Welcome Back

“Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out
Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about”

To say we have been rather busy lately is quite an understatement.

You see, fifty-seven days ago, I was playing around on Realtor.com just as I have for the last several years, pondering the possibilities of the many listings that were up at the moment, when something caught my eye.

I mean something REEEE-ally caught my eye.

So, I did something that I had never done in all my years of looking; with Audley’s guidance I reached out to a VA lender for a preapproval.

“Well the names have all changed since you hung around
But those dreams have remained and they’ve turned around”

Fifty-five days ago, we canceled our weekend plans and took a little road trip into Alabama. There, we looked at two houses. One was trashed and definitely showed what a little staging for the internet can do. The other was nearly perfect; close to everything we had in mind for a home.

“Who’d have thought they’d lead ya
Back here where we need ya”

Fifty- four days ago we made an offer on a house, wrote an earnest money check, and the very next day it was accepted.

We were under contract with “closing in thirty-five days.”

{GULP}

Thirty-one days ago, I accepted a position to teach pre-k in a newly established Christian Academy this coming autumn.

Twenty-four days ago, we met with our realtor in the small town of Scottsboro, Alabama to close, and at the same time became first time homeowners.

“Yeah we tease him a lot ’cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back…”

Fourteen days ago, we moved to Stevenson, Alabama, just 3 miles from where Audley grew up and where we moved away from almost exactly ten years ago.

“…And I know what a scene you were learning in
Was there something that made you come back again”

There is a lot to the hows, whys, and whats of all this, but the Reader’s Digest version is Audley changed industries back in December and works from home, when he is not traveling. After nearly 27 years of moving with power company and paper mill construction, we have been given the opportunity to control our own path.

“And what could ever lead ya
Back here where we need ya”

Our “First” Home

We decided the time was right to purchase a home, but with the market what it is, this was not so easy. We looked near Atlanta (where we had been living). We looked in South Carolina (to be near our grandbaby). We looked in Tennessee. We looked in Alabama. But we weren’t serious until the right property became available. We really wanted out of the city, we wanted property, preferably not new construction, and a ranch style. We wanted character and potential. Something move-in ready that we could add our own spin on to turn into our home.

Who knew where it would lead us?!

The craziness, busyness, chaotic mess of the last fifty-seven days was an answered prayer in so many ways, especially with the ease of purchasing our first home. We stayed within our budget, worked with a great realtor and lender, and found what I hope is our forever home!

Back Porch Views

And the song lyrics scatter throughout my post? As we were driving on I-24 with a moving van, our pups and kitty I was listening to a 70’s station on Spotify. The theme song to “Welcome Back Kotter” by John Sebastion began playing on the radio. I laughed as I thought back to all the times we’ve left this area to chase our dreams, only to return.

“Yeah we tease him a lot ’cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back”

God sure does have a sense of humor.

20 Movies to Spark Your Christmas Spirit

Most of us find our televisions bursting with holiday cheer inspired by various television sources who like to get started throughout November and December. To be honest, with all the repeating themes and storylines it’s easy to burn out on Hallmark and Lifetime Christmas movies, or the same thing repeating over and over on Freeform. Along with repeating themes and movies we are bombarded with annoying and excessive commercials. I for one will be so thankful when Medicare enrollment is over, and Martha quits yelling at me.

Thankfully we have access to streaming services, a fabulous DVD collection, and premium movie channels to set our own viewing schedule up and avoid commercials. Keeping that in mind I’ve put together a list of 20 (mostly) family friendly greats from way back to recently released that’ll spark your Christmas Spirit while changing up your viewing.

1. Take it way back with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye and kick off the season with 1954’s White Christmas. Between the gorgeous costuming and fabulous music this one is always a cozy favorite. Right now, it’s streaming on Netflix, but if you check TCM’s movie schedule I guarantee you’ll find it!

2. 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life is my favorite Jimmy Stewart movie of all time and is on Prime right now. And remember, “every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings.”

3. Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles (2018) was such a pleasant surprise and feel-good movie. I just adore Kurt Russell’s portrayal of St. Nick. Skip the sequel as all the magic was used up in the first one.

4. Is it really Christmas without watching and quoting 2003’s Elf? This one will inspire you to sing your way through the holidays with a smile on your face, perhaps annoying that one “Central Park Ranger’ of a family member in the process!

5. While quoting Elf is a lot of fun, 1989’s National Lampoons Christmas Vacation is a classic we can actually watch on repeat all season long! Afterall, “we’re gonna have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas!”

6. The Disney Channel’s movie quality has declined over the last several years (let’s face it, the original High School Musical was the last great movie), but Disney+ has made up for it. Several classic Christmas movies are streaming right now and 1994’s The Santa Claus tops the list! Both sequels are available to stream as well if you want to binge the entire series, but the original is the best by far!

7. While there have been plenty of remakes, 1947’s Miracle of 34th Street with Natalie Wood is the most charming of all!

8. Put on your pj’s and whip up some hot chocolate, then settle in with 2004’s Polar Express. You’ll fall asleep dreaming of the North Pole while awakening out your childlike heart.

