Monday, December 24, 2012

It's Christmas Eve!

I can't believe it's here already!  I love the anticipation almost as much as the actual day of Christmas.  All the parties with friends are so much fun, and I think the anticipation builds with each one.  Then things can get so busy leading up to the Big Day, and then two or three days beforehand, everyone is home with no place that they have to be, and things start to slow down.  Those days are so special to me!  So that's where I find myself right now.  It's a rainy day and there's a living room full of asleep kids, remnants of a last-minute sleepover.  Gifts are wrapped, and all that's left to do today is cook for our Christmas Eve meal.  Last year's menu was quite tasty, so I'm going to do a repeat.  This year my father-in-law and mom, dad, and aunt will be joining us. 

I am so thankful for this time of year, and as I sit here listening to Fox News in the background, hearing people debate over whether it is okay to say Merry Christmas or not, I find myself even more thankful.  Thankful that there is no question in my heart and mind about Who this day is about.  My Savior.  Incarnate God, coming to earth as a baby in the most humble of circumstances.  As someone said on Twitter earlier, He did not come because of our love for Him but because of our rebellion against Him.  He loved us so much that He came to save those who would be saved!  What great love!!  So, even though there are so many in rebellion against Him even now, I am humbled and, yes, I'm going to say it again, THANKFUL that He opened my heart to this truth and drew me to Himself and clothed me in His righteousness ~ something I could have never accomplished on my own.  And to that I say, Thank you, Jesus.  Thank you so much for coming and rescuing me!

John 1:14 > And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 

What a wonderful truth that fills my heart with joy! 

Now, before I head upstairs and get this day officially started, I'll post some pics from the past month.

Cari's Home Ec class hosted a Formal Dinner for their final exam.  They were allowed to invite one guest, and she invited my mom.  They had a good time and said the Italian-themed meal tasted amazing.


 Here's a picture I caught of the dessert table before I headed out to spend the afternoon with Matthew and Amelia at Chick-Fil-A!


And of course, I can't have a post without mentioning Madison and her sports, can I?  In softball, she was chosen as a first-team player (third base) for the entire region and for all-area, she was chosen second-team.  This was quite a nice surprise for her, and we're very proud of what she has accomplished.

Now we're into basketball season, and at the last game she injured her ankle.  We were afraid the season would be over, but it was just a sprain, and she says she's up to playing the Christmas Tournament this week.





And, of course, here's one of my favorite aspects of Christmas!  Party with the girls at Bonnie's house!  Bonnie got us all matching T-shirts.  We can't wait to go somewhere together and wear them!  And they were hand delivered by Santa Claus (a.k.a. our good friend, Chad).




Bonnie, along with her brother who brought his guitar, and a friend of theirs sang Christmas songs to us.  I caught a shot of Bonnie while she was singing.  Wish you could hear pictures!


Time for Dirty Santa!



Donna is always twirling her hair ~ here's the proof  .:>)


Here's Anslea opening the lengthy gift that I brought.  In the spirit of Oprah's Favorite Things, I did Rhonda's Favorite Things.  Each gift had a message and was individually wrapped, so it took a while to get through.  Thankfully, we weren't in a hurry!  Fun, fun times.  It seems like that night passed in about five minutes!


And this is a random shot I caught of Amelia and Matthew outside with Annabelle.  Never a dull moment with these two!  Annabelle would definitely agree.


Decorating gingerbread houses ~~




Cari's drama class performed their Christmas play inside the atrium at the local hospital.  She was the grumpy candy cane.  She really enjoys this class and had a great time with this play.  They all did a great job!





That's it for now and the only thing left to say is Merry Christmas Eve!

Friday, November 30, 2012

A New Potato Soup Recipe

I've tried several potato soup recipes over the years and rarely have I found a bad one, and last night was no exception.  Once again, no leftovers, which means it might be a keeper.

This winner was once again found on Pinterest:  Cheesy Potato Soup

Now, I'm hoping for some success next week as I change things up a bit.  I'm going to be attempting a detox cleanse using juicing and clean foods.  I just don't seem to have as much energy as I should have, and here lately, I feel like my head is stuck in the clouds - so please forgive any blog posts that may have not made much sense. ;)  They made sense in my head but not sure if I was able to bring that to the computer screen.

