My Biggest Homeschooling Mistakes

One of the biggest decisions we will make in regards to raising children is how to educate them. This post is not meant to proselytize you into homeschooling. Believe it or not, I DO NOT believe that homeschooling is for everyone. However, if this is the path God has for you and your children, I’d love to have you learn from my biggest homeschooling mistakes in the hopes that you can avoid the pain of repeating them.

Homeschooling has been, for our family, one of the biggest blessings we have received. But it wasn’t always easy. In fact, the early days brought on a lot of frustration for me as well as my little ones. When we started homeschooling, we didn’t know anyone else who homeschooled. I had NO ONE to guide me through, save the Susan Wise Bauer books that I checked out of the library. Unfortunately, I made more than my fair share of mistakes. But even with a rough start, I thankfully learned a few things quickly to make our life together more manageable. I hope this little confession of my biggest homeschooling mistakes helps you avoid similar pitfalls.

My Biggest Homeschooling Mistakes

Expecting Too Much of Myself and My Child

While many people begin their homeschooling journey with fear and insecurity, others jump in with excitement and big plans. I fell into the second camp. While a healthy level enthusiasm is good, I fell into the trap of wanting to teach her EVERYTHING. RIGHT NOW. If this sounds familiar, can I encourage you to slow down and take a deep breath? Homeschooling is a marathon, not a sprint. If you set the bar too high for you and/or your children, you will have everyone feeling like a total failure when you start to lose steam. Pace yourself. You will have many weeks, months, and years to teach all that you want your children to know.

Buying Too Many Materials

One of the best pieces of advice I received as a prospecting homeschooler was to attend a homeschooling convention. At these conventions, you can visit the vendor hall and view curricula, books, and other materials before deciding what to invest in. The problem is, as a new homeschooler you really don’t know what you need. I easily justified in my mind the purchase of too many materials. You will not need every map, ruler, coloring book, or laminating machine that you come across. You can easily rack up a hefty total for these things if you don’t carefully consider whether you’ll actually use them. My advice is to take your time perusing the options. Look carefully at curricula and textbooks to decide what you really will need to teach your child. Avoid the temptation to make your dining room look like a traditional classroom, unless you really will be using the things that will cover the walls. Purchase only the basics, and make notes of what you might want to add in the future. Utilize FREE resources like your local library and educational apps and websites. Get your year started and spend some time learning how your child learns best. ALL THE THINGS might actually turn out to be a distraction for your student. Stick to the basics to begin with and add to your stash as needed.

Buying Only New Materials

New textbooks and materials can be very costly. It’s easy to feel like you need to buy everything at the homeschool convention, but using a little self-control can save you big money. When you find a new curriculum or textbook you want to use, look at eBay, your local library, or find a Facebook homeschooling buy/sell group. You can cut your book tab by over half by using used materials. Be careful, however, to ask about condition to be sure answers haven’t been filled in, etc. Also, be sure you know which pieces of a set are included and what you’ll need to purchase separately.

Sticking With a Curriculum That Doesn’t Work For Us

There are so many good choices in curricula, but not every book works for every child. Sometimes we make mistakes and purchase something that simply doesn’t work for us. While that can be costly in terms of money, not switching to a better fit can cost your child a love of learning. Try your best to purchase wisely, but don’t be too slow to make a change when something isn’t a good fit. There are too many good options out there to be miserable.

Giving Busy Work to Fill Our Day

Because you FEEL like school has to look a certain way and take up a certain amount of time, it’s easy to fall into the trap of filling up your day with busy work. Listen to me, mama: there is not one thing wrong with doing school for three hours, if that’s all it takes your child. Do not give into the urge to make your babies do worksheet after worksheet or project after project, just so you feel like you’ve done a complete school day. If it takes your child only a few math problems to get a concept down, stop giving more required work than they need. If your kid is a smarty pants who thrives on math work, then by all means, let him do his thing. But if they would rather have their nose buried in a book, let them move on to another activity that they enjoy. If they can’t wait to get outside and play, let them have that time, too. Children learn from doing all sorts of activities, even playing. Don’t give in to the temptation to fill a 8:00-3:00 day with book work. It usually isn’t necessary.

