Our Red & Green Christmas Tree

Christmas has arrived in the Jones house and y’all, I am so excited!

You see, Santa Claus has sent word that I am on the nice list (boy has he been hoodwinked) and has already delighted me with a couple of fabulous gifts.

First? I have an adorable new grandbaby who I get to cuddle and spoil and enjoy and treasure and love! Mariah has my heart wrapped around her little finger and she will be here the week of Christmas and of course Christmas morning. Her parents will be here as well, but I get the baby!

Second? Bradley has been approved for Christmas leave and for the first time since he joined the Marines, he will be home for Christmas!

I told you I had been a good girl.

It makes my heart swell knowing all four of my children will be home on Christmas morning. We will still be missing Madeline’s hubby as he is deployed, but as a military and police family we understand the sacrifice and know it will be ok.

These early gifts have me feeling even more festive and sentimental than normal, so I wanted that to reflect when decorating our trees this year. I also wanted everyone in our cul-de-sac to enjoy the holiday cheer, so my favorite tree is twinkling in the front picture window which happens to also be my office.

I know many of you are stopping in from Design Morsels , so welcome to Fiddle Dee Dee and my little space on the internet! I’m linked up with 20 other fabulous bloggers for a Christmas Tree Decor Blog Hop hosted by Michelle from Our Crafty Mom so let’s get this party started!

No matter the trends of the season I will have at least one red and green tree in the house. I love these traditional colors of the season that actually come from the ancient Celtic celebration of the winter solstice with holly and berries.

This year I had a lot of fun, pulled out all the ornaments we have gifted the kiddos and collected for ourselves every year, and stepped into a world of nostalgia. Twenty-seven Christmases of annual Hallmark ornaments, glass Santa’s we purchased in Iowa when our ornaments were left in Alabama in storage after a move, the shiny brites I scoured Nashville and Chattanooga to find, the Mickey & Minnie Heart Audley bought me in Gatlinburg on our honeymoon, sweet gifts from friends, couple ornaments for our girls and their hubbies, the blown glass Christopher Radko’s and a crayon box for our Marine.

This tree tells our story.

There is no uniform color or pattern to any of these ornaments, yet with a little ribbon, festive picks and colorful lights it all came together to form a beautiful tree that showcases our family’s story.

I would love to tell you where all the decor came from, but honestly, I cannot. Some of the Radko’s are from a little shop in Scottsboro, Alabama, a couple from Flat Rock, North Carolina, and still others from Snellville, Georgia. A few baubles came from a little local shop in Clinton, Iowa and a few from Rome, Georgia. The Shiny Brite’s are reproductions and I found them at HomeGoods. Some were gifts from special friends and family to mark occasions. I’ve had most items on this tree for fifteen years or more.

To pull everything together I found the wired green and red polka dot and the elf patterned ribbon on Amazon. The festive picks are from Hobby Lobby and the elf hats are actually cute holiday headbands. We added colored lights to our prelit tree to keep it playful and nostalgic. There is just something magical about brightly colored twinkle lights.

While this isn’t our main tree, it is in my favorite space, and definitely in a prominent location. My office is where I write, read and disappear for quiet time with a cup of coffee in the mornings. It’s where the music is located and the front room in the house.

This year the kids will hang their new ornaments on Christmas Eve and we’ll begin a new collection of ornaments for Miss Mariah to add her chapter to the tree. I can’t wait to watch her story unfold.

Be sure to check out the other Christmas Trees these talented bloggers are sharing today. I’m sure each have their own unique story to tell.

