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Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Since Thanksgiving is tomorrow I thought it only appropriate to reflect on the things in my life of which I am most thankful. I could very easily create a list nearly as long as Santa's. I'll limit myself to ten reasons I am thankful this year. I realize that all of the items on my list are God's blessings. Most of all I am thankful for the eternal life and forgiveness He has granted me.

1. I am so thankful to have a husband who is supportive, loving, intelligent, creative, artistic, thoughtful, handsome, and who is truly my best friend.

2. I am so grateful to have a job that I enjoy and colleagues I genuinely like. I realize that in the current economic environment I am lucky to even be employed. I feel even more blessed to be in a field that I love and can picture myself in for the long haul.

3. I am jubilant at the fact that my brother, Bryan, has returned home safely from his second tour in Iraq. His safe return is certainly an answered prayer.

4. I will give thanks this year for the wonderful blessing of having my grandmother in my life. She is amazing. I love her more than I can express. She will be turning 85 years old next week. I am so thankful for her good health and for her presence in my life.

5. I am so grateful for the opportunity to further my education. I know that not everyone even gets the opportunity to attend undergrad. I realize I am truly blessed to be working on my Ph.D. An even bigger blessing and reason to be thankful is that I get to go to school for free because I work at an institution of higher education.

6. I am thankful for my parents. Through the good and the bad they have shaped me into the person that I am today. I am also so grateful for the wonderful relationship I have with my in-laws. They make every effort to show me I am loved and important to them. This relationship is something I also recognize not everyone has in their life.

7. I give thanks this year for our health. Judd and I are so blessed to be healthy and in love. We realize that tomorrow is not promised.

8. I am so very grateful for our dog, Cole. He brings us such joy. He fills the void of being child free. Because our parenthood needs are met with him we will be able to wait until I graduate to start a family with a human baby. Ha. He is our child. We love him and can't imagine our lives without him.

9. I am thankful for our precious friends. You know who you are. Our lives would not be the same without you.

10. Finally, I am so very thankful for the freedoms that come with being an American. I am so thankful for the opportunity to have a life of prosperity and the choice of my religion.

This is a great time to reflect on what it most important. What are you thankful for?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A Southern Thanksgiving

I was thinking today about all of the family tradition dishes that are served at my mother's Thanksgiving table. (I laughed to myself beacuse in a matter of minutes I was able to find pictures of all of our usual thanksgiving foods on the Southern Living and Cottage Living websites). This post is especially for our northern friends we made while living in Philly. When we discussed Thanksgiving I realized our spreads are completely different.
We are a southern family tried and true (except for my dad's 1/2 Yankee blood). Bless his heart. My paternal granddaddy (Poppa) was from Illinois. Shhh...don't tell anybody. Our disclaimer to this fact is that he moved to south Georgia to live his life with his new bride at a young age. He realized what was good for him and never left.

This Thanksgiving will be a little different for everyone. We can thank the network hosting the Iron Bowl (when the University of Alabama and Auburn University play each other) for this oddity. Thanksgiving is the day before the Iron Bowl. Thus, we will be in Auburn having our meal of thanks with our tailgating friends and not at one of our mother's tables. Weird. I am trying to get used to the idea. I know we will have a great time, but it just won't be what we are used to doing for this holiday.

Even if we wanted to eat with my family this year we wouldn't be doing it in our traditional way. My parents are going to my aunt's for Thanksgiving. Is it just me or is the whole Thanksgiving Day off kilter this year? I know they will have a lovely time. I will miss not being there with my extended family.

Anyway...back to the point of this post. Sorry, I ramble sometimes. I was thinking about what dishes I equate with Thanksgiving. Because I have grown up with a mother and grandmother from Rome, Georgia (a beautiful small north Georgia city) I have become accustomed to eating all of the southern delicacies associated with this special day. (Now, read this with a thick southern drawl. Think Paula Deen. It will make the food look even better. I promise.)