Teaching for Tests 

I set out as a homeschool mom to teach my children to love learning. I just knew that if I could help them fall in love with learning, they would never stop learning. Sounds good, right? It was and is a good approach, but somewhere along the way we fell into teaching so that they could pass tests. It was an easy transition, so I didn’t see it coming. We didn’t test at first because I thought my little student was retaining everything I taught her. But after a few months I realized she couldn’t remember half of what we’d learned. I decided to give tests to give her some accountability for listening and retaining information. She began to remember more of what we studied. I felt like we were winning. Somewhere along the way, though, she began learning just enough to pass the tests and then forgetting it all when the test was over. She’s a sly one. We had to learn a new approach that included not only listening with wonder and excitement, but also remembering longer than testing lasted. For us, that meant reviewing more often and helping her connect the dots on why this material was important. When we know our “why” our “how” and “what” become easier.

Not Plugging in Socially

It’s no secret that socialization is one of the hot topics of homeschooling. How will they ever learn to behave around their peers? Most homeschooling parents quickly learn that their children will do just fine socially as long as they are still involved in field trips, church activities, sports, or other extra-curricular activities. What I failed to realize, however, is MY need for socializing. It is super easy to slide down the slippery slope of thinking you’re fine at home, doing the thing God has called you to. You click along, doing your daily school routine, not realizing the isolation that creeps in. One day you look up and realize you haven’t left the house in days and haven’t been in touch with friends in far too long. And now that your children are home with you all day, how could you do any of that stuff anyway? Mamas, I want to encourage you to make time with friends happen. Make date nights with your husband happen. Make beach weekends with your sisters happen. Go to that ladies night out with your church friends. You need it. You cannot keep pouring into your children without being filled up. That well will soon run dry. Get over the guilt and realize that you are a better homeschooling mom when you take time to engage with people who do not live in your house. Isolation=desperation. Nip that in the bud.

Expecting My Home to Stay Neat

Since we were home all day, I mistakenly assumed that our home would stay cleaner. Not true. We lived in that home all day, every day, and it stayed messy! Not unclean, mind you, but messy. Sure, the dishes were done, the floor scrubbed, and the laundry clean, but our tables and counters constantly held stacks of papers, buckets of art supplies, and open lesson plan books. Nothing was neat. There were always projects in process. I could either be constantly frustrated at the mess or learn to look at it as a beautiful sign of the homeschooling way of life. I wish I could say that my mind changed instantly. It didn’t. It took me lots of months and even years to accept that being home meant being disorderly. However, over time I learned to accept more messiness and my family learned to keep things neater. We meet in the middle.

Defending My Decision To Homeschool

Not everyone will be as excited about your decision to homeschool as you are. Not everyone will hear from God on this subject like you have. People will not get why you don’t do things the way everyone else does. While homeschooling is becoming increasingly more common, you will still face tension. You might face questions, and even criticism, from friends or family who don’t understand your decision. You will, no doubt, hear retellings of every homeschooling-gone-wrong story that has ever been told. Usually a simple explanation of your desire to homeschool will ease the tension. However, sometimes that isn’t the case. It’s easy to feel the need to defend yourself and your students to anyone who doesn’t agree with your choice to homeschool. Don’t fall into the trap of needing the approval of other people. You can really send yourself into a tailspin by needing other people to accept and agree with your decision, because you simply won’t get that from everyone. As long as you and your spouse are in agreement, and you feel like God is leading you to it, don’t concern yourself with the acceptance of everyone else. Sometimes you have to lead your family into unchartered territory to experience great blessing. Peter had to get out of the boat to walk on water, but he is the only one who got to experience Jesus in the storm.

You will, no doubt, experience mistakes of your own when beginning your homeschooling journey. Try as you might to gain wisdom from others who have gone before you, you will find that you too have blown it a time or two. I sincerely hope that you can avoid some of the things I have mentioned, but just in case… learn to give yourself grace.

Peace to you and your family as you make the homeschooling journey!

