Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Finishing Up...

Well, I hope you have had a wonderful 2009. It has been a good year, and the Lord's faithfulness has been in abundance. There are so many things to be thankful for! It seems like only a short time ago that we were all scrambling around preparing for the end of the century and possible doom! Here we are, about to enter the second decade of the new century!

I just went back and read my goals for this year... I am laughing at my miserable failure, and I am resolving to not make public any more resolutions!

Instead, I will quote the last verse from a hymn which expresses a lifelong goal/resolution:

Chosen, not for good in me,
Wakened up from wrath to flee,
Hidden in the Saviour's side,
By the Spirit sanctified,
Teach me, Lord, on earth to show
By my love, how much I owe.
~Robert Murray M'Cheyne

Will's Deer!

Scott and Will went to the top of our driveway to stand and look for deer...No camo, no deer stand... just a walk where they happened to tote the rifle along! Will heard something in the woods and pointed out the direction to Scott. Sure enough, a buck came poking along out of the tree line, about 100 yds. away.


We gave Will credit for this one, because he was the good listener and spotter! It doesn't look big in this picture, but it was a pretty good size, and he made quite a few packages of meat in the freezer!

Christmas Breakfast/ Recipes

Shrimp and Grits has become standard fare for our Christmas morning breakfast. It is rich, creamy, and delicious; what a special treat!

Easy Shrimp and Grits Recipe

3 cups chicken broth
1 cup whipping cream
1 tsp. salt
1/2 stick butter
1 cup quick grits
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1/4 cup sliced green onion
1 pound peeled, cooked shrimp (I used the 12oz. bag of frozen salad shrimp)
1 cup sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1/2 pound bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

Bring broth, cream, salt, and butter to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and whisk in grits. Continually whisking, cook 7-8 minutes or until smooth. Add garlic, cheese, and shrimp. Cook 1-2 minutes so cheese can melt. Garnish with green onion and bacon. This recipe is easily doubled.

In addition to our featured Shrimp and Grits, we had eggs, fruit cocktail, and biscuits with raspberry-mango jam. My friend, Senorita Minnick, came over twice (we didn't save any for ourselves the first time!) to make this wonderful homemade jam. It is a beautiful color and has a great flavor, and I don't even like mangoes!

Mango Raspberry Jam

3 cups finely chopped, pitted, peeled mangoes- about 3 lbs (we put our chunks in blender)
1 1/2 cups crushed raspberries
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 pkg. fruit pectin
5 1/2 cups sugar

Prepare home canning jars. Combine mangoes, raspberries, lemon juice, and pectin in large sauce pot. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Return to a rolling boil. Boil hard one minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Skim foam, if necessary. Ladle hot jam into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe jar rim clean. Screw band down evenly and firmly. Process 10 minutes in boiling water. Yields about seven 8oz jars.

The 6 Duleys wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Morning

2:00a.m. Sewing complete. Wrapping complete. Ready for bed.
6:00 a.m. Being awakened by the smell of coffee brewing and four children singing "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and "Away in a Manger" outside our door...
Hannah, Sarah, Will, and Josh- ready to open the socks and treats in their stockings! A Duley tradition... no underwear this year, though!

Kay and John got Will camo coveralls for when he hunts and works with Scott... Will is decked out with his new folding saw and pocket knife! The boys had a manly Christmas this year... Josh got a folding saw and pocket knife, too, and Kay gave him a new bow set, complete with quiver and target!

Part of the girls' Christmas gift from Kay is ballet and violin lessons throughout the year. To go along with this, she gave Sarah a new leotard and skirt for dance class, and she gave Hannah a music stand for practicing at home! Hannah tried it out that day!
On a sillier note... haha, get it? "Note?"... Here is Hannah in her gift from her brothers

I made the girls aprons and the boys pajamas this year. The boys were thrilled to see that I had gotten the fabric they liked from Hobby Lobby! I also made the girls knitting needle/sewing accessory totes.
We had a GREAT morning opening gifts, having a big Christmas breakfast, and being lazy around the house. Best of all, we had snow flurries!!!! (OK, so we only saw about 5... but they were flurries, nonetheless!)

I took a little nap on the couch in front of the fire, and Scott took the kids out to play on their favorite gift from us... Scott had set up the zip line! (This was actually a gift from last Christmas that had not gotten set up... he set it up for a surprise while the kids were in Memphis earlier in the week!)
Here goes Josh- He is a little too short, so Scott has to catch him!
Sarah preparing to exit the platform...

Merry Christmas!!!

