Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The New Vehicle

I'm sure you've probably realized by now that I have a new vehicle. I did, after all, sell my beloved Blue and I'm certainly not riding the Blonde Adonis (my bicycle) down the Parkway to and from work.  Well, technically speaking, I am still in the process of taking ownership, but in a matter of days, I will in fact be the "owner" of a new vehicle; and by "owner" I mean I'll be making some payments for a few years. Admittedly, I've probably needed a new car for a while; but, when you like to take long and expensive vacations a car payment isn't really at the top of the list of things to add to your monthly expenses. 

Thanks to my mother putting a bug in my granddad's ear and my granddad listening, I was able to purchase my new vehicle which is a Black 2012 Nissan Rogue. My grandfather generously gave me a nice down payment on the car which allowed my payments to be such that I can still tuck some cash away in savings each month. I honestly cannot thank my granddad enough for helping make this possible. His generosity has brought tears to my eyes on more than one occasion and I feel really blessed that he was willing to help me out in this capacity. It's tough out there for a single girl, y'all! Seriously though, when you are on your own and all home repairs and medical bills, etc. etc. are your responsibility and yours alone, it's hard to come off the money to make a big purchase and this would not have been possible without my granddad and I want y'all and him to know how much I really appreciate his help and generosity. 

Now on to how I came to choose my new vehicle...

Once my granddad told me he was willing to help me out, I suggested we go over to a dealership in Decatur that he is familiar with. I had zero intentions of buying a new car, but knew this dealership also had used cars and thought we could go look and if I found something then maybe I would be able to trade in old Blue for a penny or two. I looked online and discovered two vehicles I was interested in looking at - one was a red 2010 Nissan Rogue and the other was a 2009 Toyota Venza in a brown color. My granddad and I had made plans to go look at them on Saturday, July 20. The Thursday before, I called him to finalize our plans, but by the time I got out of the gym that evening, my mother had emailed to let me know both vehicles had been sold. 

I also had a message from my dad to call him and he told me the same thing, but he also had a solution. He suggested that I go online and look at the vehicles Hertz had for sale. In case you didn't know, Hertz, as well as other rental car companies sell their rental cars after a year or so of use. My parents had bought a car from Hertz not long after they were married and have always said it was one of the best cars they ever owned. My dad had looked online earlier and Hertz had seven or so 2012 Nissan Rogues in either silver or black with varying amounts of miles and features and prices. So, I took a look and decided to reserve a black one in Birmingham which was newer than the one I had planned to look at in Decatur, was also the color I preferred and was at a lower price - what more could you want?

This is how the Hertz program works... it's called Rent To Buy and basically you can reserve a vehicle you are interested in and rent it for three days to determine whether or not you like it. There is no obligation to buy and if you decide not to buy, then you are charged a three-day rental free and if you decide to buy then the rental fee is applied towards your financing. Hertz also offers financing (they work with multiple banks) and they also offer extended warranties that mirror the manufacturer's warranty. Also, if you decide to buy, everything is done online and by phone which is very convenient. 

After driving the vehicle a couple of days, I decided to go ahead with the purchase - not surprising since this newer vehicle drove about 100 times better than old Blue. I logged in to my Hertz account on Saturday and started the process by confirming that I wanted to purchase the car and since then I've been emailing and talking to the folks at Hertz to finalize everything. I received notification today that the final paperwork was headed my way and I expect to receive it tomorrow and will be promptly signing and returning it so that the sale can be final/complete/finished. I have really had a nice experience with Hertz and would definitely recommend them if you are looking to buy a used car. I even applied for financing through them and got a 1.54% interest rate which beat the socks off of the 2.8% I received from my bank. 

I want to once again thank my family for all their help - my mom for putting the bug in my granddad's ear, my dad for bringing Hertz to my attention and my granddad for helping me actually buy the vehicle. I'm really a lucky lady to have these people in my life and without them I wouldn't have these new wheels which shall henceforth be called Bertha.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Full and Fun Friday Night

I promise to tell you about my new vehicle soon; but, I want to wait until everything is completely finalized which should be tomorrow. I also want to take some pictures to post on the blog and I ran out of daylight today. In other car news, I saw Blue parked at her new home on my way to work this morning and it warmed my heart to know that I would get to see her each morning. Ah, Blue...such good memories!

