Most Popular Posts of 2014

Best of 2014 collage

2014 has been a terrific year around the Hill Hangout! We have had more readers this year than in any other previous year since 2007, when we started posting a few pictures for our out-of-town family to see. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for hanging out with us. I feel that I have found MY people – the ones who love the Lord, love their families, love good food, love to fix things that are broken down, and love to explore new places. My top ten posts from 2014 reflect just that! I hope you’ll stick around for 2015.

10. Yum Yum Sauce

Yum Yum Sauce

9. The Best Homemade And Killer

Ant Killer

8. The Magic of Chalk Paint

Green Caneback Chairs

7. Mudslide Pie

Mudslide Pie

6. Summer Art Projects

Art

5. Back to School Prayers

Back to school

4. Greek Seasoning

Greek Seasoning

3. Creamy Sriracha Dipping Sauce

Sriracha

2. Loaded Cornbread

Loaded Cornbread

1. Miracle Treatment for Eczema

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100 Best Gifts for Homeschooling Families

Christmas Gifts for Homeschooling Families

Do you have a homeschooling family on your Christmas shopping list? While most homeschooling families enjoy the same things most other families enjoy, there are a few gifts ideas that would be especially thoughtful to provide for the homeschoolers you love. Here are a few ideas:

For the Whole Family:

Membership to the local zoo
Kindle Fire or other reader
Subscription to Netflix
Subscription to Amazon Prime
Target Gift Cards
Season passes to children’s theater
Season passes to the symphony
Movie tickets
Globe
Wall Map
A Subscription to Discovery Ed
A Membership to BrainPOP
Chess Set
Professor Noggin’s Trivia Games
Binoculars
Logic games like Qwirkle or Blokus
Carcassonne Basic Game
Any game by SET Enterprises
Classic, hardback children’s storybooks
Blink Card Game
Dominoes
Badminton Set
Ukulele Starter Set
Home Karaoke System
Sled
Tickets to a sporting event
Disc Swing
Brain Quest cards
Scripture CDs and Patriotic Songs CDs
Slackline Set
Fort Building Kit
Perplexus Puzzle
Katamino Game
IMAX Movie Tickets
Jim Weiss Recordings
A Subscription to Boomerang
Theme Park Tickets

For the Kids:

Minecraft – Xbox 360
Legos
Snap Circuits
Subscription to National Geographic Kids
Trampoline
Swing Set
Wooden Blocks Set
Hula Hoop
Jump rope
Board games
Floor Puzzle
Good Art Set
Dress-Up Outfits
Microscope
Telescope
Insect Lore Live Butterfly Garden
Chemistry Set
Make Your Own Chewing Gum Kit
Make Your Own Chocolate Kit
Mr. Root Beer Home Brewing Root Beer Kit
Create Your Own Pop-Up Books Kit
Klutz Craft Kits
Classes at a local museum
Art lessons
Mondo Bloxx Set
Schleich Animals
Groovy Lab in a Box
Art Easel
Plastic Pattern Blocks
Play-Doh
Punch Balloons
GeoTrax Railway
Hop Ball
Juggling Balls
PlasmaCar
Headphones
Rory’s Story Cubes
Spiral Art Book
Curious Chef Foundation Set
Lacing Cards
Wooden Food Sets
Magic Set
Skateboards or Roller Blades
Tetherball

For the Parents:

Gift cards to Starbucks
Gift certificate to local Parent/Teacher store
Gift cards to grocery store
Gift certificate for mani/pedi or spa visit
Offer to babysit for date night
Offer to be the maid for a day or send a maid service
Magazine subscriptions
Frozen homemade dinners to fill the freezer
Pretty Tote Bags for Mom
Cute Storage Boxes
Gift cards to book stores
Laminator
Dry Erase Board
Calendar and Weather Pocket Chart

Camry Bold, Auburn Bold

Y’all know I’m a sucker for an old classic made new again! Given the choice, I’ll take a remade classic over a new design anyway. The other day, Camry came calling to ask if I’d participate in a campaign featuring their 2015 model, and since it was all about putting a bold, new twist on a classic, I was in like Flynn.

