Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sweet and Glassy - Part 2

Remember this post? I made my yearly attempt once again to re-incarnate my grandmother's amazing peanut brittle that she made for us every year for Christmas. A few days after the kids started our Christmas break, I gathered all my ingredients and set off for candy perfection.
If you want to make this for yourself, it's best to get everything measured out and ready to go beforehand, 'cuz once you start the cooking you really shouldn't walk away, that is, unless you enjoy small kitchen fires and the smell of burnt peanuts permeating your holiday fragranced home for weeks after.
Here is the sugar, corn syrup and water cooking. As much as I am dying to get a wooden spoon in there, I've learned by experience not to touch or stir while the sugar is cooking or you end up with a chunky, crystallized sugar mess. As Da hubby's favorite chef would say, "Not good eats."
After cooking the sugar, it's time to add the peanuts and butter and cook for a little while longer. Now Meema could just look at the color and know when the mixture is ready to take off the heat. Me? Well, I am not that brave. In fact, I tried that one year and got peanut taffy. From then on I use my trusty little candy thermometer and waited with baited breath until it read 300 degrees.
Oh, during this last part of cooking, you MUST stir the peanuts constantly. Why? Didn't you wonder why I discourage walking away while cooking. I think my exact words were, "...you really shouldn't walk away, that is, unless you enjoy small kitchen fires and the smell of burnt peanuts permeating your holiday fragranced home for weeks after." Ahhh, the blessing of experience talking.
When the temperature was just right, I pulled the pot off, added in the vanilla and baking soda (Be sure to mix in quickly, but thoroughly.), and poured the scalding hot goo into a buttered cookie sheet. Wait until cool to break into pieces, or as in my case, long enough to only suffer 2nd degree burns to taste (approx. 2.5 seconds).

So, here is the final product. Soooooooooo yummy! Definitely better than last years and not near as glassy! Like Meema's? Uhm, well, there's always next year!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A JibJab Christmas Greeting

A friend of mine sent this to me and I liked it so much I had to try one of my family!

Click Here:


Merry Christmas, ya'll!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's Show and Tell Time!

My new blogging buddy, Sarah at Thrifty Decor Chick is having a Christmas Tree Party so I decided to join in the fun and show my tree's "stuff." I know there are lots of perfectly coordinated and beautiful trees whose owners are the most amazing decorators I've ever seen. (See Sarah's site above - AMAZING! - The girl has got a gift!) Oh, so beautiful! I'm am definitely not one of those people! My family's trees are always hodge-podge, but I LOVE it that way. There are only a couple of ornaments on my tree that are not deeply rooted with memories and nostalgia. Everything I put on my tree reminds me of Christmas's past. So here is what I have, I hope you enjoy!

Every year since the kids were born we have purchased an ornament for them. By the time that they grow up and have their own trees they will have started a collection for themselves. Here are a few of those ornaments.

Daylor has always loved trains so he has a bunch of train themed ornaments. This is my favorite!

Duglin's Tree truck. I love blown glass ornaments.

Hmmm....wonder who this ornament belongs to?

I had to throw this one in just because I think they are sooo adorable and easy to do! I have one for each of the kids and goodness knows I am a sucker for initials! (No, I didn't do these myself. I was too lazy that year.)

Here are some ornaments that have been given to me or purchased over the years to commemorate certain events in our families lives.

We purchased a sandcastle to mark our first family vacation in 2007 to Destin.

My mom also gives each of kids and Da hubby and I ornaments every year and the two above are a couple of my favorites she has blessed us with.

This ornament is practically as old as I am. My Meema and Peepa had purchased these types of ornaments for all the grandchildren and had them on their tree. After Meema passed, Peepa gave them to each of us. It is priceless to me.

I also get one of these every year for the family:

Here are a couple or ornaments I have just for fun.

I got this at our church's Worship Team Christmas party. I love the toe on it and of course it's *S*P*A*R*K*L*Y* !! Glitter makes me happy. All it needs is a heel and it would be perfect!!

Now for my runner up favorites. Let me say I am SOOOOOOO glad I started this and every year we continue the tradition. Since Daylor was born and then after, we take a family picture in front of the Christmas tree, put it in a ornament frame, and date it . I love it because I adore seeing how much the kids have grown every year, but more than that, how I have a different hair style in each one! OK, so I'm kidding about the hairstyle thing, but we all love unwrapping them every year!! I wish I could show them all to you, but that would take 4EVER so here are just a few that we have.

OK, now for my ABSOLUTELY, ALL-TIME FAVORITE, YOU TOUCH-YOU DIE ornaments! These are the ones that reduced me to a sobbing puddle when the tree fell. I just knew they would be gone. Thank the Lord only one had the holder part break (which I was able to repair)! The rest were safe and sound. So here they are!