Declare Conference

Declare Conference

I predict that last weekend will turn out to be one of the most pivotal times in my life. I spent the weekend with about 125 very wise, godly, master writers at the Declare Conference in Dallas, Texas. It’s a conference for Christian women writers, or “digital evangelists,” as we began to think of ourselves. We heard from the likes of Chrystal Evans Hurst, Janelle Knox, Kris Comely, Kat Lee, and Cari Trotter. Each of these ladies equipped and encouraged us to RUN with urgency and passion the race that God has set us on, to bring His message to the world.

I left so ready to write and beg you to gather your people around the table (literally or figuratively) and love on them and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them and bear their burdens and celebrate their joys because we HAVE to do this thing together if we’re going to do it at all. And please, for the love, invite other people to gather around your table, too. Everybody doesn’t have the home life you have. Everybody doesn’t have the wisdom that God has given you. Everybody doesn’t have the stable family or the financial blessing or the tight relationships you do.

But they can.

They can if they are shown how. And it’s our job to show them how because how will they know unless they are told?

So I left the Declare Inference with a renewed vision for The Hill Hangout. The tone of the conference was writers speaking to writers about the importance of writing. However, many of the comments apply to anyone in any field that God has called them to, so I thought I’d share with you here in case you are needing a little encouragement in your calling. After all, don’t these ladies look like they have some very important messages for you?

Declare Conference

Kris Camealy, developer of Grace Table, challenged us to build altars instead of platforms. I don’t know about you, but I have definitely fallen into the trap of doing things for my own gain (building a platform) instead of laying my desires before God and asking Him to give me His vision instead (building altars). I have been guilty of presenting MY plans to God and asking Him to bless them, when I should have been asking Him for His plans. Friends, He has much better plans than we could ever create in our own strength and wisdom. His plans are able to minister to more, reach more, and bless more than anything we build on our own. Whether we are talking about a career, a set of expectations, a marriage, motherhood, or WHATEVER, please let Him form that instead of going it alone.

Declare Conference

Another of Kris’s challenges to us was that no matter what field of work we are in, we are called to make disciples. If we are writers, we are called to make disciples through our writing. If we are mothers, we are called to make disciples of our children. If we are teachers, nurses, dentists, chefs, librarians, social media consultants, botanists, or photographers, we are to make disciples. God has put you in the job you are in for His purpose, and even if you can’t outright evangelize at work, He wants you to use that position for His kingdom.

At the next session, Janelle Knox, who runs MICI Magazine, spoke life to us about comparisons. You know what I’m talking about, right? You hop onto Facebook feeling fine, and within a few minutes you are feeling like your life doesn’t measure up. Your kids aren’t dressed well enough. Your vacation wasn’t adventurous enough. Your husband isn’t progressing in his career like so-and-so’s. You’d think that by the time we are adults, we’d stop this nonsense. And yet…

Declare Conference

Janelle reminded us, “The world is always telling us who we aren’t. God is telling us who we are.” If you look to be satisfied with the things of the world, we will never have enough. But if you look at who you are and what you have received in Christ Jesus, you will know true, lasting satisfaction. You can have all the material things in the world, and they can serve to be merely a distraction from relying on the fullness of Christ in you. If we truly grabbed hold of the power of the Holy Spirit within us and the relationship we have with God because of Jesus, the Enemy would have no power against us.

Sisters, it’s time to realize that our salvation has come through Christ, and HE HAS MADE US ENOUGH. Let’s stop telling Him that He hasn’t done enough for us by comparing ourselves to other people. I loved what Janelle had to say about this: “When we feel like we aren’t enough, God isn’t buying it. He made us with depth, color, texture, and creativity. He is pleased with who we are because He created us that way.”

Christian women’s conferences like the Declare Conference have been a huge part of my Christian walk. I have had some of the most defining moments as a result of gathering with other Christian women who believe like I do and want to do a life of ministry like I do. I love pulling up to the table with them and hearing how they walk out their faith in the many roles women have to play. And THAT is why I invite you to the table at The Hill Hangout every week (ok, so it’s been less often lately). I want you to pull up a seat right next to us so that we can journey together, pulling each other into the presence and ministry of Christ. And then I want you to turn around and pull people up to your table and do the same.

