A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet

I was tickled when I came home last night after a day full ‘o the cray-cray and discovered a package waiting for me. Is there anything more thrilling than receiving a package you weren’t expecting? Just as soon as I could get the girls settled into baths and bedtime snacks, I carefully tore into the box to see what kind of surprise was inside.



It was my friend Sophie’s new book.

I might have squealed a little in delight.

You all might know Sophie better by her blog name, BooMama. She writes all sorts of goodies about life in the south, life in a family, and life in the Lord. She is hilarious to the core. She will make you howl with laughter and then spin you right into Truth so fast you never saw it coming. But you’ll be nodding your head in agreement just the same. She’s just a gem of a writer.

You know what makes Sophie’s book so fun to read? Her people are my people. She writes the words I’d say about my people if I could. And in a world where the south is presented in the media as uneducated and backward, Sophie celebrates the wonderful treasures we have below the Mason-Dixon line – humor, family values, rich traditions, and good food. If you’d like a sample, you can read the first chapter here.

While Sophie’s book won’t hit the shelves in your local bookstores until June 4th, you can pre-order a copy (or 12) of A Little Salty to Cut the Sweet: Southern Stories of Faith, Family, and Fifteen Pounds of Bacon on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Books-A-Million. Y’all order one for your mama for Mother’s Day!!

Cranberry Apple Crumble


My husband’s grandmother was one of his favorite people in the world. “B” (as he called her) passed away when we’d been married only six months, and I have often wished I’d had more time with her. She was a grand southern cook, and making food for her family was her love language. This recipe was hand-written by her many years ago, after she’d received it from a friend. I know she referred back to it many times as she made this dish for family dinners at her house. She served it at Sunday lunch as well as lots of holiday dinners. She served it to her family as a side dish, but it would also be wonderful as a dessert, especially with a side of good vanilla ice cream. Not only do I love this dish that was one of her specialties, but it makes me happy to be able to follow the recipe written in her writing. So special!


So, here’s what you’ll need for B’s Cranberry Apple Crumble:

2 cups cranberries, washed and stems removed
3 cups sliced apples
1 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt

For the topping:
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, softened
1 cup quick oatmeal

Mix apples and cranberries together in large bowl. Sprinkle lemon juice over and stir. Add sugar and salt and stir to cover fruit. Fruit will be almost too pretty to eat!


Place fruit into a 9″x13″ casserole dish sprayed with baking spray. In a separate bowl, mix together the ingredients for the topping. When mixed well, it should be crumbly.


Sprinkle it over the top of the fruit mixture.


Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.

I will be making Cranberry Apple Crumble for our annual Mother’s Day lunch this week. I hope your family loves it as much as we do and that it brings you many happy memories, too!

If you like this recipe, please check out our other dishes in our Recipe Index.

Cranberry Apple Crumble from TheHillHangout.com

Friendships: Changing with the Seasons of Life

build em up composite_2

God has given us so many blessing in this life. One of the biggest, in my opinion, is that of true friendships. I have been fortunate enough to have some really great girlfriends in my time, and they have been a source of fun, inspiration, encouragement, and accountability. Each friend brings their own unique perspective and gifts to a relationship, and together they make up a fabulous support system and root system for me.

One of the things I have discovered about friendship is that it changes over the seasons of life. As a child, the main purpose of friendships was entertainment. I needed someone to play with, make-believe with, be girly with, and have fun with. As I grew into a teen, my friendships began to take on deeper meaning. While my girlfriends were still a constant source of laughter and fun, they also held me accountable for making godly choices. They became the curbs on the side of the road, keeping me on the straight and narrow path. Some of the friendships I formed in those years are still going strong today. It’s good to have friends that have known you 25+ years! It keeps you grounded. There is always someone who knows an embarrassing story about you 😉


These are some of my nearest and dearest at our high school reunion a couple of years ago. It’s so nice that though we have gone different ways in life, they are still friends I admire and enjoy hanging out with. Instead of teenagers looking for weekend fun, we are now educators, ministers, fitness coaches, homeschooling moms, architects, and writers. Instead of talking about boys, movies, the beach, and homework, we talk about our children, husbands, careers, and callings in life. And we still like to hang out on the beach. Some things, fortunately, never change 🙂


