The Wire

  • New tunnel, premium RV section at Talladega Superspeedway on schedule despite weather

    Excerpt:

    Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.

    Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.

    “The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.

  • Alabama workers built 1.6M engines in 2018 to add auto horsepower

    Excerpt:

    Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.

    Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.

    Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.

  • Groundbreaking on Alabama’s newest aerospace plant made possible through key partnerships

    Excerpt:

    Political and business leaders gathered for a groundbreaking at Alabama’s newest aerospace plant gave credit to the formation of the many key partnerships that made it possible.

    Governor Kay Ivey and several other federal, state and local officials attended the event which celebrated the construction of rocket engine builder Blue Origin’s facility in Huntsville.

2 days ago

2019 Alabama Theatre holiday movie schedule

(Alabama Theatre/Facebook, YHN)

“White Christmas”
December 6, at 7:00 p.m.; December 15, at 2:00 p.m. (sing-along);
December 17, at 2:00 p.m.; December 22, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
December 7, at 7:00 p.m.; December 16, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 18, at 7:00 p.m.; December 21, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

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“Miracle on 34th Street” 
December 8, at 2:00 p.m.; December 21, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Elf”
December 8, at 7:00 p.m.; December 12, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 17 at 7:00 p.m.; December 22 at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“It’s a Wonderful Life” 
December 9, at 7:00 p.m.; December 16, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Home Alone”
December 10, at 7:00 p.m.; December 15, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 20, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“The Polar Express” 
December 10; 10:00 a.m.
Tickets start at $12; for tickets click here

“A Christmas Story” 
December 13, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Cartoon Triple Feature
The movies to be shown include: “A Charlie Brown Christmas;” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer;” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
December 14, at 2:00 p.m.; December 19, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” 
December 19, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Die Hard” 
December 20, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

4 days ago

Best December holiday events in Birmingham

(Birmingham Zoo, City of Birmingham/Facebook, YHN)

Best December holiday events in Birmingham

Cirque Dreams Holidaze at the BJCC Concert Hall
December 6-7, 2019
Tickets start at $ 66; for tickets click here

Zoolight Safari at the Birmingham Zoo
December 6-30; 5:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Tickets are free for members and $10 for non-members; for tickets and more info click here

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“White Christmas” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 6, at 7:00 p.m.; December 15, at 2:00 p.m. (sing-along);
December 17, at 2:00 p.m.; December 22, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Red Mountain Theatre Company Holiday Spectacular
December 6-22 (show times vary)
Tickets start at $19; for tickets click here

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 7, at 7:00 p.m.; December 16, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 18, at 7:00 p.m.; December 21, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $ 9; for tickets click here

Old Baker Farm Christmas tree lighting
December 7, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
December 14, 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $10 (kids under two free); for more info and tickets click here

“Miracle on 34th Street” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 8, at 2:00 p.m.; December 21, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Elf” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 8, at 7:00 p.m.; December 12, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 17 at 7:00 p.m.; December 22 at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

City of Birmingham parade and tree lighting
December 8, 2019; 4:30 p.m.
Admission free – Parade begins at 5th Avenue South and 15th Street South and ends in front of City Hall
For more info click here

“It’s a Wonderful Life” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 9, at 7:00 p.m.; December 16, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Wacky Tacky Christmas Light Tour: A guided bus tour of holiday lights
December 9-12
Tickets start at $35; for tickets and more info click here

“Home Alone” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 10, at 7:00 p.m.; December 15, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 20, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“The Polar Express” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 10; 10:00 a.m.
Tickets start at $12; for tickets click here

A Hip Hop Nutcracker at The Alys Stephens Center
December 10; 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $107; for tickets click here

Trans-Siberian Orchestra at the Legacy Arena/BJCC
December 11, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $80; for tickets click here

The Nutcracker at The Wright Center
December 13-22 (show times vary)
Tickets start at $80; for tickets click here

“A Christmas Story” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 13, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Jingle Bell Run/Walk for arthritis
December 14, at 9:00 a.m.
Race entry tickets start at $35; for tickets and more info click here

Cartoon triple feature movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
The movies to be shown include: “A Charlie Brown Christmas;” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer;” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
December 14, at 2:00 p.m.; December 19, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 19, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Tiny Tim: A Cratchit Family Christmas Show at Encore Theater
December 19, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $20; for tickets click here

“Die Hard” movie showing at the Alabama Theatre
December 20, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Jim Brickman’s A Joyful Christmas at the Lyric Theater
December 21, 2019, at 2:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $65; for tickets click here

Moscow Ballet’s Great Russian Nutcracker at the Alabama Theatre
December 22, 2019, at 3:30 and 5:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $50; for tickets click here

If you have additional event information, please let us know!

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

6 days ago

Mondays for Moms: 7 tips for surviving the holiday season with sanity

(Pixabay, YHN)

‘Twas the month before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature is stirring, not even a mouse.

The children are nestled all snug in their beds with visions of sugarplums dancing in their heads.

Me in my nightgown and hubs with his nightcap have just settled in for a long winter’s nap …

Yeah, right.

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Well, at least that is not the case at my house.

At my house, the kiddos will be out of school in a few weeks, meaning their beautiful little eyes will be peering into mine each morning with the same loaded question: “What are we doing today, mommy?!?!?!?!” As if mommy doesn’t already have 1.57 billion things to do with family coming into town, gifts to wrap, parties to attend … the list is so long I’m beginning to sympathize with Santa having to check his lists twice for goodness sakes!

After we scarf down some breakfast, it’s that super fun game of:

“Don’t touch that!”

“Get down from there!”

“Please don’t pull on the ornaments!”

And, what about the fact that then there will only be like two rooms they can even go into (you know, because a big guy in a red suit will have stopped by …)
So then, the game becomes:

“Nope! Can’t go in there!”

“Please come back!” “Don’t peek under there!!!!!”

Shout out to all the moms! The time is near, friends. And we are all teetering on the brink of Fa La La La Losing our minds.

That’s right. The day is coming when school is either half-day or out for weeks, toddlers are running amuck and we won’t give a care about the new Christmas tree flavored drink at Starbucks anymore because we will all be driving our Hot Mess Expresses all over town to the [insert anywhere in the world that will entertain children] and back 1,478 times a week.

And if you’re anything like me, you’re kinda, not so secretly freaking out about it. I mean, nobody loves Christmas more than a momma, but the struggle is real when it comes to keeping the kiddos pacified until the 25th.

So, I have decided (on behalf of all of us) that we will not take this invasion of toddler tyranny sitting down. We refuse to be unprepared. We will get up off the couch, shed our mermaid blankets, toss our coffee mugs in the sink and take back our homes. One. Momma. At. A. Time.

In my weekly love letter to you beautiful ladies, here are seven tips for surviving the holiday season with sanity:

(1) Set boundaries – I promise you right now that this will be the most important thing you ever do for your family. Regardless of the season, boundaries are key. Fourteen holiday parties? No way. Fifty-seven kid functions after school? Nope. Family Christmases dominating the entire month of December? Not up in here.

If no one has ever told you this, please allow me the pleasure of being the first to share it with you: you and your family’s sanity is priority over your schedule. All the party invites and family functions will start to stack up this week. And with each one will come a little higher level of anxiety and a little larger pit in your stomach. Let this be the year of “no” to the hustle and bustle, and the year of “yes” to family time at home. You will never regret staying in and soaking up time with your little ones, so making them a priority is your call and your right as momma. Prayers now for you to be bold. You’ve got this, momma!

(2) Team up! Find a fellow mom (preferably one that you get along with and/or that your children adore one another) and set up some standing playdates. Kids crave interaction. They need it socially and honestly, they’ve gotta have it to get the silly billies out. Heavens knows we want those dang silly billies out …
Get a head start. Draft your team. Heck, get four or five mommas together and agree to trade off hosting once a week or designate a kid-friendly location in town to meet up. (Side note: if this location also serves adult beverages, you’re the winner in my book… #JustSayin…)

(3) Be prepared –  Prep yourself with some creative activities – Girl, listen. I love Pinterest like the rest of you. But ain’t nobody got time to stalk the whole site and come up with umpteen activities for each day. Because let’s get real — we’re normal and runny noses don’t wipe themselves.

So, I came up with some ideas that we can do for free, without overworking our creativity and/or maxing out our credit cards at Hobby Lobby (Side note: All the feels for Hobby Lobby all day, every day)…enjoy:

* Put together a family time capsule – We are loving this idea at our house! Fill a shoebox with a few toys, photos and other memorabilia of whatever is going on currently with your family. We have decided to write little notes about what is going on with our family as we are making each capsule. Then, we hide it in our basement closet and will return to it years down the road, peek inside and relive the memories. This is such a great sentimental craft but it is also an awesome way to eat through four hours of a day without even realizing it! Cabin fever be gone!

* Go on a scavenger hunt – Turns out you can set up a scavenger hunt in under 10 minutes. Simply select five to 10 items to hide, jot down quick clues and set out on the adventure to find them! Pro tip: Utilize your elf-on-the-shelf knowledge to help make your hunt even more fun!
* Put on a family talent show – Get the family together in the den, turn off the TV and let each family member have their own 15 minutes of fame!
* Build a fort and watch movies from inside – This is an all-time favorite for me. My brother and I used to build forts as kids and I still remember those times as some of my most favorite memories of childhood. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that will stick in your kids’ minds forever!
* Host a cookie/cake decorating party – Pro tip: Buy some premade sugar cookies, lay out some icing and sprinkles. Congratulations. You’ve just bought yourself at least an hour of sanity, friend.
* Recreational bath time – We can’t get in an actual pool due to cooler temps, so let the kids splash around in the tub. Since bathtime is focused on cleanliness, let this time be all about the fun! Consider pouring in just a bit of bubble bath to take the fun factor up even more notches! Plus, don’t forget to capture all those shampoo mohawk hair moments on the camera to laugh at for years to come!
* Storytelling session – Encourage your kiddos to explore their imagination! Consider giving them a character, a scene and a plot. Then, let them fill in the rest of the story.
* Make a homemade pizza – If you have time to plan ahead, make sure to stock your fridge with pizza ingredients for a super fun treat with your kids. Allow them to pick their toppings, assemble them and watch as you pop it in the oven! Fun fact: my kids are much more likely to eat all of their meal if they took part in the prep. Just like with adults, there is something “cool” about feeling like you cooked a great meal!
* Have a dance party – There is nothing that relieves stress faster and more effectively for me than turning up some music and just bustin’ a move ….
Let the kids pick the music and consider even throwing together a quick routine! P.S. Our family fave is “Some Nights” by Fun. (don’t forget the period.)
* Put on a fashion show – Encourage the kids to dig in their dress-up baskets and strut their stuff! Make it fun by giving out prizes for “best smile,” “best outfit,” “best walk,” etc.
* Host a family room camp out – Gather sleeping bags, pillows and lots of blankets to form a campsite in your den. Snuggle up and tell stories until time to go to sleep.
* Have a puzzle/game championship – Put out a bunch of puzzles and games for the children to select from. For extra fun, keep score as you compete as a family!

(4) Raid the Target dollar bins – Make this a sport that you attempt to win the gold medal in finding the greatest items. I am in a relationship with the Target dollar bins. It’s borderline unhealthy. Moving on … Heads up, you can walk in Target any day of the week and find a fun activity (or 10) for you and your little one(s) to do for under $10. Seriously. Locate your dollar bin section and have a ball. Heads up, they ramp it up even more during the holidays, but make sure to stock up early because once it’s gone, it’s gone, y’all!

(5) Plan some inexpensive day trips – No matter where you live, there is bound to be a park, museum, attraction, zoo, aquarium, etc. that would provide hours of enjoyment! Pack a picnic lunch and set out on a family adventure.

You don’t have to spend a bunch of money. If you live in a bigger city, you could even pack two attractions in for one day. Or, spread them out over the holiday season. The key to remember: the holidays are marathon, not a sprint! Don’t feel like you have to wear the hat of a professional cruise director day in and day out. Spread the activities out and give yourself a break!

(6) Look into classes and camps offered in your area – Did you know that churches, local colleges, zoos, museums and schools offer day camps/classes for children … even during the holidays?!? In fact, gyms, dance studios and theaters offer classes as well! You would be amazed at how many different organizations make an effort to give kids fun activities while school is out!
Here are some ideas of what’s available:

Dance/gymnastics classes/camps
Music classes/camps
Art classes/camps
Indoor swim lessons
Science camps (at children’s museums and schools)
Photography classes/camps for older kids
Theater classes/camps
Ice skating classes/camps (this is an interesting one that most people don’t think about …)

(7) Give yourself (and those sweet babies) grace –  When the goin’ gets tough, remind yourself of three things:
(1) You are enough. You are doing the best you can. And that’s enough. Heck, it’s better than enough. It’s awesome.
(2) You’re the one. God picked you to be the momma to your little ones. Out of the entire universe, God picked you. Wow. You are a star!
(3) You are so loved. God loves you. Those babies love you.

You’ve got this. Chin up, momma! Don’t sweat the small stuff. Don’t get down about the things you can’t control and focus on the ones you can. Junior is not gonna go on and on about his mother’s perfectly ironed duvet covers one day. But, he will brag about all those super fun, late night dance parties before bedtime.
Let’s love those babies like it’s goin’ out of style. And, most importantly, let’s give ourselves (and each other) grace.

Whew. This was a long one. Ha! What are your tips for surviving the holidays with sanity? Please share in the comments!

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis.