A HUGE thank you to Courtney at CocoPaige Photography for the gorgeous photos!

Alabama’s BBQ Scene

Alabama BBQ Trail

When you grow up in Sweet Home Alabama, a good plate of BBQ is not just dinner, it’s a way of life. You cut your teeth on rib bones, and you learn early how to look for the best bark on a brisket. Alabama has an existing and solid reputation as a food destination, but Alabama’s BBQ scene has exploded in the last few years. Our state’s BBQ restaurants and traditions are consistently featured as some of the best in the US and in national media publications. Our state’s tourism department has even declared 2015 as “The Year of Alabama BBQ.” If you’ve ever thought about a trip to the historical civil rights landmarks, the Space and Rocket Museum, or a visit to our beautiful beaches, plan to make several stops along the BBQ trail. You can find a fun list of road trips to Alabama here.

While the best BBQ joints in Alabama are rarely fancy, you will no doubt experience the friendliness and hospitality for which Alabama is widely known. We are a laid-back bunch who knows how to relax and enjoy good food and good company. Life, as they say, moves slower in Alabama, and enjoying a slab of ribs or a BBQ sandwich with friends is definitely a favorite pastime. Every Alabamian has their own personal favorites when it comes to our long list of BBQ restaurants, and I certainly have my favorite spots to meet up with friends and family for dinner.

I live in Birmingham, so the BBQ spots in our area are near and dear to me. First fave: Full Moon.

Full Moon

At Full Moon, you really can’t go wrong with the pork plate, the black angus beef brisket, or the hickory smoked turkey. But whatever you meat you choose, be sure to pair it with their famous vinegar-based slaw, top it with their chow-chow, and round it out with a half-moon cookie for dessert.

Jim ‘N Nicks is a Birmingham landmark, and it is always a crowd-pleaser. I’m a fan of the pulled pork sandwich and fries, but don’t miss their cheddar biscuits. Yeah, you’re gonna ask for another round of those!

Jim Nicks Biscuits

The newest BBQ joint in town is Saw’s, and it has quickly made a name for itself on Alabama’s BBQ scene. Saw’s serves a delicious pork sandwich, served with fried pickles. But if you aren’t in the mood for BBQ, be sure to try the pork on cheese grits, piled with greens and topped with curls of light onion rings.

Saws sandwich and fried pickles

We frequently head north to visit the US Space and Rocket Center or various other north Alabama attractions. When we are in Decatur, we never miss Big Bob Gibson’s BBQ, home of the original Alabama white sauce.

Big Bob White Sauce

They have other great sauces as well, but my preference is the white sauce on smoked chicken.

Big Bob White Chicken

Football is king in Alabama, and in the fall we are a state divided right down the middle. Half of us are yelling “Roll Tide” for the University of Alabama, and the rest of us are yelling “War Eagle,” the battle cry of Auburn University.

If Tuscaloosa is your destination, Dreamland is a must-do. I’ve been going to Dreamland since the original location was the only location.

Dreamland

To get the true Dreamland experience, order ribs and white bread. You’ll get a rack of ribs and several pieces of white sandwich bread. That’s it. And you’ll be in heaven.

If you’re headed to the Plains for a ballgame, be sure to stop in at Mike &Ed’s. Like I said, we don’t make things fancy in Alabama. We serve our sweet tea nice and cold, but at Mike & Ed’s you’ll have to get it right out of a trash can. DOn’t worry… it’s clean.

Mike Ed Tea

One of the most notable attractions in Alabama is our coastline. Alabama beaches are the most beautiful anywhere around, as far as I’m concerned. They are sugar white and surrounded by the most quaint and charming small towns. They are definitely worth staying a few days! When in south Alabama, don’t miss the small town of Fairhope, home of lovely shops and fun restaurants like Ben’s BBQ. While I’ve never been to Ben’s, I have it on good authority that it’s the best BBQ in town.