The idea of the campaign was to take an old tradition (like the #1 selling car in America – the Camry), and be bold about doing it a new way. Since the 2015 Camry has been totally redesigned (a bold move, for sure!), we were to totally redesign our tradition as well. There’s nothing more traditional in the south than SEC football, so we went BOLD with a weekend in Auburn.

Camry Bold

Let me back up a little. I am an Auburn graduate, but my husband went to Mississippi State. Through the years, we have had a fun rivalry between the two of us, and we have passed it on to our children. Although I look back on my time in Auburn as one of the best seasons of my life, our roots have been planted in Mississippi State since we married fifteen years ago. We take our girls there, attend ball games there, and it has been our “home team” for years. In fact, we have been to countless Mississippi State games over the years, but I have NEVER, not even once, taken my family to Auburn for a ballgame. This year I decided to get BOLD and do a weekend in Auburn RIGHT!

Camry Bold

Of course, we needed a Camry for the weekend and Toyota graciously supplied us with a 2015 model to drive. Now, you know I drive a big ‘ole SUV, so I wasn’t sure how we would make it for a whole weekend in a sedan. Well, let’s just say we gained a whole new perspective about how well our family of four fits into a car. We had PLENTY of room, and I really enjoyed zipping around town in the Camry.

When I was a student at Auburn and people came to visit, the best place to stay was in one of the local hotels. Auburn wasn’t really known for having the best lodging choices, but how things have changed. Lake Martin is about 30 minutes away from Auburn, and it has really developed with tons of cottages that you can rent for ballgame weekends. So in the spirit of making BOLD changes to the old classics, we stayed at a precious home on Lake Martin.

Camry Bold

And the food, oh the food! It was so, so fun to take my family back to one of my favorite hangouts, Cheeburger, Cheeseburger. The atmosphere was exactly the same, but the food was even better than I remembered. It was also a blast to take them to an old classic which was new to us, Kowliga on Lake Martin. The catfish poboys were to-die-for, and I could easily see us driving down for dinner one night soon. And you gotta love a place that brings out a six-pack of sauces…

Camry Bold

But we upped the ante this time with a meal at Acre. You guys. I had no idea this place existed until I saw an article in Garden & Gun or Southern Living. But one look at the online menu, and we made a beeline right for it.

Camry Bold

Chef David Bancroft has built his entire menu around putting a bold twist on southern classic dishes. And y’all, it just WORKS! Everything on the menu WORKS. I’ll write another post all about Acre, but I’ll leave you with the Sweet Potato Bread Pudding…

Camry Bold

But the real highlight of the weekend was taking my family back to my old stomping grounds. I showed them my old apartment, which was in surprisingly good shape.

Camry Bold

Then we headed over to a VIP tailgate in the basketball arena. We enjoyed Jim ‘N Nick’s BBQ while watching the ladies’ volleyball team practice. The girls even stocked up on TP, should we need it at Toomer’s Corner after the game. (Unfortunately, we got to take that TP home with us. Sadly, it wasn’t needed for a post-win celebration.)

Camry Bold

And then I tok my family to their very first Auburn game. It was the first time I’d been back since my college days, and it was definitely more fun to share it with these three…

Camry Bold

It was a bucket list experience to have them with me, and to see this guy in orange and blue was icing on the cake. It suits him, don’t you think?

Camry Bold

I have such respect for a company like Toyota that takes a classic like the Camry, which is the most popular car in America as it is, and totally re-invents it to keep it at the top of its game. That’s a bold move that inspires me to be bold. What kind of bold move do you want to make?

Toyota sponsored this post and the weekend it describes, including the use of a 2015 Toyota Camry for the events. All opinions about the car and the trip are entirely my own.

10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know

Many of you know my friend Kari Kampakis and have read her blog posts about raising daughters. Now, you can dive deeper with Kari into raising preteen/teens with her new book out today called 10 Ultimate Truths Girls Should Know.

This book is designed to help you and your daughters navigate the years when it’s easier to focus on what the world says than what God says. (And really, isn’t that ALL the years, including the adult ones?) I can’t recommend it enough as a resource for parents to use with your daughters. Put together a book club with your neighborhood girls, soccer team, or Sunday school class and work your way through these truths!

