Celebrate Epiphany

We all sang The Twelve Days of Christmas carol as children, but many people don’t know that the 12 days of Christmas mark the time beginning on Christmas Day and ending on January 6th, Epiphany. I want to share with you how our family celebrates Epiphany and why.

Epiphany is the day to celebrate the wise men arriving to visit Jesus. It is celebrated by Christians all around the world. Epiphany is sometimes called Twelfth Night or Three Kings Day. In Louisiana it marks the beginning of Carnival season.

Why does our family celebrate Epiphany?

I’ve noticed that people are decorating for Christmas earlier and earlier. It seems like most of my friends decorated for Christmas before Thanksgiving this year, some of them as early as the day after Halloween. By the time Christmas Day rolls around their trees and wreaths are brittle, and they’re tired of all of the Christmas decor. One of my friends posted that she was taking all of her decorations down Christmas night! I always wait until the day after Thanksgiving to put my Christmas decor up because I know we’ll be leaving a lot of our decor up until Epiphany. But why?

One reason to celebrate Epiphany is that you’ll notice how you are able slow down and actually enjoy Christmas as a season, and not just one day. All of the shopping, baking, parties, and wrapping leads up to one climactic morning on Christmas. What a downer when December 26th comes around! If you continue to celebrate during the 12 days after Christmas you’ll notice that it is no longer about the presents, but more about presence. The time spent together as a family or with friends during these 12 days is the true spirit of Christmas.

Another reason to celebrate Epiphany is to keep Christ the focus of your holiday season. It’s another opportunity to read a scripture lesson and to celebrate finding a Savior, not receiving items from a Christmas list.

I also love participating in traditions. Traditions bring people together. They give us something to look forward to and memories to look back upon. Traditions connect generations and give us something in common.

How does our family celebrate Epiphany?

We celebrate Epiphany very, very simply at our house. First, we share a King Cake. We buy our King Cake from Publix, but it would be a snap to make one. A King Cake is used all around the world. Inside the King Cake a tiny baby figurine (the baby Jesus) is hidden. In some countries whoever finds the baby Jesus in the cake hosts the party the next year. In the U.S. tradition says you will be the person to bring the King Cake the next year.

We also celebrate Epiphany with Christmas crackers. (Since Epiphany is technically after Christmas, you can usually find them on clearance.) Most Christmas crackers have a crown inside them to symbolize a king or wise man. They usually have jokes inside them, too. Christmas crackers are just something fun to sit around the dinner table and do together.

Lastly we read the passage from the Bible that tells the story of the wise men finding Jesus. You can find this in Matthew 2:1-12.

I hope this post will inspire you to celebrate Epiphany with your friends and family! Let me know in the comments below if you have special Epiphany traditions. I’d love to hear them!

Christmas Place Setting and Christmas Fun!

I really can’t believe we’re about a week away from the last Christmas of the decade! I’m thankful to be done with work for the year, although I am especially thankful for the work days, too. I set our Christmas table several weeks ago, but haven’t had a chance to blog pictures of it yet, so here are a few:

This year I have once again used a mixture of Blue Willow and Spode Christmas tree. If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember that last year I used these same two patterns, but in reverse. I’ll post a picture below to remind you. I am a lover (hoarder?) of all things Blue Willow, so inevitably it shows up in my holiday decor.

This year I have come up with some fun things to do with our kids now that they’re older. We obviously aren’t doing things like visiting Santa or writing him letters. But teens can be especially reluctant to spend quality time together, which we joking call, “Forced Family Fun.”

I don’t want our holiday time to actually feel forced, though. I want them to be excited. They have worked really hard this semester in school (one in their first official year of college, and one in their first year of high school), so I want them to blow off some steam and enjoy their break. I’m also cognizant of keeping up with Christmas fun for our younger teen who is still living at home. She deserves the same years and experiences as her older brother. I don’t want things to just “drop off” because our family dynamic has changed.

Here are a few things we’ve got planned for the coming week:

  • Gingerbread House Contest (with prizes! i.e. motivation to participate and have fun!)
  • Cookie Baking
  • Outdoor Fire-pit Time
  • Shopping and Wrapping Presents for each other
  • Christmas Lights displays
  • A Christmas Puzzle (We do one each year, and this year I found the cutest one. Follow me on Instagram to see it.)
  • Christmas Eve church service, followed by late night Waffle House
  • Christmas Movie time together with snacks.

