Preparing For The Holidays

Thursday, November 19, 2015

We're a week away from the beginning of a holiday season that stretches over the course of the most brutal part of winter. In my house, we'll be celebrating five birthdays in addition to Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and Epiphany between now and the middle of February. Needless to say, we've got a lot of work ahead of us! 

The work of making holidays memorable and special is something that I learned well from my Mom. Even when we didn't have much, holidays have always been a big deal in our family. She taught me to plan and prepare and then to ease up on the stress of having everything figured out in order to join in on the celebrating. 

One of the key ways to be able to let go and celebrate is to make sure that you are prepared. Make the lists, plan ahead of time, delegate (she's a GREAT delegator), and make sure that you've got the right tools and supplies on hand. 

Today, I'm partnering up with Cave Tools to help you get prepared for the holiday season! I'm not big on kitchen gadgets, but there are a few that I CANNOT live without - especially when it comes to cooking for a crowd. Cave Tools has a broad line up of kitchen and grilling equipment that you are sure to love. 

Cave Tools' meat thermometer is one that I can highly recommend! I've used a variety of meat thermometers and have developed a feeling for what I'm looking for in a good one....I am not exagerating when I say that this one is EXACTLY what the meat thermometer of my dreams is made of...

Large and easy to read display? Check!

Simple to operate? Check!

Sturdy and yet not HUGE? Check!

Cover that is easy to clean? Check! This one even has an opening in the end so that SHOULD it get dirty, you can make sure that it is actually clean.

Quick reading? Check!

Another thing that I love about Cave Tools' meat thermometer is the design of the sharp, tapered end. Sooo many meat thermometers are sharp, but taking the temperature of your meat with them requires you to PUNCTURE your meat in a way that leads to a steady stream of liquid to flowing out of it at the puncture point. That is NOT the case with this one made by Cave Tools. I slid the thermometer into the pork chops and was hard pressed to find the puncture point later.

In my opinion, every kitchen needs to have a meat thermometer. If you've got entertaining ahead of you, having a way to make SURE that the meat has reached the safety zone will set your mind at ease. You can get yours directly from Cave Tools or from Amazon.

Cave Tools is offering my readers a 15% discount code that can be used on Amazon where this item includes free two-day shipping for Prime members!!! When you check out, simply enter:  LH58KB66

What are some ways that you prepare for the holidays?

What's one kitchen gadget that you cannot live without?

*This post was sponsored by Cave Tools. All thoughts are my own honest opinion. 

A Taste of My Own Medicine

Monday, November 16, 2015

This is one of those posts that has absolutely no good place to begin. I think I MIGHT be coming down with the first bout of whatever goes around every year at the beginning of winter, so I'm sitting at home with ^ that mug of "sick tea" ^ and four straight hours of alone time ahead of me.

I've been telling everyone about this tea of mine over the last few months. My cousin Theo had a sore throat (which I'm pretty sure I caught) and I told him about it back in September. The other day I was texting with my friend Amber only to find out that she's got one now too. Here's what I do: one cup PIPING hot Lipton black tea, one teaspoon honey, one teaspoon lemon juice (I use ReaLemon's bottled version). It's basically a hot Arnold Palmer, but it takes some getting used to. I save them for when I'm sick or feeling like I'm on my way to sick.

Needless to say, I'm there. Yesterday I took not one but TWO naps (I almost NEVER nap). I've been beyond tired and there is absolutely no reason for it. I've been worrying and trudging along and working REALLY hard to finally finish the very last thing I need in order to be able to say that I have graduated from college.

I'm overwhelmed by God's grace and the gift He gives us in each other.

Ever since we came to The Queen's Cottage back in August, we've been attending a church. It has come to feel like HOME. For some reason, I find myself holding my breath. I'm so confused about how long this town will be "home" and a little mad at myself for not wanting it to be.

Everywhere I turn, I've been seeing reminders of God's grace. Kevin and Joan made sure we knew that we are welcome and have been true friends to us in this season. They don't ask questions, they just embrace us. Esther stepped up to the plate to help me with this speech and has devoted countless hours to meet with me. The handful of 20 somethings that I've met have caused me to go out of my way to make new friends.

And then there are the words...Hearing the Bible read out loud week after week, receiving prayers that have been carefully constructed, and preaching that lays out who God is and what He is up to have been SUCH a treat. When I scroll through facebook or click on an interesting article or open my own Bible, I keep finding declarations of my need for and God's abundant gift of GRACE.

My body might be under the weather, but my soul is flourishing. My flesh might be worried and afraid and forgetful, but my spirit is being ministered to by the Helper that Christ promised to me.

Maybe that's where you are this season...Maybe life is confusing. Maybe you're longing for a Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years filled with ALL of your loved ones gathered around you. Maybe you've been blessed with MUCH, but find yourself longing for something else.

Won't you join me in tasting the medicine?

