Thursday, February 25, 2010

To my husband

Happy Birthday! I'm glad you were born and I'm glad you are mine! The best is yet to come!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

my Favorite Things - p.7

Because I probably spend far too much time messing around online, I have found some pretty fantastic websites. Here are a few I adore.

The Pioneer Woman - I don't care who you are, you should be checking out her blog every single day. I think the whole world would be a better place if everyone got a daily dose of Ree Drummond!

OneWed - It's primarily a wedding planning website, but the forums are a neat and very diverse community. I'll admit it, now that I've recovered from my wedding, I am back to living vicariously through others!

Reece's Rainbow - an organization that works primarily for the international adoption of kids with Down's Syndrome. It's a great cause and is full of photos of beautiful children that just melt my heart.

Pfaltzgraff - Yup, shopping. More specifically, nesting. They're always coming out with cool seasonal additions to my china pattern, so I'm always adding stuff to my little list of things I want!

Zuma - it's an incredibly addictive game. It involves quick response, coordination, and strategy. You should try it. Then try to beat my top score!

Dreamhome Source - Jeff introduced this one to me because he uses it when he teaches his basic autocad class. It's got TONS of house plans. When I'm really bored I look at the stuff with a minimum of 10,000 square feet just to see what comes up. It's a little crazy. There are lots of good ones though! I have a few that I've marked as my possible lake house one day!

You will also notice there are a few that are missing - Facebook, MySpace, and Amazon to name a few. I like Amazon pretty well and I like Facebook ok. I really dislike myspace. REALLY dislike it. As for blogger and livejournal, they are great tools for keeping up with my friends, but if it weren't for them I probably wouldn't bother with either just for the sake of throwing my thoughts into cyberspace. I'm sure there are others that I frequent, but they don't jump out at me and aren't favorites.

So what are the sites you find yourself coming back to again and again, even when you know you should be doing something else?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


DISCLAIMER: I know this is one of those "touchy" subjects for a lot of people. Whether you agree or disagree is fine (and I would love to hear what you think) but please be respectful of me and anyone else who comments!

First of all, I do NOT think homeschooling is right for everyone. Not everyone is cut out to be a teacher. I absolutely respect people who are called to teach, go through all the necessary schooling, and who have that gift.

But the classroom is not always the best learning environment. I don't think it's a reflection on the teachers or even the other students (although it can be), but it's a reflection on our society as a whole and the administration with whose policies the teachers must comply.

And every student learns in different ways. I know that I was a good student. I got good grades. But it was rarely hard. Even the stuff I didn't like, I could still do. I feel like I could have learned more and been a little more challenged with some more individualized attention.

While some smaller private schools might help some of these concerns, there are plenty of other concerns.

I know some of the biggest objections to homeschooling are that the kids will be anti-social and "weird". I only met a couple of homeschooled kids before I went to college. And they were indeed a little anti-social and awkward. But I have since met many others. One is a good friend of mine. She and I have similar personalities. We are both a little goofy and awkward and dorky, but it's just who we are! I really don't think it has much to do with the fact that she was homeschooled or I was in public schools.

One resource that is available for many homeschooling families is the development of homeschooling groups. You can share resources, take turns teaching, and socialize. It's a great thing to have available.

Even though we're a ways away from even beginning to choose a school for our kids, it's on our mind. Heck, part of the reason we bought our house here is because of the schools. In my curiosity about homeschooling in theory, I did a curriculum hunt. I found several that I did NOT like or agree with at all, either in application or in subject matter (and sometimes both!) But I did find one that I loved called Sonlight. Yes, it is technically a Christian-based curriculum, but it's not Jesusy. The religion part is totally optional. And the basic idea of the religion thing is exposure to a variety of belief systems. I think this is what appealed to me most of all.

I must admit, my addiction to The Pioneer Woman's blog has also fed my interest in homeschooling. There are all kinds of great things that she uses with her kids that I wish I'd had as a kid and would love to use with my kids.