In the meantime, I wanted to let you all know about my fun-filled Friday night this past Friday. Jackie and the kids came over around 5:30 and we headed out to Hazel Green to the home of a co-worker whose boxer had some puppies about five weeks ago. I knew that Val's dog, a boxer, had some puppies last year and I randomly and out of the blue asked her a couple of weeks ago if her dog would be having puppies again or if she had been fixed. As luck would have it, Val's dog had recently birthed a new litter of puppies and Val was looking for homes for the little ones.

When I asked Val I sure didn't expect her to actually have some puppies, but I went ahead and asked her to send some photos and of course the pups were super cute. So, after thinking about it for a few days I decided to go ahead and get one. It just seemed like it was meant to be since I happened to ask her and she happened to have some puppies. Also, the summer is winding down and things should get back to normal soon so the timing was good too.

So, this past Friday, we all headed out to Val's to pick out which one of the five girl puppies would become mine. We played and held and loved on all the dogs and they are all so cute. As mentioned, the mom is a boxer and the dad is the hound dog from next door. The Tide's mom was a hound dog (she was at the pound when I adopted The Tide) and I've always suspected she had some boxer in her. So, I'm hoping the little pup we picked out will turn out to be pretty like The Tide. Call me crazy, but I always felt like The Tide was a pretty dog.

We finally decided on one of the pups, a light brindle colored girl with some white on her paws and her nose. Allow me also to just make it abundantly clear that I am by no means replacing The Tide - she could never be replaced - but I am just opening my heart and home to a new little gal. I hope she will bring me as much joy and happiness and laughter as The Tide did.

After we left Val's, we stopped by Blue Plate Cafe for dinner. As we were looking over the menu, Ashlyn asked what chicken and dumplings were. She settled on a BLT, but I asked our sweet waitress if she would bring Ashlyn a sample of chicken and dumplings so she could give it a try. The waitress brought Ashlyn a little dish of the chicken and dumplings, Ashlyn gave it a try and the verdict was, "It's good!"

While on the way to Blue Plate and also while there, we discussed names for the new dog. The final verdict was "Pippa" although it was not Troy's favorite as he said the name was "squirrely".

The grand finale of the night was after dinner when we went to Big Spring Park and watched E.T. for the first of three Movies in the Park this summer. We found a great spot up front, spread out our blankets and settled in for the movie. It was such a nice evening and there was even a coolness in the air. We have been blessed with some amazing weather this summer! The movie started at 8:30 and was over at 10:30 and admittedly, I even dozed off at one point - you know I'm an early to bed early to rise kind of gal.

Troy - before the movie started - resting his eyes

It was a really fun evening with some of my favorite people and I look forward to doing it again soon!

P.S. There are five more puppies in this litter in need of a home. If anyone is interested, please contact me. Val is giving the puppies away for free to good homes. Thanks!

Monday, July 29, 2013

We've Traveled Many Miles Together

Well, the past few days have been a whirlwind of this that and the other. There are lots of changes taking place and hopefully I will get around to writing about them all because goodness knows this blog is hurting for some decent reading material these days. 

I'm sure many of you will be thrilled beyond measure to read that my beloved car/summer oven Blue have parted ways. I've needed to grow up and get a new car for a long time but my frugality has prevented me from taking that step while I have an operable vehicle. However, recent developments have made it such that I am now in the process of purchasing a new vehicle (more on this later); and so, on Friday afternoon, Blue was parked in front of my house with a For Sale sign in almost every window. 

Blue, a 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix, was originally my dad's company car and when he got a new company car in 2004, I bought Blue. The used company cars were offered to the employees at a very good price and in 2004 when it was time for my dad to turn Blue in, I was in need of a better vehicle. The price for Blue was $5,000 and at the time, my credit was so atrocious that my dad had to secure the loan for me and I gave him the money for the payment each month. If I'm not mistaken, I was required to give him every other paycheck to pay off Blue (I lived with my parents' at the time and didn't have a lot of expenses) and so she was paid off pretty quickly. 