Bens BBQ Fairhope

Fairhope isn’t the only coastal town with good BBQ. Mobile is home to two notable joints. The Brick Pit was featured on an episode of “Man vs. Food.”

Brick Pit Mobile

And I have it on good authority from friends who KNOW good BBQ that Saucy Q is the place to be. With a menu like this, I know the food is the real deal!

Saucy Q Menu

Planning a foodie trip to Alabama is made simple with the new Alabama Travel app, available for Android and iPhone. I’ve downloaded it, and it will notify me when I’m close to one of the BBQ restaurants that I want to try. So fun. You can follow the Alabama Tourism Department on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
Y’all leave me a comment and let me know your favorite Alabama BBQ spot.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Alabama Tourism. The opinions and text are all mine.

Comeback Sauce

Comeback Sauce

If you’ve ever eaten at one of the chicken finger chains like Zaxby’s or Raising Cane’s, you’ve no doubt wondered how they make their special sauce taste so good. It is, after all, the crowning glory of their chicken finger dinners. It’s the perfect dip for the chicken fingers, the fires, and even the bread. We southerners are a little crazy about dipping our food. While the actual recipes used by chains are closely guarded secrets, you can make a batch of Comeback Sauce at home that will rival any of the chain sauces.

Comeback Sauce is simple to make, as it only requires mixing the ingredients – no cooking whatsoever. It does have quite a few ingredients, but most of them are items most family households would have on hand anyway. If you’re in a pinch, go ahead and make it without the missing ingredients, as it will still be good. You can mix it with a whisk or in a blender, whichever you prefer.

Here’s what you’ll need for Comeback Sauce:

1 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/4 cup chili sauce or Heinz 57 Steak Sauce
1/4 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 teaspoon sriracha or Tabasco hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Mix all ingredients in a bowl with a whisk or blend in blender. Store in air-tight container in fridge.

Comeback Sauce

Comeback Sauce is great on chicken, but it is also good on shrimp, steak, hamburgers, oven fries, and just about anything else you like to dip. It is a great staple dip to have on hand because you can always find something else to try it on.

I hope you all like it!

Comeback Sauce
Yields 1
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup mayonnaise
  2. 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  3. 1/4 cup chili sauce or Heinz Steak Sauce
  4. 1/4 cup ketchup
  5. 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  6. 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  7. 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  8. 1/4 teaspoon sriracha or Tabasco hot sauce
  9. 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  10. 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  11. 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
Instructions
  1. Mix all ingredients together in a bowl with a whisk, or blend in a blender until smooth.
Notes
  1. Comeback is a delicious dip that can be used on chicken fingers, steak, shrimp, or fries. It's also terrific on veggies.
The Hill Hangout http://thehillhangout.com/

Godly Mentors

Godly Mentors

Titus 2 has been on my heart a lot lately, and I wonder if the ideas laid out there might resonate with you, too. In this passage, Paul writes to Titus, whom Paul has sort of adopted as a son in the Christian faith. Paul gives Titus all sorts of life lessons in this book, but I want to zero in on his writing in chapter 2, verses 3-5:

Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Now, you’re a lucky gal if God has gifted you with one woman in your life that can mentor all of those things for you. If so, let me know when she takes on new proteges, because I’m signing up! However, if you’re like me, God has given you a scattering of women who each have their own way of mentoring, one in one area and someone else in another. And, at least in my life, the command above to “older” women hasn’t meant as much someone decades older than me, but rather someone just a few years ahead of me in the journey.

I have the friend that is more studied and wiser in God’s word than me that is constantly teaching me new ways of letting scripture guide my life. I have quite a few Godly friends whose children are just a few years older then mine that help guide and prepare me for the years ahead, giving hope and the occasional warning. I have friends whose marriages are a few steps farther along than ours, and they are a valuable source of insight and inspiration and they give us something to aspire to. I have people who have been writing and ministering to women a little longer than me, and they are so generous to answer questions and show me the ropes.

