Monday, December 1, 2014

Thankful Hearts

Our Thanksgiving ended up being quite different this year from what we had planned, but God is so good to us!  I am thankful for a loving Savior, whose plans for me are perfect.  We had planned on hosting some of our family, who then weren't able to attend because of sickness.  Since we had originally planned on hosting, we had a lot of food to eat, for just our little family.  We invited some family friends (who we see very rarely) on late notice, and to our delight, they were able to join us!  It was a day filled with sweet moments of family time, and memory-making, along with everyone going around and sharing something that they were thankful for.  I am always reminded every single day of how much I have to be thankful for, but there is something so poignant and special about setting aside an entire day specifically for that purpose.  No matter the circumstances, we serve a good God, who loves us beyond what we could fathom!

We ended up purchasing a 19 lb turkey this year - and it was my first time working with a fresh bird!  I had been debating how I wanted to roast it, and settled on brining it.  I am so glad that I did, and after eating it, I don't know if I can ever go back.  :)

I started Wednesday morning by making the brine:

It smelled absolutely heavenly!  Olivia kept asking me what I was making.  :)

And then, in went the turkey!

My recipe said to let it brine for 18-24 hours, but mine ended up in its briny bath for about 16 hours total.  Funny story about this process: do you know how hard it is to find brining bags here?  :)  My Mom had commented that she had seen brining bags at her local Wal-Mart (because, what doesn't Wal-Mart carry, right?), so I thought finding them here would be a cinch.  WRONG.  When I would ask the kind clerks at grocery stores if they knew if their store carried brining bags for turkeys, I usually got a sideways look, before being asked "Uh, brining bags?  What is that, exactly?"  Haha.  After searching online, and visiting three different stores in the area, we ended up using an oven bag (meant for actually roasting your turkey), inside our cooler.  Worked like a charm!

Thanksgiving day dawned bright and clear, and I was up with the birds to get that turkey in the oven!  After taking it out of the brine, it had to soak in fresh clean water for a few minutes.

Also, did I mention what a funny business it is to get a 19 pound turkey up from a cooler on the floor into the sink?

Nate and I ended up working as a team, and then laughing until we cried after getting it into the sink - because the turkey kept making *ahem* shall we say, inappropriate noises.  Maybe it was the lack of sleep.  ;)

We left the turkey in all it's naked glory in the sink for a few minutes, and then it was time to get it in the oven!  I was doing about 15 things at once all morning, so I didn't manage to get pictures of the roasting process, but it was actually FUN!  I roasted it covered in aluminum foil for about three hours, then took it out and gave it a rub down with rosemary, orange, sage butter.  YUM.  Back into the oven it went for another 2 hours, basting every 30 minutes, (it was my first time basting a turkey! haha!) and it came out beautifully!!

Again, I didn't think to take a picture of it looking all pretty sitting on a platter, because by this point our guests had arrived, and I was trying to finish all the last minute things up.  We ended up with four adults, and two kiddos, and we still had this much food:

There was even more on wrapped around the counter on the other side.  I may suffer from an illness.  Grand delusions of cooking for armies?  I don't know.  Either way, we all enjoyed it!

This was also my first attempt at hacking apart carving a turkey.  I watched a few tutorials, and then gave it a shot!  The meat was literally so tender that it was almost difficult to slice!  And that skin . . . crispy golden deliciousness.

And oh, the pies.  I made pecan (which we actually served at church), cherry, and pumpkin.

I had actually made the pies the night before, and wanted to use my Grandmother's pie crust recipe (which I had never tried before).  The crusts turned out beautifully, but I must confess that I was up baking them at a ridiculously late hour.  In my haste to get to bed, I put the pumpkin pie a little too high in the oven, and it scorched.  When I sent my Mom this picture, she sweetly assumed I had tried a new recipe!  ;)

We had a beautiful table too, thanks to the amazing team of Nate and Olivia.  <3

Again, I was trying to hurry and snap pictures before we prayed and started serving the food, so I didn't have time to take cute ones of the kids.  But they were extra excited to start eating!

