Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Deck The Halls, Y'all!

I'm setting the mood to this post with the Christmas music I grew up on and still remains my very favorite album to this day.

If you're not an Alabama fan then I'll offer you up Kenny and Dolly or Amy Grant as a replacement.   All Christmas music I grew up on, all Christmas music I still love to do this day.  It all makes me so happy.  And you're pretty much guaranteed to hear it if you're at my home any time after Thanksgiving! 

If I'm being completely honest, Christmas is a little bittersweet for me this year.  It's the first year ever - EVER - that my children won't be waking up with me on Christmas morning.  They're with their dad from the time they get out of school on the 16th until the afternoon of the 26th.  And that just really, really sucks.  Really sucks.  I've known about this arrangement for well over a year and, in some ways, it actually made me dread Christmas this year.

One thing I have not dreaded though was DECORATING.  We moved into our house over Memorial Day weekend and, I swear, I've been excited to decorate it for Christmas since the day we moved in!  I'm even joining a link up for the first time in literal years because, gahhhh, I love Christmas decorating.

So here we go . . . how we decked the halls of our new house!

First up, the outside -- which I keep forgetting to take a picture of at night.  There are four windows in the front and Mark put lights on all of them and also hung some lighted garland and - of course - our red solo cup lights.  When we first began discussing the outside of the house, I told him he could do whatever he wanted.  "Clark it up, baby!"  We'll add a little more every year and until we have a full on Griswold display . . .

I hung garland and bows on the stair rail which was . . . eh.  It looks good but I'm constantly vacuuming up evergreen and the kids WON'T.STOP.TOUCHING.IT.  I mean, you know when they're babies that they'll be getting into the tree but you don't expect to constantly have to tell a ten-year-old to stop rearranging your bows!

The living room from the front entryway. 
So, we've been here six months and I still don't have the living room the way I want it.  The biggest issue is that the TV is too big to fit over the fireplace.  We will probably, eventually, mount it in the corner though I hate to "lose" a window by doing that.  And, yes, there's another small TV in the living room because the Bears and the Broncos played at the same time on Sunday . . .

A few living room knickknacks:

I LOVE a busy mantle, LOVE it.  And you'll notice our stockings are a little mismatched.  I thought about buying new matched ones but, I don't know, I love the mismatchedness (totally a word) and how it shows how Brady Bunched up our family is!

My stocking is actually my childhood stocking that my mom made.  That thing is more than 25 years old!

When I was a little girl, my grandmother owned a ceramic shop.  That Santa Claus was one she painted for me.

I'm not much of a chalkboard artist but I do love how this one turned out!

We actually have a 9-foot tree but wanna know what we DON'T have?  That'd be 9-foot ceilings.  In fact, the only room in the whole house we could put up the 9-foot tree would be in my bathroom.  So, yeah, that one is still in the garage.  Kinda bummed because I planned on having a tree in the living room and another in the dining room.  Oh well.

I love our tree!  I love the boutique trees too, I think they're beautiful.  But I love how so many of our ornaments tell about the people who live in this house.  I'm going to start buying a new ornament every year that symbolizes our year -- this year's will be something about our first Christmas in our new home.
I took the little "Charlie Brown" tree and hung all of Mark's Bears ornaments on it.

I was in Dollar Tree the other day and saw a canister of "old fashioned candy" and I HAD to buy it.  I mean, this stuff has to remind everybody of a grandma, right?  I told my kids it was "old fashioned" and now they say, "It's candy from the 90's."  Ahhhhhh.

Another little corner of the living room . . . this one shows off the most coveted item in the entire house.  The Advent calendar.  It's another relic from my childhood and the kids fight over who gets to move the mouse each day.  Ya know, just like my brother and I did back in the day.

Since there's nothing I enjoy more than grossing our children out . . . I decided to buy a mistletoe to hang between the living room and kitchen.  The kids even hug each other if they get caught under it together.  Also, I think our elf is going to "come in like a wrecking ball" a la Miley on it one of these days.

