Friday, December 19, 2014


anticipation of
Christmas morning at granma and granpas
traveling over the hills and through the woods
in PJs for hot chocolate and monkey bread
and homemade presents (eye rolls)
with the hope of $$ hidden inside
lots of food, hugs, and smiling faces
memories in the making

Monday, December 15, 2014

recipe curtains

Is that my fried chicken recipe on Melissa's kitchen curtains?  Why, yes it is!

So... the back story on the curtains. Last spring, actually I believe it was just before Mother's Day, I get a text from Sarah (oldest granddaughter age 19) telling me she needed me to write out one of my recipes and scan it and send it to her. Okay... She said it was going to be printed onto fabric for Melissa for Mother's Day. So I did as asked, and gradually got more of the story, she saw this thing on Pinterest... Here is the thing:

On the website the fabric is 36 x 54 and there are 4 different recipes on the one piece of fabric. I wish I had seen this first. So I just sent one recipe and they printed it out really big, see picture, the recipe is on there 2-1/2 times:

Anyway, so Melissa gets this piece of fabric in the mail long after Mother's Day and Sarah tells her it is to make tea towels. LOL. Melissa pulled it out the other day when I was down there and asked me what she could do with it. We looked around and decided on curtains. 

Hem 4 sides, make a rod pocket, voila! Looked at some fabric in the stash for a possible border, but we decided to keep it simple. Now the Mother's Day gift is on display in time for Sarah's visit for Christmas, a.k.a.  C.Y.A. :)

Thursday, December 11, 2014

doings and goings on

The Heck family - Mike, Frankie, Brick, Axl, Sue

Once again The Middle television show is about something in our family, this week specifically The Christmas Letter.

Brick: Hey we got Christmas cards in the mail. One of them has a letter. Its all about the Kirkwoods and their doings and goings on. Who are these people?
Mike: Just someone I went to high school with.
Brick: And he thought he should share the details of his life with you?
Frankie: It's a Christmas Letter. People update you on their lives. It's a way to keep in touch.
Brick: So we have gotten more of these?
Frankie: Yeah, I usually throw them out.
Brick: Why? They are fascinating!

So Brick decides to do a Heck family Christmas letter.
Brick: Mom doesn't wear pants anymore. Finances weigh heavy on our minds. The kitchen sink fell through the counter last month and now we wash dishes in the shower. Axl's football career seems to be over as he dropped the ball both literally and figuratively. Mom and Dad stay up late worrying about Sue doing something with Darren called Losing It.
Mike: Whoa! Brick, you can't say any of that stuff!
Brick: Why not? It's all true.
Mike: Christmas letters are just for the good things that happened in the last year!
Brick: Oh. Well that's going to be a lot harder… and shorter.

Madison is writing their Christmas letter this year. She got our book of past letters written by Granpa Buddy for inspiration, and enjoyed a good laugh. She decided their letter needed to be funny too. Just last week she seemed to be feeling the pressure of getting it done - with her mom busy signing cards and sticking address labels on the empty envelopes. So I offered to help and sent her some ideas, you know just tell it like it is. Like how she is an only child now and everything is all about her, only mentioning the rest of the kids in a passing sentence. She was like Mike Heck, "I can't say that!"

So we are waiting to see what Madison comes up with, and Grandpa Buddy too. I wonder if our letters are fascinating or if they get thrown out? :)  

At least we don't wash dishes in the shower, but if we did it probably would make the Christmas letter.

Friday, December 5, 2014


flashback to 2005 - grandkids baking!

Cornflake candy

1 cup sugar
1 cup corn syrup
1 - 12 oz jar smooth peanut butter
6 cups corn flakes

Stir together in pot - sugar and syrup.
Bring to boil. Remove from heat.
Add peanut butter, mix until creamy.
Add corn flakes, mix until evenly coated.
Drop onto wax paper.

mmmmm good!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

all you need is love

The times they are a-changin'

Love has been in the air this past year in our extended family (cousins, nieces, nephews). Proposals, engagements, marriages, weddings… not necessarily in that order.

Fifty years ago the norm was to go steady, date for a long time, get engaged, get married, then live together.

The rules shifted a bit after the freedom movement of the 60s - the living together part came before the marrying part. The phrases and jokes about trying on shoes and why buy the cow…

Over the past few years there has been another shift in the order of things. Even in our own extended family, we have folks getting married at the courthouse, then planning a wedding ceremony 'down the road.'  No, not literally, but waiting for a spell. Maybe they want to give it a test run before spending all that money on a wedding?  And talk about times a-changin', we will even have an all-girl wedding soon. Not that there is anything wrong with that, :). All you need is love!