When children came along, most of my friends were the moms of their friends. Instead of hanging out with people who were all my age, my friends suddenly became people whose children were the same ages as mine. This was an interesting time because I really expanded my circle of friends when my girls came along. I became friends with other moms who I probably wouldn’t have connected with before. Our ages didn’t seem to matter as much as the stages in our children’s lives. In many cases, we were friends because they were friends. But even then, God provided ladies whom I loved and needed as a new mom. We were young and inexperienced, but we were young and inexperienced together. We were just figuring out how to be wives and mothers, and we had each other to talk through it all. We dealt with (and are still dealing with) aging parents, financial instability, the baby blues, career changes, marital problems, and questions about God. We read our way through scripture trying to figure it all out. We held onto that scripture and clung to it for dear life in some cases. We learned how deeply we needed each other and became grateful to the God who created friends. I loved our sense of community in those days.


Even though we don’t live close to them anymore, my Mississippi friends went through our marriage and the birth of our first daughter with me, so they will always hold a very special place in my heart. I’m grateful to regularly keep in touch with many of them.

Now that we’ve moved to Alabama and I have become a homeschooling mom and blog writer, I have new friends…


Just kidding.

Well, I’m kidding about being friends with The Pioneer Woman. I really do have a different set of friends now that I’m at a different place in my life. We have church friends, soccer friends, friends from our professional lives and various other groups. At this point in our lives, we have the most diverse group of friends we’ve ever had! And I LOVE it. I have friends who are younger than me, friends whose children are grown, friends who are involved in the same ministries we are, friends whose children I admire so I latch onto their parents’ advice, friends for whom we are mentors. My circle of friends has become, for me, such a beautiful display of the Body of Christ. Each one pours something different into my life, and I hope I do the same for them. As we are all so busy raising children, we simply do not have time for superfluous friendships. Friendships seem to be more purposeful and intentional. I find myself purposefully engaging more with people who share my same convictions and passions. Maybe I’m seeing that life really is short and that we don’t have much time to make an impact for God’s kingdom.

I am drawn to people who are making it happen.

People who are infusing light into dark places.

People who follow truth.

People who have urgency about reaching out to broken people.

And I desperately want to teach my girls to do the same. Some may call it controlling (whatever!), but I want to help my girls intentionally choose friends who share the same belief system our family does. I just feel that connecting with people who share your beliefs allows you to trust them for accountability, share with them in fun, and know how to handle life’s problem’s together. And my girls have been blessed with the same good fortune I have had. They have some AWESOME friends who have AWESOME parents!



I have prayed for my children since the day they were born that they would have godly friends who would provide fun, stability, accountability, roots, and memories for them. I know how much influence friends can have on each other, and I want that influence to be positive and used for good.

Good friends add so much depth and beauty to life! They add dimension and texture to our experiences. They come with their quirks and sensitivities and hilarities and laughter and they can turn a day around on a dime. It’s a big responsibility to be a friend. I’m so thankful for the ladies who have stepped up to the challenge with me and made such an impact on my life. I hope their mansion is next to mine in heaven!

What about you? What season are you in?

Painting, Painting, and More Painting

It’s been a while, friends, since I have had time to do any blog writing. On par with most springs, this year has proved to be extremely busy. The end-of-the-year programs, musicals, tournaments, practices, schoolwork, and such has hijacked our time and attention. I’m not complaining because we love the activity and the craziness, but it does mean that I have less time for writing. And to add to the madness, our furniture painting hobby seems to have turned into small side business. The girls and I are having a ball in our garage-turned-painting-studio everyday, and we all love the reward of having a bit of spending money with which to do fun things. My oldest has such an entrepreneurial spirit, that she has purchased several pieces and refinished them herself. She has sold all of her pieces so far, so she has earned quite a little nest egg for herself.

Here are a few of our most recent flips:

Green Dresser

Green Caneback Chairs

Gray Dresser

These were all painted with chalk paint and coated with wax. We loved how they turned out, and so did their new owners. I love helping people make their homes into spaces their families enjoy!

100 Dishes in Alabama: Doc’s Seafood

I was delighted to see Doc’s Seafood show up on the list of “100 Dishes to Eat In Alabama Before You Die.” Doc’s is a local seafood joint on Canal Road in Orange Beach. Since my parents’ house is just down the street, we eat at Doc’s every time we go visit them. Like, so much that I have their number saved in my phone so we can call when we get to Foley to place our order. It’s laid back and unpretentious – just like everything else in south Alabama. Feel free to go with wet hair, a cover-up and flip-flops. My kind of place and my kind of people.