Christmas Eve

After the shop Christmas party, the kids ALL went home with my mom, and I got to have a few days all by my poor, lonesome self... Woo hoo!!! :) I went running and did some last minute grocery/Christmas shopping in Memphis, and then I headed back to New Albany for a major sewing marathon.

On Wednesday, which was the Eve of Christmas Eve, Scott and I headed to Memphis to spend time with my family. We had our traditional supper of dips and appetizers... and a whole lot of cookies!
After supper, we went into the big room and the kids opened gifts from Tootie (my grandmother) and my sister and brother-in-Law.
Sarah couldn't wait, so she went ahead and gave Scott the scarf she knitted for him!
Here are Evelyn, Sarah, Tootie, and Josh
Tootie and I- peas in a pod!
I made Evelyn a "Binky Bunny" and blanket this year. It is a cute little pattern made from fabric scraps. I liked it so much that I decided not to throw away as many of my apron scraps as I would have otherwise! See, you stitch on the eyes and face, and it looks like it is wearing a little diaper!
Evelyn loved it!
Adam, Will, and Scott hanging out and playing "Doe, a deer...."

Sarah and my dad

The Pitt family headed off to Lebanon, TN to visit with Adam's family, and we put our kids to bed. My dad and I stayed up to watch the old version of Christmas in Connecticut while I finished up Tootie's embroidered dish towel. The next morning, Christmas Eve, the kids woke up eager to open presents from Mimi and Papa!!!
Josh and his hidden blade light saber! This was the only thing he told anyone he wanted this year, so Sharon got him one, too... He was THRILLED to have two! Now he has one for when his buddy Jon comes over!
The girls got a video recorder! They promptly made a Littlest Pet Shop movie when we got home... complete with script, music, and pipe cleaners attached to the pet shops to move them!
I got 6 Fiesta plates! Yay! I have been collecting some accessories here and there, but I have wanted to start collecting the dinnerware as well!
Josh and Will

After breakfast, we went for a run and got packed up. It was time to head over to the Duleys for Christmas Eve! I didn't take many pictures- It was raining, and my camera was in the car... I wish I hadn't been so lazy!!! We had a nice afternoon with Bobby and Sharon.

Hannah got a neat craft tote and knitting accessories, Sarah got a LPS set (she has been collecting and playing with Littlest Pet Shop for 3-4 years now, but she still really enjoys it!!), Will got a metal detector, and Josh got his extra hidden blade. He has been practicing his double light saber blocking techiques ever since... :)

Somehow or another, we all got hungry again! (Even though 5 hours prior, we all claimed it would never happen!) Good thing, too, because Sharon fixed a FEAST!!! We had a delicious Christmas dinner with turkey and ALL the trimmings!
Brian (front left) had just gotten his wisdom teeth taken out and was limited to mashed potatoes... I guess he felt compelled to show us all his mashed potatoes! (Maybe it was the pain medicine!) Goofy Brian! :) Wait... I am not sure, but I think Josh might be showing off his mac 'n cheese as well... oh, boy....
Hannah and Grandmama Sharon

After dinner, we cleaned up and lulled around for a while... feeling too incredibly full to do anything very quickly! The kids played Uno (Josh's current favorite card game), Brian and Nuria exchanged gifts (with everyone watching and trying to guess... poor Nuria!), and we visited a while.

We headed back to New Albany and arrived home around 8:30. The kids unloaded and unpacked, and got ready for bed!

Christmas Thoughts

These are my notes from our devotion at the Coffee Addict.

At Christmas time, the humility of Christ seems to be ever in the front of my mind. What do I mean by the humility of Christ?
  • attributes of God- holiness, goodness, all-knowing, omnipresent...
  • Remember, Jesus IS God... Bible says that He is ONE with the Father
  • If Christ is one with the Father, he laid aside the glories of heaven in order to come to earth
Not only did he lay aside His glory to come to earth, but let's look at the manner in which the King of Heaven chose to dwell among sinners:
  • In Matthew, Jesus' family tree is given. It IS in the kingly line of David, but there are a bunch of names of folks with questionable backgrounds... They are all wonderful examples of sinners saved by grace (and could be their own talk), but the family line Jesus came through was not without baggage...
  • We can see the humility of God in the way he providentially allowed people like Jacob, Rahab, Ruth, and all the kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord to be in His family line.
  • He came to earth, and allowed Himself to be born in a stable and visited only by local shepherds... A far cry from what you would expect for the birth of the Savior of the world!
  • His mother was a young, unmarried woman, and his earthly father was just a carpenter.
I know these are things most of us have heard before, but they are such good reminders to think on... Christ is the King of Kings, and yet he chose to humble himself in this way.