It is fun to watch all the hoopla from a distance. Just this year there has been 1 traditional wedding ceremony, 2 courthouse marriages, 1 proposal party, with 3 more weddings planned in the future. Wow! Love is in the air, or maybe it's in the water.

come mothers and fathers
throughout the land
and don't criticize
what you can't understand
your sons and your daughters
are beyond your command
your old road is
rapidly agin'
please get out of the new one
if you can't lend your hand
for the times they are a-changin'
~Bob Dylan

Monday, December 1, 2014

new wheels

no more minivan!

Melissa has had a Momentous Year!

She graduated college with honors this summer. Now she has a real job working with Microsoft - her head is in The Cloud.

Her kids have been moving out one by one, the nest is almost empty. The dining room table only sits 3 now. The grocery bill is dwindling.

The baby is graduating high school, looking at colleges, has her own car, and no longer needs the mom taxi to haul her around, which brings us to the biggest life changing event of the year - selling the minivan.

What? Not the minivan! The single-most identifying icon of a busy mom. Melissa and her minivan have taught almost all of the kids to drive. The minivan has been carrying kids (and dog) around for years, to soccer, football, cross-country, drama, chorus, orthodontics, girl scouts, piano lessons, summer camp, concerts, church youth, band, softball, homecoming, SAT tests, robotics, to the ER, to photo shoots, through drive-through windows, shopping for prom dresses, on camping trips, and lastly to tour colleges.

Of course over the years there has been more than one minivan. 

There was the blue one that landed upside down.

And the red one that was rear-ended.

Now it is time to retire the Mom icon, the Mom taxi, this outdated mode of transportation, out with the old and in with the new. New life, new job, new wheels. A professional woman now, with kids and soccer in her rear-view mirror.

But how will Melissa handle it? Will she go through withdrawals? Will she long for 7 seats and a big cargo area? Time will tell.

Madison said, "But how will you move me to college?"

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

special kids

clean house and lots of food thanks to these two
green bean casserole!

we even make the guests cook

the elders

master turkey carver

grandpa Buddy please drop some

scary fried turkey breast

football of course

good times


Thanksgiving 2014, 17 folks gathered round, a success!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving anniversary

Felton and Inez Tidwell

Here are my in-laws on their 50th wedding anniversary party given by friends and family back in 1987. They were married on Thanksgiving Day in 1937. They had been married 58 years when the first one passed away. A long, happy marriage. You couldn't hope to meet two nicer people. I was very lucky to have such great in-laws.

The quilt in the background was made by us kids for the occasion (a surprise, of course). Used in the construction of the quilt are many mediums, such as patchwork, applique, embroidery, fabric paint, quilting. We had a great time working on it, even using some of Inez's fabric stash in the piecing.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

100 years

We made the trek south to McDonough, Georgia on Saturday. My aunt Jessie Lee died this week, she lived 100 years. Whenever I hear her name or think of her I always think first of her smiling face, and second of food, she was a great cook and when at her house you didn't just visit, you ate.

This fact was driven home and elaborated on by the preacher at her funeral. The preacher just happens to be married to the granddaughter of Jessie Lee (MawMaw to them). In the service, he talked a lot about food, along with some family memories and stories.

I imagine it was the only time that Jessie Lee was at a funeral without bringing one of her delicious cakes. I hope some of her kids/grandkids/greatgrandkids learned to cook like she did.

When I was growing up, my dad's sisters and brothers would get together on Thanksgiving, taking turns every year at a different house, everyone bringing covered dishes. One year at Louise's, one year at our house in the mountains, one at Jessie Lee's. One year at Allene's house, but wait - not there as Allene didn't cook J.

When it was time to go to Jessie Lee's house, we all knew we were in for a treat as she was the best cook in the family. I remember her husband, Wilbur (my dad's older brother) would always be sitting back in the den in his recliner watching a ball game. My first cousins - Billy, Gloria, Barbara - were all older than me, all grown up with jobs and everything. So it was just me and cousin David who was 3 years younger than me. He would take me outside to play in his yard. We knew better than to venture into the junkyard next to the house, his father Wilbur's used parts business. But it was fascinating looking out over what seemed like acres of old cars seemingly just dropped off there, some rusted out, some without hoods or tires, grass growing up between them, a very tempting place to explore.

