Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Homemade Christmas Gift

I can actually say that I am 99% done with my Christmas shopping! I have only one more person to shop for (Henry, who should be fun and easy to shop for), and for the record, this is way better than I've ever done in the past, so I'm quite proud of my self.

On the other hand, I also did most of Christmas shopping on-line this year, so whether or not people actually get their Christmas gifts on time is another story. Things are ordered (my part done, thank you), but maybe not shipped in time.

However, I also did a fun homemade Christmas gift/craft for the women Paul works with at the office. There are 14 assistants, hygienists, and office staff that he wanted to get something for, so I offered to make something. Seeing as it is the holidays and kind of getting a bit chiller at night, we thought about making hot cocoa jars.

I think they turned out pretty cute!

Merry Christmas and
God Bless!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Decorating for Christmas

Paul and I have been looking forward to buying and settling into our own house for many, many reasons, for many, many years.

One of which is Christmas! Every house we walked through, one of the criteria we looked for was a good spot for a Christmas tree and decoratable house. There had to be a good corner, or a good window, or a really good spot for a real tree. This house passed the test, and we couldn't wait to start decorating.

I do have one rule though - no decorating before Thanksgiving. One holiday at a time, since each one is special and has a purpose. So, we got back from Thanksgiving on Saturday, and on Sunday we started putting up the decorations!

Paul planned and drew diagrams of what we were going to do. He mostly handled the outside, and I handled the inside. George and Leah offered to help, so they came over and offered suggestions and helping hands.

We didn't get our tree right away because it was still November and we didn't want it to dry out too soon. I asked some of the ladies at work if there were any good tree farms in Inman, and Paul asked around his office as well. We both heard about Grambling Farms, and on the 1st, went to pick out our first real tree! We got there and after introducing ourselves to the owner, found out that his wife, daughter, and daughter-in-law all work in District 1, same as I do, and he's even a member of the Board! He was a really nice true southern gentleman, and after talking about education for about 20 minutes, we picked out our tree, loaded it on top of the Jeep, and headed home! We put 400 clear lights and a variety of ornaments from childhood to present on it, and then sat by the fire to enjoy an evening by our first real Christmas tree! Nothing smells more like Christmas than a fresh cut tree.

We also bought some garland for the mantel and the front door, plus more lights. We hung the stockings my grandmother Manning needle pointed for us on the mantel. She hand made a stocking for everyone in my family! Growing up we would go to her house for Christmas and over the years, the stockings would gradually take over her fireplace mantel as our family grew. I think at one Christmas we had over 20 stockings! Paul got his when we got married. :) I hang our stockings with pride from our mantel. 

This little lady, who I have yet to name because I name everything, was a birthday gift from George and Leah this year! She stands with me in the kitchen as we cook and bake together! I can just imagine her singing a Christmas carol - doesn't she look like she's singing?

This is our snowman welcoming committee at the front door, ready to greet anyone who wants to stops by. 

On our book shelves in the family room, I set out some collections that we had. This is Paul's nativity that his mom painted for him. It's so sweet and precious.

And this is a collection of "Santa's from Around the World" - I don't remember off the top of my head which ones we have, but I got them from my grandmother and I think they're neat!

Much to my surprise and delight, my aunt sent me this AMAZING little village set!! It has about a bagillion little teeny tiny pieces, all of which came wrapped and stored in boxes labeled with numbers. She told me it had a lot of pieces, but I didn't realize how many. Fortunately, we had just bought this oak desk, and the village fits perfectly on it! I loved opening each box and seeing the houses, or the people, or the animals, or the small details that add something special. Paul helped set it up with me, and we had fun arranging who went where and next to which house.

