So Much More Than Chicken Salad

Have you noticed that when girls get together to celebrate, it doesn’t matter where we are or what we’re eating, we share one thing in common.

We love laughing and talking–just plain being silly and having fun.

Maybe you do too. 🙂

This past Friday, we had a birthday luncheon for my mother and sister at a quaint little tea room in Atlanta called The Swan Coach House. We’ve always just called it The Swan House. This picture is from their Facebook page.

They specialize in Southern yumminess like as cheese straws, chicken salad, and frozen fruit salad. The chicken salad is to…die…for!

Here we are from left to right–minus my other daughter Jamie and our son’s girlfriend Brittany who couldn’t make it.

My daughter Katie, my sister’s daughter, Libby, me :), my sister Jennifer, and Mother.

Right before this picture was taken, Mother had been craning her neck to check out everyone’s shoes.

“I don’t get out enough,” she said. “I can’t stop staring at people. Look at the hostess’s shoes. Aren’t they adorable? Beige and wheat colored flats with black trim. They match her dress perfectly. And I’m wearing a very brave shade of bright yellow today. Want to see?” She raised her foot slightly. “I’ve never had yellow shoes.”

“Y’all know I don’t know about colors, or clothes, and I hate to shop,” I said.

“We know, Mom,” Katie said. “That’s why I shop with you.”

After lunch, we went to my sister’s house to open presents.

Mom hugging Libby and me …

Libby, our matriarch, and Jennifer …

I felt a touch of anxiety as they opened their gifts from me, but bless their hearts, they oohed and ahhed over them.

Sitting there on Jen’s back porch, I said, “This has been so much fun. We should do it more often.”

We talked about going to the Fox Theater in Atlanta, or maybe even flying to New York to see a Broadway play.

“We could, you know,” Mother said.

“We should,” Jennifer added.

Driving home I thought about something.

At The Swan House, everyone feels like a beautiful swan. And if you ask for a box for left-overs, they return with your carry-out tucked inside heavy tinfoil fashioned into a perfect swan.

But we left with so much more than swans.

In our hearts, we carried out sweet memories.

My sister’s amaaaaaazing chicken salad recipe (gluten-free!)

Jen’s Jenerous Chicken Salad

3 or 4 boneless chicken breasts

2 stalks of celery, finely chopped

A stem of grapes, red or green, cut in half–a good handful or so

Slivered almonds, about half a cup

A big spoon of mayo (start with maybe a third cup)

Sour cream, (optional) about a teaspoon or two

Salt and pepper to taste

Thyme (optional) about a teaspoon

Boil chicken breasts in water sprinkled with salt, pepper, and thyme. Boil for about 45 minutes. Let cooked chicken cool. Either shred it with a fork or chop it really small. Stir in other ingredients. Delish!





  1. Anna Haney says:

    Loved this. One thing that is really sad about today’s world is that folks just don’t get together enough. For example, my husband’s high school friend lives right here in town and he had a birthday earlier in the month. We are getting together with he and his wife tonight for dinner but we only see one another at birthdays and Christmas. If we time it right, we might run into one another at a UT football game. These two men rarely call one another, hardly email. It was kind of sad. I suppose one could say the same about my friends and me, but at least I have the “excuse” that most of my close friends live 45 minutes to 6 hours away. And we when do get together, it’s like the conversation is stilted, even with family. Teenagers are glued to cell phones, etc.
    When I was a teacher, the two kindergarten teachers, the librarian, the music, art, and PE teachers and I all ate lunch at the same time and we had the best conversations. Since we hardly had half an hour, we actually enjoyed our food and each other.
    We need more of that.
    Just like we need more lingering visits with God. No TV in the background, No cell phone nearby. Just Him and us,
    Thanks for the reminder.
    Love ya

    • You’re exactly right, Anna. That’s what dawned on me when our time was over…why aren’t we doing this more often?????? And I love your parallel to time with God–which means shutting off technology and just being real with Him.

      Love you. Loved your comment, and I adore your new pictures!!

  2. Gina says:

    Have you noticed we always say, “We should get together more often than just funerals?” and yet, we rarely do. I felt so guilty when I planned a large 40th birthday party for MYSELF….but it brought my mom and dad and grandmother and many other family and friends together for a time where we could laugh. I look back on the pictures from that party…and think, that was the last time I saw mom where she was still healthy (before she passed away) If I hadn’t been “selfish” and thrown that party, I wouldn’t have those memories. The same holds true for my second wedding. I had such a large first wedding, I didn’t feel like I should do much for a second wedding. But, I still had an outdoor wedding with all my family and friends invited…and now, almost ten years later, I look back at the pictures and see so many family who are no longer with us. If I hadn’t had the small ceremony, we wouldn’t have the memories of time with our loved ones. Take the time to celebrate life!