3 weeks ago

Best November holiday events in Birmingham

(Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum‎/Facebook, YHN)

Best November holiday events in Birmingham

The North Pole Express via the Heart of Dixie Railroad
November 15 – December 14
Tickets start at $ 28; for tickets click here

The Christmas Show at the Alabama Theater
November 19-22; November 30 (show times vary)
Tickets start at $ 100+; for tickets click here

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Junior League’s Market Noel at the Hoover Met’s Finley Center
November 20-23
Tickets start at $ 15; for tickets click here

The Elf on the Shelf at the BJCC Concert Hall
November 21 at 6:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $ 39; for tickets click here

Lights Up Holiday Parade and Fireworks Show at The Summit
November 22, at 5:00 p.m.
Free Admission; for more info click here

The Birmingham Ballet’s presentation of The Mutt-cracker
November 29 at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets start at $ 71; for tickets click here

Old Baker Christmas Tree Farm
November 29 – December 24; 9:00 a.m. until dark
Enjoy Complimentary Hot Apple Cider, Candy Canes, and a hayride through the Christmas trees!
Trees $ 30 and up depending on size (cash or check only)
For more info click here

The Birmingham Ballet’s presentation of The Nutcracker
November 30 at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $ 71 ; for tickets click here

Santa Special 2019 at the Heart of Dixie Railroad Museum
November 30 at 10:00 a.m.
Tickets start at $ 17; for tickets click here

If you have additional event information, please let us know!

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

4 weeks ago

10 fun family Thanksgiving tradition ideas

(Pixabay, YHN)

This year my mom and I got started talking about traditions. You know, what activities do we want to pass down from generation to generation, especially since there are grandbabies runnin’ around now!

We chatted about all the standards: painting/carving pumpkins at Halloween, baking cookies/gingerbread houses at Christmas and present wrapping parties throughout the year for birthdays, etc.

But we soon realized that other than a day full of cooking, we were coming up dry with a fun tradition for Thanksgiving. Aside from curling up to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade (which is a tradition I will always cherish), we decided we needed to remedy this clear unfairness to such an important holiday.

It seems pretty unfortunate that the only time most people gather and converse about God’s many blessings is around the dining room table once a year on Thanksgiving. It would be nice if there was a way we could remind ourselves daily what we have to be grateful for and what our family members are grateful for as well. So, I’ve scoured the minds of my much smarter friends to help us all out this year.

I present to you 10 fun family Thanksgiving tradition ideas:

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(1) Create a thankfulness countdown – For each day in the month of Thanksgiving, talk as a family about something or someone you are thankful for. There are several ways you can display the results of your thankfulness chats. You could cut out turkey shapes and allow children to write a new item to be thankful for each day on a feather. You could use a chalkboard displayed prominently for all family members to see throughout the day. You could even use a journal to keep as family treasure forever. No matter how you preserve the fruits of these chats, I promise it will change your whole perspective and get you more excited than ever to spend an entire month focused on all your many blessings!

(2) Save to give! – For the entire month, pick up a few extra items each time you go grocery shopping. Blankets, warm coats and clothes are nice to have on hand as well. Reach out to local shelters, women’s’ groups and churches to see what needs they may have for the upcoming holiday. Make it a priority to give back in whatever way you feel called. Thanksgiving is a reminder of all the many blessings we have been gifted, and a perfect opportunity to give back to those in deepest need of our love and kindness.

Another way you can give back is to serve in the weeks leading up (and even on Thanksgiving Day), at your local shelter. These individuals are often without any other means of providing a meal to their families and investing in their lives is something you will be very grateful you made time to do. Often, having the ability to give back is one of our greatest blessings.

(3) Create love baskets – Before the insanity of the season truly kicks in, take a few moments to create Love Baskets for your closest family and friends. Consider baking some cookies with your children and gathering some hot cocoa supplies. You can purchase inexpensive baskets and wrapping supplies at your local dollar store. Put little baskets together to take and drop off at your loved ones’ houses. Share with them that you want to make it a point each year to remind those you love just how much you love them. Trust me, this tradition will swiftly become one that all of your friends and family look forward to year after year!

(4) Host a family game night – Who says you can only be thankful and fun on a few nights each year? Put together a night of fun-filled with games and story-telling. Invite your friends and family to participate. Trade off with hosting duties. Throw in an extra level of fun by having a theme. Making time for each other is one of the most important parts of the holiday season.

(5) Start a Friendsgiving supper club with friends – When I think about Thanksgiving, all that comes to mind (food-wise) is a giant turkey, tons of fluffy dressing and canned cranberry sauce (the form of canned cranberry sauce is emblazoned in my brain forever, y’all). Since you know you will be enjoying all the spoils of a pilgrim-approved meal later in November, spend the rest of the month gathering with friends each week to share taco night, noodle night, Italian night, BBQ bonanza, etc. This is such a fun way to make sure and spend time loving on your friends and also saving the Thanksgiving approved nosh for later!

(6) Family affirmation craft – Instead of lurking in the corner attempting to avoid the political conversations we all know are bound to fill the halls of our homes this year, be intentional about changing the topic of conversation! Take the talk back inward and chat about all the many ways you are grateful for one another.

Here’s how to get it going: Every November, give each family member a card for every other family member. (So if there are 10 family members total, give each family member nine cards).

Write each family member’s name on the back of their respective card. Then, ask each family member to write something nice, something they love or something they are grateful for about each of the other family members on their respective cards. (They could also choose to include a quote or story about the family member, too.)

Select an “organizer” who will collect all of the cards and add them to a binder ring for each family member. Do this for a few years in a row and each family member will have tons of uplifting messages, quotes, and encouraging words of love to reflect upon.

I love this concept because it reminds us daily of why we love each other, why we are grateful to God for giving us one another and how we should live in gratitude all year long.

(7) Create a family recipe Book – Take some time to sit down the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving to reach out to you family members requesting them to bring their favorite recipes to Thanksgiving dinner. Once collected, put them all together and make copies to create a treasure for each family. You can create recipe books in almost all online photo hubs such as Shutterfly, Snapfish, even Walgreens will print a photo book for you in under an hour. These will become unique memory books worthy of passing down for generations to come!

(8) Personalize your place settings – Rather than the simple name card, consider crafting a special welcome for your thanksgiving dinner guests. Using the same card idea, jot down personality traits, encouraging words or quotes to include as well. The more personal you make your loved ones feel, the more deeply those memories will last with them forever.

(9) Set up a simple craft table for children – One of the more stressful parts of holiday entertaining is what to do with all the little ones running around. Planning ahead saves the day! Using an inexpensive card table, lay out a paper tablecloth with crayons. You can also pick up very inexpensive crafts at Hobby Lobby or Michaels throughout the season (Heads up: both stores dramatically mark down their products the closer to the day, but stock is always better the further out you prepare …). Set up a station to control the frustration! There’s you a catchy new motto. By providing them a “home,” children will feel welcomed and entertained for hours giving you time to socialize without the stress.

(10) Get outside! – One of my favorite traditions from childhood is playing a game of whiffle ball with the whole family as soon as everyone woke up from their “turkey nap,” as my grandmother called it. We would block out an entire afternoon of fun by picking teams, setting the rules and involving even the tiniest of family members in the fun. To take it up a notch, we even started crafting team uniforms. Make this day all about gathering in love to celebrate the gift of a family to treasure and memories worth making together.

1 month ago

Celebrate ‘Women Crush Wednesday’ at Kendra Scott in Birmingham this holiday season

(The Summit - Birmingham, Al, Kendra Scott/Facebook, YHN)

Women Crush Wednesday has arrived in Birmingham!

Kendra Scott, a popular female-owned and operated fashion lifestyle brand out of Texas, has decided to take a positive spin on the Instagram famous hashtag by honoring women making an impact in their communities each Wednesday this holiday season.

Beginning Wednesday, Kendra Scott will recognize a woman each week in the Birmingham area for her contributions to her community, ability to overcome challenges, personal achievement and charitable spirit.

The mission behind this initiative is simple, yet powerful. The brand wishes to recognize women who are making waves behind the scenes and deserve public recognition for their efforts. Often it is the seemingly small, quiet efforts making the most significant impact in our communities. Kendra Scott believes it’s time to shed some light on those unsung heroes.

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Taking inspiration from its own leader, Kendra Scott began her fashion brand out of her home with only $500 back in 2002. Desiring to make a difference for her family and for her community, Scott made much out of very little. The brand now boasts more than 100 stores nationwide and wishes to empower women to follow their dreams as well.

Andrea Knight, regional marketing and philanthropic manager for Kendra Scott, recently told Style Blueprint, “We know there are many inspirational women in the Birmingham community just like Kendra, and we want to make sure they are celebrated for their accomplishments, hard work and simply being a force to be reckoned with in their everyday life. We thought it’d be fun to take the phrase ‘Women Crush Wednesday’ and give a new meaning to it. It’s about supporting and celebrating women and seeing the good this holiday season.”

Women Crush Wednesday events will be hosted at The Summit Kendra Scott location adjacent to Belk.

To read more about the Women Crush Wednesday initiative and get the party started, Kendra Scott is asking individuals to make nominations via this link: www.womencrushwednesdays.splashthat.com.

After nominations are reviewed and the recipients are selected, the store will begin hosting parties for those selected each Wednesday throughout the end of the year. Each recipient will be gifted a store discount or can choose to participate in a “give back” party during which twenty percent of all proceeds will be donated to the nonprofit organization of her choice.

There’s no better way to treat someone during the holidays than to recognize them for chasing their dreams and changing the world. Now is the time to pick out a woman or two deserving of some celebration this holiday season and let’s get the party started!

Cheers to all you lovely ladies out there giving back day and making a difference each and every day!

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

1 month ago

15 apps all moms need to keep them healthy, on budget and sane

(YHN)

Back to school means back to business for all the mommas out there. With those few extra hours of “me” time during the day, moms have to use their time wisely to keep their families on track and organized. If you are anything like me, I want to make sure I’m up to date on any possible way to make my mom life easier, but often lack the time to do all that research. Well, I used my “me” time the other day to take one for the team and get all the details! Without further ado, here are the 15 apps I’m convinced all us mommas need to keep us healthy, organized and sane!

Budgeting apps

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One of the first things a mom can do to make her life (and the life of her family members) easier, is to design a budget — and stick to it! It can be difficult to find the time and resources to sit down and make that plan come to fruition, but with the apps below, it will now be easier than ever!

Mint – Moms needs a simple way to budget and see all of their accounts in one place. No one has time to log into bank accounts, savings accounts and cross-reference. We need a one-stop-shop to see it all in one place. Enter: Mint. This app lets you sync all of your accounts in one place; schedule bills; check on stocks/savings; and maintain a workable family budget.

Shop Savvy – Designed to be your eyes and ears for all the deals at your favorite stores, Shop Savvy is an awesome tool that allows you to scan the barcode of an item you are interested in and within minutes the app will produce a list of the best prices for that item in your area. Shop Savvy will also provide you with a list of reliable reviews about the product and compares discounts on scanned items. No more regret when you realize you could have paid $50 less for the camera you just purchased only five miles up the road.

Honey – Honey is an online browser extension app that simultaneously searches for the best Internet deals on websites prior to you clicking “submit order.” If there is a penny available for you to save at your favorite retailers, Honey will let you know! Their promise to you: “If there’s a better price, we’ll find it!”

Flipp – Who has time to flip through all the hundreds of circulars that enter our homes throughout the year? It seems every day the “junk” mail continues to pile up. The Flipp app is designed to make you even more confident about chunking the circulars in the trash and conveniently thumbing through the savings online. You never have to worry about missing an insane deal or awesome coupon again because Flipp has you covered.

Grocery/mealtime apps

I have said from day one of #MomLife that if I could hire a meal time fairy who would magically enter my home at approximately 4:00 p.m. each afternoon, whip together a healthy and enticing meal, while also cleaning up after herself, I would officially be living my best life ever. To my chagrin, said fairies are currently either unavailable or wildly too pricey, so I shall prepare my meals like the rest of the free world. However, I can certainly make it an easier process, right? The following apps are about to make your mealtime mania subside substantially!

Mealime – Mealime’s motto is “meal planning made easy.” Um, yes. Thank you in advance for your time, Mealime. The second I downloaded this app and dug in, I was mad at myself for not having done it sooner. Mealime allows you to scour through countless databases of easy to make recipes, select your favorites for the week, add them to the family schedule. It even generates you a shopping list at the end of the process. Run, don’t walk, to download this app today. You’re welcome.

Shipt/Instacart – The person who invented grocery delivery is the wisest and wealthiest soul who I feel deserves a hug from every mom in the world. These apps now allow moms to sit on the couch (or more likely, barely regain sanity long enough to quickly log on whilst fending off fun-loving tots, make their selections, and re-enter crazy town) and grocery shop from the confines of their safe zone.
P.S. If you’d rather go to the store to pick up your items, but don’t have the time to saunter through the aisles selecting your bounty, don’t forget about Wal-Mart and other retailers’ offering curbside pickup! Yet another great way to save you time!

Organizational apps

Cozi Family Organizer – Do you know a mom who always has her life together? Because I do not. It seems there’s always balls up in the air, schedules to manage and events to attend keeping all of us from living up to the Pinterest mom persona. Well, the Cozi Family Organizer app is here to save the day. Now, you can sync schedules with every member of your family, maintain all family events in one place and even meal plan together! This app is a win-win for everyone!

