Saturday, November 28, 2009

Did You?

Go shopping yesterday, that is?  I had grand plans for awaking early and hitting a few of the early bird sales, but I was up literally all night, holding Caedmon in an upright position so that HE could sleep.  Stuffy nose was keeping him awake.  I did discover that I could watch HGTV on and that made staying awake not quite so difficult.

The girls and I did manage to squeeze in a few hours of shopping yesterday afternoon.  Not really Christmas shopping, but buying up clothes bargains for the family.  I generally only shop a couple of times a year and this is one of those times.  The girls both got new boots (70 dollars originally, sale for 19.99, and extra 15% off of my entire purchase and then another 10% off as can't beat that!!)  I did buy a new sweater for myself, a jacket and a new pair of jeans.  I have lost a little weight and all my pants are getting too big.. the baggy bottom is not a look that I am after!    All three items were each less than 15 dollars and some closer to 10!  I don't buy anything that is not on a GREAT sale!!

Most of my Christmas shopping these days in done online.  I was able to get some early bird prices from Penney's from the online store for some much needed shirts and fleeces (not Christmas presents) for some of the children.  And FREE shipping as well.  My school and book orders are almost complete and one order has come in.  My Vision Forum order should arrive soon along with my Timberdoodle order.  I love both of these companies!!  I still need to place my Christianbook order and that will finish up my school and great books purchasing for this year.  If you need any school items or books for next semester, please consider shopping through my blog.  In the right side bar you will see links to Vision Forum and to Christianbook and right now VF has a sale on that will end tonight.  Check it out!!

Today ALL the children are coughing, wheezing, hacking messes with some sporting sore throats as well.  There is tons of laundry to do, a turkey carcass to make broth and soup from, Thanksgiving decorations to put away and Christmas boxes to empty.  Jeff and the boys managed to get all the boxes down from the attic yesterday and they are all stacked in the dining room.  Jackson has already been investigating.  He is quite eager to get the Christmas tree up!  Tomorrow is the first day of advent and I like to have everything in place before then.  Jeff and Devin are headed to Memphis to get a quick adjustment to Devin's violin, so there is just me and some sick children to get everything done.  I know it will not all happen, especially if I sit here at the computer all day!!

Praying that you all took the time to reflect on the blessings and benefits that God granted you this past year and that you now look forward to the Advent season---anticipating the coming of the Messiah!!  May the Lord grant you all peace this day.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

It's That Time Again!!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Traditions--Chamblee Style!

I had really intended to post this a few weeks ago, but got caught up in life and so, there's nothing like last minute!!  Most of our family traditions center around the holidays.  I have already posted about some of our food traditions, but we have several other traditions around here that I hope bring special memories to my children as they grow and leave home.  I not only hope that they have great memories, but they understand the reasons behind our traditions.

In the Chamblee home we bring out our Thanksgiving decorations and serving pieces in mid-September.  We spend one or two days putting the every day items away and placing our cornucopia, platters, pitchers, wreaths, Pilgrims and various foliage throughout our kitchen and living areas.  We have had this tradition ever since moving into this house over 11 years ago and we all look forward to it.  Last year,  as Caedmon was due in early October, I begged out of decorating for fall.  Everyone complained that it just didn't seem like Thanksgiving without all of our decorations.  Hoping that they realize the decorations don't make for a thankful heart, we decorated joyfully this year.

Not only do we decorate for fall, but we spend time studying the Pilgrims and do a devotional series from Family Life called The Thanksliving Box.  We listen to praise music that reflects a thanksgiving theme.  Every year Jeff reads Margaret Pumphries' Pilgrim Stories to the children.

Most years we have one or two bonfires.  We drink gallons of hot tea and hot chocolate when the weather cools.  We drink coffee with all the flavored creamers that are available now.  We make leaf and acorn shaped cookies and begin filling the freezers with hearty casseroles and soups.  I pull out our fall table cloths and placemats and we enjoy a little more formal table setting.  For our Thanksgiving meal, we will use our "fancy" dishes.   These are not my treasured China dishes that my granny gave me when I was seven years old, but some white dishes with golden trim that were purchased from a dollar store.  They look fancy and nice, but I will not worry about them being broken.  After Thanksgiving we will use them for most of our evening meals until after we put away our Christmas decorations.   Most Thanksgiving Days are spent here at our home with Jeff's parents and my mom joining us.  We don't watch the parade or any football, but eat and enjoy some outdoor time and fellowship.  Last year we even took the pictures found in my sidebar and tomorrow we plan on taking more.  Maybe I can switch the pictures out and you can see how my children have grown this past year!

