Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Gift giving

My family (in-law) has started doing things (gift giving in particular) differently these last few years.

For such a long time we would exchange gifts at Christmas and it was lots of fun, but really, how do you shop for family members you only see a few times a year??? It had gotten really hard (and somewhat expensive as my husband has 5 brothers and 2 sisters plus spouses and children, and grand children (now)).
But these last few years (as we "mature"??) we have started giving homemade gifts. One year I crocheted all the sisters scarves. They were lovely (if I do say so myself...). I have also made salsa, soaps, cookies, crocheted pot holders, beef jerky ( a real hit with the brothers!!), lotion bars and other things which I cannot remember ("maturity"?? Maybe...) .

The homemade gifts I have received have given me as much pleasure as a well thought out purchased gift. I love the fact that someone spent time and effort on a gift. And I have very talented sister-in-laws!!! =)    I can't wait to see the loot from this year!!!!

Army Man and I are always thinking on what to make for Christmas. We try to keep it real and interesting. This year Army Man was promoted to E-6 and at his promotion "gathering" a co-worker/friend of his had brought some dip his wife made for the occasion. As soon as Army Man dipped his chip and tasted that dip he knew this was what we were doing for family this year. He has some kind of sixth sense like that. Very intriguing.....  but I digress (as usual...).

This year we are  giving "Texas Caviar"  to everyone for Christmas.  I am from the south. I have lived in the south my entire life. Well, except for those 3 years we lived in Wisconsin!! I had never seen or heard of this stuff, but Army Man was smitten with it so we will share it with the family!!

The recipe is as follows.

2 cans black-eyed peas
1 can each-- shoepeg corn, black beans
2 (2.5 oz) cans sliced black olives (opt.)
2 (4 oz) cans chopped green chili peppers
1 bunch green onion, finely chopped
3 tomatoes, finely chopped
1 large bell pepper, finely chopped
2 jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1 (16 oz) bottle Robusto or Zesty Italian Dressing
Drain all canned stuff well. The drier, the better.
Mix fresh and chopped veggies together.
Pour dressing over the mixture.
Refrigerate over night for best flavor!
Serve with tortilla or corn chips.

*Great for a party or pot luck!!*
Enjoy!! =)

I do not know how many words that was. I'm sure there is some way to count them....not really interested. My point is I have written out that recipe eight times. My hand has begun to cramp today. It was much easier and quicker to type it out. And I'm sure there was a  way I could have printed off the recipe on these pretty cards, but I like the thought of having hand written recipe cards.
One day my great nieces and nephews can ponder the handwriting of their crazy "Bretta the Great" (which is what the "Greats" call me!!).
Or not.
I really just didn't have the time (or ability) to figure out how to print off the recipe on the cards I had already purchased!!
That was the last part of the family Christmas gifts! I had already made the dip, put it in mason jars with a burlap square and tied raffia around the jar and bought tortilla chips to include in the bag!!
If my camera was working I would take a picture....
I am now all done with our extended family gift giving!!!

Now to get started shopping for my kids!!!! Nothing like waiting 'till the very last minute to shop!!! =)


Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Christmas wish list....

Two blogs in one day!!!! Sorry, but he asked and I have an answer.
 Although I am fairly certain this is me living in a dream world!!! Who has $1600 to spend on a camera??!?!?!?!!

Here is the link Army Man!!!

Christmas Traditions....nearly burnt my house down!!

I'll admit it. I have a fake Christmas tree.

I actually have several fake Christmas trees.

My mom (whom I love dearly) lived through a house fire when I was 4 years old. She lost everything except her family in that fire. It was an electrical fire, so her fears may seem unreasonable, but to her a real Christmas tree and the threat of fire was just too much. We always had an artificial tree while I was living at home with my parents.

My thoughts on live Christmas trees is: I don't want to cut a tree down just to have a live one in my house for a month. I would rather buy one that can be planted.  I know I sound like a "tree hugger". I probably am more than most of my peers, but I just don't see the point in killing a tree for a few weeks of having a live tree smell.  I can burn a candle or something for that.
That being said, my youngest has requested a live tree for next year.....

That has nothing whatsoever to do with my Christmas tradition that almost burnt down our house!!!

So, when I start decorating our home for Christmas, I usually go all out. I think I may have mentioned that in an earlier post... I love lots of twinkling lights and decorations. But one of my favorite things is to make a fresh potpourri...
I use orange peels (that hopefully came from an orange I've eaten....just being real here. My fruit intake is way lower than it should be!!). I put them in a small pot of water and add cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. You can use allspice, but I am currently out... I never measure anything so it is a little different each time!!
I like living adventurous.....
Oh, and add water as needed throughout the day! Yes, this is important!!

Last Saturday, we (my whole family, including Army Man who had just returned from a 2 week training) had planned on spending some time in town (Woo Hoo!!!). We did a few things around the house first. You know, like laundry and stuff. I had turned on my little Potpourri pot thinking I love it to smell good (and Christmasy) while we are trudging through mountains of laundry...
When it was time to leave for town (and lunch at Cheddar's and ShOpPiNg) (!!!) we hurried out the door because we are all starving by now!!

