Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Our Thanksgiving Table

It was our turn this year to host the Thanksgiving dinner
for my side of the family {the Alexanders}.
There were 17 of us, in total.
Everyone was here ... & that alone is something to be grateful for.
{Even Tiffiny got to come home from SC, bringing Dan for us all to meet}.

The table was all put together the night before.
Boy, was I ever thankful for finding all these pumpkins & gourds
at the market for 10 cents each!
What a lovely addition they made to the table, especially the pumpkin topiaries!
I wanted centerpieces that could stay on the table during dinner
without being too big or obtrusive.
I had a 'lightbulb' moment & put these topiaries together.... & they were perfect!

We had an outstanding dinner, as usual.
We are all good cooks, even if I have to say so myself;)
Our momma taught us well.

Brining the turkey was the way to go!  My dad said it was the best turkey he'd ever had!

James carved it up so pretty!  Also pictured is the homemade stuffing {made with bread}.
Our menu consisted of:  turkey, dressing, noodles, mashed potatoes, gravy, ham, shrimp, rolls, deviled eggs, broccoli salad, confetti salad, sweet potatoe casserole, green beans, corn, pumpkin pie, cookies, turtles, fudge, cranberry salad, & heavenly delicious dessert.
And honestly, I could be forgetting something! 

Mom's delicious homemade noodles...everyone's favorites.

Lisa's tasty ham

Don't know if the guys would know what to do if my brother didn't bring the shrimp!!
And although our bellies were as full as could be {too full}, our hearts were even 'fuller' ;)
We thoroughly enjoyed everyone's company, from start to finish.
These are the days when memories are made....days we'll look back on & treasure... the life, love & laughter.

Dad & Mom heading up the line.
my nieces: Tiffiny, Erica & Natalie  {love these girls}
May our hearts be grateful all year long.
Hebrews 13:15   ...let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually  ... the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

The Attitude Behind the Gratitude

Thanksgiving has been called the forgotten holiday.
It's sandwiched between Halloween & Christmas, both very commercial.
There's hardly a spot on the store shelves for turkeys & pilgrims.
As soon as the masses of costumes are gone, the isles are quickly filled with garland & gift wrap.
Christmas seems to come sooner each year.

I'll admit, even in our own family, we haven't honored Thanksgiving Day as we could have.
It's easy to get caught up in the festivities & lose focus of the true meaning & significance.

Last week, James said that we'd be focusing all this week on the true meaning of Thanksgiving in our evening family worship.
I've given the boys 2 writing assignments this week.
The first was to write about their greatest spiritual blessing of the year.
The other was to write what event/occasion of 2010 that they were most grateful for...how it impacted them & how they benefited from it.

Each day this week, our morning devotions have been about thankfulness & gratitude.
I stumbled across a excellent one & wanted to share a portion of it.

It begins with Cain & Abel at harvest time with Cain bringing the Lord a gift of his farm produce...& Abel, choice lambs from his flock.

Here is what the scripture records in Genesis 4: 3-7:In the course of time Cain brought to the Lord an offering of the fruit of the ground, and Abel also brought of the firstborn of his flock and of their fat portions.  And the Lord had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering, he had no regard.  So Cain was very angry and his face fell.  And the Lord said to Cain, "Why are you angry and why has your face fallen?  If you do well, will you not be accepted?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it."

One thanksgiving, two men, two offerings, and two different reactions.
The Lord was looking for both of them to realize who was God and who was not.
God wanted, on this first thanksgiving, for them to bring an offering to praise Him.

Why did God reject Cain's offering?
While there are many theories, the most common is that he Cain wasn't operating from the right motives.
Abel, however, gave his offering with a grateful heart, which is why God smiled back at him.

Are you more of a 'Cain' or an 'Abel'?

Here's a glimpse into what a Thanksgiving would look like for Cain:
He's looking forward to gorging himself on free food.
He is thankful for a few days off from school or work {because he likes to be lazy}.
He wants to be served first at the table, and when it comes time to give thanks before the meal, his mind wanders to what is going on with the football game.
When his family gathers to have a time of sharing about things for which they are thankful, he is annoyed that his family that has to do such cheesy things, and wishes he didn't have to follow any rules.
Eventually the day ends, and finally he utters a quick prayer to God, thanking Him for...what was it again?
Oh yeah, all the cool stuff he has.
This kind of thanksgiving may look real on the outside, but in reality it is fake and useless, and that is why God rejects it.