Out of Milk – I can’t tell you how many times a week my husband and I SOS text each other: “Do we have any milk?!” “Are we out of cereal?!” “Do we need paper towels?!?” Out of Milk to the rescue, friends! I’ll just let them tell you what they’re all about: “Out of Milk is a tool for your phone that will help you keep track of your shopping needs, your pantry’s inventory, and manage your to-do list items. Never come home from shopping just to realize that you forgot to buy lemon juice, eggs and baking soda. Never buy yet another container of cinnamon when you already have three in your spice rack! Have something to remember? List it in Out of Milk!” You can sync these lists with members of your family so that everyone is on the same page. Cheers to never storing 47 thousand boxes of spaghetti noodles in your pantry ever again!

Keepy/Artkive – These apps are gonna pull at your heartstrings, y’all. Let’s talk kid artwork. Some of you just shuddered thinking about all the clutter. But others of you, like me, swooned over the thought of your tiny tot gluing together two pieces of construction paper and feeling like it was worthy of display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The thing is, as much as some of us would like to save every single popsicle stick our kids might have touched to show off to the world, it’s just not feasible … or even healthy. Enter: Keepy and Artkive. These two incredible apps offer you the gift of preserving your child’s artwork forever in a beautiful coffee table quality book to show off for years to come. Simply upload photos of your child’s artwork to the app and the company will send you a customized album of the artwork in no time. For those of you who don’t have the time to snap photos, you can also opt to mail all of the artwork to the company and they will professionally photograph each piece of the artwork in the exact same lighting/background in order to compile a seamless, stunning album for you to treasure for a lifetime.

Christmas is coming, y’all! Is there any gift more personal than this? Hint for all the men out there: This would be an extremely thoughtful gift to give your wife! Trust me when I say you will get major bonus points for the creativity and effort! You’re welcome.

Make my life easier apps

Waze – So, with all the 14.2 billion birthday parties, ballet classes, art camps, football games and church activities my children are daily involved in, my car and my sanity get a constant workout. Time is the most precious commodity these days. And mothers don’t have time to research the quickest routes, secret backroads and traffic patterns in order to make it most efficiently to their next destination. But we really wish we did have the time, you know? Waze is here to save the day! Waze is designed for you to put in the address of your next destination, and it will guide you step by step to get there using the absolute quickest route possible. Waze factors in traffic patterns, accidents, and even secret backroad options. They do it all. So, sit back, momma, and let Waze show you the way!

Venmo – $20 to PTO. $15 for Christmas party favors for class party. $45 for art lessons. The little expenditures pile up constantly. Checkbooks are out. Venmo is in. How awesome to have an app designed for all those moments you owe money, but forgot your wallet at home! You no longer have to feel like a loser when sitting down to eat with friends and discover the card you need is in the car. Simply set up the app to sync with your preferred method of payment, and the app will automatically sync to your contacts for fast and secure immediate payment!

Stay in touch/communication apps

Peanut – Do you need a friend? Are you stuck in that weird stage of #MomLife where your “real” friends are in different life stages and the connectivity is just not there anymore? Do you feel like it’s difficult to discover life-minded mommas who can join you on your journey? Mommas, rejoice! Because finally there is a dating app for moms! Don’t let that little tagline scare you. Peanut is seriously the coolest way to connect with other moms in your area. The app gives you so many ways to personalize your profile so that you and other mothers can get to know one another before taking the huge plunge of meeting in person. Take a few seconds to check out some other moms on the app and set up the play”date” of your dreams, friend!

Voxer – I want to be vulnerable here. I hate talking on the phone. With a passion. Like, if you are reading this and you know me personally, please don’t call me. I don’t want to seem rude, though. Because I love my people fiercely and want to stay in touch daily. I feel like the Voxer app was made just for me and those like me! This app is essentially a walkie talkie for grown ups. You can chat back and forth throughout the day via voice memos when it is convenient for you to talk. I don’t always have time to sit down and take a 10-minute call that turns into a 45-minute catch up session (I’m triggered). But, I do love catching up throughout the day via little spurts when a free moment arises like in carpool line, or while I’m cooking dinner, or after I put the kids to sleep at night. So, join me in the coolest form of communication since AOL Instant Messenger!

Marco Polo – Marco Polo is just like the Voxer app, but with video. So, if you enjoy seeing your own face and the face of the person you are interested in connecting with, try Marco Polo! I like to think of it as a string of recorded facetime calls.

Seriously, busy moms. These two communication apps are about to save you so much time!

Health and fitness app

Sworkit – In the very rare moments that someone has foolishly asked me how I stay in shape with kids, I either answer: (a) I literally chase two crazy fun kiddos for a living; or (b) Sworkit. Sworkit is the underrated dream for busy moms. It is essentially a personal trainer right on your phone giving you workout tips that you can execute on your living room floor. Um. Yes, please. Forget about having to drag the kids to the gym or running outside for an hour to turn into a sweaty disgusting mess. Sworkit will meet you where you’re at and get you to where you’re going. Cheers to checking back into you, mmma!

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

2 months ago

‘Toothpaste and Oreos’: Five simple steps to a tidier home

(YHN)

How many of you are members of the “Wash the Load Three-Times-a-Charm Laundry Club?” You know what I mean: You throw a load in the washer. Insanity ensues. You return two days later, discover the old (now damp and slightly smelly) load and wash it again. Repeat previous steps. On the third day, you wash it again and stick post-it notes everywhere to remind yourself to finally dry it this time!!!

I am a charter member of this club. Actually, we voted last week to make me secretary. Not sure whether I should be honored or embarrassed.

Either way, I’ve always said that attempting to clean a house while raising children is like brushing your teeth while chomping on a mouth full of Oreos. It just doesn’t work.

Until now.

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I am about to give you an early Christmas present and hopefully provide you some encouragement/tips for the upcoming new year.

After receiving frequent loving suggestions from my precious momma (love you, Mom!) about the cleanliness — err, lack thereof — in my home, I decided to research the simplest and most time-efficient ways to take back my house. And, after studying up on these options/tips, I’m happy to report that we mommas won’t have to choose between housework and the always more important task of intentional child-rearing ever again.

Today, I am sharing my five “Housecleaning/Organizing Tips for Busy Mommas” (and what momma isn’t busy?):

(1) Prioritize your pandemonium – I’m all about lists. Who’s with me?! If it doesn’t make it on my to-do list, well, it doesn’t come close to getting done. So, when I learned of this cleaning idea, I was floored with shocking gratitude coupled with “why-didn’t-I-think-of-this-sooner” relief.

Instead of overwhelming yourself, sit down and map out your tasks. Each Sunday night, I sit and jot down my list for the week (because, no surprise here, your home cleaning needs are going to change week to week). Some weeks you may have had company over and your cleaning needs are heightened. Other weeks, you may have battled an illness and barely made it to the shower, meaning your house looks like a tornado came through. You get the drift.

Start with your kitchen. What needs to be done there? Dishes? Cleaning out the pantry? Sweeping the floors? All of it?

Prioritize.

What needs to be done first? What can be left to a later day in the week? Start planning out your tasks. For example: On Monday, I do all dishes and put them away. On Tuesday, I sweep/vacuum the floors. On Wednesday, I clean out the fridge. On Thursday, I wipe the counters down extra well. On Friday, I tidy up the pantry and make a shopping list for the weekend. You get the idea.

Now, repeat this step for every room of your house and chart it out on your weekly calendar. You will not believe how much stress it takes off of you and how manageable it becomes when you are just tackling one item in each room per day!

What gets calendared, gets done, friends!

(2) Accept the role of dishin’ out diva – No, I don’t just mean as the cafeteria lady who feeds all the youngins’ and then cleans up after them, too. What I mean is, involve the whole family in the home cleaning game!

Assign tasks based on age and skill level. Obviously, a toddler cannot do loads of laundry. But, they can be in charge of bringing all dishes to the sink, cleaning up their toys, putting their clothes in the hamper and making their beds. And, honestly, they should be required to do those things to set them up for a much brighter and cleaner future later on.

Consider purchasing (or making for all you talented DIYers) a chore chart for your family. We love this at our house because children are very visual. They love seeing their names and having the ability to “check” each chore off the list as they do it. They receive gratification from performing tasks as much, if not more, than we do!

One of the most important things we can do as moms is instill responsibility and pride in our kiddos. They will be looking to us to see how they should care for their own belongings and home one day. We shouldn’t feel guilty about requiring our children to help maintain a clean home. In fact, we should pat ourselves on the back for helping them develop by learning life skills. Habits, once formed, are hard to break! So, why not create and maintain some really great ones even now!

(3) The “Touch it once” rule – While somewhat self-explanatory, the “Touch it once” rule, if used as intended, will revolutionize your life. Quite literally, whenever you bring in mail, toys, soccer gear, ballet shoes, groceries, newspapers, whatever … touch it once. Put it away or trash it immediately.

I use the following system: Every item that comes in my home is either (a) trash or (b) treasure. If it is trash (junk mail, leftover McDonald’s french fries, or receipts from God-only-knows-where) it gets dumped immediately. If it is treasure (meaning ballet shoes, books, school supplies, aka any items that are not trash), I either take it to its home immediately or (because we all need a  “grace” system) it goes in a specific, centrally located bin that I call my catch-all bin. (This is a way to somewhat temporarily circumvent the “Touch-it-once” system while still keeping your house spick-and-span. I’m all about a hack, friends.)

Each night before bedtime, the kids and I sort through any items that got pitched in the “catch-all” bin and put them where they go. It is part of our nightly cleaning ritual and helps jump-start the nighttime routine without having to say the tried and true, “OK, kids it’s time for bed.” Nothing will send a kid running to hide quicker than that age-old ditty.

While this catch-all basket system may seem like a time-thief, it actually saves you inordinate amounts of time in the long run because (a) you are never searching for lost items again and (b) by doing it nightly, you save big time on massive weekend tidying. Also, it kinda becomes a fun treasure hunt, if you will. It’s amazing how you will forget what’s in there even if you placed it there just a few hours earlier.

(4) The 10-minute tidy rule – Ten minutes in momma time can seem like forever right before nap time or it can seem like a second flat if we’ve finally snuck off for some “me” time. In the grand scheme of things, 10 minutes is not a bunch of time, but it’s all you need for a little necessary tidying. In our house, we have adopted a new rule: Before we leave a room, we take a “10-minute-tidy” break. Sometimes it’s shorter than 10 minutes (other times it’s briefly longer). No matter how long it actually turns out to be, those few minutes are vital in maintaining a clean home.

Before you leave a room, look around for the following items: (1) trash; (2) dirty kitchen items (i.e. cups, plates, silverware, etc.); and/or (3) clutter. Take a few minutes and divide it up amongst those three categories, tending to each one individually. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Take each category one by one. Then, breathe a sigh of relief as you head to the next fun adventure. At the end of the day, you will be shocked how much neater/cleaner your home is just by taking those few minutes to maintain the mess all day long!

Quick tip: Busy momma’s secret tools – We need time. That’s really all we need, right ladies? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve looked at my husband and said, “If I just had 20-30 more minutes a day, I could get this place looking great!”

The truth is, we all have the same hours in our days. There’s no real secret to how some keep their houses meticulous and others not-so-much (except for maybe a secret cleaning service) other than priorities. In life, the things that get done are the things we prioritized.

Since we don’t have a lot of time, we need cleaning tools that get the job done simply and quickly. Pick up a Swiffer Sweeper and/or a Shark Lightweight/Cordless Floor Sweeper today! These tools are my two best-kept secrets. They are easy to store, get the job done so fast and are actually manageable to use even on the busiest of days.  It takes under three minutes to quickly vacuum in high volume traffic areas and it gives you a sense of instant gratification!

Plus, you can snag these tools at Walmart for under $60 combined (and even cheaper with coupons and deals!) Trust me, friends, when I say the minimal investment will pay you back in dividends over time!

*Commit to taking a quick swipe at your floors after every meal, and you are already well on your way to a cleaner kitchen area!

 (5) Give yourself grace – This phase of your life is most likely not designed to be your Good-Housekeeping-cover-spread-moment.  That time may come down the road. But, for now, revel in creating happy, healthy kiddos! Even Martha Stewart has her bad days. So, rather than unnecessarily troubling yourself with the pressures of maintaining perfection, free yourself with the knowledge that sometimes a little untidiness means that you are more appropriately spending your time on greater things or tiny souls. Cheers to you, momma! Because there’s no doubt in my mind that you are giving your best every day, and your family is blessed to have you!

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

2 months ago

Mondays for Moms: Confessions of a fluorescent mac-n-cheese lover

(YHN)

What happened to the days when we could saunter down the aisles of the grocery store without being bombarded with 500 options for each item in the store?

Organic. Non-dairy. GMO-free. No artificial flavors. Lite. Fat-free. Gluten-free. Taste-free.

My head is spinning.

Retailers should start labeling packages with the following disclaimer: “Will need nutritionist to assist with purchase.”

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Instead of greeters, could nutritionists begin to welcome us at the entrance of the grocery store and offer to accompany us down the aisles?

And while we’re on this topic, could someone for the love of Jesus and all the goodness in the world explain to me what the heck GMOs are? Are they kin to UFOs? Is it a military operative slogan? Are they little cancer pellets hidden away in every bite of my Cheetos? I’m getting worried over here. If you can provide some useful information, could you shoot me a quick message at HelpErinUnderstandGMOs@gmail.com? This is real; send help. Thanks in advance.

Seriously, why can’t we go in the store and throw two boxes of Cheerios, a couple gallons of milk and a box of the latest flavor of Oreos in our carts without enduring relentless stares from other shoppers? Rather than accosting the produce stocker about the origination and growth habits of Hass avocados, you will find me filling my cart with items that do not require such intense, interrogative research. You know items we’ve all been existing on since the beginning of time.

Confession: I’m the momma that occasionally serves up hot dogs and dinosaur-shaped chicken tenders. You know why? Because my kids love them.