I am looking forward to studying it with my daughter’s soccer team, as they are at just the right age to be reminded, reminded, and reminded again truths like “Kindness is more important than popularity,” and “Chasing boys doesn’t make you cool. It makes you a nuisance.” But the truth I am most looking forward to studying with them is “You were born to fly.”

Yes, darling girls, you most definitely were.

And… We’re Off!

I guess you can tell by my impromptu, albeit unintended, blogging hiatus that school and fall activities are back in full swing around The Hill Hangout. We started our 7th (!!!) year of homeschooling last week, and we have littles in 7th and 1st grades. I never really intended to make a career of homeschooling, but we are so blessed to have been able to enjoy the lives of our children for the last 7 years. It has been a gift to be their teacher for both school subjects and the subjects of life. Because of homeschooling, we have the gift of TIME with them. I thank God for knowing this was the best path for my children before I was convinced. His ways are most definitely higher than our ways.

We have started back to ballet, acro, pointe, and soccer. The girls are fortunate to have classes they enjoy and friends, coaches, and teachers they love. Until you have children, you don’t quite have an appreciation for kind, caring adults who are in places of authority and influence over kids. But when it’s your kid that they’re influencing, you totally love them for leading your kids in the right direction.

Wednesday night church activities started back last night, and we are gearing up for a terrific year of growing in the Lord and in His word. Both of my girls will have the opportunity to be involved in choirs where they will praise and worship Christ. They will both be taught by sweet teachers who want them to know God and His ways. My big girl will have community in a small group, where I know she will thrive in her walk with the Lord. I love the accountability she will have and be able to give in a small group.

While this summer has had its challenges for both Jonathan and me, we are confident that the Lord directs our steps. We are excited about another year of community with our Sunday school class and our soccer families. We still crack up at the sheer goodness of God that He would give us a group of soccer parents who are as much our spiritual community as our church is. He has gifted us with godly families that inspire and encourage us and are the kind of parents we strive to be. I can’t tell you how thankful we are that since we spend four days a week with these families, that they are the kind of people we really want to be around! Iron sharpens iron.

I hope your fall is shaping up to be one of the best ever. No doubt, if you look for the things that are wrong, you will find them. But if you look for the joys, the happiness, and the bright spots, you will find those as well. Happy fall, y’all!

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes. They were once a little like Rodney Dangerfield. In a world of gourmet burgers fancy-pants grilled cheeses, the blue-collar Sloppy Joe didn’t get any respect. Once hailed as lunchroom fare, the Sloppy Joe has made major strides in the last few years to find its place at the American dinner table. Thanks in large part to some fabulous cooks who took the meat and Manwich combo to a new HOMEMADE level, Sloppy Joes are now a favorite comfort food in many families, including my own.

To make Sloppy Joes, first start with about two pounds of ground beef. Brown it, and then drain it to remove all the fat. In the same pan, sautee a diced onion and a diced bell pepper for about three minutes. Add the beef back to the pan and mix together well with the onions and peppers.

Sloppy Joes

To the meat and veggie mixture you’ll add:

1 1/2 cups ketchup
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons brown sugar (This adds the traditional sweetness that balances out the tang of the ketchup. However, if you don’t want a sweeter sandwich, leave out the brown sugar. We leave it out.)

Sloppy Joes

Mix it all together rand let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Do yourself a favor and buy a good quality hamburger bun from the bakery at your grocery. They just taste better and make a better sandwich.

Sloppy Joes

Y’all dinner doesn’t have to be fancy. Formal or casual, just get your family around the dinner table so you can connect and share in each others joys and struggles. And invite a friend into the mix. It might mean more to them than you can imagine!

Sloppy Joes
This is NOT your typical lunchroom Sloppy Joe!
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Ingredients
  1. 2 pounds ground beef
  2. 1 onion, diced
  3. 1 green bell pepper, diced
  4. 1 1/2 cups ketchup
  5. 1/4 cup water
  6. 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  7. 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  8. 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  9. 1/2 teaspoon salt
  10. 2 tablespoons brown sugar (This adds the traditional sweetness that balances out the tang of the ketchup. However, if you don't want a sweeter sandwich, leave out the brown sugar. We leave it out.)
Instructions
  1. To make Sloppy Joes, first start with about two pounds of ground beef. Brown it, and then drain it to remove all the fat. In the same pan, sautee a diced onion and a diced bell pepper for about three minutes. Add the beef back to the pan and mix together well with the onions and peppers.
  2. To the meat and veggie mixture you'll add the rest of the ingredients. Mix well. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Serve on good quality hamburger buns.
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Sunday Dinners: A Cookbook Giveaway