We spent a few hours waiting on our oil to be changed, (so annoying...and really starving now!) did a bit of shopping, ate a late (ok, really late) lunch, and went to see my mom-in-law for a bit.  We had a great family day together and came home all relaxed and ready to spend our evening watching a Christmas movie!

We entered out house and a smell of burnt crispness greeted us!!!! It was awful!!!! We had to open every door and window in our living area to help air out the smell. It was 40-something degrees outside!!! My little pot may never recover and had we stayed any longer I think our house (or at least the stove and kitchen) would have caught on fire!!!!  

I haven't been able to bring myself to make my fresh potpourri since then. It is now Tuesday, and my little stainless steel pot is still not completely clean. I really did a number on that thing. Army Man has scrubbed that thing Every. Day. since is discouraging. As much as I love the smell of that stuff, I am wondering if I should be trusted...

I may need to invest in a little crock-pot with a timer or auto shut off...


Monday, December 9, 2013

Christmastime Funk....

I know that for many people Christmas is a very sad holiday. I personally know several people who have lost loved ones around this time of year and it is difficult to get in the holiday spirit. My grandmother (who I never knew) passed on December 22nd the year before I was born. Christmas is hard for my dad. He always puts on a smile for his kids and grandkids (and great-grandkids), but his heart is hurting. He loved his little Irish mama.

I am usually ready to start decorating our home before Thanksgiving. I am a huge Christmas fan!! I love the magical feeling of rightness and peace!! The feeling that people are nicer and more friendly. The feeling that for one small moment, all is right with the world...
But Army Man has firmly stated that under no circumstances will our house be decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving. I'm fairly certain that he would be perfectly happy if we decorated the house on Christmas Eve and remove it all the day after Christmas!! Bah Humbug!!! I have used my powerful skills of persuasion to always be able to decorate by the first of December. He does have backup on oldest son was born on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving of the year 2000. Thanksgiving is his very favorite holiday!! He LOVES it when his birthday falls on Thanksgiving!!
I digress....

This year has been different for me...

With the incredibly difficult Fall my family has gone through, I am having hard time of getting in the Christmas spirit myself this year. I have not lost a loved one near and dear to my heart. But I could have lost something just as precious.   These circumstances have given me a new perspective on Christmas. Yes, I still love all the hoopla, but us this year the hoopla will be minimal....the emphasis will be on relationships.

For the first time ever, we are on purpose leaving our extended family (moms, dads, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, the "greats"). We are taking our family of five camping!!! Well, "cabin-ing", that is....We are going out of town (away from our extended families) to a cabin near the beach for the whole week of Christmas!!!

We are so very excited to simplify this year.

My family needs this time of togetherness to get perspective on those things that are really important.  Even our Christmas tree is smaller this year.    
Side note.....A small tree still holds the magic!!
I usually have 3' trees in all of the kids bedrooms and 2' tree in their bathroom and our regular 7' tree in our living area. I usually put lights on our very large porch (by myself)(refer to the 2nd paragraph)!!!  I also leave my shopping to closer to Christmas day...I LOVE getting out in the craziness to do all of my Christmas shopping!!! I'm pretty sure it stems from my days of working in retail... ;)  I saturate myself with Christmas music and movies.

I just wasn't into all of that this year....

BUT....I went ahead and put up one of the small trees in our living area. As I felt my kid's excitement and watched the joy on their faces as our space transformed, I just couldn't help but feel a bit of the Christmas spirit.  They are truly an example of forgiveness, complete innocence, and joy!!!

I have begun my annual traditional Hallmark Christmas movie marathon!!! I  DVR  EVERY Christmas movie and watch them throughout the day. The cheesier and more romantic the better!!!! =)   It has really helped get me in the groove of Christmas!!
I watched an older Christmas movie yesterday because two of my three kids were sick and we could not go to church. Actually, I watched two of them! It was "Single Santa Seeks Mrs. Claus" and "Meet the Santas" with Steve Guttenberg and  Crystal Bernard. (I had forgotten how much I really like both of these actors!!). That was the turning point for me!!! I had already watched several Christmas movies with my kids, but this one turned the switch.... I heard myself humming Christmas carols this morning!!!
I've got my groove back!!! =)

I know it can not possibly be that easy for most people, but for me (the writer of this particular blog) it was!! I am happy to say that I am officially in the Christmas spirit!!! I am jamming on our TSO and other Christmas CD's (yes, I am old school and still use CD'S!)!!!
I am ready to spend some quality time with my family in a secluded cabin near the beach!!! I am ready to focus some serious time on my husband, my kids and my Savior--the only reason we celebrate this season!!!

Hope you all have a Very Merry Christmas!!!


Tuesday, December 3, 2013

November = Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving Day!!!)(LOTS of pics!!!)

