Sunday, June 26, 2011

Life's a Beach! continued . . .

Day 5 dawned a bit cloudy. To make the most of the weather we had, hubs, Clay and I took a nice drive out to Fort Morgan to explore. The historic fort there, completed in 1834, is open for visitors, and there's also a small museum you can visit.

Fort Morgan was active during four wars — the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II. The fort is most famous for its role in the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. In that historic battle, Union Admiral David Farragut uttered his famous "damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead," going on to win the conflict. The fort has tons of dark, spooky corners that you can explore, so bring a flashlight and a sense of adventure! Admission for all three of us was only $10.

After our tour, hubs wanted to take us to a restaurant we'd heard a lot about, but never visited. Off we went to Lambert's, home of the throwed roll. Lambert's isn't far from the outlet mall in Gulf Shores, and it's a big, family restaurant. Clay amused himself on the big wooden toy train out front while we waited for our table to be ready. At Lambert's, you order your dinner from the menu (I had chicken and dumplings with green beans and fried apples, hubs had fried chicken.), but you also get the "passalongs," big pots of food that are brought to your table and free for the taking. (Passalongs were cabbage, black eyed peas, apple butter, fried potatoes, etc.) Plus, you get all the rolls you can eat tossed your way. (Clay caught one all by himself!) The food, particularly the potatoes and the rolls, was tasty! We really enjoyed our lunch here, more for the atmosphere and friendly service than anything.

Feeling like an evening in, we flew kites on the beach after our nap that afternoon. There was a great breeze, and Clay just had to hold on to the end of the string. No effort required! A great day!

The next morning, we hit the pool almost as soon as we woke up. After a nice swim and a shower, my older sister Laura and I dolled up. We were headed to Foley to get our shop on at the outlet mall. After a quick and delicious lunch at The Shrimp Basket (I, of course, had the shrimp basket. Laura got some tasty steamed oysters. YUM!), we found treasures at Banana Republic (Button-up dress shirts for $11?! Whooopeee!), Gymboree (I didn't pay more than $3.99 for any piece of clothing I bought for Clay here. Great deals.), and more. (Starfish jewelry! Cute sandals! I was in heaven!) Fun!

We had to keep an eye on the time, though, because we'd chartered a boat for the whole family (plus some old friends of ours who also happened to be in Gulf Shores) that evening. We wanted to stop by and get some drinks and snacks and make it out to the dock before the rest of the family arrived. We'd chosen the boat and tour we'd booked very carefully. We wanted a pontoon boat, due to mom's shaky footing and all of the little ones aboard. We lucked out with the Josephine, docked at Pirate's Cove. It was the perfect vessel for us, and captain Jerry motored us around the bay, showed us some dolphins, and generally charmed our whole group. All in all, there were the nine adults and four children on our boat, and we all had a great time. The sky was a bit cloudy that evening, which kept it from being too hot, and Jerry let us stay out on the water as long as we wanted. This was one of the highlight activities of our trip!

We decided to keep our last day in Orange Beach low-key. We walked the beach, looking for shells. We flew kites. To spice up our day, we had one last, throw down meal. The previous evening, our boat captain had recommended Wolf Bay Lodge. (There are locations both on 20 and at Zeke's Landing. Very convenient.) After a trip to the salad bar and a cup of oyster stew, I had the grilled snapper. Dear Lord. That was some of the best grilled fish I've ever had. Well-seasoned, perfectly cooked, and a super-generous portion. Hubs had the flounder. We could have easily ordered one entree and split it, ordering an extra salad/potato. We each boxed up half of our orders, but not before we tried the chocolate eclair cake. It was at this point that I realized if I didn't go home soon, none of my clothes were going to fit.

All that, plus a few pitchers of Josh's spiked lemonade, a bunch of hands of Spades, some margaritas, and a 500-piece puzzle of the American flag and Lady Liberty (actually, it was only 499 pieces. ONE PIECE was missing!), and you have our vacation!

After doing a last bit of laundry and packing up a bit, we left the following morning. On the way back home, we stopped off in Seminary at Heather's Dixie Grill for a quick lunch. Delicious, cheap, and speedy! Just what we needed! We also stopped by Donna's #6 on the way back in from Jackson for fresh berries, cucumbers, tomatoes and a big cantaloupe. (A little homemade peach ice cream didn't hurt, either.)

We had such fun! Hmmmm . . . I wonder where we'll all go NEXT year?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Life's a Beach!!

We just returned from a week in Orange Beach! Wow! So. Much. FUN!

