Saturday, October 3, 2015

ALDI Love Part 2

I LOVE that ALDI carries a pretty good stock of organic products for the same price (sometimes cheaper) than you could get a non-organic one at other grocery stores. 

Organic pasta: $1.19 a box 

Organic Chicken Broth, Beef Broth and Vegetable Broth: $1.79 a box

This is the best price on Organic milk I've ever found anywhere!!!
Half Gallon organic milk both Skim and 2%: $2.95 

Organic frozen strawberries and blueberries- perfect for smoothies: $2.99 a bag


Organic cheese for sandwhices: $2.99 a pack

And something we use a lot of in our home for baking and sweet tea is pure cane sugar.  At $2.29 for 4 lbs this is our new sugar staple.

You might ask- why is this important, why do you only use this in your sweet tea? Well it's non-refined and non-GMO! I kept having images of my husband drinking carbon and other chemicals as he downed his gallons of sweet tea. In our house one of the ways my husband receives love is having sweet tea to drink. But I also want him to live a long time! 

And who doesn't love the taste of fresh sugar cane? One of my favorite things about Haiti was- well that's another blog for another time- I digress. 

We hadn't totally switched over in all our baking to pure cane sugar because it's just expensive- but now thanks to ALDI we will only be purchasing THIS! Yahoo for more ALDI love.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

ALDI Love Part 1

For those who don't know- I LOVE ALDI grocery stores and we just got one this month in Charleston. HALLELUJAH!!! I first heard of ALDI when Brandon and I moved to Matthews, NC and our teammate Teressa kept ranting and raving about getting a cart full of groceries for their family for $65 a week. She and our other teammate Marion discipled me and my friend Kitty in all things ALDI. I have been sold ever since.

Now I will disciple my kids in all things ALDI. Some of you asked "why do you like it? What do you suggest we buy?" So here's the first part of my answer. 


ALDI specializes in the most common things people buy from the grocery store and this helps keep costs down. They also keep costs down by not having baggers, you bring your own grocery bags, and the unpacking on shelves is minimal. I LOVE it. 


See all that Greek yogurt with fruit? It's 70 cents a pop! PRAISE GOD!!! Seriously that stuff, when on sale is $1 each.

I love that they always have a small selection of name brand stuff (fun seasonal stuff too) for much cheaper than the average store. Today this is what I found: 


Yes that's mini Babybel cheese for $2.89 per bag of 6- my daughter was STOKED. She loves these in her lunch.


Caramels for $1.89- great for fall baking! Or for these Salted Caramel Brownies I found and fell in love with through Pinterest.  


Betty Crocker Candy Corn cookie mix and Maple Bacon cookie mix for $1.89. Now I love some homemade cookies but these are so fun! If I'm gonna buy processed junk I want it to be fun! 

These are some of their products that were my favorites 10 years ago and still always make it in my buggy (yes I say buggy, I'm from North Carolina). 


These Vinagrette dressings are amazing! They have chunks of cheese and garlic at the bottom! And at $1.99 a piece they're a steal- I think my favorite is the Three Cheese. 


I love to bake and you cannot beat their prices for brown sugar, dark brown sugar, confectioners sugar, and chocolate chips. They even have butterscotch chips and all at the great price of $1.89 a bag! 


I love their Tri-Color Tortilla Chips on salads and for only $1.19 a bag!


Again, if I'm not gonna make a pie crust from scratch then I wanna buy 2 for $1.69! Amazing! And when I'm gonna make my momma's chocolate eclair desert and need whipped topping I'm gonna pay 79 cents- yes-sir-ree! 

Okay now don't get me started on how great their prices on produce are- My rule of thumb for our family is fruit with thin skin or skin I eat is going to be Organic and thicker skin I buy regular to save money. So I was so happy when I saw my ALDI was carrying these yummy Gala organic apples for less than $5 for this big bag. 


Anyone notice that bell peppers have become the golden egg of vegetables costing an arm and a leg? I've been leaving them out of recipes for years cause they're so dang expensive. Enter ALDI and now I can get 3 for $1.19!!! Are you kidding me?!? And they're from North Carolina. 


I could go on and on and on but I'll save some for Part 2. Happy shopping! 

