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.

6 hours ago

Spend Black Friday shooting clays at Selwood Farm

(Selwood Farm/Contributed)

Play a round of 18 with the family over Thanksgiving weekend — but we’re not talking about golf. Selwood Farm is a family-owned hunting preserve in Alpine, Alabama, that has the state’s first sporting clay course. Thanksgiving weekend is a busy one for Selwood Farm (they’re closed on Thanksgiving Day), including its annual Black Friday event that has become a tradition for many.

For $60 per person, you’ll receive 100 sporting clays, a golf cart to take you through the 18-stand course (and eight additional stands for experienced shooters), and lunch from 2 Men And A Pig barbecue. You’ll also have the opportunity to participate in drawings for prizes including Orca Coolers, Russell Boots, Selwood swag, restaurant gift cards, Dirk Walker Shooting shirts exclusive to Selwood Farm, and more.

“Our Black Friday event is something we started several years ago after discovering that several of the same families made it a tradition to visit Selwood annually the day after Thanksgiving,” says Judith Jager, creative director of Selwood Farm. “We always joke that spending Black Friday at Selwood is much better than spending it at the mall — especially this year with COVID-19. We have loved being an outdoor escape for folks during this time.”

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shooting clay selwood farm
Craig Godwin/Contributed

If you can’t make it for the Friday event, Selwood Farm is open daily except Sundays and offers multiple activities. In addition to the sporting clay course, you can also shoot at the 5-stand, play the only Helice ring in Alabama (a European simulated live bird game), and hunt for quail and pheasant in the preserve’s 800 acres. Currently owned by Dell and Carolyn Hill, Selwood Farm has been a licensed hunting preserve since 1984.

The history of Selwood Farm began in 1834 when James Mallory moved from Virginia to Alpine and settled Selwood. He prospered as a farmer and community leader and the land remained in his family until 1948.

Dell’s father, O.V. Hill, purchased the property and raised cattle, sheep, poultry, and turkeys at Selwood. After Mr. Hill’s death, Dell and Carolyn continued the cattle operation and a smoked turkey mail-order business for more than thirty-five years. The Hills decided to turn the farm into a recreational space when the cattle business was no longer profitable. Selwood was officially designated as a hunting preserve in 1984 and the sporting clays course opened in 1990.

Selwood, which means “the king’s hunting forest,” has become a destination for those both in-state and out. Thousands of people visit Selwood Farm each year to shoot, hunt, host events, or take a vacation. If you’re looking for something to do with the family this Thanksgiving weekend, visiting Selwood Farm is a fun, socially distant outdoor activity that you can feel safe participating in. Plus, it’s something the whole family can enjoy.

“There truly is something for everyone,” says Jager, “even if it is just sitting on our front porch drinking a glass of sweet tea watching the sunset over the Selwood hills.”

clay shooting selwood farm
Selwood Farm/Contributed

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

20 places to get Thanksgiving takeout in Alabama

Amy Henry/Contributed

Thanksgiving might look a little different for people this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Whether you’re spending Thanksgiving at home instead of with relatives or having a virtual Thanksgiving, why not take the stress of cooking off your plate? Here are 20 restaurants that are offering Thanksgiving takeout in Alabama. You might not even miss cooking it yourself!

Thanksgiving Takeout in Alabama

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HUNTSVILLE

Good Company Cafe

This women-owned, chef-driven restaurant is offering a full Thanksgiving menu. Choose from turkey and gravy or a spiral cut ham, and then select some starters and sides. They have some of the most unique appetizer options, including a pimento cheese pumpkin ball, sausage balls, onion dip, and baked brie. For sides, you’ll find classics like scalloped potatoes, green bean casserole, and corn pudding.

Purveyor

At $55/person for a three-course meal with an additional seven sides, the Thanksgiving takeout menu at Purveyor is a great deal. You’ll pick up the meal hot on Thanksgiving day. Choose from soup, salad, or a charcuterie board to start; turkey, ham, or prime rib for the main course; and pumpkin pie, pecan pie, or apple tart for dessert. Each meal comes with sides of cranberry sauce, andouille cornbread, green bean casserole, creamed corn, gravy, stuffing, and your choice of mashed potatoes or sweet potatoes.

Jim ‘n Nicks

Jim ‘N Nicks offers smoked turkey breast and ham, as well as a number of seasonal sides — including green beans, cranberry sauce, and mashed potatoes. You can also get larger orders of their standard sides, as well. Plus, a basket of Jim ‘N Nicks’ famous cheese biscuits is always welcome on the Thanksgiving table.

Commerce Kitchen

This Southern restaurant from Huntsville chef James Boyce is offering a Thanksgiving feast at home for $195.  The meal serves six to eight people and comes with cornbread stuffing, a mixed green salad, rolls, your choice of a slow-roasted turkey or smoked Virginia honey ham, and your choice of two sides from green bean casserole, Dijon collard greens, four-cheese mac and cheese or garlic mashed potatoes. Then select your dessert from pecan pie, pumpkin pie, or red velvet cake.

BIRMINGHAM

Real & Rosemary

Real & Rosemary is known for its homestyle meals with an upscale twist. For Thanksgiving, they’re offering roast turkey by the pound as well as all the trimmings. Choose from options like sweet potato casserole, scalloped potatoes with thyme, Brussels sprouts slaw, and cornbread dressing. You can also order vegetable gravy and cranberry relish.

Ashley Mac’s

Ashley Mac’s is one of Birmingham’s favorite places for grab-and-go dinners, so of course they’re offering a Thanksgiving menu. For $115, you’ll get a five-pound ham or turkey, two sides, your choice of bread, and a dozen cupcakes. Since you bake the items when you get home, you can totally pretend you made these sides yourself!

Iz Cafe

Another Birmingham staple for take-home items, Iz Cafe is offering deep-fried turkeys for Thanksgiving, along with seasonal sides and desserts. Get everything you need from cornbread dressing to classic green bean casserole to homemade yeast rolls. And don’t forget dessert — you’ll want to try the Caramel Apple Bread Pudding with Praline Sauce.

