Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Out of this World Turkey Brine

Hello everyone!

I've been M-I-A ... sort of.
The long & short of it, I've been taking a break from all things 'technology' ...
blog, FB, Pinterest, email, phone, etc.
And while I've been missing all of you & your beautiful blogs, I have not missed being 'connected'.
In fact, I've been much more productive than usual.
I have completed several neat projects & I'm excited to show them to you soon,
especially my burlap ruffled ottoman!
It's super cute!

It's now only a couple days away from Thanksgiving!!
It's my hubby's favorite holiday ... & it ranks right up there with me too.
Since our sons were little guys, we've taken extra care to make sure we were truly observing
this special holiday in it's true spirit ... cultivating a spirit of gratefulness for health, home, & family ...
& taking time to count our many blessings.

It's my year to make the turkey for Thanksgiving Day,
so I wanted to share with you the recipe I use for turkey brine.
This is my all-time favorite way to prepare a turkey.
It comes out so moist & delicious.
My dad, who's eaten a-plenty of turkey of his day, said it's the best turkey he's had.

This is our brined bird from Thanksgiving 2010

If you aren't familiar with the brining method, it's a pretreatment of the turkey {it works for chicken too}.
It's similar to marinating meat, only using a salt water solution known as brine.
The result: a very moist and well-seasoned turkey.
There are many various recipes, but the bonus for this one is that it uses common ingredients
that you generally have in your pantry/fridge.

Out of this World Turkey Brine

2 gallons of water
1 cup table salt
3 Tbsp. minced garlic
1 Tbsp. black pepper
1/4 c. Worcestershire sauce
1/3 c. brown sugar

**if using kosher/canning salt, use 1 1/2 cups

In a large bucket or container large enough to hold your turkey, mix together the water, salt, garlic, pepper, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar. Store in a refrigerator, and soak turkey for 2 days before smoking or roasting.

I measured my fridge space & bought a very large stock pot, specifically for brining.
I make sure to buy a turkey that's not too big to fit in the pot, usually an 18-20 lb bird.

After it's soaked in the brine for 2 days, rinse it well & bake in the method of your choosing.
I think you'll be pleased with your plump & super moist turkey!

James did such a good job carving it up!  Boy, I'm getting hungry ;)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Politics & Garrett's TeenPact Speech

Hello blog world, friends, & family =)

We are in the final days before Election 2012, down to the wire.
These last few months {seems like years} have been FULL of campaigns & commercials ...
both of which, I'm not ganna lie, I am quite ready to be over with!
I will not be sad to see those go.
I may be sad about who's in the White House, but not ganna miss the political blah blah blah.

That being said, our household is pretty politically involved.
We have one, however, who is our resident 'future politician'.
Garrett has been interested for as long as I can remember ... & involved for as long as he's been able.
He has worked on various local campaigns, from state representatives to the mayoral campaign.
He attends our local political events & our town hall public meetings each month.
He's attended various rallies, seeing more political figures than I could name off
{George W Bush, McCain, Palin, Christie, & many others}.

He's just got the knack.
He doesn't forget a thing.
He can quote all day long ... knows facts & figures from anything political.
Garrett loves history ... not just world or US, but history of any kind.
Since he was small, he was interested in our family genealogy,
asking lot of questions from his grandparents about our ancestors & heritage.

Lately, we've seen him excel in areas in which he's had no specific training.
He can debate like no body's business & on numerous occasions, he's been asked if he
has studied debate or participates on a debate team.
He hasn't, & to this he replies, 'You just have to know my Dad.' ;)

He's always been well-spoken, a very good communicator,
but has never been involved in speech giving of any kind.
We didn't even study that in homeschool, yet this is another area in which he's been gifted
& we are so grateful!
It's amazing to see how God equips each of us differently, but perfectly according to our nature,
personality, & furthermore, for our specific callings in life.

Back in the spring, Garrett attended TeenPact, a hands-on leadership training course.
Their mission sums them up:
to train youth to understand the political process, value their liberty, 
defend their Christian faith and engage the culture at a time 
in their lives when, typically, they do not care about such things.
It was his first time to attend & against the odds, Garrett, an unknown with no family ties
or other previous TeenPact affiliation, was elected governor from 80 of his peers.
This was the highest & most distinguished position to which you could be elected.
Upon election, he had to prepare & deliver a speech {the very next day} to a very large crowd
comprised of fellow TeenPact students, parents, staff, & state coordinators.