I’d love to hear how you make the season fun with teens and young adults! Please feel free to share in the comments below. Goodness, I can use all the help in that department that I can get!

Merry, merry Christmastime to you and yours!

Advent Wreath and Devotional

I am excited to share a few of our family Christmas traditions with you over the next few weeks. Growing up I had never heard of an Advent wreath. However, when my children were very small I took them to a free workshop our church was having where we could make an advent wreath for our family and learn more about it. Fast forward, and the wreath we made long ago with faux greenery, Styrofoam, and wired ribbon is gone. But we still use the worksheet we were given with the suggested prayers and Bible readings. I’d like to share with you the Advent wreath we now use. And I’d like to give you a printable version of something you can use as a family each week as you light each Advent candle. Just a note that the type on the Advent devotional is small because I felt it was important to fit it on one page. It makes it easier for you to copy and share with friends and to keep track of over the years.

Right after Christmas of 2017 our old Advent wreath fell apart. It was about 10 years old and the Styrofoam couldn’t hold up any more. I made up my mind that by the time Advent came around in 2018 I wanted to find something affordable but of heirloom quality. I searched Etsy and Amazon and many other stores for months but couldn’t find anything I liked. Two days before Advent began in 2018 I stumbled across a candle holder at Target that was perfect. It wasn’t labeled “Advent Wreath”, but that’s what it is. It’s heavy and solid, and it’s something that I hope to use with my grandchildren one day. This (2019) is our second year using it, and I thought I would share it with you.

Advent wreaths are made of a wreath of evergreen branches. In this case I am using Magnolia clippings. If you aren’t familiar with Magnolia trees, they are evergreen trees abundant in the South. Whether growing or cut, the topsides of the leaves are green, and the undersides are a velvety brown.

Also in an Advent wreath you will need 3 purple (sometimes blue is used), 1 pink, and 1 white candle. Each week of Advent, which begins 4 Sundays before Christmas, an additional candle is lit. Finally, on Christmas, the white Christ candle is lit. I go into detail which candle to light and the meanings on the weekly devotional that I will provide below.

I want to pause and say something loudly and with love: The wreath? Just a symbol. The candles? Symbols, too. In the end, when you are worshiping with your family, the quality doesn’t matter. Goodness, you could be using paper candles that a child colors a flame on each week. What matters is the worship, the gratitude, the acknowledgement of the Son, the acceptance of love and peace.

Here’s another thing: sometimes we Mamas forget things. If Sunday goes by and it’s Monday, and you suddenly realize you forgot to light the candle the day before…show yourself some Grace, and just do it Monday. Your kids aren’t going to remember if you did it on a Monday or Tuesday. They’ll remember the words spoken and the candle’s glow.

Here is a printable version of the devotional we use each week during Advent. I have added some additional details such as candle color and an introduction at the top. But for the most part this writing originally came from “An Advent Service for the Home” by Pat Floyd.

I hope you have been inspired to celebrate the Advent season with your family and friends. Let me know how you find ways to celebrate our Savior throughout Christmastime.

Southern Traditions (that Y’all Should Know About)

Seven years ago I wrote a blog post about 10 southern traditions that everyone should know about. Since then I have heard a few people say how some of those traditions are ridiculous. But our traditions are what bind us as a southern culture. They unite us and give us a common link to each other. I think the world could use a little more of that – looking for what we have in common, instead of how we’re different.

I wanted to repost those southern traditions and share them again. Even if you’re not southern, these are traditions anyone can enjoy and participate in.

Southern Wedding Traditions

Cake pulls have been a tradition for southern weddings that date back as far as Victorian times. A tiny charm with a ribbon attached is placed into a cake and the bridesmaids pull the ribbon and receive their fortune.  Southern wedding tradition also says that if a bride and groom go to the site of their wedding exactly one month before the wedding day and bury a bottle of bourbon, then it will not rain on their wedding day. The bottle should be completely full and buried upside down, or so tradition says. To learn more about cake pulls and their meaning, visit Southern Living.

Photo via Southern Living

Bottle Trees

Southern gardens traditionally have a “bottle tree.” Bottle trees were believed to attract evil spirits at dusk. The spirits were supposedly trapped in the bottles, and when the sun rose and shone on the bottles, the spirits were destroyed. Tradition says that as the wind blew across the bottles you could hear the spirits moaning. 