Mom usually prepares an oven roasted turkey. My husband will also usually fry a turkey. (Yeah, one of our favorite wedding presents was a deep fryer. Call us country...we don't mind.) We've found it is also very handy to boil peanuts at tailgates. This is another tasty southern treat. I'll do a typical tailgate foods post at a later time.

The typical casseroles are also prepared. The sweet potata' casserole is topped with marshmallows or pecans. The green bean casserole has fried onions on top of it.

Mom usually makes a cranberry and orange relish to eat with the turkey.

She also makes giblet gravy. This is a true southern dish. If you have to ask what parts of the turkey are considered the giblets than you're probably not from the deep south.

We also serve collards at our Thanksgiving feast. My father-in-law is the collard master. He has this dish preparation down to a science.

Mom usually prepares our Christmas and Thanksgiving dressing on the same day. She makes two pans and freezes one for Christmas. Her dressing is amazing!
She also makes some yummy homemade yeast rolls. Mmmm...I can smell them now.

For dessert we usually have pecan pie and homemade chocolate pie with mom's tremendous meringue. Her pies are so good she used to sell them when my brother and I were little.

Since I knew I wasn't going to get to have all of these yummy treats with my family this year I at least wanted to experience them electronically. I am officially starving just thinking about all of these yummy southern comfort foods. I will share recipes for these dishes soon.

Happy Thanksgiving!
(Pictures courtesy of Southern Living and Cottage Living).

Monday, November 23, 2009

It Has Been Ordered

I finally did it. I broke down and ordered my Christmas tree ribbon on-line. I did find some 4" wide burlap ribbon at Seibels in Homewood while Judd and I were shopping on Saturday. It was lovely (similar to the natural one pictured above). It would have worked perfectly except it was $20 a roll. The roll only had 10 yards of ribbon. I figured in order to make a bow and run the ribbon through my tree I would need at least 40 yards. That is $80 worth of ribbon folks. Call me cheap but I just wasn't willing to pay that much for ribbon. After the salesperson told me the price I thought about the 2 1/2" wide ribbon I posted about earlier from Ballard Designs. It was only $10 for 10 yards. I think it will work. I ordered it Saturday. I can't wait for it to get here.

I'm totally in the Christmas spirit. In fact, I can admit I've been listening to the Casting Crowns Peace On Earth album I posted about last year for the past 4 weeks! You can still play it for free if you click here. It is one of the most beautiful Christmas albums I have ever heard. Enjoy!

Ballad Designs bring on my burlap! I'm ready to decorate!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Potata' Sack Christmas

In keeping with my natural decorating this holiday season as seen here and here...I want this burlap ribbon to put on our Christmas tree and to make bows with for our wreaths. I found it on-line from Ballard Designs. It is $10.00 a roll. I could order it I guess, but I really like to buy locally. I enjoy the hunt and the being able to personally touch and examine items before I purchase them. Does anybody know where I might be able to find some burlap ribbon in Birmingham?

Also, Ballard Designs had these lovely burlap stockings. I don't care for the apple green accents (Not because of the look, but because it does not match my house). If you like green go for them. If I remember correctly, they were $19 each. I would love to try and make some. I am not the best seamstress. In fact, I don't even own a sewing machine. I'll have to borrow my mother's. Thanks mom. Oh, and can you teach me how to make them too? I think I need to use chocolate brown, gray-blue, or cream as an accent color for mine. Those are the colors I have used to decorate the rest of our home.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Christmas Pomanders

I love the look and smell of pomanders at Christmas. I bought some oranges this weekend and plan to make some to keep me busy while Judd is away traveling for work this week. (He is in the Big Easy...jealous much?)

I found some directions online. I thought I would share them so that we can all enjoy this festive and fragrant decoration.

In the tradition of the Victorians and Royalty alike, pomanders were used to mask odors. The sweet smelling scent will fill your home with citrus freshness.

