Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Christmas Morning Breakfast!

We had Christmas Brunch at our house this year and because everything was REALLY good (in my opinion) so I wanted to post the things we ate to save for next year. I've had to go gluten-free over the past few months so these are all gluten-free recipes.

Sausage Balls:
1 pound ground pork sausage
2 c gluten-free Bisquick
8 oz sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 c milk
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat oven to 350*. Line baking pan with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients together and shape into 1-inch balls. Place on pan.
Bake uncovered 40 minutes or until light golden brown (my oven cooks a little slower...many recipes will tell you to cook 20-30 minutes).
Serve warm!

Hashbrown Casserole (courtesy of Thriving Home Blog):
1 c chicken broth
1/2 c half-and-half
3 tbsp cornstarch
1.5 tsp dried parsley
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1.5 tsp Kosher salt
3/4 tsp ground black pepper
5 tbsp butter, divided
1 c frozen diced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
30 oz shredded hash browns
16 oz container sour cream
2 c shredded cheese
*** can add 1 lb of bacon, but we didn't since we served with sausage balls ***

Preheat oven to 350*. Grease 9x13 casserole dish with cooking spray.
In a glass measuring cup, whisk together chicken broth, half and half, cornstarch, parsley, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper. Set aside.
Heat 1 tbsp butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When butter is melted, add the onions and saute about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic at the end for about 30 seconds.
Whisk in the creamy cornstarch mixture to the onions. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly until thick and creamy, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, and let cool.
In a large mixing bowl, stir together the thawed has browns, cooled cream sauce, sour cream, cheese, and bacon. Place in a casserole dish. Can be covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days.
Bake for about 45 minutes until edges are bubbly and top is golden.

We also served grits last night for New Year's Eve and cinnamon rolls and pigs in a blanket for Christmas morning.

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Christmas Card Carousel

Every year I've shared our Christmas card here and even though it's AFTER Christmas this year, I didn't want to miss it!

What a year 2019 has been! There have been lots of ups and downs, but we are happy and healthy and that's what really matters!

I hope that this has been a happy, healthy year for all of you as well! Happy New Year, friends!

Monday, December 23, 2019

Merry Christmas Eve Eve!

Earlier this week I told James that the day before Christmas Eve is called "Christmas Adam." It took him a minute before he realized what I meant and then he snorted and rolled his eyes. I feel like I'm just beginning a long stretch of snorts and rolled eyes at dumb jokes. HA!

We began our Christmas festivities this weekend and even though I haven't documented anything here in a long time, I felt like it was high time I pulled my chair up to my desk and sat down to write it out!

Our cousins came to town on Thursday to kick off the weekend. We hung with them on Thursday afternoon and had supper with them on Friday. On Friday night (which seems SO LONG AGO now because of how busy we were this weekend!) we headed to our neighbors' house for Christmas Caroling! Our neighborhood kids are all pretty little - I think the youngest is just over a year and the others are sprinkled between her and James. Most of them are in the 4-6 age range which really makes James and Will sad little puppies! HA! We get together a few times a year with them (we skipped out on Trick or Treating with them this year and went to another neighborhood with some of James' friends because he was suffering...gracious). One neighbor orchestrated the whole thing and we caroled at 4 neighbor homes (they knew ahead of time) and then came back for hot chocolate, snacks, and playing. It was such a fun time! 

Saturday morning the boys both had Upward basketball games. Will's little team is pretty inexperienced and most are either new players or are the younger ones in the group they're playing in (it's 2nd and 3rd graders and Will is a 2nd grader). We played a team that had a lot of really good athletes and lots of 3rd graders and I thought they'd get creamed! They didn't, though! They still lost, but not by nearly as many points as I expected! His coach seems VERY out of his element, but two dads stepped in last week to help at practice so I'm hoping they'll make steady improvements before the end of the season. One is even going to try to get together over Christmas for extra playing time!