Church

Churches in the south aren’t just worship centers. They are a hub for social gatherings and community outreach. You can find churches throughout the Bible belt hosting potluck dinners, selling smoked pork butts as fundraisers, and stocking food pantry shelves to help those in need. The easiest way to see what southern holidays are like, is to find a southern church. Easter, Trunk-or-Treats, and Christmas pageants are all big events. Whether you join the Methodist, Baptist, or Presbyterian church in town, finding a “church home” will fill your social calendar.

Football

Football in the South is not taken lightly. Friday Night Lights in the local high school stadium will bring out the whole town. Even those who do not have a high school student take supporting the local team seriously. Local businesses take pride in the hometown high school football teams, too.

If you think high school football is big in the South, you haven’t seen anything until you’ve met a SEC college football fan. Getting married? You better not schedule that on a game day! College football is almost a religion unto itself. Your neighbor might be a perfectly nice person, but if they cheer for the wrong team, you’ll always deep-down hold that against them. (“She’s nice and all, but she likes Alabama.”)

Tailgating before the big games is almost as big of a deal as the game. Serious tailgaters don’t just serve the basic burgers and dogs. It can get fancy and decadent. Ladies find ways to create the perfect outfits using their school colors. Just because it’s a football game doesn’t mean that pearls can’t go with it! Some men wear polos, button-ups, and even bow ties with khakis on game day.

photo via Pinterest

Food

In the south we will find any excuse to get together, especially for food. A low country boil is an event in itself. Sometimes called Frogmore Stew, a low country boil cooks corn on the cob, sausage, potatoes, and some type of shellfish, whether it’s shrimp or crayfish, in a big pot. Once it’s cooked, it is dumped out onto tables covered in newspapers.

Only the best barbecue comes from the south. We like to cook any kind of meat low and slow with smoke. Add a side of Brunswick Stew, and your BBQ meal is complete. We even eat a meal for good luck on New Year’s Day. It doesn’t matter who your mama is, what neighborhood you’re from, or what you look like, in the south collard greens, cornbread, fried chicken, and mac and cheese are traditional staples.

Manners

Southerners don’t use manners “just for show”. We use manners because it shows respect to others. We joke that saying “bless your heart” is really a nice way of saying anything from “that poor girl” to “you fool”. But the point is, even if we don’t like someone or we disagree with them, we can be respectful and simply say, “bless your heart” before moving on. We teach our kids to saying ma’am and sir to show respect to anyone older than us, because we realize that with age comes wisdom. We hold the door open for the person behind us, because why not give your fellow man or woman a hand? Manners are not demeaning; they show human compassion.

In the South, some children and young adults attend cotillion, which is etiquette training that teaches manners, basic dancing skills, and ways to be a conscientious and courteous member of society.

Haint Blue Porch Ceilings

Haint Blue porch ceilings are a long-standing tradition in the south. Haint is the combination of the words Haunted and Saint. In other words, a Haint is a ghost or an evil spirit. Haint Blue has been said to repel evil spirits from entering a home. Some people also believed that it kept the bugs away, which can be bothersome on southern porches on summer evenings.

Haint Blue is a hue that can vary depending on who you’re asking. It can also vary regionally. For our ceiling we selected one of the most popular Haint Blue colors, Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue, HC-144. To see more about our Haint Blue porch ceiling, click HERE.

To summarize, in the South we are proud of our culture, history, and traditions. We love people, food, and football. To read more about Southern Traditions, here are a few other posts that might interest you:

Haint Blue Porch Ceiling

Southern Easter Traditions

The Southern Easter Menu

The Southern Thanksgiving Menu

The Southern New Year’s Day Menu

Southern Hummingbird Cake with Tupelo Honey Creamcheese frosting

Dressing with Southern Class and a Little Bit of Sass

10 Southern Traditions that Y’all Should Know About (original post)

Haint Blue Porch Ceiling

We recently painted our porch ceiling Haint Blue. Haint Blue porch ceilings are a long-standing tradition in the south. Haint is the combination of the words Haunted and Saint. In other words, a Haint is a ghost or an evil spirit. Haint Blue has been said to repel evil spirits from entering a home. Some people also believed that it kept the bugs away, which can be bothersome on southern porches on summer evenings.