The day after Thanksgiving may find the girls and I doing a little shopping, but we will definitely begin to transition our decorations from Thanksgiving to Christmas on Friday with the hanging of the Christmas ornaments on the tree coming Sunday afternoon after church.

My mother started the tradition of giving our oldest daughter a Christmas ornament (or  set) each year and she has carried that through with all of the grands.  (I am so very sure she never thought that we would have 7 children and there would be 5 other grands as well!).  We also purchase ornaments for each of the children and now, our own grandchildren.  The ornaments typically reflect each child's interests that year or reflect a family trip or vacation.  This year I purchased the ornaments in Gatlinburg and most of them have a mountain theme.

When recently asking our children what they like most about Christmas some of them responded, "Advent!"  About 15 years ago we were vacationing in the Ozarks (in the fall---we love mountains in the fall!) and came across a little store/bakery that was associated with John Micheal Talbot's (a singer) monastery.  There we found a beautiful hand-carved Advent wreath and decided then and there to establish a new tradition.  So each year we spend most nights around the Advent wreath singing and reading scripture that looks toward the coming of Christ.  Each week a new candle is lit until the final candle is lit on Christmas Eve.  It is a very special time for our family and helps to keep the focus on Christ at Christmas.   The Advent season begins the Sunday after Thanksgiving, so you have time to set up this tradition for yourselves if  you haven't done so.

Another tradition we started about 10 years ago was the Jesse Tree.  We have a small table top Christmas tree that is covered in white lights.  Each night during our devotions around the Advent wreath we also put an ornament on our Jesse Tree that reflects the prophecy from the Bible that we are reading that night.  I printed the ornaments that I found on the internet on cardstock, colored with colored pencils, cut them out and mounted on red or green cardstock and hang them with sparkling gold thread.   We also have some Nativity ornaments that we hang on this small tree.

Spending so much time focused on the true meaning of Christmas helps us to keep our thoughts from being quite so self-centered and more Christ-centered.  Santa doesn't come to our house, but we do get three or four gifts for each of the children.  The children also draw names for each other.  Christmas Eve the children open the gifts from each other and the gifts from us.  Christmas morning they have some small gifts that we put in a stocking, but each child from the very youngest knows that mom and dad put them there.  Our gifts are not big.  We are not into electronic gadgets or commercialized toys.  They are usually tools needed for a hobby or craft, items to put in a hope chest for our older girls, books, fun school supplies or outdoor play items such as bikes, basketball goals or roller blades (and these come very rarely--how many basketball goals do you need, anyway!)   This year the children have mainly requested books.  It seems they have read everything that appeals to them on our heavy-laden bookshelves.  Books are one item that I will happily invest in!!

Our Christmas Eve dinner has become a puzzle, but it seems our tradition has become to have take-out Chinese!!  I think that has come from the years that Jeff was in full-time church ministry and having candlelight services on Christmas Eve.   We generally have homemade cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning and have a meal much like our Thanksgiving dinner on Christmas Day.

Speaking of Thanksgiving dinner, I have some more prep work to do and a house to clean as well.  I have some coughing, feverish children to take care of as well, so I am very thankful that we did not plan on traveling tomorrow.    Praying that you and yours will have a very special Thanksgiving and that you will make some special memories with your family.

Linking up at Learning to Live a Surrendered Life.  Check out the link for more Thanksgiving ideas!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Thanksgiving Dinner Recipes

When we were poor college students and Jeff was minister of music and youth at our first church a dear friend made this pie several times and shared the recipe with me when we left for seminary in Texas.  It has become a favorite and is much requested by my chocolate-loving children.  (Thanks for sharing ALL those many years ago, Debby P.!)  Jeff even won a men's baking contest with this pie at one of our churches.

