Happy December!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Our December is already booked up and it looks like we’re going to be on the road visiting family and friends a lot this season, which is always a crazy balance of fun and stress rolled into one. I’m all about trying to keep things as simple as possible, especially during the holidays.

We just got back our Christmas pictures of Jack and I am completely in love! Here’s a sneak peek (look for a longer post with all the pictures next week!).

We’re working on getting our Christmas cards printed and I am just now starting to do my shopping. Fellow mothers, what do you get a 5 month old for Christmas? I’m thinking we’re just going to do one or two small toys and some books since Jack really doesn’t care at this point. Any suggestions? I really want to have him a good supply of educational toys to help in his development. Let me know of some good ones in the comments, please!

With this being Jack’s first Christmas, we’re trying to figure out what our family traditions are going to be. I know that I want to do some kind of Advent countdown to Christmas next year, and I love the idea of reading a different Christmas book each night before bed. I am really stumped on how to deal with Santa Claus. I love the idea of Santa Claus, but I don’t want Santa to take over and make the holiday all about “stuff” for him. I’ll be sharing a post about my thoughts on Santa and what we’re thinking about doing for Jack as he gets older next week. I’m also going to be continuing my 52 weeks of Gratitude Challenge and sharing some holiday recipes this month.

I’m also working on something really exciting here on the blog for the new year! I can’t wait to share it with you!

I hope you have a wonderful Christmas season with friends and family! Let’s remember to enjoy this season and focus on the reason that we celebrate. I’m going to be doing this Christmas Bible reading plan that I found on Pinterest and I’d love for you to join me!

Happy December!

Love, Christina

Aunt Sarah’s Broccoli Casserole

Aunt Sarah is my grandmother’s sister, and when I was younger, she had a restaurant in our little hometown called the Kountry Kitchen. The restaurant was a lunch buffet where they would have a couple different meat choices each day and about five or six different sides to choose from. Fridays were always my favorite, because Friday was broccoli casserole day.

When I was little, I was extremely picky, so everyone was amazed that I would even eat broccoli casserole. I loved the stuff so much that Aunt Sarah started making it for all of our family get-togethers. She makes a pan without the cheese topping for me because I don’t like cheese (yes, I’m spoiled).

This recipe is one of my favorites, especially around the holidays.

Ingredients:

  • 2 one pound packages of frozen broccoli
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, diced
  • 1 stick butter or margarine
  • 1 can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 1 cup white rice, uncooked (we use MinuteRice for this recipe and it works great)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  • Place broccoli in a large boiler. Add about 2 cups of water and cook until the broccoli is very tender (the pieces should be falling apart).
  • Melt the stick of butter and sauté onion in the butter until they become transparent.
  • Stir together the cooked broccoli, butter and onions, soups, and rice until mixed well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Pour into a greased 9×13 casserole dish and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, or until the edges of the casserole start to bubble. (This recipe also freezes well, so you can divide the mixture into smaller dishes and freeze some for later, which is what I usually do).
  • OPTIONAL: Add grated cheese or a butter cracker crust on top before baking.

Five on Friday – What to do with Thanksgiving leftovers

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving! If you’re like me, you have a fridge full of food leftover from yesterday’s feast. Today, I’m sharing five quick and easy ideas for serving up those leftovers!

  1. The Leftover Sandwich – Have you ever seen the episode of Friends where someone eats Ross’s leftover Thanksgiving sandwich and he loses his mind over it? It had a “moist maker,” after all! I can totally relate, because I love a leftover sandwich. I found a recipe that recreates Ross’s sandwich, but I keep my leftover sandwich pretty simple. Toast some bread and layer on leftover turkey, spread on a couple scoops of dressing, then add lettuce, some red onion, and a little cranberry sauce. The toasted bread and lettuce give it a nice crunch to contrast the soft turkey and dressing.
  2. Open-Faced Turkey Sandwich – I’ve been making this copycat recipe from Bates House of Turkey in Greenville, AL, for years. This week, we actually got to stop at Bates on our way to the beach and try the original. It’s probably been 20 years since I’ve eaten there, but it was just like I remembered it (although, Jeff says my copycat recipe is actually better than theirs, but he’s a little biased).
  3. Thanksgiving in a Blanket – I found this video on Facebook this week and can’t wait to try it. I’ll roll anything in a crescent roll if given the opportunity, so leftover Thanksgiving food in a crescent sounds perfect.
  4. Thanksgiving Egg Rolls – Because the only way to make Thanksgiving food any better is to roll it all up together and fry it. Whoever made up this recipe has to be from Alabama. I’m actually wondering why I never thought of this…
  5. Turkey and Stuffing Muffins– So, we don’t do “stuffing” at my house. We have dressing instead, but I think you could use dressing in this recipe, too. These muffins would make a great snack or lunch.