This is the first vacation I've taken with my extended family as a group. Yep, that meant me, hubs, little man, plus mom and dad, plus my older sister, her husband, and their son, PLUS my younger sister, Grace (who flew in from Oregon), and her boyfriend. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I had been a little worried I'd wrap my fingers around someone's neck before the week was out.

But, really, I shouldn't have fretted over it. We all had a great time, and it was a wonderful, relaxing week.

They key was finding the right condo. Because Grace and her boyfriend were only there for two nights (and my brother-in-law ended up only staying a night or two more), we did just fine with a big, three bedroom, three bath condo. Each family had their own bedroom, and Grace and Ryan sacked out in the den. We stayed at The Enclave, in unit 707 (We booked via, and I couldn't have been more pleased. There was an ample beachfront balcony for mom, an indoor and outdoor pool for the boys, and a gorgeous, inviting stretch of sand just steps from our door.

On Day 1, we traveled in. Hubs, Clay, and I stopped off in Lucedale, Miss., for lunch. (At Tommy's. Two words. DON'T. GO. The place is a dive, service was slow and surly, and the food isn't even very good. We always try to eat local. Sometimes, it's a smashing success. Others, an epic failure. Tommy's was the latter. Stay away.) We rolled into Orange Beach at around 4 p.m. or so, ordered some pizzas, and then hit the beach. Clay loved chasing the waves, playing tag with everyone, and generally getting all his ya-yas out.

The next morning, we made some bloody marys and headed back down to the water. After a day of sand and sun, we had a big, family photo taken on the beach. Our sweet photographer (who shoots a lot of beach weddings there) was so patient with our big group. I can't wait to get the pics back!! We decided to have photos made because, really, we are so rarely all together. Now that Grace lives in the Northwest, we only see her during the holidays, and it's difficult to schedule a portrait then. This way, we were all in the photo, relaxed, and in a gorgeous setting. The photographer took a big group photo of all of us, plus photos of each smaller family, some of us girls with daddy, the grandkids with the grandparents, etc. Lots of great combinations.

Monday was Grace and Ryan's last day at the beach, so the two of them went parasailing with Brian and I. I'd always wanted to try it, and it seemed as good a time as any. I found it incredibly peaceful, almost like hot-air ballooning, but even quieter. We saw all kinds of rays and jellyfish in the water from above. Plus, we got great views of the shoreline. I would do it again in a heartbeat. (Incidentally, we went with the parasailing folks down at Zeke's Landing. It wasn't far from our hotel, and they had great prices.) Then, we got to enjoy the boat ride while Grace and Ryan parasailed, so it was a two-fer! I really enjoyed it.

We'd worked up an appetite by this time, so we headed to FloraBama for lunch. If you've never been, it's this big, ramshackle bar/restaurant right on the Florida/Alabama state line. I had an order of steamed Royal Reds (shrimp) with an order of fries, and hubs had a big, juicy cheeseburger. Grace got the oysters (spicy), and Ryan had a burger as well. YUM!

After a shower and a nap, we had shrimp boil from Lartigue's that night and walked the beach, looking for shells.

After a leisurely breakfast of cinnamon rolls and fruit the next day, we spent the morning at the pool.

My brother-in-law had plans for all of us for lunch that day. We headed to the Tin Top, which was a short drive from our condo, for some of the best seafood I've ever had the privilege of eating. We started with the crab claws, which were served in loads of creamy Tin Top sauce with bread for sopping. OMG. We nearly licked the bowl. We also tried the Oysters Fenton, which come in a rich, buttery, garlicky broth. Dear Lord, have mercy. For our entree, hubs and I split the steamed crab leg and shrimp platter, which was delicious. Needless to say, we didn't have room for dessert. Though eating like we did at the Tin Top was not cheap, it was absolutely worth it. One of the highlight meals of our trip.

That evening, we loaded up the boys and visited Adventure Island. What fun! My sis, her husband, and my sweet nephew played putt putt while hubs, Clay and I hit the arcade. Clay loved playing the Jurassic Park game with hubs, and they looked darling riding the Go-Karts together! We took a spin on the tugboat ride, cashed in our tickets for a few prizes, and had some ice cream before heading home.

More to come . . .

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Most Amazing Room EVER

When I was pregnant with Clay, I decided that his nursery would have a nautical theme. I spent some of the months of my pregnancy choosing crib bedding with sweet little sailboats on it, buying a matching window valance and lamp, and searching ebay for tiny model ships and hand-carved wooden captain figurines. I even found a brass plate that said "Captain" to hang over his bed and a wooden sign reading "Poop Deck" that we put by the changing table.