Now the rest of my family, to my knowledge, will not be attempting this detox/cleanse with me, so I've had to come up with some recipes that will work for everyone.  Most of these will be new and nothing like we're used to eating, but they do sound tasty. I'll let you know how it all works out.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

New {Successful} Recipes

I've recently been trying to browse through Pinterest when I have a little spare time, searching for new recipes.  This week was definitely successful.  Even my pickiest eaters enjoyed these dishes. I try to use as many fresh organic ingredients as possible, so I generally try to plan my meals around what is on sale while sometimes splurging for our favorites, but I also resort to regular fruits and vegs on a weekly basis as well to help keep the budget intact.  So, here's what I've been able to come up with this week.

On Monday, we sort of had a continuation of Thanksgiving.  The drawback of not hosting Thanksgiving at your home is that there are no leftovers to enjoy afterwards, and we realized we had not quite reached that "I'm sick of dressing, sweet potatoes, etc." stage.  So on Monday, I decided to try a new dressing recipe that my father-in-law had mentioned to me.  It's the Luby's Cornbread Dressing, and although it is very similar to the dressing recipe my grandmother wrote out for me many years ago, it's ingredients varied slightly, and I thought it was worth a try.  And I was correct.  This was very good dressing, although next time I might leave out a bit of the cornbread as I like my dressing a little less "stiff."

Here's the recipe I found on Food.com.

Luby's Cornbread Dressing
4 cups cornbread, crumbled (made from your favorite recipe)
2 1/4 cups white bread, torn into 1 inch pieces (use day old or stale bread)
2 1/2 cups chicken broth (I think I used closer to 4 cups)
1 1/2 cups celery, minced
3/4 cup onion, finely minced
1/4 cup butter, melted
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
3/4 teaspoon seasoning salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
3 extra large eggs



In large bowl, combine breads and broth; mix well and let stand for 15 minutes. Preheat oven to 375°F and lightly spray or grease a 2-quart casserole dish. Add celery, onion, butter, oil, sage, seasoned salt, and pepper to bread mixture. (I cooked the onion in the butter so it would not be crunchy in the dressing before adding it to the mixture - would have done the same with celery had I used it.)  Toss lightly to coat evenly. In small bowl, beat eggs until foamy. Fold into bread mixture. Transfer to prepared casserole dish. Bake 50 to 65 minutes or until top is golden brown.
Along with this, we had sweet potato casserole with which I used some of the brightest orange yams I have ever seen that I picked up at Ingles.  They were organic, on sale, and full of flavor.  We also had homemade mac & cheese, and organic green beans.  We ate like it was Thanksgiving all over again and enjoyed leftovers for lunch yesterday. 

I forgot to mention that for the dressing, I also added some chicken to the ingredients.  I had purchased a whole organic chicken (on sale!) and had cooked it in the crock pot earlier.  I used half for the dressing recipe and half for the recipe below.

This is a Pinterest pin that led me to "The Girl Who Ate Everything" blog where I discovered this wonderful recipe.  We were scraping the bottom of the bowl with this one last night.  Amelia ate three plates of it, and Madison and Cari liked it as well.  Madison even hid some away to take for her lunch today! (Brad liked it, but for some reason he has a strange opposition to anything with a white sauce, but we're working on that.)  I served it over bow tie pasta as shown in the picture, and that cute stuff sealed the deal.  Also added some buttered, toasted French bread, and this meal was complete.  Yeah, I got off easy in the cooking department yesterday.

Here is this ridiculously easy, tasty recipe:

Crockpot Italian Chicken
4 chicken breasts
1 packet dry Zesty Italian dressing (Regular is fine but I like zesty better. Sometimes I use a packet and a half.)
1 (8 oz) package cream cheese, softened
1-2 cans cream of chicken soup (depending how cream cheesy you want it) (I used the Campbell's Healthy Request brand, and this worked great.)


Instructions:
Place the chicken in a crockpot and sprinkle Italian dressing over it. Combine cream cheese and cream of chicken soup in a small pot over low heat and pour over chicken. Cook on low in the crockpot for at least 4 hours. You can leave it in there all day.  Once chicken is done you can leave the chicken breasts whole, cube it, or even shred it. I always cut the breasts into tenderloin size strips.

Once you have cut up the chicken, throw it back in the crockpot and stir into the sauce. If you feel the sauce is too thick you can thin it to your preferred consistency with a little milk. Serve over pasta or rice.