I hope you enjoy these leftover recipes! What do you do with your leftovers? Let me know in the comments!

Letters to Jack – November 2017

Dear Jack,

You are four months old today. You’ve had quite a month, little man.

You have experienced so many firsts this month. You had your first Halloween, and we went to the Fall Festival at Mamaw and Pop Pop’s church. Everyone loved your costume.

We found out that you love watching The Wiggles and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. You especially love Mickey’s Hot Dog Dance.

You had your first bad cold and missed a whole week of school.

You look cute even when you’re sick.

You also made your first craft at daycare this month! I was so surprised when I picked you up last Friday and your teacher gave me your footprint turkey. I’m so glad that you have a great daycare with teachers who take the time to make things like that with you.

Your daddy and I took you for your first walk around Lake Lurleen this month. I’m sure it will be the first of many. We love Lake Lurleen and have been going there together since we started dating, so we were excited to take you out there for your first time. You slept for most of our walk, but during the time you were awake, you loved being outside.

This week, you made your first trip to the beach. We went to Destin with Mamaw and Papaw Hoot, Mamaw Tina and Pop Pop, and Uncle Joe Paul. You were the center of attention for the whole trip. You loved watching the waves when we went for a walk on the beach, and you had fun when we played putt putt golf. You and I actually played a pretty good round together!

Today was your first Thanksgiving, and we spent most of it driving home from the beach. You are such a good little traveler! You slept most of the way home today. Then, we went to Michelle and Kevin’s house for Thanksgiving dinner. You loved watching Jon and Zachary play. It won’t be long before you’re tagging along behind them.

We love you, little man!

Love,

Mama and Daddy

Thankful Thursday – Week 4

Happy Thanksgiving!

We spent the first part of this week at the beach, and this morning we loaded up and drove home so we could get back for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Jack was a trooper during the long drive, and thankfully he slept most of the way. We had a few hiccups today, like getting lost on the way to my cousin’s house and not being able to find an open grocery store this afternoon, which meant that I showed up to the family meal empty handed (not that we had any shortage of food, but still…).

Now we’re home, about to be tucked into our own bed (have you ever noticed how great your bed feels the first night you’re home from a trip?). We’re stuffed with turkey, dressing, broccoli casserole, and all kinds of other yummy foods. Jack’s first Thanksgiving has been a good one.

This is week four of my gratitude challenge, and the prompt for this week is “a family member.” It’s really hard to pick out just one family member to talk about because I am thankful for all of my family and even when they drive me crazy, I love them all. I could (and probably should) write a separate post for each one of them, but this post is dedicated to my mama.

I was always a daddy’s girl when I was growing up, but for the first 11 years of my life I was an only child and was thoroughly spoiled and doted on by both of my parents (having a little brother didn’t really change that much – I’m still pretty spoiled). While I loved hanging out with Daddy, I also spent a ton of time with Mama. We cooked together almost every night, watched Lifetime movies and silly TV shows that Daddy didn’t like together, and were always up for any kind of art and craft project.

When I first moved into my own place, I called Mama countless times with cooking questions or questions about my house or laundry and anything else that I thought I knew, but realized I didn’t. Mama always knows how to fix everything.

When Jack was first born, Jeff and I were both clueless and terrified about keeping him at home boy ourselves the first time. Mama stayed with us for a week and helped us figure out what to do with a baby (we seriously had no clue at all). Now that I’m a mother, my texts and calls are about parenting. “Is this normal? Do you think this is okay? How do I…?” She answers every question.

She’s also keeping Jack two days a week, which means that she gets up before daylight to drive an hour to my house to be here before I have to leave for school in the morning. I love that Jack is getting to stay with her some days instead of being in daycare all the time, and while she’s keeping him she also cleans my house and does the laundry (didn’t I tell you that I’m spoiled?). I honestly don’t know what we’d do without her.

Today and every day, I’m thankful do my Mama.

Five on Friday – Road Trip Favorites

Who else is SO EXCITED that it’s finally Friday? I am so thankful that this long week is finally coming to a close. We are celebrating the wedding of some friends tomorrow and then we’re spending the holiday week at the beach with family and I can’t wait!

Since we’re hitting the road this weekend, I thought I would share five quick must-haves for a road trip! Check them out below:

An awesome playlist – Of course, it’s not really a road trip until somebody has lip synced to “Don’t Stop Believing” or done some serious passenger seat dancing. My husband could probably do without my crazy car dancing, but if we’re driving over an hour, he knows that it’s coming. It’s similar to this….

