Thanksgiving Highlights for my Sisters!

Both of my sisters are in India right now, and since they couldn't be here to celebrate Thanksgiving with us, I wanted to put up a few pictures for them!  I miss them so much and can't wait for them to come home.  

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Matt and Mom getting the turkey ready. 

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Matt and Robert fried the turkey – this is the rigging system they set up for safety :)  Mom made them have the fire extinguisher ready.  

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Here they are with the fried bird!

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After frying the turkey they decided to fry some of mom's yeast rolls and roll them in sugar like the Chinese restaurants – it was tasty!
 

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I was in charge of decorating the table, and I put the peacock feathers on it kind of as a joke, thinking mom would make me take them off, but when she saw them she started crying because apparently its the national bird of India.  So, we left them up in honor of my sisters!

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Mom made tons of food, and yes, she made stuffing without "yuckies".  

 
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After frying the turkey, the guys wanted to fry everything!  Here they are frying potatoes!

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We made lots of homemade pizzas the day after Thanksgiving! They were tasty.  

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We decorated for Christmas after Thanksgiving.  Matt did most of the ornament hanging on the tree! 

Is it Fall Already?!

Today is the first day of fall, and typically, I love fall.  It is probably one of my favorite seasons in Boone (second only to summer!)  Unfortunately, this year I'm having a hard time getting excited about fall, mostly because it seems like we haven't even had a summer.  It has been so cold and rainy in Boone this summer, and we're now settling into our 8th straight day of rain.  Now I know why Matt said we can't move to Seattle.  Bummer. 

Normally, summer in Boone is fantastic, and it makes it worthwhile to get through all of the other seasons (namely winter).  Summers are full of hiking, gardening, swimming, laying on a quilt in the sun, camping, grilling out … and although we have gotten to do most of that, it hasn't seemed the same this year.

All that to say, I'm trying to get into the spirit of fall.  I pulled out my sweaters, and I'm wearing my favorite one today (in the picture below).  By the way, that picture was taken at Thanksgiving last year, before Matt and I were even engaged.  This is our first fall married – thats something to be excited about!

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I bought things to make pumpkin logs and apple pie.  I'm going to football games. I'm drinking caramel apple cider. I'm already planning the treats I'll take to the cabins for Thanksgiving.  I'm gearing up to make spritz cookies.  I'm planning new things to knit, and I'm thinking about getting the girls craft night started again.  Its all in your attitude, and I'm choosing to embrace fall. How do you celebrate fall?

Happy First Day of Fall!   

Holiday Lights at the Garden

Matt and I went to see the holiday lights at the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, NC last weekend, and it was an absolutely lovely time!  Most of my pictures didn't turn out (confirmation that I should take a photography class next year), but I've posted a couple so you can get an idea of how beautiful it was. 

Their website encourages you to, "Join us at the Garden for old favorites like the orchid tree, carriage
rides, visits from Santa and seasonal entertainment. A new treat for
2008 – train displays that are sure to please children of all ages.
Nearly 600,000 lights are on display from the Garden’s Grand Entrance
to the ponds to the spectacular formal displays in the gardens. The
lights will create a memorable experience that will last a lifetime.
Guests are invited to walk the garden paths from the icy White Garden
to the magical Children’s Wonderland. Be sure to pass through the
30-foot-tall tree of lights on the Four Seasons lawn and continue on
through the Canal Garden and the displays beyond. On your return from
seeing the lights you can relax in the Visitor Pavilion, enjoy a cup of
cocoa and await the arrival of Santa."

It was well worth the $10 that we paid for admission, and I can't wait to go back during the summer to see the grounds in the daylight.  We also took a carriage ride and drank hot apple cider and cocoa, which added to the fun of the evening.  I would definitely recommend a visit to the Botanical Garden if you're in the area.  New in 2008 is an orchid conservatory.  Check out tomorrow's blog for pictures of the conservatory. 

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Gingerbread House Party

One of my favorite things about the holidays is decorating cookies and gingerbread houses.  Erin Miller always hosts the best cookie decorating parties, maybe because she used to be an elementary school teacher … everyone knows kids love decorating cookies.  She makes the best icing … I ate way too much. 

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Jake and Erin decorated one gingerbread house. 

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Jordan made peanut butter cookies with Hershey kisses. 

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Matt ate a lovely angel cookie I decorated. 

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This is the gingerbread house that Matt and I decorated.  Notice the attention to detail on the roof …

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This was my favorite part of our gingerbread house … the snowman and duck in the pond!  

Unfortunately, the house crashed on the way home, and we couldn't get it to stay up again.  I guess we didn't let it set up long enough. 

Christmas Decorations

I love getting our Christmas tree each year – it is one of my favorite things!  We didn't get back in time to get one the weekend after Thanksgiving, and apparently none of the choose and cut lots are open on the weekends!  I was very impatient, and I couldn't wait an entire week to get the tree, so we went to one of the churches in town who was selling pre-cut trees. 