*This post is not endorsed by Aldi

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Process of Grief

Here I am, writing to you on a Thursday.  There's not a Thursday that passes by that I don't think about that day.  Sixteen weeks ago on a Thursday my momma passed away.

When I wrote back in November I was starting my counseling journey the next day.  Since then I've continued going to counseling and have also started attending a GriefShare group with my stepdad. GriefShare is a recovery support group helping people along in their journey from mourning to joy. Each week we have personal study to work through on our own.  There is a video each week and then we discuss as a group.  I wanted to share some of what I've been learning.

No matter how brokenhearted I feel I know that "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Psalm 34:18).  The emotions I experience from day to day are a roller coaster: some days I feel overwhelmed, paralyzed and depressed, while other days I feel happy, distracted, and content.  I have learned I cannot let my emotions control me, not matter how strong they are.

One other thing I've realized is that I am not just grieving the loss of my mom but also grieving the loss of the bond we shared.  The first loss I experienced was the actual death of my mom.  The secondary losses though to me are far more difficult to deal with.  I first realized this when we returned from DisneyWorld.

When we got back from DisneyWorld we saw my grandma, my brother and my stepdad and showed them some pictures.  I had sent pictures all week to my dad and Brandon's parents.  But at home that afternoon I had a major breakdown.  This was the first time I realized my a secondary loss.  I lost the one person who would never fail to ask a million questions about what Myra Grace and Mackey were doing...and she wanted to know every single detail.  When we got home from Disney and I couldn't share every moment with her I took this harder than her actual death.  She would've wanted to see each picture and get a play by play.  She would've wanted to know what we ate, which ride had the longest line, who was the kids' favorite character they got to meet, which rides were they too short to go on, did they cover their ears during the fireworks, any funny bathroom stories of running with toddlers to make it in time.  She would've wanted to know why 'It's a Small World' ride was closed when we were there, what the new Fantasyland was like, why they moved the Dumbo ride, why Disney changed MGM's park name to Disney Hollywood Studios, and if their eyes lit up when they saw the Wizard of Oz scene during 'The Great Movie Ride'.  

My mom LOVED much so that that is where she and my dad chose to go on their honeymoon (will find a picture and post another time).  When I was barely a year old my dad and her took me, my grandmother and grandfather and my great grandparents.  She loved watching me, and then later my brother and I experience DisneyWorld.  Even when it became the vacation my dad always took me and my brother on (major dad points- he carried a 30 pound camcorder- daddy you were such a trooper, I never remember you complaining) when we got home my mom wanted to know EVERY detail.

My mom was planning and wanted to take my kids two places: DisneyWorld and the other was the abandoned Wizard of Oz theme park in North Carolina (another blogpost for another time).  We were going to go to Disney this past Thanksgiving.  Then she went into the hospital in September and passed away on Halloween.

One of our friends and former students contacted me via Facebook and told me he had an internship at DisneyWorld and would like to invite us to join him at DisneyWorld for two days and a percentage off a Disney resort.  He knew that my mom really wanted us to go.  So, on a Sunday night in December we decided to head to the Happiest Place on Earth that Tuesday.  We decided to go to the Magic Kingdom the first day and Disney Hollywood Studios the second day.  We even got to stay at one of the Disney resorts.

I cannot tell you what an amazing gift this was.  The Lord knew exactly the day we needed to leave town and we were able to get to go on the vacation of my mom's dreams for a fraction of what it would have cost us to do on our own.  What a beautiful lifelong gift.  My kids first trip to DisneyWorld was a gift from the Lord.  Our friend Jordan (who would not want to be recognized- maybe he won't read this- sorry not sorry bud) allowed the Lord to work through him to bless us at a time when it was most appreciated.  Thank you friend.  We are forever grateful and I know my momma was smiling the WHOLE ENTIRE TIME we were there.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Standing on the High Dive (and I hate heights)

My mom died two weeks ago today, on Halloween.  I am wearing Halloween socks today that my kids picked out in the Target Dollar section for her to wear while she was in the hospital.  They refer to them as M'ma's candy corn socks.

