Our Thanksgiving Menu

I am SO excited for Thanksgiving this year. For the first time in three years my husband is NOT working for the holiday! We will be able to have Thanksgiving dinner at home 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, going to the fire station is fun, and we do think of the crew and their families as our family too, but it will be nice to be cooking in my kitchen with my kids this year. We don’t have any extended family nearby, but that’s okay. I will cook up a feast for the four of us (with help from my boys). I have been working hard this month planning our menu, and this is what I have come up with so far:

Main Course:
Maple-Bacon Turkey
This will be the first time I have tried this particular recipe, but it looks really good. Plus, as far as my husband is concerned, with bacon you can never go wrong!! 😉

Sides:
Mashed Potatoes
Gravy
Green Been Casserole
Sweet Potato Casserole
Cheesy Broccoli Casserole with Ritz crackers (in high school my best friends mom made this one year when I was at their house for Thanksgiving and it was absolute cheesy, delicious goodness. I messaged her on Facebook for the recipe this year.)
Stuffing (from a box….I can’t make everything from scratch!)
Cranberry Sauce
Crescent Rolls

Dessert:
Chocolate Pecan Pie
Blackberry Cobbler in the crock pot

I am getting hungry just thinking about it! Of course, what I am most looking forward to is hanging at home with my family. We watch the Macy’s Parade in the morning, and then end the evening with the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special.

If you would like to share what is on your Thanksgiving menu leave me a comment! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

TOS Crew Blue Ribbon Awards!

As we wrap up another crew year it is once again time for the Blue Ribbon Awards. Each year crew members get to vote on their favorite products in various categories. This year there were some kids choice categories too! I have to say, my overall favorite product this year was Apologia’s Chemistry and Physics. My son and I are still enjoying this program and will be using it all year. It is so much fun and so easy to do!

Both of my kids voted for The Presidential Game for their choices as kids and teens. Our whole family loves to play that game (even my husband) and it provides such a great lesson on the whole election process.

Some of my other favorites from this year were Institute for Excellence in Writing and Moving Beyond the Page. If you are looking for curriculum ideas or just want to learn about some great homeschooling products, check out all the award winners here:

http://schoolhousereviewcrew.com/announcing-the-2013-blue-ribbon-awards

Simple Calzone

Calzones, I LOVE them. But I have never attempted to make one because I thought they were, well, complicated. Then I started talking to my friends and found out they weren’t. So I decided to give it a try and this is what I came up with.

Ingredients:
2 frozen pizza crusts
1 jar spaghetti sauce
1 package pepperoni
1 package ham
1 green pepper
1 bag shredded mozzarella
1 bag shredded parmesan
1/2 stick butter (melted)
Italian seasoning
Garlic salt
Grated parmesan

Directions:

1. Spray a cookie sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Spread the pizza dough out on the cookie sheet.

2. Cover one half of the dough with spaghetti sauce.

3. Top the spaghetti sauce with three pieces of ham.

4. Cover the ham with some sprinkled mozzarella.

5. Place a layer of green peppers on top.

6. Cover the peppers with a layer of shredded Parmesan.

7. Top the Parmesan with a layer of pepperoni.

8. Fold the layer of pizza dough over and crimp the edges to seal.

9. Brush the top with the melted butter, and sprinkle with Italian seasoning, garlic salt, and grated Parmesan.

10. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes, until browned.

Cut and serve with the rest of the spaghetti sauce for dipping. I made this with pasta salad and my whole family loved it!! The best thing about it is that you can totally customize it with whatever fillings you want. Now, this recipe will be on a regular rotation. I am even considering making it our Christmas Eve dinner!!

To see other recipes from this week’s Try a New Recipe Tuesday, click here:

Thankfulness Overflows

Our blog cruise topic this week is “on being thankful”. Oh boy….do I have a LOT to be thankful for this year. But before I start, I want to give some more thought on what this idea of thankfulness means. So, I looked up the word gratitude on dictionary.com. and their definition is “the quality or feeling of being thankful or grateful”. Next, I searched for synonyms for gratitude, some of the results were: acknowledgment, appreciativeness, grace, praise and thanksgiving.

When searching the Blue Letter Bible website for thankfulness, I found the use of “thankful” in the context of Colossians 3:15 to mean “mindful of favors, grateful, thankful, pleasing, agreeable, acceptable to others”.

