Sunday, June 30, 2013

Summer Day Nine: Mountain Climb!

We headed out today with our Cops on Top banner and the phone number to call once we conquered Mt. Cheaha.  We planned to head out early, but the several times I called Cheaha State Park during the week to see when the trail from the lake was open, I was hung up on during the hold process.  This is what happened a few years ago when I tried to get a campsite, so I don't think it's something wrong with the phones.  Also, the website says '$2 entry fee' and it's $3 now.

On the drive up to the park, the top of the mountain was covered in cloud.  It was a good reminder that it really IS high, even if it's just over 2400 feet and miniscule compared to most other mountains, it's a decent climb for here, where most towns are located along river valleys.

We got parked and walked to the high point, fighting gnats every step of the way.  We got our pictures and decided to go on over to Bald Rock, my 2nd favorite hiking trail.  Never mind that it's less than half a mile and all on a boardwalk.  It has nearly all the hallmarks of a really good hiking trail.  Shade, big rocks, wildlife, plant variety and views.  Add a water feature and it's golden.  I give half points for that, too, because there is a bathroom at the trailhead.

Just in case the geographic highest point was not enough, we went up in the tower for one more shot.

The plan was to go to Chinnabee Lake and hike the Chinnabee Silent Trail and have a swim at Devil's Den Falls.  When we got to the lake turn-off, the gate was locked and the sign said 'closed for flood damage'.  I was SO bummed.  It will be closed the whole summer.

Now hours ahead of schedule, we headed toward Birmingham to pick up a couple of orders.  If I had been thinking about it, I would have planned this another day as Birmingham and Cheaha are the same distance apart as my house and Birmingham.  But it was already planned and I hate having to change things last-minute, though it happens often enough.

Mt. Cheaha off in the distance.

Private lake

A typical Alabama country road

Coosa River 

Nia cooling her jets at the picnic area

 Birmingham took about an hour to get our running around done.  I picked up my co-op order, which was 3 more bags, loads of tea, falafel mix, some goodies and our usual huge bag of Yummy Earth lollipops.  I love the co-op for the huge variety and decent prices.

We stopped in and saw Erin for a few minutes, Matt has not been to Aveda yet, so he got to see it and more importantly, smell it.  I picked up my order there for some fading serum to see if I can even out some sun damage on my face.  It's clearing up some on its own due to time and the fact that I wear a huge straw hat everywhere I go and my face has not been in the sun in a long time.  But the streaks that are left bother me.  I will probably do a full post about the before and after and give my opinion on the products...

Anyway, we opted to head on over to Tannehill, Matt has been wanting to go back there for a while and we never have set aside a day to do it.  A day when he has no camera did not seem to be the best idea, but he was adamant. 

It's $3 per person there as well.

There is a good bit to see and do at Tannehill, but not on a Saturday afternoon.  The craft cabins were already closed and the camping people were all over the place.  I would not want to camp there, the campground is little more than a dirt parking area, the campers were so close together it looked like a storage lot.

What Matt wanted to see was the old ironworks.  Despite posted pleas to not make a National Landmark into trailer trash via graffiti, the locals and campers made short work of the new wood and cleaned surfaces.  So proud to be from Alabama where you and the person you have sex with in a public place can scribble about the event on a century old landmark.  Or, you can just showcase your own stupidity.

 The ironworks were amazing.  We have always talked about how America does not have castles and such, these modern ruins are our equivalent.  Matt and Jake in particular love these places, the old forts and old foundries of the southeast.

we stoled us a possum!

The drive home was uneventful, yay!  We got in before dark, which was the plan because locals start shooting fireworks early and Kuma is bothered by the noise.  We will have to be home through the weekend after the 4th to be sure he's okay.  :)  I love my Kuma Booma

Friday, June 28, 2013

Summer Day Eight: Create, Create, Create!

I woke up this...afternoon with a great idea.  The reason I slept so long is because I spent the whole night in the hammock on the porch with an idea rattling around in my head-I watched the sun come up and when it was too bright to pretend I could fall asleep out there, I came in.  The idea grew in my sleep and burst forth upon me finally waking up and some got on Chandler and now we have been sitting for  hours with pens and paper, creating a world and a back story for our characters.  I have not been this full of 'it' in a long time, that feeling that I am making something.  I am jotting notes like mad, she is drawing the main characters, I am mapping their world out, the ideas are flowing and the story is evolving and growing, it's the best feeling.