There are several REALLY good seafood restaurants in the OB/GS area, but Doc’s always pleases. They carry expected items like fried shrimp, fried oysters, crab claws, and catfish. And it is all FABULOUS!


However, it’s their gumbo that garnered their spot on the List.

Now listen, gumbo has a rich tradition in the Mills family. My dad grew up in Mobile County, where gumbo is considered a way of life. And since my Grandaddy Mills made the best around, I learned to eat gumbo before I could walk. My grandparents eventually passed the torch onto my parents, they tweaked the process a little, and they still make gumbo better than any restaurant gumbo I’ve ever had. But back to Doc’s.

As far as restaurant gumbo goes, it’s good. In fact, it’s really, really good. Like the gumbo I grew up on, it’s stuffed full of seafood. They don’t skimp on the shrimp, and the base has a really good, deep flavor. It’s not the watered-down brothy stuff some restaurants try to pull off as gumbo. Doc’s serves the real deal.


Whether you want an oyster poboy, a bowl of gumbo, or the fried shrimp dinner, Doc’s will be sure to please. Y’all let me know if you try it out!

Practically Perfect Children’s Rooms

I’m always on the lookout for decorating inspiration for my children’s rooms. My girls spend a lot of time in their bedrooms and playroom, and I want their spaces to feel like happy, bright, creative, fun rooms for them. While I’m not really in the market for a total overhaul on their rooms, I do love some of these inspiration photos I found.

Traditional Kids by Aspen Architect Poss Architecture + Planning + Interior Design

100 Dishes in Alabama: Jim’s Restaurant

We are taking spring break this week, and the little ladies and I decided to spend our time at the beach with CC and Pop. Patti went down a day early with my mom, and MA and I set out on our road trip on Monday. She and I were excited about taking our time on the way down to stop at all the little spots that we usually pass up in our rush to finish our trip.


We made quite a few stops along the way, including a return visit to Prattville Pickers. Prattville Pickers is a fun place to browse aisles and aisles of antiques, knickknacks, jewelry, and more.

Prattville Pickers

Since we found ourselves in Prattville at lunch time, we turned to our 100 Dishes to Eat in Alabama Before You Die list for a lunch spot. Jim’s Restaurant is Prattville’s only entry on the list, so we decided to give them a try.



The menu at Jim’s is pretty simple. It’s definitely a “meat and three” kind of place. However, they are also well-known for their hamburgers.


I ordered the chopped sirloin, braised potatoes, cut string beans, and cole slaw. Little Bit ordered the same entree, but she opted for the black-eye peas and sweet potatoes.


The food was delicious, but we really enjoyed the service at Jim’s. The waitresses are friendly and know the regular customers by name. They identified us as travelers right away and asked about our trip and where we were from. And any waitress who reminds me of my Grandmother Calloway by declaring, “Y’all enjoy your dinner!” for a 1:00 meal has my heart.

While Prattville has lots of chain restaurant choices, with just a little drive off the beaten path you can enjoy a down-home place like Jim’s Restaurant.

Meatball Hoagies


We became friends with Mike and Lynne when we lived in Mississippi. Mike was in the navy, and he and his wife and their baby Elizabeth were stationed and the Meridian Naval Air Station. We met them at church, and they were so happy-go-lucky that we immediately became good friends. As can happen, Mike’s navy career eventually moved them away from Mississippi, but they are the kind of friends you never really fall out of friendship with. Though our paths don’t cross nearly as often as we’d like, we are always so happy too see emails from them or new pictures of their kiddos on Facebook (They have since added Emma and Grant to the family). Elizabeth is now a beautiful harpist, entrepreneur, and recently obtained her driver’s license. Emma is an equestrian who is in middle school. And Grant is the caboose of the family. We keep hoping that Mike will one day retire from navy life and move the family back to Mississippi again. One can hope, right?

