Thursday, December 28, 2017

Joyful Tidbits

Good Friday morn!

It is December 29...

Four days after Christmas.

There have been many Christmases in the past 56 years where I have felt sad or "down" the day or two after Christmas. However, this has not been one of them.

Honestly, I am feeling a little relieved.

My personality, basically, is one of HIGH, high expectations for events and/or holidays and LOW, low "day after" blah-ness when the HIGH, high expectations are not fully met.

It is sad, I know, to be my age and still want, expect, work toward, etc. the PERFECT Christmas.

Beautifully decorated...

Spotlessly clean...

Gifts bought AND wrapped weeks in advance...

Hot-cocoa-drinking-Christmas-movie-watching-every-single-night of December...

Perfectly cooked meals, cookies, cakes, etc.

The list could go on and on and on and on.

And it does. The list literally goes on and on and on.

It leaves me breathless and sweaty and more than a little bit anxious on some days.

Luckily for me, I have the following going for me...

1. The official Christmas season (in my heart AND head) does not begin until the day after Thanksgiving. This is by choice. In fact, I keep my Thanksgiving flag flying high between Thanksgiving and December 1 because here in Alabama, the leaves may or may not still be a little yellow and red and orange. I apologize in advance, but I cannot "skip" ahead to the reds and greens of Christmas before the last of the yellows, reds and oranges of Thanksgiving have finished putting on their show.

I kid you not.

I may do a few Christmas-type things here and there in the week leading up to December 1, but I'm still wearing earth tones.

2. My favorite parts of Christmas-prep are honestly making my family Christmas card AND wrapping gifts. Those are the two things I do not stress over. All of the other Christmas-prep activities can go one way or another, but I love making, addressing, mailing Christmas cards AND wrapping one, two or three gifts a day.

This does not mean I am great at either of the two above-mentioned tasks, but I do enjoy them and look forward to them each and every year.

I realize some of you may think the whole process of making the annual Christmas card is pure torture, and to you I will simply say, "I feel that way about decorating trees."

I'm not good at it, and when I see a home featuring one, two or more elegant, gorgeous "themed" Christmas trees, it is difficult not to let envy take hold.

3. And lastly, I attempt to find as many joyful tidbits in each and every day of December leading up to Christmas Day.

This is where a lot of the "busy stuff" falls by the wayside, and I make myself remember why we celebrate Christmas in the first place.

That's right.

I have to make myself do that from time to time.

And what are some of the ways I remember, you may ask?

Well, these two quotes from Ann Voskamp are definitely reminders.

“God gives God. That is the gift God always ultimately gives. Because nothing is greater and we have no greater need, God gives God. God gives God, and we only need to slow long enough to unwrap the greatest Gift with our time: time in His Word, time in His presence, time at His feet.”

“Christmas is about God's doing whatever it takes to be with us, and our doing whatever it takes to be with Him. He climbed down from the throne in heaven to get to you. Climb over the throes of Christmas to get to Him.” Ann Voskamp, The Greatest Gift: Unwrapping the Full Love Story of Christmas.

Making the time to read the Advent Story each day in December (with or without little ones in the house) is yet another way I remember. And, yes. Sometimes I skip days (although it is my goal to NEVER skip).

The Christmas Eve Candle and Carol Service is by far my most anticipated way to remember. I love this service and everything it embodies.

Keep in mind, the above doesn't mean I don't enjoy some of the "busy stuff." I'm pretty sure Christmas Cards and the wrapping of gifts wasn't a prerequisite of celebrating Jesus' birth those many years ago.

And as long as the "busy stuff" doesn't become the main thing, I think it's okay to enjoy the "stuff" now and again.

All that being said up front, the rest of this post will simply be sharing some of my joyful tidbits with you. Some will probably seem silly. Many will probably seem unnecessary. Others will probably seem very small and insignificant.

Just keep in mind, your list and my list will differ in some way or another.

Of this, I am almost certain.

1. The Polar Express - This year we took the grand-tots on a train ride to the North Pole.

One of my joyful tidbits?

The reindeer shoes RT wore.

I think the world would be a better place if everyone had a pair of reindeer shoes.

Don't quote me on that, but I can't imagine a better way to walk around...


2. The Christmas Tree Farm - This was our 24th year to go to this particular farm. Quite simply, I love it!

3. My favorite Christmas word for the past several years has been "JOY." I don't see that changing anytime in the near future, and so I occasionally purchase the random flag, pillow, plate, candle and/or ornament with said word emblazoned upon it.

