25 Things

We discuss a lot of things around The Hill Hangout. As you and I meet in this space, we talk about recipes, our faith, homeschooling, relationships, things that make life easier. You are so kind to talk back to me in the comments so that this conversation isn’t too one-sided. Which has me thinking…

It’s been a LONG time since my 100 Things post. Since 100 things is way too much talking about myself, I’d love to shorten the list and then give you a chance to tell me a few things about YOU. I LOVE hearing about my readers! I LOVE being in community with all of you. I LOVE the fact that we all come from different parts of the world and different walks of life. We are definitely a diverse bunch! I’ll go first with my 25, and then you tell me about you in the comments. K?

1. I have been writing in this place since 2008. That’s crazy to me. In that time, my writing has changed, my family has changed, I have changed, my focus has changed. It’s good to look back and see growth.

2. In the last year, we have stepped up our involvement with two ministries that have become near and dear to us. Urban Purpose is a ministry to the homeless in Birmingham. I’ve been serving as a mentor for a lady who came to the ministry after she’d lost everything due to a heroin addiction. No, I have no training for this. I just try to listen and help guide her to people who can help. Freeset is a business that sells products made in India by women freed from sex trafficking. I handle their social media and travel with the team to conferences to sell merchandise. Both of these ministries do HUGE work! I’m so thankful to have a place of service with them.

3. I adore mom and pop businesses. I guess that stems from my days as a small business owner, but I feel such a connection with people who are out there everyday doing their thing to support their families. If we can eat at a local restaurant, buy from a local boutique, or take lessons from a locally-owned studio, we are happy.

4. We are still homeschooling our girls. MA is now in 6th grade, and Patterson is in kindergarten. Homeschooling remains one of the greatest joys in my life.

5. If you can’t find me at home, chances are I’m either at church or at the soccer field.

6. Despite my love for great literature, I don’t think I’ve read a single book this year. Umm, what’s up with that?

7. I’d rather be outside than inside any day.

8. My favorite comfort food is chicken pot pie.

9. My favorite color is green. In any shade.

10. Eating sugar makes me feel terrible.

11. I’m not really a concert gal.

12. I’m not really a movie gal either.

13. My favorite apple is the granny smith.

14. I have never broken a bone.

15. Push Pops and grape Kool-Aid still remind me of my preschool class. One whiff of either, and I can go right back to the lunchroom in my mind, even though it’s been 38 years.

16. I’d take dinner with a few close friends over a large event any day.

17. I have HUGE respect for people who risk it all to pursue their dreams. That takes so much courage.

18. I didn’t discover how much I like writing until I was in my forties. And now I can’t get enough of it.

19. I have had taking a photography class on my bucket list for decades. I still haven’t gotten around to it.

20. I’ve always had an affection for Spanish architecture.

21. I’m not afraid to take fashion risks. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. If that happens, it doesn’t bother me much.

22. I could eat Mexican food everyday of my life.

23. I wish I knew hot to play the guitar.

24. I love Broadway musicals.

25. I’m not very good with an umbrella or raincoat. I’d rather just get wet.

It’s your turn! What do you have to share?

Back to School Prayers

It’s back-to-school time around here. We started our homeschool year this week, and many of our public and private school friends are beginning again this week. Back-to-school time can be just as busy or even more so for parents as it is for children. As moms, one of the best ways we can serve our children during this time is by praying for them. Whether your children are excited or fearful, unsure or confident, a good student or one who struggles, your prayers can make a world of difference for them. As always, praying God’s word over them is a powerful and effective way of standing against the work of the Enemy in their lives. Here are a few back to school prayers straight from scripture to help guide you as you lift your children before the Lord:

alt="back to school prayers"

Philippians 4:6-7 – Lord, I pray that my children will not be anxious for anything as they go back to school. Call them to Yourself in prayer so that they will submit their requests to You with thanksgiving. Grant them Your peace in their hearts and minds in such great measure that they are blown away.

Colossians 3:23 – Father, help my children to understand that whatever work they do is not to please teachers or even to please their parents, but it is ultimately to please You, their Heavenly Father. They work for You and not for anyone else.