I didn't do much to the kitchen (though our elf did put package bows all over the cabinets Sunday night!)  I bought a table cloth, too short naturally.  And I made both our calendar and Game Day Hog a little more festive. 

Looking down my front entryway:

The elf helped out my decorating our command center.

And that's a wrap!

A few things I plan to do in the years that come:

The kids are painting canvases after school and I plan to hang them in the downstairs hallway.  I want them to a canvas every year and eventually they can fill the upstairs hallways too.  How fun will it be when they're grown adults to pull out canvases they painted in elementary school? 

I'm also going to do a collage frame of Christmas pictures after the season is over.  I'll hang it every year, and do a new one every year, so we can remember the fun of years past. 

Ahhhhh, Christmas!  I know my house and decorating style would never be featured in a magazine but, man, do I love it.  Every last bit of it makes me so happy!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Family Secret Santa

We started a new tradition in our house this year: family secret Santa.  The kids heard me talk so much about the Secret Santa I'm doing with my girlfriends that they wanted in on the fun too.  We drew names Tuesday night and officially began "Santa'ing" on December 1st.

I bought little stockings (two for a buck at Dollar Tree . . . you're going to see a lot of Dollar Tree-isms from me in the coming days!) and hung them on each kids memo board:


The kids were a little worried that their recipient would know who they were by their handwriting so I wrote out a bunch of little "warm fuzzy" type notes for them to choose from.  I also let them know I'd write other special notes for them too.

I bought candy, pencils, erasers, stickers, things like that (again, at the Dolla Dolla Dolla Tree!) and put in a bowl for them to choose from.  They can also use their chore money if they want to buy a little something extra.  I love that part, too, because they're all excited thinking what they can spend their money on for others!

Here are the rules we came up with.  And by "we" I mean "I."

1) Don't anyone who you have!  That will ruin the fun!

2) You may choose one note and one treat per day for your Secret Santa.

3) Leave their goodies in the stocking on their memo board or on their pillow.

4) Please don't take any of these goodies for yourself.

5) Even if you are mad at your Secret Santa, you still need to give them a treat.

6) Have fun!

When we have our family Christmas on the 26th, the kids will each open a "bigger" present from their Secret Santa and learn who was giving them goodies.  With so many kids, we pretty much have to draw names so this is just a more fun way of doing it.  The oldest boy child is only with us, like, three days in December until the 25th, so he's not participating this year (his "big" Christmas gift from the siblings will be from all the kids.)  Next year, we'll have him on the front half of Christmas so he'll be able to join in on the Santa'ing.

I'm hoping this is successful and something our family continues for many years to come.  Or at least until they're teenagers and leaving notes like "Merry Christmas, asshole!" in each other's stockings.  ;)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Thursday Things

1) It's DECEMBER!  Yay!  Wow, has this year flowwwwn by.  Bring it on, 2017!

2) We had some SERIOUS winds on Monday.  Like, leaves were blowing straight sideways and it sounded like a full on storm outside and it was just wind.  We love, love, love our nice, shady, tree-filled neighborhood.  Until, you know, every single leaf in the neighborhood is in our pool, on our deck, or floating around our yard.

Lawd Jesus. 

When we were at our neighborhood potluck a couple months ago, everyone had already closed their pools.  We hadn't yet because it was still so warm.  NOW WE KNOW.

I know that what we're experiencing is NOTHING compared to east Tennessee and Alabama have gone through this week.

3) OMG, the latest This is Us!  YOU GUYS.  I love this show so hard (like every other basic bitch in this country.)  The latest episode, I cried from start to finish.  **Slight Spoilers** Saturday will be 11 years since my dad passed away and I poured tears watching grown Randall "talk" to Jack.  Also, Jack dresses so much like my dad did back in the day - and the hair and mustache! - those scenes were heart wrenching to watch. 

4) I ordered a few Secret Santa gifts the other day and I can't waaaaait until they show up AND until after the recipient gets them so I can write about them!  I think they're gonna be awesome.