Smiley Brothers

Smiley Brothers in Alabaster is a butcher shop and specialty foods store offering complete Thanksgiving meal packages. For $225 or $275 (depending on turkey size), you’ll get either a 10–14 pound turkey or a 16–20 pound turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce, rolls, and three sides of your choice.

Helen

This new high-end restaurant from chef Rob McDaniel focuses on smoked and grilled meats. For Thanksgiving, they’re offering a smoked turkey breast that feeds six to eight people. You’ll simply need to call the restaurant to order and pick up on November 25.

Eugene’s Hot Chicken

Some like it hot … and at Eugene’s you can get just that. This hot chicken restaurant is now offering Cajun fried turkeys for Thanksgiving. You can also order pans of sides including mac and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy, and banana pudding.

Homewood Gourmet

Homewood Gourmet’s Thanksgiving menu is broken down into starters; gravy, sauces, and salads; casseroles; and pies and desserts. All you have to do is get the turkey! Homewood Gourmet’s menu includes New Orleans influences, including praline sweet potatoes, homemade boudin to stuff into your turkey, and pumpkin bread pudding.

thanksgiving takeout
Amy Henry/Contributed

TUSCALOOSA

River

For $100 for a meal that feeds four to six, you’ll get bang for your buck at River. The meal includes your choice of protein (Herb Roasted Turkey Breast, Brown Sugar Bourbon Baked Ham, or Citrus Herb Baked Salmon Filet), three sides (mashed potatoes and gravy, farm salad, gouda macaroni and cheese, sauteed green beans, glazed carrots, deviled eggs, vegetable casserole, English pea salad, cornbread dressing, or sweet potato casserole), and dessert (pecan pie, banana pudding, or chocolate chip cookies). Just make sure to order by Nov. 20 at 2 p.m.

R. Davidson Chophouse

This steakhouse has a Thanksgiving menu with options for everyone, from traditionalists to steak lovers to those who prefer seafood. Traditional entree options include roast turkey or honeybaked ham, and then there are options for the restaurant’s famous steaks as well as pasta and fresh seafood. Sides include sweet potato casserole, sauteed asparagus, lobster mac and cheese, and roasted garlic and gouda smashed potatoes.

The Blue Plate

Order your Thanksgiving meal by November 23 from The Blue Plate. Pay per pound for options like sliced turkey breast and applewood smoked ham and choose from sides including homemade cornbread dressing with giblet gravy, squash casserole, butter beans, and creamed corn. Don’t forget dessert: there’s 17-layer chocolate cake, caramel cake, red velvet cake, or pecan pie.

Urban Cookhouse

For four to five people for $50 or 8–10 people for $95, Urban Cookhouse is offering holiday takeout meals. The meals include smoked turkey, your choice of two sides (from dressing and gravy, roasted vegetables, broccoli salad, or hot cheddar pasta) and yeast or orange rolls. You can also order a pan of apple crisp or brown sugar brownies for dessert.

MOBILE

Moe’s Original BBQ

This barbecue restaurant has a dedicated holiday menu. You can choose from a smoked turkey or spiral ham and pans of sides including mac and cheese, sweet potato casserole, collard greens, and cornbread dressing made from Moe’s famous cornbread. Another unique thing Moe’s does: if you buy your own turkey, you can drop it off to them to smoke for you for $20.

The Battle House Hotel

The Battle House is offering a six-person holiday menu for $140. It includes a brined and roasted turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy, cornbread and Conecuh sausage dressing, and more. If you prefer to dine in, the Battle House is hosting an extravagant Thanksgiving Day brunch for $68/person.

Dream Dinners

This take-home dinner service is geared toward allowing you to spend less time in the kitchen and more time with your loved ones. For Thanksgiving, they’re offering Holiday Roasted Turkey, Seasoned Mashed Potatoes, and French Onion Green Beans. Side dishes are available in two sizes: a traditional entertaining size and a smaller family size.

GULF SHORES/ORANGE BEACH

Playa

The sister restaurant to favorite Orange Beach restaurant Fisher’s, Playa is offering a Thanksgiving menu to complement their standard cuisine. Order it to go and add in some beachy appetizers like crab dip and shrimp bisque. The traditional Thanksgiving entree includes turkey breast, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and cornbread. Additional side options include roasted sweet potatoes, sausage cornbread dressing, and bacon braised collard greens.

Ginny Lane Bar & Grill

Ginny Lane, located in The Wharf, has two options for Thanksgiving: a special takeout menu or a dine-in Thanksgiving buffet. The takeout menu is not your traditional Thanksgiving menu — it’s geared toward embracing the fresh local seafood the area is known for. Choose from options including peel-and-eat shrimp, Bayou Grouper, or a Fried Seafood platter.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

1 week ago

Don’t miss a chance to win a weekend for two in Birmingham

(@SoulGrown_Alabama/Instagram, YHN)

Alabama’s favorite Instagram account is giving away a weekend for two in Birmingham!

With over a $600 value, the package includes a two night stay at the premiere Elyton Hotel (@elytonhotelbirmingham); dinner for two at Le Fresca (@lefresca); brunch for two at The Yard (@theyardbirmingham); and dinner for two at East West (@eastwestbham).

To enter, simply follow @Soulgrown_Alabama on Instagram and ALL participating partners (linked above). Like the giveaway post on @Soulgrown_Alabama and tag as many friends as you would like. The more tags, the more entries!

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10 new restaurants in Birmingham to try this year

Paul Crawford/Contributed

2020 has been a difficult year for restaurants, but that hasn’t stopped several new ones from opening up in the Magic City. Here are 10 new restaurants and eateries to try that have opened in Birmingham this year, from fine dining to casual burger joints to global cuisine. Most are offering takeout, curbside delivery, and in-person socially distant dining.

10 New Restaurants in Birmingham

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Helen

helen restaurant birmingham
Cary Norton/Contributed

Helen opened on Second Avenue North in downtown at the end of August and is one of the best new restaurants in Birmingham. The brainchild of chef Rob McDaniel (previously of SpringHouse at Lake Martin), Helen offers a modern take on Southern classics cooked on a wood-fired grill. The restaurant is named after McDaniel’s grandmother and honors her legacy with a unique veggie-forward menu and a prime selection of grilled proteins. Pro tip: start your meal with the angel biscuits served with cane sugar butter.