The outside of the house was all Paul! He did a fantastic job!
I need to get a picture of the house and the tree lit up at night. But for now, here is what it looks like decorated. He put wreaths with bows on each window, little trees on either side of the front door, garland and lights framing door, and lights on the two bushes by the stairs. With the spotlights on it at night, it looks really beautiful. The best part of decorating the outside? I got to walk out on the roof to first clean the windows and then to hang the wreathes. I live on the wild side! :)

I saw this wreath cranberry wreath and fell in love with it. It's hanging on the front door, and adds a beautiful pop of color.

It has been a joy and blessing to decorate our house. Unwrapping old decoration, opening passed down collections, and adding new additions made this time very special for us.
However, Christmas is more than lights and trees and figurines. It's about the birth of our Lord and Savior. And we pray every night as we do our advent devotions that we will always keep that in our minds and not be carried away with the commercialism of the holiday.

Merry Christmas, and
God Bless

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Thanksgiving: Part 1 - The meal

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I know I'm a late, but better late than never, right?! I was having problems with storage and pictures. But I got it all figured out for now, at least.

I don't think I could begin to list all that I am thankful for this year. The LORD is truly Good, and I am so blessed in so many ways. I am beyond grateful for this life that He has given me. 

This Thanksgiving we spent in Charleston with my family. Hanna drove to our house late Tuesday night, and we caravaned down to Charleston Wednesday morning. Meredith and David had beat us there, so we had a wonderful welcome committee! 

Wednesday was spent catching up, playing a game of Settlers of Catan, going for walks, and preparing for Thanksgiving dinner. 

Growing up, my family would drive from Atlanta to Cleveland to spend the holiday with my Mom's side of the family. We would have 30+ people at my grandfather's farm, and we would all cram into the small kitchen to cook. One of my favorite dishes was my grandmother's applesauce. I loved her homemade applesauce. And in honor of her, I have carried on her tradition of homemade applesauce for a number of Thanksgiving dinners. It still remains my favorite part of the meal, even though the recipe may have changed a little.

My Dad was gracious enough to drive over to Boone Hall to get me some fresh mountain apples - tons of various apples that you wouldn't find in a regular grocery store.

Chop them up into bite size pieces. I left the skins on about half of them because I think the skins add some flavor, not to mention some color.

Toss them into a big pot with some water while you finish chopping - this prevents browning. When you're done chopping, drain out most of the water - leave maybe an inch on the bottom. The apples will actually release their own juices during cooking so you don't have to start with a lot of water. 

Put the pot on the stove, let the water boil, and let it sit for a while. Cue the amazing aroma of cooking apples. Every once in a while, give it a nice stir.

When the water starts covering the apples, you have to drain it out. I used a measuring cup and just scooped it out. As you stir, some of the apples will start to smash.

Depending on how chunky you want the applesauce depends on how long you let it cook. I like my applesauce a little chunky, so I took it off just a short time after this. However, we got so excited about eating lunch that I forgot to take a picture of the bowl on the table. I can tell you though, it was amazing! No added sugar - only the natural sugars and flavors of the apples. AMAZING!! And great as left overs and chilled too!

This was my Mom's turkey. She spent all day brining, baking, and cooling it. Doesn't it look wonderful!

Hanna didn't want to wait to cut in to it!
 Me on the other hand, while it smelled wonderful, I still maintained my vegetarian status. But from what everyone says it was amazing! 
Many, many turkey sandwiches were made with leftovers. My brother in law David was the left over king, I think - he would put mashed potatoes, stuffing, turkey, gravy, cheese, and cranberry dressing on his sandwich! Seriously!

Through a good friend, my Mom met Mark. Mark was a chef at the Grove Park in years ago, and then had a chocolate shop downtown. Now he just cooks and bakes on the side, and provides meals for food banks. Anyways, Mark graciously baked us three AMAZING pies for Thanksgiving.

Apple - my favorite!

3 Nut - forget just pecan pie, this one had pecans, almonds, and walnuts!

Pumpkin - oh so light and fluffy!

SO GOOD! I sampled all three!