Pomanders are a natural air freshener, and moth repellent. Place some in your clothes closets, drawers or simply stack several in a bowl for a beautiful display. Pomanders are typically made from various citrus fruit, mainly oranges as well as apples.

This craft: approx 1 hour to make

Supplies needed:

small or medium size unblemished fruit. (Oranges, Apples or Lemons)
Masking tape or elastic bands
paper bag
20-25 grams large headed cloves
Spice mixture: 1 tablespoon each: cinnamon, nutmeg,and ground cloves
Knitting needle or fork or toothpick
Thimble or masking tape to cover fingers.
4 drops sandalwood oil (a natural preservative)
Ribbons for hanging pomanders.

Note: In traditional pomanders, orris root is used to act as a preservative and scent enhancer. Orris root is from the Iris bulb that has been dried and ground to a fine powder. Some people have shown allergic reactions to orris root, so we suggest you use sandalwood oil as an alternative preserver.

Let's get started!

To begin, select fruit that is blemish free. Oranges are very suitable for this project. Mix the spices with the Sandalwood oil in a bowl or bag and set aside. Cover fingers with masking tape or thimbles when making the holes for the cloves, otherwise it can be painful after awhile. At this point, if you want to decorate the pomander with ribbons, using masking tape, make a crisscross design on the fruit.

This will be the marked off area when the ribbons will be. Using the knitting needles or something similar, poke holes starting from the top of the orange straight down to the bottom, inserting cloves as you go along.

Continue this all around the fruit until it is completely covered in cloves. Make sure the hole is about double the size of the clove stem, since the orange will shrink to about half its original size. Maximum spacing between cloves should be no more than 1/4 inch, the closer together the better. Once the orange is clove studded, place the spices in a paper bag. (Do not use plastic bags as it will prevent the pomander from curing properly). Roll the orange in the spices until it is completely and evenly coated. Next leave the orange in the bag and place in a cool, dry area for approximately 4-6 weeks to dry the pomander out. Roll the orange in the spices daily. Note: If you notice any mold or the orange decomposing then throw it out. Curing time varies anywhere from 3 weeks to 6 months. On average it's about 3 1/2 weeks. To check if your pomander is dried, it should sound hollow when tapped with your knuckle, and feel light in weight. Once dried, shake off any excess spices. You pomander is now ready to fill your house with the sweet spicy scent that has been enjoyed since the Victorian era and beyond.

Decorating the pomander: Place ribbons in a criss-cross fashion where the tape was placed or elastic bands. Sew the ends together and make a loop for hanging.

Pomanders look beautiful when several of them are placed in a bowl together. In this case ribbons are not necessary.

Pomanders last many many years. When the scent starts to fade, add a few drops of clove oil to your spice mixture and re-roll in the spices.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tuscaloosa, AL-Geaux Tigers...a FABulous reunion

(Pictured above: Susan, Abby, Hartley, Jamie, Lauren, Allison M, and Allison S.)

This past weekend was one of the best I have had in a long time. I got the opportunity to spend some real quality time with my some of my oldest friends. We left all of our men folk at home and partied the weekend away. In order to set the scene, let me give you the back story.

My girlfriends, all fourteen of us, have been buddies since high school. Some of us have known each other since middle and elementary school. Needless to say, we go way back. We have all stayed in touch. We take an annual beach trip together. We get together any time we can. Somehow over the years since high school our group has developed a name...The Fab Fourteen. We mostly refer to ourselves as the Fab.

This is a picture of the Fab at our wedding. They sure did make beautiful bridesmaids.

Years ago when we were all freshman in college and had just gone through sorority rush we took our annual beach trip. This particular year the trip happened to fall on the Auburn vs. Florida football weekend. Most of us ended up in different sororities and at different universities. Two girls pledged Alpha Delta Pi and Alpha Chi Omega at the University of Alabama. Seven of us attended Auburn University and pledged Alpha Omicron Pi, Zeta Tau Alpha, Alpha Chi Omega, Sigma Kappa, Alpha Delta Pi, Phi Mu, and Kappa Delta. One Fab member became an Alpha Chi Omega at the University of North Carolina. Another friend was a Kappa Delta at Rhodes. Two girls pledged Chi Omega at the University of Southern Mississippi and at Birmingham Southern College. Finally, we had an Alpha Delta Pi friend at Samford University. All of this Greek speak is to say we were all over the place and in different chapters around the south.