2 Corinthians 12:9 – Lord, grant that my children may rest in the fact that Your grace is sufficient to carry them through whatever comes their way. When challenges arise that are too much for them, You are carrying them by Your great strength.

Philippians 4:8 – Jesus, when we compare ourselves to others, it is easy to focus on ways we don’t measure up instead of focusing on what You have made us to be. In those moments, remind my children to focus on what is true, what is noble, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and of good report. Lord, if there is anything good or praiseworthy, help her to meditate on those things.

Isaiah 43:2 – Lord, school can be overwhelming. Turn my children’s attention to the fact that when they pass through the waters, You are with them. When they go through rivers, they will not be overtaken. When they must walk through fire, You will be with them and will protect them from being scorched.

Isaiah 54:17 – Father, the Enemy is always on the hunt to harm us. I speak Your word over my child that says no weapon formed against them shall prosper and every tongue that rises against them in judgement shall be condemned. It is their heritage as Your servants and Your righteousness will protect them.

Matthew 5:9 – Jesus, Your teach us that those who make peace in troublesome situations will be called Your sons. May my children be instruments of Your peace in situations full of strife and arguing.

Psalm 133:1 – Lord, according to Your word, it is good and pleasant when Your children live together in unity. Father, give them godly friends at school with whom they are united. Provide friends who share the same beliefs and interests so that they will have strength in numbers to stand against the schemes and temptations of the Enemy.

Matthew 5:6 – Jesus, You teach us that You will bless those who hunger and thirst for righteousness. In this world there are many distractions that my children could follow. PLace in them such a hunger and thirst for Your ways that they aren’t interested in the ways of the world. Consume their thoughts, hearts, and minds with Yourself that they might be filled with You.

Proverbs 1:5 – Father, Your word tells us that a wise man will hear and increase learning and that a man of understanding will attain wise counsel. Lord, give my children godly teachers who can provide wise counsel and inspire them to search after learning. And one they have learned, give them understanding in how to apply what they know. Make them wise.

Matthew 12:35 – Jesus, You tell us that a good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, while an evil man out of the evil in his heart brings forth evil things. I have tried to store up good in my child’s heart. Help them to be ministers of good so that they reap goodness from others. Quickly show them ways in which they might be sowing evil so that they can correct their ways. Give them wisdom in dealing with other children whose ways aren’t full of goodness.

Romans 12:2 – Father, this world is not our final home. Help my children not to be conformed to this world. Help them to set their minds on the fact that we live this life for a greater purpose than entertaining ourselves. Grant that they could be so gospel-minded that they aren’t swayed by the ways of the ungodly, but that they would always live with a crystal clear focus on winning this world to Your kingdom.

Precious readers, I stand in agreement with you in prayer that God wants GOOD for your children. He created them for the purpose of loving Him and serving His people. I pray with you that they would follow Him all of their days and in so doing find protection, joy, peace, and life.

Back to School Prayers

Orange Beach Sunsets

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We’ve been a little quiet around The Hill Hangout this week. Three-quarters of us are in Orange Beach for one last hoorah before we start school in a couple of weeks. I haven’t spent much time writing, as I’ve chosen to spend it at the pool and the pier and doing whatever else my girls want to do. They’ve played baby dolls and drawn pictures, and I’ve sat in the rocker or the porch swing. Orange Beach is a good place for doing things like that. A nice break, indeed.

We’ll see y’all later on to catch up.

The Best Homemade Ant Killer

Boy, have we had some rain this summer in Alabama, and it has brought with it an infestation of ants. While ants aren’t exactly the germiest of insects, they are still gross to find in your home, especially in any quantity. We have always struggled with ants in our mailbox, but a few weeks ago they showed up in my kitchen. Ants can be extremely difficult because any little trace of food will draw them in. And try as we might, it’s just hard to keep every crumb of food off of kitchen counters. I could trace that these ants were coming from a light switch near my kitchen sink. I tried several different brands of ant sprays, and they all worked at the moment, but the ants always returned within a few hours or even minutes. I needed to bring in the big guns: I needed the best homemade ant killer I could find!

