Thursday, April 28, 2011

With Heavy Hearts

Yesterday was a rough day here in Alabama. We woke in Birmingham to the sirens at 5:15 am and were hit pretty hard with some serious straight line winds and severe thunderstorms. We were without power for the morning and a portion of the afternoon. We had been alerted that it was only going to get worse from there....

...and it did. We waited all afternoon at home, knowing it was coming. We prepared our "safe place" in the tiny guest bedroom closet, bought a battery powered radio, and grabbed the flashlight and water. We watched the tornado pictured above move through Tuscaloosa and head our direction. It was terrifying. We were fortunate in that the tornado moved slightly north of downtown Birmingham and north of our neighborhood.

Today, we are thankful for our home and our safety but know there are many, many people in need in our state. We've cancelled our trip to Memphis this weekend and are waiting for the "go" to get out and begin the clean up. If you are looking for ways to give, I recommend the Red Cross or UMCOR (the link isn't working but google it).

May God be with all of us as we deal with this tragedy.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Happy Easter!

We hope that you had a beautiful and wonderful Easter celebration!

We snapped a few quick pics before heading our separate ways for church.

Although I dearly missed being with my family, we celebrated with our church families, ate a wonderful meal with Matt's family, and chowed down on plenty of cake and candy! (and on top of all that we were both able to sneak in a Sunday afternoon nap)

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Half Way There...

A few weekends ago, we started the garden for this year. I know it was a bit early but when you both work in churches April fills quickly with services and meetings and the like. So we decided better early than late.

I bought a Living Social deal a few months back for a plant store in Pelham. I don't know how often we'll drive out that far for plants again but they had a great selection and we scored a great deal. So far we've planted eggplant, okra, spaghetti squash, spinach, 1 jalapeno plant, leeks, onions, sweet basil and mint in the pots, and marigolds throughout. We also planted some garlic under the fruit trees to see if that helps keep the bugs away this year & some sunflowers behind the garden box just because I can!

We decided to wait on the tomatoes, squash, and peppers as they like it warm out. Hopefully we will get those in the ground this weekend & then we'll be ready to grow!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Groceries, Final Round

I must say, we've become pretty good at shopping on a small weekly budget. We scored a few good deals again this week at Aldi with 99 cent peppers and strawberries! As I've said before, we will definitely be adding a trip to Aldi into our "usual" grocery store runs.

It would be a lie to say that this project was easy all along, but I do think we learned a lot along the way:

1. Access to good, affordable food is not nearly as accessible as it appears to middle class folks (I think we knew this, but this experiment made it very real).
2. A food stamp budget makes it nearly impossible to buy fresh produce on a regular basis. When it comes to being full or being healthy, being full always wins.
3. We get ripped off at the grocery store when we are too tied to brand name products.
4. Alabama taxes groceries WAY too heavily.
5. We waste a lot of the food we buy (when you only have a select amount of food in the pantry, you are more likely to actually eat it rather than let your "options" sit for so long they go bad).
6. We should all be working toward better access and affordability because ALL people deserve to be able to eat well (esp. when living in a wealthy country like ours).

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I'm from Texas. We don't have a lot of trees. But when I moved to the Southeast I quickly learned that trees are ALWAYS a threat during a bad storm. The rain + straight line winds almost always brings down a tree somewhere. This week, I had my first up close & personal experience with tree damage.

Matt was able to get in touch with our insurance company and get someone out to cover the damaged area before the rains came. After all of the storms passed, the tree removal company spent four + hours getting the gigantic limb off of our roof (without snapping the telephone wire at that...those things are tough).

Luckily, the tree didn't quite fall all the way through the house so most of the damage is in the roof and attic and not inside. But it still did a number on the eaves of the house.

This was all that was left when they finally got it down:

Now we are waiting to have the damage repaired. Here's hoping our tarp can withstand the storms we are expecting tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Groceries, Round 5

Only 1 week left & it seems our shopping is getting a bit easier. As we build on what we already have in our pantry, spending less money is much simpler. It is getting difficult to throw together odd ball meals & even more difficult to want to eat those meals at home instead of eating out all the time. But I feel like we have learned a lot about our own eating habits as well as what it must be like to live on a small budget for groceries. Perhaps we don't NEED all of the things we think we need when we grocery shop.

Also, we are learning that having easy access to fresh (affordable) produce is a huge part of our diet. It is scary to think about all of the people in the US who do not have such access to good, fresh produce. This is part of the reason Matt and I support farmer's markets like the one found in East Lake as they work to provide greater access in food deserts as well as to empower individuals to be able to buy that produce themselves.

Monday, April 11, 2011

The Garden

This year we decided to be a bit more intentional with our garden. Last year we'd moved in close to the end of the planting season in AL and needed to get it done quickly. This time around, we took the time to till the soil better and added some manure/compost to help prepare the soil. In addition, we made this map of how our garden will look(ish):

As we work to keep our veggies organic, we did some research on "companion planting." Basically, the idea is that you can plant other veggies and flowers to help keep certain pests away from all of those tasty plants. I would say one of the biggest changes in our garden this year (aside from being a heck of a lot bigger) is the addition of marigolds throughout to keep the aphids off of my tomatoes and peppers.

I am excited to see what this garden will produce for us to eat as well as teach us about growing food in your own backyard!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Groceries, Round 4

We finally came in under our budget!

We headed out to Aldi again and stocked up on a few essentials. This week was easier because we had leftovers from our past few shopping trips to add on to rather than starting from scratch (and we ate out a good bit this weekend). Aldi also had a good deal on squash this week & we caught the 99 cent strawberries again. It's nice to be able to buy some fresh produce even on a food stamp budget.

I will admit that we are tiring of buying groceries on a budget. It's difficult to say no when I see something I want. Since Matt and I are big on taking our lunch and eating at home as much as possible, it's hard to have such a limited selection. I've missed eating my Greek yogurt at lunch, looking up recipes with good, healthy vegetarian ingredients to try, my favorite brand of orange juice (Minute Maid-pulp free, in case you were wondering the store brand comes nowhere near the goodness), and other yummy things that are simply out of the question on a food stamp budget. Here's to sticking it out a few more weeks & then remembering always the simple pleasure we have of buying what we want at the grocery store and not only what we need.