Abel, on the other hand, remembers that even the very air he breathes is a gift from God.
He knows that if there is anything good in his life, it is directly from the hand of God.
His focus is to take the energy he would normally devote to school/work and direct it towards thanking God and serving others.
He is helpful, intentional in listening to others, and active in participating in the family traditions.
At the end of the day he counts his many blessings and gives thanks for each and every one of them.

What a difference in attitudes!

At this time of year, especially, as we reflect on life and respond with being thankful, but let's remember that God cares very much about the attitude behind the gratitude.

True & heartfelt thankfulness {all year long} has an amazing effect.

It protects us from sin, gives us hope, & turns our eyes on Jesus.

1 Thess. 5:18 In everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Fall Decorations

Our home seems to just lend itself to fall decor.
Our walls are painted a warm earthy palette.
The living room walls are a leathered treatment (took me 2 full days to complete!).
Our dining room has an accent wall of pumpkin...& the other walls (& into the kitchen) are painted 'ponytail'...kind of a soft, sandy color.
The office is chocolate brown.
You get the idea.

So, when fall time rolls around, decorating is a breeze!
At the end of August, I pull in the 2 orange storage totes that I keep in the garage, filled with scarecrows, leaf garland, keepsakes the boys have made through the years, & porcelain pumpkins & goards.
I tuck these autumnal things here & there, changing around my tablescapes, placemats, napkins & tableclothes to bring the fall colors inside.

This hangs here to somewhat hide the thermostat;)
I switch out the greenery each season or add a few new sprigs/branches to change the look.

I moved my antique mirror from the wall to my coffeetable...by adding a scarecrow & a fall swag, I've got a pretty tablescape.

I change out the plates each season in these wall plate holders.
I look through my photo albums for pictures of our family taken in the fall months...ones that showcase the beautiful oranges & reds...& put them out into frames.

This collage is a freebie from Walgreens {pics from our day at the orchard}.
By adding an orange border, it's the perfect addition to the fall decor.

This shadowbox was a gift from a dear friend. 
I switch out the picture with the season/occasion {when it's someone's bday month, I put a pic from a past bday party}.
I added the leaves behind the picture.

I love it all so much that I kinda hate to pack it all away.
My sister & I take turns hosting Thanksgiving.
So, every other year, it's at our house.
When it's our turn, all our fall decor stays out through Thanksgiving...no Christmas decorating til afterward.

We keep out the turkeys, pilgrims & pumpkins to keep the Thanksgiving theme front & center.
This year, it'll be at our house, so we'll get to enjoy my favorite season of all a little longer!

This 'Autumn' sign is my favorite.  It's on an old piece of barn wood & the hanger is barbed wire.
I picked it up at a yard sale.

I'll post pictures of our Thanksgiving table in a couple days. 
Can't wait to use all the mini-pumpkins I got at the farmers market for 10 cents each!

Front porch decor

He who thanks but with the lips, thanks but in part;
The full, the true Thanksgiving comes from the heart.
~J.A. Shedd

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Pizza Burgers

As I promised yesterday, here's a recipe that I created to use some jumbo seeded hamburger buns.
As a little girl, we'd sometimes go to Taco Tico {before the days of Taco Bell} & I liked to get the taco burger.
This recipe is kind of a recreation of that, only instead of being taco flavored, I choose to go with pizza.

Angie's Pizza Burgers

Brown 1.5 lb hamburger meat & drain.
Return meat to the pan & add in about 1/2 cup each of diced onion & green pepper.
Sprinkle in 1/4 tsp. garlic powder, 1/2 tsp. oregano, salt & pepper to taste.
Chop 12-15 slices of pepperoni into small pieces & stir in.
Lastly, pour in 14 oz. jar of pizza sauce & simmer for 15-20 mins.

On baking sheet, lay out the hamburger buns.
{Any type or size will work --This is an open faced burger, so keep this in mind when deciding servings.  I used  6 buns to make 12 servings.}

Scoop the meat mixture onto the buns, distributing evenly.
Top each with shredded mozzarella & cheddar cheese.
Bake for 15-20 at 375.

I served this with tater tots & it was such fun & yummy meal!