I’m going to be real with you guys for a second. My momma, bless her sweet soul, fed me Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, M&M’s and orange soda. And guess what? I’m still alive! With the exception of the obligatory seasonal cold, I’m kickin’ it just fine, folks.

Pre high-fructose-corn-syrup-hysteria, our world was such a wonderful place. We reveled in our blissful ignorance and we survived. We made it. The corn syrup centaurs didn’t come devour us in our sleep, people!

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I haven’t seen a scientifically backed theory indicating that occasional hot dog consumption leads directly to immediate death. But please send that report in if I’m missin’ it.

Get prepared to gasp because I’m not done yet. I’ve also got mac-n-cheese in the ole pantry, too! And, no, not the organic-handmade-by-tiny-food-angels kind. Nope. No way. Not up in here! If you open my cupboard, you are going to find the glorious, fluorescent, glow-in-the-dark orange kind that we all fell in love with in our dorm rooms decades ago. You know, the kind we now crave at 2:00 a.m. after waking up to the baby monitor a few times.

All joking aside, I do think that nutrition is very important. And I completely agree with teaching our kids about the importance of clean eating, healthy food boundaries and coaching them towards a life of fitness.

But I think we walk a fine line. I’m all about providing our babies with the healthiest food options available, but let’s do so without engaging in discussions that result in righteous condemnation.

To the precious mommas who manage to serve pediatric-approved meals on your tables three times a day, you are awesome and superhuman. Could you help a sister out? Show me your ways. And, if any of you wants to write a book summarizing all of these “uber-healthy” options exposing all the superfoods in a graph-like format for ease of reference, that’d be great. (Quick request: provide a dictionary in the back.) I’ll be your first buyer.

Rather than tormenting over the origination of the foods that enter our children’s bodies, let’s spend time focusing on the words they hear, the things they see and the places they go. If we spend more time focusing on that version of input in our child’s lives, we will be doing them and our world a much greater service.

There’s a lesson to be learned here: Consumption is vital. Nutritional, spiritual, emotional, all of it. But I’m afraid we are spending so much time diagramming the sugar content of granola bars, that we are neglecting to measure the growth habits or our children’s patience, kindness and respect for others.

In our final days, it’s not going to matter how many marathons our babies ran or how awesome their homemade compost piles were in their backyards.

What will matter is the lasting legacy they leave and the lives they touched while here on this earth.

So, pardon me if I chunk a few fluorescent mac-n-cheese buckets in my buggy as I saunter through the pasta aisle. No harm. No foul.  Just placing my primary focus on a tad bit different intake at our house.

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

2 months ago

15 of the best pumpkin patches in Alabama

(Pixabay, YHN)

Fall is finally here!

The temps are dropping, the leaves are falling, the costumes are stocked and Hobby Lobby has all the Christmas stuff out. So, you know what that means: Get your pumpkins out, y’all!

Every year, Fall creeps up (even though I’ve been pining away for it for months) and I scramble to find fun places to spend a Saturday with the family. Well, the good news is Alabama has plenty of awesome places to visit to grab your pumpkin, pick a sunflower and provide a day of fun for all.

I decided to break down the selections into three groups (North Alabama, Central Alabama and South Alabama) to help you narrow down (or possibly expand depending on your adventurous spirit) your selections. If you have a favorite spot not on one of the lists, please reach out to us or leave it in the comments because we would love to include it.

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North Alabama

The Great Pumpkin Patch – Hayden, AL

Boasting a hayride, inflatables, petting zoo, pony rides, arts & crafts, a country store and even an extreme bungee, The Great Pumpkin Patch is bound to become a favorite on your Fall To Do List! Located in Hayden, AL, just off Interstate 65, the Patch is full of fun for people of all ages.

Admission details: * See website for prices based on each activity here.
General admission: FREE

4D Family Farm

A day out with the family in Cullman has never been more fun! 4D Farm boasts some of the most unique fall-themed activities, including: a jumping pillow, cow train, pig races, corn maze, 250-foot zip line, tetherball, gemstone mining, pipe swings, toddler play area and tire mountain to name a few. With all the fun activities, you will want to plan for at least half a day at this venue to make sure you can take it all in.

Admission details:
Weekday pass: $11.95 at the gate ($9.95 with online coupon)
Weekend pass: $14.95 at the gate ($12.95 with online coupon)
* Make sure to check their website for all kinds of fun deals including a Pick Three Adventure Card option and even Season Pass.

McGee Farms – Florence, AL

Located at the tippy top corner of the state, McGee Farms offers a down-home day of fun. Pumpkin picking, barnyard bounce and the new bouncing pillow are just a few of the exciting opportunities you will find at the farm. Refreshments are one of McGee’s specialties boasting “The Kitchen” right on the property which offers chicken n’ dumplings and chicken salad.

General admission: FREE
A Tractor Drawn Wagon to Pumpkin Patch: $3

Faye Whittemore Farms – Jasper, AL

Who doesn’t want to check out a pirate playground? Aside from pumpkin picking, bounce houses and petting zoo stations, Whittemore Farms offers a super fun playground to please all the little ones. There is a concession stand on the property to keep you fed and hydrated and even face painting for those who wish to leave with a little flair.

General admission: $12.95 per person
Pumpkins: $0.40 per pound

Bennett Farms – Heflin, AL

Looking for a super fun weekend with tons of entertainment? Look no further than Bennett Farms! Offering duck races, loblolly nature trail, pipe swing, corn cribs, tire crawl, hay bale maze and scarecrow decorating, this place has a unique treat for all ages and stages. For an added bonus, they have scheduled live music for every Saturday in October. Located halfway between Birmingham and Atlanta, you could even arrange to meet up with some of your Georgia friends or family for a fun day on the farm!

General admission: $10; Children one and under: Free
Pumpkin prices range from $3 to $24

Central Alabama

Old Baker Farm – Harpersville, AL

Located in Harpersville, AL, Old Baker Farm is exactly what you envision when you daydream about taking your kids to a pumpkin patch. There are sprawling fields filled with pumpkins, sunflowers for as far as the eye can see, petting zoo stalls, corn, and even horseback rides! Old Baker Farm is 200 years old (one of the oldest working farms in the state) and has been owned by the Baker family exclusively for 100 years. They offer events throughout the year such as cotton picking, a Not-So-Scary Halloween Barn Party and even a Christmas tree farm. Make sure to add them to your holiday tradition list. You will truly feel like family each time you visit and are sure to make memories for years to come!

Admission details:
Adults and children three and up: $10
Children two and under: Free

Helena Hollow – Helena, AL

“Where the good times grow,” Helena Hollow is nestled right off the highway, where you will discover a treasure of fun for the whole family! They offer 15 different “agri-entertainment attractions” including slides, swings, bone digs, pumpkin patch, hayrides, animal petting stations and more. As one of the newest fall attractions in the state, Helena Hollow was founded in 2014 and has made quite the splash since its opening.

Admission details:
Adults and Children 3 and up $10
Children 2 and under: Free

Pumpkin Patch Express at the Heart of Dixie Railroad – Calera, AL

All aboard! Calling all Thomas the Train fans – take a beautifully scenic journey through forests of Shelby County after climbing aboard the Pumpkin Patch Express. For extra enthusiastic future train conductors, the Pumpkin Patch Express offers special tickets allowing you to ride in the caboose or the locomotive to check out all the train operating secrets! The entire experience including the train ride and pumpkin patch moment takes about 1.5 hours, so make sure to carve out a bit of your day to soak up all the fun.

Admission details:
Adults: $17
Children ages 2-11: $16
Children under 2: Free

Tuscaloosa Barnyard Petting and Fun Farm – Tuscaloosa, AL

Tuscaloosa Barnyard offers some of the most unique pumpkin patch experiences with their cow train and bottle feeding piggie station. Come out to pick your pumpkin and soak up the fall air. Located in Tuscaloosa, you could coordinate with a home game for a weekend of fun!

Admission details:
$15 per person includes access to all activities plus your pumpkin — Great deal!

Farmer in the Dell Pumpkin Patch – Auburn, AL

Located in Auburn, AL, the Farmer in the Dell Pumpkin Patch offers a hay bale play area, hayrides and a crop maze in addition to their fantastic pumpkin patch. This is a “you-pick” pumpkin patch, so spend the afternoon walking through the stalks to pick your prize!

Admission details:
Children and adults 6 and above: $2
Children 5 and under: Free
Pumpkins are priced by the pound

South Alabama

Paradise Pumpkin Patch – Eufaula, AL

Sure, Paradise Pumpkin Patch has pumpkins. But did you know they also have llamas and kangaroos and zebras, oh my!?! Offering one of the most robust petting zoos in the state, children are sure to enjoy the chance to pet so many different species of wild animals. There are also inflatables, hayrides and photo props throughout the property.

Admission details:
Adults and Children 2 and above: $12.50
Children under 2: Free

Dream Field Farms – Fitzpatrick, AL

If Clyde’s famous goat tower and a cow train ride aren’t enough to perk your interest, I don’t know what will. Dream Field Farms offers some incredibly fun fall activities with pumpkins to boot. Spend an afternoon running through the fields selecting your family’s favorite pumpkin and check out some of Dream Field’s unique offerings while you’re there.

Admission details:
General Admission: $12
Children 2 and Under: Free

Aplin Farms – Dothan, AL

Sure, pumpkin patches are great and all, but what have y’all got to eat? Aplin Farms has all the answers to that question, my friend. Offering hamburgers, chili dogs, BBQ sandwiches and boiled peanuts these folks take home the award for best food on the farm. Not to allow their food to take the cake, they also have train rides, a corn maze, inflatables and even pumpkin bowling – something for everyone!

Admission details:
$6 and $12 depending on how many activities you select to participate in
Children under 2: Free

Jack O’ Lantern Lane at Oaks, LLC – LaFayette, AL

Picnic areas, cornmeal grinding, homemade ice cream and gem mining are just a few of the fun activities you can expect to partake in at Jack O’ Lantern Lane! Plus, for a steal of a deal, $9 gets you a hayride and pumpkin of your choice! Can’t do much better than that.

Admission details:
$9 includes hayride and pumpkin of your choice

Magnolia Corn Maze – Summerdale, AL

Pig races, play areas, petting zoos, and hayrides are just a few of the add-ons you will enjoy alongside the famous corn maze! Take a day to explore all the fall-themed activities and make sure to check out sunflower fields while you’re there.

Admission details:
Check the website for package options ranging in price from $10 – $15

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

2 months ago

Mondays for Moms: The good kind of contagious

(YHN)

My babies have only been back in school for a few weeks and we’ve already had a few brushes with some sick bugs.

I’m guessing any mommas out there reading this have dealt with these typical school bugs, frequent colds and maybe even the dreaded pink eye …dun dun dun…

Kids tend to pick up sicknesses fairly easily, especially when they are little.

But what if I told you that there is also something else that is highly contagious?!

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Turns out our children are watching. Every. Single. Move. We. Make.

Sure, they’re busting down the walls of institutional privacy as they watch us shower and potty, but, more significantly, they are watching how we handle grown-up conversations. How we greet strangers. How we forgive those who hurt us. How we discuss serious issues. How we comfort those who are hurting. How we address disappointing behavior. How we acknowledge successes.

And what they see can either be contagious in a good way or contagious in a bad way.

I started thinking about our “Contagious Character” and how we can be sure we are only passin’ along the “good” character bugs.

When I pull up to a green light and get behind that precious old soul who somehow missed the fact that the light turned green a minute and a half ago I have a choice. I can either lay on the horn and get frustrated, or I can choose to breathe a little deeper and count to 10 until she finally decides to press on the gas.

When someone cuts in front of me in line, I can throw a fit or I can acknowledge that moment as an opportunity to give a little grace.

When a friend disappoints me, I can gossip about the situation to my hubby over dinner, or I can choose to speak with encouraging words.

When my babies cover their faces in my lipstick again as if they are tardy for their circus clown audition, I can jump to judgment and scream in angst, or I can encourage their artistic prowess and gently suggest better contouring next go around.

The moral of the story is we have little eyes staring at us 24/7 whether we like it or not. As moms, we will all stumble at times and provide a not-so-great example.

But, if we keep our little “mini-me’s” in mind, it will begin to transform our character into the “good” kind of contagious rather than the “bad.”

Our pastor, Dr. Gary Fenton, performs the most beautiful and meaningful baby dedications. He personalizes them to each family, but more importantly, he utilizes those moments in time to truly speak to the parents and the church about their responsibilities in the child’s life.

As he gazes into the child’s eyes, he suddenly shifts his focus to the parents and softly speaks these words: “This child will occasionally listen to you, but she will always be watching you.”

Wow. What a powerful reminder!

As moms, we can spend our entire lives reading every baby book, attending every momma class and relentlessly searching the Internet for the answers to being the “Best Mom.” The truth is actually much simpler to discover than all the hassle we exert.

If we wish for our children to be kind, we must be kind to others. Even when we’re tired. Even when the cashier is making us angry. Even when someone slams on their brakes in front of us causing us to veer off the road. We can strive to teach our children that we cannot control others’ actions, we can only work on our own actions and our own reactions. It’s a great reminder for them, too, that our smiles are our greatest free gift to the world. Something as simple as a smile may be the act of kindness that makes someone else’s day.

If we wish for our children to be grateful, we must express gratitude in front of them. We can make it a habit to thank them when they clean their rooms, wash their hands and share with others. We can model for them how to thank God for their food, their clothes and their health. And we can show gratitude to daddy in front of them for all the ways he provides – even when his shoes are strewn about on the floor, the bathroom’s a mess and he was late for dinner.