We hand and foot printed the kids every year from their 1st to their 3rd Christmas's. I ADORE these. If there is ever a fire, it will be one of the things I will grab on my way out the window! The one below is Perri's footprint when she was 5 weeks old. she had the tiniest of toesies! (She has long made up for it since!) The print itself is only 2 1/4 inches long. After her stay in the NICU, it was the first place we took her in public.

One more note. Do you remember this picture from my past post of when the tree fell?

Out of these, I mourned this one the most. It was Duglin's first Christmas ornament. (Sniffle.)

I am happy to report that super-glue is going to be added to my "Thankful For" list next year.

So, I guess if I had to name a theme of my tree it would be Unforgettable Memories. Definitely not something you would see in a magazine, but perfect for us! PLEEEEEEASE comment - I would love to come visit your blog and see your ideas, too!

Merry Christmas!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Sweet and Glassy!

Christmas traditions are huge thing to my family. There are just some things that are so good that they don't need to be changed. Not that I am against change - it's healthy and natural, but when it come to holiday traditions, back off!! Food is a big part of Christmas in our clan and not just any food - the sweet stuff!

Growing up, we had the privilege of spending alot of time with my maternal grandparents, Peepa and Meema. Unfortunately, I never got to meet my paternal grandmother and my grandfather passed away when I was 8, so Meema and Peepa were very much a part of my childhood.

I come from a VERY long line of amazing cooks. (Me, well, apparently that gene skipped a generation.) Meema every year, without fail made two things for Christmas: #1 - The most amazing, melt in your mouth AND in your hands, fudge you could ever eat. #2 (and my personal favorite) - THE best peanut brittle to ever grace the face of the earth. So, after I grew up, got married, and had kids, I decided it was time for me to attempt making brittle, and not just any brittle but, Meema's Peanut Brittle (I think I just heard angels sing...)

Sadly, my sweet Meema passed away 15 years ago, prior to my marriage, and all I have is her recipe to go by. I watched her as a child make this stuff, but things are different now. Her stove was an antiquated gas stove and her pots were so worn down you could almost see through the bottoms of them. She had a system, a pattern, an eye for when to put certain ingredients in at just the right time. Me, I am doing good not giving myself 3rd degree hot sugar burns.

Last year, I made my best batch yet! I was so excited. I didn't care about any of the presents I had bought for my precious 91 year old grandfather, Peepa. I just wanted to give him the peanut brittle that I had made. It was one of his favorite things that Meema made, but no one in our family has attempted it and gotten it like her's because it's so blasted hard to make! I waited with baited breath as he took a bite, and MMMMM'ed with yumminess!

I had done it! I had found the secret to Meema's brittle. Do the dance of joy! So, me being the gluten of punishment that I am, blurted out, "It tastes like Meema's doesn't it!?!" He just grinned at me and said, "Nope." I busted laughing. I love my Peepa. He's never been a liar! He said he loved the taste of it and it was close, but there was a soft, bubbly, crunchiness that Meema's had that mine lacked. (Oh, don't worry - I didn't get my feelin's hurt - he wasn't being ugly. He, in fact, is really is rooting for me to get it right!) Truth be told, it was a little like eating small shards of glass - I seriously don't know how his "falsies" made it through!

So, this year, I take the challenge up once again to find perfection and send it to the judge of all things sweet, my Peepa. I'll let you know how it turns out.

Monday, December 8, 2008

A Beautiful Gift

It has been a fast 5 years since we began our quest in homeschooling our children. We get lots and lots of questions about why and how and when and where we "learn" our childrens. :) Possibly the why question comes up the most. My response was and still is, to some extent, that we want to equip our children for life before sending them out into it unprepared. Mentoring, praying with, and experiencing life with our children is as vital to us as feeding them three meals a day. We don't have enough money to send them to private schools and I can not imagine sending them to a public school where the name of Jesus is omitted purposefully.

Over the past year, however, my perspective has and is changing about why we do what we do. Let me stop here and give you a bit of background into our decision to homeschool. After Da Hubby and I were married, and even up until the week before Kindergarten registration for Daylor, I was ABSOLUTELY opposed to homeschooling our kids. Not because I found anything wrong with it, but because I JUST DIDN'T WANT TO!! I fought it...hard. I looked forward to having my days finally free to keep an immaculate house that even Martha Stewart would envy. I wanted to attend Bible studies and keep up with the laundry, maybe catch a lunch or cup of coffee with my friends.

Obedience can sometimes be a slow and tedious process. God finally had to remove about two weeks of sleep from my life to help "encourage" my compliance. I love how He works! He put amazing and wise people in my path who prayed for me and gave me godly counsel as to how to get started. I finally gave in but even then I really didn't believe that I had the patience or discipline to take on such a HUGE responsibility. Bottom line? I thought I was going to fail. Honestly? I still think that sometimes.