James is on an AMAZING team this year. They've won 2 games and lost 1 game, but the coach is great and the kids are GOOD. This is his first time playing since 1st grade and it's a lot different from baseball, but he is loving it! I think he's going to improve a lot being on this team with these really great ball players. It's stretching him and forcing him to hustle a little more. (If you know James, you know he's a sloth.) 

After basketball, we went to a barbecue place with Papa and Yaya and the boys went to bowl with them while Eddie and I ran some errands and got ready for Christmas later.

Hasty Christmas was Saturday night at John and Kayla's house and it has become a MUCH MORE chaotic event in the past 5-10 years. Whoa. We now have James (10), Will (7.5), Merritt (4), Liam (almost 3), and Shepherd (1.5). It is LOUD and chaotic and never a boring event. We all had stimulus overload when we left! It was so nice this year, though! John and Kayla had Cracker Barrel cater part of the meal and the gifts were scaled back this year. Our children scored a weekend getaway with Papa and Yaya and some stocking stuffers. Eddie got a much-needed generator (for baseball AND hurricane power-loss). I SCORED big with my very own Little Free Library. It is PRECIOUS and I am so excited to get it up and running. I've wanted one for a while and asked for it on a whim a few months back. More on this in the future, I'm sure!

Sunday morning we had our annual breakfast at Cracker Barrel before Papa and Yaya headed home. 

Sunday afternoon we celebrated again over at Cacky's house! We had another amazing lunch and opened gifts! She is so generous to us each year!!! The boys wound up with a few gift cards and some cash to spend later. I was so tickled about Merritt's gift from us this year. We gave her a few months of Disney + because girlfriend loves to watch a movie, but then I also found Fisher Price's charcuterie board and I HAD to have it for her! She, Cacky, Anna, and I love to look at boards on Instagram and I thought she'd love having her own to play with. It was so cute!

Following all of that fun, I took a 3 hour nap. I napped so hard that when I woke up I was groggy! Oof!

Today the boys and I are picking up, watching {too much} TV and iPad, playing board games, and getting ready to head to a movie later today. Eddie has tomorrow off for Christmas Eve and our standard tradition is to go to the early Christmas Eve service and then over to Cacky's for a snacky supper. And then we will all come home, take melatonin, and try to close our eyes so that Santa can come!

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Sea World, Storms, and Salvaging the Day

We have just returned from a really, really fun weekend away in Orlando for Fall Break. I wanted to write about it while it was still fresh on my mind, because one of the reasons I've been failing to blog a lot is I'm not setting aside time every day to do it and then the time passes and I forget!

Last Friday, we packed our bags and dropped James off with our church's children's ministry so that he could go to Sea World with them for a little over 24 hours. They went to Orlando to have a sleepover at Sea World and then tour the park all day on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Eddie, Will, and I packed our own bags and headed to Orlando as well! We had a room at Port Orleans French Quarter, a first for us. I love to try new Disney resorts while we are in town and explore as much as we can. We were really looking forward to it! We've stayed at the sister resort - Port Orleans Riverside - twice and really loved it. This was one of my favorite places that I've stayed. (Although, Eddie will tell you if it's a moderate or a deluxe, I'm happy!) When we arrived, Will had been asleep for close to two hours and was not happy to wake up.

We checked in and ate quickly at Sassagoula Floatworks and Food Factory, the cafeteria at French Quarter. Eddie and I shared their Shrimp and Grits and it was DELICIOUS! I loved it so much I had it again the second night! After we ate we went to our room and settled in for bed!

Before we headed down we knew that the threat of rain was HUGE on Saturday. Tropical Storm Nestor was making landfall and we would have to wait him out. Will and I had plans to go to Magic Kingdom on Saturday morning, but decided we would just wait until some of the rain cleared toward the afternoon. Sadly, the Sea World crew decided it wasn't worth it and they cancelled their Saturday fun. We got a text about picking James up fairly soon after we woke up on Saturday morning so we headed out to grab him. 

While we were on the to pick James up, I made a reservation for brunch for the four of us at a restaurant at Yacht Club. I am a huge fan of resort visiting while I'm at Disney World so that we can see other places. Having brunch at a resort where we'd never stayed was right up my alley!

