalia, Georgia, are now in season and at our local grocery stores.  Go ahead and put a bag in your cart - they are so yummy, you will eat them in no time!

Known as the world's sweetest onion, the secret to vidalia onions is in the soil where the onions grow.  The low amount of sulfur in the soil of just 20 Georgia counties, along with mild winters and regular rain, give the onions that delicious sweet flavor.  By protection of The Vidalia Onion Act of 1986, only designated areas in Georgia can grow the certified sweet onions.  Although the official act was passed as recently as 1986, the special onions have been grown in Georgia since the 1930s.  In 1931, Farmer Mose Coleman discovered the onions he grew in Toombs County, Georgia, near the town of Vidalia, were SWEET, not hot, like onions usually were.  And so, those sweet onions from Vidalia soon grew famous.   

Ben and I love vidalia onions - they are great in all types of recipes.  Fried, grilled, in casseroles, with other foods, or even raw, the sweet onions are a favorite.  Much to my surprise was when both Benjamin and Georgia-Lee enjoyed eating them raw with vinegar, salt, and pepper!  Earlier this week, they took the bowl of onions and vinegar Ben and I were eating, grabbed the salt shaker, and headed to the porch.  Quickly, they finished off our bowl of onions!  Apparently, kids will eat onions and love them!  (I will add that Georgia-Lee later moaned and groaned that her stomach hurt.  And no wonder, she had eaten nearly an entire onion with vinegar and probably lots of salt by herself!)

Apparently, vidalia onions have been a family favorite for years!  My Great-Aunt Maud Findlater Dudley (b. 1913, d. 1993) was known for her Vidalia Onion Casserole.  She probably took it to the large Dudley family gatherings held annually on Independence Day or Labor Day.  Aunt Maud was married to my Great-Uncle Menza M. Dudley (b. 1911, d. 1980), who was brother to my grandaddy Benjamin Clay Dudley (b. 1907, d. 1983).  

Aunt Maud's Vidalian Onion Casserole

14-16 saltine crackers, crushed                              
1 qt. vidalia onions, chopped
3/4 stick butter
4 eggs, well beaten
1/2 c. milk
1 cup grated sharp cheddar, not low-fat
salt and pepper to taste

Place crackers in the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish.  Saute onions with butter until tender.  (Amount of butter can be adjusted down according to preference.)  Pour onions on top of crackers.  Beat 4 eggs; stir in milk.  Pour over onions.  Sprinkle cheese over casserole.  Bake at 350 for 35-45 minutes.  The dish is unusually good! 


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Picnic

Mother's Day is that one day of the year when we have the opportunity to honor and thank our moms.  We wanted to spend time with Ann, to thank her for all she has done and continues to do for us. 

My sister Laura hosted a Mother's Day Picnic at her house this year.  Laura and her husband Joseph live in a great house in the Opelika historic district.  Their yard is beautiful and made the perfect setting for our picnic.  We missed having sister Jill with us.  She would have had such fun with us!
We dined on a lovely lunch outdoors; everything was delicious!  The temperature was warm but bearable.  We enjoyed the company and the relaxed time spent together best of all.

Mother's Day Picnic Menu
Cottage Cafe Chicken Salad
Honey Wheat Sandwich Thins
Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers
Strawberries & White Grapes
Cupcakes by Chef Tara Van Etten
Derby Pie
Pink Lemonade
Aren't the cupcakes by Chef Tara so cute?  They were yummy too! 
My nephew LOVES cupcakes.  He wanted to taste every cupcake. 
Email Chef Tara for cakes, cupcakes, and more.  Her contact info is tara.van.etten@gmail.com.

Honeymooning, 13 Years and Counting

On Monday, May 2, Ben and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary. In so many ways, 13 years have flown!  We have enjoyed happy times and suffered through sad times together.  We have experienced good and bad things.  Wherever we are or whatever we are doing, I enjoy doing it with Ben.  I am still very much in love with the man I married!
Sunset Cruise, Key West, Florida, May 1998

We honeymooned, 13 years ago, in the Florida Keys.  Ben planned a night or two on several different Keys.  We spent the most time on Key West.  One afternoon we took a sunset cruise.  You know, in Key West, everyone pauses to watch the sun set every evening and applaudes as it dips just below the horizon.  We very much enjoyed our sunset cruise and our honeymoon.  Ben, I hope our honeymoon lasts forever!  I love you!  -Ashley