"For the LORD your God is a merciful God." Deuteronomy 4:33 

Saturday's Letters

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Sept. 24, 2015
This morning, I've been a machine. I spent some time with God, finished up a journal, sipped some coffee, read a little bit more in my book, and made a list for the day. When I finally got up off the couch, I went from room to room commencing my Saturday morning cleaning routine that I've started here at The Queen's Cottage.

Just as I was finishing up, the sun started STREAMING through the windows. Every time I look out the front window I see the last few leaves skittering down the street thanks to the breeze that came to push them along. Blue skies always cheer me up and sometimes they inspire me too. I started thinking ahead to what this day might hold and writing a few letters to people in my life...

Dear Aunt Claudia: Thanks for teaching me about putting eggnog in my coffee. I had some this morning and it was just as good as when I sipped it with you in your kitchen last December.

Dear Smoke Alarm Installers: Why does this tiny house have a million smoke alarms? Was it really necessary to place them where they would go off every single time I make a piece of toast, clean the oven, or brown onions in a skillet? I think not. It's kind of hilarious, but also super annoying.

Dear God: Thank you for your Word, for SUNSHINE after days of rain (and a few hours of snow), and for other Christians. May every blessing be a reminder to me of my walk with You. May my
habits be consistent and my mortifying of sin be constant, that I may keep in step with your Spirit.

Dear Mom: Thanks for being who you are. Thanks for being one of my best friends. Thanks for scouring every used book section for anything by EB White (and making me look through the "spiritual" section where I found "One Man's Meat" on Wednesday). Thanks for telling me to get that old poetry collection of Eugene Field's, whoever he is. You were right...I'm glad I got it. 

Dear Youngest Brother and Sister: Why you want to leeeeeeave me???? I hope you're having fun on your rock climbing trip, but boy is it quiet around here without you!

Dear Fellow Bloggers: Every time I think I'm about to get back to blogging on a regular basis, I don't. Sooo many good intentions. Tons of ideas. Zero motivation to sit down and build posts. What tips do you have for me to get back into it???

That's all I've got for now...Enjoy your Saturday!!!

Words on Grace

Friday, October 23, 2015

You should also know that I'm over at Hannah's blog taking part in her "What Grace Means To Me" series!

I'd love to have you pop over there to read my post. See you there! :)

Four Became Five: A Thursday Drive

I was planning to share these pictures with you yesterday...but, I didn't get around to it, so today it is!!! I was going to tell you all about the Thursday drive I took and it was going to be the prettiest post ever with the perfect balance of beautiful pictures and nostalgia. It's Friday and the drive didn't happen exactly four Thursdays ago anymore. BUT. That doesn't change anything other than one little word.

Today, four became five.

I woke up to RAIN on my first day in South Carolina. To be honest, I was hoping for some good southern storms, so I really wasn't bothered by it at all. We decided to brave the rain (which happened to be coming and going) and head to the mountains. My Dad got off of work early and we were able to head out as soon as we finished lunch. My Dad did the driving, my aunt sat in the front seat, and I was crammed into the back with my Grandparents thinking about how many times we had made this same drive before. I use the word crammed in the fondest of senses, by the way.

Our first stop was the flowering bridge at Lake Lure. My Grandma has been telling me about this bridge for ages. She and my Grandpa sometimes drive up there to walk it one more time and have ice cream when they are done. We got out and enjoyed looking at every plant. I was amazed to see a banana tree and all kinds of things that I had never seen before. We stopped for the longest time to watch a hummingbird and TRY our best to get some shots of him.

After we left the bridge, we headed into the village where they planned to poke through the gift shops and get ice cream. Unfortunately, I thought we were there to hike, so I was trying to hurry along because I knew it was getting late. I turned up the ice cream and then realized that we wouldn't have time to do the hiking that day after all because we had to be at a car dealership to pick something up before it closed. Have the ice cream and take your time to enjoy it! 

After we loaded ourselves back into the car, we made it the dealership in plenty of time and that's when the day started to get interesting. We ran into an accident on 26, so my Dad immediately got off and took a different road. That road ended up backing up because of a million people having the same thought that my Dad had and the city also had a crew out doing some surveying.

Our day wasn't over yet! My Dad wanted to make sure we got in some sort of hiking, so road block after road block aside, we had a destination in mind. At that point, we stopped in at a McDonald's because everyone was ready for something besides the snacks that my Grandpa packed. Fun note: It was there that I discovered they would begin rolling out the all day breakfast menu. We loaded back into the car one more time and thanks to the food in our bellies, we felt unstoppable. At least, I did.  I decided that it was time to make the most of this day. Things weren't going as planned, so it was time to enjoy plan b! And that's exactly what I did...

That was part one of our Thursday drive (there will only be one more part to this post, I promise)!

I'd love to hear all about your idea of a perfect drive.