InstaFriday (Or InstaSaturday, As It Were)

It’s been a few weeks since I joined InstaFriday at Life Rearranged, so today is a good day to get caught up. We’ve had a busy few weeks with Christmas and New Year’s and often the only camera handy was my iPhone. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that my sweet husband upgraded my iPhone for Christmas and the new one takes much better pictures than my old one. If you’re keeping score, that’s a Kitchen-Aid mixer and a new iPhone. He did really well this year surprising me with gifts I would never buy for myself. He’s sweet like that!

Anyhoo, back to InstaFriday. Here are the past couple of weeks iPhone-style:

We ate and we ate well during the holidays. I baked more sweets in the month of December than I did in January through November. I tried almost every Pinterest recipe that I had pinned. It was a little (ahem) excessive. We knew we had to cut back. But as one last meal before we got back on the wagon, we went to Hamburger Heaven for a burger and fries. Like, the best burger and fries ever!

And now I’m back to these:

Not that I’m really complaining because I have thoroughly enjoyed some fresh Brussels sprouts lately. These were roasted with some olive oil, sea salt, and fresh black pepper. I had them three nights in a row for dinner.

J and I weren’t the only ones whose eating habits slipped during the holidays. My children got away with a few too many sweets, and we’ve had a bit of an adjustment getting them back on track. They are usually more willing to eat healthy food if they helped prepare it, so they’ve chosen several dishes out of their favorite cookbook by Rachel Ray: Cooking Rocks!

For New Year’s Eve we went to one of our favorite parties of the year at our friend’s farm. We love NYE at Compton Farm so much because we get to visit with all of our Mississippi friends. For many of us, it’s the only time we see each other all year. Our children have a ball playing outside and shooting fireworks while the mommies stay inside the warm cabin and chat. It’s such a great time! These ladies are some of my favorite friends in the world!

Another favorite person in the world? This little girl. She turned ten years old this week, and I’m a little beside myself about it. She is a joy to her daddy and me and it is a real gift to be her mama. For her birthday dinner we took her to the Cheesecake Factory. Then she wanted to go to Barnes & Noble to choose a birthday gift. She’s a girl after my own heart!

life rearranged

100 Best Dishes in Alabama: Goal Post BBQ

My dear husband had to go to Anniston, Alabama the other night to do some business, so the girls and I decided to ride along and hit one of the spots on our “100 Dishes To Eat in Alabama Before You Die” list. Goal Post Barbecue is the quintessential Alabama hole-in-the-wall BBQ joint, and I loved every minute of our visit there.

I mean, really. Shouldn’t all southern BBQ joints look similar to this? These are the places that give Alabama its unique flavor and texture. They make me glad I live here. And I knew we’d enjoy it when we saw the smoke house out back, complete with a huge stack of firewood on the front porch. It made me want a smoke house in my back yard.

Anytime you can order straight from a menu that looks like this, you now the food will be good. In today’s economy, if the food isn’t good, the restaurant won’t stay in business. So when you see a joint that still has the original 70’s characteristics, you know they aren’t getting by on charm alone. They’ve gotta have the whole package – good food, good service, good price.

And the fact that I wanted to steal these bar stools for my new kitchen didn’t hurt their image with me one bit. (I know I still owe you a reveal of said kitchen. I’m getting to it!)

Goal Post earned their spot on the list with their BBQ, but the menu highlighted that the onion rings were homemade. Neither Jonathan or I have ever been one to pass up a good homemade onion ring, so we got an order for everyone to share. They got three thumbs up from the Hill Four. Baby sister was the only one not willing to give them a try. She didn’t know what she was missing!

Goal Post offers its BBQ in several different forms: chicken halves, ribs, and pulled pork. In the end, tradition won out and Jonathan and I both ordered the pork plate.

Mine came with baked beans and cole slaw, his with fried squash and potato salad. The meat was excellent. It was tender and smoky, but not too smoky. It was topped with their BBQ sauce, which leans to the thick, tomato-based, more vinegary side. Tart, and not very sweet. Y’all know I prefer a sweeter sauce, but I really enjoyed this one. The baked beans were a good, homemade, traditional baked bean. Again, not sweet at all. The coleslaw was good, but I’ll admit I added a package of sweetener because I like a sweeter coleslaw. The sweetener made it perfect for my taste. Jonathan reported that the potato salad “was okay” and the fried squash was fair. The BBQ is definitely the strong suit at Goal Post.

Have y’all tried Goal Post? Or any of the other dishes we’ve covered? Let us know! We’d love to hear from you!

Catching My Breath and Catching Up

So, I guess you can see by my absence from the online Hill Hangout, that life at the in-real-life Hill Hangout has been a little hectic. We are back in full swing with school and all of our fall activities are kicking off as well. We started school a couple of weeks ago. So far, this year has started off as our best year yet! Mary Anneliese is super-duper focused and taking the initiative to get her work done. I hardly have to motivate her at all.