After a little research, I came across a homemade ant killer using ingredients that I had on-hand, so I gave it a try. It worked like a charm! In fact, not only did the ants go away after several days, but they have not returned. This week has been a good test, as we have again had several stormy days in a row, but the ants are nowhere to be seen. Yea!

alt=ant killer

The toxic mixture is a combination of Borax, sugar, and water. I use 20MuleTeam Borax, but any brand will do. Mix together about 3 tablespoons of Borax with about 1/2 cup sugar. Mix well before adding the water. When dry ingredients are well blended, begin adding the water while stirring so as to avoid clumping. The ingredients will dissolve leaving you with a water-looking mixture. **This mixture is not to be ingested by humans or pets. Please be sure not to leave it out so that children or beloved animals can drink it!!**

Borax is the key ingredient which will kill the ants. However, ants won’t be attracted to straight Borax, so mixing it with a little sugar will draw them in. The combination will not kill them upon contact (at least not all of them), and you want them to return to their nest in order to kill them at their source. I placed the ant killer on a small dish just below the light switch where they were coming in. Almost immediately, several ants were attracted to the dish. Some didn’t make it out alive, but a few carried the mixture back to the nest. The next morning there were MANY ants on the dish (so gross!). As the day wore on, I noticed the number of ants shrinking drastically. By nightfall they were almost completely gone. By the next morning, there wasn’t an ant to be found and they haven’t returned since.

The last few days have brought more storms and perfect circumstances for the ants to return. Our ant killer is still holding strong, and the ants have not made a single appearance!

Spring Valley Beach

**Congratulations to our two winners – Gina Martin and Donna Montgomery Reid!! Ladies, I have sent each of you an email, so be on the lookout for it.**

On Saturday Jonathan and I loaded up the girls and headed to Blountsville, AL, to check out Spring Valley Beach Water Park. We’d heard some friends talking about it, so we looked it up on the internet. Though the pictures looked like it would be a lot of fun, we really didn’t know what to expect. As soon as we pulled up, we discovered that we were in for a really fun day.

Spring Valley Beach promotes a family atmosphere, and I think they deliver that quite well. We were able to park easily and find a spot near the pool for our picnic blanket. The girls wanted to hit the pool right away, and who could blame them?


The pool is HUGE – two acres, in fact! It was Patterson’s favorite spot in the whole park, as it has lots of shallower areas for little swimmers. In fact, it a beach entry pool, so people brought their beach chairs and pulled them right into the edge of the water.

One of the most attractive things about Spring Valley is how they really try to accommodate guests, while keeping the park very safe. While lifeguards are numerous and carefully watch the crowd and enforce the swimming rules, they allow guests to bring in coolers, grills, flotation devices, beach chairs, and almost anything else that wouldn’t interfere with the other guests (no alcohol or radios). They really try to make it fun for their customers! In fact, they have fabulous pavilioned areas that guests can reserve for the day.


How much fun would it be to bring a group and stay the day? We actually ran into some of our church friends there and discussed how much fun it would be to bring our Sunday school class here as a group. It would be really fun for an end of the year party for a soccer, baseball, or softball team. And birthday parties would be a blast at Spring Valley. There were lots of groups having family reunions as well.

Not only do they make it fun for big kids, but they have a fabulous splash park at one end of the pool just for smaller kids. The water around this section is only around 12″ deep, and the playground/splash area is so much fun!


And if you need a little more thrill than the pool has to offer, they have several rides to choose from. Our whole family rode several of the water slides. They were fast, but even my little girl loved them. My big girl and I were the only ones brave enough to ride the 360 Rush. Y’all, you climb the stairs to the top so that you are about 40 feet in the air. Then you lie down in a capsule, and in a few seconds the bottom drops out, shooting you down the enclosed slide. You go so fast that when you get to the bottom, you go around and around the circular part.


I’m glad to say we did it once, but I think once was enough for me. It is super fun but super fast!

We never did work up the courage to try the Sidewinder. We’ll save that one for another day!


After the excitement of the mega rides, we ended the day by taking a few more turns on the pool slides. They had about 4 or 5 water slides that both of my girls rode over and over.