"Happy Thanksgiving!"

Olivia shyly informed our guests that she was a "turkey ballerina" that day, to their delight.  :)  They asked her how old she was, and she proudly told them she was four.  I think mine and Nate's loud laughter at that reply was enough to let them know that it wasn't the correct response.  haha  She was sure entertaining!

We are so blessed beyond anything we could ask or imagine, and thankful to be loved, even cherished by the same One who created the heavens.  Now we turn our hearts toward Christmas, and look forward to the greatest gift we have ever been given!

A truly Happy Thanksgiving, from our family to yours.

Grace and Peace,

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Nana's 90th Birthday

We had the honor of recently attending a ninetieth birthday party in Pittsburgh, PA.  We were celebrating Nate's Grandmother on his Mom's side, along with his siblings, his parents, and all the great-grandkids.  It was quite the gathering!

We had a whirlwind trip, packing the travel as well as the festivities into a single weekend.  We all started off excited!

Some of us were more excited than others . . . ;)

We were blessed with a great trip.  It was long, but the kids were fantastic, and our van made it there and back without any issues!  The next day, it was party time.


Although this wasn't a surprise party, it was so fun to see Nana's reaction to the decorations, and everyone waiting in anticipation of her arrival.

Olivia wanted to give Nana a "ballerina birthday hug".

It was so sweet - the kids had drawn pictures for Nana and hung them on the wall.  They matched her rainbow decorations.  :)

My sister-in-law, Dawn, prepared a wonderful birthday dinner for us.  She worked hard!

Finishing all those "last minute" details . . . 

Then it was time for eating, toasting, and merry making.  :)

And the part the kids had all been waiting for - CAKE!

We were so blessed to be able to celebrate Nana, and be together as a family.

This picture makes me laugh.  The kids were extra enthusiastic about pictures.  ;)

And no family gathering would be complete without a big, group shot!

Happy 90th Birthday, Nana!  You sure are loved.  :)

Monday, November 3, 2014

Sidewalk Junkies

Recently, due to a program the city has implemented, we were selected as the lucky homeowners who had the joy of replacing/repairing a section of the sidewalk in front of our home.  Even though I know you probably all secretly wish you had the same honor, I thought I would share the photos from the recent construction.  :)

First, the contractors had to tear out the old sidewalk.  We just so happen to have this strange sloped section, which the contractor said was pretty unusual.  It made it extra fun for the tractor to dig out!  The kids were completely enthralled the entire time they were working!

Levi absolutely loved all the noise of the demolotion - and kept banging on the window and saying "LOUUUUD!  LOUUUUD!"  Miss Olivia, on the other hand, was quite distraught that they were "ruining her sidewalk!"  She felt better after she had her trusty blanket (one of them, at least) wrapped around her shoulders.

The poor construction workers had quite the audience.  Between the kids, Nate, and myself all huddled on our front porch, I'm sure they felt like being in a goldfish bowl! They were so kind though, and a few times waved to the kids.  :)

Because of the odd slope, they had to change the grade to make it less steep and bring it back up to code.  This involved hauling in tractor-fulls of gravel, and then tamping it down.

Then, at long last, the next afternoon brought the cement mixer to our house!  The kids had been waiting all morning, and Olivia was asking me every twenty minutes if the "workers were here yet".  :)

Nate's generous manager was kind enough to allow him to work from home that afternoon (we are seriously so blessed by her continuous kindness toward him!), so that he could be on hand to answer any questions the contractor might have.  I have a small sewing table and craft area set up on the porch, so he was able to set up his computer there, and work while watching out the window!  It was a really handy set up.

Levi was absolutely beside himself this time, and kept pointing and squealing "TUCK!  TUCK!" and showing us the cement mixer.  Olivia also enjoyed seeing the cement come down the shoot, and was asking all sorts of questions about how it worked.  It was so cute to see her inquisitive mind processing all that information!

It didn't take long at all before they had a new sidewalk in place for us!

They did a terrific job, and we are thankful to have this major project out of the way before the snow begins to fly.  :)