5) Speaking of gifts and shopping . . . I was bound and determined not to shop ANYwhere that was open on Thanksgiving day, most especially JC Penney since they decided to open at 3:00 in the afternoon (like, when my framily was sitting down for our meal.)  That lasted until all of . . . Tuesday.  Kohl's is having SUCH a good sale and right now they have free shipping plus $15 in Kohl's cash for every $50 you spend.  So.  I bought each of the boys a team shirt (one was a hoodie!), a Trolls themed mani/ pedi set for the girlchild, and a cute little secret Santa.  With tax, it all came to just $55.  AND I get the Kohl's cash so that'll essentially mean one more gift. 

6) I gave in this year and bought the kids an elf.  As in an Elf on the Shelf.  As in, the thing I swore up and down I would never, EVER purchase because it's so creepy looking.  They wore me down, though, and it wasn't even the six-year-old.  Oh no.  It was the TEN year olds who were begging me to purchase it!  Apparently, everyone at school has one.   I gave it to them yesterday.  They named her Mittens Joy Peyton (though Karis has decided to call her Stella) and you can follow her shenanigans on my IG stories (@Brandi1010)

7) The Girl Child turns ten this month.  We planned out her birthday party a few weeks ago, but with all the other stuff we've had going on, the invites took a back burner.  I went to Hobby Lobby yesterday (and OH EM GEE, I ONLY SPENT $20!) and got the stuff and we made her invites.  She loves them and that's what matters.

8) I grabbed a box of chocolate covered cherries at the store the other day.  They're one of my very, very, very favorite things about Christmas.  My kids never remember them until they try them, weirdos, the boys loved them and the girls hated them.  Figures.

9) My finals - first finals in more years than I care to share! - are NEXT WEEK!  Pray for me, guys!

10) Fabulous.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Pumpkin Spice Chex Mix

** Before I begin this recipe post: PLEASE pray for Gatlinburg/ Pigeon Forge/ the state of Tennessee!  What's going on there is the worst fire in the state in more than 100 years and it's absolutely devastating to such an amazingly beautiful place.  Also, you can text REDCROSS to 90999 for a $10 donation. **

Cereal is cheap right now and that means every time Mark goes to the grocery store, he comes home with, like, five boxes of cereal.  Which is really no big deal because, you know, we have 80 bajillion kids and they'll eat the hell out of some cereal.  However, he buys cinnamon flavored Life and those boxes stare at me.  "Make something with me!  I dare ya!"

Last Wednesday I decided I'd use that cinnamon Life as my base in making some sweet Chex mix.  I wanted something for us to snack on the next day while waiting for Thanksgiving dinner to be prepared (more on that in a moment.)  I turned to the Google and found a recipe that I worked with very loosely to find some amazingness!

You guys.  This stuff was SO GOOD!  My house smelled amazing while it was baking.  It was in the oven approximately five minutes before kids started walking downstairs and saying, "Mmmm!  What smells so good?"  Once it was done and I let the kids dig in, they were ALL ABOUT it.  Like, I had to pull the bowl away so we had some saved for when Mark got home!

I'm pretty sure I'll be making some of this to go with neighbor/ teacher/ friend presents this year.  You HAVE to try this!

Whatcha need:

2 cups honey nut Chex (I used the Kroger brand)
2 cups cinnamon Life cereal
2 cups rice cereal (I used Rice Krispies - the red, white, and blue ones! - because that's what I had on hand)
1 cup Cashews (any kind of nuts could be used here.  I went with what I had on hand plus what my family loves)
1/4 cup butter, melted
2 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup brown sugar
pumpkin pie spice

Whatcha do:

Preheat you oven to 250.  Find you a big old bowl and mix together the three cereals and whatever nuts you decide to use.  In a separate bowl, melt butter and whisk it with vanilla.  Pour over cereal/ nut mixture.  Combine the brown sugar with your pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon -- I don't even measure, I just shake both in until it smells so good I can't even stand it.  Sprinkle this over the cereal mixture and combine until well blended.  Spread on a lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 250 for one hour, stirring every 15 minutes.   PLEASE DON'T EVEN MAKE THIS IF YOU'RE GOING TO DO IT IN THE MICROWAVE!  I'm begging you!  It's so much better when you bake it in the oven and your house will smell simply amazing!