When I took possession of Blue, she had about 55,000 miles on her. Last week, she turned over 185,000. My plan was to drive her until she hit 200,000 which would probably put me at buying a newer car some time next year, but the circumstances worked out such that I fell 15,000 miles short of my goal. Blue and I have traveled the highways and the bi-ways, country lanes and city roads. We've been in more wrecks than I really care to remember. There was the time my drunk neighbor hit Blue while she was parked out front, the time I almost met Jesus on highway 431 (there's still a dent on the backside from that) and the time someone ran a red light and plowed into her side. Honestly, it seems like there is another incident or 10 that I can't recall at the moment; needless to say, we've been through a lot together, Blue and I. 

Over the years, Blue has prevented me from staying warm in the winter but thankfully she always kept me cool in the summer, and really, isn't that most important. I can't remember the last time Blue told me what time it was as the display on the clock/radio hasn't worked since about 2006. This past April on the way home from the Dave Matthew's Band concert, Blue's gas gauge decided to quit working and hasn't worked again since. All four of the windows have been nonoperational at one point or another and the driver's window is still up with the assistance of duct tape. She had a side-view mirror drop off in a car wash (which I repaired myself thank you very much) and she is missing a cover from the side of the passenger side headlight that fell off who knows where. Not to mention I think she had an invisible sign on the front that read, "please pull out in front of me."

Blue has cooked a variety of dishes for your reading pleasure including cookies, pizza, and attempts at eggs, bacon and even brownies. Blue has let me crank up the volume on the CD player and her speaker covers have held on by a hair over the years. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before they fall off. I've had flat tires, and breakdowns and blow outs and pretty much every possible thing that can happen to a girl while driving a car. Through it all, I've kept my mechanic Martin in beer and cigarettes (just being honest here people!). I've laughed and cried, been angry, sad and glad all while driving Blue. She's seen me through good times and through bad. 

Sunday afternoon, towards the end of my Sunday afternoon nap, the doorbell rang. I though to myself, it's either my neighbor Jeff or it's someone about the car and as luck would have it, someone was inquiring about the car. A man named Stacy and his wife, or girlfriend, named Chris. They looked the car over, cranked her up, checked the oil, looked at the Car Fax which I had printed off, looked at it some more and offered me $1,000 for the car. I had $1,500 as the listed price. I took them up on their offer primarily so I didn't have to deal with the headache of renewing the car tag for Blue and for the new vehicle and so I wouldn't have to keep insurance on two cars. It was one less thing that I would have to worry with in the great car transition. Besides, I was being really optimistic in hoping for $1,500 and in all honesty, I think$1,000 is a fair price. I mean, let's face it, Chris and Stacy will most likely want to get the driver's side window repaired and maybe some other things and really, how much longer is she going to hold up? Only the good Lord knows. 

My dad had joked that maybe someone on my street would buy Blue and I would be able to watch her drive by on occasion and as luck would have it, this couple lives one street over and I'm really hoping that Blue and I will cross paths from time to time. 

Chris and Stacy came by Monday evening to pay for Blue and drive off into the sunset. It was with a bittersweet feeling in my heart when I watched her go. She has been a good car to me. I've driven her for nine long years and even though she has given me countless headaches and drained my savings account from time to time, I loved driving her. She had some get up and go that old car of mine. So, it is with a heavy yet thankful heart that I bid her adieu; and don't worry about Chris and Stacy, I left a roll of duct tape for them in the front seat and a roadside kit and anti-freeze in the trunk. 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Happy 40th Mother and Daddy!

Today, Sunday, July 28, is my parents' 40th wedding anniversary! Since it seems that in today's society so few marriages last longer than a handful of years, I wanted to give a shout out to my parents for sticking together all these years.

Granted, there have been times when I wasn't sure they were going to make it. They are both strong-willed and bull-headed and argued often when I was a child, but they stuck it out and I'm really thankful they did. They are a good example of making a marriage work through good times and through bad. Either one of them could have easily given up and walked away when times got tough, but they didn't and more people should follow their example.

So, happy anniversary, mother and daddy! I hope you have many more years together and I wish you all the happiness in the world! I'm glad y'all got together and became my parents! I love you!

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Under the Weather on a Tuesday

Well, it would appear as though I was once again struck with some sort of stomach bug on Monday night and it was every bit as fun as you might imagine.

I had gone to Ladies' Night Out with the gals from my former church home and before I left there, my stomach started hurting and when I got home I are a handful of Tums. The Tums were not helpful in the least as I spent the rest of the evening in writhing pain.