WHY? What is the purpose of His birth and coming to earth to live as a man?

Matthew 1:21: And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.

  • Perhaps the most amazing, wonderful, and CRUCIAL aspect of Christ's humility... He came to earth to become a curse for us so that we might be made right with God.
  • He chose to live a humble life and die a painful and shameful death on a cross in order that sinners can come to be righteous.
  • The phrase, "He will save His people from their sins" has leaped off the page at me several times this year.
Why did Christ choose to humble Himself so completely? To save His people from their sins.

I think this has been so important to me, because this little phrase has made the difference between life and death for me.

For a long, long time I lived a moral life. I made good decisions, and I did things that a Christian would do. I prayed, I read my bible every day, I took meals to people...

Here was the problem. Jesus came to save people from their sins. I knew enough to say that I was a sinner. There was no denying that I had done things wrong.

I even knew enough to say that the problem was not the things I did... the problem was with my sinful heart... BUT, I did not see REALLY that I needed to be saved. I really thought (not that I ever would have said this out loud) that I was doing pretty well, and just needed Christ's blood for the times I messed things up.

When I was pregnant with Joshua, the Lord began to show me more and more... until I just couldn't deny it... that I was not as good as I thought I was. I was still doing all of those "good things," but God was showing me my heart... how much selfishness was wrapped up in all of it, and how much I did just to please other people.

Our pastor was preaching through the Beatitudes... Blessed are the poor in Spirit, blessed are the meek, blessed are the merciful... Each Sunday I would come home and think, "boy, I want to be those things, and I am trying to be those things, but I just am not."

I went to talk to our pastor, and he told me to look to Christ, and Scott would tell me the same thing... Look to Christ... I did not know what they were talking about !!!

Finally, it came to the point where I knew that I did not love Christ more than anything... I did not have whatever it was that Scott and some of my friends had... I knew that I did not understand things, and I knew deep down that I had a lot of head knowledge, but I wasn't a Christian.

As I sought the Lord, I realized a few things. Jesus came to save people from their sin. He did not come to save people who did not see their need to be saved... look at the pharisees! He came to save those who knew that they needed someone else's righteousness, b/c theirs was not enough.

This is one of my favorite passages: Luke 7:37-47

For the longest time, I thought that this woman loved Jesus so much because she had REALLY been a sinner and done a LOT of stuff and needed a lot of forgiveness... maybe I didn't love as much as others b/c I had not done so much bad stuff... you know, if I had been really bad, I would probably love Him like that, too...

When I became a Christian, I saw that wasn't it at ALL

She loved so much, and now I do too, because she saw HOW MUCH SHE HAD BEEN FORGIVEN!!!!!

In other words, she KNEW that Jesus had come to save people from their sin... she KNEW that she had sin... and she knew that she NEEDED a SAVIOR.

You shall call his name Jesus, for he will save His people from their sin

God had shown me my sin, and shown me how much I needed a savior. Because of Christ's humility and
  • willingness to come to this earth
  • and live a perfect life
  • and die an undeserved death,
  • and suffer all of the wrath of God due to sinners
we can be saved... When we see our sin and place our faith in HIS righteousness alone, THEN are we made right with God and able to call Christ savior.

I want to finish with one last passage from Zecharaiah 3- this is one of the most clear pictures of running to Christ for salvation, and Him removing our sinfulness and giving us His:

Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes." And I said, "let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the angel of the Lord stood by.

Here is my question for you: Have you seen your sin? Do you think you are doing pretty well, or is Christ EVERYTHING to you? If you aren't sure of the answer, do not pray the sinners' prayer one more time... instead, Seek the Lord- Run to him, cry out to him, read the Scripture...

Friday, December 25, 2009

Shop Party

Every year around Christmas, my dad feeds his employees a big lunch of Corky's ribs, BBQ, and all the trimmings. Delicious.

The lunch has absolutely nothing to do with why my children love to go to "Papa's Shop."

It's all about the crane, forklift, and tractor!

My dad has a steel fabrication shop in Memphis, and the kids LOVE to go see him there! (However, OSHA would not be pleased at all to find out why!) After lunch, we walked out into the shop. My brother-in-law, Adam, took Levi and Evelyn for rides on the forklift.
My kids took turns riding on the crane. Sitting in the loop and holding on tightly, my dad would push his magic button and hoist them high (a little too high) in the air. As if that weren't good enough, he then would use the control bar and make them zoom through the air from the front to the back of the shop. What fun!Hannah is getting ready for takeoff!

