Friday, May 29, 2009


On Sunday evening we pulled into Grayton Beach. We went to the State Park office and got the key to our cabin and directions to the cabin area, located about a mile from the rest of the park.

After we got the car unloaded, we took a quick look at the beach. It was beautiful.

We took some pictures and then headed out to check out the area a little more.We drove through Water Color and Seaside

and started amassing mental notes of places to visit, then we turned left on County Rd. 395 and found the Publix and the most beautiful fire station I have ever seen.

I was getting tired and I'm sure Bylinda was too, so we began to look for a place to have dinner. We found Pandora's.Located at Grayton Crossing (corner of 30-A and County Road 283),

Pandora's is a steakhouse. There is an attached open-air bar but we were for air conditioning and dinner. We were seated in a large, round room with a tree trunk in the ceiling.

We took a quick look through the menu and were both very happy to discover a Sunday night Prime Rib special. We ordered a bottle of wine and started with some burgundy mushrooms as an appetizer.The mushrooms were fantastic, cooked in burgundy and very rich beef broth. They were piping hot and delicious. They came to the table with hot, fresh bread and were followed quickly by French onion soup.I am a big fan of French onion soup and I was a little let down. I used to (perhaps still do) work at Outback and I think they do a great job with their French onion soup. They crouton fits over the bowl, the soup id fantastic and it comes smothered with cheese. None of this was the case at Pandora's. The soup was very sweet, the crouton was little and the cheese barely covered the crouton much less the bowl. I would not go so far as to say that the soup was terrible but it wasn't very good. Compared to the rest of the meal, the soup was a disappointment. We followed the soup with a nice salad and then the main event arrived.We had not questioned our server about the portion size for the Prime Rib. It was the Sunday special and, at $14.95, well below the price points of the rest of the entrees. With that in mind, I think that we both expected a six or eight ounce cut of beef. What we got was at least twelve ounces, if not a full pound. The meat was a beautiful pink and was juicy and tender. When combined with a large baked potato, neither of us had any illusions about cleaning our plate and any thought of dessert quickly vanished as well. We enjoyed what we wanted and happily had the rest boxed up. As the potato toppings came on the side, we took those too which furnished us with some supplies for the kitchen in our cabin.
On our way home we stopped at Publix for some supplies and decided that the way to use the rest of the Prime Rib would be in breakfast burritos. We made those on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday we had a potato and egg burrito and they were almost as good as the dinner.

Monday and Tuesday above and Wednesday below! YUMMY!

Pandora's is definitely worth a visit, just ask if they can substitute for the soup.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


We left Chattanooga on Sunday, May 10 and headed for the beach. The drive from Chattanooga to Grayton Beach takes you past Birmingham and Montgomery and then through some small towns in southern Alabama. We made pretty good time, fortified by our wonderful breakfast by the lake, courtesy of

Lookout Lake Bed and Breakfast

hunger was not an issue. Bylinda contented herself by snapping pictures with our new Canon Rebel...

and I made sure that the car stayed in the lanes and negotiated the occasional driving challenge. After we left Montgomery, I began to think that we should think about lunch and we began to see signs for Annie's.

I think initially, as we rolled past several 'Discount Groceries', we were treating the 'Annies' signs as part of the local scenery. The signs advertise BBQ, Fried Chicken, Catfish and Vegetables. They are plain, maybe homey would be a good word, and you know from the sign that the 'cocktail du Maison' is going to be Sweet Tea. As we got closer to Luverne, AL, I was getting more interested and I could tell that Bylinda was too. We both wondered aloud about our chances of getting into a sit-down restaurant on Mother's Day but we were curious.
Even upon entering Luverne no decision had been made but I could tell from her face that Bylinda agreed with my decision when I turned into the lot. Annie's is unassuming, a low brown building that shares a parking lot with an antique store but the aroma was fantastic. You could smell the smoke from the BBQ pit and you did not need a sign to tell you that there would be fried chicken available. We hurried in, eager to try out some specialities. There was one group of four waiting ahead of us, so we settled down for a short wait.