Spring Valley Beach is only about an hour north of Birmingham and about 50 miles from Huntsville. They are open 10:00-6:00 most summer days, but check the calendar on their website before you make the trip. We paid the extra $10 to park near the pool instead of the free parking area, and we thought it was well worth it. We went back to our car several times during the day and it was an easy trip. The pavilions are great ($25 fee), but many people brought their own tents and claimed a spot on the sidewalk or grass. We felt like our things were secure on our picnic blanket, but they do rent lockers if you want to store items. We wore flip flops that we didn’t mind getting wet so that we could have shoes to wear in the bathrooms and on the pavement while walking among the different slides.

The super nice folks at Spring Valley Beach have been gracious enough to give us TWO pairs of tickets to give away. You can enter several ways. The giveaway will stay open a week, and next Monday we will randomly select two winners, who will each receive a pair of day passes. Fun, right?

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Spring Valley Beach sent our family passes so that we could visit the park to write this review. All opinions are, as always, my own. I really do think you’ll like Spring Valley Beach as much as we did.

Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen

Look what is finally making it’s way to kitchens all over America!!! Miss Kay’s Duck Commander Kitchen will be out in a few months. If your family are fans of Duck Dynasty, you will enjoy having Miss Kay’s recipes that she cooks for the Robertson clan. Many of these recipes are the ones she discusses on the show and that you see them eating for dinner at the show’s closing.

I’ve been waiting on Miss Kay to write a cookbook, and it looks like this is going to be a great one! You can pre-order now for shipment in November by clicking on the picture above (it’s my Amazon affiliate link). Don’t wait to order because they DO sell out. This will ship just in time for Christmas!! I can’t wait to get mine!

The Birmingham Food Scene

Birmingham Food Scene


As a kid growing up in Birmingham in the 70s and 80s, the food scene looked vastly different than it does today. Sure, I remember eating at Red Lobster, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell a good bit, but the selection of fabulous local restaurants just wasn’t what it is now. In recent years, Birmingham has emerged on the food scene with nationally recognized chefs like Frank Stitt and Chris Hastings and has become a destination for foodies.

This summer I will have the pleasure of introducing you to some of the best local food that our fair city has to offer. No doubt, this will be one of my favorite series I’ve ever attempted. You all know how much I like to eat. I hope you’ll join me in enjoying the culinary delights that can be found in and around Birmingham. Tomorrow we will begin our journey with a local bakery making a name for itself around town. We might even have a giveaway that is sure to please the sweet tooth. Y’all come back.

Giveaway: A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet

Just in case I haven’t convinced you to BUY your own copy of A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet by talking about it here or here, I am giving away a copy. And this is not just any copy of the book, this one will be signed by Sophie Hudson herself! Can you even believe it?

There are a few ways to enter, as you can see by the handy Rafflecopter doodly-doo below. Giveaway will open on Thursday and close on Saturday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Perhaps you aren’t the giveaway-entering type and just want to go ahead and purchase a copy. You may click on this picture for a Kindle copy:

or you may click on this picture for the paperback:

(Those are Amazon affiliates links, by the way. If enough of you buy a book, maybe I can take Sophie to lunch and let her know how much you enjoyed reading, mkay?)

50 Questions to Prompt Bedtime Discussion with Your Children

Bedtime Graphic

Bedtime is a pretty sacred time in our house. Though it usually comes way too late for my girls, I still try to make time to talk to them about their day. For whatever reason, they are usually more willing to discuss what’s going on in their world after the lights are off and they are snuggled in their bed. Maybe it’s a gimmick to stay up a little longer? Perhaps. But I’ll gladly allow it in order to really hear what’s going on in their hearts and minds. And it’s a great time to speak love and the truth of God’s word into their hearts. As they discuss events of the day, I weave scripture or examples from the Bible into my responses. We have all learned so much about how relevant and infallible God’s word is.

Nothing makes my heart melt more than to tuck my big girl into bed at night and have her say, “Mom, stay with me so we can talk a little while.” She doesn’t always have a topic she wants to discuss or a situation she wants to talk through. It’s usually the time and attention she is seeking. It’s the connection to me and to Jesus that her heart is hungry for. And since I receive so much more from these quiet times than my children do, I’m always happy to oblige.