More Christmas Tree Decor Ideas

Christmas Tree Decor Blog Hop feature image

Be sure to visit all the participating bloggers for decorating inspiration for your Christmas tree…

Christmas Tree decor collage of four

Our Crafty Mom // Red Cottage Chronicles// From House to Home// Simple Nature Decor

Christmas Tree decor collage of four

Virginia Sweet Pea// 2 Bees in a Pod// First Day of Home// Across the Boulevard

Christmas Tree Decor Blog Hop collage of four

Simply Beautiful by Angela // Happily Ever After, etc.// Madness and Method// Zucchini Sisters

Christmas Tree Decor Blog Hop collage of four

Purple Hues and Me// Tribe of Burton// My Pinterventures// Modern on Monticello

Christmas Tree Decor Blog Hop collage of four

Jenron Designs// Design Morsels// Oh Fiddle Dee Dee // Redneck Rhapsody

Autumn Spice Turkey Brine

We are just a day away from Thanksgiving 2021 and I am so looking forward to enjoying time with our families. We have two gatherings planned; one of which we are hosting, so it’s going to be a fun and very busy weekend!

Thanksgiving in the US revolves around everyone gathered at the table with a bountiful meal served up. We Americans love to eat and generally it’s done in excess.

While my own Pilgrim ancestors that survived that first year to celebrate in 1621 didn’t write about the details of the feast, others recorded that part of the meal consisted of wild fowl. Could this be the reason we have turkey today as the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinners?

This year I am brining our turkey before roasting. Brining helps the turkey absorb extra moisture which will help prevent the bird from drying out while roasting. The salt in your brine soaks deep into the meat adding layers of flavor. It also breaks down some of the tough membranes’ turkey is known for having, giving you a tender bird to serve up. The best part of using a brine is it is so easy! And who doesn’t like easy for the holidays?!

To brine the turkey I combine sea salt, brown sugar, juniper berries, star anise, lemon peel, orange peel, dried apple bits and other fresh herbs (I’ll post a link to print the full brine recipe below) with 2 1/2 gallons of water in a large non-reactive pan. Bring to boil, stirring occasionally, until the salt and sugar has dissolved. Let cool to room temperature, then refrigerate so that it is chilled. After the brining solution is chilled add your turkey, cover and refrigerate to soak for 24 hours.

After your bird has soaked in the brine, rinse and prepare to roast using any of your favorite roasting recipes.

I roasted our bird by stuffing it with chopped apples, oranges and fresh rosemary and thyme from the garden, and placing it on a bed of the same ingredients. Since I was really looking for an orange flavor, a few well-placed orange slices between the skin and breast worked magnificently. Tent your turkey with foil and pop into the oven at 350 until the temperature reaches 160 degrees.

I made a baste for our bird using 1 cup of turkey broth, 1 cup Riesling, and a stick of butter. By brining the turkey, I didn’t have to baste near as often.

After removing the turkey from the oven, I let it rest about 30 minutes. Using my baster, I removed the juices from the pan to make up a flavorful gravy. You really need about 5-6 cups, so if you don’t have that much from the turkey, add canned broth. It’s perfectly fine to do this as you’ll still have plenty of that fresh roasted flavor. To keep as much fat as possible from my gravy I love using my OXO fat separator. If you don’t have one, head off to Target right now (thank me for the excuse to shop later) and get you one! This is probably my most used kitchen accessory.

Everyone makes gravy differently, but I’ve found the easiest way is to divide your turkey broth/juices and while most of it simmers on the stove top, save a 1/2 cup of the juices to whisk with 1/4 cup of flour until smooth, then add to your simmering broth; whisk well. Stir in some salt and pepper to taste, maybe some fresh parsley. Cook until you it thickens, about a minute or so.

Plate your roasted turkey and enjoy all the oohs and ahhs you’ll get over your moist, tender and yummy turkey! If you would like a detailed recipe, check out my Autumn Spice Turkey Brine.









































Celebrate Thanksgiving With A Family Potluck

With just seven days until Thanksgiving, most of us probably have our holiday plans in place. If you are still looking for ideas, I highly recommend a potluck style Thanksgiving dinner for you and your loved ones!