Annie's is not fancy,

a bench just inside the front door is the waiting area and the decorations were pictures colored by children. There was no list but Annie's is the type of place where the guests can just sort that out for themselves and I bet no one cheats. The manger found us a small table in the middle of the dining room and we quickly ordered. Catfish, fries and slaw for Bylinda,

while I went for Fried Chicken, fried okra, and slaw.

After a few minutes a table in the corner opened up and the manager let us move there, although I was content to keep center stage.

As an aside, I have spent many years working in restaurants and know from experience that when diners relocate, accidents can happen. Sure enough, the first server thought that we would be taken care of by the server who had the section we moved to, while the server in our new section thought that the original server would keep us. Not being terribly thirsty and having plenty to discuss, we really did not notice that our food had been delayed but just as I was thinking lunch should be appearing, the manager headed to our table and let us know that it would be just a few minutes on our order. We were not in a hurry and are pretty easygoing so we were not worried but it was very nice of the manager to make sure we were taken care of. After three or four minutes, our food was delivered and I think that we knew right away that the wait had been worthwhile. As soon as I bit into the chicken, I was secretly looking to get out of my promise to share with Bylinda, only the smell of her catfish held me to my word. I dipped in to my slaw and it was good but then I tried the okra...

...I was born and raised in the Midwest, so okra did not come naturally. It was found in soup, if at all and I'm sure that the first time had fried okra was at the Cracker Barrel. Since moving to the South, I have developed a fondness for fried okra but after eating the okra at Annie's, I think that I might not be able to order okra anywhere else. The okra was still crisp, served nice and hot and the breading was fantastic, I've not had better.

Across the table Bylinda had made a great discovery of her own, homemade tarter sauce.

Those of you who know Bylinda may be aware of this already, but one of her passions is mayonnaise. I'm sure they used her favorite, Hellman's, in the tartar sauce and of course there were pickles, I could not begin to guess the other ingredients but Bylinda was hooked. We were both in heaven!

After we got some proof to show our friends, we settled in for some serious eating, Bylinda kept telling me that everything was just like her mamaw cooked and the only thing that slowed us down was breaking to pepper the manager with questions. It turned out that she was the owner but not Annie. She had purchased the restaurant but kept as much of the staff as she could, several members of the kitchen staff had been there 30+ years. The owner insisted that we have dessert and although we tried to decline, fried cheesecake was soon on the table.

I'm not a huge cheesecake fan but this dessert was off the charts, two large pieces of cheesecake battered and fried served with ice cream, strawberries, chocolate sauce and whipped cream. We were ready to stay there for our honeymoon. From beginning to end the meal was delicious. We posed for a picture out front and after trying to pay, the offer was refused, we were back on the road.

If you ever find yourself in Luverne, Alabama around meal time, stop by Annie's, you won't be sorry. If it is not meal time, maybe you should just hunker down and wait.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Cooking with Little Guy

We were supposed to visit friends tonight but they were not feeling well, so we stayed home instead. While I was attempting to regain control of the laundry room, a never ending battle, B and Little Guy were working on one of our favorites, nachos. Little Guy loves to help in the kitchen, he is full of energy and desire but, at 5, possesses the skills you would expect. He has lots of fun but, of course needs supervision. He was in rare form tonight, every word I heard from the laundry made me laugh.. B let him squeeze some lime juice and put it in our chicken. He thought that the chicken tasted so good that he said he hoped "he could marry the chicken" and as B took his picture, he shouts, "James, come race your finger around this pan."
He can drive me crazy but moments like tonight make it very worthwhile.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Awards night

5th Grade graduation is tomorrow at Tommie Brown Academy, so tonight there was an awards dinner. All 3 classes were there with their parents. Our friends at First Christian Church across the street provided dinner, spaghetti and fixings, very nice as always.