Chocolate Chess Pie

4 whole eggs
3 cups sugar
one stick melted butter
4 T cocoa
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
12 oz can evaporated milk

Mix all in the blender and pour into 2 unbaked pie shells.  Place a cookie sheet on the lower rack of your oven to catch any drips.  Place the pies on the middle rack (or mid-oven) and bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes or until set.  Remove and let cool.  These pies freeze well.

My mother-in-law introduced me to this recipe many years ago and it has become a must for me at all turkey and dressing meals.  I do omit the pecans as we have allergy issues with nuts!  This exact recipe is also from a former church member.  Church folks sure know how to cook!!

Cranberry Casserole

1 c. peeled raw apples, chopped
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 c. uncooked oatmeal
2 c. fresh or thawed from frozen cranberries
1 stick butter, melted
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Butter a loaf-shaped glass dish. Put a layer of apples, half of each sugar, half of oatmeal, and half of nuts.  Repeat layers.  (Oatmeal is next to top layer and nuts the very last top layer.)  Pour melted butter over all and bake in 350 degree oven for 45 minutes.  Serves 8-10 people.
I use a little less sugar and you can par-bake this and freeze so make your Thanksgiving morning a little less stressful!

I cannot remember a time that we have not had this pie at any holiday meal.  My mom made this pie when I was growing up and I gladly carry on the tradition.  It is simple and oh, so delicious.

Blueberry Cream Cheese Pies

2 baked pie shells
2 blocks of softened cream cheese
powdered sugar
1 can blueberry pie filling
chopped pecans
whipped topping

Mix some powdered sugar into the cream cheese until it is sweet enough to your taste.  Yes, you get to taste it!!  When satisfied, spread the cream cheese mixture into both pie shells.  You may then put on a layer of chopped pecans, if desired.  I do not unless my mom is coming!  Pour the blueberry pie filling over the nuts, dividing evenly.  Top all with whipped topping  and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Simple and so yummy!!  It is even great for breakfast the next day if you can eat it without your children seeing you eat pie for breakfast.  I can't wait!!

Sweet and Sour Green Beans

This is another recipe that I grew up with and it is so good!!  This recipe can be multiplied and you probably will need to if you are having a crowd or have a big family like me.

2 14.5 cans of cut green beans
8 bacon strips
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vinegar

Fry the bacon in a skillet (iron works better).  Remove bacon, but leave grease.  Let cool slightly and add sugar and vinegar.  Stir until sugar melts.  Add DRAINED beans.  Cook until the beans are slightly shriveled.  Crumble bacon on top (if there is any left at this point!  My kids always sneak bites off it while my back is turned!!)  This is not a recipe for every day, but it is so good.  Perfect for a holiday meal!

Last night we had a simple turkey casserole that I pulled from the freezer.  Most of the children really liked it and Kaelan insisted that she MUST have the recipe for when she gets married.  I will share it with you now so that you can use it for your turkey leftovers.  As you can tell a lot of my recipes are not exact.  This is one of those.

Jalapeno Turkey Noodle Casserole

You will need 2-4 cups of chopped turkey or chicken.  Prepare 6 or so cups of macaroni.  Drain.  Mix turkey and noodles with 1-2 cans of cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup.  Add some chopped jalapeno peppers, salt and black pepper to taste.  Pour into greased casserole dishes.  Top with grated cheese and a layer of buttered Ritz crackers.  Cover and freeze or bake at 350 until bubbly.  Instead of adding cheese to the top you can mix it in with the noodles and meat mixture.  Simple and easy!!

Now, I am off to get busy with the laundry and then to the kitchen where the girls and I will get some more of our cooking done and in the freezer.  I am so very thankful for my helpers.  

Are you hosting a Thanksgiving meal in your home?  Do you go all out with table settings and decorations?  If you are posting about your Thanksgiving traditions leave a comment to let us know what you are doing!

Monday, November 23, 2009

What's Cooking?

Well, the shopping is done and I have begun cooking for our family Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.  We generally cook the same dishes every year with one or two different dishes added as an experiment.  This year we will have the usual turkey, dressing, ham, sweet potatoes, squash casserole, sweet and sour green beans, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, homemade rolls, blueberry/cream cheese pies, chocolate chess pies and an apple/cranberry casserole that goes great with the dressing.  I cook WAY too much food, but we love the leftovers and the turkey carcass will be used to make soup and broth.  The ham bone will be added to season some dried beans and all will be delicious.

