What joy the gospel gives me. I can approach the throne of God with confidence, not because I've done a good job at my spiritual duties, but because I'm clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ. ~ C.J. Mahaney

Christmas Mini-Concert

Lacy and her friends Kendall, Sami, and Adam gave us a concert one evening last week after they played all day at nursing homes in the area.  If you'd like to see a little bit of that, you can find it at this link.  (Click on the text to go to the link.)


Chicken and Sausage Cassoulet

I found this recipe by accident.  For about ten years, I've been preparing cassoulet on New Year's Day.  Cassoulet (ka-soo-LAY) is a French term used to describe a hearty, stew-like casserole of meats, vegetables and white beans, simmered slowly, allowing the flavors to meld and mingle into a supremely flavorful dish.  I found the original recipe in a 1996 edition of Southern Living magazine, which I have held onto ever since.  My family loves it and looks forward to it every year.  Being too lazy to go upstairs and locate that magazine, I decided the other day to just Google "Southern Living Cassoulet" and see if I could find it online.  I never did find that recipe, but what I found instead could really give our old favorite a run for its money.

Just for the fun of it, I gave this newer Southern Living recipe a try last night.  While this cassoulet is not nearly as involved as the one I've been using for a decade, it tastes every bit as delicious.  Consisting of sausage, chicken, and white beans cooked in one pan, this is a simple-to-fix, casual dish.  Unlike the cassoulet I usually prepare, this one has a cornbread topping poured over at the end and baked at 400 degrees.  I used my new 3.5 quart Cuisenart stainless fry pan, part of a set my parents gave us for Christmas, which was the perfect size to hold this dish. So, if you are going to make this, grab your big stove top and oven-proof fryer, iron skillet, or Dutch oven.  It takes almost no time to put together, but the results are super satisfying on a chilly, winter evening. 

Ryan will likely hold me to making the original favorite and familiar cassoulet on New Year's.  So, on Sunday I'll be roasting a chicken in the oven, frying pork chops on the stove, and cooking white beans in a big pot, before assembling everything in a huge Dutch oven and baking it for an hour and a half.  I can handle that once a year.  The rest of the year, I'll be going with this quick-fix version.

Start by sauteing chicken breast pieces until lightly browned.  
Then add sliced sausage.

Next, stir in the beans, tomatoes, chicken broth, and thyme.

Mix up the cornbread and pour over the top.  I used my own cornbread recipe, which was a little more than this cassoulet needed.  So I baked about 1/3 of it in a small pan at the same time.

The cornbread rises to the top and puffs up to a golden brown.

This one called for the prettiest French country bowl in the cupboard.
Stay warm!


Merry Christmas Eve


When I was a little girl, Christmas Eve was my favorite day of the year.  I never counted down to Christmas Day; I always counted down to Christmas Eve.  It came sooner, and besides, we were one of those strange families who opened their presents on Christmas Eve.  It was a tradition from my father's side of the family and I have a feeling it originated because his mother, whom we called Mama Mary, couldn't stand the wait till Christmas morning.  Who knows?  Anyway, the next morning, Santa came, per tradition.

Tom and I instituted the same tradition when we got married, opening our presents from friends and extended family on Christmas Eve.  We never taught our children that Santa was real, but we pretended he left gifts under the tree for them on Christmas morning.  They always knew who the gifts were really from.  Now, don't get me wrong.  I don't think you're a bad person, or not Christian, or anything like that if you taught or teach your children that Santa is real.  That's a personal decision parents have to make.  We just chose to tell our children he was pretend, like Micky Mouse, or some other character.  Jesus is real.  He lives. Santa Claus does not.  We don't have an aversion to the character of Santa, or think he represents Satan with the letters jumbled up.  Nope, he's just the make-believe, fat guy in the big red suit.  Our children still enjoy Christmas morning immensely.

So, tonight, after we attend the candlelight Christmas service at church, we will gather as a family once again, all seven of our children, two married-in-loves, and our grandbaby.  We'll be coming home to a delicious meal of Swiss chicken in the crock pot followed by this S'Mores Cheesecake.  It will be our big Christmas meal this year because tomorrow Abby, Jonathan and Kyle will fly to Branson, MO to visit Jonathan's family for a week. 

We'll gather around our living room tree, read the Christmas story from Luke chapter 2, then slowly, slowly take turns opening each gift one at a time, starting with the youngest child.  It promises to be a very interesting night, as Caleb and Kyle both celebrate their very first Christmases.  The excitement today is heavy and almost palpable. 

I thought I'd show you the quilt I finally managed to hang in the stairwell.  More accurately, I should say, "Tom managed to hang..."  I'm so happy with how it turned out.

