November 30, 2011

Transition to the Christmas Season

I can't believe December starts this week!  I feel like Mississippi on the Mall was last week...we just celebrated the 4th of July, I was just in Seaside...or buying pumpkins and pulling out my sweaters.

Alas, many houses have sparkling trees in their windows, wreaths and decor adorn the store windows, and Christmas music was blasting throughout Harris Teeter as I did my grocery shopping yesterday.

So, ready or not, here it is!

However, I happen to be ready.  December is my favorite month of the year for so many reasons.

I look forward to sharing with you my activities, traditions, cooking and decorating over the next month.

May your upcoming days be merry and bright!

November 28, 2011

More food?

As if we hadn't been eating enough the past few days in Williamsburg, we decided to make a Thanksgiving meal from scratch on Saturday.

We stopped at Wegman's in Virginia on the drive home and picked up the perfect ingredients.

We injected the turkey on Friday night with a garlic butter/hot sauce marinade.

Then it was off to the fridge for 12+ hours.

On Saturday morning, Kern cut up lemons, oranges and onions, put a poultry dry rub all over the skin and then placed bacon strips on the bird...then off to the oven!

In the meantime...we did a sweet potato casserole with walnuts and brown sugar....

...and butter to bind it together!

sugar sparkly heaven

The bird emerged 4 hours later cooked perfectly--tender, moist and flavorful--with a hint of hot sauce and garlic

Cut. Slice. Slice. Slice. Nibble.

Green bean casserole with friend onion topping

The spread: sweet potato casserole, green beans, dressing, gravy and turkey!

Homemade dressing (made from homemade cornbread) - melt in your mouth!

I finally got my turkey leg!

Last but not least...homemade PECAN PIE

I am so thankful for all my blessings--not the least of which being a boyfriend who is an excellent cook!

November 27, 2011

A Colonial Thanksgiving: Part 2

The weather was even nicer on our second day--I didn't need a jacket!

They didn't have Vita Mixes back then?

What a lovely garden!

Kern found a canoe

The entrance to the "Magazine" -- the place that stored all of their weapons.
Kegs of powder - BOOM

Admiring all of the guns in the Magazine

The shoemaker was one of my favorite crafts to observe.  He was making a pair of shoes for one of the workers in Williamsburg!

Some people say we are alike...

After another delicious lunch

It's not every day you get to see oxen sauntering down the street.

Mom, Dad and me in front of Bruton Parish Church.

Josh and Lee 
We had a great time celebrating Thanksgiving while soaking in the history of Williamsburg.  I definitely missed my family in Mississippi though!  Just a few short weeks until Christmas.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday weekend and spent time with loved ones.

November 26, 2011

A Colonial Thanksgiving: Part 1

This year, we decided to shake up one of the most traditional holidays - Thanksgiving!

Instead of going to Mississippi, my parents drove north to meet Kern, me, my brother Josh and his fiancé Lee in Colonial Williamsburg!

This was my first time to visit, and it was the perfect ending to my trips to Philadelphia and Boston earlier in the year.  Anyone care to challenge me to Colonial trivia?

Williamsburg is like an old-timey Disney World- you walk in the "gates" and into a world that acts like it's a different time.  I loved it!

The trip was originally my dad's idea--he has been wanting us to visit Williamsburg as a family for several years now.

Yep, just a regular horse and buggy driving through the streets.

Dad and me in front of the Williamsburg Capitol building.

Dad made a colonial friend.

Lee and I posed with a woman outside of the apothecary.

Doesn't he look dashing in a three corner hat?

The whole gang

Ready for Thanksgiving lunch at King's Arm Tavern

Dad enjoying his meal

We toured the Governor's Palace in the afternoon--it was decorated for Christmas!

The entryway is full of swords and guns--it was meant to intimidate and awe.

We wandered through the gardens as the sun began to set.

The first day was filled with eating, walking and taking it the gorgeous weather.  We learned how old medicines were made, wigs were sewn and listened to George Washington lecture.

What could make you more thankful than that?

November 23, 2011

Thankfulness Abounds: Being Joyful

Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!

All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.

Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.

Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.

-Henry van Dyke, 1907

November 22, 2011

Thankfulness Abounds: the outdoors

This past weekend, Kern, Patrick, Lisa, Katie, Laine and I spent a lovely day in Hume, VA.

The weather could not have been more perfect and it was so nice to drive for an hour and feel very far away from the city.

Lisa, Laine, Katie and me

Gorgeous barn

Of course I took a picture with the pumpkins!

Perfect blue sky, green grass, bare trees - true fall scape

We sat outside all day

Take me to the mountains! 

November 21, 2011

Thankfulness Abounds: my Mom

Happy Birthday, Mom!

My mom's birthday was this past weekend, and I wasn't able to be with her to celebrate, but I plan on carrying on the birthday party this week when we are together.

Mom's friends threw her a party--and of course she had a crown!
Photo courtesy of Linda Richards
It's really an understatement to say why I am thankful for my mom.  Growing up, we always got along, but during my college years we began to really transition into friendship.  Even though we live a thousand miles apart now, our friendship has grown through daily phone calls, "face time" chatting and multiple daily emails.

Have a cooking question?  Call Mom.  See some cute clothing online?  Email Mom.  Rearrange furniture in my apartment?  Face time with Mom and show her.