There are also areas where I need to seek out mentors. I can name a couple of areas where I don’t really have a good model to follow, and my wisdom in those areas suffers because of it. I’m praying God will lead me to people who can show the way clearly.

Do you have people in your life that serve as mentors, even if they don’t do so in any formal capacity? Are there spaces where you need to pray for and seek out someone who is just ahead of you to help you navigate? In which friendships are you the mentor, paving the way for those coming behind you? In what ways do you need to be more intentional about sharing your experiences with women who are just a few steps behind you?

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Sometimes I feel sorry for the pork chop. It gets a bad rap as being a boring dinner entree. And, granted, at times it earns that reputation. Without much spice, the pork chop can be dull, dry, and tough to chew. But with a little seasoning and effort, the plain pork chop can become a well-loved dinner that everyone enjoys. Kind of like life, huh? It takes a little effort to make a dull, boring life into a beautiful work of art that everyone in the family enjoys, but it is so worth the effort.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops take a little more effort than some of the dishes we present to you on The Hill Hangout, but they have become a family favorite for us. Served with homemade mashed potatoes or creamy noodles, they are comfort food. And they make my people glad they get to eat around our table.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Here’s what you’ll need…

4 pork chops (I used boneless, center cut, but you could use bone-in chops as well.)
2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 sleeve of crackers
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon dried chopped parsley
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1 egg
1 tablespoon water

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Spray baking dish with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wash pork chops and pat dry with a paper towel.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Add parmesan cheese, crackers, pepper, parsley, Italian seasoning, garlic, and onion powder in a mini chopper or food processor.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Pulverize until it has a bread crumb texture.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Beat egg with water. Pour egg wash in one dish and bread crumbs in another. Dredge pork chops in egg wash and then bread crumb mixture.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Fry pork chops in oil for about 4-5 minutes on each side or until slightly browned.

Italian Parmesan Pork Chops

Transfer to a baking dish and bake for about 30 minutes.

Behold the beauty of the seasoned pork chop. And behold the beauty of the seasoned life. They both take a little effort, but you will definitely reap more than you sow.

Jesus, the Founder and Perfecter of Our Faith

Cross

“…looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”

With the winds of Good Friday blowing through my thoughts today, my eyes are turned to the cross. The cross, that most brutal and shameful of death instruments, became beautiful and redeeming. It was there that our perfect savior literally became sin for us so that we might become children of God.

Sin is ugly, destructive, and leads to death. It is hard to think about and even harder to admit, but our sin separates us so far from a holy God that nothing we can do or say is powerful enough or pure enough to reconcile us to Him. Our best efforts to save ourselves fall much too short. We need someone to bridge the gap, someone who can bring us to God and speak on our behalf and plead our case. We need a Savior.

In sacrificing Himself on the cross for us, Jesus became our Redeemer. He became that good and perfect sacrifice which paid our sin debt and gave us another chance with God our Father. It doesn’t make sense, really. And I’m continually confused and amazed and almost unbelieving that He would do it for a sinner like me. And yet, in His great love, He walked the road to Calvary, struggling under the weight of the cross and the sin that He carried. And He gave His life to purchase mine.

He became the founder of my faith.

It is too good to imagine, and yet it is Truth. And what’s more, He didn’t leave it at that. He knew that in my weakness I would fall away. Though He gave His life for me, I would choose to let other idols slip into my focus. He knew that I would be just like Israel, following one day and turning away the next. I would vow my devotion to Him, but continually be caught up in the things of the world. He knew that He would have to sustain me.

He became the perfecter of my faith.

The absolute relief that comes from His sacrifice is that none of it is about me. My salvation comes from His work, and His alone. He reached out to me and made me His own when I could not and would not have come to Him on my own. And He does it again and again as I go through life.

My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
On Christ the solid rock I stand.
All other ground is sinking sand.

Building and Remodeling Expo 2015

Spring is just starting to peek it’s head out in Birmingham, and that means home building and renovating is just around the corner. You’ve probably already noticed the increase in the number of houses for sale, and that’s because spring is the #1 time of the year for the real estate market. Along with that peak comes an increase in the number of people getting their homes in shape after a long, damp winter. If you find yourself in the market to redo a few things around the house, you don’w want to miss the 2015 Building and Remodeling Expo going on this weekend at the Pelham Civic Center.