Today I made our dressing.  I like to make it early and freeze it so that there is a little less work for me on Thanksgiving morning.  I make a cornbread dressing that is delicious!  I save scraps of cornbread, biscuits or homemade breads in the freezer and use them in my dressing.  Today, however, there were no bread scraps, so I made two large pans of corn bread.  I had turkey broth in the freezer and added in a quart of chick broth to it.  I grate a little carrot, a whole onion and one or two stalks of celery in my blender and cook it in the broth.  My kids don't like to see any vegetables in the dressing!!

When the veggies are done I break up the corn bread in a huge dishpan and pour the veggie/broth mixture over it.   I mix that up well adding in two cans of cream of chicken soup, three eggs, salt and pepper and a little more broth or water to make it a little soupy.  I then pour the dressing into my greased casserole dish, cover and freeze.  I always make enough for two pans of dressing as there are generally pot luck dinners to attend and I like just pulling it out to thaw and baking it for a great meal.

Tomorrow I hope to make the squash  and apple/cranberry casseroles.  The chocolate chess pies can also be made ahead of time and frozen.  I will post more recipes tomorrow.

So, what are you having for Thanksgiving dinner?  Will it be the traditional turkey and dressing or do you do a non-traditional meal?  Do you have a new recipe that you would like to share?  I would love to try out some new ones.  Please post!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cade's Cove--My Gatlinburg Finale

No words needed, but can I just say--- I want to move to Cade's Cove when I grow up!!  Gorgeous!!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Forge

One day while on our vacation in Gatlinburg we took the Arts and Crafts Trail.  I had seen in the brochure that there were several stops where the artists were actually on-site and demonstrating their art or craft.  On of those stops was The Forge and I thought it would make an interesting stop.

This stop far exceeded my expectations!!  The Forge makes and sells recycled aluminum decorative plates and Christmas ornaments.  After seeing the ornaments I wished I hadn't already purchased ornaments for all the children at another stop.  They were really nice!  The artist (I don't recall his name) talked with us and told us that he had been featured in Southern Living a few years ago.  He was very friendly and joked around with us while we were looking at ornaments and plates.

My mom picked out a plate for my youngest sister and was choosing one for herself when the artist asked, "Wouldn't it be more special to you if the grandchildren made it for you?"  Of course, we were all excited for this opportunity and he took us back to his workroom.  Now, when we get creative here at home, we generally can make a real mess, but the mess at The Forge was well....really messy!

 Here we are going into the back room.  Lots of junk to walk through!

Kaelan is preparing to start the process at the automated hammer.  The artist has a template made with a raised design.  He places a square of recycled aluminum on this template and the automated hammer does it's thing.....with some help.

Kaelan directs the hammer blows under the supervision of the artist.

This process was EXTREMELY loud!

Now Aaron takes a turn.

Now Kaelan and the artist cut the hammered design out into a circle.

After the artist files the edges of the plate and wipes it down with chemicals to darken it,  we all walk out to the anvil where the children take turns pounding the edges.

The artist was very trusting of the children.  Throughout the entire process his fingers were in close proximity to hammers and cutters that the children were operating!

Kaelan's turn.

Jackson takes a turn.

That was fun!!  You can see the smaller ornaments just over Jackson's shoulder.

The finished plate!  Isn't it beautiful?  I think mom put it on her mantle.

If you go to Gatlinburg take the drive out to The Arts and Crafts Trail.  It's not as nice and neat as downtown Gatlinburg, but you will see real craftsmen and artists at work.  It is definitely time well-spent!

Saturday, November 14, 2009

We Love to Read!

I thought I would do a quick post on what we are reading around here.  We all love to read, but there isn't enough time in the day to read as much as we would like.  Here is a list of our current reading material.

Jeff is reading Clyde Cranford's Because We Love Him.

Anita is reading What He Must Be by Voddie Baucham and Presenting Miss Jane Austen by May Lamberton Becker.