As much as I hated to, I ended up staying home on Tuesday. It seemed like every time I got out of bed the stomach cramps would return. I hated to miss work as I had a customer coming in, but I really didn't have much of a choice and my boss didn't want me to come in and spread any bad germs around. I don't know if it was contagious. I'm more inclined to believe that it was something I ate, although what, I'm not sure.

My day at home was rather uneventful. I watched some TV shows that I had on the DVR and also re-watched one of the stages from the tour that I still had recorded. I also enjoyed delicious snacks of saltine crackers and Gingerale. I'm sure you are just oh so envious.

I had an appointment at 4:00 Tuesday afternoon that I did not want to miss so I managed to bathe and make it to that appointment. I was actually feeling a lot better by that point and also decided to go on to my WOW class. I had a couple of friends who were supposed to meet me to try out the class and I didn't want to let them down. As it turns out, both my friends ended up being stuck at work and couldn't make it. Hopefully they will be able to come another time. I made it through the class, but my stomach wasn't too happy by the time it was all over.

I'm hoping to make a triumphant return to work on Wednesday and will undoubtedly have a lot to catch up on. It always seems that there are a million things going on at work on unexpected days off.

Here's to hoping the rest of the week brings good health and happiness to all of us!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

In Other Weekend News

I guess I'm going in reverse order as far as recapping the weekend is concerned, but hey, I've never claimed to be normal. For months and months I have had on my calendar the Friday night singing at Lincoln Church of Christ which took place this past Friday. I love singing some songs to the Lord, that is the truth, and I really enjoy the Friday night singings. Unfortunately, most of the ones that are in Huntsville take place in the fall, and well, the fall is football season which means my backside is going to be sitting on a bleacher in some stadium in this state. So, I like to attend as many as I can when it's not football season. 

Earlier in the week I had called my friend Janet to make sure she and her sister, Deborah, were going to be there. They usually attend and I wanted to make sure I would have someone to sit beside. When I arrived, I noticed Erika's momma was there and had a lot of empty seats beside her. So, I sat there and soon after Janet and Deborah joined me and then Erika arrived with a friend of hers. It was a row full of some of my favorite people. We enjoyed two hours of singing, but I would be remiss if I didn't mention that, to me at least, most of the songs were slow. I guess I was hoping for some songs with a little more pep. Also, some of the leaders brought out some songs from the hymnal vault because I wasn't even remotely familiar with some of the songs we sang. I was also really hoping someone would lead "Lily of the Valley" and no one did. I mean, that seems like one that would be lead every time, but no, not on this particular night. Thankfully, the leader led it at church on Sunday night and I almost let out a yelp of glee. 

After the singing was over, we enjoyed some snack food. I quickly ate the few things I put on my plate so that I could get on home and watch the rest of the day's stage of the Tour de France. As I was gathering my things, I swung my giant purse over my shoulder just about the time Erika said, "watch out" and they next thing I know I had basically assaulted an old lady behind me, knocking her snack food to the floor. Erika and I cleaned it up and then I headed out and I would be lying if I didn't admit I chuckled to myself about knocking that lady's food out of her hands - not a mean laugh mind you, but it was a rather humorous situation. Admit it, you laughed too! 

Saturday morning I was up before 6:00 because my body does not even remotely know how to sleep late. I got a few "chores" done and then settled in for a morning of watching cycling on TV. It was the last day in the Alps and the next to the last day of the tour and seriously, now that the tour is over, I kind of don't know what to do with myself. I met Jackie for lunch at Zoe's which worked out nicely because I had a free entree there due to them leaving some things off of a recent to go order. We visited for a couple of hours as we had a lot to catch up on. Can you believe that was the first time we had seen each other this whole month? She has been at the beach and we have both been busy with this, that or the other. 

After lunch we perused the furniture at Nadeau and dreamed of bigger houses with funky furniture. I also found a copy of a new North Alabama magazine there and picked it up for my Aunt Linda because inside were two photos of my cousin, Alexandra serving up some Gelato and a hip downtown joint. Jackie and I soon parted ways and I did a whole lot of nothing while waiting on Sydney's arrival. 