I hope you will enjoy these recipes as well, and I'll be sharing some other great Pinterest finds soon!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This week has been so nice!  Even Monday. :>D   Of course, it was definitely not a typical Monday, so it's really not fair to compare it to the others.

(In case you were wondering how I did handle that situation last Monday, I did make the rooms go back to the way they were.  I didn't get angry, but there was definitely frustration and irritation in my "face" and voice.  I realize I could have gotten the same task accomplished without the drama involved and could have kept the joy intact.  At the time, I looked at it as a huge inconvenience to me, a big mess up of my "happy day."  So, that's why I see it as a gift now because I definitely learned something good from it.)

Amelia had her first basketball practice of her life on Monday evening.  She is taking this seriously and having some fun with it, too!  Brad went with her and said she did well, and she came home afterwards intent on practicing what the coach had told them to practice.

On Tuesday, Madison had her first basketball game of the season.  It was actually a scrimmage game but cheerleaders were there, so that made it seem real.  LOL   They won 44-6.  This team was definitely not the type of team we'll be seeing throughout the year, but what an awesome way to start the season!  Madison is a captain for the team this year, so we're off to a good start, and I'm hoping for a better season this time around.

Yesterday, I didn't have much to do, and although the past few years I've waited until after Thanksgiving to start decorating for Christmas, I just couldn't help myself.  I didn't do anything on the inside, but our outside is dressed up for the holiday!

Today, we'll be enjoying Thanksgiving at my sister's house.  She gave instructions to not bring anything but the family, so that's why I'm sitting here leisurely updating the blog while an untold number of women (and men) are working away in the kitchen.  Now that's something to be thankful for.  I do enjoy hosting Thanksgiving, but I also enjoy taking turns. ;)

Tonight, I think I'm going to brave the Black Friday sale at Belk at midnight.  I usually do my Black Friday shopping on-line, but $20 boots are too much to resist.  I realize they may be gone by the time I get to them, but it's a risk I guess I'll be willing to take.

So there's an update from my week.  I hope your week has been nice as well, and may you have a Happy, Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Why I Like Tuesdays

Why do I like Tuesdays?  Because recently, Mondays have been hard days, and it's been good to see them go.  Why?  I'm not really sure.  I think it's multifactorial.

Maybe it's the leftover chaos from the weekend?  Proof of activity scattered about.  Going from two days of no structured assignments to a day of checklists and not-as-fun to-dos?

Maybe because one child gets to sleep in (because of no school on Mondays in our local system), and the rest must carry on as usual?

Maybe because doctors sometimes like to catch up their dictation on the weekend, and transcriptionist mom has to work a little late to keep up?

The answer may be a mixture of all of the above - or the answer could be found below.

Although, the past couple of Mondays have been a little better time-wise and that has helped.  With football season coming to an end, I suddenly gained back three hours - no cheerleading practice.

Then Monday of this week, I thought things were really looking up.

Everyone got up early and did their school work well.  A refreshing moment.

But then....while one child is finishing school downstairs, another child near the top of the birth order decides mom needs a surprise.

The usual fresh-baked cookies or surprise lunch?  No.

How hands and feet worked so fast in so little time, I'll never know.  How I missed the noise of what was happening, I'll never know.

Someone decided rooms needed to be changed up.  Little brother needed to room with little sister.

I received a warning from another and came upstairs in time to see an almost completed process - beds moved, pictures taken off walls, clothes transferred.

Wanted to surprise mom?  Not sure.  Knew mom would say "no" so called it a "surprise" instead?  Yeah, probably.  Speechless.  So many details that were not considered when the child ran with this idea........


I'm continuing to slowly read through One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp.  I'm taking my time with this, using it like a daily devotion, hoping the Biblical truths of what I'm reading will seek in deep.

While reading Tuesday morning, day following this fiasco, I happened to be in the chapter where she was experiencing a similar episode with her children - one of those where you're not quite certain what to do.

Here's what I found:

"My own wild desire to protect my joy at all costs is the exact force that kills my joy."  Going back and reading my above excuses for "bad Mondays," I can't help but think of those italicized words I just typed - and the ones that follow.

"Dare I ask what I think I deserve? A life of material comfort? A life free of all trials, all hardship, all suffering? A life with no discomfort, no inconveniences? Are there times that a sense of entitlement - expectations - is what inflates self, detonates anger, offends God, extinguishes joy?"

