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!