I do realize it is December.....this is what happens when you take time off of school.  My whole schedule has been turned upside down and inside out!!!
But in the best of ways!!!!

We are off of home-schooling for the month of December!!!


I am a little excited about this. Can you tell??
I have a funny story about needing a brain break and shaving legs.....maybe I'll share it another day! ;)


Turkey In The Hole

I don't have pictures of it,(well, actually, I have pictures, but my technologically challenged self cannot figure out how to move them from the Blackberry to my computer!!! Grrrr!!! If by some miracle I get it figured out, I will update this post!!) but on Wednesday morning (the day before Thanksgiving) we dig a 3'L x 3'W x 4'D-ish hole.
We start a fire and load it up with wood.
We add wood ALL day!!  LOTS of wood!!! (again, I do have pictures...)
Enough to fill the hole with coals.....lots of wood!!
Wait...I already said that!!!
My kids were very helpful and hauled the wood from various parts of our yard down to the hole, of course, using my mower and dump cart made the job way more fun!!!!  As night comes we are always worried that we did not burn enough wood...will there be enough coals?
It is a lot of hard work, but the flavor of the turkey is so worth the effort!!!
In a fierce yell-----"FIE-YAAHH!!!!" 
So, here is the fire around 8pm, still large chunks of wood that need to break down to smaller coals!!

 Oooooohhhhhh......sparks!!!!  My kids LOVE these "quiet" fireworks!!!!

 Getting the "seasonings" prepped for the turkey!!!

 Yep! Getting ready to stuff this bird with ice cubes, fruit and butter!!  Yummy!!!!!
The other turkey was filled with ice cubes and "Rubusto" Italian Dressing!!! Yummy!!!

Then we rub butter on the outside of the birds and wrap them in 10 layers of heavy duty foil 
(shiny side out).....

Time to go check on the fire....again!
 I got a light streak!!!! Woo Hoo!!!!

 My Truly girl chillin' by the fire before bed!!

 My Thoene goofing off by the fire before bed!!!
(Well, he doesn't look like he is goofing off, but I'm sure he is!!!)

 My McCoy freezing his rear before bed!!!  
It actually was very cold this year!!  Around 33* by this time of night!!

 My super handsome Army Man!!!! =)   LOVE him!!! Adore him!!

 Black and White fire......oooooohhhhh

 Cartoon fire....hey! The kids asked!!

 Another fire streak!!!! =)  Fire provides much entertainment!!

A very hot shovel with sparkly thingys!!!!

Now the rest of the party begins!!!!  Time to put the turkeys in the ground to cook all night!!!
 Our hole is filled to the brim with coals....this pic does not do it justice!!!
And the blue-ish colors is the smoke....

 Putting the turkey on the special long-handled shovel (that we use once a year!!) we can safely put them in the fire that is reeeeeally hot!!

Put both turkeys in the coals.....looks kinda like creepy mask!!

This is a pic with a flash.... turkey in the coals!!!

 Beginning to cover the turkeys (that are now covered in coals) with dirt to complete the process and seal in that heat!!!

 This is labor intensive so all hands on deck!!!
At this point it is about 11:00pm....the kids wanted to see the turkeys go in so we got them out of bed (they actually prayed about it!!)(sneaky kids!!). Of course, we made them do some work (in their jammies no less!!).  Character development!!!  And, many hands make light work and all that!!! And, it was really cold so they needed to be moving about!!!!

                                                                 Good morning!!!!
  It is 7am and I got up to put the ham in the oven 
(Army Man will not put a ham in those coals...). The whole yard was covered with frost!! 
Very unusual for this time of year here in SOUTH Alabama!!! But it was very beautiful...and crisp!!!

 The kids (and company) are completely fascinated with uncovering the turkeys!! 
The visitors were a little skeptical!!

 Oooohhh, the dirt is still warm!!! Even though it is freezing outside!!! 

 Where are they??? I know we put them in here!!!

 Yay!!!!!  There it is!!!!!  

 Using the mower and cart to haul those turkeys back up to the house!!! =)
That is my awesome, hardworking daughter!!! (and her older brother watching her work...hmmm)

The smell emanating from this turkey is amazing!!!  
Making me drool a bit just looking at this picture!!!

We hosted both sides of our family this year and a family from our church!!  
It was a lot of fun!! We had about 30 people over!!! 
And may I just say that they did not eat enough!!! I am still eating left overs!!
 It is Monday for crying out loud and it doesn't appear that I will be done any time soon!!!

 Cutie Baby Easton!!!!

 Kid table!!! 

 My cutie baby niece McKynzie!!! AKA Punkin'

 A rousing game of Red Light, Green Light after eating such a huge meal!!!!

Cutie kids with "Uncle Dave"!!!  He is not really an uncle to any of the kids in this pic, but he loves kids and always has a game ready to help them have fun!! He is great with the kids!!

All in all we had a great day!!! I think everyone that was there had a great time!!  I know I did!!! Of course, after every left  the party was on.....

and by party,

I mean, NAP!!!!!! =)



Psalm 69:30
I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.