And a picture of the whole family!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Soup, Football and Boxes

I love fall! The leaves are turning colors, the air is crisp, and soup is on the stove! A week ago I made potato soup for Paul and me. Most recipes I found use a can of cream of chicken soup, or lots of milk or sour cream. If you know me at all, neither of those are in many of recipe books. However, I do follow some vegan blogs, and Peas and Thank You had this version of a lower carb, vegan baked potato soup. I decided to try it, and it turned out really good. It was thick and creamy still, but hopefully a little healthier.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

  • 1 T. olive oil or organic butter
  • 1 1/2 c. chopped onion (approx. 1 medium onion)
  • 5 c. cauliflower florets (approximately 1 lb.)
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 4 c. vegetable stock
  • 1 1/2 c. non-dairy (plain, unsweetened) or organic milk
  • 1 c. non-dairy or organic shredded cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garnishes: smoked paprika, additional cheese of choice, sliced green onions, non-dairy or organic sour cream
Place a large stock pot over medium-high heat and add oil or butter.  Add the onion and saute for a few minutes.  Add cauliflower, potato, salt and stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.  Set aside to cool slightly.
Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup.  Return the soup to the pot and add milk of your choice.  Bring to a low boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Add cheese and lower the heat, stirring until the cheese has melted.
Adjust seasoning to taste.  Serve immediately, passing desired garnishes at the table.

This is Paul's - we added sour cream, cheese, and bacon to his. This was the second batch of bacon. The first batch didn't make it to the bowl.

This is mine. I added oyster crackers and cheese to mine. No bacon. 

Definitely a repeat recipe. I had the left overs for dinner the following evening, and it was just as good, if not better.

On another note...

Way to go Tigers!
Clemson beat NC State 62-48. The scores were a little high, but a win is a win.

Still the best 25 seconds in college football.

And yet still...

Paul and I have been visiting churches in the area trying to find a new church home. We've tried two so far - both pretty different though. They're both small baptist churches, but one is a traditional southern church and one is a new contemporary baptist church. We started going to the Sunday School class at the traditional church because we know the teachers. Greg and Paige were our College Sunday School teachers at Taylor's First Baptist where we first met. They kinda helped push us together, and were there for us through dating, engagement, and wedding.

This was at our engagement party. Greg and Paige are on the left with us and our other SS teachers on the right. 

Anyway, the Sunday School class organized and planned a Thanksgiving Ministry of preparing and passing out boxes to local families. So last night, Paul and I went to help put all the boxes together. The class had a goal of making 80 boxes, the church had a goal of 130. Initially, they received 135 orders, and then within a weekend, and after already shopping, received 40 more! So we put together just about 135 Thanksgiving dinner boxes! We enjoyed the time and had fun meeting new people, serving God and the community.

A stack of boxes, pre- put together. 

Nothing beats an assembly line. 

Paul and I were charge of organizing the boxes in numerical order for passing out. Each person who ordered a box was given a number that matched a number on a box - that way when they come to pick it up, a "runner" can go retrieve the right one. The boxes didn't come to us in numerical order, so it was quite the task figuring out how to line them up. It was a good lesson on team work for us! :)

Here's the whole team who worked hard to put these boxes together. 

Other than that we're staying busy working. We've just bought all of our Christmas decorations and I can't wait to put them up! So lots of pictures will be coming AFTER Thanksgiving of our house decorated for Christmas.

God Bless!!

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Fall"ing for Kindergarten

Things are finally settling down around the house. Quick update:
  1. I'm done painting for now. Round 2 will begin in January, hopefully, with professionals taking care of what we can't do ourselves. 
  2. Living room furniture should be in December 1. Cross your fingers people - we would really like to have it by then!
  3. Paul is fighting a losing battle against the leaves. We knew we had a lot of trees, but these leaves are crazy. He does a great job clearing out the leaves, and a couple of hours later, there are more!
Now on to other fun things!!