Our older boy got four awards which was probably fair, he's got a ton of ability but sometimes falls short on effort and motivation. I had that problem later in life, so I try and help him with it but I think that he's going to have to find a way to make it happen for himself. I really appreciated the way his teacher found a way to give at least one award to everyone, she included a lot of "most improved" awards to go along with the "best" awards. Older boy got a trip for ice cream with his mother too. A good night.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Costs of being poor

I found an enlightening article today (thanks Reddit) on the costs of being poor. Here's the link:

It made me think, we seem to hear lots of people talk about big projects to help relieve the burdens of poverty but I think maybe we need to take smaller steps. Could churches provide 'not for profit' laundromats? I was without a washer and dryer for a while and it cost quite a bit to get your laundry done. Cities give tax incentives to businesses all the time, how about tax breaks for a grocery store to locate in a low income area, maybe with some agreement that the store keep prices reasonable. How about limits on the cost to cash a payroll check? I wouldn't think that payroll checks would bounce too often. This is pretty off-the-cuff but I think that these ideas make sense. Any thoughts?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009


Life seems to be back in full swing. The laundry is starting to pile up, the lawn mower needs to be fixed and the gutters need to be cleaned. Fortunately (or not) baseball is still swallowing a large amount of my 'free time'. Both boys are playing, so we seem to have games 4-5 nights a week. I missed almost all of baseball season last year, as it wrapped up just after I started to see B. She asked me what I thought about the boys playing and I said that it was fine with me, as long as they wanted to, I don't believe in forcing participation in activities. I did not realize how much time would be involved.

When I was about 5 we started playing T-Ball. Our mothers would take us to our games which took place on weekday mornings in the summer. I suppose we played for an hour or two and then went home. We did not have uniforms that I remember. When I was about 7 we started playing baseball. American Legion ran the program where I grew up, although I think that now there are other leagues there too. One night, late enough in the spring for Fred Young fieldhouse to be stifling hot, we would go to Illinois Wesleyan for registration. My Dad and I would stand there while a very long single line ran through 2 or three stations. Finally we would get to the front where I would receive a t-shirt and hat as well as the fundraiser materials. Everyone in an age group wore the same colors, green for the youngest, then red and finally blue. When I was maybe 10 or 11 people started wearing baseball pants and some times leggings. We would generally walk to our games or maybe carpool. I really don't recall parents attending very often, maybe once in a while a bunch of mothers would attend but I think that it was more an opportunity for them to socialize than anything else. Our umpires were high school or college students and they helped set the lineups. No coaches, just kids playing ball. I think it might be better that way.

I know that we are often nostalgic but the other night, between the 2 games we were involved in, I bet I saw 5 kids in tears. Whether or not the parents pressure the children, I think that the presence of the parents provides pressure. We all knew who the best players on our team were, we went to school with them and they were the best on the playground but our parents never had to watch us as we were outclassed. I expected that Scott would strike me out, and that Steve, Dan, Greg and Joel would be better than I was, but I didn't have to worry about looking bad in front of my mom and dad. It was just fun and gave us something to do while school was out.

Maybe I'm wrong, maybe its better now but there were certainly less tears when I played ( I did cry once though, at a game my parents were watching)

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Back Home

We had a pretty eventful trip home. The Older Boy was causing drama the whole way. He made a poor choice Thursday and followed it up by trying to blame everyone but himself. I hope he'll learn soon. While that was going on we managed to get stuck on two-lane roads behind a house and a helicopter (it was on a hauler). We also managed to go through a town where the main drag was down to a single lane and hit Birmingham at rush hour. All thing considered, it was a very abrupt return to the real world.

We had baseball and errands today. We got rained out of our second game, so we get movies now.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Heading Home

We had a great time at the beach but now its time to go. One more quick stop a Starbucks for iced coffee and internet access. we met so many nice people on our trip. We're stopping to mail postcards and to get a few last items, then it's time to hit the road. Chattanooga here we come!

Thursday, May 14, 2009


We rented bicycles Monday morning. B thought that it would be fun. I had a bad experience with a bike, a car and a curb when I was 10 and really didn't ride much after that. I thought that I might discover some great joy that I missed out on, I didn't. I have fought my stupid bike around the park and to Starbucks a couple times. I can't seem to make it go straight, as it veers left when it wants to; I'm afraid to ride it near other people for that reason as well. It goes back today! My rental fee may be the biggest waste of $30.00 ever

B, on the other hand has had a great time riding her pink bike. She sits up very straight and rolls on down the road. She's very cute. The rental fee for her bike may have been the best $30.00 I have ever spent.