4. ZooLights - A ride on the carousel, a walk through the barn, a chicken nugget dinner and many, many Christmas lights pleased the grand-tots to no end.

5. Palisades Christmas - This is my 96 year-old MamMa's celebration which she hosts at Palisades Park in Oneonta every year.

This is a pic of my MamMa and her sister-in-law, Aunt Nell.

Thirty-two were in attendance this year, and that made MamMa very happy...

Which is why it is one of my joyful tidbits!

Monica and Justin.

My cousin, Roy, and his wife, Alisha.

Sawyer, Brad and Stephanie.

5. Oxford Christmas at Grandma's - Yet another joyful tidbit this year.

Judith and Lauren.

Roxie, Courtney and Matthew.

A messy bun...

A toothless smile...

And Christmas tree lights in the background...

Joyful tidbits ALL!

7. Christmas Eve Brunch, Football AND Christmas Cookies - The football and Christmas cookies were extra this year, but definitely a good addition.

Christmas Eve cookie decorating courtesy of by Aunt Mia (a/k/a Melia).

A little nap makes Christmas brunch that much more enjoyable.

8. Christmas Morning Visit - A little visit with Judith and RT to see what Santa left were two VERY joyful tidbits.

Well, there you have it.

Those were some of my Christmas joyful tidbits this year.

Some years, I definitely have to look a little harder than others, but there are always, always tidbits to be found.

I hope you and yours had a very Merry Christmas, and I will talk to you next year!


The Enchanting Belinda

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Tuesdays with Judith, Unexpected Snow Day, The Chick is Coming, Quotable Quotes, The Pioneer Woman's King Ranch Chicken Casserole AND Pinterest Stuff (Random Acts of Christmas Kindness)

Good Friday morn!

Once again, I'm turning things upside down!

I am going to stick the Randomness at the bottom, and start with "things of substance."

Quotable Quotes - You can find the following in a book called Unwrapping the Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp. It is a book meant for families, but I have found it fills a need for me in the daily devotion and scripture writing department this month. Having a hard time finding even "moments" of Christmas this year, the following made complete and simple sense to me.

I've been looking in the wrong places for Christmas, and as a Christian, I should know better.

"Jesus is our Light in the dark that we could never light with a switch - Jesus is the Light we can only find.

"Just like Christmas - Christmas can only be found.

"Christmas cannot be bought in a store. Christmas cannot be created in the kitchen. Christmas cannot be made by hand, lit up, set out, dreamed up. Christmas can only be found - right there in the manger."

A very timely reminder, I thought.

The Pioneer Woman's King Ranch Chicken Casserole

You will need the following:

Butter, for the baking dish
1 can cream of chicken soup 
1 can cream of mushroom soup 
1 can Rotel
2 tablespoons chili powder 
1/2 teaspoon cumin 
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chicken broth 
16 corn tortillas, torn into pieces 
1 roasted whole chicken (rotisserie chicken works well), cooled and torn into chunks
1 large white or yellow onion, finely diced 
1 red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced 
1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and finely diced 
1 jalapeno, finely diced 
1 1/2 cups grated sharp Cheddar
1 1/2 cups grated Monterey Jack cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9" by 13" baking dish.

2. Make the soup/tomato mixture. In a large bowl, combine the soups and diced tomatoes and peppers. Add the chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper and chicken broth. Stir it all together.

3. Line the bottom of the baking dish with half of the torn tortillas. Layer on half the chicken. Add half the onion, bell pepper and jalapeno. Sprinkle on half the cheese and pour on half the soup mixture. Repeat the layers, beginning with the rest of the tortillas, and ending with the rest of the soup.

4. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake until bubbling, another 15 minutes.

Okay. This is VERY good, but it is also kinda hot...

AND, it also makes a very large casserole, so it is perfect for company!

Pinterest Stuff

Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

1. Leave quarters at a laundromat.

2. Leave the correct amount of change on a vending machine.

3. Leave dollar bills in the toy section at the Dollar Tree.

4. Pay for the tab of the person behind you in the drive-thru line.

5. Find a dirty car and leave a car wash gift certificate. 

6. Leave diapers and wipes on a changing table in a public bathroom.

7. Adopt a classroom in need (send holiday party treats and craft box).

8. Buy a hot cocoa or latte for Salvation Army bell ringers.

9. Bake and deliver Christmas cupcakes to library employees.

10. Leave present in mailbox for mail carrier.

RANDOMNESS #1 - Tuesdays with Judith - Whenever Judith comes to visit in December, it is my plan to "do something Christmas" with her. It doesn't have to be big...