Sunday Dinners

Andrews McMeel Publishing has sent me another terrific cookbook to review and giveaway to you guys. This one is called Sunday Dinners: Food, Family, and Faith from Our Favorite Pastors. Sunday Dinners brings readers into the family and meals of several of America’s most well-known and well-loved pastors. I love a cookbook that tells stories as well as shares recipes, and this one has family stories from T.D. and Serita Jakes, Joel and Victoria Osteen, Ed and JoBeth Young, and many others. Along with their family tales, you’ll read about the recipes that have accompanied their families at meal times for generations.

You’ll fall in love with Serita Jakes’s Homemade Banana Pudding with meringue and scratch-made custard. You’ll be introduced to the Texas Fudge Cake that Victoria Osteen makes EVERY WEEK for her family. Jeannie Glenn, whose husband Mike serves as pastor at Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, TN, shares a crab appetizer that will make your mouth water. She also shares the recipe for Strawberry Cake, made for every Sunday dinner served by her mother and grandmother. Reverand Martin Lam Nguyen, who is a native of Vietnam and serves at Congregation of Holy Cross at the University of Notre Dame, shares an authentic Vitenamese Goi Cuon recipe. That’s Fresh Shrimp and Pork Spring Rolls for those of us who only speak English. 😉

Sunday Dinners shares not only terrific recipes from pastors who are successful serving their churches, but it also gives us a glimpse into what makes their family life successful. Many of them champion the cause of the traditional Sunday dinner as being the meal that glues the family together. I hope you’ll enjoy hearing their stories as much as I have.

To be entered for the giveaway, leave a comment on this post and let us know our favorite Sunday dinner memory!

Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool: Joy

5 Days of Praying for Your Homeschool

Today is the last day of our series entitled Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool. I hate to see it some to an end because I could spend many more days praying with you over our precious ones at home with us. There is nothing more important that we can do for our children than to pray for them. And as I said in day 1 of this series, I know that I wouldn’t have made it through those first few years without the sustaining power of God. I feel like we kinda made it on a wing and a prayer. Without His encouragement and clear direction, I would have given up and sent everybody off to school. However, He did sustain us, we didn’t kill each other, and we even had many many moments of pure joy.

Since joy didn’t happen naturally in those first few years of homeschooling my children, I had to make it a priority. I had to be purposeful about praying for joy and be intentional about creating times of joy for us. Since joy is a fruit of the Spirit, I knew I needed to abide in the Spirit more so that He could do His work in me in this area. Focusing on joy paid off for us, and I can say that homeschooling my children has been an absolute JOY for six years. It has been one of the biggest blessings of my life to be able to educate my girls at home. And I thank God for restoring that joy when it was lost. Using Galatians 5:22 and Psalm 16:11 as our guide, we can pray, “Father, thank you that Your will for us is JOY. Thank you that You want us to experience fun in our homeschool and in our life. Thank you that we don’t have to settle for boring and dull, but that You love for us to enjoy Your work and Your creation. Lord, the fruit of Your Spirit is joy. Fill us with Your Spirit and help us to abide there, so that our joy might be complete in You. Fill us with joy in Your presence.”

Aren’t we grateful that we serve a God who is a source of joy? Let’s have fun in our home schools this year, friends!

If you missed days 1-4 of this series, you can go back and read about praying about wisdom, unity, attack, and health. If you’d like to ready other 5 Days Hopscotch posts on iHomeschoolNetwork.com, please click here.

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Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool: Health

5 Days of Praying for Your Homeschool

We all have preconceived ideas about what our homes will be like when we homeschool. One of my faulty lines of thinking was that since we weren’t around hundreds of school children everyday, we’d avoid most of the sicknesses that blaze through schools. Ha! Little did I know that we’d pick up every germ, bug, and virus that came along in the first couple of years. I’ll admit, it was pretty disheartening to catch every little illness. We felt like we couldn’t establish a regular routine in our homeschool, because we were constantly having to take a few days off. But as I began to pray for our health and safety, it seemed that we’d go longer and longer between illnesses. We were finally able to establish a daily routine for our homeschool. It felt really good to be in our groove.