Sunday I woke with a sore throat and spent a lot of the day shining a flashlight into my mouth and fearing that I had strep. I had a blister of some sort in the back of my mouth which was painful and turned me a wee bit paranoid that I would be spending the rest of the week on the couch. I took Lysine in the morning and the evening in hopes that it was just a fever blister of some sort and that the Lysine would help it to quickly dissipate. Thankfully, come Monday, the blister had, in fact, gone down quite a bit and visions of strep vanished from my mind. It's still a little painful, but nothing like it was on Sunday. Hopefully, a few more days of Lysine will do the trick. 

After Sydney left on Sunday, I watched the last stage of the tour and deeply regretted not traveling to France this year for what was undoubtedly the most fabulous ending to any tour in recent history. A night time finish in Paris followed by a stunning light show at the Arc de Triomphe - yeah, major regret.  I ended up dreaming about the tour all night long and I don't know if I got up and did some cycling in the middle of the night, but I woke Monday morning with a cramp in my right calf; strange, I know. I'm still having withdrawals from the tour as it feels weird to not have hours worth of cycling to watch when I get home in the evenings. Someone on Twitter described it as a Tour de France hangover, and honestly, I couldn't describe it any better myself.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Return of The Syd

The past few weeks, you may or may not have noticed, Sydney has not stayed with me. We've had a lot of conflicts in our schedules as often happens in the summer. A few weekends I had something going on, other weekends she had something going on (including a trip to Transylvania! - or Pennsylvania as the case may be), and some weekends she just wanted to stay with her mommy. Finally, this past weekend marked our joyous reunion and the return of Sydney staying the night on Saturday and going to church with me on Sunday. 

Brittany and Robert dropped her off around 4:15 or so on Saturday and we popped in a movie to watch for a little while before leaving for a cookout. Sydney had spent the day at Robert's company picnic and then at the movies and she was pretty worn out by the time they dropped her off. I caught her trying to doze off a few times and kept her awake by talking to her. 

We left around 5:30 to go to my friend Christy's house for a cookout and birthday celebration with some of the people from my class at church. While we were on the way there, Sydney asked me, "How do babies get in a stomach?" and I quickly informed her that was a question that only mommies could answer and she should probably ask her mommy that question later. 

We were the first to arrive which really wasn't that surprising considering everyone in that class is late to everything. What is it with Generation Y and their constant lateness? Eventually there were 20 or so people there and we enjoyed a fun evening together. We grilled hamburgers and Nevin made his famous chilli dogs and there was a variety of fruits and veggies and three different cakes!

We played corn hole, or bean bag toss as it may be known to you, and also ladder ball and Sydney brought a ball with her and we tossed it around some too until she tossed it over the fence. Everyone was so great and played with her without complaint. I am very blessed to have these caring friends. We finally left around 9:00 and we sang songs on the way home so that she wouldn't fall asleep.  When we got home she took a bath and then snuggled up in a blanket and was asleep soon after.

Sunday morning we went to church and she got a lot of compliments on her new haircut. I should have taken a photo of her. It looks really cute, but also makes her look older. I had a time getting that wild hair to lay down flat on Sunday morning but did the best I could and at least it wasn't standing up on top of her head. On the way to church she asked if we could get her a sweater to wear to church. I had actually been thinking I need to get her one to keep at my house because it can sometimes be cooler in the church building. So, after church, we went by Target to see if we could find one. Unfortunately we struck out as far as sweaters were concerned, but we did buy some school supplies for the inner city children. I wanted her to be with me while I did that so she would get a little lesson in helping those less fortunate than us. Not sure if it stuck, but maybe a little. 

After our venture to Target, we stopped by Wendy's to get some lunch. I had to open the car door to order (remember my window is duct taped up) and when we pulled up to pay, Sydney paid and got the food from her spot in the back seat. It was rather humorous if I do say so myself. We took our food home and ate while watching some more of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Brittany and my aunt soon came to pick her up. 

It was another fun weekend with The Syd and you'd better believe I reminded her about that question she needed to ask her mommy!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Musings From The Gym

Not much is going on this week. I've just been busy working and other than that, there's not much to really tell you about. So, I thought I would just fill you in on some musings from the gym, or at least that's what I'm calling it. 

Last night after our training session, we were chatting with the trainer about foods and she told us the best thing to drink after a work out is chocolate milk. I've heard this before, but never put it to practice. She said it helps to keep your metabolism going and also feeds your muscles the carbs and proteins they need after a workout. So, you'd better believe I stopped by the store on the way home and bought some chocolate milk. I mean, I've always been a lover of chocolate milk, but now I actually have a good excuse to drink it!