Today I am grabbing a few minutes alone at Atlanta Bread Company to process the last few weeks. Because tomorrow I have my first counseling appointment since her death, actually first one since the week before Mackey was born (2 1/2 years ago).  Then my counselor moved and I haven't taken the time to find a new one and begin the process again.

Here's the thing: I am a believer in preventative counseling.  We get physical exams (or are supposed to- confession time I don't) yearly and we don't think people are weird for that.   So, why the stigma for mentally "checking up."  Personally I would prefer to go to counseling preventatively than to wait til a crisis happens, whether in my life or my marriage.

I was born in North Carolina, live now in South Carolina and lived for two years in New York City.  In small towns I feel as if counseling has a negative stigma.  Like if you go to counseling, then you must be weak or if you and your spouse go to marriage counseling, there must be some SERIOUSLY crazy bad stuff happening.  When we were moving to NYC my friend Amira said something that resonated with me: "Where we're from (the south) people look at you weird if you go to in the city they look at you weird if you don't go to therapy."  People talk about their therapist as easily as they talk about their hairdresser there.  I love that.

So, I am standing on the high dive with that feeling in my tummy of utter sickness and nervousness. But I'm up there.  I have been grieving as best as I know how right now.  Well, actually I don't feel like I'm even grieving.  My mom's death happened so quickly that it still feels surreal.  I still can't believe it happened.  Everyday I wake up and wonder, 'when is this going to begin to sink in?'  I know it probably never will totally "sink in," whatever that even means.  But I wonder when will the numbness will begin to subside and I when will I begin to "feel" it.

So, earlier this week I figured instead of wondering this, why not find a Christian counselor and get some tracks to run on: some applicable things to do in order to grieve and celebrate well.  So, I called my mom's former counselor (who I met while my mom was in the hospital) and am seeing her tomorrow.  I want to learn to celebrate my mom well but also grieve the loss of her not being with me too.

A friend let me borrow Shauna Niequist book "Bittersweet" yesterday.  I have already been challenged and find myself wanting to say "yes, yes" just as I read the prologue.

 Bittersweet is the practice of believing that we really do need both the bitter and the sweet, and that a life of nothing but sweetness rots both your teeth and your soul.  Bitter is what makes us strong, what forces us to push through, what helps us earn the lines on our faces and the calluses on our hands.  Sweet is nice enough, but bittersweet is beautiful, nuanced, full of depth and complexity.  Bittersweet is courageous, gutsy, earthy (11).  
But when you've faced some kind of death-- the loss of someone you loved dearly, the failure of a dream, the fracture of a relationship-- that's when you start understanding the central metaphor.  When your life is easy, a lot of the really crucial parts of the Christian doctrine and life are nice theories, but you don't really need them.  When, however, death of any kind is staring you in the face, all of a sudden rebirth and new life are very, very important to you (12).
That's just the first two pages! so so good.  I look forward to sharing more from this book as I digest it.  So, after I've lept reluctantly off the high dive, I'll let you know how my glide into the water is.  After all I'm going preventatively, to learn how to jump in from this height.  My other option is to, months from now, do a completely painful bellyflop.  I know their will be pain involved in the jump now but hoping to meet it head on and not get knocked out or feel paralyzed from it.  Thanks for praying for my family during this journey of my mom's sickness and death.  God has been and will continue to be gracious as we walk through this day by day.

 *Excerpts taken from Bittersweet by Shauna Niequest

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Guest Post from Hubby on Last Two Weeks

My hubby Brandon wrote a blog on our ministry website on the past two weeks and my mother's death from his perspective.  Check it out at the link below.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Leaning In

Metastasis.  Pulmonary embolism.  Pleural effusion.  I was an English major in college so needless to say I had no reason to know these medical terms until today.  My momma has been in the hospital since Tuesday.  She went in for unidentifiable pain she's had for almost a month.   After a series of every test known to man, we will hopefully get answers tomorrow after her lung doctor and cancer doctor consult one another.  Even though they're not totally sure everything that's causing the pain they have decided to begin treatment on her cancer, which we learned a week ago has become active again after almost six months of being in remission.