The Lord is gracious and longs to give good gifts like health to His children. Does that mean that we can always avoid sickness? No. Does it mean that if a family experiences a lot of illness, they aren’t praying about their wellness enough? Absolutely not. God is sovereign and He alone chooses how He acts. However, often times the Enemy of our soul wants us to believe that sickness has to be commonplace. He wants us to believe that our prayers for health are ineffective. Can I encourage you today to use Psalm 91 and Isaiah 53 as guides as you pray in power for the health and safety of your family? “Precious Lord, how grateful we are that You love us enough to care about our health. You want us to prosper and be in good health, according to Your word. You were pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. The punishment You took for us brought us peace, and by Your wounds WE ARE HEALED. Lord, You alone are our refuge and our fortress, and we trust in You. You save us from the fowler’s snare and from deadly pestilence. You cover us with Your feathers. Though a thousand may fall at our side, ten thousand at our right hand, no disaster will befall us. Thank you, Lord, for Your strong watch care over our bodies. Thank you that Your word is more powerful than the tricks of the Enemy. Grant us continued good health that we may serve You in our homeschool and in life.”

Aren’t you glad that we serve a God who is stronger than germs and more powerful than viruses? He maintains our good health, and we owe Him a debt of gratitude for it.

If you’re new to this series, you can click through to our posts about wisdom, unity, and attacks from the Enemy.

If you’d like to take a look at the other 5 Days Hopscotch series, please click here.

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Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool: Attack

5 Days of Praying for Your Homeschool

Welcome back to Five Days of Praying for Your Homeschool. In day 1 we discovered how to ask for God’s wisdom as we make decisions about educating our children. In day 2 we discussed having unity in our homes, both among our children and with our spouse in the area of homeschooling. Today we’ll look at how to cover our home schools in prayer when Satan tries to attack.

Anytime we are walking in the ways of God, the Enemy wants to throw us off. He will try to use confusion, insecurity, defeat, distraction, and all kinds of other methods to get our eyes off of God’s call. Our home schools are no exception. Satan will attack our home schools just as he attacks any other good plan of God in our lives. And while God has given us the tools to defeat Satan, he does still wage war against us and we do have to fight him off. We can use Ephesians 6:11-17 to pray against the attacks the Enemy will form against us in the area of our home schools. “Father, we choose this day to put on the full armor You have given us to take our stand against the attacks of Satan. You have given us power over him, and we wield that power against his plans for destruction. We know we don’t war against each other, but against the plans he has schemed against us. We put on the belt of Your truth, knowing that it is the ONLY truth. We do not believe the father of lies who tells us that we cannot live up to Your calling. We put on the breastplate of righteousness. We know that because of our sin, we are unrighteous. But because of the blood of Jesus Christ shed for us, we take on His righteousness. We stand before you wearing his atonement, substituting His death for our punishment, knowing full well that He now holds our hearts. Lord, we shod our feet with the readiness of the gospel of peace. You have anointed us to use every situation to spread the reconciling peace of Your gospel with everyone, in our homeschool and beyond. Jesus, our faith is in You. This includes the faith that You have the power and the authority to redeem us. We take up the shield of that faith to extinguish the fiery darts of the evil one. Our authority to fight against him comes from You, and in Your Name we command him to flee from our home. We put on the helmet of salvation. Your salvation covers us today as we fight the Enemy. And lastly, we keep our sword of the Spirit ready, the Word of God. We have studied it and stored it up in our hearts. Call it to mind today as we use it to fight against the attacks and lies of the Deceiver. Help us to trust what You say in Your word more than what the Enemy tries to convince us of. Lord, having done all this, we stand. We stand against evil because we stand with YOU.”

When we expect attacks from Satan on our homeschool, we will see them clearly and be able to address them quickly through prayer. Those days that we are consumed by doubt, fear, and insecurity, we can quickly turn to God and put on our full armor to stand against the Enemy.

To see more 5 Day Hopscotch posts, please click here.

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