Monday, December 7, 2015

The Best Christmas Tree Hunt Ever! (and Chili!) redux!

The first Sunday afternoon in December is our church's annual Christmas tree hunt. Even though this year was a bit different, it was still the best Christmas Tree Hunt Ever!

The differences?

Well, it was a bit warmer this year, which means melting snow and mud - not the best place to take dogs who are a bit low to the ground. So Thatcher had to miss out this year. :(

The second difference? Our family is growing by leaps and bounds. There were nine in our family group at the tree hunt and chili supper this year. Nine. Six of us and these three fantastic young people who like to hang around with our daughter (Josh) and two of our sons (Kris and Katie). We took two pots of chili!

The third difference? Last year's tree was a giant. And yes, they really do look smaller in the forest! This year's tree is perfect. I'll include pictures next week. :)

The final difference - because of the warmer temperatures, the snow was perfect for making snow men!

Here's my friend Rachael with her masterpiece:

The boys held off destroying theirs with snowballs until after the picture:

Daniel and Jadin gave me their patient smiles (after all, they wanted to get the picture over with so the snowball bombardment could begin!). Then Colin gave me his "camera smile." He really doesn't look like that all the time!

But the tree hunt was successful.

And we all found the perfect tree for our respective homes and families. Isn't Scott's and Adrienne's tree cute?

And now it's time to enjoy last year's post and the fabulous chili recipe!

The Best Christmas Tree Hunt Ever! (and Chili!)

When you live near a National Forest full of pine trees, there's really no excuse not to go cut your own Christmas tree. Especially when you live with some outdoors-loving guys, and your church has an annual Christmas tree hunt.

So, how do you hunt a Christmas tree?

First, grab a couple handy sons who like to carry sharp objects.

Add a third son whose talent is avoiding cameras (hi, Jacob!).

Throw in a rowdy dog, a patient husband, and about thirty friends (and a few more dogs, just for good measure).

And then head for the hills. Make sure you're bundled up before you start your search!

Of course, if you're legs are short, it helps if you have a strong dad to pull the sled :)

The problem with hunting for a Christmas tree is that the "perfect" one is always around the next corner. In fact, doesn't the one on top of the cliff look beautiful? Sorry, it's too big!

But seriously, with all these trees to choose from, where do you start?

Some are too big, some are too small. Some were blown down in last year's storm, some have grown crooked.

But eventually, you just have to pick one. After all, it's 3:30, we have a twenty minute hike back to the car, and sunset is at 4:15. So we pick one.

And haul it back to the car (this is why you make sure you bring a couple sons with you!).

Thatcher thinks the whole process is fascinating. And why can't we go find those deer he keeps smelling?

When we arrive back at the parking area, it's time to load up. Puppies first.

Add the all-important tree tag that gives us permission to remove the tree from the forest...

...and tie our prize to the top of the car.

Whew! A successful hunt!

Now it's time for the whole crew to head back to the church for our annual Chili Supper! And there's one of my Sunday School students making sure she's first in line :)

But before we know it, the chili is gone, and it's time to head home.

Now, isn't that the saddest sight you've ever seen?

But no worries - I have the recipe for the chili our family brought!

Jan's Savory Chili


1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork
1 onion

3 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes
3 (14.5 oz) cans small red beans
2 cups beef broth
1 Tablespoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
3 Tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt

Brown the meats and onion together. Put all ingredients together in a crock pot. Cook on low for about 9-10 hours.

Serve with any toppings you like. A dollop of sour cream is particularly tasty.

This chili isn't hot and spicy - there are just enough of the spices to give it a warm, savory flavor.

So, time to share. Where do you find your Christmas tree?


  1. wow, what a fun day. This brought back so many childhood memories because we used to go out in the forest and hunt for our tree also. Thanks Jan.

    1. You're welcome, Sandra! The tree hunt is a highlight of our December :)

  2. What a fun annual event!! Thanks for the repeat chili recipe. I need to make this!

    1. This is my favorite chili. My husband likes his a little more spicy, but I like to keep on the mild side for a crowd.

      My son made a "Mexican Chili" that had a secret ingredient in it (chocolate!). I'll have to tweak his recipe and share it sometime.

  3. I love that church tradition! Such a fun way to bond and enjoy each other's company. Makes you a real church family. You'll have to put that into a book, Jan.

    I'm a bit miffed about Thatcher missing out though. You need to get him an upside down raincoat so he can go on these kind of excursions. They sell them up here. Even have the kind with booties for our city slicker dogs who can't handle salt on their paws. LOL

    1. An upside down raincoat! What a great idea!

      And I'm tempted to get some of those booties for Wynter. She can't handle the salt, either.

  4. The recipe sounds sooo good; I will try it! I have been using Missy's recipe (love it), but maybe a change will be good!

    1. Hi Jackie!

      I like a change once in a while, too. I have three or four recipes for chili that I cycle through. Some are a bit spicier than others!

      And Missy's recipe is great, as well as Mindy's. Anyone who is curious can find those chili recipes by clicking on "chili" on the list of "labels" to your right. Have fun!

  5. Our Christmas tree hunt involves walking several blocks to the nearest tree lot and inspecting all the choices. I always thought it would be wonderful to go out somewhere and choose it ourselves.

    Love all your helpers!

    Fenway doesn't exactly love his bright purple booties, but he sure loves not getting ice balls or salt in his paws. We use Pawz.

  6. What a fun event, thanks for sharing! We get our tree out of a box, sorry real tree fans!! Merry Christmas--Becky