When we pulled up, I think that they were closing down shop, but we were able to look around quickly and pick out the perfect tree.  I knew it was the perfect tree because birds flew out of the back of it.  That has to be some kind of sign …

So we spent the evening decorating the house and drinking wassail. 

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This is the wreath – it is pretty much the perfect size. 

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Its nice to have Matt to put the tree up …

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I didn't have a lot of ornaments last year, so we had an ornament decorating party!  I bought plain glass balls at Michaels, and people came over to decorate them.  The only rule was you had to decorate one to take home and one to put on my tree.  My favorite ornament was Shaele's – she filled hers with Smarties!

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This is my little angel on the top of the tree.  She was made by women at Amani ya Juu.  I love the gold swirly stitching. 

Spice Molasses Cookies

One of my favorite things to bake during the holidays is spice molasses cookies!  I was first introduced to these cookies several years ago by my aunt Brenda who made them for Christmas (I'm not sure where the recipe originally came from).  As a side note, each year for Christmas she puts together the most lovely packages of cookies for everyone.  She includes about 10 different kinds of cookies and cakes, wraps them in decorative cellophane, and puts them in a festive container.  Pound cake, lemon pound cake, spice molasses cookies, chocolate kiss cookies, chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, chocolate covered oreos … Mmmm!

Anyway, these are my favorite cookies to make because they are relatively easy and so tasty!  They are always a party hit. 

Spice Molasses Cookies

3/4 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
sugar

 

Cream shortening; gradually add sugar, beating well at
medium speed until mixed.  Add egg and
molasses and mix well.  Combine flour and
next 8 ingredients and mix well to combine dry ingredients.  Add about 1/4 of flour mixture at a time to the
creamed mixture and beat until smooth after each addition.  Chill dough for 1 hour.  Shape dough into 1-inch balls and roll in
sugar.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased
cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 for 9-11
minutes (tops will crack).  Don’t
overcook
or they will get too crispy. 
Cool on wire rack.  Yields about 4
dozen.

Side note:  I use unsulphured black strap molasses, and it is really dark.  I think that is one of the secrets of this cookie.  Black strap molasses is a dark liquid that is the byproduct of refining sugar cane into table sugar.  It is made from the third boiling of the sugar syrup and is the concentrated byproduct left over.  You can usually find it at any grocery store. 

I like making these cookies because they don't take forever to bake!  By the time you get one pan cooled enough to take the cookies off and loaded with more cookies, the other pan is finished cooking.  I usually double this recipe because my cookies are a little bigger, so I don't quite get 4 dozen. 

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School Spirit Weekend

I support one school spirit weekend per year, and this was the weekend!  My younger siblings and friends from Wilmington came up, and we had a lovely time!  We ate chicken tortilla soup, grilled out hamburgers, had a pumpkin carving contest, and went to the ASU vs. Furman game.  It was a festive, fun-filled weekend. 

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Pumpkin Date

I love fall.  I love pumpkins.  I love pumpkin dates in the fall.  One of my favorite things about pumpkins is how different each of them are.

Test your pumpkin knowledge with these festive trivia question (answers below):

1.  Are pumpkins a fruit or a vegetable?
2.  Antarctica is the only continent not capable of producing pumpkins.
3.  What is the pumpkin capital of the world?
4.  The pumpkin is the state fruit of what state?
5.  How many pounds was the worlds largest recorded pumpkin?
6.  Pumpkins were once recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites.
7.  What is the origin of pumpkin pie?
8.  What colors are pumpkins available in?
9.  What country did the tradition of carving pumpkins come from?
10. Where did the term "pumpkin head" come from in colonial times?

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Matt and I went to pick out pumpkins to carve – this pumpkin patch had already been picked through, but there were still some good ones. 

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Picking out the perfect pumpkin

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Eating pumpkin pie and roasted pumpkin seeds

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Fall flowers are a perfect way to start a pumpkin date.  One of my favorite ways to decorate with cranberries is simply letting them float in a bowl of water.  I picked up these autumn leaf floating candles several years ago – I'm looking for replacements because these are almost burned down. 

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You can also buy mini gourds at the pumpkin patch.  I really like to make a small hole in the ones that look like little pumpkins and put a tapered candle in them.  They make very festive candle holders.  (Note: be careful – the gourds are quite hard and I've ruined knives trying to making holes for the candles.)  This is a new wooden bowl I picked up at a market in Zambia – I'm pretty excited about it. 

 

Answers to trivia question:
1.  Fruit
2.  True
3.  Morton, Illinois
4.  New Hampshire
5.  1,689 pounds
6.  True
7.  Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops, removed seeds, filled the inside
with milk, spices and honey, and baked it in hot ashes. 
8.  Orange, red, white, green, yellow, tan, and blue
9.  Ireland
10.  Pumpkin halves were used as guides for haircuts in colonial times.

How many did you get right?