Bay Leaf

bay leaf restaurant birmingham
Paul Crawford/Contributed

This Indian restaurant took the time they were closed in the beginning of the pandemic to undergo a total revamp and rebrand. After hiring a professional chef from New York who has worked in both India and Switzerland, Bay Leaf came up with an entirely new menu that highlights the best of Indian cuisine combined with gastronomic techniques. Try Street Dosa, Octopus Tandoori, and a selection of favorite and unique curries at the 5 Points South or Highway 280 location.

The Anvil Pub & Grill

the anvil restaurant birmingham
Mo Davis Photography/Contributed

The Anvil takes British food to a different level at this new restaurant in the Lee Branch shopping center. Using locally sourced ingredients, The Anvil puts a global spin on seasonal cuisine. You’ll find British favorites like Fish & Chips and Steak & Guinness Pie, as well as fusion items like Fried Okra with a curry dipping sauce.

Porch

porch restaurant birmingham
Porch/Contributed

The newest addition to Crestline Village, Porch offers a menu that hits on plenty of Southern and international favorites. Start with The Oko, a Japanese savory cabbage pancake that has become a signature of Porch. For the main meal, you’ll find items like a Cuban Sandwich, Chicken Bahn Mi, and a Truffled Farro Bowl.

Avondale Burger Co.

avondale burger restaurant birmingham
Julia Sayers Gokhale/YHN

Avondale Brewery has long been a favorite hangout of Birminghamians, and now it has a permanent food truck dishing out burgers in the backyard — because nothing goes better together than burgers and beer! You’ll find classic burger options, as well as items like a Spicy Korean Burger, a Mushroom Swiss burger, and more. Get a side of Sweet Heat Tater Tots or Zesty Fries with your burger.

Bocca

bocca restaurant birmingham
Bocca/Instagram

This fine-dining Italian restaurant on Second Avenue North is from the owner of Bistro 218. The menu is divided into Antipasti (appetizers), Primi (pasta), and Secondi (large plates). The Braised Beef Short Rib with polenta has quickly become a favorite option for diners. You can also never go wrong with a classic pasta dish like Bucatini Pomodoro.

Troup’s Pizza

troups restaurant birmingham
Troup’s/Contributed

Located in Cahaba Heights, this new pizza joint is from chef Terrill Brazelton, who was previously the chef of Slice Pizza. Troup’s is a casual counter-service restaurant offering specialty pizzas, sandwiches, and salads. You’ll find everything from meatball pizza to spicy hot chicken pizza to veggie pesto pizza.

Bell Peppers

grits and bacon
Bell Peppers/Instagram

Bell Peppers was created to offer delicious food for the carb-conscious. They’ve mastered the art of making low-carb dishes taste just like their high-carb counterparts. You can indulge in comfort food like burgers, pizza, waffles, bacon, and grits without feeling guilty at this Hueytown restaurant.

The Little London

british food little london kitchen
Julia Sayers Gokhale/YHN

You’ve most likely seen Little London Kitchen’s red double decker bus turned food truck rolling around town. Now, the owners have found a permanent location to offer their classic British comfort food. The Little London pub in Homewood serves up dishes such as Cottage Pie, Bangers & Mash, and Fish & Chips. When the bus isn’t roaming, it’s parked at the pub for diners to sit inside.

Rendezvous Kitchen

vegan corndog
Rendezvous Kitchen/Instagram

Though technically not a restaurant, Rendezvous Kitchen is worth noting for its vegan food. This food truck, owned and operated by women, has expanded Birmingham’s vegan options. Vegan food doesn’t have to be boring, as Rendezvous proves with menu items like corndogs, burgers, seitan wings, and loaded fries. Try something new and feel good about it!

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

2 weeks ago

Milo’s Hamburgers educates kids on voting during election month

(Milo's/Contributed, YHN)

Learning about the democratic process is important, even at a young age. Because of this, Milo’s Hamburgers has teamed up with local schools to educate children on how voting works. The initiative, called Milo’s Civics, is a fun, nonpolitical, interactive program going on through the month of November.

The 30-minute program, which can be in-person or virtual, allows students to learn about democracy and voting requirements; hear from local city leaders and SGA representatives on the importance of elections; and participate in hands-on activities to reinforce the lesson.

So far, Milo’s has worked with elementary students and Girl Scout Troops in Tuscaloosa, Prattville, and Montgomery to teach them about the election process through a variety of activities that encourage them to ask questions and get excited to vote one day. Both Mayor Walt Maddox of Tuscaloosa and Probate Judge J C Love of Montgomery have participated in the program by speaking about the importance of voting and the election process.

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child with milo's ballot
Milo’s Hamburgers/Contributed

Political parties are explained via “Team Chicken” and “Team Burger.” Children even get to practice “voting” in a primary and general election for the best Milo’s menu item. A sample ballot includes nine “saucy” candidates that are proposed Milo’s menu items. Children will get to see that their vote actually matters, as they’ll be choosing which new menu items become regulars. Candidates include a spicy chicken sandwich, Mexi Burger, loaded fries, and more.

“With election season in full swing, we wanted to figure out a fun way to get the community involved with the launch of our new menu items,” says Mary Duncan Proctor, marketing director of Milo’s. “We know Alabama teachers are counting on local businesses like Milo’s to live out our mission to give ‘a little something extra’ even amid challenges during COVID-19. By allowing students to vote in the Milo’s election, we hope one day each of them will vote in many elections to come.”

But the fun isn’t just for kids. Adults also can cast their vote for the new Milo’s menu here and receive a coupon code to try the burger chain’s new Sweet Tea Shake for free. Physical ballot boxes and the new menu items can be found in Milo’s locations in Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, and Prattville.

