"Our homes, imperfect as they are, must be a haven from the chaos outside. They should be a reflection of our eternal home, where troubled souls find peace, weary hearts find rest, hungry bodies find refreshment, lonely pilgrims find communion, and wounded spirits find compassion.”
~ Jani Ortlund

Friday, November 21, 2014

Holidays: Getting A Head Start On Christmas

With Thanksgiving being a late date this year, it leaves only 4 weeks before Christmas.  I don't want to put up Christmas decor when we haven't had Thanksgiving yet, but I do love Christmas and want to enjoy it as long as possible.

My solution is to bring in a few natural things that will work for both Thanksgiving and Christmas.

 I love the Colonial period of American history and have been adding more natural decor at Christmas time the last several years, so making clove studded oranges was a perfect fit.

 I simply bought some inexpensive whole cloves

 And created a pattern or two

My wiggly assistant

Then I tucked them into the trough on my table.  It fits in with the natural items used for Thanksgiving and next week I'll change out the berries and leaves for pine boughs.

I'll probably make a few more of these.  They are so easy.  It took me about 15 minutes or less to make each one.

Check out some of the ones I have found on G**gle images.

I think I may need to try a more intricate pattern!  Amazing.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Home Keeping: Preparing For Thanksgiving

 We host Thanksgiving every year.  It is such a joy to do so.  I love having family and friends join us for this day that we set aside to focus on Thankfulness.

I always slow roast my turkey so that it is perfect every time.  This will not give you a picture perfect bird, but it will give you super moist meat that is falling off the bones and the moistest breast meat you've ever tasted.

This holiday is all about the meal for us, so we love to have a real feast!  Turkey, gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, roasted sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, cranberry salad, rolls.  And pies.  Pumpkin, Apple, Chocolate Surprise, my Mom's pumpkin roll.

 I learned to make stuffing as a girl.  My grandma taught me.  We would use bread that had been dried out for a few days, and add sautéed onions and celery, sage, poultry seasoning, salt, some broth, and a few eggs.  Delicious.  I still make it the same way.

 I love to set a beautiful table.   Candles in silver candelabras, cloth napkins, beautiful dishes, and flatware.  Crystal glassware.

We usually do it buffet style, so that the people at the table are not crowded with the food.  I have a 9 foot counter that works perfectly for this.  

For drinks we will do sparkling grape juice, and cider.  And of course coffee and tea.

I am cooking the turkeys, and Emma likes to do the mashed potatoes.  We'll roast the sweet potatoes too.  My Mama always brings turkey too, the cranberry salad, pumpkin roll and pumpkin pie.  My in laws are bringing  green bean casserole and apple pie.  Nate and Kay will provide drinks and cranberry sauce, and dinner rolls.  We all do some and then no one is overwhelmed.

We will feast and laugh and be thankful.

I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Animal Husbandry: Winterizing the Animals

We returned home Tuesday evening from a quick trip to Monogahela for our beloved Aunt Mary Lou's funeral.  It was so good to be there with family, and to celebrate her life and express how blessed we all were to know and love her.  She would have been quietly pleased with it all.

We returned home after dark, in the deep cold.  We quickly unloaded the car, and Tim and Rachel put blankets on the horses and gave them their evening feed.


Both of these photos were taken several Novembers' ago.  They weren't blanketed yet, but this year they now are!

We usually ease into winter but it has hit us with a fierceness (thank you Polar Vortex).  So the suddenness of the cold and that fact of being away means we will have to finish quickly work that we thought we had time to do.

Here is a brief list -

1. Put the light in the chicken coop.  We use a timer and it comes on during the coldest portion of the night.

2.  Put the heater in the horse trough.  This keeps the water from freezing and refreezing.

3. Restock the horse grain and chicken feed.  Even though they all range around eating in the pasture and for the chickens, all around the property, they need extra feed at this time of year.

All of the regular care for these animals as well as our dog and cat continue as usual.  We just need to do a few extras during the winter.

Do you have animals that live outside of your house?  What kinds of care do they get for winter where you live?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

One More Week

My girl will be home in one more week.  I'm a bit excited about this fact.  

I'm thankful to be able to text with her, as well as talk on the phone.  This is a recent photo she sent.

Here are a few from a Sunday morning  chat with the family.  The kids sent her this one -

And she sent them this one.

Emma and I have a similar sense of humor.  We use humor to defuse stress or tension.  After a particularly stressful weekend I sent her this

It was just what she needed to laugh off some stress, put things in their proper perspective, and let it go.