The one flaw in my plan is that the curriculum I love so dearly is VERY literature based. I was a reader. I still am. I love to read. My loving husband is not a reader. He is a doer. Now part of this is probably the fact that he was never exposed to a lot of books when he was young. His mom didn't read to him like mine did. He had a hard time learning to read, so he never developed a love for it like I did. But my brother also never loved to read. He would rather be outside rolling in the dirt or playing ball than to be inside reading (like me). He grew up with the same exposure to books and never had a problem learning to read, but he just didn't like it. So what if my kids aren't readers either? Or what if one is a reader and the other isn't? How do I engage their varying interests? They wouldn't get a choice in their curriculum in any other school, should the get a choice at home?

On the up side, the freedom of scheduling would be awesome! You wouldn't necessarily have to wait for spring break or summer vacation to go someplace (which is when the rest of the world is going all the same places!) you could work your vacation into your schooling like a trip to DC to learn about history or even a weekend at the beach when you're studying the ocean. You wouldn't have to wait until after 3pm for doctor's appointments or piano lessons, and when they inevitably get sick, you won't have to worry about missed tests and assignments and trying to get everything made up!

There are pros and cons on both sides and I'm still not entirely sure where I sit in all of this, but I'll sort it out eventually. In the meantime, anyone have any thoughts?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Happiness is...

It takes very little to make me happy. I'm very easily amused and the simplest things can make my day. Today I had one of those days. The weather was beautiful and perfect and it seemed like the neighborhood was buzzing in just the way I've always felt like it should be. The kids across the street are playing basketball, the teenagers next door were playing with one's car and their dog. And then there was the most glorious sound - THE ICE CREAM TRUCK!

I love ice cream. And I love the ice cream truck. I didn't go flying out the front door as soon as I heard it. I thought about it, but decided not to humiliate myself. But then as it just sat there and served several other people it's song hypnotized me and I did indeed go flying from the front door! I even got my favorite ice cream bar, a chocolate eclair crunch bar. So yummy!

I don't know why it is that having an ice cream truck in our neighborhood (especially one driven by a very sweet young woman) excites me so much. Maybe because I just love ice cream. Maybe because I have pleasant memories of my own childhood and the ice cream truck. Maybe because I got to see several of the families I haven't met on the block. Maybe because I just associate it with being a kid-friendly, family-friendly area. I don't know. But it makes me really excited and it just makes this feel that much more like home.

Shower the people you love with love

Yesterday I helped host a baby shower for Jeff's cousin. There were lots of people involved. And the planning for this "blessed" event has not always been easy or pleasant, but it got done. When it was in the planning stages, it all seemed rather over the top to me and to many of the others I spoke with. But as I consider it in the grand scheme of things, it makes sense to me.

We were all a little uglier than we needed to be about the whole thing. Did this aunt (the grandmother-to-be) handle things the way I would have or the way my mother-in-law would have or the way any of the other aunts would have? No, probably not. But she is her own person. She is a very sweet person. She loves her only little girl very much. And she is very excited about the arrival of her first grandchild.

I think deep down we are a little jealous of her and her attitude. Because she doesn't care what anyone else thinks. She knows what she wants. And what she wants is the best for her little girl and her granddaughter. She doesn't censor herself. She is completely honest and open and genuine. She is excited and she wants everyone else to be as excited as she is. She wants to provide everything she possibly can for them, and this is the best way she knows to do that. She is in "momma-bear" mode - she is going to take care of her baby and you really don't want to try and interfere with that.

I wish I could be like that sometimes. I wish I could NOT censor my enthusiasm for the sake of the feelings of others. I wish I didn't need the validation of knowing I'm doing things the "right" way. But that's not me. And if I tried to just throw all that out and be a little more determined to get what I want, I don't think I would be happy. Because that's just not how I think. I can't want only what I want in life. Because I know that, even though it's "my" life, it impacts a lot more people. I have family. I have in-laws. I have friends. I have neighbors. I have professional responsibilities. I can't just ignore all that.