Then it would be time for dinner and we would all gather around Jessie Lee's table, drag Uncle Wilbur from the TV, and have a big family dinner. It felt good to be part of a big family, listening to the stories, seeing my dad with his siblings, noticing the resemblances. And all that food! Thanksgiving is a wonderful tradition and I learned early to be thankful for family.

Of course with time we all grew up and grew apart, it is sad but true, and like so many families the only time we see our cousins is at a funeral.

After the funeral yesterday we made our way over to the cemetery and watched Jessie Lee be laid to rest next to her husband and daughter. We wandered down through the grassy field turned cemetery looking at names (wow, I  have never seen so many Austins in one place) until we found my parents. Melissa remembered being there for my dad's funeral, the 21 gun salute, the souvenir shell casings gathered and given to the grandkids, the flag from the coffin being folded and presented to my mom. Carrie didn’t remember it as clearly, but she did remember the shots being fired, so loud!

I visited with my first cousins Billy and Barbara and met some new generations of Austins, it is good to connect to family.

Memories of the past filled the day on Saturday, I tried to remember and share some stories with my girls on the drive south. Like the one about the butter and egg money saved to buy a house in town, the Thanksgiving dinners, how Allene sold her house to the bank with the arrangement that she could live out her life there, but mostly about Jessie Lee and her smiling face and good food.

Rest in peace aunt Jessie Lee, like the preacher said, you affected hundreds of lives over your 100 years, and they are all better people for having had you in their lives.

I am glad to have had you in my life and family and memories, and honored to include you as a part of where I'm from.

your niece, Susan

Thursday, November 20, 2014


So you receive a 'homemade' gift from a relative. What is the first thing that pops into your mind? The pink bunny suit on A Christmas Story?

Did your Aunt Clara or your grandmother make you homemade things? Did you like them? Or just pull them out when she was coming over to visit, just to keep the peace?

My mother used to make things for the grandkids, mostly sewing. She loved doing it, picking out the fabric and patterns, she was very proud of all her creations. But she was very sensitive and you better show some appreciation for the gifts. 

My girls would receive a cardboard box shipped from grandma, they knew it was from her before seeing the label, the smell of cigarette smoke permeated the box. After opening it (sometimes outside) and running everything through the laundry, the girls always liked what they got. She would sew labels in the clothes like this:

Ok, I too am guilty. I am a granma and like to make things for the grandkids. Homemade Things. Which is interesting, thinking back to growing up and only having homemade things, I longed for store-bought stuff. And speaking of ancient times, my mom taught herself and me to knit when I was about 8 years old, my dad was stationed in Korea and we had a lot of time. I remember sitting on the couch in our house near Fort Bragg, NC, knitting little rectangles that would turn in to Barbie clothes. So there is the history lesson, now back to the present...

Since I am batchin' it here at home until Christmas, I have a lot of time on my hands, so I have been knitting and crocheting things for the grandkids, again. I know they probably already have too many scarves, but I just like to do it. Sure, by the time you buy the yarn and put in the hours you could buy the item at the store (or several of them). So why do we do it?  It is relaxing, it produces an end product (unlike playing solitaire or internet surfing), and just today I read this article:

I am multi-tasking - keeping up with my reading by listening to audio books and podcasts while knitting, and I just listened to the new Garth Brooks album. I don't knit well enough to do it while watching TV.

To get inspired to knit, I read books by Stephanie Pearl-McPhee, who shares her funny views on life and knitting and is known as the Yarn Harlot (her blog). The owner of our local yarn store calls her "the Erma Bombeck of knitting."

"A half finished shawl left on the coffee table isn't a mess; it's an object of art." ~Stephanie Pearl-McPhee

For inspiration I turn to the plethora of online resources like Ravelry or Pinterest.

If when reading the pattern and confusion reigns, you no longer have to pull out the old dusty knitting books, just Google it, pick one of the many online videos and watch and learn. Just this week I learned how to make a Magic loop and how to long tail cast on. Yes, there is a knitting language to learn. 