Well, needless to say, my little baby has grown up. And the four-year old boy that I have now is not really amazed by sailboats. He much prefers Spiderman.

So when we ran across a Spiderman sheet set at Target during Memorial Day weekend, he was enthralled. How could I say no? And so it began.

We bought the sheet set, plus a light red blanket and pillow sham, as well as a dark blue dust ruffle, red window valance, and Spiderman throw for the rocker. Once all of that was in place, we scooted by Lowe's and picked up a cool contemporary lamp. We painted the shade black.

We decided to paint the silhouette of a city skyline on the long wall, then buy some Spiderman wall decals and have Spiderman siwnging and jumping his way through the city. THEN we thought, "Why not paint the city in black chalkboard paint? That way, he can write on it." Check and check.

We trolled ebay (my trusty sidekick) for the decals, as well as a couple of lots of Spiderman toys and some comic books that we could frame and hang on the wall. By the end of the weekend - Voila! Clay thinks he has the coolest room ever.

This is the long wall before we applied the decals. We brought the baseline of the city up fairly high on the wall so Clay would have plenty of eye-level room to draw.

Here's the bed and the same wall with some of the decals up. You can also see the neat lamp. (We put a few decals on the shade of it, too!)

Here's the rest of the city, the corner rocker, and the bookcase. I have some Spiderman comic books that I've framed to hang above the bookshelf, but I haven't put them up yet.

Spiderman is everywhere! More decals around the dresser.

More eye drama

Remember back when my mom had that awful eye infection? Well, for the past week, I've had some eye drama of my own.

Last Tuesday night, I was sprawled out on the floor in the den, reading with Clay. He was goofing off and hopping around like he always does, when WHAP! He hit me in the eye with his hand. Hard. It stung a bit, but the pain subsided quickly. (He was all, "I'm sorry! It was an accident!" and I was all "Ouch.") I didn't think anything of it until later in the evening, when I noticed my eye was sore.

When I awoke Wednesday morning, my eye was bright red and almost swollen shut. Eeeeek. I went to MEA to make sure he hadn't scratched my cornea. After some (very painful) tests, they determined that he'd just given me a really bad shiner. (I blame Wii boxing.)

And guess what? There's not a whole lot you can do for a beat-up eye when it comes to medical treatment. I was instructed to take Aleve to reduce swelling and a apply hot and cold compresses. Really?

The eye has healed, but veryvery slowly. After the initial red/swollen look, I rocked a purple puffy eye for several days. Then, the swelling concentrated itself into one rather large bump in the center of my eyelid for a few days. Today (more than a week after Clay hit me) is the first day it's even looked close to normal.

So, my advice to all the other moms out there? Bob and weave, sister. Bob and weave.

Catching up.

Sooooo much has been going on lately that I have failed (miserably) to visit this space.

A quick recap of recent activities:

I don't think I ever mentioned that I had the opportunity to sing at New Stage's annual benefit performance at the Fairview Inn. They assigned me two songs from Wicked (a solo and a duet), and I got the chance to perform with some super-talented people. It was a fun night, and just the right amount of rehearsal commitment (small) for my crazy schedule. (Plus, dinner was DIVINE! The whole staff stayed late and served us our dinner in a private room once we finished performing. So sweet of them!)

I took Clay to a birthday party at Shiloh Water Park a couple of weekends ago. The place is still a huge hit! He actually enjoyed getting his face wet more this summer (must be all the time we've been spending at Grammy and Poppy's pool!), and he was fierce with the water cannon!

Last weekend, Clay and I went blueberry picking at Locust Grove Berry Farms. Ooooooh, how I loved it! We got there right at 7 a.m., when they open, and picked for about an hour. (Which ended up being perfect, because, believe it or not, it started to get warm at about 8 a.m.) We ended up with several cups of berries for about $4. We're making muffins tomorrow!

It's official - Hubs and I are going to ROME in the spring! We've sent off our passport renewal documents and booked our airline tickets! Hoooray! I've been dreaming of visiting Italy since before I got pregnant with Clay, but it's never been the right time. Guess what? It's the right time!! I cannot WAIT. I will spend the next several months poring over accommodations, attractions, etc. The planning and anticipation of a trip is definitely something I count among the pleasures of travel.

In the meantime, I'm taking a quick vacation to the beach with my entire family! We've rented a condo in Orange Beach, and the whole gang will be there! Should be fun!