Or expensive...

Or over-the-top.

At least that is what I keep telling myself.

As you can see, the first Tuesday of December I kept it very SIMPLE.

After our customary washing of the dirty dishes...

We read Christmas books.

Specifically, we read the new pop-up Christmas book I recently purchased 73 times...

I kid you not.

I bought this "sticky" Christmas tree three years ago at a Hallmark After Christmas Sale for about $2.

So glad we finally got to use it.

It was worth the wait.

RANDOMNESS #2 - Unexpected Snow Day - Mikie was able to spend a Snow Day at home. A very rare occurrence, indeed!

And, oh me, of little faith...

I went to bed NOT expecting any measurable snowfall significance.

I rarely am so happy to be so wrong.

First, Mikie picked Little Man up from daycare to avoid potentially dangerous roads, and we played with him a little while before everyone else got off work.

And when Mikie walked up the sidewalk carrying Little Man, this is what I was feeling.

It was all pretty beautiful.

RANDOMNESS #3 - The Chick is Coming! The Chick is Coming! - This has been the L-O-N-G-E-S-T S-E-M-E-S-T-E-R in the history of the world!

SO glad Roxie is coming home this evening!

I could use a bunch of adjectives right about now, but I'll just leave it at that!

Have a grand December weekend. I'll be back sometime before Christmas to check in and share something festive!


The Enchanting Belinda

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Christmas Simplicity, The Polar Express, Sunday Thanksgiving, Oxford Thanksgiving, Blog Linkage AND Old-Fashioned Fruit Drop Cookies

Good Sunday afternoon!

AGAIN WITH THE DISCLAIMER - I still cannot figure out how to edit my pics using the same editing stuff I've used for over a year now.

Someone changed the super easy instructions, and didn't send me the memo.

Until I figure things out, my pics will continue to be totally uncropped and unedited, which drives me a little crazy...

But you probably would never have noticed.


Blog Linkage - It is unheard of for me to put Blog Linkage ABOVE Randomness on the blog, but this post is so lengthy I was afraid you might skip over this, and it's too good to miss.

Okay. Go to Nesting Place under My Blog List and read yesterday's post entitled, "How to Have A Simple Christmasy Home Like A Normal Person Who Loves Beauty."

When you finish reading the above, type "We Want to See Your Winter & Christmasy Home" in the Search Box and enjoy that post, too.

Old-Fashioned Fruit Drop Cookies

For the same reason I put Blog Linkage at the top of the post, I am doing the same with the recipe.

I just don't want you to miss anything important!

You will need the following items:

2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1/2 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups candied cherries, cut in half
2 cups chopped dates
1 1/2 cups chopped pecans
Pecan halves, if desired

1. In large bowl, beat brown sugar, shortening, buttermilk and eggs with electric mixer on medium speed until blended, or mix with spoon.

2. Gradually stir in flour, baking soda and salt. Stir in cherries, dates and chopped pecans. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour.

3. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease cookie sheet. Drop dough by rounded teaspoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto cookie sheet. Place a pecan half on each cookie.

4. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched lightly. Immediately remove from cookie sheet to wire rack.

RANDOMNESS #1 - Christmas Simplicity - I'm sure a lot of you are well on your way to finishing your Christmas decorating.

What am I saying?

I bet you're already finished, aren't you?

If you haven't finished (or even started)...

Get ready!

I'm about to make you feel better about yourselves.

But first, a story...

Every year since we've lived in The Dale, we have gone to Pine Hill Farms the Sunday after Thanksgiving to cut down our Christmas tree, visit the reindeer, partake of free hot chocolate, ride the tractor-pulled wagon, etc., etc.

This was our 25th year.

Can you believe it? Twenty-five years have come and gone, and I have had 24 hand-cut trees in my den from this particular farm.

Twenty-four, but not 25.

This past weekend, most of us went to the Tree Farm. (Austin and Roxie had work and school obligations... BAH!)

On the way to the reindeer, Josh asked me if I wanted him to get a saw.

"No. That's okay. We'll look around first," I replied.

No questions were asked until an hour later while we were drinking our hot chocolate.

"Mom... Are you NOT getting a tree?"

"Oh, yes. I'm getting a pre-cut tree this year," I said.

"Well, point it out to me, and I'll load it for you while you pay," Josh told me.

"No need for that. I'm just going to pay for it and pick it up in a couple of days." By this time, I wasn't making eye contact with Josh at all.

"Why wouldn't we take it now?"

