Thursday, April 28, 2011

Sweet Home Alabama

I was born and raised in northern Alabama- and though  I moved to Georgia in college and now live in North Carolina, I still very much consider myself an Alabama girl.

In Alabama, tornados are like rain storms. They happen constantly, many people have underground tornado shelters at their homes, our schools have tornado drills monthly, and there isn't a place out of ear shot of a tornado siren. I thought this was normal until last week when North Carolina was hit by a massive tornado and I never heard a siren- turns out they don't have sirens at all. But the point is, we Alabamians are used to tornados.

Yesterday afternoon my best friend called me- wait- backstory. My best friend, (K), and I met when she was 4 and I was 5 and have been inseparable our entire lives- despite living in different cities/states the entire time. She is the only person who has been in my life continuously, and has been my strength through many many hard times. K may not be blood, but that makes our sisterhood even stronger, because it is by choice.  

Yesterday K called me in the middle of the day- strange in the first place since she works more than full time- and sounded..almost hysterical. Her boss's home and a good friends home had been hit by a tornado that morning and the storms were not scheduled to end any time soon. She said she was scared. As I said before, we Alabamians are used to tornados, they do not scare us.

If K was scared, I needed to be watching the news. Problem with that is, it is very difficult to find good coverage of storms happening on the other side of the country. Luckily her local news station just happens to have a live stream on their website. When yet another tornado warning popped up for her town, (Cullman, Al), I called her back and stayed on the phone with her as she, her mother, and little brother took shelter in a bathroom in the center of their quaint historic downtown Cullman home. I told her I would keep an eye on the news and let her know when it was over- and we hung up.

Then- within minutes- the news switched to live stream and showed this.

Then the newscaster told me- as if he were speaking just for me- that this tornado was passing, and then had passed through historic downtown Cullman. I am dialing.. no answer. No voicemail. Just two rings and then silence. Again and the same thing. Then the newscaster speaks to me again and tells me he is getting reports that many homes in the historic downtown neighborhood are leveled and that he expects fatalities. Still dialing, over and over and over again like an insane ex girlfriend. Nothing. Nothing but the most horrible nauseating silence I have ever heard. I had to go there- find her- help- something- but it's a 10 hour drive through the worst storm of the century and I have a daughter now. I call her house phone, her moms cell phone, and every single other person I know in that town but no one answers and I am helpless. Back to the news. Maybe my friend the newscaster has already checked on her for me- but the tornado that ripped through her town is now onto other towns and so is friend newscaster.  

K knows I was watching. She knows I need to hear from her. But my phone is not ringing. After 30 or so more phone calls and 30 or so more little heartbreaks when the ringing stopped, I was in tears. Just a little while before I had been talking to her and now she was probably underneath a pile of rubble and there was absolutely nothing I could do. As the minutes passed without contact it seemed more and more possible that the tornado on my computer screen had killed my best friend.  The helplessness overcame me, and I sat staring and quiet into my somehow unchanged home while my daughter babbled happily, completely unaware.

K called about an hour later. The tornado had leveled the majority of her neighborhood and temporarily taken out all phone service, but left her home mostly undamaged. I wanted to yell at her, to tell her never to be in the same city as a tornado again, or to move to a safer state, but you can't control nature. The tears flooded. Never have I been so overcome with relief and gratitude. But the storms continued, and many many people died. 


The fatalities in Alabama from yesterday's storm have reached 125 so far, with 50 in critical condition, many unaccounted for, and countless probably undiscovered in the rubble. Across the southern states more deaths push the total up to 159 in just one day from just one storm. As the death tole continues to rise my heart breaks for my home state and all of the hundreds of people who have lost loved ones, homes, and businesses.  Next week I am going home, and I vow to do anything possible to help my beautiful state heal.

In just a couple of hours this storm will be upon us here in NC, and though it is not expected to be as severe as it was in Alabama, it is a very dangerous storm. I will be hiding in my closet with my daughter. Please, dear friends, stay safe. And do not underestimate the wrath of this "thunderstorm."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Shopping, budget, and the MOST AMAZING TRUFFLES EVER!!!

I am constantly hearing my friends talk about how they shouldn't spend any more money this month, or how their husbands have cut them off. Being a stay at home mom seems to cause shopping trips with friends, which causes all sorts of other problems, so today's post was supposed to be entirely about how much I love shopping and the the problems it poses to my families income. But then I found a recipe for something so sinfully decadent and heavenly that I can't not share it with you. Soooo... I'm going to seriously shorten the first part and get to the deliciousness. :D 

I love to shop, not for clothes so much, but for house stuff. I used to pride myself on being frugal, because I only by things at their very cheapest, or with great coupons, or from thrift stores, but then the end of last month came and I realized we didn't have as much left in the bank as I wanted to. I thought it strange, since I didn't really buy "much". Then this month I have a list of small things I want (an umbrella for the back porch, a cheap gas grill, a bird bath..), but have refrained from buying since I took a closer look at our budget and broke it down in a way that made my "small" purchases seem much larger. It's ridiculously simple, but I had never looked at our money in this particular way, so it kind of blew my mind and I wanted to share it with you. 