Devin is reading The Attributes of God by A. W. Pink.

Jordan is reading To Have and To Hold by Mary Johnstone (about Jamestown), The Treasure of the Incas by Henty and selections from The Mentor Book of Major British Poets.

Aaron is reading The Land of the Pilgrims/The Courtship of Miles Standish (a very old textbook).

Kaelan is reading The Double Life of Pocahontas by Jean Fritz and The Landing of the Pilgrims by James Daughtery.

Jackson is listening to John Smith by Charles Graves and various picture books.

Our read aloud selections include Pilgrim Stories by Margaret Pumphreys (a tradition every Thanksgiving season), Martin Rattler by Ballantyne, The World of Captain John Smith by Genevieve Foster and from the Heroes of the Faith series, Jim Elliott.

Would love to hear what you are reading!  We are always looking for new or old books to add to our library.  I just placed an order for new books last night which includes a new favorite publisher, Lamplighter.   Now we definitely need to add on to this house.  We need more book storage!!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More from Gatlinburg

This is the deck at our cabin.  Every morning we woke to more leaves scattered across the deck and the stairs.  By the time we left the leaves were several inches deep!

Devin in the drive of our lodge.

Jackson on his dad's back as we were riding in the tram up to Ober Gatlinburg.

The view from the tram.

Kaelan and Jeff ice skating.  It was the first time for Aaron, Kaelan and Jackson.  And no, I didn't skate! Someone has to be able to take care of everybody else!  Kaelan and Jeff were just talking about how they hadn't had a tumble when they decided to circle and promptly fell on their backsides.

Jackson pretty much held on the the rail the entire time except when a  couple of the older ones would take him in between them and go to the middle.  He did manage to stay upright most of the time.

My mom and Kaelan coming down the Alpine slide.  Jordan is quickly approaching.   They had to ride in the open ski lift to the top of the mountain to come down the Alpine slide.  This was the most fun for everyone, but wasn't cheap.  Next time we will buy all day passes and just let everyone ride all day long.

Jordan, Kaelan and Devin waiting for the rest of us to finish window shopping.

The view on the ride down.  We were just in time to see all the beautiful fall colors.

The other tram going up as we were going down.

In front of a restaurant in Gatlinburg
We only saw one LIVE bear while in Gatlinburg this time and it was a baby bear crossing the highway before going into Pigeon Forge.  We  had been told to be careful about leaving food outside our lodge as a moma bear had been seen in the area several times.  Made the kids a little anxious about getting in the hot tub at night, but not enough to keep them out of it!

Enjoying a treat!  We only bought treat like this a couple of times.  We took a bag filled with homemade cookies, water, crackers,  pretzels and even carried summer sausage and cheese for snacks and lunches.  Buying treats for 8 of us each day would have cost a fortune!  We try to save where we can on vacations and food seems to be one easy way we can cut back.

Caedmon eating a leaf shaped cookie brought from home.

Jackson with the remains of his chocolate ice cream cone.  He couldn't finish it, so Jeff and I split it!
And so ends another fun day in Gatlinburg!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ever Have One of Those Days?

Yesterday was one of those days for me!  We cut school short at 11:30 which is our normal routine for Tuesdays.  Five of the children and I loaded up for town, along with three coolers, a stroller, piano music, reading, coupons and a BIG shopping list.  I dropped Jordan off at the salon around the corner from his work to get a hair cut then he was able to grab a sandwich from Subway next door and walk to work by 1:00.  The others and I stopped by McD's for an oh, so nutritious lunch (not!) before trying to run as many errands as possible in a short time.  First stop was a local grocery where they had some good meat deals and a fantastic sale on butter.  I stocked up for all the holiday cooking!   The children stayed in the truck to finish their lunch while Caedmon and I ran in very quickly.  That stop went well!  Then off to Kroger where we would all be going in and making lots of purchases of sale and coupon items.

 We were getting out of the truck and I had gathered my purse, phone, keys, Caedmon's water and cereal and my shopping list.  I flipped the lock button on the door but left the door open while I was putting Caedmon in his stroller (with swine flu and all I don't like for him to ride in the shopping buggy).  The vehicle next to us was waiting to leave, but assured me that there was no hurry.  As I was strapping Caedmon in the stroller I heard the truck door slam.  With the phone, keys, purse, grocery list and EVERYTHING inside!  Kaelan was being helpful and closed the door so the other vehicle could leave without realizing that the keys were inside!