In Colossians 3:16, the word “gratitude” means “what is due to grace, the spiritual condition of one governed by the power of divine grace, that which affords joy, pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, benefit, bounty”.

So, when I think of being thankful in these terms, I decided to come up with my own definition of gratitude: “an attitude of gratefulness for the many blessings God has given me as one who lives within the power of his divine grace”. And this year the blessings have been numerous. For starters, we began this year with serious concerns that my husband had a deadly heart condition. For months I lived in limbo, trying to hold onto hope when the doctors kept giving us more and more bad news. And yet, God showed his divine power, when finally, after a visit to see an expert at the Mayo clinic (which we probably be paying for monthly for the next 5 years!) we found out he was misdiagnosed! I cannot even describe the feeling of overwhelming gratitude that consumed my heart when I got that phone call. In the face of incredible odds, the Lord came through yet again.

And then there was starting our homeschool year. I had been saving money monthly to buy curriculum for quite some time, and I thought we would be set for this year. Well, due to my hubby’s medical issues and few other life things that came up (2 cars breaking down within weeks of each other… a huge electric bill due to a faulty AC) all the money disappeared. I started the year wondering how on earth I was going to teach my children. And then, through blessings I received from homeschool friends who let me borrow entire curriculums for a year, and the stuff I received as a member of the TOS crew, ALL of our needs were met!!

Finally, the homeowners decided to renew our lease for another year this month. This may seem small, but to me, it is a HUGE blessing. One of the problems with renting a house is that you never know what the next year is going to bring. I HATE moving…with a passion. The whole process stresses me out. Not to mention, we are still working on recovering from our financial setbacks and do not have the money for deposits and first and last months rent right now. So to know that we have another year in this house, which we really like, is  a huge blessing!

Of course, life is far from rosy. We still have numerous day to day struggles and challenges to overcome. But when I look back at how far the Lord has brought us, how can I possibly worry about what is to come? I KNOW he has every situation firmly in hand.

Even though the road ahead may be paved with challenges, I am thankful for where I am at right now, and I trust that God is with me in every challenge I face. Granted, His solution to a problem may not be the one I envisioned in my head, but I have to trust that HE is Lord, and therefore, HE knows best.

I believe that God’s plans for me are good. Again, He knows what I need and I believe that the future He has planned for me will lead me into the abundant life He promises in His word. Now, God’s definition of abundance does not necessarily match the definition of the world we live in. Today many people define abundance by the amount of money in their bank account, how big their house is, or how much “stuff” they own. To me, abundance means the blessing of having a healthy family that gets to be together every day, having a safe place to live, food on the table, and a life that includes love, joy, and laughter. The blessing of salvation is far beyond anything I deserve, and to have all of these things on top of that is enough to make me want to shout with joy. So today, I am thankful for this messy, imperfect life of mine. I am thankful for the challenges that teach me to be more dependent on the Lord and show me that I can always count on Him. I am thankful for grace, mercy, and love. And this family that I wake up to every morning.

Happy Thanksgiving to you!

To see what other members of the crew have to say on this topic, click here:

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TOS Review: At Home in Dogwood Mudhole

I love to read and I am always looking for a new book. So for this review, I was excited to receive a copy of At Home in Dogwood Mudhole by Franklin Sanders. The book is the first of two (so far) volumes detailing the real-life adventures of Sanders and his family as they gradually move to life on a farm.

Dogwood Mudhole Cover

This book opened with a story I loved and could really relate to, the story of how Mr. Sanders got his “thirty dollar dog”. We too have dogs like this in our house. Mutts, found at the pound. Dogs that drive us crazy but also fill our lives with love and laughter. Sanders heart-felt and honest story-telling ability makes you laugh out loud while also saying “I agree” in your head.

Tar, our first “thirty-dollar dog”

Tar and his buddy, my youngest boy.

Ash, in her favorite spot, my oldest son’s bed.

At Home in Dogwood Mudhole is divided into four sections that describe the Sanders family’s gradual move from Memphis to a more rural setting, and their adjustment to life on the farm. Throughout the book the author’s deep love for his family, and their close relationships are evident. Growing up on a “mini-farm”, I could relate to many of his stories, and his devotion to the Lord is evident.