So, yeah, my kids KILLED it and we didn't have any left over to snack on while waiting for Thanksgiving dinner.  But we have a new winner in our house.  Good stuff!

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Mint Chocolate Pudding Shots

I made these pudding shots for Thanksgiving and they were sooooo good that I had to share the recipe!

*** Note: I could have SWORN I took a pic of these on Wednesday night when I made them.  In fact, I'm still positive I did but I guess it was an Instagram story that I didn't save?!?  Regardless, I have no pictures so you'll have to take my word that they were pretty damn cute as well as being tasty!

What you need:
1 box chocolate pudding
3/4 cup milk
3/4 cup peppermint Schnapps
1 tub Cool Whip

What you do:
Combine pudding mix with milk and Schnapps until thoroughly combined.  Stir in Cool Whip to get a mousse-like consistency.  Spoon the pudding into shooter glasses (this was the toughest part for me.  But only because I kept making a mess, licking my fingers, and ended up tipsy in the process.  Oops.)  I garnished with crushed candy canes because . . . why not?

Make these sometime this holiday season and enjoy!

I tried another new recipe this Thanksgiving that I'll share tomorrow!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

We had a really great Thanksgiving!
We actually decided to stay home this year and, for the first time in my adult life, I HOSTED!  I was so excited!  We decided to stay home because it was the first major holiday in our new home but also because, due to parenting plans and custody and all that, we won't have all five kids for Christmas.  This felt like the chance to "Christmas" without it being December 25th.  And we ended up having a really great time.
Mark fried the turkey and smoked a ham and also did the gravy and baked a broccoli cauliflower casserole.  Cady brought macaroni and cheese and deviled eggs.  I made dressing, potato casserole, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, sausage balls, rolls, pecan pie, chocolate pie, and a pumpkin poke cake.  My feet hurt like hell after standing up for what felt like two days straight but I LOVED EVERY MINUTE OF IT.

We had a slight incident with the turkey fryer -- there was a leak in the something or other (sorry, I'm not the one who fries the turkey) so we had to run and borrow Russell's, delaying our dinner about an hour.  I told Mark it's not a holiday if you're not running late!

We ate good food, drank a lot of wine, and watched football.  Pretty much the perfect Thanksgiving.

I also made pudding shots!  And, since I Made them for the kids, had to churn out some for the kiddies too. #Momoftheyear  The kid ones are alllll gone and we still have half of the adult ones.  Ahhh.

I love Thanksgiving so much.  It's all my favorite things rolled into one Thursday in November: family, friends, food, fun, and FOOTBALL.  We indulged more of that football on Friday by going to the Memphis/ Houston game.

Tickets were dirt cheap so we ended up with ahhhhmazing seats.

It was easily the best game I've seen in college football this season.  SUCH a great game.


Best part of it?  Memphis won!  Woo Hoo!

Hey, Derek Mason, WHO is the best team in Tennessee?!?  WE own this state!

After the game, we came home and watched the Hogs lose (*eye roll*), Mark and I both took long naps, and I sent the kids to bed early because they were being a-holes (#realtalk.)

The rest of our weekend was spent watching football and decorating for Christmas (more on that later this week - maybe/ hopefully.)  We went over to Russell's for a bit on Saturday to watch the Iron Bowl.

There's a chance Russell had all my kids screaming, "WAR EAGLE!"

Sunday was more decorating, more football, and a heartbreaker of a Bears game.  Wow!

This week is going to be interesting . . . my last week before finals and Mark is traveling all week.  Ahhh, pray for me!

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

B-E-A-UTIFUL Tennessee!