Soccer practice is in full swing. We LOVE our new competitive team. The other girls are really sweet. The parents are fun and Jonathan and I have really had fun hanging out with them on the sidelines. Our coach is really laid-back and, while he definitely drills soccer technique, he also wants to teach the girls to love the game. We really couldn’t have asked or a better soccer experience. And that’s a VERY good thing. With three hour-and-a-half practices each week and games on Saturdays, we really needed to love everybody involved.

Patterson has started back to gymnastics. She has a new teacher this year, since her teacher from last year is now preggo with a sweet baby girl after trying for years to have a baby and finally adopting a little boy two years ago. Precious little Cooper is going to have a sweet baby sister, and we are so thrilled for Mrs. Jessa and her family.

Ballet starts next week, with MA going twice each week and Patti going once. I was thrilled that Patti was able to get into a class at Briarwood Ballet because we adore their ballet ministry. Mary Anneliese will have the privilege of being in Mrs. Barbara Barker’s class this year. Mrs. Barker (wife of Dr. Frank Barker, long-time pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church) founded the Briarwood Ballet many years ago, and it has been her “baby” for a long time. We are honored that she sees the importance of her ballet ministry to the younger classes, as well as the “big girl” travelling troupe.

Pitter Patter starts “church” next week. She has an aversion to “school” and does not want to go, but she loves church, so starting next week, she’ll be in “church” two days. She is excited and has told everyone that she gets to take a lunchbox and walk in by herself (from the carpool line). She feels like a big girl. Of course, she thinks MA and I will be at church, too, but we haven’t gotten around to letting her in on that little secret yet. Actually, we will be spending that time being very focused on schoolwork. I think it’s going to be a good fit for us all.

In other news, my parents were here last weekend. We had a great time with them. We celebrated our niece Lexi’s birthday with a fun little party at my brother’s house. Sunday morning, Mom and Dad packed up and left while we were at church. When we got home, my mother-in-law’s car was parked in front of our house. Since she lives in Mississippi and wasn’t supposed to be in town, I was totally confused. Jonathan sent me into the house while he switched around car seats for my girls to go to lunch with her. After they were on the road, he came in the house and told me to pack an overnight bag and load up. I had no idea what he was talking about because we didn’t have plans to go anywhere. Of course, he had to help me pack, because he wouldn’t tell me where we were going. He’s a sneaky one.

So after much ado, we ended up in Chattanooga at a Selah concert. Have I ever mentioned that they are my absolute favorite Christian group EVER? So yes, my husband and I spent the night in Chattanooga with the fine folks at Red Banks Baptist Church worshipping with Selah. We had an unbelievable time, and I was mucho impressed with his ability to pull off a surprise this big.

We ate at Fuji Sushi and The Acropolis, which were both excellent. Fuji is a hibachi/sushi place that was fun and really, really good. The Acropolis is a restaurant owned by a Greek family. Y’all, it was one of the best meals I’ve ever eaten. No kidding! And I’ve eaten a lot of good food. The spanakopita was homemade. It was papery flaky, and the spinach filling was to-die-for. The kalamata olives were fabulous, and the fresh feta on the salad was the best feta I’ve ever had, hands down. It was a fantastic ending to a really fun surprise trip.

And now I want to move to Greece and eat real kalamata olives and fresh feta with every meal.


Women of Faith: Session 3

Y’all, it’s only 9:52 and I am whipped!! After the emotional morning I have had, I feel like I need to take a nap. It’s not that the stories at this session have all been sad, but y’all, people go through some hard HARD stuff on this side of eternity. People can devote their entire lives to serving God faithfully, and still have to endure some of the hardest things you can imagine. But, BUT!!! We have heard story after story of God’s abundant peace and presence through it all.

Laura Story was first to the stage this morning. She is an absolute doll! She led us in “Mighty to Save,” and I thought Jesus might come back right then. You know, when we look at people like her with their successful careers, we can sometimes forget that they are real people just like us who have very real struggles and issues. Laura took a few minutes to tell us about her husband’s six-year struggle with a brain tumor. A year after they were married, Martin began to say some very strange things and forget things. He was diagnosed with a brain tumor and, while he is doing well now, he was left with some residual memory problems and vision impairments. But through it all God was so present with them, guiding and providing for them each step of the way. Life is HARD, and people deal with really difficult stuff. Out of that dependence on God came her song “Blessings”. She sang it, along with “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” after telling her story, and needless to say, I am a puddle.

And at the very end, she held up her Bible while she was talking about depending on God’s Word and y’all, it was held together with DUCT TAPE!! I can so relate to that! She is definitely my kind of people.