Maybe one day when I have children things will change, if not for me than for them. Maybe not, I have no way of knowing until I'm actually there.

Back to the baby shower...

The party itself was very nice. I have no idea how many people showed up, but it seemed like a lot to me. We put on a good party if I do say so myself. It looked nice, the food was tasty, and everyone seemed to have a really nice time. There were lots of nice gifts. I took a little mental inventory of all the things I want for my kid someday (and that I hope I can buy off of Danielle when she is done with them!) She got quite a few really neat keepsake things like the baby's bible and the handkerchief bonnet, and an ultrasound photo frame. She got a TON of clothes. Everything was precious, but most of it was more "dressy" clothes. There were several cute little onesies and "basics" too, but oh the clothes!

I'm giving fair warning now. If anyone buys me baby clothes without prior approval, I will have to not be friends with you anymore. The only exceptions are 1) it's handmade or 2) it's a family heirloom you want to pass down. Everything else, check with me first!

I really enjoy hosting parties and having fun, but by the time it was over we were all beat! You really do run on the energy of others and when it is all done, you can't help but just drop. I have a feeling I will sleep well tonight!

We love you Isabella Grace and can't wait to meet you!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.6

Because I love series and can't pick just one favorite book, these are some of my favorite authors.

Jan Karon - Not only has she written the amazing Mitford books, she has also written a bunch of absolutely favorite children's books. If you haven't read anything of hers, you should. They're all absolutely brilliant but still easy to read and don't make you think too hard. They are sweet and you may cry a little, but it's a good thing, I promise.

Joann Fluke - I like her murder mysteries because they aren't scary mysteries. They aren't always predictable but they are fun. And there is a romantic element, but they aren't romance novels. It's a nice balance. And they come with recipes!

Janet Evanovich - I have literally read everything of hers I could find. I love it all. The Stephanie Plum novels are hilarious, but I think the Alex Barnaby books were my favorite. There's only two of them and I wish there were more. I would like to re-read "Full Scoop" because I read the full series out of order (Full Scoop was actually the first of her books I ever read). At one point I had two copies of that one and now I can't find either of them! And if you don't want to get sucked into reading a series, try some of her re-released romances like Thanksgiving or Manhunt! Jeff calls these my "red shoe" books, but I have caught him reading one on my kindle before.

Anne George - Her books are called the "southern sisters" mysteries. They're very funny murder mysteries all set in and around Birmingham (which is probably why I love them). The author was a retired English teacher from Birmingham and the former Alabama State poet and I'm all about supporting my local folks, too! I never really read the books in order and it didn't matter too much, the story lines aren't totally dependent on one another, but I do want to go back and read them all in order some day. The series feels sort of incomplete because she never intended it to end. You could tell it was leading up to another book, but she died before it was ever written. Part of me would love to do a few more myself just because I want to know what happens next! She does have one book not related to the series that I haven't read, so it's on my list!

C.S. Lewis - The Narnia books are awesome. If you haven't read them do it now. I'll wait. And while the movies do a good job of telling the stories, it's still not the same thing. His other stuff is also good. I'm not a big sci-fi fan so I haven't read those yet, but I am very partial to The Great Divorce and The Screwtape Letters. Read those too, while you're at it.

Alton Brown - I know he's not a "traditional" author, but he is an author of cookbooks. I really like his books because they focus more on technique than on particular recipes. I don't think I ever realized that's why I liked them until recently. I'm currently reading "Think Like A Chef" by Tom Colicchio which is shaping up to also be excellent. And yes I do just read cookbooks. You learn a lot that way.

So topic for comment today is obviously what are some of your favorite books and/or who are some of your favorite authors and why?

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Decorating Credits

I'm sure you've probably seen most of the photos of the house now (at least if you want to see them!) If not, they are on facebook. Check them out. And if you aren't my friend on facebook, you should be! I would love to take credit for all the decorating of the new house, but I can't. I've been passing off most of the credit to my husband, but the more I sit back and think about it, he doesn't deserve it all either. So basically, here's a list of who did what to which rooms.