A couple months ago we were over at Russell and Kathy's house when Kathy pulled me aside and told me Russell's 50th was coming up in November and she wanted to take him on surprise trip . . . and wanted us to join them.
Miracles happened and we were able to secure sitters.  Friday morning, we set out . . . Gatlinburg bound!
I took this picture through the sunroof on the way.  Dem trees, doh!

We laughed SO HARD the whole way there.
It's about a 6.5 hour drive, made longer by the potty breaks, time change, and traffic, and we seriously had so much fun.
Kathy booked our cabin off of VRBO - a place called "A Tree Top View" and WOW.  It was something else.  My boyfriend is still is a little boy at heart and ran straight for the arcade.  ;)

The cabin was decorated beautifully.  Oh my, it was SO amazing.  The guys tried their hands at playing pool but, uh, there was no chalk (more on that later!)

We arrived after dark so when I woke up Saturday morning, I was AMAZED by our view.

Oh. Em. Gee.

This is from our living room window!!!

We went to breakfast on Saturday morning, for the life of me I can't remember the name of the place.  I had an omelet with biscuits and gravy and Mark had the chicken fried steak and eggs with grits.  The omelet was mediocre and the steak a little underdone but that biscuits and gravy?!?!  Jesus take the wheel, GOOD EFFING STUFF.

We hit up the grocery store after breakfast then made our way back to the cabin.  We spent the rest of the afternoon watching football and eating and, basically, doing whatever we would've done if we'd been in Memphis.  Ha!  But it was SUCH a more awesome view!


Mark grilled Saturday night - the BEST bacon wrapped pork loin!  Kathy made a banana pudding instead of a birthday cake.  Arkansas won, Auburn won.  We were all in bed before 10.  It was kinda amazing. 
Sunday morning(ish), we got up and got ready to find a bar that had Sunday Ticket so Mark could watch his Bearssss.

We started off at a place called Drafts.  It was nice enough (and the food was really good!) buuuuut . . . it was soon taken over by a Pop Warner football team and their families, which kinda killed our vibe.  We decided to head to another place, Puckers, at halftime.  This bar had Sunday Ticket but they REFUSED to turn on the Bears game!  It was the most bizarre thing . . . like, they legit did not care at all about customer service.  (There were five games on at the time and, like, 20 TV's in this bar!)  (And, also, this is the place where Mark, um, "borrowed" some chalk that we took back to our pool table . . . ) So, obvs, we left and went next door to a place called . . . wait for it . . . HOGG'S!!!!!

They did not have Sunday Ticket (wahhhh!) but we had the best time hanging out and people watching.  It was too fun.

After we had our fill of shootin' the shit there, we headed back to the cabin.  This cabin had SO MUCH that it was hard to make use of our of three nights: hot tub, arcade, pool table, media room, fire pit.  We decided to light up the fire pit Sunday afternoon and it was AMAZING.  We kept saying, "we should get in the hot tub" and, yet, never moved from the fire.  It was awesome.

We decided to do Russell's birthday dinner Sunday night and headed to Cherokee Grill and here is where I serve up some REAL TALK.

On the way home yesterday, Kathy asked, "after we got back to the cabin yesterday, did y'all get in the hot tub?"
*Mark and I look at each other*
"Uhhhhh . . . ."
Mark, "I was so shit canned, all I remember is waking up this morning,"

Then.  THEN.  Kathy mentions that we all took Fireball shots and, holy shit, no wonder we don't remember that night!  And keep in mind, we were celebrating a 50th birthday.  Who says the middle aged set can't have fun?!?

We headed home Monday morning and that ROYALLY SUCKED.  We kept talking about what a great trip it was - AND IT WAS! - but we seriously needed a few more days.  And that brings me to something I'm SUPER thankful for: a couple that we can travel with!  Wow, did we have such a great time (so much that we were ready to add another day or two on to the trip!)

I sincerely hope Russell had a great birthday weekend (and by everything he said, yes, YES, he did!) because we had a freaking blast!  Can't wait to head back to Gatlinburg!
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