Have a wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  I pray you will enjoy all the warm family times, give and receive lots of hugs, make treasured memories, and especially delight in celebrating the birth of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, who came that we might truly live.

 Merry Christmas!


Bye Bye Blue

Good morning!

The sun is not shining outside, but it was shining on my plate this morning.  Here is my sunny side up egg on the Christmas china I found for nearly nothing at the Salvation Army a few years ago.  I'd wanted Christmas china forever but refused to spend an arm and leg on something that would only be used for a few days a year.  This set of plates, cups, saucers, creamer, and salt and pepper shakers made my heart go pitter patter when I spotted them.  They're cheap; I won't even lie.  But I love them and that's all that matters.

Tom is busy finishing up the painting in the stairwell.  A few years ago I went a little lot crazy with paint colors.  I liked the blue for, oh, about 30 minutes.  I waited a few years to change it because it is so difficult to paint all the way up to the second floor ceiling from the stairs and I didn't have the heart to ask him to repaint again so soon.  On Thursday, Lacy and I started painting the foyer.  Yesterday Ryan came to help me paint the hall upstairs.  And last night Tom started on the stairwell.  It looks lighter and brighter and I'm a much happier person now.  I also repainted over the candy pink in the powder room.  So, if you ever saw it and liked it, I'm sorry.  If you hated it, you'll be happy to know that it is a much more relaxing color now.  If you didn't care one way or the other, oh well.

My project this morning is to mount some photos to put on the wall in the powder room.  I figure it this way; if someone is using that tiny room, I basically have a captive audience.  So why not allow them the privilege of gazing at photos of my adorable children while


Then it's on to baking.  Lots of baking.  I love baking!!!

I have 893,478,544,523 things I want to do today.  How about you?  Are you ready for Christmas?


Cocoa Afternoon

 It's a creative kind of afternoon.

 Candy canes and flowers and...

 ...popcorn...dunked in hot cocoa.  Only Caleb would think of doing this.  He's such a boy.

Speaking of Caleb.  He finally has a stocking on the mantle.  Finished that this afternoon.  These are some of the homespun fabrics I used in his room

On to finishing another little project I started last week.  This is going to be a pocket advent calendar. Each little pocket will hold a tiny ornament to go on that tree up there to the right of Caleb's stocking. Yep, we're already twelve days behind.  Pathetic, huh? 

Only thirteen days till Christmas.



Quilted Ottoman

This ottoman has needed a slipcover for some time now.  After searching online for one that suited me and finding nothing at all I liked, I decided to quilt one instead.  

I like it.  Colorful, patchy, and fun.  It's so me. 

Oh, and Bella says to tell you it's so her, too.

Hot Cranberry Cider

Good Morning!  Come on in!  Today I'm home from church with a slightly sick little boy.  So, he's helping me with some Christmas decorating and generally talking my ears off in the process. 

First up is my favorite snowman trio, dancing and singing "Let it Snow!" 
We can always wish, can't we?

Next is "Oh, By Golly", the scrappy-happy Christmas quilt I made a couple years ago.

Simmering on the stove top is a pot full of Hot Cranberry Cider.   It tastes so delicious and makes the house smell all Christmasy.  It is a family favorite; we typically start making this over Thanksgiving weekend and continue all through the month of December.  Wanna know how to stir this up?  Here is my quick easy method.  You'll need:

Hot Cranberry Christmas Cider
  • 1 can frozen apple juice
  • 1 can frozen cranberry juice 
  • 4 juice cans full of warm water
  • one orange
  • 2 (or so) cinnamon sticks
  • 10 (or so) whole cloves
 Dump the frozen juices into your pot and add just two cans of water for each can, instead of the suggested amount on the can.  Leaving the juices more concentrated eliminates the need for added sugar.  (Of course, if you want to make more volume, you can dilute it with more water and add additional sugar.  But this is the way I do it).  Cut a couple slices off the orange and throw them in the pot.  Then, juice the rest of the orange and pour the juice into the pot.  Toss in your cinnamon sticks and whole cloves.  Let this simmer on the stove or in a crock pot until warm.  It can simmer all day if you like.  Strain each cup through a tea strainer before serving.

Incidentally, this brand spankin' new Dutch oven is from Aldi, my favorite grocery.  It's HEAVY cast iron, enamel coated in cherry red.  The price was right ($30), so hey, why not?  I am seeing a lot of soup and stew in its future....

Juice the orange.
I allowed the eager six year old a couple quick stirs before I shooed
him out of the kitchen with his sick self.

The color is gorgeous and the tangy, spicy, sweet flavor is perfect.
Fly back over to my nest real soon!  I'm going to share a great chicken recipe next.