Today we are staying home, I ran errands yesterday and got us all set for the weekend so we can stay holed up for days if we want!  I picked up the hose for the van and put that on last night, I hope I can now report no more check engine light, ever again. 

We had a big huge salad for lunch and I made a batch of spaghetti and we had picked up some new goodie like a pizza roll, but made with garlic bread and stuffed with mozzarella.  THAT was a win.  The last disc of True Blood came in the mail for Matt and me to watch tonight, the boys and Matt are playing a new game together that involves a LOT of running back and forth and yelling.  I am going to set the kids up with pogo sticks to go from room to room, I think it will be quieter.

Summer Week One: Matt's 30's are DONE

Matt's 40th is today, he had to work, but has a 3-day weekend starting tomorrow and a 4-day weekend next week, so we are planning a few things.  It's been an emotional week and yesterday there was a brutal lay-off at his job.  It got the usual suspects-the chronic late/'sick' and the ones who can't keep up as well as some total surprises.  People he has worked with for years, good people.  A few days away from all of that is what he needs most, a chance for the dust to settle over the weekend, next week everyone can get their footing after the changes and take on their new responsibilities and the week after starts the new 'normal'.

So today I made a triple fudge cake and while it was cooling, melted chocolate chips over the top then iced with a triple fudge icing.  Comfort food is what I am saying here. 

We had a huge taco salad for dinner with seasoned chicken, chickpeas, black beans, fresh avocado and salsa, spinach leaves, Heluva Good dip (we love that stuff!) and shredded cheese.  So yummy!  Matt ate and went straight to bed, we had to wake him up for cake at 8 so the kids would not eat it without him. 

Waiting through the birthday song.  So...sleepy...

*clap clap clap*

I think his wish was to get right back to bed, because that's where he ended up, poor guy!  I guess it was a happy birthday, it was horrible timing at work and the end of a really rough week, hoping the long weekend will help him bounce back a little and maybe we can have a 'real' celebration next weekend when things at work have settled.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Summer Day Six: Nassy Teeks

Okay, the ticks have been SO bad the last 3 years, but this year I think wins the tick prize.  Global warming? 
Okay, I just ran a search to see if I was being paranoid and discovered many many sites saying the same thing.  And parasitologists agree, the population has exploded.  I agree, a parasitologist is a really GROSS JOB.

The usual suspects abound.  Warmer winters, suburbs encroaching on wild areas, more deer, damn birds and a new one-the return to planting more trees and saving green spaces and not using as many pesticides.  So, I guess pave the world and kill all the green, winged and furry things, then drop the temps to below 10 for a week or more.  That'll fix it.

What to do before that almost inevitable end is reached?  There's no sure-fire thing.  I put K9 Advantix on the dogs and flea/tick stuff on the cats and they still have had a few ticks.  I use common sense when outdoors, but just last night, a tick was making for my head while I was watching a movie.  I saw it running across my shoulder and Matt saved me (I was holding the popcorn)  I had not been outside in a couple of hours previous to that and then I was just on the porch.  It seems like a few bites are unavoidable and with the plethora of diseases and the sheer effect the bite has on the body now, it's hard to know if and when to panic. 

Everyone I have spoken with who has spent any time outside all report not just bites, but big red welts that itch and hurt and last for weeks, including Matt and the kids.  Even the dogs are digging at old bites long after the tick has been removed.  I have spent some time today looking up what might help, there does not seem to be a great deal.  Sprays and wearing long legged and long sleeved clothes tucked in.  This is obviously someone who has not been in Alabama in the summer and does not realize sprays will end up in your eyes and then sweated off and long things tucked in is tantamount to begging for a heat stroke.

My best suggestion-put eucalyptus oil on a bandana and wear it on your head and put a few drops on your socks and pant cuffs.  If you want to put it right on your skin, dilute it with any veggie-based oil because straight out of the bottle it can irritate skin.  There's some evidence that taking vitamin B will ward off attacks and of course, not having much body heat can keep you safe, especially when there are tastier hotties around.  That's my usual tactic, sometimes a low metabolism is not all bad.  It takes a special person to freeze solid in 70 degree temps.  I am that special person.  Another thing is to avoid sweets and fruits before you head out.  Just as the vitamin B and oils make you less tasty, sweets make you sweeter.  A high-sugar diet will get you bit.