There was a guy at the gym last night who was lifting weights while we were warming up on the treadmills and each time he lifted he let out the biggest and loudest grunts you have ever heard. It almost sounded like he was going to die or something. I don't understand this. To me it seems like if you have to grunt that badly then you are probably lifting too much weight. It's also not attractive in the least. So, dude, if you are trying to pick up women at the gym, you are out of luck as long as you are grunting while lifting weights. 

Josh the Trainer, who filled in while Beth was out of town last week, is going to write some guests posts for the blog, or at least he says he is. We were chatting about why women go to the gym, why women quit the gym and various other gym topics and he said he wanted to blog about it but he doesn't have a blog. So, I told him that he could guest post on my blog because goodness knows I haven't been the best blogger this year. I told him that there were days when I had writers block or just didn't have anything to write about and that it would be awesome for him to fill in on such occasions. So, hopefully he will put together some entertaining posts for us. I look forward to reading what he has to say and to also seeing whether or not I and you agree with him. 

Finally, our Women on Weights class at the Downtown Huntsville YMCA needs one more person to sign up in order to have another session. The session starts Tuesday, July 30 and takes place on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 6:00 - 7:00. Childcare is available until 7:30  as well. The cost for the six weeks is $75 for members and $85 for non-members. If you live in Huntsville and are interested in joining, please contact Beth at the Downtown YMCA. The phone number there is 256-319-9622. This class is really great and the three of us who hope to continue on with another session really hope we can find someone to join us. So, again, if you live in the Huntsville area and are interested, then please contact Beth. Oh, and you have to be a female - it is Women on Weights, after all. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Rafting the Ocoee

Saturday morning I woke bright and early and packed a lunch for me and my brother and headed to the church building. Justin and I got to the building right about the same time (close to 6:40 a.m.) and we soon left with a group from the young professionals and college aged classes for a white water rafting trip. There were 22 of us in total who went on the trip and it was a fun day. 

We took one of the church buses up to Cleveland, Tennessee for our trip. It was the first time I have been on a church bus in many, many years and it felt kind of weird. The ride up there passed by quickly. Both Justin and I slept most of the ride up so the two and a half-three hour ride didn't seem like it took as long as it did. 

When we arrived, we ate our packed lunches and I must say that Justin and I had a far superior lunch to others. I had brought an extra sandwich and offered it to some people who didn't bring a lunch, but no one wanted it. Their loss. Justin and I had roast beef sandwiches, chips, watermelon and mini Gigi's cupcakes for our lunch, all of which was rather yummy. 

Soon after eating we were gathering life vests, helmets and oars and receiving the mandatory instruction on how to paddle the river. We then loaded the bus and were on our way to the top of the river; well, the top of the lower half of the river anyway which was the half that we rafted. The upper half, which was used in the 1996 Olympics,  isn't open as often as the lower half. I've only done the upper half once but have rafted the lower half too many times to count. 

We arrived at the top of the river and waited for the guides to unload the rafts and not long after we were in the water and headed down the river. Thanks to all the rain we have been experiencing in this part of the world, the water was higher than I have ever seen it. Even the guide commented that the water was higher than it had been on his trip earlier that morning and in many places rocks were covered under four feet more water than they normally are. Since the water was high, the rapids were churning like crazy which made for a super fun day on the water. 

Most of the boats in our group went through the first rapid before we did and right as we were about to hit the trickiest part, two guys from the boat in front of us were tossed out. In talking with them afterwards, it appears that they were both held under the current for a few seconds (probably felt like minutes to them). Thankfully they were both okay and pulled back to safety. A lot of oars went flying through that first rapid as well. I don't know if a lot of people weren't expecting the rapids to be that rough or what was going on but bodies, shoes, and oars were being tossed to and fro. Thankfully no one in our raft got tossed. We all managed to stay inside the whole time. 

Justin and I were in the front of the boat, meaning that the majority of the rowing came from us. Justin never remembered to watch me so that we could row simultaneously so I just watched him and made sure my strokes matched his. Behind us were our friends Hayley and Amanda and on the back row was Doug and his wife Jessica. Our guide, of course, was on the very back of the boat. It was a good group and we all enjoyed the time together. The guide, Dylan, even commented that we were good rowers and he said he doesn't pass out compliments to just any ole group. Now, he could be pulling our leg, but I don't think so because we managed to make that raft haul when we needed to.