    • Gina, why am I tearing up at your precious response? You’re absolutely right. I’m soooooo glad you “colored out of the lines” and threw your own birthday party. Sounds like we should probably live like that–celebrating every bit of life we can.

      Good for you for having your lovely outdoor wedding. I can just imagine it. 🙂 🙂

      Thanks for writing and for reminding me of the Truth I’ve just discovered. Finally!!!!

  3. Patricia Martin says:

    Happy Birthday to Marion and Jen!!!!!! You all looked so pretty and what a beautiful plantation style restaurant to eat at. It looks like something out of a storybook and the big swan out front just adds to the effect. I hope you are all staying cool and having fun in the sun! Sending blessings your way!

    • I know, I know, Patricia. It was Simply Gorgeous. If you’re ever in the Atlanta area, you should go. Simple and so ladylike and elegant. 🙂

      Thank you, my friend, for letting me know you’re reading. XOXOXOXO

      Enjoy the rest of your summer~~

  4. Kim says:

    This was great. A week and a half ago, I said similar words. Why do we wait for reasons like this to get together? My next door neighbors were moving to California. Our family and another threw a going away party. We had a such a great time. We all had gotten to know one another over the course of the last 8 years. They will be missed! But, the memories we shared that night, as well as over the years, we will treasure in our hearts forever.

    btw – I always fall on the reason for Not doing such things, because hospitality is Not one of my gifts! But, I realized that for me, doing last min. brings less stress. No time for it! Just do what has to be done!

    And, Lol! I too hate to shop! Except for groceries. Then I get to be creative. And I love food and eating.

    • We’d have so much fun together, Kim, because I love to cook–which means I love buying food too! Every word you wrote makes ma nod my head. I totally agree!

      All those silly little excuses we come up with… Crazy!

      I’m so glad you threw that party. We should all (everyone who reads this blog) plan to do something wild–like throw a party a month! 🙂

      • Kim says:

        I was in you and your mothers neck of the woods yesterday. My husbands best friend since 6th grades father passed away. He was 81. Service in Loganville and burial in Watkinsville. (We live in McDonough.) We had an amazing! 35 car funeral procession for the 40 min! drive. Police from both Walton and Oconee counties aided the way. The number of cars that stopped as we went by showing respect…Wow. We then all went out to eat. The entire afternoon/evening was peppered with people saying we need to do this more often but for happier reasons. We eventually landed at the best friends house for several more hours of sharing/reminiscing/catching up. The day was a positive soul lifting experience.

        • Well, how neat is that, Kim! You were amazingly close to me. 🙂

          I know–I love how cars slow down for a funeral. Always, always makes me tear up.

          And I’m so glad you ended up at your BFF’s house and had time to do exactly what this post is talking about! xoxoxoxox Nothing better!

  5. Eileen says:

    What a beautiful place to enjoy a birthday luncheon! Most of my family is spread out across the country. My Mom and I live on opposite coasts. So, we have a phone visit every Sunday for about 2 1/2 hours. It doesn’t make up for face to face visits but we still laugh, share news, reminisce and when our calls end, we too walk away with sweet memories. Time waits for no one. We must take the time were given and make those special memories to carry with us whenever we can.

    Eileen xxxooo

    • Ohhhhhhhh, Eileen. I love that! You and your mom have a phone date every Sunday. Can you do “facetime” on your phone? That’s so special.

      Having lunch with my family reminded me of how precious they all are, AND how precious my other friends are. Nothing more special that spending time with the ones we love. Even if it’s on the phone.

  6. Happy Birthday to you lovely ladies! I’m so jealous, I admit. My bridesmaids’ luncheon was at the Swan Coach House many many years ago. I’m happy to see it’s as special now as it was then. How nice that you all could share special time together like that! Tell your mom she looks very stylish in her black and white. Wish I could see the yellow shoes!

    • Ohhhhhhhhhh, Marilyn, so you know about the Swan Coach House! Isn’t it just wonderful? I’ve been once before and I don’t think anything has changed.

      I’ll pass along the message to Mother. Her yellow shoes–I’d have NEVER known to wear yellow but, as usual, she was right. The woman knows fashion!