So, we began the homeschooling journey literally a month after Da Hubby and I prayed and surrounded to this new path God was beating out for us. Thank goodness He started us out in Kindergarten!!! It was fun, but as the years have gone by it keeps getting more challenging! Teaching your own children is not easy. Slitting my wrists sometimes appears to be an easier task! We do have a lot of amazingly wonderful moments, but in the name of being completely transparent, I have to say it's the most difficult, trying, and time consuming thing I have ever done. Is it worth it? TOTALLY. Is the laundry finished? NEVER.

It may appear that I am trying to discourage those considering taking this task up for themselves, but that is not at all what I am doing. I really love homeschooling. It has been a process learning to love it. And, it comes with eternal rewards.

Let's go back to my first thought about why we homeschool. My first response was all about ME. Because He wanted ME to. (Yes, I know, never end a sentence with a preposition. Humor me.) Because He impressed MY heart. Because I was going to be obedient. And while all of this is true, it's really not at all about me. Well, maybe it's about my kids!?! Hmm, while that sounds selfless and is partially true as well, it's really not about them, either. Do we incorporate Jesus in everything we do? Yes! Do we strive to direct and equip our kids to take responsibility for their faith and live a life desiring to please no one but Him? Yes! Are my kids going to be a part of what God is doing with the world to today? I believe so. So, it's all about Jesus. We homeschool because it is small a part of an Almighty plan. Humbling and powerful, to say the least.

And so, for some amazing reason, even though we homeschool because it is a part of HIS plan and for HIS glory, HE chooses to bless us in return. Why?!? When it's truly all about Him, He loves us enough to reward our obedience? Yep! Not because He needs to feel good about Himself or that He requires our praise (even though that will happen anyway due to His Sovereignty - "Every knee will bow and every heart confess that Jesus Christ is Lord." Philippians 2:11), He purely wants to bestow his blessings simply because He loves us. Pretty unfathomable, huh?

OK, should everyone be homeschooling? Hmmm, I don't necessarily think so. My recommendation would be to ask God what He wants. He may want your kids in the schools to be missionaries! I don't know. He has different plans for us all. But, I will say that if He puts homeschooling on your heart, He will give you more than enough grace and purpose to accomplish His plan...even if you don't want to. :) We are living proof that His promises are always kept! Being that this is Christmas time, I am reminded what a beautiful gift this is.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Rise and Fall...and Rise of Andre the Giant Tree

Just like most of you, we are in the process of decorating and preparing for the Christmas season by dragging all the Christmas stuff out and sprucing the place up with some holiday cheer and twinkle lights. Over the past couple of years, I have toned down the decor a bit in hopes of creating a more simple and uncluttered look as opposed to the house looking like the Target Christmas section exploded in my den. One thing I don't tone down, however, is my tree. It's must meet two very important criteria. #1 - It must be BIG, TALL, and FAT. #2 - It must be BIG, TALL and FAT.

As we do every year, we went to Home Depot the Saturday after Thanksgiving to pick the out this year's tree. This usually is a great source of stress for Da Hubby and usually takes more than an afternoon to accomplish, so we completely clear our schedule for the day to shop.

I am one of those people who weighs my options and needs to know that whatever I buy is the best deal for my money and is exactly what I want. My poor Dewayne, bless his sweet, little heart, usually has to cut the string binding the trees on at least 15-20, then precede to hold them up for at least 5 minutes of inspection time each before I find that "perfect tree." (He HATES this day.)

So this year we pack the kids in "Lefty", our truck, and head to the nearest HD. Amazingly enough, I fell in love with the first tree we found (That will never, ever happen again.), piled it on top of our ride, and headed to the house to begin bringing the giant to life.

We named our 11 1/2 foot tree Andre .(BTW - if you have not seen this movie - Go. Right now. Get it. Watch it. Laugh your boody off. It my favorite movie of all time.) We unleashed it and let the branches fall out for the rest of the day and then on Sunday began to decorate it.

The rest? Well, I'll let the pictures tell the story.

Tree's all done! So pretty! Let's all gather around and sing "Silent Night". No, not really, but it was all so picture-y and Currier and Ives...that is, until the next morning...
Tree fall down. Sad. The kids thought Christmas was going to be cancelled. Looking back, it was pretty funny, but at the time it royally sucked.

Poor thing, it had a rough day. Dewayne had to come home from work and pick it back up for me. It weighs a good 60 pounds or more.