Good luck this summer, and beyond.  I don't foresee the plague lifting any time soon.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Summer Day Five: Saving a Hive

I don't want to talk about my morning, but this afternoon, I went into crazy person mode and scrubbed the bathrooms, did all the laundry, swept, mopped and mowed.  Then I showered and after that changed out all the bedding and got going on on getting that washed.

We mapped out the yard and left a big swath of clover in bloom for the bees, we will mow that next week and leave another section to grow and so on.  When I came in with my haul of blackberries, I had to step carefully to avoid stepping on bees!  yay! 

The butterfly bush is full on blooming and my roses are putting on their third show of the year.  I am happy to be able to provide so much foraging for the wild bees.

Puppy Fort! 

Surprise 4 o'clocks.  There are only 6 in bloom this afternoon.

Rose of Sharon, one of the 2 most useless plants.  The other being a crepe Myrtle. 
Sorry if your name is Sharon or Myrtle, your mom should have tried harder. 
Not that I have any room to talk, my name is awful and was last popular back in 1942.
I thought it came to pass in the days of Ahasarus.  Which is my favorite joke, but no one ever gets it.

Soon my very favorite flower will be in bloom and will keep me company until the frosts!

Seriously, who thought that made a good monster movie title?

Summer Day Four: Waiting Some More

  Went to get my new hose put on and it did not work.  She's having to order the more expensive option and it will be in in a few days.  *sigh*

Hung out with my father all day, we had lunch-the man had NEVER been to Chick-Fil-A before.  HOW?  I got him set back up with his Kindle to download books, but I am planning to buy him a Nook ASAP.  Kindle is CRAP.  It's too difficult by a margin of about 90%, you have to log on to the library site, select your book, click to check it out, then it reroute through another site that sends you to Amazon where you have to log in to actually download it and then it MAY go to the Kindle, it may download onto your computer and you have to plug in the Kindle and transfer the file manually.  Daddy is 74, that's too many steps-not because he's not intelligent, but because he's flat out unfamiliar with computers and it's not something he's ever done before.  He can't remember the steps.  With the Nook, I tap on the library app, tap on the book I want, tap download and it's on there.  His Kindle, you have to use an arrow button to navigate and then click when you get where you are going.  It takes me 10 minutes to remember how to work it.  It's not intuitive in the least.

He gave Jake his Harley jacket:

Jake loves it and is mad that it is summer and he can't wear it everywhere.

Found out my brother's wife's daughter from a previous marriage, so technically my niece, is in hospice and has been given a short time to live.  She has lived her whole life with a genetic abnormality (I know there is a better way to word that...), it's not unexpected, but it still is unfair.  No one should have to go through losing a child and no person should have to shoulder dying so young.

We got our 'Cops on Top' banner and will be leading the team to the highest point in the state to honor fallen police officers, it's going on across the country.  The team so far is us, as no actual police officers ever stepped forward to participate and none of our friends have opted to join us. 

Matt's camera is indeed dead, so he has been going NON STOP about camera options.  I mean NON STOP.  NON STOP.  He can go on for 3-4 hours at a time, with websites and stats and I honestly have never seen him research anything like he has been his next camera purchase.  I am nuts already.  OH: Update, he used the Vitality points to buy a new one.  It's red.  Now he's obsessed that he's going to find some feature he hates and keeps saying, "I bought a RED camera."  I will be glad when this whole "I took ALL my electronics in a canoe" thing is behind us.  He finally admitted it was a dumb idea, so there's that...

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Day Three: Laundry! (and catch-up)

The girls spent last week at day camp, the finale program was Thursday evening.  Chan took drama and production and Brit took Drama and Music, so they were not together for their 'master classes'.

The theme this year was Mardi Gras, they sang songs and did some group dances.  The morning group was 1st through 5th grade and the afternoon group was 6th and up and the finale had them all together.
 The Fine Arts Center leaves a LOT to be desired, such as seating from which you can SEE the stage.
There's Chan in the middle.  She's a police officer.
Brit and Zachary, he is thrilled.  I know he looks like he's eaten shoe polish, but that kid was so excited about camp and he did a great job with his part of the performance, but golly pete, he looks miserable!  hahaha!