Can't wait to give her a hug, go to breakfast, do some Christmas shopping, and hang out with her.

What are you looking forward to in this next week?

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sad News

Tim's Aunt Mary Lou, whom I loved so dearly, has joined her husband, son, and parents in the presence of the Lord.

She was the first one to make me feel welcome in the family, and was always so kind to me.  Her husband, Tim's Uncle Don was fun, and I called him Scooter (Muppets reference) and he called Tim and I 'Bonnie and Clyde."  We laughed a lot when we would visit them.

I look forward to the day when we will no long be separated from those whom we love.  For now she is rejoicing, and we are too, though our hearts are sad that we will be apart from her.

 I know that she would say that she wasn't anything or anyone special.  She was a quiet, kindly wife, mother, and grandmother.  Lived in the same house for most if not all of her married life.  Yet every life touches other lives, we are all connected in so many ways.  Her life was one of caring and prayer and loving others.  Everyone who knew her was richer for the knowing.

I'm thanking the Lord for the gift of Aunt Mary Lou and all that she was to me and to so many people who loved her. 

Saturday, November 15, 2014

A Belated Birthday Gift

There are a few friends who will understand my complete and utter delight at this gift.

 The Friendly Village by Johnson Brothers.  Yes, it is the made in China version.  I'm okay with that.

Dinner plates

 Salad/luncheon plates.  I chose these to use for the little people in our family.  One day Kamryn will have first cousins and they can use these for the meal.

 I'm a tad concerned about that yellow snow, but I think we'll be okay.

Luncheon/Salad plate pattern.

A few soup/serving bowls.

And a few mugs.

This is such a fun pattern and I may use them for every day dishes during the winter. 

Do you have The Friendly Village dishes?  

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Hospitality: Hosting Thanksgiving

I don't know how many of you host Thanksgiving at your home.  We do it every year, and with just family (including my parents, our future daughter in law and granddaughter, our son in law, and our niece) we are at 14 people.  Add in some guests and you've got a great dinner party!

This year we will be having 11 from our family and Tim's brother and his family which adds 6 plus our friend Denny, if he is not on the road.  So at this point we are looking at 18 for dinner.  We are looking forward to it!

The following tips are important for having a stress free day.

1. Slow Roast your turkey overnight.  I have a fool proof recipe that came out of  Emilie Barnes book 15 Minute Family Traditions and Memories.  Here is the link to my post about it.

2. Have your guests all bring a side dish and dessert.

3. Set up a buffet for serving food.  We have a 9 foot counter that works perfectly for buffets and we use it regularly.  

4. Feel free to use paper products.  There are such pretty seasonal paper products, or great disposable plates that look like china, these days.  If you are hosting a crowd, give yourself a break and make clean up easier.  After all you want to be able to enjoy the day, too.  

5. Delegate.  Make a plan (even if only in your head) for the flow of the day, and ask guests ahead of time if they will help with clean up or to provide a craft/game/activity for kids.  Most people are willing to help.

6.  Have no big expectations for the day.  This is important.  Don't get yourself all worked up over some "Norman Rockwell" ideal.  Know your family and your guests for who they are and go with it!     If your family is difficult, this is especially important.  If you have no family, invite friends to share the day with you.

7. Have a drink station set up for self serve coffee, tea and hot cocoa.  It will allow you to focus on food in the kitchen, and then later allow you time to sit and enjoy your guests.  This can be as simple as a small table in your dining room with your coffee maker, an electric kettle, and of course a variety of teas and cocoa.  This can be as simple or as elaborate as you want to make it.

9. Remember that this is a day for giving Thanks!  Provide a way for your guests to share what they are thankful for, and don't forget to tell them how thankful you are that they are their with you.

10.  Set the tone in your own home.  Have beautiful Thanksgiving music on an iPod, light some candles, have football on in the family room.  Its up to you!

We always take the opportunity to have family photos taken that day.  This year, my niece will be with her boyfriend's family on Thanksgiving, and Lindsay and Joseph will be with his family.  Thankfully, Joseph's family lives 3 minutes from us and they are planning on coming by for photos, then to his family.  Good thing, too!  Lindsay is the one with the camera and tripod!

Thanksgiving 2012

What plans do you have for Thanksgiving?  Are you hosting?  What are some traditional food dishes that your family must have every Thanksgiving.  My Canadian friends can join in too, even though they have had their Thanksgiving already!