If we wish for our children to be patient, we should make every effort not to rush them through life. We can give them the extra five minutes to tie their shoes properly (even when we need to be out the door). We can take a few minutes to examine the best way to respond. We should offer them the grace (even in the moments that send us straight to the insane asylum) because God has offered each of us undeserved, indescribable amounts of grace even before our children entered this world and continues to do so on a daily basis.

If we wish for our children to be truthful, we must be cautious to always tell the truth. Even little white lies are easily exposed by our super-sleuth kiddos. If we say we will take them to a friend’s house for a playdate, we can make every effort to make good on that promise. Promises to children are life-and-death. When we utter the words “I will,” “We will” or any version of “I promise,” we must remind ourselves that we have entered into a binding oral contract with our little ones.

If we wish for our children to be giving, we must be charitable with the many blessings God has given us. We can take opportunities to expose our children to the power of giving to another by taking them along for serve days in the community, making Christmas gifts for those in need or baking cookies to gift to the sweet ones in the local nursing home. Consider taking a Saturday to clean out your closets and take the clothing to a women’s shelter or church. Be part of a toy or school supply collection that benefits local children in need. Let’s teach our kids to be the change they wish to see in this world.

If we wish for our children to be responsible, we must follow through with our own commitments. If we take on a role at work, school or church, we should strive to commit ourselves to serving in the best capacity possible. This may require making sacrifices. The example we will be exhibiting in front of our children is by far worth the extra effort.

If we wish for our children to be forgiving, we must give them grace when they make mistakes. No child is perfect, no matter how much we feebly hope they might be. They will disappoint us. They will cause us to lose our patience. And they will even enrage us at times. But, if we wish for them to have the ability to forgive, we must remember to forgive even in their darkest moments, too. When we make mistakes, we can pause for a moment and apologize. By asking them for their forgiveness, we are exemplifying a humble heart.

We could go on and on – the list of cause-and-effect parenting rules is endless. But we get the idea. “The proof is in the pudding,” as we’ve heard it said so many times before. Sometimes it’s easy to let ourselves slack in terms of being kind, grateful, patient, truthful, giving, responsible and forgiving when we are only exercising those traits for ourselves. And truth be told, there is no way for any of us to be perfect all the time. Perfection is a losing game, my friends. (Thank goodness, am I right?)

Children will emulate celebrities, musicians and even Olympians popular today.  But, the humbling fact remains that the people they should be looking up to most is their very own mom and dad.

The truth is this: We can tell our children all the right things and we can teach them all the proper “rules” of life. But if they don’t see us living out what we say, we may be missing out on our greatest opportunities to groom our children for greatness.

Praying for all of us to strive to be our best selves each and every day!

“Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity…”

Ephesians 5:15-16a

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

3 months ago

Momma Manual: Top 10 pediatrician picking pointers

(YHN)

Momma Manual: Top 10 pediatrician picking pointers

Whether you have just learned you’re pregnant, or already have a few youngsters running around, one thing we can all agree on is that picking your child’s pediatrician may be the single most important health-related decision you ever make as a mom. After all, this is the individual you are entrusting to supervise your child’s health and wellness from birth to the age of 18. This person will walk with you in those precious first moments of life. He/she will make recommendations regarding vaccinations, medications and other potentially lifesaving care. He/she will nurture and care for your child during times of sickness and rejoice with you in times of good health.

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But that feels like a lot of pressure, right? I mean, wow. You’ve just selected an OB/GYN, a delivery hospital, a crib, a booger sucking bulb syringe, a tummy time mat and the infamous going home the hospital outfit. And now you have to add another decision to your seemingly neverending checklist?

Have no fear. The hope with this post is to provide you a handy dandy checklist to take all the guesswork and stress out of making this call.  When making this ever-important decision, I would recommend doing a quick search to discover all of the options in your close vicinity. Jot down names of particular interest to you. Next, seek referrals from other parents. Compile a list of pediatricians receiving high marks from other moms. After you feel that you have a solid list of vetted candidates, narrow it down to the top two or three. Make an appointment with these individuals to see for yourself which one you feel is best suited for your family. All reputable pediatricians welcome “new-parent” appointments and consider them standard practice. If you call one to set up a meeting and he/she declines, that might be your first clue that they are not the one for your child!

OK. So, you’ve done your homework. You’ve picked a few candidates to research a little further. What do you do once you’ve scheduled a call or quick visit with them? Consider the criteria below as your stress-free cheatsheet guide of conversation topics to refer to during your time together (in no particular order because arguably they are all equally important):

(1) Office Hours – When is he/she available to see your child? Do they provide any after-hour appointments for working parents or parents who desire extended scheduling opportunities? A growing number of practices are open at least for a few hours on the weekends for sick visits. Some offices even offer well visit checks during certain weekend hours, which is particularly helpful for parents who are unable to step away from obligations/responsibilities during the week, but wish to attend doctor visits with their child. If the doctor is only open from 8:00-5:00 Monday through Friday, I would think about how those restrictions could potentially affect your family. Unfortunately, your precious little one’s sicknesses will not always fall within that time frame. Most doctors are offering a few appointments throughout the weekend now and even offer later hours during the week to meet the needs of a wider range of families.

(2) On-call Nurse Assistance – It never fails that the moment you need the doctor is 6:37 p.m. on a Saturday night moments after kickoff of the state’s biggest football game. Not shockingly, you won’t find many doctors chilling in their offices in those random moments. On a few occasions, my daughters have run high fevers late at night or even very early in the morning. Understandably, you probably aren’t jazzed about hanging out in the waiting room of the local children’s hospital for hours just to be told that little Junior is suffering from the common cold. And this is exactly why you will want to track down a pediatrician’s office that offers a 24-7 nurse on call. This service is outstanding because you simply call the regular office phone number at any hour of the day and you can be connected to a nurse who can answer any question you may have and even schedule an appointment if necessary. Trust me, when your child is sick – especially in those first few years of life – you will visit panic mode quite a few times. Knowing that you have a nurse waiting to offer you immediate assistance no matter the time of day is incredibly reassuring.

(3) Well Entrance vs. Sick Entrance – Imagine taking your child to the doctor for a well visit and being forced to sit next to a sneezing, coughing, snotty-nosed kid for 30 minutes while you wait to be called back. Not cool. What’s the point of taking your healthy child for a well visit if he/she leaves sick each time from sitting in the waiting room with those feeling under the weather?!? Well clinics vs. sick clinics is a huge discussion/trend amongst pediatricians. In fact, I would argue it’s becoming the industry norm. This is not a complete deal-breaker, but I would weigh the repercussions of sitting next to Flu-filled Felicia in your mind when making this important pediatrician picking decision.

(4) Office Visit Wait Time – This topic can stir up all kinds of drama – but trust me when I say, this may be one of the most important factors in your decision, Momma. When your child is sick, haste is key in solving the problem and steering towards a safe solution. How much time you spend (or waste in some instances) in a waiting room is a factor worth calculating. A few questions you will want answered related to office visit wait time: How long do patients typically wait on average to see the doctor for well visits? For sick visits?  Some doctors are so popular that their waiting rooms are filled to the brim daily with overwhelmed mommas and tired toddlers. This can be a drawback if you want efficient service. Make sure to inquire with other families about appointment wait time.

First and foremost, the care of every child in the office is equally imperative. There are bound to be moments with every pediatrician where his/her timing is off due to a special need with a patient or circumstances outside of his/her control. These are instances that cannot be avoided. On the flip side, there are also habitual offenders of the “sit in the waiting room for forever” phenomenon. As a human being, I strive to respect the time of others. I may not always be early to the party, but I try really hard not to be late. Using similar logic, it’s important for medical professionals to respect the time of their patients as well. Nothing burns me up worse than hearing discussions of goat cheese appetizers going on in the hallway when my child has been vomiting in my hands for 47.5 minutes … and counting. My best advice for tackling this factor is to ask current patients. Ask them what the average wait time is for a sick visit is vs. the average wait time for a well visit. For point of reference, our pediatrician’s wait time is equal for both types of visits – which I would argue is outstanding. Especially since he has a track record of under 20 minutes for both! Once you’ve asked around with current patients, there’s no shame in the game of broaching the topic with your prospective medical professional as well – after all, you are interviewing this individual to care for your child for the next 18 years of their life.

(5) Medicine Philosophy – in a world where “organic” and “natural” have become more than just trends, how does your doctor feel about prescribing medicine? Is he/she opposed to antibiotics? Does he/she encourage to provide over-the-counter pain medication such as Tylenol if baby has a fever or allow the fever to break naturally? What are the doctor’s thoughts on vaccinations and other forms of preventative medicine? Do his / her philosophies comport with your views as the parent? Nowadays this discussion is imperative. If the plan presented does not suit you, you will want to know that ahead of time.

(6) Affiliation with a local hospital – God forbid your child ever need the assistance of emergency medical care or extended medical treatment. However, to assist you in those times of extra need, many pediatricians have relationships with local hospitals to make these instances less frustrating for the parents and physicians. I would recommend asking if they have an affiliation with a local hospital. If not, why not? If they do, inquire regarding the admission process and if you need to place a call to your pediatrician’s office prior to arriving at the hospital. You may think this is overbearing, but there are even physicians who can get you in to see a hospital doctor much quicker by simply making a call on your child’s behalf. At 4 am when you are struggling for sanity, you are going to want to have this information handy.

(7) Available network and relationships with various specialists – When my second daughter was born, she had some hearing related issues – or so we thought based on her initial hearing tests. Thankfully, our pediatrician had a connection with one of the best audiologists in town and we were seen the day she left the labor and delivery wing.  Being well connected is imperative in any profession, but particularly attractive for a pediatrician. Referrals are made daily in pediatric offices. Having an established relationship with teams of specialists in place can make the transition to more intensive medical care much less stressful for the child and the parent. Plus, answers received today are much more helpful than waiting weeks just to get in to visit with a specialist. At the very least, your pediatrician should be willing to provide you a list of several specialists in case you ever need one.

(8) Experience – No offense to Doogie Howser … I’m sure he was incredible. Experience is key. There is really no hard and fast rule regarding experience. But logic tells you that a doctor who has been practicing for several years will likely have seen an untold amount of unique illnesses and become much more targeted when delivering diagnoses. My suggestion would be to inquire about years in the field, any specialties or extra degrees, etc. Again, age is not necessarily a defining characteristic here, but I stand by the notion that experience is key.

(9) Reputation in the community – You will most likely have to rely on word-of-mouth, online reviews and accolades received for this item on the list. Google has made it easier than ever to discover whatever you want to know about perfect strangers. I suggest spending some time researching your doctor’s reputation online first. If you notice several reviews complaining about customer service, rudeness, tardiness, etc. I would weigh that heavily when making your decision. Many physicians even have public social media accounts. Take a second to give them a gander if that type of personal information is important to you as well. Second, reach out to local moms and particularly current patients of the physician for a firsthand report.

Another aspect related to reputation is the friendliness/understanding of the staff and nurses. When you enter the office, are you greeted with a smiling face? Do you feel that the nurses are nurturing and patient with you and your child? You will spend much more time with the nurses and staff over the years, so it’s important to value each of them as a partner in your child’s health journey – and to treat them with that level of respect as well!

(10) Bedside Manner – Bedside manner will matter to you, I promise. I want my children to grow to love the doctor, develop a level of trust and never fear visiting his office. Understandably, children grow very leery of the doctor after the first round of shots or swab of the throat. A really kind doctor knows how to set a child at ease and even foster a friendship with the child over the years. Here are a few questions to consider for this category:
– Does the doctor seem warm when approached?
– Is he/she easy to talk with? Does he/she seem distracted or disinterested in your conversation?
– Does the doctor interact freely with patients?
– How does he/she treat the staff and nurses?
– Does he/she offer affirmation or even a small treat for soothing or good behavior?
– Is he/she funny or at least willing to carry on light-hearted conversation?
– Does he/she use words that are only found in textbooks?
– Does he/she seem to truly care about the health and wellness of his patients?
The goal for both the patient/patient’s family and the doctor is to develop a trusting professional partnership backed by active participation and mutual respect.

This list may seem overwhelming at first glance, but when considering the medical care provider for your child, researching these important factors beforehand will protect you fro a great deal of regret later down the road. Consider this just like you would an interview for a caretaker for your child. After all, this individual will be providing some of the most important care your child will receive outside your home.

In closing, know that even if at first you choose the wrong “fit,” you can always fix it! Your child’s health and wellness should always be a top priority, so I hope you feel empowered to make the best choice for your family.

3 months ago

Sixth annual Crush Wine & Food Festival next week in Huntsville

(Homegrown/Facebook, YHN)

Wine lovers rejoice! Homegrown, LLC of Huntsville, is planning an incredible weekend just for you.

If you need a mini escape from football craziness and are not quite ready to carve your pumpkin, make sure to reserve September 25-29 on your calendar for some boozy fun at the sixth annual Crush Wine & Food Festival.

Due to growing popularity with festival-goers, the organizers have added whiskey to the lineup and expanded their food offerings this year as well. With over 150 wine labels, exclusive chef dinners and whiskey/wild game pairings, this event is bound to become one of your newest annual traditions.

Boasting five different tasting, dining and entertainment opportunities, the Crush Wine Festival has something for everyone. Check out the schedule for the festival:

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(Crush Wine & Food Festival/Facebook)

Wednesday, September 25: Champagne Kickoff Party

What: Presented by The Westin, Mumm’s Champagne and Tito’s Vodka, the Champagne Kickoff consists of an intimate, laid back evening of celebration toasting to the festival’s events. Mumm’s Champagne, specialty Tito’s drinks and heavy appetizers crafted by Chef Bill Stellwagen of The Westin will be served as you mingle with the industry’s best chefs, winemakers and chocolatiers who help bring the Crush Wine Festival to life each year.