An Alabama staple since 1946, Milo’s has always been involved in its local community and continues to do so through programs like this.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

3 weeks ago

Alabama artist and TV star debuts art exhibit in Decatur

(Jean Allsopp/Contributed, Trace Barnett/Contributed, YHN)

At a new art exhibit in Decatur, you’ll see art made from discarded items — including thread spools, pill bottles, tin cans, bird nests, and more — arranged in a beautiful and organic way. Trace Barnett, a lifestyle blogger, author, and TV personality, is turning trash into treasure at his debut art exhibit at the Carnegie Visual Arts Center. Barnett, a native of Brilliant, Alabama, runs the blog The Bitter Socialite and has appeared on the Food Network as part of Food Network Star and Comeback Kitchen.

The art exhibition, named “White Trash,” is on display until November 13 and showcases Barnett’s collection of more than 60 works of art made from repurposed materials and found objects. In his signature pieces, Barnett utilizes manmade items — sometimes literally found in the trash — such as paper, chicken wire, makeup, and old cell phones combined with natural objects such as branches, moss, and egg shells. He arranges the objects on canvas and pours white paint over to secure them, giving the pieces their cheeky name.

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“I believe in utilizing industrial materials to create beautiful artwork that blurs the lines between organic and inorganic so that they seamlessly flow together,” Barnett says. “I feel it is equally important to highlight the integrity of the existing space while salvaging original components and rethinking them in a new and innovative manner. White paint symbolizes purity, giving a fresh outlook to discarded materials and therefore creating a symbolic item from trash.”

In addition to the White Trash pieces, the exhibit also includes complementary works, including a colorful birthday cake made from spray foam; graffiti-style paintings; and cultural statement pieces.

“There is a very personal and intimate approach that I take when working with objects from a specific place or person,” Barnett says of his work. “It’s about respecting what exists while finding a unique way to showcase it in a new light. Great artwork comes from self-confidence, cultivating the eye, and a natural common sense about living life. It’s about finding beauty at every turn and creating something that draws the eye towards it.”

The Carnegie Visual Art Center is open Tuesday – Saturday, and admission to the exhibit is free.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

3 weeks ago

Order free pizza to your polling place while waiting to vote

P

Did you know you can order free pizza to be delivered to your polling place while you’re waiting to vote today? If there’s a long line at your polling place and you’re starting to get a little hungry, there’s an organization called Pizza to the Polls that’s delivering free pizzas to voters, volunteers, journalists, and anyone else at the polling place.

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pizza delivery polling place
Pizza to the Polls/Instagram

All you have to do is visit polls.pizza, upload a photo of the line at your polling place, estimate how long you think the wait is, and submit the request. Pizza to the Polls will then contact the closest pizza delivery place, and free pizzas should be on the way in 90 minutes or less!

text message pizza deliveryThis morning, Pizza to the Polls delivered 10 Dominos pizzas to the downtown polling location at the Birmingham Courthouse. The organization has thus far delivered 38,646 pizzas in 46 states and to 1,670 polling places. Pizza to the Polls is a nonpartisan, nonprofit initiative founded in 2016 with a simple mission: to deliver food to crowded polling locations.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

3 weeks ago

The best places to see fall foliage in Alabama

(Ford Nixon/Contributed)

The fall foliage in Alabama is starting to peak this week in North Alabama and next week in central Alabama. Our state tends to get a later leaf peak, with colors at their best end of October through the first two weeks of November. With cooler temperatures and some sunny days ahead, it’s the perfect excuse to get out and see the changing fall leaves. Here are nine places to visit to see some beautiful fall foliage in Alabama.

9 Spots to View Fall Foliage in Alabama

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Cheaha Mountain

girl on rock overlooking mountain
Ojas Gokhale/Contributed

Cheaha Mountain is the tallest natural point in the state of Alabama. It’s a go-to spot to leaf peep. With panoramic views from several hikes and observation points in the park, you’ll see sweeping views of Alabama fall foliage. Pulpit Rock is a popular short hike and viewpoint in the park.

Bankhead National Forest

The Bankhead National Forest is one of the most scenic spots in the state, with more than 90 miles of trails through the Sipsey Wilderness. Also known as the “land of a thousand waterfalls,” you’ll see red maples, yellow poplars, oak, and birch trees around waterfalls and on the banks of the Sipsey Fork of the Black Warrior River.

Desoto Falls

desoto falls with alabama fall foliage
SoulGrown Alabama/Instagram

Nothing says scenic like beautiful fall leaves surrounding a rushing waterfall. This 104-foot waterfall near Mentone plunges over a cliff into a canyon surrounded by steep cliffs and tall trees decked out in color. The lake at the top of the falls is also a great spot to catch a reflection of the fall foliage.

Little River Canyon

This canyon in North Alabama gets some of the best fall color in the area. Drive the Little River Canyon Rim Parkway and stop at the numerous scenic overlooks where you can see the fall foliage in the canyon. Little River Falls also is a picturesque spot.

Covered Bridges of Blount County

covered bridge with alabama fall foliage
Visit North AL/Instagram

You don’t have to go to Vermont to see covered bridges — you can see them right here in Alabama in Blount County. The area has three of the state’s 13 covered bridges, called Easley, Horton Mill, and Swann. When you see them surrounded by fall leaves, you’d never know you weren’t in the Northeast.

Lake Guntersville

This North Alabama lake — that’s actually a part of the Tennessee River — is a favorite spot for boating and fishing in the summer and leaf peeping in the fall. If you’re lucky, you might see one of the area’s bald eagles flying over the serene lake.

Oak Mountain

lake with fall leaves
Ojas Gokhale/Contributed

The best place to spot the changing leaves in Birmingham is at Oak Mountain State Park. See the reflection of the fall foliage in the lake or hike King’s Chair to overlook the palette of red, orange, and yellow that blankets the mountain.

Monte Sano State Park

If you’re in or near Huntsville, head to Monte Sano State Park to catch the fall foliage. With 22 miles of hiking and biking trails, there are plenty of opportunities to admire the scenery. The best trails to see the changing oak trees are the North and South Plateau Loop trails.

Mentone

road with fall foliage
Ford Nixon/Contributed

This adorable little mountain town on Lookout Mountain is the quintessential fall getaway. Rent a cabin for a weekend or spend a day strolling the streets of the quaint downtown amidst falling leaves. There are also plenty of places to take a scenic drive in the area.

Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

4 weeks ago

10 Alabama fall beers you need to try this season

Oktoberfest beer from Cahaba Brewing Company (photo courtesy of J&M Photography and Design)

Autumn is upon us and so is fall beer season. This is the time that Alabama breweries get creative with their seasonal beers, incorporating favorite fall flavors of pumpkin spice, maple, and apple. From Oktoberfest styles perfect for sippin’ outside to darker brews guaranteed to warm you up, here are 10 Alabama fall beers you must try this season.

10 Alabama Fall Beers

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1. Frankenhammer by Yellowhammer Brewing in Huntsville

Yellowhammer Brewing’s annual Halloween release, this spicy, dark red Belgian ale is aged on toasted cherry wood that has a slight chocolate roast taste to it. You’ll also want to try the Bride of Frankenhammer, another seasonal fall beer that takes the original Frankenhammer beer and ages it with cherries in red wine barrels.

frankenhammer fall beer yellowhammer brewing
Yellowhammer Brewing/Contributed

2. There Will Be Blood from Fairhope Brewing Company in Fairhope

Fairhope Brewing Company took their beloved Causeway IPA and added blood orange puree to it to give it a fall twist and a spooky name. It’s juicy, fruity, and hoppy, making this the perfect beer for when the weather is still transitioning from warm to cool. With an ABV of 8.2%, it’s on the stronger side of these Alabama fall beers.

alabama fall beer fairhope brewing
Jonathan Weiss/Contributed

3. Oktoberfest by Cahaba Brewing Company in Birmingham

This Oktoberfest-style beer has become a favorite fall brew for Birmingham beer drinkers. Cahaba offers a twist on the standard style by brewing its Oktoberfest with continental malts, a generous amount of noble hops, and a unique twist on the fermenting yeast. Raise a glass and say “Prost!”

oktoberfest beer from cahaba brewing company
J&M Photography and Design/Contributed

4. Southern Bumpkin by Red Clay Brewing Company in Opelika

A true Southern beer, this brown ale gets an earthy characteristic from sweet potatoes added to the mash. It’s easily drinkable and packs a punch with 7.8% ABV. Red Clay also released their Lakeside Caramel Apple, a semi-sweet cider with flavors of caramel.

pumpkin beer red clay brewing
Red Clay Brewing Co/Instagram

5. Berried Away from Salty Nut Brewery in Huntsville

If you think of warm berry pie when you think of fall, Salty Nut has the brew for you. Berried Away is fermented on blackberries and blueberries with natural spices and has a sweet vanilla finish with a touch of cinnamon. You’ll also want to try the Pumpkin Ryed or Dye, a Belgian style rye pale ale flavored with pumpkin.

fall beers salty nut brewery
Salty Nut Brewery/Instagram

6. Maple Cakes from Trim Tab Brewing in Birmingham

Dark beer lovers rejoice — Trim Tab has released the perfect fall beer for you. Maple Cakes is an imperial stout brewed with maple syrup, molasses, and walnuts. Just imagine you’re cozied up around a campfire in the woods somewhere drinking this belly-warming beer.

alabama fall beer trim tab brewing
Trim Tab Brewing/Instagram

7. Oktoberfest from Serda Brewing in Mobile

This craft beer microbrewery in downtown Mobile specializes in German beers, so it only makes sense that they offer an Oktoberfest beer each fall. Their version is a traditional Marzen style, which is rich in malt with a balance of clean, hop bitterness.

serda brewing alabama fall beer
Serda Brewing/Contributed

8. Steampunkin from Rocket Republic in Huntsville

Here’s one for the pumpkin beer lovers. This traditional pumpkin ale features a pumpkin spice blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. It’s like pumpkin pie in a glass! Rocket Republic also has a Cosmic Cookie (oatmeal cookie) beer and rotating seasonal ciders.

Rocket Republic/Instagram

9. Tears of My Enemies from Monday Night Brewing in Birmingham

This imperial milk stout is aged in apple brandy barrels, giving it a warm fall feel in addition to the flavors of roasted coffee, chocolate, and a slight smokiness. Another fall beer to try from Monday Night is The Tiger That Killed My Father, a vanilla-flavored imperial stout aged in maple bourbon barrels.

fall beer from monday night brewing company
Monday Night Brewing/Contributed

10. Baseball Bats & Boogeymen from Singin’ River Brewing Co. in Florence

Singin’ River Brewing Co. makes a pumpkin stout instead of the traditional pumpkin ale. This dark and rich beer is made with Fairytale pumpkins and a handful of pumpkin spice. It’s perfectly balanced so as not to overwhelm the beer with the flavor of pumpkin. Singin’ River also has other fall beers, including an Oktoberfest.

pumpkin beer singin river brewery
Singin’ River Brewery/Instagram


Julia Sayers Gokhale is a writer and editor who has been working in the lifestyle journalism industry since 2012. She was Editor in Chief of Birmingham Magazine for five years and is now leading Yellowhammer News’ lifestyle content. Find her on Instagram at @juliasayers or email her at julia@yellowhammernews.com.

2 months ago

Muskogee Technology elevates Alabama and its community

(Muskogee Technology/Contributed)

A small, minority-owned business in rural southwest Alabama is producing big solutions for some of the state’s largest companies.

Muskogee Technology (MT) in Atmore manufactures goods and provides services for businesses in aerospace, industrial and agricultural industries. MT President and CEO Westly Woodruff said industry leaders such as Airbus, Boeing, L3Harris, Lockheed Martin, GKN Aerospace, Alabama Power, SIEMENS, Hiller Companies and Sikorsky trust MT to deliver solutions for complex problems.

“We tackle big problems, thus empowering our strategic partners to maintain focus on their core competencies,” Woodruff said. “Our team members work diligently to ensure orders are produced to the highest quality standards, on time, and on budget.”

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Muskogee Technology is a small community business elevating Alabama and changing lives from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

MT is part of the Creek Indian Enterprises Development Authority (CIEDA), the economic-development arm of the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. It was founded in Florida during the 1980s as Strader Manufacturing. CIEDA purchased it in 1989, relocated it to Atmore in 1993 and later renamed it to reflect the company’s business initiatives. In 2003, the company moved into a new facility in Atmore, taking ownership of a building that once was a Vanity Fair manufacturing plant.

