Monday, November 30, 2009

Decking the Halls

Saturday morning, after a big southern breakfast of eggs, grits and biscuits, we started decorating the house for Christmas.

First, the boys went out into the woods and selected just the right tree and cut it down and drug it into the house!

Well, actually, they went to the storage room and found the right box, and drug it into the house, and put the tree together! :) They did seem to experience a few challenges this year, but they persevered until they got the tree up and the lights working!

Then, Tiffany assumed her position of Chief Christmas Tree Decorator and Promoter of Christmas Cheer! This is a job at which she excels! She loves everything Christmas!!

First, she tried to set the mood by playing Bing Crosby's "White Christmas." We also decorated to the tunes of Josh Groban's Christmas CD.

Then, she made sure we had the appropriate refreshments, so everyone could munch on popcorn and peppermint bark and sip hot chocolate while decorating the tree!

Here, Hannah shows one of my tree ornaments that is 32 years old! :o When I was growing up, my Mom gave my sister and me a new Christmas ornament each year, so that we would have our own ornament collection when we got married and left home. I have tried to continue that tradition with my children, so they all have their own box of ornaments that they put on the tree each year.

I love this picture of Tiffany and Bethany taking a Candy Cane break!

And here is the finished tree! Thanks to the hard work of Tiffany and Hannah, and a little help from the rest of us, the tree was transformed into a thing of beauty!

When Joe got home from basketball practice, he started decorating the outside. He likes to do the garland and lights on the front porch.

At least, I thought he did! Maybe he just likes to hide outside so he can do some texting on Taylor's phone! ;)

Meanwhile, Tiffany turned her attention to the rest of the house, which she soon transformed into a winter wonderland!

For a number of years we quit hanging stockings, because of their connection with the whole Santa myth, but they are back due to popular demand! I enjoy filling them with small treats, and the children enjoy opening them on Christmas morning before they get to unwrap their larger gifts that are under the tree.

Here is a picture of our fireplace and mantle all decorated for Christmas.

And here is my Willow Tree Nativity Set, a Christmas gift from my Mom and Dad a couple years ago. Isn't it pretty?

Saturday night, we went outside to see how the outdoor decorations looked, and Tiffany, Hannah and Bethany posed with one of our angels in the yard! I'm looking hard, but I don't see their halos, do you?? :)

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights . . ." -- James 1:17.

Black Friday?

Do you take advantage of the Day After Thanksgiving Sales?

I love a good bargain, but I don't like competing with hordes of people to get one! And I'm certainly not going to start standing in line at 3:30 am in order to jockey for position, so I can fight for some highly coveted item! I really don't want anything that badly!

I was tempted to try to pick up some bargains later in the day . . . but there was just too much work to be done at home! While the girls and I tackled some projects inside, such as cooking and deboning the turkey carcass, cleaning out the freezers to make room for some beef we purchased, and putting things in order after our big Thanksgiving celebration, Alan put the boys to work in the yard, tackling many long-overdue tasks. I love to see the guys all working hard together! So, I had Hannah snap a few pictures for me:

What about you? What did you do on the Day after Thanksgiving??

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Does God Use Facebook?

Ever thought about that?

I do believe that God is sovereign, that He directs our paths, and rules and overrules in the affairs of men. So, I guess He does use Facebook when it suits His purposes. Although, He obviously doesn't need it! All things considered, I feel that He used Facebook in my life on Saturday . . . .

I am not a "faithful facebooker." I get on sporadically and read a few status updates, perhaps comment here and there, and if I can think of something to say, other than "I'm doing the same thing I did yesterday!" I update my status. Yesterday, an impromptu Facebook check proved to be providential! I discovered that our long-time friends, the Gilleys, would be ministering in a church just 45 minutes away from us! We haven't seen this dear family for several years, and we jumped at the chance to see them!

Rick preached on Hebrews 12:1-2, giving the most powerful presentation of all the Names of God from A to Z that you've ever heard, and the family sang several songs and played their musical instruments. They are extremely talented, but even more importantly, they love God and do all they do for His Glory! We have known them for fifteen years, and know that they are Real.

They sing hymns, Southern Gospel style songs, and even some "Gospel Grass!" You can hear them sing here.

Everything they sing is awesome, but nothing can compare to their moving rendition of The Hallelujah Chorus! WOW! When they sing that song, God must lend a few voices from the heavenlies, because it sounds like an entire choir singing it!! The Lord has truly blessed them with beautiful voices, as well as incredible family harmony, both while singing and while living out their message.

If you live in the southeast, you might want to check their ministry calendar and see if they will be at a church near you. If you appreciate the good old-fashioned gospel message and good old-fashioned gospel music, without the modern rock beat, I can assure you that you will be blessed by their ministry!!!

It was such a blessing to see my friend, Nancy!! Thank you God, for using Facebook to allow me to be Blessed and encouraged today!

Friday, November 27, 2009

A Perfect Thanksgiving

We had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year! Everyone agrees that it felt like one of our best Thanksgivings ever!

I think several factors contributed to the success of our celebration:

* An early start

* A break from school

* Many willing hands

* Delicious food

* Good fellowship

* Fun guests

A huge factor in a successful Thanksgiving celebration is getting an early start. I made my squash casserole about ten days ago, and put it in the freezer. Then, I purchased an extra turkey when they were on sale for 69 cents per pound and cooked it in my big stock pot, and froze the meat and the broth. I defrosted that broth and used it to make my gravy on Turkey Day. That was a huge success! I also worked all week preparing my side dishes, tackling something each day. Tiffany spent most of the day on Wednesday making the pies. Because everything but the turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy were prepared ahead of time, and our guests didn't arrive until early afternoon, we felt like we were not rushed or stressed on Thanksgiving Day.