Because we had all just experienced rush and landed in different places we decided we should create our own "sorority" of which we were all sisters together. During a late night discussion in the beach condo, we decided since our favorite thing to do when we all spend the night together is eat, our mascot should be the pigs. Thus our motto followed: "Together let us eat." Then came our colors, well obviously pink and black were chosen. The following day we all went to a bar to watch the AU vs. Florida game. As we were watching we decided our letters would be Beta Eta Zeta. Then came our cheer for that game..."The Beta Eta Zeta Gata' Hata's."

This is a pic from our annual beach trip two years ago. Notice the pig shaped cookie cake. It was our friend Amy's birthday.

We of course followed up on all of this with an initiation, standards, ritual, officer selection, etc. What is so funny about all of this is that we have kept it going. Even though half of us are now married, some of us are in professional or graduate school, and some are living up north. We jokingly hold chapter meetings over Thanksgiving and Christmas because that is when we are most often all home visiting our parents. We call our Thanksgiving meeting Thanksgiving Workshop. This is where we elect our officers for next year. This election always proves to be hysterical. In fact, Judd has even videotaped this process for us once before. Did I mention any man that would do this is a total keeper??? We also have an annual FAB Christmas party where we catch up, discuss chapter business, and exchange secret pal gifts. What started as sillyness during a beach weekend turned into something that we oddly hold dear.

This picture has all fourteen of us in it: Top Row: Abby, Hartley, Laura, Allison M., Lauren, Susan, Allison S.; Bottom Row: Stephanie, Leslie, Jennifer (the Bride), Jamie, Terri, Amy, and Brittany

Having said all of that, we had a mini Fab reunion in Tuscaloosa, AL, the home of the University of Alabama, last weekend. Our friend, Susan, is in law school there. We decided to all stay there with her in her apartment for the UA vs. LSU game weekend. All of us Auburn fans, not owning anything crimson (UA's color) for fear that our flesh might actually burn off if we wore it, decided to wear purple for LSU. We figured this way we could still say "Go Tigers" and mean it. Of course, we meant our Auburn Tigers. We had a fantastic time. The weekend also happened to be Susan's birthday. She of course blew out her "26" candles atop a pig cookie cake. It was the perfect FAB weekend. Some of our friends even traveled from Boston, Nashville, and Atlanta to join us. I think the fact that they traveled that far shows right there the love and devotion we all have for each other. See below for some shots from our FABulous weekend!

Jamie, Hartley, Abby, Allison M., and Allison S. tailgating in the quad

None of us had tickets (Well, except for Susan who sold hers in order to be with us.) We watched the game at a bar in T-town called Innisfree. Notice Susan is the only one wearing red. Ha. I am surprised she let us Auburn fans stay with her.

Later that night after an interesting car ride home we all sang Happy Birthday to Susan as she blew out her candles.

"Together Let Us Eat."

These photos pretty much sum up our weekend. We had a great time. I love these girls and would do anything for them. I can't wait for Thanksgiving workshop.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

pine cone update II

Ok, this is getting ridiculous. Judd and I decided to go on another nature walk last weekend to look for pine cones. I got a whole target bag full which is great. We also ran into Alabama's Governor's son, Rob Riley while picking them up which is not so great. How embarrassing. I had to explain that I was picking up pine cones to make an arrangement. Don't get me wrong, Rob is super nice. We just felt silly. Judd designed the front and back yard of Rob's new house so we have gotten to know him fairly well. You can read what started this whole pine cone thing here and here.

