Saturday, December 6, 2014

Thankful Hearts

Finally, I am getting around to recapping our Thanksgiving holiday! I've had a lot going on the past week or so (more on that later) and I just haven't had a spare second to upload and organize photos. Thank goodness for the weekend :)

As previously mentioned, Al's 14th birthday was November 15th. Although Zach sent her flowers on the big day, we didn't get a chance to celebrate in person until the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Our friends Justin and Jenny who live about an hour away came to spend the night and celebrate Allie with us. Birthday festivities began at Sweet Tomatoes, Allie's choice of dinner destinations. At first glance, one might think this is a healthy restaurant, but it is really a carb coma disguised as a salad bar. Haha!

After eating pizza, pasta, and soup (with a side of salad... insert cry/laughy emoji here) we went home  for more carbs (dessert), gifts, and Allie's choice of movie.

Sweet, sweet, 14 yr old Al. Oh man, oh man. I know it seems like we spoil her (at times), but really.. she spoils us! She's the best kid ever.
Allie's been wanting a pretty phone case for awhile since she inherited my old black, boring Otterbox when she got her phone last summer. She and I have always drooled over the Rifle Paper Co. ones and I was thrilled to find this one on mega sale. :)
Opening gifts from Nana and Holly & Jim...
And finally getting her very own knitted duster.
This girl LOVES her some long cardigan sweaters, so much so that she wore it almost every day. Haha!
Homemade brownie pie and chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream to accompany the birthday candles and birthday song. :)
The night was topped off with a viewing of Timothy Green, a sweet family movie we haven't seen since it appeared in theaters. All in all it was a great birthday celebration and awesome start to our holiday week together.

Thursday morning I got to work preparing our Thanksgiving feast. On the alternating years we don't have Allie for Thanksgiving, Zach and I go to Florida to spend the holiday with my extended family. On the years we do have her, we stay home (so she doesn't have to travel twice) and have a small, quiet gathering around our own family table. I actually kinda like the rotation - one year I cook everything and the next I'm pretty much a freeloader at my parent's house. It all balances out I guess. :)

This year's table was very simple and natural - just flowers, candles, and a brown woven tablecloth.

So even though most people think I can cook anything and everything, I'm not gonna lie... I was intimidated by the turkey situation this year. The last time I cooked Thanksgiving dinner, I got a pre-cooked turkey from Trader Joe's and just heated it up. It was great. :) This year... TJ's pulled a fast one on me and didn't carry the easy, pre-done turkey so I had to come up with plan B. Since our gathering was just the 3 of us plus Zach's mom it made no sense to get a big, 12 lb. bird that would take us a week to eat. Instead, I bought a turkey roast (cause we only like white meat anyway) and used Ina Garten's herb roasted turkey breast recipe.
I didn't get any good pics of our turkey, but it turned out exactly like the recipe pictured below! It was unbelievably flavorful and juicy, plus Zach said it was the best turkey he's ever had. THANKSGIVING WIN. :)
My favorite thing to make for Thanksgiving is cranberry apple crumble, kinda a really fancy cranberry sauce or side or... it could even pass as a dessert.
I think cranberries are SO beautiful.
The dish turned out great, but it makes me laugh that Allie still prefers the canned, gelatin cranberry "sauce" over my fresh cranberry crumble.
For her, it's all about the ridges. LOL
I also whipped up loaded mashed potatoes (another family favorite)
corn casserole
sweet potato casserole
fresh french beans
and of course, what's Thanksgiving without piping hot rolls?
My Thanksgiving plate.
For dessert I made apple cinnamon croissants
and Zach's mom made the classic pies. NOMNOMNOM.
Since I spent all Thanksgiving morning in the kitchen, we spent all Thanksgiving afternoon/evening lounging around the house, watching movies and enjoying each other's company. So much to be thankful for!

On Friday it was time to get in the Christmas spirit and finally address the fresh cut tree sitting in my living room. Like always, dad dropped off our tree the weekend before Thanksgiving after his annual Christmas tree trek to NC. Our tree was perfect- the perfect size, the perfect rich green color, and the prefect Christmasy SCENT! I love love love having a Christmas tree in my house!
Allie and I threw on the classic Christmas music, picked off all the extra leaves and needles caught in the branches, and began trimming the tree as we sipped hot apple cider. It was a very Norman Rockwell moment. :)

Even though the majority of our ornaments are just generic silver and red, we do have a tradition of adding one special ornament each year that we've been a family. Each one is tagged for that year so we can keep track of when it was added to our collection. (See pic.)
Allie and I usually take a special shopping trip just to hunt for the perfect addition to our family of ornaments. This year we chose this glittery chipwood reindeer.
Rockin' around the Christmas tree
Allie is growing up SO fast. I think it's fair to say Zach and I LOVE this age and all the meaningful conversations/ interactions/ fun we have with Allie paired with all the growth, blossoming, and hope we see in Allie. I've always been a crazy photo-taker, wanting to capture every single second of our lives, but I feel the pressure even more to capture her as she's changing so much.

Allie rockin' her birthday duster, jeweled headband, and feather earrings. Such a little hipster. :) (In comparison, it cracks me up to remember how I looked in 8th grade - baggy t shirt, Umbro shorts, classic Adidas shoes... juuust slightly tomboyish. Haha! Allie definitely has the edge on me. :))
So beautiful.

On Friday we avoided all shopping areas like the plague and instead went to play pirate laser tag with two of our favorite people - Jon and Kayla.
Pirate preparation.
We had a blast (as always...we are kinda serious pros about laser tag by this point.. haha) and highly recommend Laser Voyage to anyone in the Atlanta area. It's the best!
Besides a lot of just chill time at home, Allie and I enjoyed an afternoon of shopping on Saturday. Our little town of Duluth has some really quaint shops that we love to peruse. This time, everything had been decorated for Christmas and carried an enchanted, holiday glimmer. 

Some of our favorite finds...

Adorable wreath pillow from Target :)
She looks SO grown up here.
Even though shopping is fun, what I look forward to most is the drive in the car- the uninterrupted, intentional conversations we get to have, the laughs we share, and the bond that grows stronger and stronger in our hearts.

I also couldn't help but let Allie pick out some holiday sweets to enjoy between now and when we are together again after Christmas. She picked chocolate covered espresso beans (no surprise there)
and powdered truffles, a newly discovered favorite.
Unfortunately she forgot to take them back to Alabama so we decided to send her a whole box of Christmas goodies to enjoy. (More on her Christmas care package coming soon.)

Even though our time with Allie always seems to be so quick and never long enough, I am consistently amazed to see how God exponentially increases what we do have, it's like our own version of the loaves and fish bible story. He takes what seems like an impossible task and not only "makes it work", but blesses us beyond our wildest dreams. We are so grateful for so many things, especially the promise that God loves our dear Allie, has such an intentional plan for her life, and has generously blessed us with the opportunity to be her parents and walk with her through life.
Thank you Jesus for so many things - my greatest blessings on this earth are this guy and this girl, which are made possible by your death on the cross. I am so grateful!
Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

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