  7. Ruth says:

    Just what I needed today! I got transported away to a beautiful place with beautiful people! And LOVE that you gave out the recipe for your sister’s chicken salad. I think I will make that for supper tonight. I love it with grapes. Yum!!! I wanted to see your mom’s yellow shoes, though. I just recently got a pair of orange sandals, but have not been brave enough to wear them yet. And I found out that spur of the moment get-togethers are much more fun, cause I don’t have the stress of trying to have everything perfect. Thanks for the reminder to enjoy today with our loved ones. Love you Julie!

    • Ruth, I want to make Jennifer’s chicken salad too. It’s such a nice thing to have ready, isn’t it?

      I should’ve taken a pic of Mother’s shoes–next time I go to her house, I’ll have her put them on just so I can show you. 🙂

      Wow–orange sandals! I bet they’re incredible. Don’t let summer slip by without wearing them. Maybe Mother’s yellow shoes will give you courage to put them on.

      Love you right back. Thanks for writing, my friend.

      • Ruth says:

        Lol! I promise I will wear the orange sandals sometime soon. You mentioning your mom’s yellow shoes made me think about them & do share that picture. And just to let you know, I bought a pair of RED 4″ high heels (on sale for 4.00) – that I plan to wear on my date with the mammogram machine on Monday. A friend that is the same height as I am, thinks the reason we hate those mammograms so much, is that we are too short for that machine! Now only the technician, the mammogram machine & I will see them, but they will bring some humor to the day.

        Jennifer’s chicken salad – it was so good!!!

        • Ruth! I love it! You must send me a picture of you in your new heels!!!! I love it–you’re wearing them to your mammo. amaaaaaazing!

          I had my mammo last week and the x-ray tech told me I didn’t have to stand on my tippy toes when I couldn’t reach the machine. 🙂

          You must send me a picture. I could probably get a blog out of it–at least a huge life lesson.

          So glad Jen’s chicken salad was good. I bought celery last night to make it today!


          • Ruth says:

            Ok, will send you a picture of the shoes tomorrow. They are actually a half size too big, as they didn’t have them in my size I figured for the short times I will be wearing them, it won’t matter. From the changing room to the x-ray room!

  8. There’s something about a treat at a fancy place that just gets my little ‘ole lady heart beating. It’s the looking nice part (better than blue jeans and a t-shirt); it’s the eating on china part (better than ceramic at home); it’s the laughing and sharing and grinning at each other part (better than work and paying bills and duties). So should we do it more often? Definitely so. I used to think I was being a bit selfish to take time (and money) to travel all the way to Wisconsin for a visit with Mom and all the family. But boy, am I glad I did now that she is gone and the good thing is, I still go there and we still have our family reunions and now I’m the oldest of the bunch. Funny. I work hard so I have the funds to take the trip each year and I savor the memories of our laughter and sharing and especially the warm hugs. Life can be short. Live it up. That’s what I say. And thanks for the reminder, Julie, about the memories. ; o )

    • That’s exactly how I felt, B.J.–We were all dressed up. Which felt so nice.

      I’m sooooo glad you spent time with your mom…I know it must feel so good down in your heart that you did.

      And I love hearing about your family reunions. You’re absolutely right. “Life can be short.” Even if we live to be 100….

      Love you.

  9. marci says:

    Oh what a wonderful memory 3 generations of women in your family made! How nice that you could do that and had such a nice place to all get together. I take joy in your joy!

    I have lots on my to do list today, but had to check in here long enough to see what you had posted!
    I am so glad I did. It has given me a smile before I run errands… I always have my spirit lifted when I read your post, so I thank you for that. The Chicken Salad looks like it would really be good, and I want to try it. I am going to try to make some adjustments to it when my daughter comes in- as I think it is something she could eat with a minor tweeking because of her allergies.

    I laughted when I read about your mom and shoes! Oh what memories that brought back. Now it’s put on my Reboks and go– but there was a time when shoes were the thing! I am glad your mom still enjoys shoes.

    Happy bithday! Happy birthday! to Marion and Jen!

    God Bless,

    • Marci, you made MY just knowing that you had tons to do, and you stopped to read my post.

      Let me know if the chicken salad works. I’m telling you–I’d forgotten how good it is. I’m sure the sour cream isn’t necessary. Hope the mayo isn’t a problem.

      Hope you had a good day running around in your Reboks!

      So much love to you and yours.