He was at the elementary school playing football with his children. He saw Judd and we stopped to say hello. He was looking at us funny. I guess he was trying to see what we were collecting. I explained and while I was speaking our dog, Cole, took a poo poo right next to the side walk. We of course didn't have anything to pick it up with because I had used our bag to put the cones in. I was not about to dump out all of our hard work for stinky dog you know what. Geez, I am quickly becoming the Homewood village idiot over a bunch of pine cones.

Holiday decor...I am truly devoted to you.

Sweet on a Cure

For all of you Birmingham locals with a sweet tooth make sure to visit the businesses on the list below this week in order for your dessert purchase to benefit the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Sweet on a Cure is a “sweet”-filled week taking place November 9 – 15, 2009 at participating restaurants, cafes and bakeries in Birmingham and the surrounding areas. The establishments are designating one dessert from their menu to represent their “Sweet on a Cure.” The participating partners direct 100% of proceeds from the sales of the specific dessert to cancer research at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Also, you can click here for more information.
Participating Restaurants:
122 Tree Lane Sweet Magnolia Chocolate
Another Broken Egg Cafe Banana Foster French Toast Cinnamon Roll
Ashley Mac's Triple Chocolate Brownies
B&A Warehouse All Catering Orders
Bellini's Ristorante & Bar Chocolate Mousse
Bongiorno Italian Restaurant Bread Pudding
Bottega Restaurant and Cafe Tiramisu
The Bright Star Coconut Pie
Bruster's Real Ice Cream Sure Cure Sundae
Cafe Dupont Cafe Dupont Beignets
Cafe Lazio Tiramisu
Cafe Trentuno Cheesecake
The Cajun Steamer Cajun Steamer Famous "Bread Puddin"
Cantina! Flan
Chappy's Deli Mini-Hummingbird Cupcakes
Chez Fonfon Pear and Almond Tart
Chuck's Fish White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Crape Myrtle's Cookies
Culinard Cafe White Chocolate Blueberry Cookies
Demitri's BBQ Chocolate Pie
DeVinci's Pizza All Desserts
Donut Joe's Apple Fritter
Dyron's Lowcountry White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Edgar's Bakery Awareness Ribbon Petit Fours, Cupcakes and Sugar Cookies
Elements Corner Cafe Banana Pudding
Frankie's Market CafeBanana Pudding
Franklin's Homewood Gourmet Pound Cake with Key Lime Cream
Highlands Bar and Grill Sweet & Salty Chocolate Cake with Caramel Ganache
Hot and Hot Fish Club Chocolate Souffle
Icing on the Cookie Fall Leaf Cookie
Irondale Cafe All Desserts
Jim 'N Nick's Bar.B.Q. Lemon Pie
Joe's Italian Pizza, Pasta & Cafe Carrot Cupcake for the Cure
Johnny Rockets (Summit Location)Cherry and Strawberry Milkshake
La Dolce Vita Tiramisu
La Reunion Coffee and Tea Company Giant Cream Cheese Frosted Cinnamon Rolls
MAFIAoZA's Pizzeria Cannoli
Miss Rosemarie's Special Teas Lemon Squares
Nabeel's Cafe Surprise
Nana Puddin' Banana Pudding Trifle
O'Henry's Coffees Banana Cake
Pastry Art Bake Shoppe Sweet on a Cure Cupcakes
Petrucelli's Tiramisu
Ragtime Cafe Key Lime Pie
The Redmont Cafe Cheesecake Martini
Rojo Fried Pie
Roly Poly Cookies
Savage's Bakery and Deli Breast Cancer Cookies
Smith's Oysters and Steaks German Chocolate Cake
Soho Sweets Ice Cream Cupcake
The Spiced Pear Tea Room Chocolate Volcano
Superior Grill Heath Bar Pie
Tracy's White Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies
UAB Hospital Special Cupcake
V. Richard's Coconut Gooeys
Wine Loft of Downtown Birmingham Homemade Apple Turnover
Zona Rosa Cafe Tres Leches Cake