I also took off the entire week from school, and kept the children busy with a multitude of jobs, both big and small, so that we gradually got the house all clean and company-ready. I must commend the children for being willing workers! That certainly contributed to getting the work done in a timely manner, as well as to having a pleasant, peaceful mommy! :)

Also, the Lord blessed the work of our hands this year, and every dish seemed to turn out well! I made my Mom's delicious sweet potato casserole recipe, and it was the best I have ever made! I don't know if I can take any credit for that, though. I think I have the sweet potatoes to thank! They were sweet and creamy, and not stringy, as they have been in times past! Tiffany also had great success with her pies, in answer to prayer! Sometimes, she has to fight with her dough, but this year, her pie crusts rolled out easily, and her pies went together flawlessly. They were not only edible, but incredible! :)

Then, although we were missing some family members (Ashlyn and my Mom and Dad), we enjoyed some enthusiastic fellowship with our friends "the D's". They are crazy fun, so instead of laying around and taking naps or watching football games or perusing the sale ads after dinner, we played some zany games and laughed until our sides ached!

Here are some pictures of Tiffany, our resident pie expert! She learned the art of pie making from my Mom, and she carries on the tradition with excellence and style!

Here is one of her beautiful apple pies before she lovingly placed it in the oven. :)

Matt was so sweet, and peeled about 15 of the 25 apples for Tiffany's pies! That is a lot for a little fella! He was so proud of his long apple peels! Can you see the one he is holding up here?

And here is the finished product. Have you ever seen such a beautiful apple pie?? I just wish Blogger had a scratch and sniff feature, so you could get the full effect! :)

And here is my personal favorite -- the pumpkin pie!!

Here are Tiffany's masterpieces lined up on the buffet!

Hannah was in charge of setting the table, and she did a great job making it look special!

We placed three pieces of candy corn on each plate, to remind us that the Pilgrims only had three kernels of corn a piece that first winter, when many of them died from sickness and starvation.

I like to use place cards on the table at special holiday meals, and traditionally, the children have made homemade place cards for the table. This year, I wanted to do something a bit special, and I had been trying to come up with a creative idea. Then, I saw these cute little autumn votives at The Dollar Tree, and I had the idea of writing each guest's name on them with Vis a Vis markers. This worked great and was really cute! The names wipe right off, so I can reuse them from year to year! I bought 18 votives, and 3 boxes of six votive candles, so this idea cost me around $22. Of course, it would be far less, if you were feeding a smaller crowd!

Another new idea I tried this year was to mash the potatoes about an hour before the meal and place in a buttered crock pot on low. My new crock pot has a warm setting, so we used that, and the mashed potatoes were perfect, and really took away some of that last minute stress to have the potatoes made and out of the way!

This is "Ole Tom," fulfilling his life purpose with great dignity! He was very moist and tender. One trick that has helped with preparing our Thanksgiving meals is to roast the turkey in this roaster oven. It seems to be moister, and it frees up the oven for any other cooking that needs to be done to complete the meal.

Dinner time at last!! Here we all are -- we had sixteen at our big table . . .

Plus Matt and "Babe" at the little table (borrowed from the back porch and disguised with a tablecloth!).

We had a tremendous feast! Would you like to see our menu??


Stuffing (made with 1/2 bread cubes and 1/2 cornbread to satisfy those who prefer "stuffing" and those who prefer southern style "dressing")
Mashed Potatoes and Gravy

Smoked Turkey legs (thanks to Josh!)

Grilled Southern Sausage

Sweet Potato Casserole

Broccoli Casserole (thanks to Mum Mum and Nancy D)

Squash Casserole

Cranberry Sauce

24 Hour Salad (thanks to Nancy D)

Pumpkin Bread (thanks to Mum Mum)

Yeast Rolls with Homemade Butter

Pumpkin Pie

Apple Pie

Pecan Pie

Banana Pudding

Yes, it was a phenomenal feast!! I didn't even have room to taste everything! But, that's the advantage of going to the work of hosting the Thanksgiving feast -- you get all the leftovers! :)

I love this pic of Bethany "chowing down" on a turkey leg! :)

After eating all we could hold, the kids went out and played volleyball in the backyard, while the rest of us cleaned up the kitchen and washed a mountain of dirty dishes! Then, we gathered in the family room for an intense, highly competitive game of Catchphrase!

The game got a little rowdy, as can be seen here!! Mr. D declared himself the "umpire" between the two teams. He was determined to win, so he could be first in line for the apple pie!! With the help of the rest of his brilliant team (Tiffany, Hannah, Chris, Lily, Donny and Me!), he did win two out of three, and got to make a beeline for those pies! He claimed that Tiffany's pies were just too pretty to be real, and he accused them of being fake, plastic, decorative pies!

Tiffany cut into her pie, proving it was "real!"

Then, Mr. D took a cautious bite. Was it real?? YES! He declared it to be the real thing!!! :) And, YES, it tasted as good as it looked!!!!

Cousin Donny appears to be enjoying his piece of pie!! (Is it just me, or does he look a bit like Kirk Cameron??) :)

Lily looks quite happy after her third piece of dessert! :)

After dessert, we played "The Sign Game," which is the D family's variation of the traditional game of Rhythm. Our family's variation is called "The Animal Game." First you give your sign, then another player's sign, being careful to keep the beat. That player must be alert, and while staying in rhythm, give her sign and another player's sign. Anyone who messes up is Out, and you keep going until only one person is left. It may not sound fun -- but believe me, with the right combination of people it IS fun! :) Here is a peek into the craziness:

After the Sign Game, we finished off the evening with a rousing round of The Family Game, which would take too long to explain, and thus ended our perfect Thanksgiving Day!
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