  10. Lisa Granholm says:

    This reminds me that I am blessed beyond compare to have not only a close, loving family, but a group of HS/college friends who have kept in touch for more than 30 years, some close to 40! We’ve made it a point over the years, as couples have gotten married, had children, parents passed, and now grandchildren coming along, to stay in touch. It’s the one thing that I love about the Internet and FB…it keeps those close to me even closer in spirit. Along with three other classmates, I completely planned our 30th HS reunion remotely. I was here in Atlanta, one girl at home in SC, one in Illinois and one in Highlands, NC. And it came off beautifully! The same happened when a year later our small group planned a 30-year reuion at a cabin in the mountains. What a wonderful time we had! And between those planned, big reunions there are the Clemson football games that we always meet up at somehow…it’s always great to be “at home” where we all came together in a very special way.

    Last year one of my friends’ daughters came over to our tailgate marathon for the Clemson-FSU game. She had grown up knowing all of us and hearing her dad and his brother reminisce about all our college escapades. She was a freshman in college last year. Later on that fall she asked her dad, “Dad when will I find MY group? I want a group like yours!” When he told us all this it really brought home that I have something special that not a lot of people can say they have. I wouldn’t trade this group of friends and my family for anything. God blessed me with them intentionally, of that I am sure, and I intend to keep them around as long as possible. Thanks for the reminder Julie!!!

    • Lisa, you’re exactly right. Having a “group” is such a blessing–such a gift from God. Yes, it takes effort, but ohhhhhh boy, is it worth it. Bet I’d love your group. 🙂 🙂

      Just to know that our “group” really cares about our births, deaths, and even little everyday happenings in our lives. Worth more than gold.

      Thank you. This is just what I’m talking about.

  11. You are so lovely, as is your beautiful Mama!

  12. Sue says:

    What a lovely day you all had! It makes me very lonely for my Mother in Buford.
    She would love the Swan Coach House as it would be just her “cup of tea”!

    Love to you Julie

    • Ohhhh, Sue. When you come this way, you simply must go to the Swan Coach House. It’s not too far from Buford. And your mother would love it–so would you.

      Great big hugs to you from Georgia. You’re on my heart~~~~xoxoxo

  13. Brenda Osborne says:

    Thank you for posting the story and pictures of your luncheon! I really enjoyed it!
    It is so nice for a group of ladies, family or friends getting together to share a special meal and share stories and laughter. Dressing up makes the event even more special~ The Swan House sounds like the ideal setting.
    We must not take anything for granted so enjoy these special times with the people you love!
    Julie, you have a beautiful family~

    • Brenda, I bet you’ve been to the Swan House. Carolyn Garmon has. She was telling me last night how much she loves it.

      Thank you, thank you for writing. You’re right. There was something so special about dressing up a little bit and just acting all ladylike–even though we were being so silly at the same time.


  14. Kathryn Richardson says:

    What a handsome group of family! Sounds like you had so much fun. I agree, people don’t get together like they used to. Our world seems to be going too fast…I don’t know if it’s all the electronics now days or people are just too busy. Our family used to get together for all holidays and birthdays, but, since my husband and in-laws, and, my own parents are all deceased, it just doesn’t happen anymore. Too many extended families. Anyway, I’m glad to see you all enjoying yourselves.

    • Kathryn, sitting there in my sis’s house that’s what hit me. THIS MATTERS. Why aren’t we doing it more? And it’s not the same to just text, is it?

      So much love to you today. Hope it’s a beautiful day for you.

  15. Sandra Walker says:

    Love this one!!! Being a native Atlantan, love the Swan House! Been there a few times – the last being my daughter’s bridesmaid luncheon given by her “Aunt” Carolyn 11 years ago. Must get there soon.
    But my daughter lives in SC and now my mother is gone, so I don’t know when that might happen. Can always dream! Looked for the the yellow shoes, too, being a shoe person!

    • So you know the Swan House, Sandra?!!! Wow! And I noticed you call it the Swan House (instead of Swan Coach House) just like we do. 🙂

      I know–I have to go to Mother’s, have her play dress-up for me, and put on the entire outfit–including the shoes. Hmmmmm that gives me a wonderful blog idea. 🙂 🙂 Thank you, my friend!

      Hoping you get to return to the Swan House soon. I bet nothing’s changed.


  16. Sweet Julie- from porch parties, to walks, spending time with your mom, to having lunch at the Swan- all these things tell us- YOU are a woman who cultivates and cares for the relationships in your life! Thank you for sharing the sweetness of time well spent with our loved ones! That is where the “magic” happens. I know it takes a ton of planning on my part to keep our big bunch connecting regularly- but the treasure is immeasurable! hugs and blessings sweet friend!

    • Ohhhhhhhhhhhh, Cindy. How your words touched my heart. Thank you, my friend.

      You’re exactly right. That is where the magic happens…and sometimes we forget. Your get-togethers look amazing. Makes we wish I was a Barclay! xoxo

      Thank you so much.

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