I had the three older children hop in the back of the truck while Caedmon and I went inside the store to ask to use the phone.  Did you know that you can pay your bills at Kroger?  After waiting for a couple of people to fill out forms to pay various bills, I was finally able to ask to use the phone.  Called my hero and he was able to leave work to come to the rescue.  However, we only have one key to this truck.  Every key we have had made for this truck breaks!  So he had to call the locksmith on his way to meet us.

Well, I missed the whole locksmith/rescue scene as Caedmon, Jackson and I were in the ladies restroom. Since having my gall bladder removed I have been having some stomach issues and with the McD's floating around in my belly and the stress of the moment, well, let's just say it wasn't pleasant.  And then, Jackson started having an  upset stomach.  By the time we came out of the restroom the truck was unlocked and the locksmith was pulling away.   By now, though, I had no time to shop at Kroger so we dropped off books at the library and headed to piano lessons.

After dropping off the pianists, the little boys and I headed to Kohl's where I had $20 in Kohl's cash.  Thought to find myself a skirt...HA!  Maybe some shoes?  HA to that as well.  I knew I would have to add some of my own money to the Kohl's cash, but I couldn't find what I was looking for.  After walking all over the store we finally picked up two Melissa and Doug products for part of Caedmon's Christmas.  $26 dollars worth of quality toys that I paid less than $4!!  My day was looking better!!  I did notice, however, that Jackson was dragging a little during our traipse through the store.   Hmmm...

Off now to pick up the pianists and try to do the Kroger run...again!  Both of the little boys fall asleep on the short drive, but we wake Jackson and gently put Caedmon in his stroller to continue his snooze.  As we are walking up to the Kroger sidewalk, Jackson throws up!!  Praying that no one is witnessing this I let him finish (what else could I do?) and then we quickly go back to the restroom.....where he vomits again.   Being the driven woman that I am I clean him up and ask  him if he thinks he could make it through Kroger riding in the buggy while I quickly gather things on my list.  He assures me he is much better and he rides in the buggy (ok, I live in the south and I call the grocery carts buggies!!) with a handful of paper towels in his lap.  (Now you will all start putting your babies in the strollers to shop instead of the buggies...It's people like me that I am trying to protect my baby from!).

We make it fine through Kroger and Jackson assures me he can make it through WalMart as well.   He does great, but I had planned two more stops yesterday and due to our delay at Kroger with the locked truck, I wasn't going to make it before 5.  So I take the children home, get everything unloaded and put away and then Jeff, Caedmon and I head out again to Sam's and then to Toys R Us.  We missed out on a roast beef dinner here at home, so stopped by Taco Bell for a quick bite. Just what my stomach needed!! We made it home before 8:30 to find Jackson asleep and the report that he was fine.  We got everything put away and sat down for family worship.  It was a long day,  but now we have plenty of food and I don't have to leave my house again this week!!  Yippee!!!

Monday, November 9, 2009

More from a Grand Day

For some reason half of my previous post and pictures were lost.  Here go again!

Grandson Elisha--almost 8 months

Saturday we had grandparents and grandchildren here to celebrate Jordan's birthday.  All three of the girls made cakes that we greatly enjoyed and we also grilled burgers and had beans, cole slaw and chips.  Perfect weather!

Jackson-5 years

                                                             Caedmon--13 months

                                                         Grandson Chase-28 months

A Grand Day

Aaron-13--entertaining the little boys

Grandson Elisha-almost 8 months

Uncle Caedmon with nephew Elisha--5 months apart!

My three oldest--Lauren-25 (oh,my!)   Devin-21 and Jordan-17

Grandmother and Grand-Earl----Jeff's parents

Grandmother and Captain America
I picked up this costume the other day on clearance (no, we don't DO Halloween)
Jackson loves to dress up and this looked so patriotic.  Please don't tell me Captain America is a bad guy!  Jackson wore the costume skating with our homeschool group the other day.  So cute!

Grandmother and Kaelan
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