And then I saw it finally dawning on him.

Josh worked at the Tree Farm two or three seasons when he was in high school. He loved working at the Tree Farm except for one particular chore.

He hated flocking the trees.

Despised it!

And on days in December when I would say aloud, "I want a flocked tree one day. I think they are so pretty," he would almost pitch a fit.

"I cannot believe you are getting a flocked tree," he said, accusingly.

"It's okay, Josh. I'm not asking you to personally flock it. Don't take it as a personal attack on your character. I talked to Dad, and he said it was fine for us to have a flocked tree."

"I cannot even look at you," he said, and he walked to his car.

All of my kids are so dramatic.

I have no idea where they get it.


I now have a lightly-flocked Christmas tree in my den. It isn't big. It is quite small and perfectly shaped. There isn't a light on it, and I'm honestly thinking of just putting a medium-sized twig star on the top (I saw one at Target) and getting a pretty plaid ribbon to wrap around it.




When I told Roxie my idea on the phone, she sputtered a few times before she said, "What did Josh say about it?"

"It isn't Josh's decision."

Total silence on the other side of the phone.

But wait...

There's more.

I think this year, my decorating is going to consist of a lot of candles (at least 100 per room), semi-brightly wrapped packages (red and brown), my gold Angel tree in the living room, Christmas cards trimming the doorways throughout the house and my new Pentatonix Christmas CD playing in the background.

My plan is to take A Simple Life to a whole new SIMPLE level.

I'm also thinking about throwing a Christmas pillow here and there.

I'll let you know what the kids have to say about it when (or if) they visit during the holidays.

There now.

Don't you feel so much better about yourselves!

You're welcome!

RANDOMNESS #2 - In case you've ever wondered, this is what a ten month-old Thanksgiving Indian looks like.

I know he's a little fair and blue-eyed, but I think he makes a fine, fine Indian.

RANDOMNESS #3 - The Polar Express - I bought the tickets as soon as they went on sale, and we were all scheduled to leave at 4:30 to get there at 5:30 and depart the train station at 6:30.

What went wrong, you ask...

1. OVER two hours to get to a destination only 45 minutes away.

2. Josh was unable to join us because of work.

What went right...

1. Mike bought everyone chicken strips and biscuits from Bojangles to eat in the car, so dinner was taken care of completely.

2. Roxie came from Auburn, so she got there with time to spare. Even though the tickets said something like, "Under no circumstances will we hold the train for latecomers," she kinda got one of the conductors to hold the train for four minutes while everyone parked and ran.

She's good at things like that.

3. RT and Judith had no idea what was going on, so running to catch a train to the North Pole was all fun and games to them.

I, however, was slightly stressed and had that flop sweat thing going for me.

Looking back, I now think it might have been fun to jump onto the MOVING train...

Like in the movies...

But as we all know by now, my life is not anything like the movies.

Heavy sigh.

I used to think there was no reason to take a baby to special events they were never going to remember, but Little Man thoroughly enjoyed everything about the train ride...

The lights, the sounds, the ride.

He might not remember it, but he sure did have a good time.

These shoes slay me.

Get it?

S-L-E-I-G-H me.



The giant cookie!

We thoroughly enjoyed our train ride to the North Pole.

RANDOMNESS #4 - Sunday Thanksgiving - My side of the family celebrated Thanksgiving the Sunday before the actual holiday, and for the second year in a row, we had our Thanksgiving at the Palisades in Oneonta.

Stephanie's Rice Krispie Treat Drumsticks were a big hit with the two and under crowd.

Who am I kidding?

The 56 and older crowd liked them very much, too.

This was Judith's contribution to our Thanksgiving meal AND my front porch this past November.

RT is beginning to think this "holiday stuff" is pretty fun.

And he would be correct in this assumption.

Note to self...

Let's get the "little kid pics" out of the way at the beginning of the evening. Everyone is more than just a little pooped in this photo.

RANDOMNESS #5 - Oxford Thanksgiving - Everyone was in attendance for Thanksgiving lunch with Grandma. Good food, fantastic weather, lots of kids and everyone in between made for a really nice holiday.


As the oldest female "young" cousin, Lauren is the Little Mother who brings all the little girls together.

It wasn't real turkey, but he was satisfied.

Just wait until next year.

Brandi and Matthew.

Mike, Judith and Grandma.

The background is almost as entertaining as Little Man.

Micah worked very hard on his Thanksgiving artwork.

Have a great weekend, and I'll be back soon with holiday stuff galore!


The Enchanting Belinda
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