Haint Blue is a hue that can vary depending on who you’re asking. It can also vary regionally. For our ceiling we selected one of the most popular Haint Blue colors, Benjamin Moore Palladian Blue, HC-144. Southern Living agrees that Palladian Blue is one of the best choices for a Haint Blue ceiling.

Popular Porch Ceiling Colors from Benjamin Moore’s website.

Palladian Blue is a blueish-green. It looks different shades on our porch throughout the day. A lot of the accents on our house trim are beige, so a baby blue color like Clear Skies might’ve looked garish. A color like Clear Skies would also look better on a porch ceiling in a coastal region of the South.

This porch ceiling from Bless’Er House was an inspiration point when I was picking out a color.

We recently refreshed our whole porch, but painting the ceiling was my favorite part.

To learn more on other Southern Traditions you should know about, you can read my post HERE.

Southern Hummingbird Cake with Tupelo Honey Cream Cheese Frosting

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Do you have a favorite cake? Funny enough, I associate a specific cake with each of my siblings. My sister, Tara, is without a doubt “Pineapple Upside Down Cake.” It’s one of her faves and I enjoy making them for her when I can. My twin bro, Ty, is Coconut Cake. We grew up with a sweet little Southern neighbor named AnnieBelle, who adored Ty so much that she made him a Coconut Cake all for himself. I’m not sure if he likes it as an adult, but there’s nothing he can do to change my mind that Coconut Cake = Ty. And my biggest bro, Stephen, is Baked Alaska. It’s a long time running joke that he would, of course, request one of the most difficult desserts to make from his wife on his birthday. Poor Dawna.

So what cake am I? I don’t know…I’ll have to ask them what they think. Samantha thinks I am “Carrot Cake.” And I do love it. But for my birthday I decided to make a Southern cake staple, the Hummingbird Cake. The density and icing is totally something you would like if you are a carrot cake lover.

I’m making a few changes. First of all, no nuts for us – Both because of food of allergies and because I don’t like a crunchy cake. Secondly, I am using Tupelo honey in both the cake and the icing. My sister gifted me with a jar of my favorite Tupelo honey from the Savannah Bee Company.* Tupelo honey has a buttery flavor and it’s going to pair nicely with the bananas, pineapple, and coconut in my recipe. (Recipe at the bottom.) *This isn’t a paid advertisement. I just really like their honey.

To get started, mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a smaller bowl whisk the eggs and oil. I whisked the honey in at this point, too. But next time I’m going to add it at the same time as the bananas.

Time to add the bananas, pineapple, and coconut.

So rich with the yummy Tupelo honey cream cheese icing…Disclaimer: I am NOT a cake decorator. Not pretty, but oh so good!

Southern Hummingbird Cake

  • Servings: 12
  • Difficulty: medium
  • Print

A traditional southern cake recipe.


Credit: BelleAntiquarian.com

Ingredients

  • 3 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 3/4 cups of sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups very ripe chopped bananas
  • 8 oz canned crushed pineapple, undrained
  • 1/2 cup shredded coconut
  • (optional) 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • softened butter and flour for greasing pans

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350*
  2. Grease and flour two 9-inch baking pans
  3. Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl: flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, sugar
  4. Beat eggs and oil in a smaller bowl; add to flour and stir with a spatula.
  5. Stir in bananas, un-drained pineapple, coconut, and honey. (And nuts if you are using them.) Mix well.
  6. Pour batter into pans. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Cakes are done when a tester comes out clean.
  7. Allow cakes to cool in pans for 10 minutes and then cool completely on wire racks.
  8. Ice with honey cream cheese icing and top with toasted coconut and/or nuts.
  9. To toast coconut or pecans spread evenly on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes at 350*.
Honey Cream Cheese Frosting
  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 2 tbs. room temperature butter
  • 1/4 cup of honey
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 3-4 cups of powered sugar
In an electric mixer beat the cream cheese, butter, honey, and vanilla until it is smooth with no clumps. While the mixer is on a slow speed, gradually add the powdered sugar until you get the consistency that you like. The more powdered sugar you add the thicker the icing will be.