And then came Nicole Johnson. I didn’t really know much about her, except that she was does drama sketches. She is so hysterically funny! But, like Laura, she had some heavy stuff to discuss. A few years ago, while she was involved in ministry, she went through a devastating divorce. She felt that her life in ministry was over. However, after time and healing, she was able to see God putting the pieces back together. She married again and had two children. She continues her ministry with Women of Faith. Her message is that no matter what kind of mess we make of our lives, if we give God the broken pieces He will make something beautiful from it. She is one who truly dwells on the joy in life and not on the pain that sometimes comes along with it.

Listening to these two women’s stpries was such a good reminder that people deal with HARD stuff. It is sometimes easy to get frustrated by a never-ending laundry pile, floors that won’t stay clean, or the monotony of figuring out what’s for dinner. Again. But when you listen to other people’s struggles, it is all quickly put into perspective! My heart overflows with thanksgiving and gratitude!

Women of Faith: Session 2

I wish I had time to tell you all about the messages we’ve been hearing at Women of Faith Atlanta. I’ll have to wait to do that until I have more time to write. But I wanted to show you quickly what a darling worship team we’ve been privileged to hear from today.

Aren’t they just the cutest things you’ve ever seen?!? They look like they just stepped out of a fashion magazine. And they are worshipping their heart out with us. Worship and looking really cute – two things that go great together.

This is Jenifer Thigpen. She is a doll, and when she’s on stage she looks a lot like Cameron Diaz. Notice the pink jeans. I die. And she wore two different greys together. I could never pull that off in a million years!

Janice Gaines is precious and had on the most gorgeous chandelier earrings I’ve ever seen!

Laura Cooksey was rocking it in a really cue flowy top with wide belt. So very hip!

And this tiny thing is Allison Abbot. Allison is the skinniest thing I’ve ever seen… AND SHE JUST HAD A BABY!!!

Seriously, these women are fabulous and it’s evident that they love the Lord with all their hearts.

I’m off to session 3. Back later with more!

Women of Faith: Session 1

Y’all, this event is fabulous. Its incredibly well-run everything is organized and starts and ends on time. The opening worship time was incredible.

First up was Sheila Walsh. She has been one of my favorites for forever, so to hear from her right off the bat made my heart soar. She talked about the unwavering faith we can have in God’s promises. She said that we sometimes want to look at His promises as if He might not come through on them. Our faith has been clouded by the fact that people don’t always do what they say they’re going to do. We forget that He’s not a man that He should lie or a son of man that He should change His mind. His promises are yes and amen.

And then she sang.

Y’all, she sounds like an angel. Honestly, the angels in heaven can’t possibly sing more beautifully than her. And she sang Amazing Grace. Could it have been any more perfect? I don’t think so. I could have walked right out of the Phillips Arena right then and felt like the event was a success.

But then we got to hear from Steve Arterburn. When I had my bookstore in Meridian, we used to sell his books, but I’d never read any of them. Y’all, he’s really funny and full of truth. He’s talking about walls we put up that keep us from experiencing God’s kind of life for us. He will finish up in the next session, so I’ll wait to give you the whole message.

And to top it off, I had cheesy fries from Buckhead Diner for lunch. So good.

And Jonathan sent me a picture of the girls having a ball swimming in the mac-daddy pool at the hotel. Makes me be able to relax and have a good time.

Back with more later. The second session is about to start.

Women of Faith is THIS WEEKEND!!

Women of Faith Imagine

There is a bit of excitement running through this house this week. The Women of Faith event in Atlanta is this weekend, and I am beside myself with joy and anticipation. And so are my children and husband because they have decided to go along!! They, of course, won’t be attending the event with me, but they will go with me to Atlanta, stay in the hotel with me, and Jonathan will take them to do lots of fun things around Atlanta while I am in WOF. Or they will stay at the hotel and swim all day. Whatever.

I’m really excited that they are going because we love to explore new places as a family. And Atlanta has so much to offer young families! We will be on the hunt for some fabulous Atlanta eateries as well, so if you are an Atlantean, speak up! Let us know your favorite local joints. We love the OK Cafe and the Varsity, so anything like that will be fantastic. We’ve heard a lot about Gladys Knight’s chicken and waffles place. Anybody know if it’s good?

Anyhoo, I have my outfits planned, my notebook bought, my camera battery charged, and my agenda typed, so I’m ready to go. (Yes, I know. I have a sickness.)

Will you be attending a Women of Faith event this year? Or have you attended one in the past? I’d love to hear about it!

100 Dishes in Alabama: Stacey’s Old Tyme Soda Fountain

A few weeks ago when the girls and I were on our way to the beach for a few days, we stopped in Foley to try another dish from the “100 Dishes To Eat In Alabama Before You Die” list. Although we’ve driven by Stacey’s Rexall Drugs and Old Tyme Soda Fountain many times, we were waiting for the perfect occasion when we were really hungry. We knew the ice cream treats from Stacey’s would be heavenly!