“There’s a lot of pride that comes with the building,” Woodruff said. “We repurposed a building that’s been a part of the community for a very long time. You can see when you pull up that we’re surrounded by residential houses, yet I’m not aware of a single complaint that we’ve received from a local resident, and we’re a manufacturing shop. It’s a testament to the community support.”

Woodruff, who became president and CEO of MT in 2017, said the company’s growth is driven by the 81 team members he calls his family.

“What I tell folks when they come here to interview with us is, ‘We change lives,’” Woodruff said. “‘We’re going to give you an opportunity that nobody else is going to give you.’ The tribe is offering employment opportunities to change these people’s lives that might not otherwise have a similar opportunity without relocation. Our team members understand that we’re a part of the fabric of this community and we take a lot of pride in that.”

(Courtesy of Alabama NewsCenter)

11 months ago

Galu Tagovailoa: Best part of Tua’s Bama career was ‘watching him give glory to God all the time’

(24/7 Sports/Twitter, C. Chambers WBRC/Facebook, YHN)

In an interview that originally aired on Tuesday, Galu Tagovailoa revealed the dramatic moments surrounding his eldest son, Tua, declaring for April’s NFL Draft.

Speaking with WBRC’s Christina Chambers, Galu also – not for the first time by any stretch – gave a powerful testimony about his and his family’s faith in God.

Galu described the past two weeks or so as being “really crazy.”

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“Some tough, tough decisions to make,” the father added, referring to whether Tua would return to the University of Alabama for his senior season or move on to start his professional career. “And we got through it.”

He admitted that he has been having trouble sleeping, and then added that prayer helped put his mind at ease so he could get some sleep at least.

“[L]ately I couldn’t sleep,” Galu shared. “It was tough — just thinking of the whole thing, we thought about him coming back, we thought about what are the pros and the cons, and then him leaving, what are the pros and the cons. I think today was just one of the days that I finally got to get some rest… 21 days of prayer, it’s really helping… [I said] a prayer this morning, me and my wife… it helped me sleep and it helped bring some peace of mind and just relax.”

While Galu was carrying the stress of the important decision, he emphasized that Tua bore the brunt of the situation.

When the star quarterback on Monday morning officially announced the decision in a press conference alongside Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban, Galu advised that it was a major “sigh of relief” for Tua.

“We didn’t know the decision until the day of,” the father explained. “We kept going back and forth with him on ‘what’s the deal?’ you know. ‘Are you looking at going, not going?’ And he kept telling us that he just had to talk to coach (Saban) and was still undecided.”

Prayer and spiritual guidance were majorly involved in Tua’s process, as well as the family’s.

“We asked him to just allow the Lord to just guide his decision,” Galu said. “We talked to our pastors… our home pastor here, Pastor Chris Hodges (of Church of the Highlands). And he’s been talking with Pastor Perry Stone and the things that he’s been going through. There were a lot of good things that were mentioned. Pastor Chris was saying we [have to] go with what brings peace. And he has to go with that.”

“And I guess the decision is what he made, it brings peace to [Tua],” Galu added.

He then talked about the family’s amazing journey from Hawaii to living in Alabama, with Tua’s Monday press conference acting as a moment to pause and reflect on how they got this far — as well as what comes next.

“It was a leap of faith coming out here,” Galu outlined. “We sacrificed our jobs, left our jobs back home, we left our [extended] family back home.”

Galu continued to say that Tua’s decision was merely the latest leap of faith.

“We believe that it is God’s plan,” he stressed, “for him to move on to his next journey of his life.”

The father explained that Tua has not told his parents what ultimately swayed him to decide to declare for the 2020 NFL Draft, advising that Tua told them the decision after they arrived at the UA Athletics complex on Monday morning as the quarterback prepared to work with the department’s communications team on his speech.

“He said, ‘I’m going to go.’ And that’s when his mom broke down, we teared up,” Galu detailed. “And then we had a quick prayer. We prayed on it, wanted to make sure his heart was going to be right when he makes that announcement and (to make sure) that’s what he really wants to do.”

Chambers then brought up the viral video she captured in August 2018, from the opening game in which Tua made his first start for the Tide. The powerful shot captured Galu and his wife, Diane, praying in the stands.

While it was believed at the time that they were praying after seeing their son was selected as the starter as he went on to the field, Galu on Tuesday explained that the video was actually taken before they knew if Tua or Jalen Hurts would start. The Tagovailoa parents, Galu said, were praying for the success and wellbeing of whomever the starter would be, whether that be their son or Hurts.

“That was a special moment,” Galu reminisced. “We just told ourselves that whoever comes out and becomes the starter, we have to support him and we’ll pray. We know we’re going to pray for either or, whether it was Tua or Jalen. We just started praying. They didn’t even make that announcement, Tua hadn’t even run out yet. But we just prayed on whoever was going to be the starter to take the team that last year.”

Asked by Chambers what his favorite play of Tua’s was during his time in Tuscaloosa, Galu said there were too many to pick just one.

“[B]ut I think the most exciting thing to me was just watching him give glory to God all the time,” Galu added.

He would go on to say that he hopes Tua’s most lasting legacy at the University of Alabama is people remembering what kind of person, not just player, he is.

“He loves Alabama. This kid loves Alabama. Especially his relationship with Coach Saban,” Galu told Chambers. “I think that’s something that he’s going to cherish for the rest of his life, just what he’s built with Coach Saban. Not just on the field, but also off the field. He’s learned a lot from Coach. There’s so much knowledge and wisdom from Coach Saban — it’s something that he can carry with him …”

Galu said that Tua also “loves people” and “to have fun.”

Now, Galu and Diane are said to be “embracing” Tua’s journey into the next stage of his life.

“We’re excited,” the father emphasized. “That’s something that me and my wife have talked about. Wherever God puts him, it’s a place where we feel that it’s Tua’s duty and job to reach out to that state and the people of the team that he’s going to be playing for. The journey that he is on is God’s journey, not our journey. And that’s what we’re excited about.”