A better shot of the view. AWESOME!
(that's sarcasm)

It's over!  That's Chan over on the right in the blue shirt.  She had one of I think 3 'roles' from the older kids group.  Keilee pretended to whistle while some kids pretended to play instruments-so she got to stand on the side stage for that, Chan was a police officer, John was a...pirate fortune teller?  And that's all I can think of.  There may have been one more.

Afterward, we hit Sonic for half off milkshakes after 8 p.m.

Lily, Suzette's niece, was in the show too.  That girl can dance!

We've had a busy and fun stretch lately, I am very glad for good friends and happy memories.  The trend continues next weekend for Matt's birthday and a couple of day trips!  But for the next few days, we will be sticking close to home, getting caught up with chores and taking it easy.

Summer Day Two: Canoe

When we lived in Tennessee, the kids and I spent a good bit of time in the South Cumberland Rec Area, hiking and camping and swimming.  Since moving to Alabama, the area has become a state park with a headquarters and many little satellite pocket areas that contain some of the most beautiful spots in the world, if you are into breathtaking waterfalls, mossy logs, crystal clear creeks and giant trees and boulders that is. 

The park puts out a list of events each month, they have some all year, but summer explodes with activity.  One of our favorite outings is the canoe trips, we have gone a few times before, the last time was 2 years ago, so it was time to go again! 

I called and reserved our spot and sent out the info in hopes that friends would join us.  The Lackeys decided it sounded like a good idea as well and signed up, too!  Everything is more fun with your buddies. (I typoed 'biddies', which is also true).

The weather was perfect-a few clouds and 85 for a high, it would be cooling off by 4, when we headed out on the lake.  We met up at the Dutch Maid Bakery in Tracy City, it was 2 hours and 5 minutes for both of us.  After nabbing some yummies for after the canoeing, we went on over to the Grundy Lakes and stopped at our favorite picnic spot on the upper lake and had some pizza and got hydrated.  We fed the fish and turtles the crusts and enjoyed being still for a few minutes after the drive.  Soon enough, it was time to head to the lower lake where we would canoe!

They had lots of catching up to do after being apart for 13 hours!

Coke ovens.  These were operated by convicts, converting coal into coke.  They stopped using them in 1896.

ring necked snake

Me and my co-captains, Grunt and Snort
We were lead canoe!

When they first launched, Matt and the girls tipped right over, Matt of course had not only his camera, but his phone and GPS. 
The phone and GPS were okay, but by the end of the day, his camera had glitched until it bricked.  It's in rice now.  I hold little hope.

Since they were already wet, we got a demo of how to use a t-bone technique to flip a canoe in the water.  Using a second canoe, it lifts the flipped canoe out of the water and drains it, then, you just flip it back over and hop back in...

I handed my camera over to Ben, who was in the middle of our boat and he took all the photos while on the lake.  No, I learned nothing from watching Matt kill his electronics.

Brief hand-off to Chandler, who took this one of us!

This is a bryozoan

On their race back, Chandler is clearly cheating by using her shoes to help paddle.

We swam across the lake and back afterward, one of my very favorite things to do!  I yelled at other people's kids for SHOVING Brit off the swimming platform-after she JUST swam across the lake and was wiped out and told them she did not want to play.  We opted to leave, the inbred bath day was a little more than we were interested in bearing witness to.  Hell is other people. 

There are many, many places to go in the area and all are beautiful, but I was thinking 'close and quick', so I suggested we go to Foster Falls, which is less than 10 miles from the lakes with a short walk to the overlook.  The kids all piled in our van, so I ran off to ride with Bobby and Gina!  We used swear words!

We got there, and the falls were flowing well!  But this was our view from the overlook!  Sad!
I suggested the easy hike down to the bottom to everyone and they fell for it, I mean went for it.

2 hours later, after having to kill a bear, we arrive at the base of the falls.

I LOVE swinging bridges.  The monogamous kind are super dull.

The easy walk out!

more easy walking!

If I could go back and do anything differently, I would have had the 4th kid we both wanted.
Thank goodness we can borrow friends to fill that void!

Another perfect day!  We rode along for miles with the full moon shining on us, skirting the lake for an hour of the drive home.  It was lovely, I am so thankful for times like this.