If you are in the Grayton Beach area, you could do worse than stopping by Yellow Fin Ocean Sports on the corner of 30-A and Cty. Road 283. They will rent you a bike and throw in a lock, helmet (important if you're like me) and basket for free. Caleb, the owner, is pretty laid back. As the name implies, you can rent other gear there as well. Have fun.

Playing Tourist

We spent some time yesterday doing some more traditional tourist activities. We bought cheap t-shirts, drove go-carts and played on bumper boats. We had fun but I couldn't help thinking that none of that was as fun as I remember. I guess we'll have to bring the boys for a visit and watch them, now that will be fun.

After we got back to the cabin, we went back to the beach. I hadn't been to the beach in years but I could really get used to it. The water here is so clear and the sand is beautiful. We played bocce, waded and I read while B dozed in the Sun. I'm not sure that I'd want to be here in July when it's hot but right now, it's almost perfect.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


As soon as everyone got settled for dinner, we were encouraged to find a glass of champagne for the toast. After some beautiful words from our friends Phyllis and Seth, we all took a sip and sat back down. As everyone was settling in, the Little Guy went up to my Mother and asked her when the toast would be served...priceless! I hope he's not still disappointed.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Crabs, Clams and Birds.

We spent the afternoon on the beach. The wildlife was amazing. Little clams that, when the waves uncovered them, would tip vertical and wriggle back into the sand. Sand pipers (little birds) that ran along the beach on the tiniest legs and tiny crabs that peek out of their little holes. We had a great time.

Wedding Celebration and Blessing

Bylinda and I got married on January 3, 2009 but our original date was May 9. Because we moved the date up at the last minute (There are advantages when your Mother is a Priest), our ceremony was very small. We decided to have a more public celebration on our original date.

Bylinda, her friend Michelle and Michelle's family really put together a wonderful reception. My friend Chuck and Chris (Michelle's husband) took great pictures. Angela helped B make our invitations. My Dad threw a nice rehearsal dinner and I could go for pages on all the help we got from my Mom.

We were planning on having our reception on the Bocce Terrace at the Bluffview Art District but got rained out. We had dinner at the church instead, and it was still very nice. Our friend, Emily Grace, provided fantastic music. She is a local singer-songwriter and if you're in Chattanooga and she is playing, go check her out.

I wanted to publicly thank all those who helped us out. I'm sure that I missed someone, so sorry for that.


The worst PTA officer ever?

A few weeks ago Bylinda called me at work with a question. "The PTA called and they want to know if you'll serve as the Chaplain for next year." I thought about it for a few minutes, while I considered what the role of the PTA Chaplain would entail. I told B to tell the PTA that I would be glad to serve as the Chaplain, as I think that schools need parents to be involved.

Since accepting my position, I missed the next PTA meeting due to a ball game. Yesterday, while I was enjoying my Honeymoon, I got a call that they were going to swear in the new PTA officers last night. I'm in Florida, so there was no way that I caould attend. The incoming President happens to be a minister, so I think that I might be the worst PTA officer ever...

Monday, May 11, 2009

Everyone else has a blog right?

I figured that it was past time for me to start a blog, I think that every one I know has a blog. I don't know if anyone will be interested in my ramblings but, if nothing else, I'll have a journal.

I intend to focus the blog on my continuing development as a new stepfather and husband. I very willingly accepted both roles this year and certainly have no regrets but since I jumped in with both feet, there are often situations that leave me sort of speechless in a "I never thought of it like that" kind of way.

I took the title of my blog from one of those situations. I was puting my younger boy to bed one night in early April. He likes to listen to music while he goes to sleep and he asked me to put on a CD. When he asked for Shrek Christmas, I asked why he was still listening to Christmas music when it was almost Easter. He looked at me like I was the 5 year-old and said "Well, I don't have any Easter music." Finding no holes in his logic, all could say was "Ok, good night." I love those moments.