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A History of Country Easter Egg Decorating: a Pennsylvania Dutch Tradition

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An introduction:

Today most families decorate their Easter eggs with store bought kits. I know we certainly do! The more advantageous egg decorators may even use natural dyes they discovered on Pinterest. I would like to share with you the history of how my grandparents and great-grandparents decorated Easter eggs with their kids, my dad included, while they lived in Shenandoah Valley, Virginia. Their ancestors were Pennsylvania Dutch and these methods for Easter egg dying most likely came with them from Pennsylvania to Virginia over a century ago. I post this here in the hope that this history will not be lost. Thank you to my aunts Gail and Martha who humored me a couple of years ago with my questions, and my apologies for taking so long to publish it here.

Easter was an important part of growing up in the country — not only did we see Easter Sunday as the most important Sunday in the life of the church, it was a time when we kids could take part in coloring Easter Eggs, and at the same time we heard stories of an even older time!  Here is the sequence of how we did our eggs:

First, on Good Friday Mama (Grandmother Polly Will Lytton) would boil several dozen eggs — sometimes 3 or 4 dozen depending on how many were at hand.  Once the eggs were boiled they were placed in colanders or pans — nestled into old cotton of some sort (old dish towels, clean rags of every kind) and ALWAYS with very clean hands — Mama did not want any oil or grease to spoil what would be the final product.  The pans of eggs were then put on the back screened porch to cool overnight — never into the icebox (or later the refrigerator) where if cooling too fast they would “sweat”.

On the Saturday before Easter, after supper, Mama would gather all the things needed to “spot eggs” — vinegar, suet, dyes, old woolen shirts or sweaters — she would have everything ready before she brought the eggs in from the porch.

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 With all us kids hovering around and Grandma Edna and Granddad Carson near by we would start (I can’t remember your Granddad Ty Cobb Lytton being involved at all — maybe he was doing final outside chores …or taking time to just sit aside and read the paper!)

This is how it would go:   Grandma had boiled some onion skins to make brown dye; Granddaddy would be standing by to mix the toxic black dye (kids not allowed to touch – it was cloth dye and it was toxic!); Mama would set old cups or those stained from previous Easter dye sessions around the table and carefully put the dye tablet, some vinegar, some hot water in each cup and each of us would take up a space around the table and try to stir and melt the tablet without spilling a drop (not always successful at that).  With that accomplished Mama would carefully put an egg in each cup and we would try to made sure that each egg was evenly colored.  Each colored egg was laid again in clean cotton cloth to completely dry and wait for “spotting.”  We kids of course would try to outdo each other in whose eggs came most perfectly out of the dye — not a quiet discussion.
When we were very young we would be sent off to bed to wait for Easter morning where we would find baskets of the decorated eggs — as we grew older and stopped believing in the Easter Bunny WE were allowed to help and this is how it went:

Once the eggs were cool and colored, Mama would melt the suet in a pan on the stove — this really was beef tallow that she saved from year to year —  from Easter to Easter — with very clean hands we would each take an egg and using our fingers — or for more intricate designs a straw from a REAL broom — and dip into the tallow and make spots of tallow all over the egg — or dip each end of the egg in tallow and put a design in tallow around the middle –or use a straw to make a design;  Mama ALWAYS took the green eggs and made a  wheat design [shafts of wheat, little tadpoles, crosses, bunny tracks, spiders] up and down the egg w/tallow using a broom straw   — Granddaddy used the black dye to make “baldies” by dipping each end of the egg in the tallow — then he would take a black egg and with a straw draw spiders all over the egg — somehow I cannot remember if we decorated Grandma’s onion skin dyed eggs –maybe we just admired them as brown — I’ll have to ask one of the “Lytton girls” about that …anyway  we could make any design we could manage — as you can imagine some of us had much more artistic talent then others!!

After the tallow hardened on the egg — and it hardened quickly on the porch-cooled eggs — and the older the tallow the more quickly it hardened — Mama would place the eggs in a bowl of water and apple vinegar where they would sit for a few minutes — then out she would take them and rub with the woolens she also kept from year to year — all the color would come off EXCEPT for that under the tallow — can you picture that?  Of course the tallow came off too but the color underneath did not and formed the design.

