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.

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!