The restaurant was just ok. I've recently had to go gluten free because it doesn't love my body and I was worried that some of my choices would be limited. Disney is the best place to dine with allergies and intolerances, though, and everyone was really helpful when I was picking some gluten free foods!

Yacht Club itself was GORGEOUS. It was obviously a deluxe hotel. 

After we ate, the rain stopped (!!!), and we walked around the resort outside. The winning point of this resort is the POOL. It has a sandy bottom pool, a lazy river, and a pirate ship slide! WHOA. It's also within walking distance of Epcot and Boardwalk and has boat service to Hollywood Studios!

Since the rain lifted, we asked the boys whether they wanted to head to a park or back to the resort to swim. They chose swimming and they stayed in the pool ALL afternoon long! It turned out to be a GORGEOUS day!

We wound up back at Sassagoula for dinner again before heading to the room to watch some football and head to bed early. I'll post part 2 of our trip later! We had a great weekend!

Friday, August 16, 2019

What Does Reading Aloud Look Like?

People always make me laugh when they tell me their kids don't LIKE to hear them read aloud. I feel like it's really similar to the whole, "My kids won't sit still in church," argument. Well, they may not get it the first time you read aloud to them if you've never done it before (just like they won't sit still the first time they're old enough to go to "Big Church"), but if you practice, they'll get it! (I will mention that there are times when James would rather read to himself. TOTALLY OKAY. You don't want to discourage reading here. I tell him that's fine and that Will and I will read without him. Sometimes he joins us later, sometimes he doesn't. Read-alouds shouldn't replace the reading a kid is doing on his/her own. It should enhance it!)

I started reading to both of my boys when I was pregnant with them, but that doesn't mean we haven't had seasons of squirminess! We practice how to listen well and if they seem to not be listening, I stop reading! Easy peasy! There's no pressure to read a certain amount each day at our house. I want to encourage reading, not discourage it.

{This is during me reading! Blocks, Legos, etc. keep them busy and quiet. They ARE listening even if they're playing!}

A few things will make it easier for you to begin to read aloud to your kiddos...

1. Pick really awesome books! I'll share more of my favorites with you in another post, but this is pretty darn critical for read-aloud perfection. If you pick lousy books or books that are too high or too low for your kids, they aren't going to be very interested. Know how I pick great books? I scour the internet and I think about the books I liked when I was a kid. If I read a book that we own and it completely stinks when I read it out loud, I put it in our Salvation Army box immediately and get rid of it. (Just a warning that typically the first reader/early reader books are horrible and a lot of times anything with a tv character isn't great.) (I'll also mention that just because a suggestion reading level is above where your child reads, that doesn't make it a bad read-aloud! Kids can comprehend far above their own reading level when YOU are reading it to them!)

2. Find your time! My best suggestion is to try reading out loud over several different times of the day. The BEST times for us are times when the boys are occupied with other things that they can do while they listen. A mealtime is a great time to read because typically kids are busy, but not distracted. Bedtime is also great because they're snuggly and quiet and it's time to settle down anyway. We also like reading after school while playing with blocks, small toys, and play dough.

3. Don't get discouraged! If you feel like you're fussing at your kids to sit still and be quiet you're not picking the right time (or the right book). Switch things up. If you get discouraged that they aren't listening, no one is going to enjoy it!

4. Don't be worried if they're moving around! Listening, for kids, looks active sometimes. James is almost 10 and Will is 7 and they both still play, stand on their heads, flip and flop, etc. while I am reading. As long as they aren't talking or making noises, they're welcome to do all of that!

5. Recognize that while you may find a "sweet spot" of reading aloud to your kids, it may not always look that way! We've moved reading aloud around to various times in our day, we've sat all over our house, and we've played and kept ourselves busy with lots of toys! It doesn't look the same today that it did when they were 5 and 2!

6. Audiobooks are ok! I'll talk more about this in another post, but listening to an audiobook counts as reading!!! There are some books that we've found are just BETTER when someone else reads them aloud to us. (This is especially true if the dialect is different!) Audiobooks in the car are AMAZING. You have a captive audience! Turn that on while you're driving around town AND when you're going out of town! 