Preparing/decorating Easter Eggs in this way was always attributed to our Pennsylvania Dutch/German ancestors — I like to think of them as folk art — while those of the Ukraine are/were much more complex and sophisticated — I do not know of anyone who decorates eggs “our” way now — Some of us have tried  over the years — but the eggs are treated/coated when they come from the store – so you need straight from the hen — the dyes are much too harmless nowadays so the color won’t stick – and the tallow must be heated again and again to render it to the point when it will harden quickly –“
The eggs were a simpler version of traditional Dutch decorated eggs such as these.

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This process must’ve produced the most beautiful and unique eggs. I don’t think that I will ever actually be able to take these steps. The tallow and fresh eggs aren’t realistic ingredients for me to come by. But I do think it is important for this history to be written down and remembered. There is a lot of art lost in convenience, don’t you agree?

A Twist on a Southern New Year’s Menu

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I am a girl who loves tradition. Love it. And apparently y’all do, too! My previous post on the Southern New Year’s menu, along with the explanation of why we eat what we do, has been extremely popular. (thanks for that!)

And while we will be keeping to tradition this year with my New Year’s Day dinner, I will also be changing it up a bit. I’m not going to repeat my previous post with all of the symbolism, so please go HERE if you need a refresher.

With this menu I’m still going to serve greens, black eyed peas, cornbread, and pork, just with a modern twist! So fun!

The black eyed peas will be used to make a hummus. (Mmm! I love hummus!) I found a recipe (here). Since I don’t like black eyed peas, I usually only choke down (how ladylike) a few of these. So cheers to trying something new this year.

Black Eyed Pea Hummus Recipe
As for the greens, I’m going to make some kale chips. The flavor of the kale chips will go great with the hummus, but won’t necessarily be sturdy enough to be a “vehicle” for it. These are super easy to make. You can even find bags of kale at the grocery store that come with seasoning packets. But basically all you need is some olive oil, salt, and pepper. For a recipe go (here). 
For ham, I’m going to make some ham and Swiss sliders with King’s Hawaiian rolls. Can.Not.Wait. To find the recipe, click (here). The only changes I’m going to make are that I’ll be using some shredded Swiss that is already in the fridge, and since there will only be 4 of us eating, I’ll cut the recipe in half or even 1/4. 
And finally, the cornbread is actually going to be our dessert. I found a cornbread pudding recipe that looks fairly simple, and I’m going to give it a go. You can find the recipe (here).
Cornbread Pudding
My predictions are that the kids will love the sliders and the pudding, but not so much the hummus or kale chips. They are pretty good eaters, but aren’t always great at trying stuff that I make myself. (Please don’t tell them that they often have kale in their smoothies and have absolutely no idea.)
I really hope that y’all have an awesome New Year. 
P.S. If you’d like to save this page for later, please click the Pinterest button at the top or bottom of the page. 

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Atlanta Fall Bucket List

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October, the Southerners’ reward for surviving summer. 

I’ve never met a Southerner that doesn’t like love October. Honestly! Would such a person be human? Despite having 31 days, and sometimes 5 glorious weekends, there never seems to be enough October to go around. Unless I schedule our October days to make the most of the cool things happening around town, we just don’t get around to doing it all. 
I’ve made a list of some neat things both ITP and OTP (that’s inside-the-perimeter and outside-the-perimeter for all of you newbies) that you may want to take advantage of this fall. Each name links back to a website; Just hover your mouse and click for more details! I’m happy to add to the list. Just leave a comment or shoot me an email.
Now, go forth and get your pumpkin on!

Inside the Perimeter

1. Boo at the Zoo (Zoo Atlanta) – Special activities Saturdays and Sundays, October 18, 19, 25, & 26. 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m.
2. Ogre-tober and Scarecrows in the Garden (Atlanta Botanical Gardens) – Lots of Ogre-tober happenings! Click to check out their calender of events. 
3. Capturing the Spirit of Oakland Halloween Tour (Oakland Cemetery) – The only time of year when tours are available after dark. Advance tickets must be purchased and sell out quickly!
4. Georgia A-Scary-Um (Georgia Aquarium) – Special extended hours. Kids 12 and under get in free if they dress in costume with each paying adult. Click the link for details!
5. Fernbank Boo-Seum Trick-or-Treat (Fernbank Museum of Natural History) – Lots of un-scary fun for the little monsters on the Saturday before Halloween. Special events throughout the museum from 10 – 2, all of which are included in admission or FREE for members.