This precious time doesn’t come without a little direction in what we discuss. My girls can definitely get caught up telling me every detail of a TV show they’ve watched or repeating line by line a scene from a movie. Unless there is hope for a teachable moment there, I usually redirect the discussion to something that has more spiritual value. I’m always on the lookout for new topics for bedtime discussion or prompting questions that will lead us to talk about the goodness of God in a new way.

Here are a few bedtime discussion starters for us to use as we tuck these precious gifts from God into bed each night. Some are serious, some are funny, some are creative, but they are all designed to help you dig deeper into your child’s mind. I hope they will lead you to many discussions with your children about their thoughts, their hearts, their feelings, and their walk with God.

1. What happened today that you are grateful for?
2. What did you do to help someone today?
3. Who helped you today?
4. What makes you feel angry?
5. What do you like to do with your cousins?
6. Whom do you need to forgive before you go to sleep?
7. What is the best thing about your friend ____________? (Choose a specific friend or family member.)
8. If you could change anything about Mommy, what would it be? (And don’t be defensive when they answer. Discuss it lovingly!)
9. What do you like best about yourself?
10. Who is your favorite person in the Bible and why?
11. Who is one person at church that you learn a lot from?
12. What is your idea of a fun afternoon?
13. What are three good things about a rainy day?
14. If you could be a super hero for a day, which super power would you choose?
15. What would it be like to live in a place where everyone was the same?
16. How do you feel when you do a good job on something?
17. What is something you do that takes courage?
18. Why do we go to church?
19. What makes you feel giggly?
20. What is one kind thing someone said to you today?
21. What is the funniest thing that happened today?
22. Is everything okay in your heart?
23. What is your favorite (insert color) thing that God created?
24. What would it be like if God created the world without color?
25. Who is someone you look up to? Why?
26. What is something you are really good at?
27. How would you describe your family to someone who has never met us?
28. What do you like to do with your grandparents?
29. Which three friends are you most thankful for?
30. If you could change anything about our house, what would it be?
31. What is your favorite and least favorite chore?
32. Name three places you would like to travel to someday.
33. What makes a person successful? Are you successful?
34. Tell me five people who will always love you.
35. Is there anything that happened today that you’d do differently if you could?
36. What are some ways you are like your siblings? In what ways are you different?
37. Who needs your encouragement tomorrow?
38. What do you think people in (name another country) are doing right now?
39. What would you like to dream about tonight?
40. What is it like to be an adult? What do you think your life will be like when you are an adult?
41. If you could be a character in any book (or movie or TV show), which one would it be?
42. What is one thing you wish you could do well?
43. Who is one person you’d like to be better friends with?
44. Have you ever lost anything hat you looked really hard to find?
45. If you could learn to speak a new language, which would it be and why?
46. What are the best things about Daddy?
47. If you could heal anyone, who would it be and why?
48. What is one miracle you would ask God for?
49. Which neighbors do you think need our prayers and/or help? How can we minister to them?
50. How can I pray for your day tomorrow?

I pray that these discussion prompts will lead to many wonderful talks with your children. I pray that they lead your children to be grateful, brave, kind, and full of joy.

Do you have ideas for other questions we can ask our children? Click on the “leave a comment” tab at the top of this post so that the Hill Hangout community can be inspired by what you have to say.

10 MORE Summer Art Projects


One of my most popular posts of all time here on The Hill hangout was called “Summer Art Projects.” Who knew that so many parents look online for inspiring art projects for their children? After I participated in a chat yesterday focused on incorporating art and creativity into your homeschool day, I was challenged anew to give my girls more time, space, and resources to create. Littles have such an artistic imagination and they need more freedom to let it run wild! After all, God is the master creator, and we are created in HIS image. He has gifted each of us with the ability to create unique things, if only we will take the time to develop the spark.

So to get your artistic wheels spinning, here are 10 MORE summer art projects you and your kids can enjoy:


1. Kathy at Art Projects for Kids introduces us to self-portraits in the style of James Rizzi. My girls had never done a raised image like this before, so it was a new, fun concept. Here is how Pitty Pat’s turned out:


Obviously, we used different media than Kathy recommended, but it’s what we had on hand and since art is free expression anyway, we went with it 🙂 While we created, we talked about how God made us each with unique qualities, but that we are all made in His image.