We made it down the river very quickly. Since the water was high, so was the current which made the water run quick. It was probably one of the quickest trips I've made down that river. There were tons of people out on the water with us. There were 10 boats in our group (another group went down at the same time as our 22 people) and there were other companies out on the water as well. I would guess there were probably 50 rafts or so at the pull out point. It was kind of crazy. 

When we got back to the outpost, we changed into dry clothes and were soon on the road home. We stopped to eat in Kimball and most of us ended up at the Chinese buffet, which was actually quite good. We made it back to the church around 6:00 after a successful day on the water. I was very thankful to have some fun time with my brother and my friends and to just get out of town for the day. Hope we are able to do it again soon!

Friday, July 12, 2013

A High School Reunion of Sorts

I don't think I've mentioned it on the blog, but the floor in my living room is having some issues. Recently I pulled the sofa our from the wall to clean the baseboards and noticed that the hardwood floors were bubbling up and the floor seemed damp in places. Then, when I vacuumed, a piece of wood basically tore away from the hardwoods and I knew I had a problem on my hands. I contacted the insurance company who gave me the name of a contractor and I scheduled a meeting with said contractor on Wednesday afternoon of this week. 

I was supposed to meet the guy at 4:30, but I lost track of time and left work a little later than I had planned; so, I called to let him know I was running late. I arrived about 10 minutes late and the guy was there waiting on me, which was nice because let's face it, most contractors are never on time. I introduced myself and apologized for running late, unlocked the door and into the house we went. We had not been inside a minute yet when the guy asked me if I went to school at HG. 

"Yes," I replied, "did you?" 

"Yes," he said, "I was a year or two above you and I think I even went to your house after prom one year."

At this point, I'm sure I had the look of complete surprise on my face because this was a person whom I did not even remotely recognize. Not only that, but I seriously had no recollection of having one person, let alone multiple people over to my (parents') house after prom - ever. He had to have been talking about my junior prom because I didn't even go to HG for my senior year as we lived in Birmingham, although I did attend the prom at HG that year. I feel like I'm giving way too many details about my prom life here. 

Anyway, I said, "I'm sorry, I don't remember. I really don't remember many people from high school to be honest." I felt terrible because this happens to me a lot - people who went yo my high school will recognize me and I will have no clue who they are. Apparently I must have left an impression on many a high school classmate, and they apparently did not leave much of an impression on me. I asked the guys who he went to prom with and his date was in fact a friend of mine, but I sure did not remember him. 

Sadly, just as I suspected, the floor is wet and it is from the condensation from my AC unit and the floor will have to be replaced. I have put in an inquiry to the insurance company but feel 99% confident that this problem of mine will not be covered which means it will be yet another grand or two expense that I've had to pay since we renovated the house. Currently I do not have the funds for this project so for the time being I'm just hoping the floor doesn't cave in when I plop my large behind on the couch one evening. I'm really keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to hold off on this project until I'm on vacation next year so I don't have to be home while it's taking place. In addition to the living room, the kitchen will also need to be replaced because they run concurrent and it would look absolutely ridiculous if I did one and not the other. So, rock on 2013, you are really a very special year. 

In other home related news, I managed to catch my next door neighbor, Charlie, at home yesterday and asked him if he would mind if I would chop down the shrubs in between our houses. I told him the story of how I was sure the previous owner planted them there for spite and that they were too big, overgrown and ugly and on his property line. He seemed kind of hesitant at first and I told him I could just trim them back if he wanted but it sure would make things a lot easier for mowing if they were all gone. In the end, he agreed to let me chop them down. So, now, I have a weekend project in my future and I'm pretty stoked about it because I hate those bushes with a passion, as does my grandmother to be quite honest.

Perhaps chopping down those bushes will help relieve me of some of the angst I'm feeling thanks to 2013 - one can only hope!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

And The Winner Is...

I don't know if I'm a terrible book reviewer or if no one was interested in the topic, but nonetheless, the review for One Thousand Gifts received a lot of hits but only three of you left a comment. So, without further ado, the winner is comment #2 which is Erika.

Congrats Erika! You should be receiving your book soon!