Master Bedroom - the furniture choice (except for the bench between the windows) was all Jeff. He purchased his bedroom furniture before we even met. The bench came from my grandparents' house, although unless you knew that you wouldn't really notice it doesn't exactly match the rest of the furniture. The bedding was pretty much me. The wall color was also me (because we were working from the bedding and the rest of the house is beige and I wanted our room to be different!) The artwork was Jeff. The picture over the bed came from his parents and the two pictures by the mirror came from my old house. Jeff arranged all the furniture

Master Bath - I will take full credit for this, although there wasn't much "decorating" to be done. We just used the same color as the master bedroom. I picked out the little wicker and iron shelves and decorative towels. The picture I got from his parents. He did pick out the new drawer knobs and paint the light fixtures, but it was a pretty mutual decision that we wanted the brushed silver.

Guest bathroom - I guess you could say I am responsible for this one because it was stuff I picked out for the condo based around the hand towel stand I got as a wedding gift. The wall color was the agreed-upon beige for most of the house.

Guest bedroom - I really don't know that either of us can take credit for this. All the furniture and bedding came from my old house. My mom picked out the bedding. I don't think I even helped with that one, I think I was away at college. The painting on the bedside table was a gift to me. The painting over the bed came from his mother, but I think we're going to replace it with a few I found from my grandparents' house. Again, Jeff arranged all the furniture.

Office - This was all Jeff. I helped pick the window treatment, but they were originally chosen for our living room at the condo. He did all the hanging of artwork (which is all his) and arranging of furniture (which is all his except one bookshelf!) The burgundy chair came from the house in Cullman but he's the one who decided to keep it.

Living room - This is the one room we did almost entirely together. We picked almost all the furniture together and it was purchased as our Christmas present from my family. There are two tables that came from the Cullman house and all the lamps came from Cullman. The artwork also came from Cullman but Jeff chose it and hung it. I want something different, but I don't know what yet. The current rug is temporary. I did display all the wedding photos in their strategic locations. The furniture arrangement was rather mutual.

Dining room - Jeff actually deserves most of the credit here. He totally saw the vision for the paint when I could not. The color on top was a pretty mutual choice. The furniture was basically all his doing, too. The tea cart was something I got from my great-great-aunt. The table and chairs he found and really encouraged me to love them (which I now do). The china hutch came from his mom and he made the executive decision where to put it. The only thing I can claim credit for is the hanging of the artwork (which also came from his mom) and the current tablecloth.

Hall/Entry way - There are little touches here that I can pretty much take credit for. There is a cross over the front door that I bought several years ago, but Jeff hung. The memo board in the hall was a gift to both of us, but I chose to hang it there. The new light fixture in the hall was my choice, too.

Half Bath - I think I can take credit for this, too. I made the decision that this would be the only room we wouldn't re-paint so it is the purple wallpaper that was there when we bought the house. I chose the paintings now on the wall and the other little pieces. It's a work in progress. I still feel like something is missing.

Kitchen - I can take (almost) full credit for this - I knew what I wanted and Jeff helped make it happen. I chose the color with absolutely no discussion. I also found the metal tiles and Jeff hung them for me. I picked the drawer/cabinet pulls and Jeff put them on. The table came from his mom because she and I traded. He hung the stuff on the wall for me, but that's also a work in progress.

So that's pretty much our house and how it came to be the way it is now. I'm sure it will continue to evolve. Once I get some of the "new" stuff put away there will be more pictures. Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

La Purga

No, not the thing from Angels and Demons. I have spent the better part of the last two weeks purging myself of a lot of junk. More specifically, of the junk that has accumulated over the course of my childhood and adolescence by myself and my family.

The garbage men didn't like us at all last week. And I'm willing to bet they won't like us this week either. We threw away a LOT. I'd love to say that we recycled everything we could, but the bottom line is that we had three piles - keep, give away, and trash. Anything that I wasn't interested in and wasn't obviously of use if donated to a thrift store or the Sacred Heart yard sale went into the trash. I was pretty proud that I was able to get rid of as much as I did.