Where: The Westin at Bridge Street Towne Center

Thursday, September 26: Winemaker and Whiskey Distiller Dinner

What: Presented by The Scout Guide, Keel Point and Jason Landers, a three-course winemaker and distiller dinner to remember will be handcrafted by Johnny Dolan (Hunstville native and executive chef at the Lion’s Share in San Diego, CA) and Chef Renee Boyzo, executive chef at Purveyor.

Where: Purveyor

Friday, September 27: Whiskey and Wild Game Experience

What: Presented by Progress Bank, this event will feature 20 spirits – a tent for scotch, bourbon and whiskey, each to offer wild game tastings to pair with your pour. Dolan and Boyzo are slated to host this unforgettable evening, too.

Where: Big Spring Park East, Downtown Huntsville

Saturday, September 28: Signature Crush Wine Festival

What: Presented by Progress Bank, the main event will feature 150 wines from all over the world, live music, grape stomping, wine-inspired food items and much more.

Where: Big Spring Park East, Downtown Huntsville

Sunday, September 29: Champagne Brunch

What: Presented by The Scout Guide and Tito’s Vodka, the event closes out with a classic Champagne Brunch sure to offer you many opportunities to toast to your new vino and whiskey expertise. Offerings such as a sparkling wine tasting, a Tito’s vodka bloody-mary bar and live music are sure to cap off the week’s events by providing guests the ultimate Sunday Funday.

Where: The AC Hotel

In an effort to give back, a portion of this year’s proceeds will benefit the Huntsville Hospital Foundation’s Crush Parkinson’s Fund – a charity with the mission of furthering research and providing the best innovative care for those affected by the disease.

Specifically, the Crush Parkinson Fund is aiming to add a Parkinson’s nurse navigator to the clinic staff who is trained to provide educational and emotional guidance to patients and their families as well as assist in helping each patient meet their optimal results during treatment.

This popular multi-event festival has sold old for the past five years, so don’t delay in reserving your spot for the fun!

Tickets range from $50 for a general admission ticket to the signature Crush Wine Festival to $400 for the Ultimate VIP Crusher Package, which covers every event throughout the week.

All tickets can be purchased at www.CrushWineFestival.com.

3 months ago

Mondays for Moms: Let them be little

(YHN)

Let them be little

I was rocking my littlest one to sleep this weekend when out-of-the-blue stressful thoughts began savagely invading my somewhat peaceful brain …

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What about those dishes, Erin? You forgot to clean the kitchen table after lunch.

When are you ever gonna get to all those baskets of laundry that are piling up like garbage piles on trash day? 

And how about those windows that have prehistoric fingerprints on them from when the babies were just that … babies … ahhh!

Then, my little girl’s hand gently stroked my arm. She had no clue that her simple gesture soothed her over-stressed momma instantly.

Today, I am rocking my little girl comfortably in our glider tucked away from the crazies of the real world. But, one day I’ll be rocking nervously back and forth in my bed waiting to see the lights from her car pour onto my comforter signaling she has made it home safely once again.

Today, I am cutting the edges off of my toddler’s toast to make sure she enjoys every bite. But, one day, I’ll be desperately avoiding cutting the “helicopter mommy” cord on her wedding day wishing more than anything to be “slaving away” on the heart-shaped PB&Js in the kitchen again.

Today, I am hoping she doesn’t scream “mommy” one more time while I hide under the dining room table searching for any amount of sanity that might be miraculously hidden under there. But, tomorrow, I will be giving any amount of money to hear her say my name each time a need arises in her precious adult life.

Today, I am folding her sheets and towels only to discover her playing hide and seek tucked deep in the laundry basket among all the dryer sheets and warmth. But, one day, I’ll be reluctantly walking the aisles at Target with her shopping for dorm linens, shower shoes and bath caddies.

Today, I am reading her bedtime stories and singing soft little tunes as I have the privilege of tucking her in. But, one day, I’ll be reading her name on a graduation pamphlet and fighting back tears as I sing hymns of congratulatory praise for her accomplishments.

So the laundry, the dishes and the tidying can take a seat. All those chores can be done when I get around to it … whenever that may be.

Because right now, I’m gonna let her be little. And soak up every last minute of it.

To receive encouragement and read more about thriving rather than simply surviving in motherhood, check out Erin’s book, Cheers the Diaper Years: 10 Truths for Thriving While Barely Surviving here.

3 months ago

Take the Alabama Bicentennial PastPort Challenge

(Alabama200.com/Contributed, YHN)

Happy Birthday, Alabama! Did you know our great state is celebrating 200 years this December? With so many years of memories, the folks at Alabama200.org are making sure we each take a second to celebrate.

The Alabama Bicentennial Commission has spent great time and effort putting together so many opportunities for Alabama’s citizens to celebrate the beautiful state we call home. If you get a chance, take a few moments to explore the website they have created here, to see these fun opportunities: An Alabama Legacy Moment video dedicated to memorializing Alabama’s rich history in film; the People of Alabama page – a documentary project devoted to introducing some of Alabama’s most incredible citizens; and a running list of celebratory events updated daily.

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If you are enduring those final dog days of summer grind like so many of us sweltering in the Alabama heat, allow us to introduce you to the newest item to add to your Summer/Fall bucket list: the Alabama Bicentennial PastPort. Designed as a fun way to explore “every corner of the state,” including historical sites, museums and landmarks, the Alabama PastPort is sure to give you plenty of ways to maximize the fun of exploring our state. If you follow the entire PastPort journey, you will travel through each of Alabama’s 67 counties encountering plenty of memory-making entertainment, photo-perfect moments and enrich yourself with our state’s most important historical moments along the way.

Stops at the Coldwater Covered Bridge in Calhoun County, the Cheaha State Park in Cleburne County and Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile County are just a few of the exciting stops you will make on your PastPort journey. Some other fun stops include the Ave Maria Grotto in Cullman, Noccalula Falls Park in Gadsden and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in Birmingham.

This is such a fun way to teach your children about their heritage and could also be a great tour for empty-nesters or individuals looking for an engaging way to fall more in love with Alabama “the Beautiful!” Some of the spots on the tour even offer a stamp to give you that super official world traveler feel!

The beautiful 174-page PastPort, designed by Birmingham-based firm, Tatum Designs, is available for purchase online at www.ShopAlabama200.org for $10, or there is a free downloadable version available in the iTunes app store titled, “Alabama PastPort.” You can read more about the journey awaiting you if you choose to take the Alabama PastPort challenge at www.Alabama200.org and even see some sneak peeks of the places you will soon be visiting.

If you are interested in some other celebrations to commemorate the bicentennial, check out some other events coming up this fall:

1. September 11-15 – Ride Alabama 200: Alabama Civil Rights Ride: If you are a biking enthusiast, or want to tag along for this exciting ride, the cyclists will be travelling 200 miles and visiting 50 historic sites on the journey. Click here for more information.

2. November 2 – December 30 – Museum of Alabama at the Alabama Department of Archives and History’s “We the People: Alabama’s Defining Documents Exhibition”: History buffs will get a kick out of the opportunity to take a look at Alabama’s many constitutions. The 1861 Ordinance of Secession will be on display as well. Click here for more information about the exhibit.

3. November 11 – USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park’s Bicentennial Veterans Day Celebration: Take the whole family for a day of Alabama pride as we celebrate those who have served our state and our country throughout the years. Admission is free and there will even be parachutists landing on the field during the event! Plus, make sure to explore “Mighty A” while you’re visiting the park. Click here for more information about the celebration.

4. December 14 – Bicentennial Park dedication in Montgomery, AL: Bicentennial Park is a new park constructed in Montgomery, AL meant to commemorate Alabama’s rich history. There are interpretative plaques located throughout the park “designed to tell the story of Alabama from pre-history to present.”

For more information about the park, click here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

3 months ago

‘Mondays for Moms’: When messes turn into messages

(YHN)

The following is the fourth edition of Mondays for Moms:

When messes turn into messages

I had some big plans for Saturday, y’all.

We’re talkin’ deep cleaning, closet ransacking, pantry purging and even some yard sprucing.

Well, I probably don’t need to tell you that those grand intentions got dashed real quick once the little ones involved themselves in my mom mission.

At one point, I stepped out of the playroom to grab a load of laundry and returned to this…

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blogaao

In the interest of being perfectly honest with you precious ladies, I had a temporary meltdown. Not verbally. It was more of an internal hellish shock moment.

In an attempt not to explode, I stepped outside of the room and quickly sorted out my options:

(1) I could burst back in there belting “Clean up time! Clean up time! CLEAN UP TIIIMMMEEE!”

Or

(2) I could breathe. And remind myself that while I’m making all kinds of grand plans, God is smirking just a bit. And it was in that moment that He reminded me to peek in at those little ones to give them a big dose of grace and stop and savor the moment.

My little ones were having the time of their lives. And, yes, at the expense of paint on the walls and their momma’s level of sanity, but, nevertheless they were building memories.

And I thought about how that transferred over to my life, too. Sometimes, some of my biggest messes (both literally and figuratively) in life created some of the greatest memories.

Why is it that we kill ourselves to perfect the façade?

Why do we struggle and juggle and attempt to balance every single thing at the expense of the most important things?

I do value a (somewhat) clean home.

But, I value well-rounded, content, God-loving, adventurous, happy family members more.

Kids are young. And innocent. And playful.

They make messes.

Life goes on.

Namaste…

But in all seriousness, I learned that God’s plans are always bigger and better than ours. Rather than dominating my to-do list this weekend, I spent extra time making memories with my little ones in a heap of Barbies and pretend play food.

And if I’m being honest, those moments were way cooler than anything I had on my silly agenda.

I did, of course, use this opportunity to reinforce proper cleanup techniques, but I reminded myself to never discourage the mess.

Because oftentimes, it’s there … deep in life’s messes, that God speaks to us in the most profound ways.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

4 months ago

‘Mondays for Moms’: Making your way in the margin mommy moments

(YHN)

The following is the third edition of Mondays for Moms:

Making your way in the margin mommy moments

A few weeks ago I was talking with some momma friends about their careers (before mommyhood).

I loved listening to them talk about all their achievements and their dreams for the future.

What struck me was how many times I heard the phrase: “But I just had to give all that up for now with kids…”

That stung a little bit because I had experienced those same emotions several years back.

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With two babies under the age of two, I started to feel like the “go-getter” side of me was slipping away.

And I was totally fine with that because loving my sweet babies is my deepest passion in life.

But, that drive deep inside to achieve my dreams was burning brighter than ever.

Have you been there, too?

Do you find yourself longing to achieve a certain goal, or live a certain dream, but you feel stuck by your circumstances?

Well, I’m here to tell you that no matter your current circumstances, you can achieve anything you put your mind to achieving!

The margins of our mommy lives are some of our greatest gifts. Because it is in those moments that we are free to pursue our deepest passions.

It is in those free moments in which the world seems to stand still and we can breathe a sigh of relief from the craziness of the daily grind.

The margins in my life happen to be 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm in the afternoon (AKA my kids’ “nap” time) and 8:00 pm to midnight each night (AKA kids sleeping!).

It’s in those moments that I wind down, dedicate myself to my work and recharge.

It’s when I write these little love notes to all of you each week.

It’s when I spend a few moments in God’s Word.

It’s when I check myself out of insanity and into personal rejuvenation.

Real talk: It’s when I curl up on the couch with a glass of wine and tune the rest of the world completely out.

As it turns out, we all have margin moments. However rare they may be, they do exist and it’s up to us to scout them out and make the most of each one!

If you are currently using your margin moments binging the Bachelorette (like me sometimes) or scrolling endlessly through your social media threads, let me ask you a few questions:

What are you really passionate about?

What motivates you? What gets you up in the morning? What keeps your heart racing with excitement?

Are you pursuing those things? Are you making them a priority?

I asked myself these questions about two and a half years ago and it really motivated me to do something about it.

As mothers, we don’t have to give up on the other aspects of our lives that drive us and give us joy.

We don’t have to feel guilty for carving out time to devote to these things!

But, maybe you feel trapped by your daily responsibilities. I feel you 100%, friend!

After playing, feeding, cleaning up, cooking, bathing and rocking all day, it can feel like we have nothing left to give when it’s all said and done.

These margin moments are our time. These are the opportunities to really plug in and reach for the moon, not the falling stars.

I promise you that you won’t regret taking the extra effort to pursue your dreams one day.

But, you will regret not doing so.

It’s OK for us to own our dreams. And to embrace them full-on.

It’s OK for us to put down the remote and retreat to our quiet places to unwind after a long day.

It’s OK for us to admit that we have a calling outside of mommyhood.

And it’s ok to give it everything we’ve got.

Let’s commit to each other that we will find moments this week to explore. To dream. And to discover.

And turn those mommy margin moments into the masterpiece-makers of our lives!

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

4 months ago

‘Cheers to 10 Years’: Birmingham Restaurant Week 2019

(Birmingham Restaurant Week/Facebook, YHN)

“Cheers to Ten Years!” 2019 marks the 10th year that foodies all over the state will flock to Birmingham to live it up on the culinary scene.

If you have traveled through the Magic City lately, you likely observed all the brand new restaurants popping up all over town. In fact, many attribute the food scene as one of the leading charges in revitalizing the city.