Another thing that is evident is Mr. Sander’s love for the South. Several times in the book, he talks about “The War for Southern Independence”. He and his family regularly participate in battle reenactments and visit historical sights related to the Civil War. There are many passages about Southern culture and history included in the book. Of course, not everyone will share Mr. Sanders view about this topic, but he is honest in expressing how he feels and the reason he feels this way.

The author, Mr. Sanders with is “thirty-dollar dog”.

In describing many of the frequent journeys his family takes, Mr. Sanders also highlights particular places that stood out. He frequently mentions restaurants, stores, and interesting places he has discovered, complete with contact information for the establishment. His descriptions of Southern foods often made me hungry, and I wished I could take a road trip to where he had his fried pies!

To be honest, I did get sort of bogged down in the middle of the story. There were some parts, (such as when he is describing what he went through with the IRS), where my mind started to wander. This is not the fault of the storyteller, but really just my lack of interest in that part of the story. However, if you are interested in how Mr. Sanders set up his gold bank, and the trials he faced because of it, you might not get bored.

The descriptions of the hardships, trials, and joy that come with life on a farm brought me back to my days as a young girl, and Mr. Sanders was very detailed, accurate, and humorous in those descriptions. Volume one of At Home in Dogwood Mudhole is available for $22.95 in paperback and $16.95 for download on Kindle or an e-reader. Pre-orders for volume two are being taken now.

To see what other members of the crew thought of this book, click here:

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Pork and Black Bean Soup

This is a yummy crock pot recipe I just tried for the first time, and it is REALLY REALLY good!

Ingredients:
2 lb. boneless pork butt
6 cups chicken broth
4 cloves garlic
1 medium red onion
1 bag dried black beans
2 tsp. cumin
2 tbsp. adobo sauce
1 tbsp. chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
1 tbsp. salt

Directions:
1. Chop the onion and garlic and rinse the beans.
2. Mix the chicken broth, salt, cumin, chipotles, and adobo sauce in the crock pot.
3. Stir in the beans and onions.
4. Add the pork and cook on low for 8 hours.
5. Remove the pork to a plate to shred and return to the soup to serve.

You can garnish this with cheese, cilantro, or salsa. I served it with a salad made with the Et Tu Southwest Salad kit, which is also really good (and easy). My oldest son also wanted to eat the soup with tortilla chips.

To see more recipes from this weeks Try a New Recipe Tuesday, click here:

The Holidays Are Coming!!

I swear the holidays come earlier and earlier every year! I walked into the store the day after Halloween and they were filling the aisles with Christmas stuff! Did we just skip November altogether? Do we move straight from the candy to the presents without a pause for thankfulness? Ugh! Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Christmas. I start listening to Christmas music the day after Thanksgiving, and we put our Christmas tree up the day after Thanksgiving, but still, I feel like everything is just so rushed, and I think it contributes to my holiday stress.

Every year I look forward to this time of year. I love the cooler temperatures (well, cooler for Florida), the pumpkins, the flavors, and all the fun that comes with this season. Right now, I am planning our Thanksgiving dinner. For the first time in three years, my husband is NOT working, so we actually get to eat at home instead of the fire station. I am looking forward to a day of cooking and lounging around with my family. It will be nice to have my kitchen full of holiday smells.

Here’s the thing that bothers me. I want to take this month to focus on the gratitude that comes with Thanksgiving. Before my kids get carried away with the thoughts of the gifts and the candy canes and the lights, I want them to take a moment to focus on being thankful for what they already have. I want them to understand that even though our life may be different from that of their friends, they are blessed beyond belief.

Again, I love Christmas. And I really get into giving gifts. There is something about watching someone open a present that I have picked out for them and loving it that just warms my heart. I spend hours planning gifts for my family, and I love wrapping the presents and look forward to that moment when we all get up and open gifts together. I don’t think presents are bad, I just think that focusing on the gift giving and decorations for a full two months is a little much. As I hear about people completing their Christmas lists the second week of November, I start to panic and wonder if I am falling behind. As the weeks go on and more and more of my friends Facebook posts focus on checking items off their lists, I start to really stress out.

So, this year, I am going to work to enjoy the month of November with my focus on Thanksgiving without thinking about next month. I will focus on Christmas AFTER Thanksgiving. This month, I am just going to spend time being grateful for all that I have.