Needless to say, I am overwhelmed, flustered and numb.  The best way to describe it is I feel pressed but not crushed (2 Cor. 4:8).  The burden is pressing on my heart, my mind constantly.   I am confident in who God is, not in the circumstances or my knowledge of what's going on.   I will not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16-18) because God knows all and He has my momma in the palm of His very capable hand. This does not mean I won't have times of questioning, I won't have times of being angry, sad, anxious. So, what does this mean to me?   I know that He is able to heal her, completely, to erase everything away and make her physically well again.  I will pray that it's His will to do so. But, whatever the outcome: more chemo, more abnormalities, more unknown: I will CHOOSE to trust Him, even when it's hard.  I will do this, not because it's easy or because it's the "right" thing to do: I will do this because I will "remember the deeds of long ago" (Psalm 77:1) and choose to trust He still is doing good deeds and will continue to do them.  He doesn't change, even as my circumstances do.

So, do I pray that my momma would be healed?  Yes! I pray that would be God's will.  I thank God for how awesome He is.  Reminding myself of who He is allows me to gain a perspective that I don't have if I just focus on myself, my mom, the situation.   I then lose sight and begin to spiral into "what ifs" and I begin to try and take over control.   I pray that my momma would know how deep His love is for her in the very depths of her soul.  I devotedly pray (Colossians 4:2), that she would experience peace every moment, an indescribable peace (Philippians 4:7)...right now as she sleeps nine miles away from me, hooked up to oxygen and resting deeply because of pain medication.   I pray that my family (myself included) would not become "anxious about ANYTHING but in EVERYTHING present [our] requests to God" (Philippians 4:6).

I pray for myself, that I would lean IN to this experience.  Leaning in for me means to enter into this with my mom and my stepdad as he cares for her.  Leaning in for me means to pray, to carry this burden to the throne room of God on their behalf.  Leaning in means involving my children in the reality (age appropriate of course) of what their M'ma is going through.  A great opportunity to remind them and myself that this world is not our home (Hebrews 11:13).  Leaning in means allowing friends and family (near and far) to help my family bear this burden: taking up people's offers to watch my kids so I can be present with my mom, bringing food- doing things for us.  After all, this is what the body and community is for.  We were created to live life with others.

I am a "doer" and if I'm being totally honest and vulnerable, I operate in my natural self as someone who wants to look good to others and to have it all together.  If I do not allow others to be involved I come across as someone who is not in "need."  And boy am I ever in need.  Not just now because a loved one is going through something really difficult- but EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  I will choose to not be prideful.  I will choose to not place barriers around my self and the situation.  I will choose to let people in.  Why?  Because there's much more at stake than whether or not I keep it all together.  A representation of the gospel is at stake.  We were created to be IN community, do life with people, just like God the Father exists in community with the Son and the Holy Spirit.   I pray I will portray a true picture of why Jesus even came.  He didn't come because I'm almost perfect, almost good enough, almost have it all together and only 2% of me needed restoration.  He came to bridge the gap between me and His Father (John 14:6): something I cannot do- through any means (Romans 3:23).  Thankfully the story/situation never ends with depressing news.  My story and my mom's story will hopefully reflect the one Story that has the power to change lives, mine included.

So, I'm leaning in.  Sure, its messy.  Sure, its hard.   But it's also beautiful, it's also lovely.  Thank you for leaning in with me.

*Update: since writing this we have found out the pain was most likely caused by the fluid around her lungs.  She will be having surgery Monday to drain the fluid and seal the area in order to prevent future fluid from gathering.  When she's recovered from that she will begin chemotherapy to arrest the active cancer cells.  Thanks again for leaning in with our family.

Myra Grace spontaneously praying for M'ma

Ballet performance for Granddaddy and M'ma

After M'ma was wheeled out for a test, they took over the space

Mackey enjoying a popsicle from a sweet nurse

Friday, February 17, 2012

Date Night In

One of my Christmas gifts to Brandon was a cooking date night.  One night after the kids went down we were going to try and recreate one of our new favorite dishes.  The Kung Pao Chicken from P.F. Chang's is SO yummy and we were wanting some more.

So I searched online and found a recipe that claimed to taste like the restaurant version.

Half of the fun was us getting in the kitchen together and cooking.

We ate it over rice and it was YUMMY!!!  We will definitely be eating this again very soon.