Founded in 2010, Birmingham Restaurant Week was designed to highlight some of the city’s tastiest venues. Kicking off with only 30 participating venues, the special week quickly became recognized as a premier spot on everyone’s calendars, and the list of participants grows each year. The concept is to get locals interested in all the incredible culinary opportunities Birmingham has to offer. From James Beard award-winning fine dining hot spots to local fast-casual hits turned national chains, Birmingham is doing something right in the food game.

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For 10 days, August 16-25, participating restaurants all over the city will be offering special lunch, dinner and tasting menus to show off the food that is making Birmingham foodie-famous. Dishes will be priced as specials and many restaurants will even offer one-of-a-kind meals specially crafted for Restaurant Week guests. Prices will range from $10 to $40 on the week’s special offerings.

From fine dining establishments boasting white tablecloths and mouthwatering cuisine to BBQ spots offering the best finger-licking good cheese biscuits this side of the Mississippi, there’s something for every palate. It’s the perfect time to head out to your favorite spot to grab some of their yummiest fare at killer deals, or discover some of our brand new delicious spots popping up all over town.

Restaurant Week screams girls’ nights and date nights and everything in between. Grab your friends and schedule a night or two out on the town. No tickets are required, so make your plans to visit some of your favorite spots now!

You can visit Birmingham Restaurant Week’s website to read up on the latest news about the event, including the list of participating restaurants.

4 months ago

‘Mondays for Moms’: A mother’s love

(YHN)

The following is the second edition of Mondays for Moms:

A mother’s love

Years before I had children, I attended a mother-daughter event with my own mom. The speaker encouraged the audience to share with one another how we felt our mother’s love. The moments that followed transformed my views of motherhood in a meaningful way.

A shorter, confident girl rose to her feet in the back left of the room.

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She looked her mom in the eyes and said, “I love that my mom never discussed her appearance in front of me. She never complained that her dress didn’t fit or that her skin looked dull or that her hips were too fluffy. I’m sure she had insecurities, but I was fortunate to never witness them. She always spoke positively about how she looked and how I did as well – not to boast of our beauty, but to instill a healthy level of confidence that I never knew I would so desperately need once living a day of two in the ‘real world.’ Because of her example, I’ve never given much thought to my appearance. I’m thankful for how God created me because I never knew there was any other way to think. Thank you, mom, for teaching me to love myself exactly the way I was created.”

Cue all the tears.

You could hear a pin drop. Suddenly, the room erupted into a wave of “awwws” mixed with sniffles and applause. After the magnitude of this girl’s message hit us, a few moms embraced their daughters sobbing audibly. How convicting, yet inspiring all at the same time.

This was a profound moment for every woman in the room because, possibly for the first time, we discovered how profound the words we hear affect the emotions we experience.

We’ve heard all the age-old adages such as “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” and “If you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all,” but this concept our friend in the back of the auditorium shared seemed ground-breaking.

The world is cruel. Social media tears our children down day in and day out. Record levels of children are suffering from bouts of bullying at school. A healthy level of confidence instilled and reinforced at home is the most important starting point for protecting the hearts of our sweet children.

What we say about ourselves in front of our children becomes the internal dialogue speaking to them in their minds. If we are constantly lamenting the lack of tone in our thighs or the saggy circles under our eyes, how can we expect our children not to worry about those same things? I certainly don’t always get it right, but ten years ago that girl from California taught me that words matter. Maybe we should stop asking if our bottoms look good in our mom jeans, and start sharing stories of kindness, bravery and empathy.

Our children may not always listen, but they are always watching.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

4 months ago

5th annual EatMGM restaurant week starts Friday in Montgomery

(Eatmgm/Facebook, YHN)

For the fifth year in a row, EatMGM is kicking off Friday in Montgomery.

Organized by the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce Convention & Visitor Bureau, the 10-day restaurant week event, running from August 9-18, boasts 10 days of deals, foodie get-togethers and online contests.

Local restaurants are kicking off the week with special deals up to $35, and there is even a downloadable passport option offering prizes to patrons who dine at three or more participating restaurants.

Some of the restaurants participating this year include the following:

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Frutta Bowls
India Palace
Irish Bred Pub & Restaurant
Central
Itta Bena
The Cork and Cleaver
Vintage Year
TASTE
El Taco Soup
Cahawba House
Smoothie King
Sa Za Serious Italian Food
Sol Restaurante Mexicano & Tacqueria
Peyton’s Place
Jan’s Beach House

Simply ask for the EatMGM special when you arrive!

In addition to the restaurant specials, there are several special events guests can check out during the week as well.

  • Tap Takeover
    • Where: Cork & Cleaver
    • When: August 13, 5 – 7 p.m.
    • What: This event will feature beers from local breweries: Railyard Brewing and Common Bond
  • Bad and Boozy Lunch Hour
    • Where: Tower Taproom
    • When: August 14, 11 a.m. – 12 p.m.
    • What: Guests will receive a free Good, Bad and Ugly appetizer with the purchase of a beer
  • EatMGM Saturday Brunch Meet Up
    • Where: Goat Haus Beer Garden
    • When: August 17, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
    • What: Mix and mingle with local foodies
  • Sunday Funday with the Montgomery Biscuits
    • Where: Riverwalk Stadium
    • When: August 18 at 5:05 p.m.
    • What: Biscuits vs. Biloxi ballgame with loads of fun for guests of all ages! For more information about the stadium and the Montgomery Biscuits, click here.

For more information, updates, events and news about EatMGM, click here. You can stay up to date with all of EatMGM’s latest news by following EatMGM on Facebook here and Instagram here.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

4 months ago

45 creative date night ideas

(Pixabay, YHN)

Are you bored with date night? Do you end up slouching in the same ‘ole movie theater seat or get stuck ordering the same burger every time you head out for a night on the town? Let’s start a new trend: date night, done right!

Today, we are sharing 45 creative date night ideas to help you get out of the date night rut and take your courtship up several notches! I’ve separated the ideas into five different categories: Unique Experiences; Teaching/Bonding Moments; Sentimental; Stay-At-Home; and Budget-Friendly. No matter your ideas of what’s “fun,” there are bound to be plenty of options to tickle your fancy below. Grab a cup, let’s chat it up!

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Unique Experiences

(1) Scavenger hunt date – This one requires quite a bit of forethought, but what a day to remember! The idea is to hide items across town (sentimental or not) and provide your partner with clues to locate the hidden treasures. These extra special dates don’t have to be reserved for over-the-top engagements anymore, guys! Plan ahead to spoil your loved one with an adventure to chat about for years to come.

(2) Start a couple’s book club – Who says book clubs have to be reserved for ladies who lunch? Team up to select some great books, take some time to give the books a good read and then live your best book club life. You can do this as a couple or invite other couples to join as well.

(3) Polaroid date night – Take photos throughout your entire date night. Either use a Polaroid camera, which prints the photos automatically, or upload photos from your phone to a one-hour printer at your local pharmacy. Pick up the photos and create a scrapbook together you can look back at forever.

(4) Pretty Woman date – You’ve seen the Julia Roberts famous flick, and if you haven’t, well, there’s your date night for the weekend. But, if you have enjoyed the cinematic genius that is Pretty Woman, you know exactly what this date is all about. Make your partner’s dreams come true. Take your partner on a special shopping spree and let him / her select an outfit, some shoes and a piece of jewelry. Trust me when I say that this splurge will totally be worth it and give you a story to share at the water cooler on Monday!

(5) Surprise getaway – Pick a fun spot, pack some bags, and go along for the ride!

(6) Role play date – Dress up as a character entirely different from your traditional persona. Meet your mate at a restaurant and act as if it is a blind date set up by someone. You can be anybody you wanna be for the night. Have fun with all the ways you can make this one thrilling adventure.

(7) Art museum tour –  Go to an art museum and sketch the pieces of art. Make it a competition by purchasing sketchbooks and pencils ahead of time (you can buy them inexpensively at Hobby Lobby, Michael’s craft stores, or Amazon) and designate a prize for the “closest to the original.” Have an unbiased couple pick the winner!

(8) Go ice skating (or roller skating depending on availability in our area) – Pretend you’re on the Olympics team and give it your all!

(9) Fantasy date experience – What have you always wanted to do? Is there a restaurant/city/entertainment spot you’ve always wanted to check out, but never got around to going? Make your partner’s dreams come true by surprising them with their dream date night!

(10) Progressive dinner night on the town – Remember the good ‘ole bar crawls from back in the college days? Give an upgrade to the age-old tradition by adding in some mealtime favorites. Grab cocktails at one location, move the party to another spot for dinner and round out your night at a third location for dessert. You can make this as budget-friendly as you want, and lunch time is another great way to save some cash for this super fun experience.

(11) Be a tourist in your own town – Take a minute to explore the town you call home. If you need some inspiration, contact your local Chamber of Commerce and pick up some pamphlets cluing you in to all your city has to offer.

(12) Schedule a couple’s massage at a local or nearby spa – If you want to really turn up the romance factor, see if the staff offers massage lessons or will allow you to get involved in pampering your sweetheart!

(13) Interview one another and record the interviews – Consider compiling the footage to glance back at years from now. This video may become your child’s most prized possession one day.

(14) Staycation — Have a slumber party at a nearby hotel – Changing up location can often times be all the spice you need to change things up. Treat it like a real slumber party with popcorn, games and dinner served right to your bedside.

(15) Have a painting competition – Grab some simple white canvases, some paint and a few paintbrushes for a night you won’t soon forget. Take turns posing for one another while the other partner paints a memorable portrait. If you feel uncomfortable serving as the muse, select a random object or scene the two of you can paint together. You can also dial up the comedic factor by turning on a Bob Ross painting tutorial and competing to see whose end result most closely mimics Ross’ masterpiece.

Teaching/Bonding Moments

(1) Take a cooking or winemaking class – Pro tip: you get to enjoy what you make at the end of the class.

(2) Take a workout class together – Nothing bonds two people like sweating it out striving to meet a goal. Go on a journey of healthier eating and serve as each other’s biggest cheerleader the whole way!

(3) Plant a garden or tackle a landscaping project in the yard – You may discover a green thumb in your pairing existed all along!

(4) Take up a new hobby together or share your hobby with your significant other – Consider something like tennis, golf, swimming, antiquing, crafting, DIY team, hunting, fishing, camping, etc. The options are endless!

(5) Teach your partner something – Dig deep to discover a skill, fact, story, etc. you can share with your partner to let them in on what is important to you.

(6) Take a dance class

(7) Train for a race together – 5K races and marathons are all the rage these days

Sentimental

(1) Story of us date – Take some time to jot down the story of how you met in a journal. Include highpoints and possibly even low points that you triumphed through together. This will be an heirloom to treasure for years to come.

(2) Wedding video date night – Dress up in cocktail attire. Serve a signature cocktail – possibly your favorite as a couple or the one you served at your wedding. Set your viewing area up with some simple decorations and treat yourselves to a walk down memory lane. To make this even more fun, you could invite others to watch the video with you for laughs!

(3) Plan your dream vacation – Sharing your goals and dreams is one of the most connective activities you can experience as a couple. Throw in exotic plans for a getaway and you will both have a shared dream to look forward to until you are able to embark upon it together.

(4) Recreate your first date – Take it back to where it all began and relive those first few moments. Where did you eat? Did you see a show or concert? Bowling? Whatever it was, you can recreate it in the city you live now. You don’t have to include travel if you have moved away from where you met. Obviously, it kicks the romantic factor up if you do, but take the pressure off of yourself to pull off an exact replica. Take some time to ask each other questions dating back to those first few months together – what initially attracted you to one another? How did you meet? What are your favorite moments as a couple?

(5) Be kids for the night – Go play putt-putt, go-karting or bowling. Take an entire night to let your inner children living inside come out and have the best time together!

(6) Goal set and plan for the future – Get excited about your future by sitting down and comparing notes on all your hopes and dreams. Make a dream board and start checking goals off as you achieve them.

(7) Memory maker date – Print a ton of your favorite couple photos and create a scrapbook or shadow box together. This will create a fun new DIY coffee table addition to share with all your family and friends.

(8) Give each other tours of your past – Who doesn’t love a walk down memory lane? Take your partner to your hometown and do the whole house/school/hangout tour date day. It will be fun to discover things about your significant other you may have never known.

Stay-At-Home Dates

(1) Redo/renovate a room or tackle a DIY project – There has to be something in or around your home that could use a little update. Tackling the project together makes it fun and will take less time to achieve.

(2) Stock your home bar or entertainment center together – Rather than spending money on a night out, invest in several nights in. Take a look at your in-home bar (or pantry) to see what items you’d like to add for future enjoyment. If you’d prefer, you could add to your movie or game collections instead. Stock up and enjoy in the months to come!

(3) Make your own pizza – Select ingredients for your dream pizza, turn up the music and spend an evening playing chef in your own kitchen. To take it up a notch – serve it on some fine china in the dining room and dress up for the occasion.

(4) Throw a dance party in your den and build your ultimate couple playlist – Who says you have to go out to get down? Turn out the lights, crank up the music and party like it’s 1999!

(5) Purchase a question/answer for couples book and take some time learning about one another – You can purchase books like 101 Conversation Starters for Couples and have a wild night learning things you never knew!

(6) Take turns preparing each other’s favorite meal – Knowing what your partner likes is half the battle, right? Once you feel like you have a good handle on what they prefer, make it your mission to prepare the best version of their favorites they’ve ever had!

(7) Game night! – There are so many games available for couples. You could play cards, board games or even enjoy a wild rendition of old school Truth or Dare!

(8) Indoor glamping/outdoor camping – You don’t have to rent an RV and hike up a trail in the woods to get that outdoorsy feel. You can team up together to create your own night of fun by making s’mores together and maybe even telling a ghost story or two.