Snacks, Snacks, and More Snacks – When we head out on a trip, I usually end up with an entire backpack full of food in the back seat. Fruit snacks, granola bars, trail mix, candy, chips…I leave no snack food behind when I know I’m going to be stuck in a car for more than an hour.

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Podcasts – Sometimes the dancing has to stop, and then we get a little intellectual. Jeff and I are kind of new to the podcast world and we are already crazy about them. We got started with S-Town last year, which led to us listening to This American Life, which has opened a floodgate of other awesome podcasts to us. My current favorite is Lore (which also happens to have a show on Amazon Prime right now!). I’m also loving God-Centered Mom, PaleOMG, Proverbs 31 Ministries, and Grammar Girl (because I’m a nerd).

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All the Baby Things – Okay, this is our first trip with Jack. I feel like we need a U-Haul. Seriously. I have all the essentials…diapers, wipes, formula, extra bottles, pacifiers, blankets, bibs, burp cloths, teething rings, his favorite toys, a couple books, extra clothes, extra socks (and that is all just in the diaper bag in the back seat). I’m sure I’ve forgotten something… babies are high maintenance, y’all (but totally worth it)!

A Good Book – When I was little, I always had a book with me when we went on long car rides, and I still never go on a trip without taking a book with me. This trip, I’m taking a couple Book of the Month selections that I haven’t gotten around to reading yet.

What are your road trip essentials?

Thankful Thursday: Week 3

It’s Thankful Thursday! This is the third week of my 52 week gratitude challenge, and the prompt for this week is family.

I am so thankful for the gift of family! My little family (Jeff and Jack) is my greatest gift other than my salvation, and I love them so much.

I’ve also been blessed with a wonderful extended family, and through marriage, a huge group of new relatives to love. My family has always been really close. We get together multiple times every year to celebrate holidays and birthdays, and when I was little we even went on some vacations together (with my grandparents, my great aunts and uncles, and all of my cousins). I’ve always loved having such a close family, and I think being born in such a small town, where we all lived within a 15 mile radius of each other, made it so easy for us to be close-knit.

Now, we don’t all live in the same small town and it can be harder to find time to visit, but we still get together for holidays. It’s always a loud gathering with 30 people crammed into someone’s living room, talking about hunting or shopping or cooking or babies or small-town gossip (for those of us who don’t live in the small town anymore and have lost out on all the drama). We eat, play cards or dominoes, exchange gifts and recipes, eat some more, and then hug everyone and say goodbye to everyone in the room at least twice before we go home. I’m excited for Jack to have his first big family get-together next week when we have Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ve always loved hearing stories about my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins from when they were younger. At most of our family gatherings, I usually end up sitting around with a bunch of the older people, just listening to them talk about the “good old days.” I’ve always been fascinated by the way they used to live and the things they used to do (like my dad riding his bike from his house out in the country all the way to town and back when he was little, which I never would have been allowed to do). There’s something so comforting about hearing stories from back then and getting to know relatives that I don’t remember well or never met through stories, and my family is made up of some great storytellers.

I think one reason that I have always appreciated family so much is because we moved around some when I was younger, and it was hard to keep friends. When you leave town (in the time before Facebook and cell phones), it’s hard to stay connected to people and stay in their lives. But with family, we were always able to reconnect during the holidays and it was always so good to know that, no matter where we lived, our family was our home.

Even now that I’m an adult, living away from the small town where I grew up, I still feel completely at home when I go to visit my extended family. I know that I can call on any of them at any time and they will be there, and I would do the same thing for them. I love having that support system, and it is something that I have had in my life for so long that it is easy for me to take it for granted.

Shortly after Jack was born, after we had been visited by countless family members in the hospital and at home, and after my mom and Jeff’s mom had stayed a couple of nights to help us figure out what to do with a newborn (because we had NO clue…we still don’t know what we’re doing), Jeff asked me how in the world people could ever do this (have a baby) without family. I honestly don’t know. I know people who don’t have the wonderful support system that Jeff and I have, and they make it somehow, but I don’t understand how they do it. I have always relied on my extended family for so much, and I find great joy and comfort in the relationships that I have with them.

I really hope that Jeff and I can help make sure that Jack develops meaningful relationships with his extended family members. It’s hard these days with so many extracurricular activities going on for kids, but I really want Jack to get to know his cousins and enjoy spending time with them like I always did when I was a  little kid. Family is such an important part of my life, and I want to pass down that love of family and traditions and values to Jack.

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How are you thankful for your family? Let me know in the comments!