When it comes to building and/or remodeling, there are so many choices of contractors and subcontractors in the Birmingham area, that it can be overwhelming. The Building and Remodeling Expo is a terrific way to meet and speak with professionals in the construction industry BEFORE making expensive mistakes on who you choose to do the work. You will be able to visit with contractors, as well as professionals who provide flooring, countertops, cabinets, siding, bricks, roofing, pest control, appliances, lighting, and iron and glass work.

The Building and Remodeling Expo is going on this weekend, Friday, March 20-Sunday, March 22. The cost is $7, but I have a half-price coupon for you. Just print it out and bring it with you to receive entry for only $3.50.

Just like last year, I’ll be there with the B-Metro Magazine team telling you about all the great products you can find at the Expo. Be sure to follow along with me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You can also follow B-Metro on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Building and Remodeling Expo

Lemon Dill Aioli

Lemon Dill Aioli

There is nothing better in this world than a pan of piping hot roasted oven fries with sea salt. And there is nothing better on those oven fries than a good sauce. Last night we’d had enough of the meat and three meals, so I roasted a pan of sweet potatoes and a pan of sliced red potatoes, both coated in olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt. I made a batch of Creamy Sriracha Dipping Sauce for the sweet potatoes and a bowl of Lemon Dill Aioli for the red potatoes. My stars, I think it was the best meal we’ve had in ages.

This was the first time I’ve made aioli, and it was super easy and so, so delicious. The lemon and dill work perfectly together, and they set off the taste of the roasted oven fries in a way that might bring a tear to your eye.

All you’ll need is about a cup of mayonnaise, 1/4 cup of lemon juice (I used bottled this time around, but fresh-squeezed would be great, too), 1 tablespoon grainy mustard, 1 tablespoon dried dill, and 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder. Mix them together, let it sit for a minute so the flavors get to know each other, and serve it up. So easy. So delicious.

Lemon Dill Aioli

Lemon Dill Aioli is also commonly served on grilled fish like salmon, but it would also be terrific on chicken or beef. It’s a good all-purpose sauce.

Hope you guys enjoy it!

 

Lemon Dill Aioli
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup of mayonnaise
  2. 1/4 cup of lemon juice (I used bottled this time around, but fresh-squeezed would be great, too)
  3. 1 tablespoon grainy mustard
  4. 1 tablespoon dried dill
  5. 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
Instructions
  1. Mix ingredients together, let it sit for a minute so the flavors get to know each other, and serve it up. So easy. So delicious.
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Hot Chocolate Mix

Hot Chocolate Mix

We’ve been fighting off snowy weather for the better part of two weeks around here. Schools have had late starts more than regular starts lately. Today’s weather called for 2″-4″ of snow, so there’s not a school around in session today. I do think some places north of us are getting a little dusting, but so far, we haven’t gotten the first snow flake.

Anytime it’s cold outside, my girls want a big mug of piping hot chocolate. For years, I’ve bought Swiss Miss or some other national brand, but I’ve always wanted to make my own. Fortunately, Mary Anneliese was game for making the homemade hot chocolate today. After a little searching around on ye olde interwebs for some ideas, she landed on a combination that was natural, inexpensive, and delicious. The good thing about this hot chocolate mix is that the dry mix stores beautifully in an air-tight container. When you’re ready for a warm cup, just warm a cup of milk in the microwave and stir in the dry mix. Voila!

You’ll need 1 3/4 cups sugar, 1 cup cocoa powder, and 2 teaspoons salt. Mix with a whisk and store in an air-tight container. I used a mason jar, and it worked perfectly. When ready to make a cup of hot chocolate, warm a cup of milk in the microwave for 1 minute. Stir in 2 tablespoons of hot chocolate mix for each cup of milk. And, of course, no cup of hot chocolate is complete without a big dollop of real whipping cream.

Enjoy and stay warm on this cold, winter day!