Stacey’s is a throw-back to a bygone era. It’s been in business for around 90 years, and they have maintained so much of the original character of the place. Not only is it a fun place to visit, they also serve some really great food!

I love a place where you can order and eat at the lunch counter!

They have the menu on a huge chalk board. Nothing much ever changes, though. Can you see that a cup of coffee is still 10 cents and a single scoop ice cream cone (which is really about three scoops) is only $2.00? Have you been to a fro-yo place lately and paid $16.00 for three people to eat? Then you can fully appreciate a $2.00 cone with me!

The sweet little parlor tables and chairs may not be original, but they sure are in keeping with the theme of Stacey’s Old Tyme.

This awesome juke box plays only classic rock and roll music. While we were there, we heard “Blueberry Hill”, “Hound Dog”, and “I Fall to Pieces”. Great music!

This is what we came for! The key lime milkshake is the dish that garnered Stacey’s a place on the list. I’m sorry to say that they were out of lime ice cream the day we went, so I had a double chocolate crunch shake that was every bit as luscious as it sounds. It was handmade by a real-life soda jerk, although that name sounds a bit harsh for a cute high school girl who is saving tip money for college.

Stacey’s is a fun, family-friendly place. I can just imagine stopping by there on the way home from school for an afternoon snack. I you are on your way to Orange Beach or Gulf Shores, when you get to Foley, turn right on Laurel Avenue and Stacey’s will be in the next block on your left. It’s easy to find and quick to stop by. By the way, they are still in the pharmacy business as well.

I found this promo for Stacey’s from a rental company, and I thought you might like to see it…

Happy Birthday, Uncle Bo!

Yesterday was my little brother’s birthday, and for his big day he invited us to go to the lake with his family. How could we say no to a fun request like that? We drove up to Lake Neely Henry to enjoy our Sunday afternoon. Y’all I had no idea this place was so serene and beautiful.

I don’t know if my non-southern readers know this, but Alabama is HOT. And I don’t mean just a little bit hot. I mean really, really hot. Therefore, life in the water, whether it’s a pool or a lake or the ocean, is not only fun, but it’s almost a necessity! Many of our waterways get so crowded that skiing and tubing is simply not an option. However, Lake Neely Henry is still a well-kept secret. There were quite a few other boats, but we were able to ski, wakeboard, kneeboard, and tube to our hearts’ content. Since MA was able to go tubing at camp this summer, she eagerly jumped right on with my beautiful niece Ivy.

And wonder of wonders, little Patterson said she wanted to try it! She and I had a ball! With every wave and bump, she just cackled.

We love life on the lake!

I hate that I didn’t get a picture of my nephew Nick on the wakeboard. He’s just gotten it, and tried it out yesterday. Of course, he popped right up out of the water and on his second try, he had it under command. I was watching him while I was swimming, so I didn’t have my camera handy. Wish I’d been on the boat so I could’ve gotten some good shots. It was fun to watch.

Even though we live fairly close to my brother and his family, we don’t get to see them as often as we’d like, so it was a treat to get to spend the day on the water with them. Happy birthday, Uncle Bo!

Women of Faith – Atlanta

Several months ago, I applied to be an on-site blogger at the Women of Faith event going on in Atlanta in a few weeks. I’ve never done anything like this before, but it sounded like fun. I mean, I have such respect and adoration for Luci Swindoll, Angie Smith, Lisa Harper, and Sheila Walsh. And who wouldn’t want to worship with Mary Mary, Natalie Grant and Laura Story. So I emailed my application, along with a link to my blog for their review. I figured it was out of my league, so I really haven’t thought about it again. Until…

Look what came in the mail today!!! Okay, I know that’s quite possibly the worst photo I’ve ever put on this blog, but still. I was chosen!! They sent me tickets to the weekend, along with my instructions on how to cover the event. What!?!? Don’t they know I’m just a little bitty mommy blog? Shhh! Don’t tip them off, lest they revoke my tickets.

So in two weeks, I’ll be coming to you live from Atlanta. If you’d like to attend in person, you can order tickets here. The Atlanta event starts Friday, August 12. However, if Atlanta is a little too far for you to travel, they will also be holding events in Indianapolis, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Charlotte, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh, Tampa, St. Paul, Fort Lauderdale, Rochester NY, and Hartford CT. If you are going, I’d LOVE to know about it!!! If you have been to a Women of Faith event before, do you have any advice or words of wisdom we need to know?

I can’t wait to tell you all about what God is saying through these precious, dear ladies I will be spending the weekend with.

Women of Faith Imagine