Whenever I spend time at home, I am constantly amazed at her creativity and resourcefulness.  She always puts others ahead of herself.   She takes time out of her busy day to really go the extra mile if someone needs her.

Mom gives me advice, helps me sort through decisions...and always listens.

I am thankful to have someone who knows me so well and loves me unconditionally to also be someone I can count on daily and rely on throughout the years.

Thanks, Mom!

November 16, 2011

Thankfulness Abounds: the fog

"As you look at the day before you, you see a twisted, complicated path, with branches going off in all directions.  You wonder how you can possibly find your way through that maze.

Then you remember the One who is with you always, holding you by your right hand.  You recall My promise to guide you with My counsel, and you begin to relax.

As you look at the path ahead, you notice that a peaceful fog has settled over it, obscuring your view.  You can only see a few steps in front of you, so you turn your attention more fully to Me and begin to enjoy My Presence.

The fog is protection for you, calling you back into the present moment.  Although I inhabit all of space and time, you can communicate with Me only here and now.  Someday the fog will no longer be necessary, for you will have learned to keep your focus on Me and on the path just ahead of you."

-Jesus Calling, Sarah Young, November 16th

It's foggy and raining today in DC.  I have never put "peaceful" and "fog" together in the same sentence, but I appreciate the notion that a fog can actually be a way to remind me to focus only on what is right in front of me--the present moment--instead of looking behind or wondering what is ahead.

It's so tempting to demand a road map.  To spend all my time examining what the path appears to look like ahead, but neglecting the part of the road I am currently passing through.

Do you ever feel this way?  I often wonder if I will ever fully train myself to live in the present.

Psalm 73 reminds us:

"Yet I am always with you;
   you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel"

I am thankful that I have a God who gives grace and guidance for every present moment.

November 15, 2011

Thankfulness Abounds: the night

Have you ever found yourself complaining and then thought, "I should be thankful and find the positive in this very thing I am complaining about"?

About 4:45pm, I looked out the window in my office and noticed the sun was beginning to set.  I immediately grumbled and thought about how much I hate leaving work when it is pitch black dark outside.

When I finally headed out of the office a little after 6:00pm, it definitely felt much later.  Perhaps that's what I dislike about the early darkness: the feeling that the entire day is over very quickly.  I soon realized that the new early darkness was the perfect opportunity to find thanks.

My view on the walk home

As the seasons change, it offers the chance to alter my schedule.  When it is cold and dark, I tend to spend more time indoors.  When it is light and warm, I thrive in the outdoors.  Each season has its food to enjoy, different kinds of clothes and distinct holidays and traditions.

As much as I love the "go-go-go" of summer, I do enjoy my slower winter pace.  It's easy and comfortable to stay indoors with friends, try new recipes, and catch up on the stack of unread books on my nightstand.  Fall and winter are often my "planning" season where I set goals and think about the upcoming year--especially during the month of January.

Maybe one of my resolutions can be to not complain about the short days and cold weather, but to instead find new ways to interact with friends and learn a new hobby that I can enjoy in the warmth of my home.

Do you prefer winter? or summer?  What is your favorite part about the "dark" months of the year?

November 12, 2011

Thankfulness Abounds: Hugs

When was the last time you hugged someone?

It might depend on which part of the country (or world) you live in.  I have noticed the past few days that I've been in Mississippi that I tend to get hugs from...everyone.

When I wake up in the morning (and go to bed) my parents give me a...hug.

I saw some of my old elementary school teachers I haven't seen in years today...hug.

I run into old friends at the grocery store...hug.

I really enjoy feeling the love around here, but I must tell you about a very special hug I received this week.  It was the first HUG I have ever shared with this person.

I finally got to meet Ellie.  Adams and Jordan's baby girl.

Now have you ever seen a more adorable little girl?  I didn't want to leave her!

Hugging Ellie was surreal--in a good way.  Adams and I started 3 year old pre-school together and I met Jordan the first day of school at Jackson Prep.  She and I were in the same math class...and have been great friends ever since.  Meeting Ellie was so special and wonderful.  I love watching her grow and can't wait to spend more time with her.

When I walked in the room, Jordan said, "Ellie, it's Aunt Em!"  Cue the heart melting.

I am headed to Memphis this weekend to celebrate the upcoming arrival of baby Hunt Maynard--Elisabeth and Hunter's baby--who will make his grand entrance in January.  I'll be spending the weekend with my best college friends--it's sure to be a special time.

Hugs to all!

November 11, 2011

Thankfulness Abounds: Veterans

Today is Veterans Day!

It's really difficult to put into a short post the significance of this day for our country.  Without the men and women who have served and are currently serving, America would not be what it is today.

You may remember my June post about Honoring Heros.

Today, I want to say a special THANK YOU to a Veteran that is very near and and dear to my heart: my father.

Dad served at the Combat Developments Command at Fort Belvoir in Virginia from 1968 to 1969 and in Vietnam from 1969 to 1971.  He was an Army Artillery Captain in the southern part of an area known as II Corps, which included Nah Trang, Dalat and Cam Ranh Bay.  He also served as an Operations Officer.  During his time at Fort Belvoir, he was an Operations Research Analyst and a Project Officer--basically a "go-between" between the contractors and the Army. 

Our family in Washington, DC

Father/Daughter golf

Being silly last Christmas
Dad: I'm so proud of you and thankful for your service to our country.

Please take time to thank the Veterans in your life today!
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