First, figure out your total monthly income and your total monthly bills. Since we are military and our income is no big secret, I'll use our numbers as an example. 

Income: $3029.18
Constant bills (mortgage, utilities, ect..) :  ~$1177

That leaves $1852.18 which isn't bad at all. Seeing that number has always made me feel like we have a comfortable amount of money to spend. But, if you break it down into a daily budget, you see what you really have. $1852.18 split into 31 days is $59.74 per day.  Take out the $7.50 hubs spends on gas every day, about $5 for his lunches (he eats a TON of meat so feeding him is expensive),  and $15ish for dinner (again with the meat)- add drinks and we'll make it an even $20- that leaves $27.24 per day for spending without even thinking about the extra junk we buy, like..oh.. formula and diapers!

Now every time I want to buy something, like the $100 grill I want so badly, I think of that very small number and walk away. It has actually helped a lot, since I used to think of the decently large $1852 per month. Granted, many days the debit card never comes out, so the number slowly climbs as days pass without spending, but it shoots down just as fast when you make one large purchase. So try this out and see if it doesn't help you control your shopping sprees, or even grocery buying. :) That wasn't very short, was it? 

Cookie Dough Truffles

Super easy, ridiculously yummy. You don't even have to bake. Just mix,chill, roll, freeze, and dip.

It makes a lot.. like..50ish truffles, so you may want to cut the recipe in half. Or just sent some my way. Though, I bet they would freeze quite well.

Cookie dough truffles
1/2 cup softened salted butter
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 (14oz) can of sweetened condensed milk
2 1/4 c flour
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
So easy:
  • Combine the butter, sugar,vanilla,and sweetened condensed milk. Add the flour and chocolate chips.

Now, you may be able to form this into balls at this point, but it will work best if you chill first. So, throw the dough in the fridge for a while and go do something else. You should do something productive, but 30 minutes does happen to be the length of one tv show...
  •  Roll into walnut sized balls. Place balls in the freezer for 2hrs or so. They won't be upset with you if you leave them in their all day, as long as your freezer doesn't smell like fish or onions. ewww..

  • Melt  12 oz chocolate chips with 1 tbs butter. To melt, place in a microwave at 25 second intervals, stirring between each. Be careful- overheated chocolate can seize up. Just get it till it’s starting to melt and stir away, the chocolate will continue to melt and smooth out.  I have ruined a lot of chocolate in my days- so follow directions. You could also get the little microwave containers made for dipping- they are quite convenient. 
  • Now dip! I think the easiest way is to stick them with a wooden skewer- but you can do it however you like. 
Store them in the fridge and enjoy!!!! Nom nom nom... 

See you tomorrow! Eventually.. we have our first physical therapy appointment in the morning.. :(

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

PB&J.. the forgotten wonder

Ok, so I know your mother probably fed you about 89 Gazillion peanut butter sandwiches as a child, and if  you are anything like me once you got old enough to buy your own groceries you struck them completely off the list of meal possibilities, swearing never to eat them again. But when was the last time you actually ate one? I recently re-discovered them, and they are quite delicious in moderation. Just not every other day for 10 straight years. :)  Especially if you change them up a little from the white bread-grape jelly version you ate as a child. My favorite right now is seedless blackberry jam, low-fat creamy Jiff, and 7grain bread- although I am also very fond of Strawberry jam. Paired with my daily iced vanilla coffee, it makes for one very enjoyable protein packed (and very very cheap) meal. Do you know the average cost of a basic Pb&j is a tiny $0.29, and even with fancy jam and bread the cost falls under $1. If you get daring you could even try adding some things. There are the basics, like marshmallows, chocolate chips, raisins, and bananas, but what about dill pickle, bacon, or apples? Yum.... Plus they are portable, don't have to be refrigerated, are very filling, and don't get soggy before lunch time. So next time you find yourself at the grocery store, peruse the jelly and jam isle and grab whichever one looks the best to you- there are more varieties there than you can probably imagine- and start enjoying a PB&J every now and again. Smucker's alone offers blackberry, raspberry, mango, orange, plum, apple, and guava just to name a few! Your wallet will appreciate it almost as much as the child inside you.

Just for fun:

Candy coated Lime curd and peanut butter

Apples, blueberries, pineapple chunks, chocolate syrup, and peanut butter. 

 Grilled apple, honey, and peanut butter.

Dill pickle, onion, mayo, and peanut butter.

and my favorite...Mini Reese's cups and peanut butter, grilled.  Yummmo!