Remember, most recipes {except baking} are general guidelines.
They can usually be tinkered with...leaving out or adding in to the desired preference.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Homemade Bread Crumbs

Never throw out bread!
There are so many uses for it.

We were camping recently & I bought more hotdog buns than we ended up using.
So, rather than letting them sit in the pantry til they became stale or moldy,
I turned them into bread crumbs to use in meatloaf or breading for chicken, etc.

All you need is a food chopper/processor!
I used 11 hotdog buns & 3 heels of bread.
In a matter of a couple minutes, I filled a gallon-size freezer bag 1/2 full.
Store this in your freezer to maximize freshness.

Our Kroger often has bread clearanced down...sometimes priced as low as a quarter!
I love to find these deals!
I will plan meals around these finds.
For example:  Sub buns for cheap...plan on sub sandwiches for lunch the next day.
Dinner rolls, bagels, english muffins:  stock your freezer with them.
They are perfect in the oven or toaster.
We don't particularly like to use frozen bread for sandwiches, so I use that for french toast or bread pudding.

Be creative...every saving counts!

{Tomorrow, I'll be sharing a recipe I created to make use of some jumbo seeded hamburger buns.  It was a BIG hit with the boys!}

Friday, November 12, 2010

My Day Has Gone to Pot!

Only 8:10 & already my day has gone to pot...

coffee pot & netipot.

What a way to start the morning =)

I woke up a couple days ago with a really dry throat & a panic!
It's tooo close to the holidays to get sick -- this can't be happening!!
We are hosting Thanksgiving this year {for my family}, so I need all my energy...
& some to spare.
So, I began amping up the vitamins & antihistamine.
Yesterday, Riley even juiced me some fresh oranges.

Dutifully following the doctor's orders {James}, I added in the netipot this morning.
It's not my favorite way to start the morning, but I sure enjoy the relief it brings.

{If you aren't sure what a netipot is, google it.  You can even watch a 'how to' video on youtube!  You'll wanna pick one up before the cold season gets into full swing.  I promise, it works wonders!}

Thankfully the other 'pot' balanced out my morning;)
My morning cup of coffee with pumpkin spice creamer made it all better.

And now, I'm off to the Christmas Gift & Hobby Show with my sister.
The day is looking up.

I read this quote this morning on a Raising Homemaker's blog & thought it was perfect to add.

“What a grand world this would be if we could forget our troubles as
easily as we forget our blessings.” — author unknown

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

My Trash Pick

Have you ever gone trash picking...dumpster diving?
Ya know, taking a day & making a specific plan to go digging through trash?

I have NOT ... nor do I ever intend to, but I do have some friends who have.
They especially like to go to colleges at the end of the school year & scoop up things that the students have left behind.

My husband has found some pretty amazing things, just by chance, that folks have tossed out to trash.
He just happened to be driving by the right place at the right time.
Probably his best find was a set of beauty shop chairs, in great condition, which he sold for $75 each!
Our 1st lawn mower was picked from someone's trash.
It started right up, not a thing wrong with it...& we used it for 3 years!
There have been numerous other items that have been put out for trash {too many to mention} that James has brought home...2 gorgeous flower pots recently.
{The other day, he found a chain saw on the side of the road...a nice one, in the case.
Apparently, it had fallen off someone's truck!}

But last November, I entered the ranks!!
I trash picked!!
How could I not when this beauty was sitting out in my parent's neighbors' garbage?

This beautiful picture had been put out in the trash!!
We had just gotten home from the Smoky Mountains.
While James & 2 of the boys were getting things carried in, Gunnar & I ran to my parent's house to pick up our dog, Cooper.
As we were heading down the street, my headlights landed on this, wedged in between 2 trash cans.
I slowed down, but drove on, thinking for sure it was probably damaged.
I quickly decided that I had to at least look at it, so I backed up.

I am so glad I did.
There's not one thing wrong with this beautiful piece of art!
It's got the price tag on the back {JC Penney $275}!!

Now, for the really special part to this story!
We had looked all over in TN to find a seasonal picture to hang in the living room, but no such luck...
only to come home & on that very day find this!
I like to think that God had a little something to do with it.

This picture went into my closet until I did our fall decorating in September.

