Adventures with a 17 year old in B’ham – Day 1

My brother-in-law and niece are here this week. He came for the SEC Baseball Tournament in Hoover; she tagged along to hang out with me.

Day 1

We headed out in the morning for a little hike at Moss Rock Preserve. We both had our cameras and were hoping for some good nature photos.

IMG_2641

We saw a few squirrels, a chipmunk, and a cardinal, but the coolest thing I saw was blooming cacti growing out of the limestone rock. It was an unexpected sight .

IMG_2632  IMG_2635

Our adventure kicked in later, as we were on our way back and got totally turned around. After backtracking several times, I finally had to admit we were lost. I spotted a trashcan and shouted “Yay, civilization!” thinking we were at the other edge of the parking lot where we’d started. Turns out we were at a parking lot alright – at the back of what I figured out later is Simmons Middle School. So back into the woods we went. We finally popped out again at a Firehouse!! The kind firemen pointed us in the right direction – about a half mile further down the road and we finally got back to the car. You can check out our route HERE.

After a break at home for food and showers, we headed out for a book adventure; first stop – 2nd & Charles on Montgomery Highway. This unique bookstore buys and sells new and gently used and it has lots of non-book products, also. I got a book for myself and a gift, the niece left with an armload.

Second stop – the Hoover Library. After giving my niece a brief tour, including the Cone of Silence, we stopped at Coffee-ol-ogy where I got an iced coffee and she got a delicious chocolate milkshake.   She then scored three books she’d been wanting at the Friends Bookstore, all for under five dollars.

Hoover library

On the way home, we made two stops at Target and Kohl’s. I was glad to get back home and rest my aching knees!

Advertisements

Zoo Time

When the grandkids were here we all made a trip to the zoo. This was my first visit to the Birmingham Zoo and a fine time was had by all. Although it was crowded, we were able to get up close to get good views of most of the animals.

IMG_2547

Some of the empty cages were a disappointment – I was wanting to see a gorilla – but there were still plenty of animals to keep the five year old happy. He liked the turtles that were right near the entrance and we had to stop by to see them again on the way out.

IMG_2552

The orangutan mommy and baby were entertaining to watch, as were the giraffes who seemed to be very friendly with each other. We missed the reptiles, but saw almost everything else.

IMG_2599 IMG_2602 IMG_2604 IMG_2598

 Mid-morning, we took a break to eat a bit at the Safari Café. This very large covered outdoor area offers a nice reprieve.  Everything is pricey, of course, but I had to buy some popcorn. The little one wanted some, and of course I ate my share, too.

Being an LSU alum, by daughter-in law especially liked the tiger, as did the two year old. We kept yelling, “Turn around, Tiger!” and he finally obliged us so we got some good pictures.

IMG_2608  IMG_2606

Since the kids were getting tired (this was after two days of hiking), we snuck them by the  play fountain to take a ride on the carousel before leaving. On a hot day this water area would be a treat for little ones. There is also a play area near the primate area which is a fun place to get the wiggles out.

IMG_20150505_131551318_HDR merry

All in all it was a pleasant day at the zoo. Traffic was a little crazy at the entrance, but hopefully this will improve soon.

Tips:

  • If you want to save money, go on half-price Tuesday
  • If you want to avoid crowds, don’t go on Tuesday
  • Use sunscreen
  • Take your time; go with your kids’ pace. It’s better to savor the moments than to try to see everything
  • May is prime Field Trip time for schools

Where the Skies are So Blue

I felt the need to explain the title of my blog, since even my husband, a fairly decent Lynyrd Skynyrd aficionado, didn’t catch it. It’s from the song  Sweet Home Alabama.
“Big wheels keep on turning

Carry me home to see my kin”

Me and some of my kin   photo bomb
Yes, most of our kin are in Jacksonville, FL – ​our moms and brothers and many other extended family members. As I was driving home from my last trip to the beach (a sweet 35 minutes drive)  before we moved , the song came on the radio and I just began balling there in my car. ​With tears on my cheeks and the wind blowing my hair, I wasn’t sure what the coming year would hold. ​I was headed for Alabama​ where I have no kin. Now, after being  here a year, I still have no blood kin, but we have brothers and sisters in Christ here in B’ham. I still miss Jax, but I want so badly for Birmingham to be my new sweet home. So, one day when I sing “Carry Me Home” ​ I’ll be thinking of Alabama.
My other brothers and sisters  IMG_2129
“Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue”
B
B’ham blue skies  view1

Oak Mountain State Park

IMG_2460

School will be out soon and it will be a good time to hit the trail! This 9000+ acre park in Pelham, the largest state park in Alabama,  has so much to offer in addition to hiking. There is a beach and swimming area,  boat rentals, camping, biking, golf, nature programs, basketball courts, horseback riding –  and that’s just some of what you’ll find here – whew!

I went for the first time last week with my husband, son, and his family. We went for the hiking, so I have  lot more to check out! It was a great experience and I will definitely be going back.

 IMG_2430 IMG_2433

Once more, the backpack came in handy for the little one. There were some really steep spots, but we soldiered on and got to the more level areas. The trails are clearly marked – our five year old grandson was a great scout, keeping us on the white and yellow trails. Along the way there was a creek flowing through – a great spot for a break.

IMG_2492  IMG_2471

I can’t wait to go again!

Tips:

  • Bug spray is helpful
  • Hiking shoes – it’s not about the looks, it’s about the ankle support
  • Buy a map at the park office and use it
  • Bring water
  • Don’t overdo it

Moss Rock Preserve

Looking for a spot to get your Saturday morning hike on? Moss Rock Preserve is the perfect place. Situated only minutes from John Hawkins Parkway and Shades Crest Road in Hoover, this 349 acre preserve is a great location for hikers and nature lovers of all ages and skill levels. There are 12 miles of trails to explore. And it’s free!

0503151718

I went with my husband on a few Saturday mornings back when it was still cold. We are so out of shape and need to remedy that before August when we are going to Montana. In the parking lot there was a handful of cars.

Fast forward to the first weekend in May and WOW! The parking lot was packed. This time I went with my son, daughter-in-law, and two grandkids. Fortunately they had borrowed a backpack carrier for the little one – it was perfect. She sat up there like a princess and was a trooper when she got slapped a few times by low hanging limbs. Her 6’5” daddy forgot she was up there as high as him!

0503151806

Climbing around the massive limestone  boulders is fun and the 5-year old really got into it. We chanted “going on a bear hunt” a few times as we explored. We stumbled upon a group of guys playing with fire – Up in Flames – quite entertaining.

I plan to return soon with my dog, Loretta. Pets are allowed on a leash – just clean up behind them.

0503151803a                     0503151801

Tips:

  • Bring water
  • Leave no trash behind
  • Bring snacks if you have a 5-year old – “I’m hungry” is a common refrain
  • A walking stick comes in handy
  • Watch out for wet, slippery rocks (I speak from experience)
  • Don’t forget your camera
  • Be sure to go in November during the Moss Rock Festival

St. Vincent’s East Eavesdropping and such

My first visit to St. Vincent’s East, a dated but well maintained facility, was pleasant. Of course, I wasn’t the one having the surgery.

4939

As I sat in the Same Day Surgery waiting area, a young man in jeans and tennis shoes, sans nametag, was approaching those of us waiting for news asking “Do you want to donate blood today and save three lives?” At least that’s what it sounded like he said when I asked him to repeat it. I declined. Not that I’m opposed to giving blood. But I could envision me – the designated driver for my husband who was in surgery –  passing out after giving blood. I don’t think people who are awaiting news of their loved ones who are under the knife – or laser – are in a position to be giving blood. Just sayin’.

The Pink Lady was very friendly and helpful. I had taken her advice and gone downstairs for breakfast. I got a decent plate of bacon, eggs, and hash brown mush for just a little over three dollars. When I got back to the waiting area I picked a seat away from others and dug out my book. Later, after I came back from talking to the doctor, two men were sitting right behind me. I heard nearly all of their conversation.

“He’s the only one who’s done anything with his life,” said Guy One, speaking of one of Guy Two’s kids. This was because he was the only one who had gone to college. Yes, I think college is important, but it’s not the only way to “do something with your life”. I wonder what Guy Two’s other kids would think about this?

Then the discussion turned to doctors. Guy One began to talk about “white coat syndrome” and how being around doctors makes your blood pressure go up. I’m sure this is often true.

“Dr. ___ – I fired his butt like that! (snap of fingers). They overbook on purpose; they want every penny they can get.” said Guy One, obviously very opinionated.

Soon the conversation turned to cell phones, so I went back to reading Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck. When more friends/family arrived behind me, I heard the female say, “I been off Mountain Dew for three days, this is my fourth day”.

“What you drinkin’?” asks another lady

“Unsweet tea.”

Then Guy One, Mr. Opinion, pipes up, “They don’t put sugar in cold drinks anymore. It’s aspartame.”

So…..what you drinkin?

Stone Hollow

This week I had the pleasure of visiting Stone Hollow Farmstead, a goat farm in Harpersville. I found out about the lovely place via a Living Social coupon offer. I took a friend from church ; it’s nice to know people who will say yes when you ask, “Want to go to a goat farm?”

IMG_2352

Anyway, it was a perfect Tuesday morning when we arrived for our tour and tasting. The goats were adorable, the cheese delicious. The 80-acre farm also boasts chickens, cows, horses, a few rabbits and a bull, though he may not be around much longer. Beautiful raised beds gardens provide various herbs and produce for The Pantry in Crestline.

IMG_2359

The artisan cheeses are crafted on site by hand, as are a selection of jams, syrups, and pickles. After the tasting, I had a hard time making up my mind, but I finally decided on the Fig Cheese.

IMG_2393

If you want a nice drive to the country, or are hankering to pet a goat, or would like some delicious cheese, head out to Stone Hollow Farmstead.

A Day Downtown

04251517210425151724

Today we enjoyed a trip downtown. First we went back to Pepper Place, our first trip this season. There I bought some Strawberry Preserves from Jim Suttle of Mountain Meadows Farms. As an organic farmer, Mr. Suttle knows how to “make lemonade out of lemons”. He uses no pesticides, so when this year’s strawberry crop had problems because of the excess rain, he salvaged some of the berries to make preserves. I then visited Red Rubin Nursery where I got a Chocolate Mint plant and some advice on how to keep it alive.

After a few more purchases, we went on the Magic City Art Connection at Linn Park.  There we found a huge selection of art for every taste. Some favorite artists were Marcus Ryan, Walt Stricklin, and Rick & Linda Bachman, Sarah Bean and Julie Schwarz.

Out last stop was the Birmingham Public Library where we happily stumbled upon a book sale! I got two: Once there Was a War by John Steinbeck and The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes which held a sweet surprise – a letter to someone named Sarah. I love when I fall upon such treasures. I once found a baptismal certificate and a photograph from the 1940s in a book I bought at a different library’s sale.

The rain held off while we were out, so all in all it was a good day!

April on 459

IMG_1099

That moment when you leave mid-morning
for a half day of work
grateful for the part-time job

The sun is shining
just a dusting of white clouds
and you see why they call that color sky blue

All signs of winter are vanished
as you pass the jade hills
on either side of the interstate
with Stevie Wonder singing his lovely Songs in the Key of Life

And now you are alive to
what Browning meant
when he wrote Pippa’s Song

B’ham-Shuttlesworth Airport

IMDb
photo-IMBd

I have flown as much in the past year or so than in all my years before that. Back and forth from B’ham to Jacksonville and Tampa, via Atlanta, Charlotte, and Miami. There is one thing comforting about the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth Airport than none of the other ones have: Morgan Freeman.

Yep, that voice telling you not to leave your bags unattended – that’s Morgan Freeman. I always smile when I hear him. I know I’m home.