We broke around 20 ornaments. We have collected an ornament a year for each of the kids to take with them when they had their own trees one day. It made me sad to lose those, especially the baby's first Christmas ones. (Yes, I cried. I am a completely sentimental person. I am fine though. Thanks for your concern.) We are hoping that some we can glue back together.

Anyway, after making sure the trunk didn't split in half and figuring out that the tree had shifted in the base, we secured it again, pulled it back up and took all the ornaments off and put them back on again. I think it's going to stay put now....I hope. :)

You gotta love Christmas!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

It's Those Little Things

Since Thanksgiving is day after tomorrow and I will be busy baking, cleaning, and planning my game for Black Friday from this point on, I thought I might do a Thanksgiving post a couple of days early. Of course, this time of year always brings the traditional gratitude for all the best things in life. My relationship with Jesus, my amazing family and friends, my home, church, and dinner on the table all are at the top of my "BIGGIE" list.

But, what about the things that never make it on "the list"? I always feel sorry for the stuff that tends to go unnoticed. Don't they deserve to be mentioned, too? So, my thankful list this year is dedicated to those things.

OK, here goes:

1. Mineral make-up. Great coverage for those less that perfect complexions like mine and it totally shaved 5 minutes of my make-up application time. No putting on foundation, blending it in, and then powder. Just slather this goo on and go! Great stuff!

2. A candy dish almost empty. Is your dish half full or half empty? At this house, I prefer the half empty kind because that means it's almost gone and there will be no more drive-by-nibblings on my part! Way to much temptation!

3. Fuzzy-wuzzy sockies. I live in these things in the winter time. I LOVE my 3 pairs of them. My dog, Sundae, has a fetish for them as well, so I have to protect them with my life. I could have a basket full of one hundred socks and she will search until she finds one of these beloved cozies and then hides it. (Notice that she didn't make on "the list" this year.)

4. A bloom on my orchid. Yes, I am serious! I have had this joker for over 2 years and it has yet to bloom. Finally, after all that time, I actually am seeing two little shoots that I am assuming (hoping, praying) are going to be flowers one day. (If you haven't figured it out by now, it doesn't take much to get me excited.)

5. Flowers from Da Hubby for no reason. I don't typically get flowers for my birthday or Valentine's Day. I get them for just because! And frequently! I LOVE that! It's one of the many reasons he's on my "BIGGIE" thankful list.

6. Adjustable waist pants for the kids. If you know me, you will also know I don't buy kids clothes that are new (usually). We shop at some amazing consignment sales in the area. I love when I find a nice pair of pants with these little babies in them - makes a pair of pants fit for a couple of years longer and saves $$$ in the long run! Also, when you are in a hurry to church because you are running late for rehearsal and just don't have time to put a belt on the boys, you have comfort in knowing that your beanpole shaped kids won't be mooning the congregation 'cuz their britches are falling down. :)

7. A locked door. If you have children you will understand the significance of this picture. Enough said.

7. Pajama day at Balentine Academy. There are lots of advantages to homeschooling and one of those is a rule that is strictly enforced once a week. All those attending and teaching school on that day must come to school in their PJ's. I am happy to report, we have had not problems with compliance in this area.

8. A 12 year old truck that is still running strong. OK, this one should be on my "BIGGIE" list, but I thought I would bring it up here, too. She may stink of old McDonald's french fries and she might not heat that great, but our 4-Runner, "Lefty", is celebrating her 12th birthday this year, and continues to faithfully serve my family everyday. She's brought home two out of my three babies from the hospital. In fact, she drove me while I was in active labor all the way to the hospital with a flat tire. She's carried home almost every Christmas tree Dewayne and I have had. She's purple, she's noisy, she pulls to the left so hard you have to use both hands to keep her on the road, and I love her.

10. Mr. Clean's Magic Eraser. I can not say enough about this thing. Takes any scratch, scuff, spot, rub, and mark off of pretty much anything. I once kicked the back door of my house with my boots on. (Yep, I kicked the door. Well, it deserved it! I was late for a doctor's appointment and the stupid thing wouldn't unlock! I know, totally mature way to handle the situation, wasn't it?) Anyway, I left this horrid, black scuff mark that would not come out. That is until Mr. Baldy took it out for me. That's when our love affair began. We have been together ever since.

11. At least one clean room after the kidos go to bed. Where's the picture? There isn't one. This rarely ever happens.

12. Lastly, my Daily Devotional Bible. I have enjoyed this Bible immensely this year. It is a read through the Bible in year type, and I LOVE the devotions written in it. It is written from a worship perspective and I have so enjoyed my times with Jesus in the morning this year.

That's about all that I have time for. I hope you and yours have a wonderful Thanksgiving and that you take time to recognize the abundance of blessings (Big and small!) God has given to you, too!

Happy Thanksgiving!!!