2. Gah! Do we love Georgia O’Keefe’s flower paintings, or what?!? Deep Space Sparkle used Georgia’s inspiration to create these flower masterpieces using construction paper, oil pastels, watercolors, and patterned (scrapbook) paper. This would also be fun using painted paper. As you cut and paste, you can discuss Matthew 6 where Jesus tells us not to worry about what we have. God makes the flowers beautifully clothed and gives them the food they need. Won’t He much more care for us, His beautiful creation?


3. We’ve talked about doodling our memory verses before. I adore a project that kills two birds with one stone, and this one definitely fits the bill. The girls think of it as a fun art project, but what they don’t realize is that at the same time they are committing God’s word to memory. Creativity AND hiding His word in their hearts – my kind of project!


4. Blow painting is fun and can be executed in a variety of ways. All you need is watered down acrylic or tempra paint in several colors, a few straws, a medicine dropper, and water color paper. Here’s an example from Kabubble:


Simply use the medicine dropper to add a few drops of paint to the paper. Use the straw to blow the paint around in all directions. You can put paper in a cookie sheet to keep the mess to a minimum.

This is also a great project to do with a crowd. We did this one in VBS last summer. The message was that no matter which way life blows you, God is making you into His beautiful masterpiece.

5. The inspiration for drawing fireworks came from Art Projects for Kids. Can you tell she’s one of my favorite online sources for art ideas? Kathy is an art teacher and has developed hundreds of art lessons, many of which she shares at her site. This project was fun because BOTH of my girls could do it well. No frustration that big sister’s piece looked better than little sister’s 🙂


6. An easy, fun outdoor project is a Chalk Self Portrait (aka Dead Body Outline). All you need for this project is a bucket of chalk and a sidewalk or driveway. The girls lay down on the driveway, and I outlined them in chalk.


Then I gave them free reign to decorate themselves any way they’d like. Again, we discussed that God made us all with the qualities He chose for us. We have so many things to love about ourselves and thank Him for, because He created us just the way He wants us.

Chalk Portraits

7. Kandinsky was a Russian abstract artist known for his concentric circle paintings. Our friend Kathy once again gave us great inspiration for using Kandinsky’s ideas to create a piece of our own.

Kandinsky Trees

We were short on time the day we created these, so they could have used a few more “leaves”, but I was happy that both of my girls worked together happily on this project. Big sister cut out the tree trunk, and little sister cut her own circles. This would be a fun project to adapt for a science lesson on how leaves change with the seasons. And since everything we teach should be God-centric, you can build on God as the organizer of time and changer of seasons: “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” (Daniel 2:21)

8. Artsonia is another great online source for art ideas. It is an online museum of children’s artwork. You can spend hours looking through pieces that have been submitted. We loved the paper cutting projects like this horse:


All you’d need are scissors, paper, and scraps of random materials. What a fun way to use up all your left-over art supplies and show kids that God is knitting together the random parts of our lives into a beautiful creation that He can use.

9. Print-making projects are a little more involved and require a few special items to create, but they can also be a lasting treasure. Fine Lines has done a great tutorial on how to use styrofoam plates to create beautiful prints.

We did these in VBS a couple of years ago, and I was so touched by how much care the kids took with their pieces. We were discussing how time-consuming it is for missionaries to translate the Bible into other languages. We demonstrated by having the kids write a Bible verse onto a piece of styrofoam backward (because words have to be written in mirror-image to print correctly.) It was difficult for them, but they persevered. It taught them how painstaking it is to translate something, and how grateful we are to have easy access to God’s Word. My daughter’s print hangs in my kitchen.


10. Summer is a fabulous time for extended art projects like these papier mache Greek Urns from Art Lessons for Kids (different site than Art Projects for Kids).


We will be studying Greek history in the fall, so we will definitely be making these. They give an in-depth tutorial on supplies and instructions. This will be a fun outside project, as it will be messy and the Alabama summer sun will help the papier mache and the paint to dry faster.

Do you have a favorite website for art ideas? A Pinterest board of great art projects you’ve pinned? Posts on your own blog of great pieces your kiddos have completed? Leave a link in the comments so we can all check them out!