Thanksgiving day is all about the gathering together of family and friends, sharing our blessings with one another. Whether we celebrate with family or friends one of the beautiful parts of this holiday is communing with others, generally around a table laden with food. The potluck approach allows for more than sharing, it allows everyone, especially the host to spend more time with those they love. It shouldn’t be a day filled with stress as one person tries to create the perfect event. The beauty of a potluck style dinner is it’s ideal for all sized gatherings.

Believe me, I understand wanting total control over a meal that I am hosting, but over the years our family left the one-person-does-it-all approach behind and we’ve made some amazing memories in my parents kitchen as own when we hosted. From husbands playfully arguing over who was going to lick the beaters and taste testing all the desserts hidden under foil, kids hovering over the desserts to sharing tips and tricks with one another and repeating family tall tales, every Thanksgiving has left a lasting impression in my heart.

Here are a few ideas to help you pull off this communal Thanksgiving dinner, even in as few as seven days!

First, as the host, take it upon yourself to cover the basics. It’s so much easier since you know the logistics of serving, eating and clean up. Choose your dinnerware; china, crystal, paper, or Solo cups; as the host you know best what is needed. If you want to set a table (even if using disposable wares), do so a day or two ahead of time just because it’s easy to knock out. A palette of white ceramics and autumn colored linens create a simple foundation and perfect backdrop for pumpkins, candles, mums or garlands. Lay your tablecloth, place a centerpiece and let it come together.

Second, set up the actual potluck. Let your guest know what you are preparing in advance. Generally a host will provide the main dish, but if your sister’s turkey is better than yours, or your Momma makes a mean ham, by all means ask if they would like to bring those things! Once the basic menu is laid out, everyone can let you know what they are contributing.

*Elevate your celebration: If you have time, request your guests share the recipes they are preparing for dinner in advance. Print off recipe cards decorated for the season,. Separate the recipes into mini booklets and tie together with ribbon for everyone to keep. Who knows, this could become a treasured keepsake as the years pass.

Third, If you want to provide serving pieces for all the food for the sake of aesthetics (I’m obsessed with aesthetics), let your guest know in advance that they can plate at your house. If they brings items in easy to transport containers they have something to carry leftovers home in as well. You can also share with your guests in advance what your color scheme is so they can compliment it using their own serveware. As the host, you can keep things as simple or as elaborate as you desire!

*Elevate your celebration: Grab a box of assorted sized Glad-Ware from Walmart or Target for everyone to make plates to carry home.

Fourth, set up stations for appetizers, main dishes, and desserts in separate areas if room allows and have it so everything is buffet style. Family can serve themselves, then gather together around the table for socializing and dining without having to spend 20-minutes passing food around.

Finally, sit down and pray, enjoy your meal, laugh, and genuinely enjoy every moment together.

Americans unfortunately have bad reputation for dining in a hurry and moving on. For some reason we think all aspects of life have to go at warp speed. This year I challenge you to savor every moment as you laugh, talk, and share in this precious day together. Don’t bring your phones to the table, leave the football game off, and truly appreciate not only the meal, but the company you are gathered with. If 2020 and 2021 have taught us anything it should be to savor every, single moment and treasure all the time we have with family and friends!

Happy Planning!

5 Tips To Help With Your Move

In the twenty-six years since we married, Audley and I have moved fifteen times. Job transfers, outgrowing arrangements, local and far away; we done it all. Most recently we moved last summer, during the height of the pandemic, 90 miles across the city as long hours plus the ridiculous drive was wearing Audley out.

I would like to think we’ll never move again, but with the industry Audley works in as well as our kiddos scattered in other states, it is very likely we’ll move again sometime in the future.

If you’ve ever moved you know exactly how stressful and exhausting the entire process is. We’ve made each move a little differently, but one thing for sure is I’m getting pretty good at making sure the entire process goes as smoothly as possible.

Moving is intimidating, but there are ways to minimize the stress with these few tips that have worked well for us over the years.