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 months ago

Pouty lips and pedicures: Five pointers for carving out self-care ‘Mom Moments’

(YHN)

Welcome back to your weekly dose of grace.

Are you feeling overwhelmed today? Overworked? Undervalued?

Do you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders and no one is there to lighten the load?

Are you staring at your calendar and realizing that if you try to fit one more thing in your brain, it will most likely explode. …  Or possibly even worse, shut down…!?

Maybe you’re even a little sad you’re having to forego those once-beloved “me-time” moments such as girls’ nights, movie dates and *gasp* even a luxurious pedicure every now and then! OH, THE JOY!

Well, no matter why any of us may be tired/down/discouraged this morning, it’s time for us to ditch the pouty lips and indulge in a pedicure …even if that means locking ourselves in the bathroom for 20 minutes.

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Being a mom is a constant balancing act. We have to give all of our attention to our little blessings, but at times, that naturally causes us to feel lost in the shuffle. There’s no longer time for long walks on the beach, binge-watching our fave shows, heck … even going to the bathroom alone is a thing of the past!

But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

I realized not too long ago that a large part of the reason that I never felt like I had time was actually my own fault. I’m a self-admitted control freak. Well, let me re-term myself. I am a self-admitted family manager.  I want everything done correctly, timely and efficiently. And when I say correctly … I mean to my standards. Anyone with me on this?

The only reason I’m able to admit I’m a “family manager” is so that my beloved family members won’t force me in to expensive therapy only to realize months down the road that yep … I’m a control freak turned family manager.

But, you know what’s cool? Now that I’ve admitted I am one, I can manage my response to those overwhelming feelings tending to creep up.

Part of my issue is this burdensome feeling that if I go into my bedroom and close the door, the house is somehow gonna explode without my active presence. It’s this gnawing emotion of my temporary stepping away being the trigger for chaos.

Spoiler alert: that’s all in our heads, mommas.

I recently learned that stepping away for a few seconds is actually kinda mandatory, in some cases to prevent chaos.

I am now able to see that when I don’t choose to carve out 30 minutes for myself during the day for a necessary personal recharge, I begin to feel anxious, agitated and forgotten.

And that’s no good for anyone!

So, today, I’m sharing five helpful pointers in carving out those oh-so-necessary Mommy Moments!

(1) Accept that it’s important to take a mommy timeout – With a trusted caretaker/family member in charge, I can promise you that everything’s gonna be ok. Life really will go on. Your kids will survive. And maybe even have time to miss you a bit. The first step in self-care is accepting that you have earned it and more importantly, that you need it.

Early on in my mom life, I felt incredibly stressed because the guilt was so real if I ever even daydreamed about walking outside to take a breath of fresh air. Certainly, the stove would burst into flames and the house would come crumbling down without my presence, right? Not going to lie to you…it was a pretty significant hit to my ego when I discovered life absolutely flowed quite nicely during my temporary absence.

(2) Prep, so you can enjoy your downtime to the fullest:
– Be organized – know what you and your family will need and prep it in advance;
– Delegate – choose someone you can trust to carry out necessary duties while you rest;
– Remember to say “no!” – it’s ok to put some non-vital things on the back burner to create more time for you and your family; and
– Pass it off and move on – once you’ve enlisted some help with conquering your to-do list, take a deep breath and walk away. There’s no point in scheduling downtime if you aren’t going to maximize it!

(3) Completely unplug –  “Completely unplugging” does not mean putting your phone on silent and locking your front door. It means hiding your cell phone from yourself for a solid amount of time and getting away from the door altogether. Let your loved ones know that you have scheduled some Mommy-only time. This means you will be away from your phone/email / however else people can contact you. This may be the most important step truthfully. If you step away, but forget to unplug, you will quickly realize you’ve defeated the whole purpose to begin with. Someone will always “need” something. Your babysitter or family member staying with your kiddos will most likely have a question at some point along the way (that they can easily Google, or ask dad for the answer to…). Give yourself a complete release from the noise and check into some actual downtime.

(4) Pick an activity/location/destination, etc. where you feel most at peace. Do you enjoy reading? Head to a coffee shop, bookstore or library for some recharge time. Do you need total quiet? Book a massage or find somewhere that will ensure complete silence for you. What about getting your nails done? Or taking an art/cooking class? Or maybe your idea of downtime is hanging with a bunch of your friends. Whatever gives your heart an adequate recharge is the ticket here. Whether you can get 20 minutes or 2 full days, make the most of this time to check back into you. On some days, your mommy timeout will look like you locking your bedroom door while the children are adequately supervised. Other days it will look like a getaway akin to a good ole fashioned bachelorette party. Whatever time you can manage, cling to it and maximize it!

(5) Immediately schedule your next mommy moment – The funny thing about getting actual downtime is that you immediately realize it is a lifeline you can’t live without. Prioritizing these sanity moments will soon become imperative. Once you return home (or come out of your bedroom after a hiatus from the hairy scary existing just on the other side of the door), make sure to plan your next moment alone. This will give you some encouragement and something to work towards. It’s crazy how just knowing you have a break quickly approaching can give you all the motivation you need to rock out at #momlife until your next mommy timeout moment comes.

Today I hope you feel encouraged, empowered and equipped to schedule some downtime.  Because you deserve some “me” time, too.

Timeouts, play dates and nap time don’t have to be reserved just for the toddlers anymore.

Let’s remember to take time for ourselves. To step away from the dirty diapers, PTO meetings, dinner prep, laundry piles, mile-high dishes and yes, even the barf bags.

It’s not just important for us, it’s important for our loved ones, too.

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

11 months ago

12 fun family Christmas tradition ideas

(PIxabay, YHN)

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories from childhood?

I’m guessing that if we could all sit, sip on some hot cocoa and share with one another, several of us would mention holiday traditions as some of our fondest memories.

Sitting around the fire. Attending Christmas Eve candlelight services. Reading The Night Before Christmas. Placing the star or angel on top of the Christmas tree. Visiting Santa. Eating turkey, dressing and mac-n-cheese until even our Christmas snuggie gets a little well, snug.