He came home that evening & right before bed, he came into our bedroom & said,
"I like I know what I am going to speak about ... Josiah & the lost book of the law."
He shared a few quick thoughts & ideas, getting his Dad's opinion, & off he went.
He never asked us another thing.
We didn't proof it ... he didn't practice it on us ... nothing else.

The next afternoon, in front of a room full of people, in a room at the Indiana Statehouse,
he got up to deliver his speech.
Now, I must say, as a parent, I was nervous for him!
This is something he's never done before ... speech writing, public speaking.
I didn't doubt his abilities, but I was putting myself in his shoes ... & I was nervous!!

But I shouldn't have been.
He nailed it!!
I was trying hard not to jostle my camera around as I was recording, but the tears were sneaking
down my cheeks as I watched & listened to my son deliver an outstanding speech with
a profound message.
I was so proud of him.
Several parents asked us if he wrote his speech himself, because they were so surprised at
the depth of the message he shared.

I am sooo happy to be able to share this video of his entire speech.
{Thanks to our dear friend for tweaking it ... it was really hard to hear & he fixed that}
It's only 5 minutes long ... & it's so, so good.
Take time to listen.

A few weeks ago, Garrett was invited by Generation Joshua to campaign for Senator Murdock.
He leaves today & will be gone until Wednesday.
Generation Joshua is providing all lodging, transportation & food.
He'll be working with Gen-Josh volunteers from around the country, in this last push before election day.
He doesn't even know what all the activities will be, but I know for sure, he'll be happily involved.

He's also been invited to attend a rally at Lucas Oil Stadium from the Mike Pence campaign,
so he's going to try & fit that in, as well.

I don't know what the future holds for Garrett, in the arena of politics or life in general, for that matter,
but I take comfort knowing that God is guiding his every step.
He's opening doors & providing connections & opportunities.
In the meantime, I'll be here on the home front, covering Garrett with a momma's prayers ...
trusting God to lead & protect him.

Join me in praying for our country, now & for the next several days, especially.

My country 'tis of thee, 
sweet land of liberty.
Of thee I sing.
Land where my fathers died.
Land of the pilgrim's pride.
From every mountainside,
Let FREEDOM ring!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce

This recipe was given to me by my friend, Stacy.
Sad that I had it a year or so before I ever tried it!
It's too easy ... after you've put all the ingredients in the crock pot, walk away ... & in 8 hours,
you've got delicious, homemade spaghetti sauce!

Crock Pot Spaghetti Sauce
1 lb. ground beef or bulk italian sausage
1 med. onion, chopped
2 cans {14.5 oz each} diced tomatoes, undrained
1 {8 oz} can tomato sauce
1 {6 oz} can tomato paste
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp. brown sugar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1-2 tsp. dried basil
1-2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 - 1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. salt

Hot cooked spaghetti

In a skillet, cook beef & onion over medium heat til meat is no longer pink.
Drain & transfer to a crock pot.
Add the remaining ingredients {except spaghetti}.
Cover & cook on low for 7-8 hours, or until thoroughly heated through.
Discard bay leaf & serve over spaghetti.

Now for my variations:
I use fresh tomatoes during garden season ... a great way to use up lots of them.
I also add green pepper & sometimes add mushroom.
You can switch these veggies out according to your taste.

Also, I added my ground beef in about 1/2 way through the cooking time.
That's why it's not pictured above.

I leave my tomatoes kinda chunky ... cause we like a chunkier sauce.
If you'd prefer it otherwise, you can use crushed tomatoes ...
or 1 less can of tomatoes & 1 extra can of sauce.

As you can see, this is a very flexible recipe.
It would be pretty hard to mess it up.

Oh, & for the biggest bonus of all, your house will smell a-mazing all.day.long.

**On Wednesday, I showed you how to skin a tomato.
This technique makes quick work of removing the skin for recipes just like this.
That's exactly how I got my crock pot full of tomatoes in no time at all.
{I also do this to my tomatoes when I make salsa ... & for my all-time favorite salsa recipe, click HERE .}

~Buon appetito

Reformation Day Celebration

Our church, Family Life Assembly, celebrated Reformation Day with a fun-filled fall get-together
on Saturday, October 27  ... & what a grand time we all had!
This was our first time to host this event, but we plan to do it annually.
We are so grateful for our Protestant heritage ... & we couldn't think of a better way
to acknowledge & celebrate it!