I parted with a lot of things that, deep down, I really would have loved to have kept. Because everything had a memory and a story attached to it. I know deep down that I can't keep everything and I have to make room for new things. I think the fact that I have a definite limit to my space and still want lots of my own things, it made it easier to get rid of things. Plus my compulsion to make things match was also a driving factor!

I did keep a lot of things. For the most part everything is in the "blue room" downstairs. I will eventually move them up and put them away, but for now they are happy in their little room. Getting everything moved in and settled will probably take a little time but I'm determined to make it happen before our open house next month.

There is one rather large item that has taken up residence in our bedroom and that is Jeff's old treadmill. I'm actually kind of excited about it. Somehow he is too tall for it (I think his stride is just too long) but it's the perfect size for me. I'm kind of excited about the fact that I could (in theory) do all the useless things I do every day but do them while I walk from the comfort of my bedroom. We'll see how well that works out for me.

I think today is special

Happy Laurentine's Day! I Love you!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Magnificat anima mea Dominum

Don't be intimidated by the Latin. This is called the Magnificat, or some may call it "Mary's Song" and is actually found in the Gospel of Luke. There is a really neat tradition in many Anglican churches (and I think some Catholic churches, too) of the "boy bishop" that goes along with it.

On one feast day (usually either of the Virgin or the patron of the cathedral) the bishop is dethroned during the reading or singing of this song at the point where it talks about the mighty being brought down from their thrones and a child from the choir takes the place of the bishop to finish the service, funny hat and all.

When I was in England a couple of years ago they had recently had this celebration in that cathedral and the child bishop was actually a girl named Sophie. I love it and think it's a very cool thing.

I think it's an important commentary on the ways of the world and the ways of the kingdom and how the two don't always overlap (and then what happens!)

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;
For he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.

For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation.

He has shown strength with his arm;
He has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate;

He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent empty away.

He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and his offspring forever.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.5

These are some of my favorite restaurants.

Cracker Barrel - Make fun all you want. I love it. It's comfort food. It makes me feel good. And they are the world's best dumplings.

Johnny's BBQ - a hometown favorite. There are plenty of places that do BBQ well, and even quite a few where you can get a decently good BBQ baked potato. But none of them are as good as Johnny's. Plus, good white sauce is hard to come by! Put a Dr. Pepper with it and add a few hush puppies and I become a very happy girl!

Seafood and Chicken Box - Also affectionately known as "the salt lick" because you will get more than your daily dose of sodium in an average meal. But it's great. It takes a while because everything is cooked fresh, but it's worth it!

Calypso Cafe - This is definitely a Nashville favorite that I miss tremendously. It's simple, fresh, and not over the top. I highly recommend it!

La Paz - It's really hard for me to find a mexican place I don't like. But that also means it's really hard for me to find a place I really love. But this one I really love because it's just different enough to keep things interesting! Now if I could just remember how to get to the one in Birmingham...

Ruth's Chris - It's no secret I love a big 'ol hunk of beef. And I'm really not too picky. If you cook it right, I'm happy. But I also know you get what you pay for and this is absolutely the best. And while most places I don't really care, here I'm all for quality over quantity! It's definitely a special occasion place. The last time we went there, Jeff proposed!

I'm also up for trying new places, so please tell me about some of your favorites!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Because I needed this...

... and I thought you might too!

Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is error, truth;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.

O Divine Master grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled, as to console;
To be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive,
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


I love volunteering at Children's. I love getting to spend that special time with kids reading stories or playing games and connecting with them in ways other staff can't because of time or job description. I love being able to provide some of that intangible support in a time and place where it often doesn't even make it to a person's priority list.

On a professional level, I enjoy going in and being trusted to assess the needs of patients and families. I'm getting a lot more comfortable praying with them and dealing with these very complex situations in a variety of developmental stages (and understanding the ways biological age may or may not intersect with spiritual maturity!)