So these days when I am not working at my real job, I will be working on gifts made of yarn. And surfing the internet for new ideas. Like these labels:

And I strive to dispell the dread and fear of receiving a handmade item and having to keep it forever 'because granma made it'. Please do not pack these things away for that only reason. Get it out, give it away, use it to wash the car or line the dog bed, get some use out of it. No, I won't get my feelings hurt, once I give it to you it is yours to do with as you want. So to that end, I am thinking of including an instruction card with any future gifts, what do you think:

does your crazy granny
really like to knit
are you tired of homemade 
gifts that don't fit

donate to the homeless
pass them on, give them away
she won't remember
what she gave you anyway

Monday, November 17, 2014

Thursday, November 13, 2014

be prepared to stop

On the first day we arrived in Rapid City on the 4th of July we saw a sign warning of Bighorn Sheep - Be Prepared to Stop! 

The sign is right at the turnoff for the campground. We looked and looked but never saw any. 

Finally I asked Monty in the office about the sign. He said the sheep stay up in the high peaks all summer, but at the first cold snap they come down to the valley looking for food. He said they would stand in the road and congregate and sleep over in the Catholic Church parking lot across the street.

Well, since I left Rapid City while it was still warm, I didn't get to see any bighorn sheep. But Buddy found some yesterday after work near the campground! 

There are also a lot of Canadian geese looking for the Canyon Lake that has been drained, maybe also looking for warmth, but they may have to fly a little farther south.

Bighorn Sheep, check!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

the next step

Madison with Nigel

High school is coming to a close for our youngest granddaughter, Madison, in fact she is not even at the local high school anymore, spending her days at the Ellijay campus of Dalton State College taking her last few high school classes and getting college credit for them. 

Madison has been thinking about and planning for college for a long time. She has taken all the college entrance exams and made application to colleges, and has been accepted to at least three. Now it is time for the next step, making the final choice of a full-time college to attend after high school graduation. She has been on many college campus visits, open house days, campus tours. Which one to choose? Why is it so hard?

So many things to think about, important choices like school colors, mascot, whether or not they have a good football team, distance from parents, is it a good party school?

But seriously, Madison does not use any of those criteria for choosing a school (well maybe the distance from parents). First of all, does it have the courses she needs for her dual degree in Physics and Engineering - she is looking for a college to begin study, then transfer to GA Tech. Second (and maybe most important), is how much will it cost? 

Berry College

She really likes Berry College, the beautiful campus. the small class sizes, the castle-like architecture, the deer, the 27,000 acres, the small town, the values, history, and tradition. Berry does partner with Georgia Tech for dual degree programs. But Berry is a private school and costs more than the state universities. There are scholarships and a few hoops to jump through before finding out exactly how much the cost will be. There has even been a hint that they would match offers from other colleges, which might involve more applications and personal visits and begging.

University of North Georgia

The University of North Georgia in Dahlonega is the closest state school to home. The campus is small, the town is small, it is close to home, the people are nice... but it's not Berry. Madison knows that UNG is cost-effective and the dual degree program is the same, so it is definitely in the backup plan. Dahlonega, Georgia is the site of the first major gold rush in the United States (see locally mined gold on steeple above!). 

UNG offers a lot of tradition and history also, and it is a military college. During the tour of campus, the student tour guide took us to the parade field and pointed out the cannon - the one that fires every day at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. when the flag is raised and lowered and when reveille and taps are played. He said at those times if you are a cadet you stop and stand at attention, if you are a civilian you stand in place, if you are driving by, you stop and get out of your car and stand in place - out of respect and tradition. I overheard a remark behind us in the group, "Or you plan to not be outside at 7 a.m. or 5 p.m., so you won't have to do that...". I guess some people don't understand respect and tradition and maybe shouldn't go to this college (but I held my tongue).

And THEN there is the University of Alabama... 

Big Al

Alabama... was not on Madison's radar at all until it popped up in an internet search for schools who offer FULL RIDE for students with ACT scores like Madi has. Whoa! Alabama? And they offer an additional $2500/semester if you go into the engineering program. But the question is - is an engineering degree from Alabama as good as one from say... Georgia Tech? just sayin'


Oh, and there was a visit to University of Georgia, but seriously, who would want to go there? It was just an excuse to get out of high school for a day. 

I hesitate to mention that she is following in the footsteps of some family members, some of whom went to UGA (sorry). And we grandparents who went to some of the other above-mentioned schools, but both ended up being college dropouts - and not (successful and prosperous) college dropouts like Bill Gates, so we won't even go there :)

So, she has a lot to think about, more paperwork to complete, maybe a list of pros and cons, and there is probably a spread sheet being planned in the near future to compare fees and scholarships, etc. The final offers come in February, we'll see who wants her the most, it will be interesting!


Madison, I think you'll make a helluva engineer!