There are a few things are consistently played with at our house during read-alouds. I'm linking them below for you. Please note that I am an Amazon Associate and if you purchase through the links shared, I will receive compensation.


We're always finding new ways to play quietly! I'll share more another time. Just keep in mind that anything kids can do with their hands (building, coloring, molding clay) where they can focus on what you're reading is the key. You can use things you have around your house! I didn't purchase these items with the purpose of read-alouds in mind. You have plenty of things already that you can use!

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

Our Read-Aloud Family

Friends! I feel like it has been so long since we've talked! I know I recapped recently about our family's summer break. We've now been back in school for over a week and so far it has been great! We don't have any complaints at all! (Well, very few. The early start always gets us!) We are easing back into the routine and the busy-ness of real life and we are enjoying it!

Over the summer, I tried to spend a LOT of my time reading. My Kindle Oasis (not-an-ad) is on of the best purchases I've made in a long time because it's WATER PROOF which means I could take it into the pool with me. On our last trip to the beach, I even purchased a float so that I could float and read and it was GLORIOUS.

One of the topics I read several books about was READING. I picked up a book by Sarah Mackenzie called The Read-Aloud Family.  I devoured it. I know it sounds so nerdy, but the idea that others loved reading aloud as much as I do (and ALWAYS have) and that I could beef up my kiddos brains and help improve their test scores by doing something we enjoy? AMAZING.

I want to share everything I know and love about reading aloud with you. ALL the details of how it has looked for us over the years. Eddie and I are both BIG readers. We love to read on our own when we have the time and one of our very favorite things to do is to browse a book store (especially a USED book store!).

As a child, I was also a big reader. I often had my nose in a book AND I often stayed up late to read as a child. I loved The Baby-Sitters Club, The Boxcar Children, and Judy Blume books.

I started reading to James when I was pregnant with him. I read often! Because I was already reading often to James, Will also reaped the benefits of the read-aloud in-utero! I'll share some of our favorites soon from those early years.

And in case you've never seen it, I made James do a book review of Charlotte's Web when he was 3. HERE.

So...all of this to say that we have been reading as a family for YEARS and YEARS and have read hundreds and hundreds of books. Is it something everyone always enjoys? Nope. Have I figured out what works for us over the years? YES. Am I SO EXCITED to share my tricks of the trade with you? I definitely am. I cannot wait to share all that I know and love about reading with your children! I'm hoping that you'll also share what you love about reading with YOUR kids and what your favorite read-alouds have been!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

The First Week of School!

Well, we have survived the first week of school!

James is still a little miffed about having to go back in the first place, but two of his very best friends are in his class, along with a handful of other really good friends and really SWEET kids so he is going to be JUST FINE. (He's probably reading so that reminder is for him!)

Will LOVES his teacher, his class is awesome, and he is loving 2nd grade. 

It was a BUSY week back to school. We had a dentist appointment on the first day of school. NO CAVITIES this time! Poor Will has had a few because of some underdeveloped baby teeth. James also had NO DAMAGE to his teeth. I can't remember if I shared this on the blog or not, but in November he fell in the shower and broke one of his front permanent teeth and it has been repaired twice already. THEN he got hit in the mouth last week, but x-rays showed no more damage to it. However, Dr. L. got him a mouth guard and told him to WEAR IT! Lol!

I think we had baseball practice THREE nights this week. The season is gearing back up - we start on August 17th - and they're trying to cram lots of practices in before the school year gets ramped up.

We are back into our "no screen time during the week" part of the year, which is my FAVORITE thing. Sometimes the TV and the ipad are the bane of my existence, although I do understand the need for them in some situations. And yes, I'm the adult and we could have no screen time every day, but we just really push it during the school year. And it is glorious!

We have been reading like crazy people at our house and I'm going to share some thoughts on reading very soon!

Overall, it's been a great week back! We all survived and lived to tell the tale! 5 down, 175 to go!