But there is one thing I really don't like about the professional respect and responsibility I now hold. I miss the direct education that comes from shadowing the other chaplains. I am still learning about my own comfort levels and areas where I need to grow. I am still developing my own style as a pastoral caregiver.

I learned a lot during my unit of CPE. But my education was a little bit limited. I never had to deal with serious emergencies or critical care situations because I was serving at a nursing home. It was a fantastic experience. I had a ton of grandparents and buddies and I cried a LOT when I left. But nothing ever happened very quickly. Sure, I had my share of death I had to cover. But it was usually AFTER the death had happened. And most were rarely during the day when I was already there, so I usually had a good half hour in the car on my way to get myself together. I don't feel like I think on my feet very well, so on the one hand I appreciated not having to be put in that situation, but I can now recognize how much I need that experience.

This week I got the chance to shadow one of the chaplains and be exposed to both critical care and a bit of the ER. We went to the NICU which I really enjoyed. I was able to observe a lot and learn a lot about the unit, the atmosphere, the situations, and the ways of possibly handling things. Then we went down to the ER for a mock trauma. It was neat to stand back and watch (without all the blood and screaming!) but at the same time I could just FEEL how scripted the whole thing was. The ER has its own atmosphere, and in many ways it makes me very uneasy. There's always something about just being down there that makes me feel uncomfortable. I have no idea why it happens, I just do.

On an academic level, I learned about the various roles in traumatic situations, the kinds of support offered by each person, and the ways those roles overlap. On a more personal level, I don't feel like I internalized much of that information. If I were given a test on "what does this person do?" or "whose job is this?" I would probably pass, but I certainly wouldn't ace it. I think the only way it'll become a part of my own style and ministry is experience!

I'm definitely not ready to be thrown head first into those situations. On some level I feel like that fear is the reason I haven't applied for my next unit of CPE. I know that in my interview I will open my mouth about the desire to learn about these things and the next thing I know I'll be up to my ears in crap I don't know how to handle!

For now, I will continue to enjoy the experiences of shadowing and learning a little bit at a time!

The Bathroom

If I were to design a house I would design it around two rooms - the kitchen and the bathroom. No matter what else happens, you have to eat and you have to potty. Sure you have to sleep too, but I have been know to do that in either of those rooms! (those are other stories for another day)
I don't think nearly enough people invest enough time or energy thinking about their bathroom. It is probably the most personal, private, intimate room of the house. Unless you have small children, the goings-on behind closed doors are rarely documented. It's just a personal space.
Because it is so personal, I don't feel like I can really comment on what is "necessary" in a good bathroom for anyone buy myself. Even my husband and I have different ideas about what is essential and what is optional.
The only universal essential in my mind (aside from the obvious hardware) is comfort! You want to enjoy your time in your bathroom. Our master bathroom is ultimately what sold the house to me, although the kitchen was a very close second. The bottom line was that I knew I would enjoy this bathroom. We put more hard work in this room than any other. And this will continue to be a work in progress for both of us.

The thing I love most about the bathroom is obviously the great big tub. The hot water heater isn't QUITE large enough to fill it all the way up with super-hot water (which I know is probably not super healthy anyway, but I love it!) but it is still lovely for soaking. There is more than enough room for all of our stuff without feeling like it's crammed everywhere. There is still room to turn around. And if Jeff and I need to get in there at the same time, we can.

The thing I hate is that it's really cold. It's on the corner of the house. It kind of sticks out and isn't very well insulated. The floor is ceramic tile and it has two big single-pane windows. It doesn't matter what you do, it stays very very cold. We put in a small space heater which only helps a tiny bit. We're working on it.

My biggest word of advice when it comes to outfitting your bathroom is don't skimp on quality. Sure, know your budget. But maintain high standards! Choose a color your enjoy, you'll be staring at it a while. Buy good towels. Even if it means you buy fewer and wash them more often, it's worth it (and if they're quality, they'll hold up to the washing!) Make it a place you enjoy!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Favorite Things - p.4

These are some of my favorite things that are unique to Birmingham. If you haven't checked them out, I suggest you do!

