O Christmas Tree

One of my favorite Christmas traditions is decorating the tree. I love that each ornament has a memory attached to it and that it’s almost like going through a photo album or scrapbook as you pull them out and hang them up. My mother and grandmother have tons of homemade family ornaments, and it’s always fun to try to find the ones we made when we were little.

Since Jeff and I have only been married for two years, we have a small collection of ornaments, but we have already added a lot to our collection this year and I am excited to see how our tree fills up as Jack gets older and starts making ornaments to add it it’s branches.

Here are some of my favorite ornaments from our tree this year:

My cousin, Michelle, gave me this ornament for Jack at his baby shower. I love that it has a place to record his birthday and weight on the back. 

Jack’s daycare teachers made this ornament for us. 
I found this cute ornament at Hobby Lobby last year and added the year in with a Sharpie. 
This was given to us as a gift last year as we celebrated our first Christmas as husband and wife. 
When our friends in Birmingham threw us a baby shower this summer, they had this ribbon for Jeff to wear at the shower. I put the date on the back and just attached a hook and turned it into an ornament. 
Jack’s first pair of shoes – I just tied the laces together and then strung them on some ribbon with a bow to make them into an ornament. 
I absolutely love Snoopy, so I couldn’t resist buying this ornament with Jack’s name on it this year. 
Every year, there is a booth in our mall that sells personalized ornaments. I thought this one was adorable and got it personalized with Jack’s name and the date. 
We bought this ornament while we were on our honeymoon in Arizona. I love the colors of it! Arizona is so beautiful, and we had the best time on that trip! I think about it every time I see this ornament. 
Yes, I got an ornament for our cats. They provide lots of love and entertainment for our family, so it just seemed right. 
Heather, who makes all of our family pictures for us, gave us this adorable hat after making our Christmas pictures. I tried to put it on the top of the tree as the topper, but I couldn’t get it to stand up enough, so I just wrapped it around one of the lower branches and used it as an ornament. 

I hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of our favorite ornaments! Merry Christmas!

Sunday Dinner

Sunday dinner is a long-standing tradition in my family that has, unfortunately, become a rare event instead of a weekly tradition. When my mom was little, they had Sunday dinner at Mamaw Hall’s house after church every Sunday. Mamaw would cook fried chicken or steak and gravy or ham (or all three, depending on what was requested and who was coming over) and tons of vegetables and biscuits or rolls or cornbread and they would gather in her little house and share lunch each week. When my mom and dad got married, they went over to my grandmother’s house for lunch a lot after church, and we continued the tradition when I was little. After we moved when I was in 4th grade, Sunday dinners became a special treat. Now that I’m grown up with a family of my own (and living an hour away from my parents and grandparents), Sunday dinners with the whole family are extremely rare. It’s a really special event when we are all in the same zip code and have a chance to share a meal.

We went to visit my parents last Sunday and had Sunday dinner at their house. My mom cooked Mamaw Hall’s famous steak and gravy, which is my favorite (and Jeff’s, and my brother’s). It was nice to spend time at home and share a really good meal.

Check out the recipe for Mamaw Hall’s Steak and Gravy below!

Mamaw Hall’s Steak and Gravy

Ingredients:

  • Cubed steak
  • Flour
  • Oil
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

Instructions:

  • season each piece of cubed steak with salt and pepper
  • Dredge in flour
  • Pan fry in vegetable oil heated over medium-high heat until browned
  • Transfer browned steak into a 9×13 baking dish
  • After all pieces of steak have been browned, make gravy using the leftover oil. Lower heat to medium.
  • Add flour to the oil and stir. Add water a little at a time until gravy is the right consistency. Stir constantly.
  • Pour gravy over the steak pieces, cover with foil, and bake at 359 degrees for at least 1 hour. The longer you cook it, the more tender it will be.
  • If you are gravy challenged (like I can be – sometimes it turns out perfect and sometimes it seizes up and turns into a mess) you can cover the browned steak with cream of mushroom soup before baking.

Snow Day!

It almost never snows in Alabama, especially not in December, but we woke up to a winter wonderland this morning! School was cancelled, which means that Jack and I get to hang out at home all day!

This is his first time seeing snow, and he was not too sure about it…

A snow day calls for a pancake breakfast. Check out my basic pancake recipe below:

Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup milk

Instructions:

  • Whisk all ingredients together and spoon onto a greased electric skillet heated to 350 degrees (medium-high heat if you’re cooking them on a skillet on the stove)
  • Cook for about 2 minutes, then flip.
  • Cook for an additional 2 minutes, until golden brown.

Now we’re going to snuggle up on the couch and watch Christmas movies! Happy Friday, everyone!