Lynne mentioned one day that Mike’s mom was visiting and that she had made a batch of her well-known meatballs. They are a favorite around the Schnolis household, as evidenced by the fact that Grant had eaten his weight in them that day, leaving Mike to plead, “Save some for me!!!” Our family loves meatballs, so I asked Grandma Schnolis if she’d mind sharing the recipe with our family. She was gracious to not only share it with us, but to allow me to share it with you all as well.

Meatballs are quite a versatile food. Once you have a batch made, you can serve them lots of different ways, and they freeze well. We made up a double batch, I cooked about a third of them, and we froze the rest. I chose to make meatball hoagies with the ones I cooked, but you could also do spaghetti and meatballs, BBQ meatballs, or meatballs and noodles (a favorite that my husband’s grandmother used to make him when he was little).

For Grandma Schnolis’ Meatballs you’ll need:

1 1/2 to 2 lbs of ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 egg
2 slices bread soaked in about 1/2 cup milk
3/4 cups bread crumbs
1/2 to 3/4 cup dried parsley flakes
1 cup parmesan cheese
1 medium onion, diced small

Step one is to mix all the ingredients together. You an definitely do this by hand if you need your arm workout for the day. However, weaklings like me prefer to use a stand mixer. I literally threw it all in there and let it mix. When you have something that looks like this…


you are done. Now you’re ready to roll them into meatballs. I use my cookie scoop for this step so that all my meatballs are the same size. I’m a smidge OCD like that.


Lay them out on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray.


Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 20 minutes, turning once while baking.


I used a jar of spaghetti sauce for the meatball hoagies. Place your cooked meatballs in a skillet. Pour the spaghetti sauce over the meatballs and warm through.


I sliced two hoagie rolls and scooped out a little ditch for the meatballs. I placed the meatballs on one side and some sliced mozzarella cheese on the other. I ran it under a 500 degree broiler for about a minute or two just to melt the cheese and crisp the bread.


These sandwiches got rave reviews around here. My husband is a big fan and wants to have these again soon!

Don’t Blink!

Not sure how this little Bit…


got to be this big Bit…


but I wish someone would slow down time!

Clutter Jail

clutter jail

About a year ago, I had a come-to-Jesus meeting with my family about the clutter that was in every corner and on every surface of our home.

We’re homeschoolers, and that means we are home ALL DAY. You might think that would give us plenty of time to pick up clutter, but the reality is that it makes clutter worse. There are a thousand projects going on that we don’t want to put away because we are coming back to it. The kitchen is always cluttered with dishes from cooking three meals every day. And don’t even get me started on the books and papers that come with homeschooling.

And I don’t know about you, but clutter makes me cranky. I like order and organization. I found myself constantly raising my voice about the mess. Our home was not the peaceful, fun, comfortable, happy haven I wanted it to be

Y’all, something had to be done.

I turned to my BFF Pinterest for ideas on how to restore order without my having to nag. The idea of a clutter jail sounded like it was just the ticket. After instituting this idea for the last few months, I am happy to pass it on to you, as it has helped us tremendously.

Every day we do 5-10 minute clean-ups. These have helped tremendously to keep the clutter under control. They are short so that nobody gets overwhelmed by having to take on the whole clutter project at one time, and we can pick up a lot of clutter in 5 minutes. We try to do one of these during the day, one before J comes home from work, and one before bed. If anything is left out after bedtime, it goes into my clutter bucket, a Rubbermaid bin that I keep in my hall closet. If there are items left in my bedroom (a big no-no!! I HATE to step on Polly Pockets when I get up in the middle of the night!!) they go into the bucket. If bathroom counters are left messy, it all goes into the clutter bucket. I’ve even thought about instituting clutter for things that get left in my car.

The girls have to do chores around the house to earn their items back from clutter jail. Of course, the chores are age appropriate, but they also serve to help keep the house in order. It’s a double win for me: the clutter is out of the way and I get the dishwasher unloaded or a load of laundry folded or the floor swept. My girls have been known to do a quick chore to get their ballet shoes out of clutter jail as we wait in the car to take them to ballet. They have had to earn back their toothbrush before they can brush their teeth in the morning.

The thing I love most about this idea is that I don’t have to nag or be grumpy. I simply pick up the clutter, and into the bucket it goes. The girls know the rules, and they know to check the clutter bucket when they can’t find something. They routinely come to me and ask for chores to get something back from clutter jail. I get a chore done, and they get their toys back. Order is restored and everybody is happy, happy, happy.