Budget-Friendly

(1) Go to a matinee movie and/or a farmer’s market – Heads up: matinee tickets are cheaper and crowds are much smaller. Entrance to farmer’s markets are also free and the products are often offered a discount because the local sellers are trying to find new clients. Date day on the cheap sounds like a weekly must!

(2) Plan a picnic at a local landmark or beautiful park – Regardless of how cheesy this idea sounds, picnics are always crowd-pleasers. You forget how nice it is to escape the humdrum same ‘ole places you’ve grown to frequent and experience a whole new view of the world. Picnics are relaxing and can be a place of rest and rejuvenation for both of you. Picnics are not just for playdates, people – get out there and soak up the sun!

(3) Start a supper club and/or host a dinner party – You can do this as a couple or invite a few friends to join you. You can make it fun by creating theme nights and allow each person to bring their own contribution to the meal. Or you can do it the traditional way by one couple hosting each time.

(4) Go grocery shopping together to collect dinner ingredients, but make it a game by setting a tight budget – Think of this as a challenge you have to conquer by putting your minds together and being thrifty. Head back home and try to make your dinner as delicious as possible using your staple items and the short list you picked up at the store.

(5) Polaroid date night – Travel around with a Polaroid camera for the night, capturing moments from all of your experiences. Consider doing this for a whole week and then create a memory book to enjoy for a lifetime.

(6) Eat takeout by candlelight – It is a proven fact that eating at home saves you megabucks. When eating in the restaurant, the add-ons like appetizers, dessert and beverages add up quickly. If you restrict your takeout order to your favorite main course, you can save a lot of money by adding the other items at home.

(7) Create your own YouTube video – This is out of the box, no doubt. But if you have a particularly gregarious partner, this may be right up their alley. Take turns as the lead and video a day in the life – or a day date. Trust me, watching this back may be the most cringy, yet most enjoyable laugh fest you’ve had in quite a while.

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

4 months ago

Introducing ‘Mondays for Moms’: A love letter to the mom who never feels enough

(YHN)

Editors note: ‘Mondays for Moms’ is Yellowhammer’s first weekly lifestyle offering. Every Monday, Erin Brown Hollis will bring doses of love, humor, encouragement and empathy to Alabama’s moms. Check back every week for a new post, and be sure to download the Yellowhammer News app on your smartphone and subscribe to Erin’s “Cheers to That” podcast for more great lifestyle content.

The following is the first edition of Mondays for Moms:

A love letter to the mom who never feels enough

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I imagine my first vision of becoming a mom embedded in my brain the second I realized there was a follow-up storyline to my legendarily intense Ken and Barbie sitting-in-a-tree play sessions. It was something aching inside of me that just awakened, I guess. Once I discovered I wasn’t actually my brother’s mom (apparently bossing people around isn’t the only resume filler for motherhood), it was game on for fulfilling my destiny of adding “mommy” to my resume.

And, like most little girls who grew up and later became moms, I imagined those first few moments with my newborn were going to be worthy of the opening lines in the next magical fairytale that I had written for Ken and Barbie so many years back.

And they were … for a little bit anyway.

She cooed. I ahhed. You know the drill. The lime margarita flavored hospital popsicles were flowing and momma was in euphoria. It was everything my little five-year-old brain had dreamed it would be (absent the massive mesh panties and ridiculously uncomfortable witch hazel pads stashed in places I shall not mention on this PG-rated website).

Ahh yes. It was all fun and games and Instagram perfection … until we got home from the hospital.

I suppose I thought the precious baby nurses in the hospital would manifest in some mystical form a few miles down the road in my humble abode and/or that God would bestow upon me some magical power to care for my new little family member with ease and the energy of a marathon runner who made it all the way to the finish line.

But, then the cruel reality settled in: It was just gonna be the two of us.

Daddy had to go back to work.

Family members had to tend to their own lives.

And there we were. Just an over-tired newborn momma and a precious little *screaming at the top of her lungs* bundle of joy.

No one warns you about the scariness when you are staring at the wall in your child’s nursery for those first moments at home alone. No one tells you that rather than critiquing whether or not that stuffed animal is better positioned to the left or right of the Diaper Genie in the nursery, you will instead begin to feel those pastel-colored walls closing in. And fast.

When I had my babies, there weren’t viral mom videos flooding my social media feeds of fellow mom-sisters offering some #realtalk on a Monday morning during naptime (aka mom nation’s only opportunity to sip on cold coffee for a hot second).

There weren’t mom blogs flooding my inbox with the hope that I was not the only one wiping barf off of crib rails at 2 a.m … or at least not any that I was reading at the time.

Nope. We were all alone on our struggle buses of insanity.

The things nobody tells you about when you have a child are the things that will be most endearing when glancing back 40 years from now, or at least that’s what my mother continues to profess to me.

Mornings of sleeping in and enjoying a casual breakfast have turned into fire-alarm-esque warning bells that the day has begun and you’re already 20 minutes late to the party.

Breakfast does not consist of healthy yogurt parfaits accompanied by those delicious Starbucks lattes anymore. HA! Yeah right. Now, we’re lucky if we manage to cram a Nutri Gran bar down our throats while driving 15 miles over the speed limit to make it to carpool line on time.

Laundry has become a game of “Where did she find this?”; “How did she manage to come back with the entire playground in her shorts?!?” and my all-time favorite: “Poop or chocolate?!?”

My closet has become my safe zone rather than my land of pretty things. I’m safe … and alone … in there, right?!

Speaking of being alone, my restroom rituals have turned into a one-woman stage show … with all eyes on me. It’s almost like my little ones expect a singing, acting and dance show worthy of a short stint on Broadway. Anyone else like to potty alone? Could someone share this concept with my kids?!?

Forget about hosting a Southern Living approved get together unless you block out childcare for three days prior. Let’s get real, they probably need to be gone for the whole week to make it doable.

What about those fun nights out with hubby and friends? Drinks until 10 or 11, which now sounds like an out of control college rave, have turned into hot toddies and zonked out by 9:30.

And you know what?

I would not change one thing.

Because now my mornings consist of extra snuggles and slobbery kisses.

My breakfasts contain roaring laughter and frequent giggle fits.

The surprises in the laundry basket aren’t always horrifying and mystifying. Sometimes I find tiny hidden stuffed animals reminding me of what a precious stage my babies are in.

One day I’ll miss all those snuggle bunnies in the bathroom. Well, “miss” is a strong word. I will reflect on those moments fondly as I revel in my return to freedom.

Southern Living can save my cover spread for another day. I’d much rather be reading those bedtime stories than polishing that silly silver anyway…

As far as a night out, I sneak one of those in as often as I can.  But, nights at home suit me just fine these days.

And I bet you’d agree … after 8 p.m., of course …

So, the next time you feel like you are the only momma staring into the business end of a toddler’s rear for the 50-leventh time on a Tuesday morning at 3:32 a.m., take comfort, girl. I’m right there with ya. And the rest of naptime nation is, too.

Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

7 months ago

Introducing Birthday Stories from Facebook — including free doughnuts

(Flaticon, YHN)

Facebook wants to help you celebrate your birthday and the special birthdays of your loved ones in more creative, meaningful ways.

Over time, Facebook’s platform has become synonymous with sharing special life milestones, more specifically birthdays. How many times do you log on to your profile, receive the prompt from Facebook that one of your friends is enjoying the spoils of another trip around the sun and think: “Wow. I’m sure glad Facebook reminded me because I had no clue!”

Beginning today, you can celebrate your friend in an even more memorable way. Introducing: Birthday Stories from Facebook. After doing some intensive research and test trials, Facebook discovered that over 100 million people use Facebook Stories to share “everyday moments.” Realizing the impact audio-visual content has on its members, Facebook wanted to find a way to offer a more creative, authentic way for friends to connect and recognize one another’s birthdays.

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Going forward, users will have the ability to contribute to a friend’s “birthday story” by adding their own digital birthday cards, photos, videos or other creative content and Facebook will deliver all contributors’ content to the birthday guy or girl in the form of a “Birthday Story.”

It’s very easy to participate.

You can access the feature in one of three places: your Facebook home screen along the top, on Facebook’s daily birthday reminder page or on the person’s individual wall. Participants will have access to special filters, stickers and recording features to make their contribution to a birthday story even more special.

This feature is particularly unique because the content will only be available for 24 hours (keeping in tradition with regular story content), and the person celebrating has complete control over their own birthday story. The birthday person can manage visual controls, meaning they can limit who can contribute to their birthday story, as well as select the “approve story” option giving them complete editorial control over what is visible to their followers.

Facebook is so excited to share this new feature that they are traveling to 50 bakeries across the country to give away free treats for one special day. On May 10, Facebook will be in Homewood at local favorite, Hero Doughnuts, giving away free doughnuts. You can find out more information about the Facebook launch event here. All are invited to come and get a first look at the new birthday feature and celebrate with a free treat.
Click here to find all 50 participating bakeries.

Erin Brown Hollis covers faith and culture for Yellowhammer News. She is an author and host of the “Cheers to That!” podcast. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @erinbrownhollis.

8 months ago

Pardis Stitt is a 2019 Woman of Impact

(Cary Norton/Contributed)

Pardis Stitt is living proof that success is sweetest when earned after years of hard work and dedication.

She and her husband Frank are co-owners and operators of four renowned Birmingham restaurants, including the 2018 James Beard Award winning Highlands Bar and Grill. The restaurant earned its first James Beard Foundation Award nomination for Outstanding Restaurant in 2009, which Stitt recalls as “thrilling and terrifying at the same time.”

“We felt a great responsibility to ourselves and our community and pushed even harder to provide an incredible experience for our guests. Nine nominations later, we won,” Stitt said.

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Stitt’s hospitality, which has roots in her southern upbringing and Persian heritage, helps to set her restaurants apart. Her parents immigrated to the U.S in the late 1970s and she grew up in Birmingham’s community of Iranian families.

“Without her, the Highlands is not the Highlands,” Frank Stitt told The New York Times in 2013.

Upon winning the prestigious James Beard award, Pardis illustrated her humility by telling ABC 33/40, “It is just an honor for our staff, for our guests who come and see us night after night, week after week, month after month who have been supporting us and we’re just so happy to bring a medal home to Birmingham.”

Stitt reflects on the 2018 James Beard award as a nod to hard work and something that inspires her every day.

“Having our dedication to hospitality affirmed on a national level continues to motivate us,” she shared with Yellowhammer News.

In addition to Highlands Bar and Grill, the Stitts own Bottega Restaurant, Bottega Cafe and Chez Fon Fon. The Stitt restaurants are truly icons in Birmingham’s Southside community and have become some of the country’s most sought after dining destinations. While the food is exceptional, guests know the Stitt restaurants for their exceptional service and unique dining room experiences. Pardis focuses on the front-of-house operations and makes all guests feel welcome.

“We want this to be a respite for our guests,” Pardis explained. “No matter what’s happened outside these walls, you may have had a difficult day at work. You may have had a disagreement with your significant other. But when you walk through our doors, we want this to be a place of beauty and of rest and peace. So, if we can create a little happiness in someone’s day, that’s really what we strive for.”

When not entertaining guests at her restaurants, Stitt enjoys gardening with her husband Frank at their farm about forty miles outside of Birmingham. She stays extremely active in the community serving as board member of the Pepper Place Farmers Market. She is a founding member of the Birmingham chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier International and a former board member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. She also remains active in the SFA and is passionate about their mission to document and celebrate the diverse food cultures of the American South.

Stitt enjoys volunteering for Jones Valley Teaching Farm (JVTF), a community based, nonprofit teaching farm in the heart of downtown Birmingham.

“Jones Valley Teaching Farm is important to me. I’ve watched the evolution of this organization from its early years as an urban farm to the teaching farm it is today, providing transformative lessons for thousands of students in the Birmingham City School system each year. A new challenge this year is the Ready to Grow Campaign, which will allow a permanent structure to be built on the downtown farm, providing even more opportunities for students to be positively impacted. I’m proud to serve as co-chair for this exciting campaign,” she shared with Yellowhammer News.

Amanda Storey, executive director of JVTF, said about her, “Pardis has been a thoughtful champion of our work at Jones Valley Teaching Farm since its inception. Not only is she one of our loyal customers at Pepper Place Farmers Market every Saturday, she also lends her talents, expertise, and passion for our food-based education program, Good School Food. She has believed in and contributed to our work in so many amazing ways. Pardis Stitt is a volunteer who is always willing to go the extra mile and to do the hard work. Pardis and Frank are Birmingham’s culinary leaders and Jones Valley Teaching Farm would not be who we are today without their vision for what our community could be with food as the foundation.”

Stitt values challenging herself and mentoring others, counting them as some of the most significant aspects of her success. “I believe valuable traits of successful women are always showing-up prepared; being respectful of others; showing compassion; and challenging yourself every day. It’s also important to find a mentor, as well as being a mentor,” she shared with Yellowhammer News.

When reflecting on what she wishes to leave as a legacy for future generations, Stitt shared the following inspirational words: “Surround yourself with the best and the brightest—they will inspire you. Don’t take yourself too seriously and have a sense of humor. Observe and listen and embrace conflict and change. I’ve also learned it is okay to show my vulnerabilities, as it provides an opportunity for others to relate and allows us to search for solutions together.”

Yellowhammer News is proud to name Pardis Stitt a 2019 Woman of Impact.

The 2nd Annual Women of Impact Awards will celebrate the honorees on April 29, 2019, in Birmingham. Event details can be found here.

Erin Brown Hollis covers faith and culture for Yellowhammer News. She is an author and host of the “Cheers to That!” podcast. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter @erinbrownhollis.