It was an all-day event, so there are lots of pictures, but I think you'll enjoy looking through them!

I think this truly was one of my favorite things from the day ... the little FLA Pumpkin Patch!!
Completely adorable ...
I think Linus himself would agree that this was quite a sincere little pumpkin patch, by anyone's standards ;)
Thank you, Carissa, for coming up with this for all of us to enjoy!
Opening remarks from James to get the festivities started~

This is Gunnar & his 'Andy Griffith' boots!
If you've ever seen the Andy Griffith show,
you know that Andy always has his pants leg tucked into his boot!

Al {& others} manned the grill~

We brought our tripod & cooked a big pot of ham & beans over the fire.

Looks like they are all done!

Greg Hensley turns thanks over the food.

And it's time to eat!
Let me tell you, our ladies do not mess around.
They are some of the best cooks you'll find ... generous & hospitable with each & every tasty dish.
I would attempt to list all the delicious dishes, but because there were SO many,
I'd be sure to leave something out.
Let me just say, we had plenty to eat on ... clear into the evening hours.

Loved this Monster Munch ...perfectly packaged in "Give Thanks" bags.
My sister, Lisa, made these.

Jim brought the root beer & boy, it was a hit!

The games for the kiddos were over the top & kept them grinning from ear to ear.
They painted pumpkins, played ring around the pumpkin, & even did some pumpkin bowling!
Thank you Carissa, Natalie, Erica & Aleisa for making sure the little folks had a ball.

 Course, who doesn't love a bouncy house?

The 'big kids' had plenty of fun activities too.
This straw jump was absolutely the highlight of the day!
I wish I could've posted all the pics & videos from this activity ... the facial expressions are priceless.

Another big competition was chopping wood, the sawing contest, & the ax throw.
Lots of manly activities!

Had some corn hole games & even some stilt walking!
{Gunnar built these himself!}

There were some pretty interesting pumpkins that came from the carving contest.

The cross & FLA came in second ... it really looked pretty all lit up.
But taking first place was Garrett & Carissa with 'Respect the 'Stache' pumpkin ;)

Another super neat highlight was our Guest from the Past!
Our first guest was William Bradford {Joe McGill}.
He shared about the difficulties he encountered as he journeyed to America aboard the Mayflower ...
how they claimed America for God!

Our second set of guests were Corrie Ten Boom & her sister, Betsie {Billie & Jennifer Richardson}.
This was so touching & brought tears to many of our eyes as we listened to the hardships they endured.

 Of course, this day was filled with many wonderful guests ~ here are snapshots from throughout the day.

A big thanks to Chris & Jody who put forth a huge special effort in making this day a success!
We are so grateful to both of them.

Another big thanks goes to David, who worked tirelessly all week ... we couldn't have done it without him!


And the grand prize for the BEST DRESSED COUPLE of the day?!
It easily goes to David & Jessica Casey!

And saving the best for last, THANKFUL doesn't begin to describe how we feel toward Terry & Paula.
The so graciously offered their beautiful property that was absolutely perfect for our party.
Down to the small details, it couldn't have been nicer ... it was the perfect fit ...
& from the bottom of our hearts, we thank them both!

Family Life Assembly presented them with a love offering & a gorgeous fall basket, put together by Tammy.
And at the end of the day, this is what it's all about ... fellowship with our brothers & sisters in the faith.
Spending time together with family & friends, strengthening the bonds between us
while uplifting & honoring the Lord ... & remembering why we are all here in the first place.
There's really not much more important than these simple things.
It's truly a blessing to be among like-minded people & I do not take it for granted.
Not for one minute.

~Praise God from whom ALL blessings flow.

Psalm 133:1   Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in unity!

Psalm 79:13  But we your people, the sheep of your pasture, will give thanks to you forever; 
from generation to generation we will recount your praise.

Colossians 1:12  Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance 
of the saints in light.

*Thanks to Wayne & Lisa for sharing pics ~ my camera died half-way through the day.