It'll hang here until late March when I'll switch back to my summer decor...
& everytime I look at it, I'll be reminded of all our many unexpected blessings...
some even out of the trash;)

Ecc. 3:11  He hath made everything beautiful in His time~

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bonnets & Buggies {A Visit to Amish Country}

It's like a step back in time. 
Things move at a slower pace. 
You can almost feel it in the air....a slow motion, of sorts. 
As you drive along the gravel roads, passing one windmilled farm after another, it's like you're taking a glimpse into the past.
Really, this does something for your spirit   ... enriches it, calms it, centers it.
It causes you to think of your past, evaluate your present, & ponder your future.
For these reasons, we will always be drawn to amish country.

This is the little schoolhouse located about a mile or so from the campground.

We've been blessed to visit 4 of the top 10 largest amish communities in the US
{with 5 of the top 10 located in Indiana!}.
We've been to Shipshewana, Napanee, Lagrange & Adams Counties (all in Indiana)...& Holmes County, OH.
There are several other lil' communities throughout IN, not on the top 10 list ... we've visited many of those too.

Farm equipment at the home neighboring the campground

Our particular favorite place to visit is in Adams County, Indiana. 
There's an old order settlement in & around the town of Berne, which was originally settled by those who came directly from Switzerland in about 1850.
It's the 5th largest Amish settlement in the US, with about 7200 living there.
There are 47 conservative districts represented with several little towns within 10-15 miles. You will begin seeing Amish communities starting in Portland on 
through Bryant, Geneva, & Berne.
When you head out into the country, it's one Amish farm after another.

The quaint little town of Geneva
We visit Adams County at least once every year. 
We love to camp at Amishville USA. 
It's located in Geneva, right in the heart of amish country. 
{The campground itself is surrounded by amish farms}. 

I took this at the Berne Heritage Festival.  The Amish do not like their photos taken & I highly respect that. Any pictures that I've taken are with discretion & not of their faces.


Our connection to Amishville Campground started years ago with James' family.
They loved visiting & camping there.
In fact, James' 1st trip there was when we was a little boy
{probably age 3 or 4 yrs old}. 
So, we decided to make it a tradition for our family...
& it became the 1st official camping trip for our lil' guys.
The twins were 5 & Riley was 3.

This is what you find on the shelves of their general store {Berne}

This is the hitching garage for all the buggies...full on a Saturday {Berne}

So, every year as we pack up for our weekend camping trip, we begin looking forward to the peaceful time we know we'll have.
We anticipate the places that we love to visit...certain stores & farms.
We sometimes stop in on the amish farmer that shoes horses in his barn  ...
he doesn't mind us watching.
We go to an amish bakery out in the country ... the girls are all barefoot & shy;)
James always finds someone to 'sell' him some fresh milk.
We've even gone to amish bake sales & yard sales.
{One sale was a combo of both & it was inside her house!
I bought a nice set of silverware for our camper.}
And, usually, there's a family that comes through the campground with the back of their buggy laden with baked goods or fresh produce.
Course, we always have to buy some of that;)

Next year when we return, we'll visit these same places...& the landscape will remain virtually untouched.
Still slow-paced & peaceful.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Pumpkin Pancakes

Wanna 'spice' up your usual pancakes?
This recipe is sure to do it.
They couldn't be easier to make ... & are perfect for this time of year.
I made a batch of these when we were camping last weekend & Gunnar declared they were the best pancakes EVER! =)

I'll share my recipe 1st.
Mine is a short-cut, 'cheater' recipe...ya know, minimal effort & ready-made ingredients.

Stir together a batch of pancake batter, according to the box directions.
(I usually buy my pancake mix at Aldi.  All you add to the mix is water).

To the batter, stir in canned pumpkin & a sprinkle of cinnamon.
(I used approx. 1/2 cup of pumpkin & 1 tsp. cinnamon to 3 cups batter- adjust either of these according to taste or amount of batter needed).

Now, if you'd prefer to make pumpkin pancakes from scratch, here's the recipe:

2 c. all-purpose flour
3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 3/4 c. milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
3/4 c. canned pumpkin
1/4 cooking oil

Combine all dry ingredients in lg. bowl.  In second bowl, combine eggs & remaining ingredients.  Combine mixtures til slightly lumpy.  Cook on lightly greased griddle or skillet.  Yields 16 pancakes.

I'll be trying out this recipe too.