Monday, April 25, 2011

Strawberry Pretzel Delight

Since the last post was so negative, I thought I would give you all something wonderful and happy to make up for it. :) This may not sound all that exciting, but I promise it is HEAVENLY. So heavenly, in fact, that I had about 6 servings at one meal with my husband watching. If you know anything about my sugar-loathing husband, you understand the insanity of that. My mother-in-law calls it "salad" which makes us all feel okay about eating it and then eating dessert afterwards, so I've renamed it to prevent you from being tempted. Please, for the sake of your tongue and the detriment of your rear - give this a shot. Tonight.   And don't be put off by the frozen strawberries. I don't like them either, but they are great in this recipe. Enjoy Lovies!


  • 1 1/2 cups crushed stick pretzels
  • 4 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3/4 cups butter, melted
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese
  • 1 container Cool Whip
  • 1 (6 ounce) package strawberry Jello
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 (16 ounce) package frozen strawberries

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Mix together the pretzels, 4 1/2 tablespoons sugar and melted butter. Press into the bottom of a 9x13 inch pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Set aside to cool completely.
  2. In a medium bowl, beat the sugar and cream cheese until smooth. Fold in whipped topping. Spread evenly over the cooled crust. Refrigerate until set, about 30 minutes.
  3. In a medium bowl, stir together the gelatin mix and boiling water. Mix in frozen strawberries, and stir until thawed. Pour over cream cheese mixture in pan. Refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 1 hour.

What I see on the streets of Fayetteville.

Recently I have lost a great deal of faith in the people of our country, and perhaps humanity as a whole. I am a helper, a fixer, and a giver. I always want, and sometimes need, to do anything possible to make the world better for the individuals in my immediate circle, often to the detriment of my own schedule. But I rarely see these traits in other people. Now, please don't get me wrong, I am not egotistical at all. In fact, I have very low self esteem. I see myself as less important than the rest of the world, but I don't think this is such a bad way to feel. What I don't understand is how so many people increasingly put themselves above absolutely everyone and everything else. In years past, when a siren sounded, cars not only slowed but actually pulled off the road and stopped no matter which direction the emergency vehicle was traveling. Now I notice that most people speed up to get by before they are forced to stop, often cutting off an ambulance or fire truck. When I was younger, people would pause for completely absurd amounts of time to hold a door for me, just to be polite. Now men and women alike glance at me, arms full of baby and baby gear, and step up the pace to get through the door before I am close enough to make them feel obligated to hold it open for an extra moment. The worst example in recent days was the government shutdown fiasco and the complete lack of concern on the part of congress for military families. Something could have been done to protect the income of the soldier in case of shutdown, but it wasn't, probably because doing so would not have had any benefit to the congressmen themselves. I won't go into that- since most of you heard my opinions more than you wanted to. On a smaller level, the number of cheating spouses and unreliable friends seems to have skyrocketed also. When did it become acceptable to expect your friends help without returning the favor? Or to not only cheat on your significant other, but to sleep with whomever you please and then guilt the faithful one for leaving?

Overall I have been utterly disgusted with my species for the past few weeks. Then, last Saturday, an F3 tornado ripped through my county and destroyed 280 homes and severely damaged nearly 700 more in just a matter of minutes. Having grown up in Alabama, I have experienced my fair share of tornados, but the hills of my home state cause tornados to jump and often only damage a home or two at a time, and this tornado stayed on the ground for over forty miles destroying everything in it's path. Luckily no one I know personally had any damage, with the exception of a friend's son's elementary school, but the aftermath was overwhelming none the less. I have never seen anything like it. The town quickly put together an event called "Neighbors helping Neighbors" for those unaffected to donate to those in need and set up in the local Lowe's parking lot. I gathered everything in my house I thought we could live without and drove across town, feeling a little guilty for not going earlier in the day and wondering if they would even still be there- (it was 3pm and the event started at 8am). For those of you who don't live in Fayetteville, the Lowe's is on the main road through town and has at least four entrances and a giant parking lot. When I got to the street beside Lowe's I found a traffic jam, so I turned around to avoid it and went to an entrance on the other side of the store, wanting to drop off my donations before they closed the event, but I found an even larger traffic jam on the other side. I ended up parking in another lot and walking, bags and baby in hand, and as I got closer I realized the terrible traffic was because so many people were trying to donate. The trucks brought to carry the donations were already full and huge piles filled the parking lot surrounding. People scurried everywhere to accept the bags of clothes and food but couldn't move fast enough to keep traffic moving. It was quite a site, and actually brought me to tears. The donations that day were so much that volunteers worked into the night to transport them. The salvation army sent out an emergency call for volunteers because they were unable to sort and organize the volume of donations in time for the give away day.

That moment gave me a glimmer of hope for humanity, and showed me that in times of emergency, when disaster strikes, people will step up and help. But being a good person in times of emergency is not enough. There are people who need a smile, a kind ear, or someone willing to help all around you every day, and I challenge you all to notice and do something about it. You may have to spend a few minutes or maybe even an entire day on someone else, and your grocery shopping or laundry may have to wait, but the joy you bring to them will be worth it. And hopefully they will appreciate your efforts and pass on the kindness. Maybe, in time, we can bring back the world I remember. A world where we do not always put ourselves first.

Photos by Krystal Dorn of Krystal Klear Images