Keeping it Real

So I know we bloggers like to keep it real. Well, I wouldn't be in keeping with that idea if I didn't post our Halloween pictures from a few weeks ago. We are usually a conservative, thoughtful, well educated, Ralph Lauren wearing couple. Well, not on Halloween. Our friend Tripp came up to join us in Auburn for the AU vs. Ole Miss game and also to go out with us on Halloween night. He got the genius idea that we should all go as 80's rock stars. Here is what followed.
Judd, Me, and Tripp

Like a true rock star

The band

Me, my sweet friends--Allison who went as a child of the 80's (We all thought she looked like Deb from Napoleon Dynamite) and Stephanie who also went as an 80's person. Her costume was especially funny to us though because it was our high school's freshman dance team costume from the 1998-1999 school year.

This was our whole group that went out on Halloween night. From Left to Right: Judd, Abby, Tripp, Stephanie, Chad, and Allison. (Note: Chad went as a redneck University of Alabama fan. Judd painted that "A" on his shirt before we left the house.)

I don't even have words for this one. He was definitely keeping it real.

The make up artist at our house as we were getting ready was our friend Morgan. She, Judd, and Tripp were all in graduate school together. Her costume cracked me up. She went as Kate Gosselin from the TLC show Jon and Kate Plus Eight. She had 8 little babies tied around her. She even gave one glasses so he could be Aidan. I loved her Kate wig.

So that sums it up. I thought these pictures would for sure be keeping it real. Blogs make life seem perfect and well decorated. We like to maintain normalcy most of the time; however, we really enjoyed having a night of fun.

On a side note: When we arrived at the bar a man walked up and handed us an envelope. He said Judd had been picked by the mystery judge as the winner of the costume contest. We won $50 dollars and didn't even know there was a contest. It really made our night. Ha!

Friday, November 6, 2009

pine cone update

I went on a nature walk last night when I got home. The results are as follows. Who knew that a person who works an 8-5 job gets home when it is already dark out? Lesson learned--picking up pine cones in the dark is a lot harder than it sounds. It is scary to reach for something and pray that it is just a pine cone and not something else. I should've thought to begin my pine cone hunt last week before the time changed.

Judd and I walked Cole all of the way around our block while on our search. We only found 5 pine cones. Maybe next time I should take a flash light. Gah, working sure does get in the way of playing house. I'm afraid I have developed a pine cone obsession. I now am overcome with worry that all of the stay at home moms will get the good ones that fall on our street and I'll miss out. Truth be told, I am probably the ONLY crazed holiday decorator even looking for pine cones.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Storing Up For Winter

Last night as I was packing up all of our Halloween decorations, I was thinking about what to put out for the month of November. I don't want to do too much because we will not be celebrating Thanksgiving at our house. Instead we will be having our meal of thanks with our tailgating friends and family in Auburn because the Iron Bowl is the following day.

I want our decorations to be something that will easily tie into Christmas so that I don't have to redecorate so much. I always wrap our presents in brown shipping paper. Our tree is usually decorated with white lights and silver, white, blue, and brown decorations. I need to find some ribbon for the tree that will work well with those colors.
I really like the idea of using materials from nature. God made so many things of beauty that are right outside our doors. It is just a matter of collecting them. I think I want to use pine cones and nuts this year. I found some lovely images using natural elements courtesy of Southern Accents, Southern Living, Martha Stewart, and Cottage Living. I think I feel a nature walk coming on. We live in Alabama, there is no need to pay for pine cones. Ha.

A quick and elegant centerpiece might be something like this sheath of wheat
Or something that may tie in better with Christmas-This pine cone centerpiece
I really loved this wreath. It has pecans, walnuts, peanuts, pine cones, and orange or grapefruit slices. I love the peanut touch. How truly Southern!
This nut assortment is an easy way to add holiday spirit. I love the way it looks with the candles.
I think for Christmas all I need to do is add some extra greenery to the pine cones and I'll be set.