9. Your Grinchy heart will grow three sizes after an evening with Jim Carrey’s 2000 version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

10. “KEVIN?!?!” 1990’s Home Alone is a hilarious Christmas adventure the entire family can giggle over, while quoting and cheering for the mischievous kid (who really needs a wooden spoon to the bum) as he wreaks havoc while protecting his home. It can be found on Disney+ right now.

11. Disney+ is also showing 1999’s Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas which I watch solely for sentimental reasons; it was my Samantha’s favorite movie to watch when she was little as this particular one showcases the iconic Mickey and Friends.

12. Bill Murray will have you feeling crazy yet entertained while watching 1988’s Scrooged. A little crass for the kiddos this one is a silly and irreverent comedy that you can watch after tucking the little ones in bed.

13. Netflix has put out a few really good movies, and this year’s A Boy Called Christmas is a magical journey sharing another story of how Santa Claus came to be. Dame Maggie Smith narrates the tale which makes it even more enjoyable.

14. Christmas with the Kranks (2004) based off a John Grisham book sharing the humorous experience one couple has as they decide to “skip Christmas”. Let’s face it, we’ve ALL thought about it one time or another. It’s streaming on Prime right now.

15. Bloggers and influencers alike can relate to 1945’s Christmas in Connecticut with Barbra Stanwick as a magazine writer … one who embellishes her uninteresting life through her monthly articles. TCM loves to show this one during December.

16. TCM also airs 1956’s Bundle of Joy with Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher a couple of times in December. Eddie Fisher wasn’t the most talented actor, but his singing definitely made up for it. Reynolds and Fisher were married while filming this comedy and their chemistry is so sweet.

17. I saw 1983’s A Christmas Story in the theater on a cold Sunday night with a group of friends after evening services when I was eleven. I loved it then and I love it now. It’s the movie that never grows old … kind of like me.

18. A Charlie Brown Christmas from 1965 is not really a movie, but is it Christmas if you don’t watch it at least once? It’s a good one for remembering the modern reason for the season.

19. Another not-really-a-Christmas-movie, but one you must see is 1964’s Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Some cartoons you really never outgrow.

20. Finally, I have to add 1944’s Meet Me in St. Louis. While technically it’s not a Christmas movie (only 25 minutes of the movie is dedicated to the holiday), but who doesn’t love Judy Garland’s gorgeous mix of tenderness and heavy-hearted version of Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas?

What Christmas movies should I add to this list? I would love to know some of your must-see Christmas movies!

10 Things December Edition

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and I’m ready to savor every moment this season has to offer! I’ve got my bucket list made out and thought I would share a few ideas with you to add to your own list.

1. Visit a Christmas tree farm. If you want the freshest of live trees this is the best way to pick one that will last! Sip on cider, take some fun pictures and bring home a tree that’ll make a lovely centerpiece for the holidays. Thompson’s Tree Farm in Lawrenceville is a great place to check out if you are in the Atlanta area.

2. Donate to Toys for Tots. Sponsored by the Marine Corps, Toys for Tots strives to collect new toys and distribute to less fortunate children across the country. This is a huge undertaking and requires a lot of community support. Could you imagine if every family, that was able actually placed a toy in the bins all around the city, how many children’s holiday could be changed?

3. Make Christmas cookies. These Cream-Filled Cookies or traditional Sugar Cookies are perfect for friends and family alike. They’ll be a hit no matter where you serve them this season.

4. Pay for someone’s coffee. Nothing makes a person’s day brighter than to treat them with a cup of coffee. It’s been a stressful couple of years for A LOT of people and I promise this little act of kindness will go a long way.

5. Take a drive to look at Christmas lights around town. Put some Christmas music on the radio and head out to see all the twinkling lights your town has to offer. This has been a favorite tradition of mine since I was a little girl, and with social media access you can often find where the best diplays are before you head out.

6. Send out Christmas cards. Yes, it takes time to address, write a message and sign the card, but this is a tradition we all need to get on board with again! I love recalling memories we have shared with so many friends and family over the years as I write each message, and it’s the same as I open each card we receive as well. We’ve lived in six states, attended the same Bible camp for years, carry on friendships from college, and traveled on mission trips where we have created a lasting bond with many. Turn off your social media and get personal. One evening of a favorite Christmas movie and a box of cards goes a long way.

7. Speaking of movies, enjoy a Christmas movie marathon over the holidays. From 1954’s White Christmas to 2021’s A Boy Called Christmas there are plenty of movies for every mood!

8. Set up a hot chocolate bar for the family. I’m absolutely loving these adorable Jolly Good marshmallows from Two’s Company. I picked up my bag from the new Buc-ees up the road, but you can also find something similar at Williams-Sonoma.

9. Make a wreath. Simple or elaborate, it’s up to you, but grab some ribbon, a nutcracker and some sparkly floral picks and create your own welcoming wreath.

10. While Jesus was most likely born in the spring and not December 25th, Read the Gospel of Luke in the days leading up to Christmas as a reminder of why the birth of Jesus is so important to many of us who celebrate the Christmas season for more than Santa Claus. For many it’s the only time of the year they are open to hearing about Christ and I’m more than happy to oblige.

Have you put together a bucket list for you and your family this season? I would love to hear what you’ve added to yours!

Happy December!

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!