"And what do I really deserve? Thankfully, God never gives what is deserved, but instead, God graciously, passionately offers gifts, our bodies, our time, our very lives.  God does not give rights but imparts responsibilities - response-abilities- inviting us to respond to His love-gifts.  And I know and can feel it tight: I'm responding miserably to the gift of this moment.  In fact, I'm refusing it.  Proudly refusing to accept this moment, dismissing it as no gift at all, I refuse God.  I reject God.  Why is this eucharisteo always so hard?"

And I, as well, have been refusing the gift of Mondays.  Even the great frustration of this Monday was a gift.  Did I receive it as such?  Absolutely not.  Did my joy remain in this event?  No.

Now I see it.  Every new Monday, every new day in fact, is a day filled with gifts for me to receive or reject.  My mulligan.  Times for joy to remain or for joy to be squashed beneath a load of selfishness.

"To follow Christ to the table of eucharisteo, the table of surrender that gives thanks for what is given - this is joy! True humility is self-smallness to the point of "blessed self-forgetfulness" and what could bring more happiness than emptying of self-will and being wholly immersed in the will of God for this moment

>>>>>>>>>> Joy - it's always obedience."

Philippians 2:8 ESV > And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

*(All words in italics taken from One Thousand Gifts.)

**Just read this blog post, and I think it fits well with my post ~ she gives real-life examples of some of these "gifts." I like her responses. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Past Few Weeks

Our  Texas Trip in October ~

 ^First stop for the best Mexican food!




Texas vs. Baylor Football Game!  This was my first college football game experience, and it was a lot of fun.

But first, if we ever end up in Austin, we can't leave until we've experienced some County Line BBQ!

Pawpaw and Cari looking over the menu.....


I ordered the beef brisket tacos.  They were A.MAZ.ING! I would love one of those right now!

  

Brad and Madison shared this humongous yummy mess.  It was served on what looked like a turkey platter, and yes, it was as big as it looks!


We then headed over to the University of Texas to line up to see the football team arrive.


It was pretty neat to see Mack Brown and Manny Diaz in person!  Not to mention Case McCoy, Jaxon Shipley, and David Ash.  (A friend of Brad's that lives in Texas was meeting us there, and he was standing on the opposite side of the lineup.  Apparently he was standing next to Mrs. McCoy (as in Colt and Case's mom), and Case and Jaxon leaned over and gave her a hug when they walked by.  That would have been fun to see. We were obviously standing on the wrong side!)



The kids love going to Sharon's house - a long time family friend.  She has seven dogs, which of course made dog lover Amelia's day.  Cari loves the horses, and Matthew just enjoyed taking it all in. (Madison had to fly home early for school.)  I love it there, too.  It just seems to be everything that Texas should be.




 Dinner wasn't ready, but Matthew needed to ring the bell anyway.


It would appear we only go to Texas to eat, and that may actually be part of the reason, ;D, but we just can't find this sort of cuisine in Georgia, so we have to take advantage of it while we can.  Here we are at Joe T. Garcia's - a famous family style Mexican Restaurant in Ft. Worth.  We always sit outside in the beautiful gardens, and it makes me want to go home and do some yard work.

At least 2 of the 5 people below were ready for this picture!



A couple of days after we returned home, we enjoyed a very, very cold family (and friends) fun day at church ~ compliments of Luther Ranch





Then a few days later, it was Halloween!

Painting pumpkins with friends >


My first try at face painting.  Yay for stencils!

Cari's friend Melissa did a great job doing Matthew's spiderman face.

When we arrived in town, we met up with some friends.







Madison had her softball sports banquet the first weekend of November.  She received the offensive player of the year award.  (Actually, the plaque read "Most Offensive Player."  I thought that was kind of funny ~ probably could have been worded a little differently, but we definitely got the point!) lol


Later in the week, caught a cute shot of Amelia getting a goodnight hug from her BDF (best dog friend)!



Then last week, we celebrated Matthew's 4th birthday!  It was more like a week-long celebration, as birthdays usually are around here.  He had a great day with friends and then later went with them to see Veggie Tales live.  (He slept through half of it but still said he had a good time.)  When he got back home, I had his requested McDonald's waiting on him, and then he got to open some more gifts. Fun!









And lastly, Madison's fall season of travel ball came to an end this weekend.  They won their tournament ~ no better way to end the season!





The three HC girls ~ 


Such wonderful captured memories and many, many blessings ~ feeling very thankful.  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

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