Josh anticipating his ride across the shop

You can barely see, but there is a man working at the tan machine in the background (the press break). My dad sent Sarah back past the press break, forward a bit, and then sent her sideways into the machine and barely missing his worker... what must his employees think! :)

Scott worked for my dad for five years before feeling called into the ministry. Part of his time was spent working at this burn table. This is the man, Allen, who took Scott's place at the table and became a friend of his.
Before we left, I wanted to get a picture of the grandkids with my dad in front of the shop- It was impossible to get a clear picture of everyone and still get the L&W Fabricators sign in the background, but oh well!

Will is 8!!!

Will's birthday was Sunday, December 20th, and he turned 8 years old! He had picked pancakes for breakfast- In a show of uncharacteristic cooking creativity, I made his using Christmas cookie cutters. He didn't get the usual streamers and fanfare that the kids do for each other, because we were a little pressed for time.

However, he was looking forward to having several boys come home from church with us for a birthday lunch and play time. Unfortunately, his closest friend, Ben, was running fever and had to stay home. He really missed having him there! A group of perfect little angels....Ha ha... yeah, right!
(You have to take the silly pose picture!)

I'll give you 1 guess as to what William picked for his birthday lunch... Give up?


Yep, Salad! He requested a big salad with boiled eggs and bacon bits. Sounded easy enough to me! The other boys were a bit skeptical, but almost all of them cleaned their bowls! They were eager to get started on board games or playing, but Will was not finished- he went back and ate a second full bowl (in Will's own deliberate way)... not rushing, just enjoying his big green salad! As a special treat, we got Coke ornament bottles for everyone there. (We had to get diet, b/c our grocery had sold all of the other options!)

Several grandparents sent money as gifts, and we got him a Magic Treehouse book that our library does not have. A friend got him a Nerf gun- wow, that made for a fun afternoon!
Although it was wet and chilly, everyone soon got a little stir crazy and went outside to play in the kudzu houses. They all came back in after an hour or two, and we had cookie cake for dessert.

I was out of candles, and all I could find was a number 9. Hannah got some writing icing and wrote beside the 9, "- 1 = 8!" So, you know, we home schoolers just can't give up an opportunity to throw in some math!HAPPY BIRTHDAY, WILL!

Christmas in Cotton Plant

I love Christmas lights. Love them. When I was growing up, our family always put up lights (Scott calls them the big redneck/trailer park bulbs), and our home was beautiful. My mother always made sure that my dad had them on the roof line very straight... this was important to all of us! When the hanging of lights was complete, our house looked just like a gingerbread house...

On our way home in the evenings from wherever, we would always oooh and aahhh over Christmas lights in the neighborhood. As we pulled into our driveway, my mom or dad would always say, "Oooh, look at this house. I think this is my favorite!"
One of us would promptly respond, "Me, too! Let's go see who lives here!" And so the conversation would go on until we were out of the vehicle and in our house.

When Scott and I were married, we had to make a Christmas light compromise. I gave him little white lights on the tree, and he gave me my big trailer park lights on the outside of our house. We are currently living in our 10th home in 12 years... we have only celebrated Christmas in 8 homes, though. Each year, without fail, we have put up our red and green redneck bulbs.... very straight and neat!

One night as we drove into our driveway, Hannah reminded me that I forgot to say how pretty our lights were. At that moment, I realized we were continuing the tradition from my childhood! Now, when our lights are on, some of us have a conversation about going in and seeing the family that has those nice, pretty lights on their house!

We have recently added a new Christmas light tradition to our family.... CHRISTMAS IN COTTON PLANT!

Cotton Plant, MS is about the size of Keownville... maybe a hair bit larger. Cotton Plant has something that you can't find in Keownville, though. It is the home of a personal Christmas lights display rivaling anything I have ever seen in person! Two families have turned their large yards into something worth seeing!

Out in the middle of nowhere, two families have a HUGE collection of blow up Christmas decorations. They have created a path through the display with a guard rail of lights. Amid the blow up decorations, there are displays of lights with different themes.... even one dedicated to the NA Bulldogs!

In the center of the yard, there is a huge light display that is synchronized with music. It even has these light up faces that tell jokes in between songs.... My kind of humor, too. Nothin' better than a cheesy, corny joke! The Grinch and Frosty walk around the crowd, and there is a little shack selling hot chocolate and baked goods!

What a fun night! It was a little difficult to work it into our schedule this year, but our children made it clear that this was now a full blown tradition that couldn't be missed! We look forward to seeing it again next year!

