Friday Wrap: Out in the Wild

Hello, my friends!! It’s been awhile since I’ve checked in or shared anything on the blog. I’ve been “out in the wild” with my family and friends soaking up all kinds of interesting and lovely experiences.

A few of my absolute favorites:

{ONE} Turning another year older

I survived another trip around the sun, as they say. This year wasn’t a milestone birthday, so I wasn’t expecting or planning a big “to-do.” It turned out to be such a lovely day, though.

My parents treated me to breakfast, and one of my nieces, Sarah Katherine, surprised me by joining us. {That’s all of us pictured above.}

We sat and enjoyed omelets while my parents retold my birth story. I love when they do this. As the youngest of five kids – and having been born eight years after my closest sibling – many people ask if I was an accident. I’m sure they mean well, simply trying to make a joke, but it can sting a bit. It can also plant seeds of doubt in your mind and heart.

But every time I hear my birth story and see the joy in my parents eyes when they tell it – especially when my dad, who is now a retired Lt. Colonel, gives details about volunteering to fly a nearly broken down C130 home from overseas just to make it in time for my arrival – makes me feel completely loved. I can’t imagine a better birthday gift than this.

This pretty perfect day was topped off with a homemade dinner. B and the kids made “surf and turf” with grilled shrimp and seared steaks. We indulged in cheesecake for dessert, which is kind of a thing for me. That has been my choice of birthday cake since I was like 10 years old.

All of that to say, it was such a magnificent celebration that continued throughout the weekend with our friends…

{TWO} Road tripping to Hot Springs

We headed off to Hot Springs with four other couples. It wasn’t initially a birthday thing. We planned the trip back on New Year’s Eve when we were all together and wanted to take a fun road trip together.

Our group’s social coordinator, Allie, took the reins and planned a fabulous weekend for us!

This was a fun shot of us next to the track at Oaklawn. Brandon is in the back cheering us on. And Seth, on the front right, is the only one with arms long enough to take group selfies without a stick. {We have lots of pictures that look like this. Lol!}

It had been so long since I last visited the races, I wasn’t sure what the heck I was doing. Thank goodness for friends like Danya who gave me a quick primer. B and I ended up doing really well – by breaking even!

Honestly, I found it was best to just bet on horses that had cool names or pretty silks on their back. The one pictured above (and that clearly won the race) wasn’t supposed to. We bet on it, though, because it was named Big E. And that’s what we call our son, Evan, sometimes. See…you never know.

One of the biggest birthday surprises I received on this trip, outside of plenty of Fireball, was showing up to the hotel lobby with ALL of my friends wearing matching shirts – with a hilarious and too-long-of-a-story-to-explain-here kind of picture of me on the front. As soon as I saw them, I turned as red as the shirts. Without a beat, they handed me one to wear as well, and we were out the door for dinner.

These are truly the best troopers (and goofballs) that I’m honored to call my friends.

{THREE} Meeting baby Dottie!!

Next up was a quick trip to Nebraska to meet my new great niece, Dottie. It was love at first sight, and she truly melted my heart. I mean…that precious face.

I remember meeting her mommy, who is my niece Emma, when I was just a freshman in college. I got to hold her just like this. And yes, this makes me feel old, but mostly super special to be part of their lives.

My twins were in heaven with this little bundle. Clara thought it was fun that Dottie had the same kind of headband as her.

She literally slept and cooed at us the entire visit. She is such a relaxed baby girl. I’ll remember this day forever!

{FOUR} Fishing with girl power

The boys were invited to float the Buffalo National River with some friends, so the twins and I decided to have our own version of a girls’ day out – with poles & worms.

We dusted off our fishing rods and headed down to the lake for the first fish of the season!

We only caught a few, like this fairly decent-size bass. My favorite part, though, was sitting still for a bit and catching up with my girls.

{FIVE} Hanging from trees

With the weather finally turning warm around here, we decided to get some hammocks! There’s a park not too far away from our house that’s a prime location for stringing up a reading/napping/chillin’ out sling. And that’s exactly where we headed the moment we left the store.

I have a feeling we’ll be resuming this position as much as we can this spring – and longer.

Thanks for letting me share a bit about my latest adventures. I hope you’ve been up to some fun things, as well.

Until next time, I’m sending you many blessings,

-Kate

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Thankful Thursday: Special Recipes

As I dream about and prepare for turkey day, I’m feeling thankful for all of the recipes shared among my family and friends.

I keep these treasures tucked in a little recipe box in my kitchen, but it’s more like a memory box. I’m amazed at how food can conjure up such strong memories.

rifle recipe box

The smell and taste of a certain dish – or even an ingredient, like cinnamon or chives – can instantly take you back to an event or special place in your life.

Cheese pizza on Christmas Eve, hand-spun Ovaltine milk shakes, shoestring potato snacks, and Jell-o cheesecake all bring me back to my Gramma Lettye’s apartment, where we spent countless evenings camped out in front of her TV watching episodes of Dallas, Fantasy Island and Love Boat together.

I will seriously high five anyone who can name all of these characters.

{via} I will seriously high five anyone who can name all of these characters without Googling.

When it comes to special recipes, I think about the time my friend Katie brought over this amazing poppy seed chicken right after Evan was born. I was an exhausted and nervous first-time mom, and the comfort of this warm, home-baked meal made me feel grounded again – even if it was just for a few bites. It was a welcomed treat, and I still think about that moment every time I make it for the family.

Of course my sweet mom, Mimi, has many recipes that make me feel “home.”

Growing up, her savory hot Virginia dip was one she made for holidays or when company was coming over. I knew it was time to dress up when the smell of buttery roasted pecans filled the house.

Any time you’re feeling chilly or under the weather, Mimi’s chicken noodle soup is more soothing than anything you can buy from the drugstore. That, and her ice chips…

ice chips

When we were little, she’d hit a piece of ice with the back of a spoon to make crushed ice. We didn’t have fancy dispensers back then. Whenever you heard that cracking sound coming from the kitchen, you knew someone wasn’t feeling well.

Mimi also makes this amazing banana bread that cannot be recreated. Both of my sisters (and I believe my SILs) have tried our hand at whipping up some of this special bread using the same recipe. It simply doesn’t taste the same, unless my mom delivers it to your door. We think something magical happens in the car on the way. By the time it arrives, it’s perfectly delicious.

banana bread

{via} I don’t have an actual picture of Mimi’s bread, because I’m usually too busy stuffing my face. This picture reminded me of her version, though – even with the little cutting board and all!

There are so many more fond memories I have around food, family and friends. I know you have some, too. So as you’re gathering together and giving thanks this coming week, think about this prompt.

What dish reminds you of “home?”

Join the conversation with a comment below or share on your social channels using #ThankfulThursday.

In the meantime, here’s my mom’s hot Virginia dip recipe. Enjoy, and go have yourself a party!!

Mimi’s Hot Virginia Dip

1 cup pecans, chopped
2 tsp butter
16 oz cream cheese, softened
4 T milk
5 oz dried beef, minced
1 tsp garlic salt
1 cup sour cream
4 tsp onion, minced

Directions:
Sauté pecans in butter. Reserve. Mix all ingredients thoroughly. Place in a 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Top with pecans. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve hot with crackers.

-Kate {hugs}

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