Thankfulness Challenge – Week 5

I missed posting last Thursday because it was a crazy day at work and I just crashed when I got home. I also needed some extra time to think about what to write about for this week’s challenge. While I attempt to keep our house free of clutter, I’m also a sentimental hoarder. I keep cards and letters and movie tickets and sports programs and newspaper clippings. I also have tons of little knick-knacks around the house that used to belong to this aunt or that grandmother or that cousin who passed them along to me. All of these little things have memories attached to them, which makes them really special to me, which makes it so hard to choose a favorite thing that someone has given me.

After much deliberation, I decided that this Bible, which my parents gave to me when I was nine, is my favorite.

Not only did they give me the Bible, which at one time had a beautiful burgundy leather cover, but they also taught me about what the Bible said and how to read it and spend time digging into it and how to apply what it says to my life. There are sermon notes scribbled all over its pages, starting with my big loopy nine-year-old handwriting and ending with my current chicken-scratch. I have names of pastors who have passed away scribbled next to the passages that I heard them preach about (because my mother and grandmother always wrote down the date and pastor’s name and underlined the Scripture that he preached on, so I did, too.)

It’s highlighted, dog eared, and some pages are smeared from when I got caught in the rain with my Bible in my backpack during my freshman year of college. The cover is completely worn off on the binding and is torn and barely holding the book together anymore. I can flip through it’s familiar pages and remember what I was going through at different times of my life and how God has blessed me through each and every season on life. This Bible has become a sort of scrapbook of my spiritual life over the last 22 years.

While I have recently started using a new Bible (because the pages in this one were starting to get loose and I am afraid that it’s going to just completely fall apart one day), this one will always be super special to me. I used this for almost daily for at least 20 years, so there are lots of special memories scribbled into the margins.

What gift that someone gave you are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments!

Bacon Wrapped Chicken with Rosemary Potatoes

This meal is simple, but so good. I could eat my weight in these potatoes, and the whole meal is Whole30 approved!

Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breasts

Ingredients:

  • Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Bacon
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  • Season chicken with salt and pepper
  • Wrap each chicken breast with one piece of bacon
  • Place on a sheet pan with a rack (so the bacon grease can drain as it cooks) and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. Juices should run clear when it is done.

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Ingredients:

  • Russet potatoes
  • Olive oil
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Dried rosemary

Instructions:

  • Wash potatoes and pat dry
  • Cut potatoes into bite sized cubes
  • In a large mixing bowl, mix together a few glugs of olive oil with about a teaspoon of salt, teaspoon of pepper, teaspoon of garlic powder, and teaspoon of dried rosemary
  • Toss potatoes in the olive oil and spice mixture
  • Spread potatoes onto a sheet pan and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour, turning every 15 minutes.

Green Beans (Mamaw Hall style)

Mamaw Hall always cooked her green beans with a ham bone or some ham in them to give them a really good flavor. She also cooked them to death, so there was almost not liquid left, which makes them super tender. I’m not a huge fan of ham and rarely have it on hand at my house, but we always have bacon, so I use bacon to get the same kind of flavor infused into my beans.

Ingredients:

  • One can of cut green beans
  • One slice of bacon
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Cut the uncooked bacon slice into small strips
  • On medium-high heat, cook the bacon in a medium sized pot for about one minute (it should not get crispy, but this gives it time to release the fats and become really aromatic)
  • Pour the can of beans (with the liquid) into the pot and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and simmer until most of the liquid is gone.

Christmas Pictures 2017

I’ve shared pictures from our awesome friend and photographer, Heather, at New Creations by Griffins Photography before, and now I have some awesome Christmas pictures to share!

We scheduled a mini-session with Heather the Saturday after Thanksgiving, and my sister-in-law had a session right before us for her son, Zachary, so we planned to get some pictures of each of the boys and some of them together. Taking pictures with a two and a half year old and a four month old is quite an adventure, but Heather was awesome (as usual). She even bought the little “Baby’s First Christmas” hat for Jack and sent it home with us! If you are from around Tuscaloosa and need a photographer for any reason, you should definitely give Heather and Russell a call!

Here are our awesome Christmas photos! I can’t decide which ones to get printed, but I’m leaning towards one of the snow pictures. I’m thinking the sleigh picture with the snow would be a gorgeous Christmas decoration if I got a 16×20 canvas print. What do you think?

Christmas Countdown

This is Jack’s first Christmas, which means that Jeff and I get to start our own family traditions with him this year and I am so stinking excited about it! I recently found this video on The Story of This Life’s Facebook page and I instantly knew this was something that I want to do with Jack.

I love the idea of using this as a countdown to Christmas and a way to teach the real meaning of the season. I especially love that the last “gift” is baby Jesus himself, which is really the best gift of all and the reason that we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

I was just about to roll up my sleeves and do some serious digging for all the verses that were used in this video when, guess what…they posted a How-To on their Facebook page listing all the verses they used in the video! (You can find that here.)

I can’t wait to do this with Jack next year!