1. Organize. Get a 5×7 notebook with divider tabs and pockets; make it your guide for your move. In this notebook you want to have your first page saved for your dates of new job starting, when you need to list your house, and when you need to move, along with any other date that is involved with this move. Make notes regarding home tours, deposits, school info, phone numbers of realtors, disconnecting utilities, transferring cable and internet. Write down a plan for packing and mark off each task once completed. In the folder keep a copy of your kids transcripts for transferring schools. Make sure you have copies of their immunization records, and sports physicals if needed. If you are leaving the state this will make it easier for the doctor’s office to transfer to whatever form the new state requires. There is nothing worse than misplacing those items while moving. Having a set location in a book you should have at your fingertips at all times, works great!

2. Clear the clutter. DO NOT, and I emphasize again, DO NOT take clutter and chaos with you. As you walk your house and look at what needs to be packed, start a list of what needs to go. This is the perfect time to clean out closets, toyboxes, desks, filing cabinet, and the garage. If your hanging on to jeans hoping they’ll fit again, but you haven’t even started eating healthy or exercising, let the jeans go. If you’ve not worn a shirt or dress in over a year, let it go. If you have collected free shirts from every race, gym, or school event, weed them out and let some go. If you’re hanging onto warranty papers for products you don’t even own anymore or tax records from 2005 … let them go.

When we moved from South Carolina back to Georgia four years ago I found boxes that had not been unpacked the entire six years we were in Carolina. I opened them, surveyed the contents and most all of the boxes were things that could be donated or even trashed. I know we treasure our kids artwork, school papers and the like, but guess what? When they are adults they don’t want it. In fact they don’t care. How many times do you look at that first story that was written in 1st grade or that Christmas picture from 3rd grade? I’m as sentimental as you get, but there is a time that you’ve got to decide whether sentiment is worth the space, mess or boxes.

3. Purchase your boxes and packing supplies. I know it’s an unwanted expense, but with the way grocery stores open and break down boxes, getting quality ones is actually quite difficult. When you purchase your boxes you can find them in uniform sizes made specific for what you are packing; ie. book boxes, dish kits, hanging clothes, etc.. Bubble wrap and dish protectors are absolutely worth investing in. No one wants to open up the glasses that were wrapped in newspaper to find half of them are broken. Also, no one want to carry a box you’ve packed with 150 pounds of books.

4. Have a method for packing. Knock out the less used, decorative items and non-essential items first. This includes books, picture frames, ginger jars, toys, extra bedding and holiday dishes. Make sure other holiday decorations are well packed for traveling. How disappointing would it be to get out you decor and discover your blown glass ornaments are shattered. As you get closer to moving day, go ahead and empty the closets of shoes and clothes that you really do not need. You do not want to still be packing when a moving van arrives. The family can live minimally for a few weeks. This is also the time to not buy groceries and a great time to cook creatively using ingredients from the freezer and pantry that you’ve accumulated.

Label every box. Write what is in the box and what room it belongs in. This makes the unloading and sorting process so much easier.

Have a method for unpacking as well. Go backwards and unpack the necessities first and end with the decorative and fun stuff that helps make a house a home. If you open a box … empty and put away the entire box. You do not want half-emptied boxes all through your house.

Pro Tip: if you can budget it, hire packers. Many moving companies have this service and honestly I have never had a single regret when we’ve used packers. They are fast, efficient and professional. There is no running to the store for extra tape, boxes or materials. They are prepared and ready to work.

5. Hire a reputable moving company to do the heavy stuff. Let’s face it, moving is exhausting, and more so now than our first move back when we first married. I stay sore a whole lot longer. Moving is hard. Moving furniture is hard. Choose your hard. Me? I’ll let some young, strapping guys load and unload the heavy stuff any day of the week.

Moving Solutions, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee is great option when you are planning your next big move. They offer a variety of services to help you including relocating long distance in the Nashville and surrounding area, and offer both commercial along with local moving.

This is a sponsored post, but all thoughts and tips are my own based on all the crazy experiences we have had over the years.