Silvertron Cafe - It is definitely one of my favorite places that is unique to Birmingham. Unlike most unique, local places it's not crazy expensive. It has changed hands a few times, but always seems to stay great. It's decorated with the unique work of local artists (another local plus!) and old pictures of it when it was a TV repair shop. It's in a great neighborhood with a lot of character, too!

The Tutwiler Hotel - It's a really neat place. Even though it's now technically a Hampton Inn, I love it. I really respect them for their "save a landmark" movement and for keeping the unique, old feeling of the place. The building has been restored, and the hallways and all the guest rooms are decorated with old maps and photos of Birmingham, some dating back to the 1800s. Whenever we stay there we spend HOURS wandering the halls to look at all the photos and read the descriptions of the pictures. The service is probably the best I've experienced anywhere, which is another bonus.

The Blue Monkey - I don't like bars. There's just something about them that make me uneasy. But I really like the Blue Monkey because it has a laid back feel (even when it's packed) and a lot of great drinks. As far as value, I'm really not in a position to comment, but the drinks are tasty and the service is good! If I were ever to get the hair-brained idea to go out for drinks or want to party, it'd probably be there!

White Flowers - I have loved White Flowers for as long as I can remember. I remember going with my mom a million years ago (probably circa 1992) when they were still in a corner shop in Brookwood Village and it was just like a fairy land because everything was white, it smelled of fresh flowers, and there was soft music playing that made the whole atmosphere absolutely magical. To this day, whenever I walk in, I feel like I'm 7 years old again and walking into a fairyland. They primarily sell shirts (although they have lots of gifty things now) and the pictures of flowers are all done from the owner's garden. My very first White Flowers shirt had a picture of a baby bunny on it. I have had several others, but that is probably still my favorite. Last year I bought myself a new shirt with the same picture and I love it. I would fill my whole wardrobe with White Flowers shirts if I thought I could get away with it (and afford it!)

The Alabama Theater - I love old theaters. There is just something about the whispers of glamour and prestige that attach themselves to those old velvet curtains that just hypnotize me. The fact that this one still has the old Wurlitzer organ just makes it that much more fun. Plus, the fact that it's nowhere near as large as most performance venues of today is a major plus. I love the intimate feel, that going to the theater is something to be savored! I'm not going to lie, the seats could definitely be more comfortable. But there's something about even the seats that is just awesome. I've never seen a movie there, but would like to at some point. Anyone want to go see the Wizard of Oz with the orchestra in April?

Vulcan - I'm a sucker for beautiful views and Vulcan has some of the best. I had never been up there until Jeff's and my first date. A year later he proposed to me up there. We haven't been back since, but it's still a beautiful place. It's got some neat history, too. And I promise you won't find anything like his giant bronzed butt anywhere else!

One place I would love to put on my favorites and can't is Daniel George restaurant in Mountain Brook. I want to because they have great gourmet food the likes of which I have never personally seen. The chefs are the founders and are both life-long locals. They embrace the movement of using fresh, seasonal, local ingredients of the highest quality. They take real pride in what they do. So why can't I put it on my list of favorites? Well, I've never eaten there in person! I saw Chef George McMillan do a cooking expo at the Southern Women's Show and loved every second of it. I wanted to pack him up in my bag and just bring him home with me and have him teach me every wonderful trick he knows. When it was over I was a little scared, but I tried his sample of pan-seared trout with fresh basil and orzo with roasted red pepper coulis. Sounds impressive doesn't it? It was actually very simple, but more importantly it was delicious! This was the first time I've ever eaten fish and really enjoyed it. As a general rule I don't do seafood (unless it's fried crab claws and a margarita!) I always meant to write Chef McMillan a thank you note for doing his expo, but never did. I feel like now it would be kind of silly, but I guess better late than never! I have no doubt that once I do finally eat at Daniel George it will also make the favorites list!

So now tell me some of your favorites! If you're not from Birmingham (or don't have any Birmingham favorites) tell me your favorites from wherever you live!

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


I love my husband. Even after being married almost 9 months, I am still getting used to the idea of actually being his wife. The fact that we have a home to share that is truly ours makes it that much more special.

Our relationship is very different from most. Dates where we only saw each other for a few hours were the exception rather than the rule. As soon as we decided we wanted to start "dating" it was serious. We were separated by more than 180 miles! Visits usually lasted the whole weekend. But there were times where we went for several weeks without seeing one another. Sure, we talked on the phone, but early on we were doing good to actually see each other twice a month.

In the year before we were married, we saw each other practically every weekend. We both put a lot of miles on our cars. Thanks to my school schedule Fall 2008 I was usually down at least 3 days out of every week. In the spring I didn't have the time to come down as much so he did a lot more driving up to see me and I would come down for about 36 hours when I could. But we always saw each other. It was hard to leave one another, but it was just the nature of our relationship.

Since we've gotten married we have actually spent a few nights apart. It's never really bothered me, but I'm usually the one going away. Right after we got home from our honeymoon I spent two nights in Cullman trying to get all my name change stuff done. I've gone to Tennessee a couple of times for conferences. I've stayed with my dad and step-mom just because. It's just never been a big deal.

After my grandfather died my grandmother moved their bed into the guest room and put two twin beds into their room. She just couldn't stand to sleep in their bed without him. I never really understood it. I thought it would have been comforting for her to be in her own bed. But now I understand it. I really hate being in our bed without Jeff. It just doesn't feel right. Even though it's comfortable. Even though I have room to spread out. Even though I can leave the TV on all night if I want. I just don't like it!

I'm lonely. I miss my husband. I love him just a little bit, you know!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Buying in Bulk

I must admit, I get a certain thrill from buying in large quantities. I'm not talking 50 lb bags of flour large, but I do appreciate the knowledge that I won't have to buy green beans for another 4 - 6 months!

The biggest thing that has kept me from doing more of this since getting married was the ability to store the things that I purchase! Our freezer at the condo was rather tiny. We were doing good to fit all of our monthly groceries in at once. But our new freezer has remedied that problem. We have one bin for our meats, another for the vegetables, a top rack for ice cream and fruits, and another for assorted small products like butter, cheese, bread, nuts, and more. And if it doesn't fit in its designated category, we must eat it immediately.

Most "big box" stores are now much better at packaging things in ways that are most convenient for the average family. Instead of buying the lunchroom-sized cans of green beans and corn, you can buy a case with 12 "regular" sized cans in it. Instead of the bag of chips you could crawl inside (and will probably go stale before you eat them all), you may get a box with two individually sealed bags.

One thing I have learned from my bulk buying is the art of re-packaging. I know it's probably not the most eco-friendly way of doing things to take a bunch of chicken breasts out of a single package and put them into individual plastic bags, but it makes life SO much easier when I want to cook and helps me reduce waste, so no chickens had to die in vain. Vacuum sealers are excellent for these endeavors. If you don't have one yet, at least look into a Handi-Vac or something similar. They aren't exactly professional quality, but they definitely do better than trying to squeeze the baggie! And with dry goods, you can often re-use the bags!

For the most part, bulk buying is great. But it does require a certain amount of attention and detective work. You have to know what you normally pay for the stuff you buy! For example, I know I normally pay somewhere between 89 and 99 cents for a box of onion soup mix. So a pack of 3 boxes for $3.64 is available, I know it's not such a great deal!

Some things it's not worth buying in bulk unless you're feeding a group. Produce is one of these. Unless of course you plan to do some canning. I really should look into that...

Stuff that doesn't spoil like household products, paper goods, pantry staples, and the like are perfect for buying in large quantities. Just make sure you know that you like whatever it is you're buying. Otherwise the process of getting it all out of your house without going nuts can prove somewhat daunting.

If you have the space and the time, it is a practice I highly recommend. If you don't have the space on your own, consider splitting a membership with a friend. It's worth it!