Outside the Perimeter (and Beyond!)

5. Stone Mountain Park Pumpkin Festival – Tons to do here for the kids. Check out the website! Sometimes tickets go on flash-sale. 
6. Buford Corn Maze – More than just a corn maze! Hayrides, family activities, and a haunted forest. 
7. Jaemor Farms – Take a drive up to Alto, Georgia. The farm itself is gorgeous, and there are super fun things like apple canons, slides, corn maze, pick your own pumpkins, petting zoo, etc. Even a wonderful farm market with everything from fresh produce to fried pies. This is my fave!!! Click the link for more deets!
8. Gold Rush Days – Dahlonega, GA. Before the California gold rush, there was the Dahlonega gold rush! During peak times to see fall foliage, this should be a blast!
9. Oktoberfest – Helen, GA. The town of Helen is a re-creation of an alpine village, and this year marks their 44th annual Oktoberfest. 
10. Georgia Apple Festival – Ellijay, GA. It’s 43rd year as the Georgia Apple Festival, the town of Ellijay puts out quite the welcome wagon. Fun for the whole family, minus Fido (no pets allowed).
11. Six Flags Fright Fest – Frights by night and thrills by day!
12. The Great Miller Lite Chili & BBQ Cookoff – Chili? Yes, please! Held at the Georgia International Horse Park in Conyers, GA. 
This is is far from being complete of everything Atlanta has to offer this fall. Make sure you take the time to create some awesome, life-long memories!

Barn Wood: The wood that almost wasn’t.

The area we live in, a suburb of Atlanta, has changed a lot in the past 25 years. Like, a LOT. It’s not the same place it was when Ken and I grew up. There aren’t many open fields left. It’s mostly businesses and neighborhoods and concrete. And more people. And it wasn’t. Before.

Atlanta is known for having the native-born people far outnumbered by the transplants. But we’ve lived here our whole lives, and we know a lot of other people that have, too. So this story is for them. And us. But I have to start from the beginning:
Fort Daniel isn’t just the name of an elementary school in Gwinnett County, and Hog Mountain isn’t just the name of a road (or two). Fort Daniel was an actual military fort built in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries on Hog Mountain, which was the southern boundary of the Native American hunting grounds.  This area is approximately located on Scenic Highway and in between Old Peachtree Road and Gravel Springs Road. The fort was rebuilt in 1814, but there is some speculation as to whether it was completely rebuilt from the ground up, or rebuilt using the existing structures. For our purposes, it just matters that it’s old.
Recently a barn-type structure located near our home was being demolished. A sign invited anyone that wanted to take whatever wood they liked. And so, being us, we started the process of removing wood.  During our visits there to load up our truck, we talked with the landowner, Mr. Boyce, a few times. He was having the structure removed so that his two sons could build their homes there. Someone was supposed to come demolish the building and haul it away, but those plans didn’t work out. And, it turns out, this wasn’t just a barn. Mr. Boyce bought the property 25+ years ago, and he was told that at some point in time someone had moved one of the old barracks from Fort Daniel there, and it had been used as a storage barn ever since.
Ken carefully removing pieces of wood from the structure. At one point he was balancing
on a rotten tree stump to get the perfect pieces for me.
This wood that we got, is, at youngest, from the early nineteenth century. Each piece of wood is stunning. On the sides that were exposed to the elements you can see the faint, original green color, places where a “newer” (which may be decades old, as well) whitewash color shows. Mostly there is the much sought-after silver gray color. On the back, the sides that were not exposed, the wood is rich and brown. It is a color that you can only get with time, and a lot of it. This color is enough to move you me emotionally.
This is my favorite piece of wood that we got. Isn’t it beautiful?! I’m saving it for something special.
We’ve taken some of the wood that we collected that weekend and added it to a china cabinet that we’ve customized. The wood looks weathered and beautiful, but don’t mistake it as fragile and brittle. This wood is rock hard and strong. It has lasted a very, very long time. This wood is our history. It’s special. And it was almost trash.
Here’s the china cabinet! I was trying to avoid my reflection, so you have to see it from an angle. 😉
Ready to be filled with special things!
Ahhh! THIS WOOD is a dream!
This piece is currently available and can be seen by appointment. Use the icons at the top of the page to contact us. 
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To learn more about Fort Daniel, Georgia, visit these websites: