Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Role Reversal

So what the heck is going on at work today?



Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Hawks Get Into the Playoffs

Last night James and I went to Game 1 of the first round of NBA playoff games. As always, my super special husband surprised me with tickets to the game and as always, we had a great time out together. Although it wasn't planned, our seats happened to be in a section where it was just two seats on the row (above) so it worked out wonderfully. We also bought the all-you-can-eat package where we had unlimited access to food, snacks, and drinks at the concession stand.

James also busied himself before the game on his Blackberry by texting messages to the scoreboard. Most of them were messages to me (below), although we did squeeze in one from us to show our support of the Hawks.

The Hawks are playing the Milwaukee Bucks for the first round, and they started off at home with a big win, scoring over 100 points. I was especially excited to get to see former University of Florida superstar Al Horford (#15 below) play. Although it was a blow out in the first half, the Bucks started to make a comeback in the second half, making the game a little more exciting. But they never did take the lead away from the Hawks.

It was a crowded house at Philips Arena, and everyone was in good spirits for the team. I'm glad we live in such a sports-oriented area, with pro football, basketball, baseball, and hockey teams all here in Atlanta. I haven't made it to a Thrashers game yet (hockey), but their season is over now and I'll have to wait until next year. In the meantime, the Braves are just now starting their year, and we renewed our season tickets to the Falcons. So we have plenty of great Atlanta sports ahead of us to look forward to in 2010.

Go Hawks, hope they have a great playoff run!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Fun In The Sun

This weekend it was gorgeous here south of ATL. James and I spent all day Saturday catching up on yard work that last weekend's shared stomach virus kept us from. It was almost a perfect day, except that I ran out of steam before all my work was done. Everything is blooming beautifully here in our yard.

It was a fine day to be out on the back deck. And to make sun tea.

I finally got around to planting rosemary. On a recent visit to Knoxville, my sister-in-law shared snips from her massive plants in her yard. I dried everything and enjoyed using it so much, I decided to get my own plant started. Just a wee little thing right now as you can see.

I bought a few plants to go in big containers at the front door. And got all my veggies potted up on the back patio. We enjoyed having the fresh tomatoes and peppers so much last summer, I decided to get an earlier start on them this year.

While I had mostly fun chores, James did all the hard sweaty work, getting new pine straw down in all the flower beds in the front and side yards.

Romeo hangs off the back deck watching while his daddy mows the lawn for the first time this year.

Time also to change out the flag, to show everyone this is a household where we love our kitties.

The birds were happy to have us fill up our many feeders. All of the feeders are in the backyard. For some reason I have had zero luck with visitors at any front yard feeders. The squirrels also enjoy the leftover corn from the deer feeder- while the deer are only out in the evenings and mornings, the squirrels and birds get to enjoy the buffet all day long.

Some of the kitties were content to spend the whole day outside on the deck, crawling under chairs or tables to find the shade when they needed to. Other kitties were just as happy to enjoy the lovely day lounging around the sunroom.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Spring Has Sprung

Spring started off with a bang this year, and that is not necessarily a good thing so far. Yes, all of the flowering trees and shrubs are blooming gloriously (above) and the tulips and daffodils are exploding everywhere. But all of that is causing super high pollen counts right now, and even if you don't have allergies like I do, I can take delight in knowing that everyone else's car is also covered in a fine mist of yellow like mine (below). Coming up the walkway to the front door today, I can see the weeds are already sprouting and the hedges already need to be trimmed! We are in week number two of temperatures up into the mid and sometimes high 80's. This, after a winter where I saw more snow in one season than I have in a lifetime.

Not that I am sad to see Old Man Winter go this year, he had more than worn out his welcome. I look forward to working in the yard, planting the veggies again this year, and watching my new bulbs bloom. In fact, I had "buy tomato plants" on my to-do list for last weekend. But alas, James and I were both violently sick with a stomach virus over the weekend- James from Friday through Sunday, me from Sunday through Tuesday. We are both getting back to good slowly. And while I was sick, sprawled out in the bed for two days while it was 85+ degrees outside, we discovered that the AC isn't working! At least the one for the master bedroom, and yours truly, the Queen, can't sleep in temps over 70 degrees. I have been miserable, and opening the windows at night and putting the fan on high has only mildly helped. I am sure it just needs a tune up and freon, since it's a new unit. At least the other unit, the one that controls the rest of the house, is working fine. I may be relegated to the guest room tonight.

But with spring, comes the rain, and we are expecting some later this week. To cool it off back down into the 70's, and hopefully wash away some of this pollen. The change of seasons has taken me by surprise this year for some reason. It seems like it was winter one day, and on the brink of summer the next (at least it feels like summer when it's 88 out).

Happy Spring!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Kickin' It Back Home- Part 4 of 4

For the drive home from Nashville, we had no concrete plans. It was Saturday and we had a list of penny machines to locate. Only problem was, they all went off in different directions. So we plotted a course that would take us south. Our first stop was up the road in Franklin, where we were looking for the Carter House. That's really all it said on our penny sheet, so smarty pants me assumed it was some family home of the famous musical Carter family, since I had just seen their photos and guitars at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Turns out it's a Civil Way historical site and museum, but there was our penny! We were greeted by resident kitty Mrs. Grant, who is quite the senior citizen well into her teens. Apparently she showed up one day eons ago, with one little male kitten in tow, and never left. She is so old, she has already outlived her "son". We enjoyed meeting her, and she was super friendly and sweet. We toured the small museum, and the grounds where the Battle of Franklin took place.

On a day in November of 1864, on this very small farm, almost 61,000 soldiers met and over a five hour period, fought. There were almost 10,000 casualties- most wounded, many dead. So hard to believe! We see the news every evening about what's going on in other countries, and we forget how bloody our own backyards were 150 years ago. Our enemies were our fellow countrymen!

After Franklin, we headed to Lynchburg, where there were three penny machines in the downtown square. A cute little town, bustling with a lot of tourists on this gorgeous sunny afternoon. We did a bit of shopping and walked around for awhile, stopping in this particular store (The Barrel Shop- guess what they sold there!) to see all the really cool stuff that James went crazy for- already decorating in his head the as yet unrealized rec room in our basement.

Yes, I too prefer Coke...

And of course, what is a visit to Lynchburg without a trip to the Jack Daniel Distillery? They give free tours of the place, but no free samples! In fact, Lynchburg is in a dry county! It was only recently that the distillery was finally even allowed to sell their own product there at the gift shop. We signed up for the tour and relaxed on the front porch, waiting for our tour group to be called.

Up on the hill (below) you can see one of the barrel houses, where they age the whiskey. The length depends on what label it is, but it's about 4-7 years. Our guide explained how cheap it actually is to make whiskey- corn and water- but it's so expensive because of extreme government taxes. They handcraft their own barrels, and only use them once. They sell many of the empties to other whiskey distilleries in the UK, and of course others go to The Barrel Shop. I think every two feet in town we saw either a garbage can, bench, or flower pot made from an old JD barrel!

We learned how each brand is "created". James prefers Gentleman Jack (the good stuff), but while we were there he bought a bottle of their Single Barrel. Apparently they make the other whiskey with a little bit from several barrels, blending the flavors. But the Single Barrel is just that, whiskey completely from one barrel. Each time you buy a bottle, the taste can be completely different. You can, of course, purchase your very own full barrel- complete with a private tasting and lots of fanfare- all for the price of $9,000 to $12,000. Of course, you do get to keep the barrel- and 240 bottles of whiskey that come out of it!

Above is the small river that runs throughout the property. There is a cave with spring water, and once Mr. Jack discovered it, he bought the land and put the distillery there. To this day, this is the water they use to make the whiskey. It flows at 800 gallons per minute- quite impressive! We were able to go into the distillery itself- no photos allowed because, our guide told us, any electronics could set off a spark and with all the fumes, well.... I think they just don't want anyone to steal their secrets!! The process was actually quite fascinating to see in these giant stills. I never would have guessed that the whiskey is filtered through charcoal made from sugar maple (filtered twice for the finer Gentleman Jack label).

Our tour guide Jon (below, in front of our group) was a true delight and boy was he ever from Tennessee!! But he gave us the history, told stories, and was a pleasure to listen to (thick drawl included). He even opened up the vats to allow us to get a big whiff! Yuck. James, of course, could have stayed there all day! But it was late and we had to head on home.

On the way home, it was growing dark and we were still north of Atlanta. We called our friend David who lives in Marietta, and asked him if he wanted to meet us at Big Pie for dinner. I've blogged about this place already, so you know how popular it is. Do not go there expecting a quick pizza dinner. It is OVER an hour wait on a whole pizza, just slightly less for pizza by the slice. So we all waited 1 1/2 hours for our pizza, which we devoured in about 15-20 minutes. It was a late late night when we finally got home, and our kitties had not seen us for 8 days. But they were up and greeted us at the front door. Needless to say, we left everything out in the truck, fell into bed, and slept until noon on Sunday!

Friday, April 2, 2010

Music City USA- Part 3 of 4

Our next destination was Nashville, and we were both excited about it. We had both been as kids, but never as adults, so we were looking forward to our few days there. Because we left Knoxville so early, and because we gained an hour with the time zone change, our first stop was at the Bass Pro Shop and Opry Mills Mall- which was just opening up as we arrived. And where we scooped up pennies from four machines! (Yes, that's 16 pennies in all.) Also on the penny list was the Willie Nelson museum, and yes the penny had Willie's face on it! I was surprised at how extensive the museum was, and we spent at least an hour there! Next we went to a kids' museum, to duck in and just get pennies, but I was able to get this photo of downtown from their front door.

And of course, when you are in Nashville, the home of country music, you have to have cowboy boots! James found a deal on two pair, while I picked up a pair of what he called "biker" boots (no pointy toes for me). After the clerk rang them up, I put them right on and wore them the rest of the day, they were SO comfortable! Most of Nashville's pennies were right there in downtown, and we spent the afternoon gathering them up. There was even one at the arena where the NHL team, the Nashville Predators play. Lucky for us, they had a game that night, and the pro shop was open so we were able to get in and out with our prize.

We had some time to waste before check in time at the hotel, and we found this cute little place, where the rescue kitties were running around the store like crazy. I picked up a few cute black cat knickknacks- what I really wanted to do was take home some of the black cats themselves! We made it to our hotel later that afternoon, and it was as cool in person as the photos online. We stayed at the Hotel Indigo, near Music Row and close to Vanderbilt University (we drove through campus while out and about). This funky hotel was decorated from top to bottom with guitars. Here is the lobby.

Here is our really awesome spectacular cool room! The framed photos were all guitars, and even the mural on the bedroom wall was a guitar. And yes those are hardwood floors, fantastic hotel! Not for the budget-minded, but hey, we were on vacation after all. We confess, we have never heard of this chain before. Turns out there are many of them, and even two in Atlanta! We found this one by accident. We spent an evening online looking at hotels in Nashville, and we couldn't find one we really liked from our preferred chain of Marriott. So I was looking for a Staybridge, our other favorite, when I came across their sister chain, Hotel Indigo. I told James I am 100% absolutely hooked, if we ever travel again and there is a Hotel Indigo, that is our hotel!

One thing we found online that we liked, was this fantastic patio with a view of downtown. This was a public patio open to all guests. The unexpected surprise was that when we checked into our room, we found that WE had our own private entrance to the patio, the only room to have this! (See our door, second photo.) At first I was like, great, we will have people partying outside our room all night. But, other than a smoker or two, no one ever used this amazing deck up on the 8th floor. Well, we sure did! It almost felt like our private "balcony" because no one else ever came out there.

High on our list of priorities was visiting the Country Music Hall of Fame, where we went on our second day in town. No, not because they have a penny machine. This one was strictly for us! I wish I had more photos, but I admit I was so taken with reading every word of every exhibit, I only got photos of Webb Pierce's custom car- with a saddle in the front seat! And a photo of the beautiful lobby. This three-story museum was a highlight of the trip. Although I am pretty much a rocker, I grew up on country music as a kid, and James has always loved country music (he went to high school with hotty Kenny Chesney!!), and I recognized a lot of the names and songs here. For each artist, they had their home state listed, and of course about 99% of them were from the south. But only one from my home state of Florida! Can anyone guess? (I'll bet my dad will know the answer to this.)

We spent a little over two hours here, and I was intrigued by every corner of this place- I would have stayed longer if we didn't have more places to go. It was extremely educational as well, starting with country music's roots as mountain music all the way until now- we learned what the very famous and popular Nudie suit is! (Not what you think!!) From the guitar collection, to the video montage of the growth of country music, to the Brenda Lee room, and the 5,000 square foot tribute to the Williams family. I left the gift shop with a Hank Williams (Sr!!!) CD that reminded me of one childhood summer in Louisiana, cruising around the countryside with my granny. I loved this museum, and I would go back without hesitation if I'm ever in Nashville again.

After the Hall of Fame, we headed over to the metropolis known as the Opryland Hotel (photos from inside the hotel). This hotel is SO huge, it actually has "You Are Here" signs and maps posted everywhere. I haven't been everywhere across the land, but in my travels this has got to be the largest hotel in the world!!! It has over 600,000 square feet in just meeting rooms! We wandered around so long, and got so lost, we ended up finding an Irish pub along one of the hotel wings and crashed for awhile. We must have looked bedraggled, because the waitress was nice enough to sneak James a second little pint of Guinness for free.

After our lunch, we went next door to the Grand Ole Opry. You know, in all these years, it took until this visit for me to realize that Opry was just the hillbilly pronunciation of opera. Seriously, I am that dense, I never knew what the heck "Opry" meant! We took a behind the scenes tour of the Opry, and they were getting ready to have a show in just a few hours. But we got to see some of the dressing rooms before any performers arrived.

We also got to walk out on the stage itself and look out over the seats that would soon fill with folks. Below is part of the floor from the original Ryman Auditorium. We didn't have time to stay for the show, because it was our last night in town, and we wanted to check out downtown a little more. I think we both enjoyed Nashville enough that we will go back again, and we will plan to check out a performance at the Opry.

Nashville was certainly full of amazing surprises for us, and another one awaiting us at our hotel was the live music in the bar. And I'm not talking some dive with a bunch of has-beens. This was a hip gathering place with up-and-coming local talent. All of the music was accompanied by acoustic guitar, and all of the singers played. In all, we saw six different acts, including a young lady who not only looked just like Jewel, but whose style and uncanny voice sounded so much like Jewel I would dare anyone to tell them apart. We also saw two young sisters, new to Nashville by way of Wisconsin- they just cut their first CD and I predict they will make it big. I can't wait to find the CD when it comes out.

But James and I were most taken with this young man below, John Pringle. I'm not one for folksy, bluesy type music, but he was so talented and so good, we were blown away. Come to find out, he has a few CD's out already, and I am awaiting my order from Amazon as I write this! I've included him as my feature playlist right now, and I confess I got this from his MySpace page. It's a bit messed up, as it cuts off the end of every song, but you can at least get a feel for his talent. James will tell you I think his main talent is looking like my favorite hunk Russell Crowe, but honestly, I love this guy's voice! (Photo of John, NOT Russell.)

I got some really awesome shots of downtown from the hotel patio on our last night, before we headed out for an evening on the streets. Downtown Nashville is surprisingly small- not like Atlanta- but I'm sure the parts we saw were just the tourist areas. Mainly on Broadway, and 2nd Avenue. During the day it was bustling with folks, but at night it was really crowded with throngs of people waiting under the neon lights to get in to see live music at a multitude of venues. (I don't have many photos, but you can go here to see great shots of this famous street.) Because we had already enjoyed music at our hotel, we mainly walked along the sidewalks just to take it all in. We found dinner here at the fabulous Demo's (long wait but worth it), and a great lunch at the Wild Horse Saloon (and their penny machine!). We even enjoyed a wonderful meal at a fantastic Japanese restaurant, Goten, at the Hotel Indigo, where James got a lovely Bento Box and I got the Nabeyake-Udon. Say that three times fast! We definitely did not starve on this trip!

We loved Nashville so much, that I really can't wait to go back! But, we still had the drive home the next day, so we didn't stay out too late....