I’m getting so sentimental right now. It’s really weird (I know), but I can smell what my grandmother’s street smells like at Christmas if I close my eyes. Even now, in this moment, I smell burning embers from a neighbor’s fireplace mixed with warm apple pie. That’s how engrained the holiday traditions are from my childhood. Anyone else relate to that (potentially concerning) level of nostalgia?

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Now that I’m a momma to two little ones, I want more than anything to create those same wonderful memories for them.

Speaking of traditions, in my quest to form some really fun ones in our family, I wanted to share some that I discovered in hopes it will help you out if you are looking for some, too:

***(Some of these might be a little late to do this year, but it’s never too soon to start planning for next Christmas)

(1) Hand-make an ornament each year as a keepsake and 3-D memory! – This could be as simple as cutting a wreath form out of some green construction paper and writing your name on the back. Each year as you unpack all of the Christmas ornaments, you will have special treasures just waiting for you to discover!  It is also fun to watch as a child’s artwork changes over the years.

(2) Giving project – Did you know that in December, Children’s Hospital hosts a “Sugar Plum Shop” for all of the children who are patients in the hospital near Christmas? Each family is able to visit the Sugar Plum Shop, select gifts for their children (even children who are not patients of the hospital!) and provide them incredible Christmases. This is such a beautiful and important tradition. You can volunteer your time, gifts or funding to this organization to help them continue to bring smiles to the precious children spending their time getting well over the holidays.

Of course, this is just one example of the many ways we can get involved during the holidays. Women’s shelters need food/gifts, homeless shelters need volunteers and schools are always looking for ways to give families an extra helping hand during the season. Churches typically maintain ongoing lists of needs in the community if you are looking for even more specific recommendations.

Adding a giving project to our yearly traditions is a way to remind our little ones (and ourselves) of the requirement and importance of sharing our blessings with others.

(3) Gingerbread memory book – A few years ago, my grandmother and I started a tradition of making gingerbread houses a couple weeks before Christmas. Since gingerbread houses are not permanent (just imagine the vermin that would invade your house looking for that bad boy at the first sight of Spring!), we decided to capture our memories in the form of a scrapbook. Each year, we make gingerbread houses and then catalog the photos in a big scrapbook.  It is already such a joy to look back at those special moments together!

(4) Cookie decorating – This is a tradition that can also be used as a service project. Consider packaging up some of your homemade deliciousness and taking a box to an elderly friend, or someone who may not have family at Christmas. A fun activity for you that your family could turn into such a blessing for someone else.

(5) Record your yearly family highlights – Each year, sit down with some hot cocoa and chat with your family about all the things you did that year.  Where did you go on vacation? Who was born? Who got married? What fun activities did you do? Did someone graduate? List it all on a piece of cardstock and begin a Family History Scrapbook. It will become one of the most fun traditions and best ways to preserve your memories as a family! Plus, how sweet will it be years down the road to pull out your memory book and relive all the magic!

(6) Pajama/Christmas light night – OK. This is one of my favorite ideas! Get the family matching pajamas (or not … depends on how fun you wanna make this tradition), whip up some hot cocoa or cider and pile into the family vehicle. Then, spend the evening driving around, listening to Christmas music and scouting out all the beautiful decorations in your town!

(7) Write a letter to your children – Each year, choose a day close to Christmas (or even Christmas night). Sit down somewhere quiet and write a letter to each of your children. Share stories about them from the year, from Christmas and offer some encouragement for their future. Then, when they are 18, combine all of your letters in a book, and gift it to them on Christmas morning. Not only will this be their favorite gift (maybe ever) but it will be something they can return to often.

(8) Operation wise men/women  – Christmas Shopping for others! Consider taking your children to a store to purchase three small gifts for other children. These gifts could be for some of their friends or children they’ve never met in need of some extra love. These gifts can be very inexpensive (think Dollar Tree, etc.); it’s the thought that counts. When you get home, allow them to wrap their gifts and place them under the tree. Over the next few days, allow them to take the presents to the children or tell them the story of when the child received their gift.

The importance of giving is a concept that can easily get lost in the shuffle at Christmas time (especially for young children). So, instilling the value of giving early and remembering to treat others is a great way to mold their character early on. These memories will stay with them forever!

(9) Advent – For each day in December, wrap up a Bible verse or encouraging message. Sit as a family and open the package together. Discuss the meaning and pray together. This tradition is strategic for laser-focusing the attention to the true meaning, while still involving the fun past time of opening a gift. Regardless of whether or not you are on a faith journey, you can take some time to yourself during the season to rest and rejuvenate. Take advantage of those extra off days from work to restore your soul!

(10) 12 Days of Christmas scavenger hunt – Beginning on December 13 each year, hide small gifts throughout your home and provide clues for finding the presents. You could even switch off the “hider” of the gifts each day. These are meant to be small presents (think: Dollar Store, etc.) to build up excitement for the big day!

(11) Family appreciation craft – Get each family member to write down on a decorative piece of paper something they love, something funny or an encouraging thought about every other family member. Collect each family member’s messages and compile them on a fun ring for them to read.

(12) Happy Birthday, Jesus! birthday party – This has become my family’s favorite tradition! My kids almost get more excited about singing “Happy Birthday!” to Jesus (and equally giddy about gobbling up his delish birthday cake) than they do the gifts laying in the floor behind them. Hosting a small birthday party is an excellent way of putting the birth of Jesus in central focus and on a child’s level.

Funny side story: After we sang the birthday song and began to pass the cake around last year, one of my daughters came to me with a concerned look on her face. She certainly got my attention when she whispered: “Mommy, why didn’t Jesus show up for His birthday party? Did you forget to send Him an invite…?!?!” Oh, the joys of tiny tots. Needless to say, it was a perfect opportunity to begin explaining the whole life of Jesus, not just the tiny babe in a manger.

I love all of these meaningful traditions where the family all gets involved.  This one is another that your children will be able to look back and reflect on all year long.

What are some of your favorite family Christmas traditions?  Please share in the comments for others to see!

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

12 months 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

12 months 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

12 months 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.

1 year 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

1 year 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 year 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 year 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

1 year 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

1 year 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

1 year 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

1 year 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