Gingerbread men

We had fun decorating gingerbread men this year! Everyone had different styles... Hannah was the precise, detailed one. Sarah and Will had great ideas and had fun learning to pipe icing and create their cookies. Josh really enjoyed adding the "bling," and was constantly petitioning his siblings, "Candy, candy for the poor?"
Hannah rolled out gumdrops to form a little Santa hat!

"OOOHHH NOOO... Not my arm, not my arm! Please spare me!!!"

Will and Josh- Josh is holding the very much less decorated of his cookies!

Coffee Shop

Support your local businesses! I resent being in bondage to Wal-Mart, but that's just the way it is when you are on a tight budget and live in a small town. Every time I walk through the doors, I wish we had an affordable, local option for all of our groceries.

I try to shop the local produce stand in the summer, go to Dollar General for paper products (also a major chain, I know... but somehow the small building with bright yellow sign is not quite so offensive), and there is also Stoke's Grocery. Stoke's is a little jewel of a local market which is great for stopping in for milk, bread, and last minute items... it's just expensive to do all of your shopping there.

I am going to take liberty to digress a moment about this grocery store called Stoke's. It looks like a ramshackle, hole-in-the-wall warehouse. The inside is not too much better- very bare bones, and up until recently, the employees were still allowed to smoke while stocking the shelves!

Here is a quote from the Daily Journal describing Stokes: "Today, Stokes Grocery, officially called Stokes Cost Plus because customers pay the asking price plus 10 percent, is a rambling building with a hodgepodge of freezer cases, shelving and coolers Stokes has purchased at auctions. He gradually bought the businesses adjoining his grocery and basically just knocked down walls to connect the spaces."

While the appearance leaves a bit to be desired, this place is a treasure! If you are ever looking for something not carried at Wal-mart, check Stoke's! From an assortment of canning jars in the dead of winter to random, rare ingredients... Mr. Stokes probably has it. One other great thing about a local market is that if they don't have it, Mr. Stokes will usually be happy to order it for you! Wal-Mart employees just point toward a forsaken comment box and tell you to take it up with the "manager" (who seems never to be available).

Speaking of local establishments, we have a great little coffee shop. I love my weekly coffee shop run- I go for a run while the girls stay and drink a steamer or hot chocolate and knit. When I finish running, I get my coffee (gotta love a place where they ask you if you want your "usual") and pay the tab.

Last week we had a cross country get together at the coffee shop. The moms and girls brought handiwork and came to have a night of fun. We had a great turn out!
Julie, Kirsten, Danielle, and Martha enjoying their assortment of beverages and desserts!

I have missed my runners! I will be glad for us to get started again in the spring! While we were at the Coffee Addict, several sweet families gave me Christmas gifts. I have some fuzzy spartan colored socks on my feet right now, in fact! Thanks to all of my runners who brought me sweet and thoughtful gifts! The Johnson family gave me something particularly special... They had photos from our season turned into a book! Roan made sure that every runner was in at least one picture, and there are pages dedicated to practices and almost all of our races! Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

christmas recital

We began our Christmas break with a ballet recital. Sarah's dance studio performed a "Cliff's Notes " version of "The Nutcracker," and they also did some additional classical ballet Christmas pieces. Sarah was one of the Chinese dancers performing alongside an older Chinese dancer soloist.

Here she is in front of the stage Christmas tree.

Mrs. Justine has several Spartans in class- Here are Sarah, Shelby (Spanish and Russian danceer), and Kate (rag doll). Hannah Bagget was elsewhere, but she was the head Russian dancer.

The girls enjoy working with the "big girls" for their dances. It is fun for the, and it also helps make a beautiful performance. Nikki was Sarah's leader- She also performed as the Rat King.

Sarah's other performance was to the hymn, "Away in a Manger." OBVIOUSLY, I am very biased... BUT, I truly think this particular act stole the show. It was beautiful, graceful, and very well done! The girls all did a great job! Here they are in their ending pose on rehearsal night.
Part of the reason it worked so well was due to the re-runs of practice the week before... By the end of Friday night, the girls were TIRED, but they had it together!
Here are Sarah and Shelby again.
Sharon and Nuria came from Memphis for the show, but they had to head on back directly. After the recital, Kay took us all to George's for dessert. Here are Kay and Sarah enjoying a butterscotch shake and strawberry biscuit.
Kay stayed and went to church with us on Sunday. We had to get a good group with Nana shot before she left... This one is more flattering of everyone, but look at Josh in the second picture... He is smiling with open eyes!!!!