Kindergarten is going great and we are learning all about fall and Thanksgiving. Technically, I'm only an assistant, but in the classroom, my lead teacher really considers me a Co-Teacher, which I love! We get along so well, and we work really well together. The kids are a mess, but I'm actually getting attached to quite a few of them (for those who don't know my teaching history, this hasn't ever really happened before).
Here are a few things we've been working on:

The kids colored in the tree, tore the paper "leaves", and then wrote the color words to make a poem. I got this idea from Anna.

We talked about apples, their life cycle, different ways to eat them, etc. Then I brought in a couple of apples, cut them in half horizontally so the "star" would appear, and we made apple stamps. The kids wrote a sentence to go with their stamps. 

We did turkey hand prints today to go with this sweet poem! The kids just think it's hilarious to paint their hands - they LOVE it! We'll add eyes and legs tomorrow to finish them.

In honor of Veteran's Day, we wrote thank you letters to veterans. We got everything from, "Thank you for saving us", to "Thank you for fighting for us", to "Thank you for killing the bad guys". And you can't see it real well, but I'm going to have to an art lesson on realistic colors again - we got some green and blue veterans here.

And finally - the highlight of my fall! I got a kidney table. For those of you who don't teach and may be thinking, "big deal, a table", let me reassure you - this is a big deal!! I was using one of the miniature, kindergartner size student tables as my small group table. It didn't work - at all!! So I asked my principal if I could just get a bigger table, and she asked if I wanted a kidney table. I said, YES! of course, but considering I'm only technically an assistant, I didn't want to assume I could get one. She said that she knew I was more of a co-teacher and that if I wanted a kidney table, she would order me one! It has made the biggest difference!! I can fit four kids around it for small groups, plus all our materials, plus extra room! It's the little things in life that makes us happy the most - isn't it!?


And finally, being the proud Tia Whitney that I am, I couldn't resist putting up a few pictures of my amazing nephew! Henry was a lion for Halloween, and is just ADORABLE!! I love this little guy so much!!

 Oh my gosh - my heart is melting! I love this picture!!

Happy Fall, Y'all!!

God Bless

Monday, November 5, 2012


Paul and I would like to congratulate Avery and Scott Krawczyk on their marriage this weekend! We were so glad to celebrate with them and to share in their wedding.

No peeking before the wedding. :)

 Cupcake wedding cake and the Bride and Groom's Champagne Glasses!

The girls! Me, Holly, Leah, and Anna

The boys!! Scott, Kevin, George, and Paul!

I'm generally a comfy-clothes type of girl, you know, sweats and t-shirts, but every once in a while I do enjoy dressing up. I had fun curling my hair, and wearing a fun dress, and doesn't Paul clean up nicely, too?

This has to be my favorite picture of the evening. True Clemson fans never miss a game. What would we do without modern technology and smart phones?

I love weddings.

God Bless

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ready for our first Halloween!

Paul and I have always lived in an apartment or a condo since we've been married, so we are SUPER excited about having trick-or-treaters this year! Well, I'm super excited, Paul is being a really good-sport about the whole thing! When we lived in Charleston, I loved going to my parent's house and passing out candy to the kids and seeing their costumes! Like always, there are some really creative costumes, really thrown-together-at-the-last-minute costumes, store bought, and also home-made. But nonetheless, I love seeing them all! And I can only imagine what Pinterest has done to the costume industry and creativity this year!!

We carved our pumpkin on Saturday with Paul's parents, and his sister, Anna. We carved the "R", Mr. Reid carved the Clemson tiger paw, and Anna carved an "N". I think we all did a pretty good job!

Being a teacher without my own room has it's benefits - like Halloween decorations that I can now use at home!

This is our latest piece of furniture - we bought it last weekend at this amazing antique mall in Landrum.
It's inauguration will be serving as a candy bowl perch!! With some more added decorations. :)

Paul stocked us up on candy. The previous owners told us to expect about 150 kids! Evidently they come by the van-loads to the neighborhood from all over Inman!

Come on over!!

Happy Halloween!!

God Bless!