Thanks for reading everyone!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Rain, Lunch Bags, Football and Sore Muscles

Well, believe it or not, I actually intended to post something sooner than now, but it just didn't happen for one reason or another. That's life I guess. Monday we saw the sun for the first time in days which was a nice reprieve from all the rain we have been getting. I, however, didn't really get to enjoy any of said sunshine because I was in front of a computer all day, but at least it peeked out from behind the clouds and hopefully some of you were able to enjoy it. 

My weekend was rather uneventful and in fact the epitome of boring. In addition to having the fourth as a holiday, we also had the fifth off and so I was at home for four straight days. I had grand intentions of doing some yard work and even buying some much needed gravel for where I park and new mulch for the flower beds and none of that got done because of the rain. Now I'm thinking I will wait until some time in the fall before doing these things so it will be cooler out which makes for much better working conditions. Then again, I might get a wild hair one weekend soon and go ahead and bite the bullet and get it done. You just never know. 

I did manage to get out of the house and peruse the aisles of Wal-Mart and Target for a couple of hours last Friday. I bought a new lunch bag at Wal-Mart for all of $8.88! I figured if it ends up stinking really bad after multiple uses I won't mind too much throwing it since it was less than $10. My friend Melissa had suggested a Thirty-one lunch bag and I have actually used one of those before as well, but it became stinky too and also was worn out and starting to tear at the ends. Maybe I'm just really rough on lunch bags. At any rate, I have a new one that is very brightly colored which isn't really my style, but hey, it's not like I had a lot to chose from. 

The rest of the weekend was pretty uneventful. I did some grocery shopping at my local Publix on Saturday and went to church on Sunday and other than that, there wasn't much else going on unless you count a visit to the funeral home which seems to happen more often than not these days. 

Monday night my dad and I went to the VBC to watch the Alabama Hammers play in the Professional Indoor Football League Championship game. I can't say it was the most exciting night of football, but it was something to do and it was nice to get out of the house for a change. My brother joined us as well, arriving just a few minutes before the game started. We all ended up leaving the game with multiple coupons for free Parmesan cheese bites from Domino's since the Hammers scored a ridiculous amount of points. My dad also sun the wheel at the Papa Murphy's booth and won a $15 gift card and I did the same, winning a $10 gift card. So, we all walked away winners, even the Hammers who crushed the other team, Richmond. 

Tuesday night I had another WOW session and the personal trainer who usually leads us was out of town so we had Josh, whom I suggested I might add. Well, Josh worked our tushes off and I was beyond exhausted by the time I left. I had no doubt that I would find walking and sitting for that matter difficult come Wednesday. I went to bed about 9:30 and I don't remember the last time I fell asleep so quickly. 

Today is Wednesday and just as I suspected, walking, sitting, and just moving in general comes with pain, and guess what? We get Josh as our trainer again tomorrow! Bring on the ibuprofen

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Book Review and Giveaway: One Thousand Gifts

~~ This Giveaway Is Now Closed ~~

It goes without saying that this year has been less than stellar. It seems as soon as I or my loved ones get back on my/our feet from one tragedy another one happens. I've honestly lost count of the deaths of people I know this year, some of which I haven't even mentioned on this blog. If I tried to put a list together I have no doubt I would leave someone off. I was hoping against hope that the second half of the year might bring some reprieve and yet some members of my family has already experienced another death.

I say all of this as an introduction of sorts to a book I was recently asked to review and the book has really come in a year when it is very much needed. The book is One Thousand Gifts and is written by Ann Voskamp. The subtitle or short script of the book is "A dare to live fully right where you are," and if anybody needs a dare like that it's certainly me.

In this year of heartache and heartbreak, living fully right where I am is not really something I've been able to do. I'm not saying the reading the book made me jump up from the couch and automatically become happy with the current circumstances of my life, but it did cause me to think a little more deeply and even be grateful for some blessings that perhaps I had never thought about previously.

Back in the winter, our Wednesday night Praise and Prayer sessions focused on "Ten Thousand Blessings" - 'tis the season I guess. It seems that everyone tries to think about their blessings around Christmastime. One Wednesday night in particular we were given postcards which we addressed to ourselves and were asked to write down 10 things we were thankful for - 10 blessings. Then at some point in 2013, the postcards would be mailed to us. I'm ashamed to admit it but I took me a long time to think of 10 things to write down. It's not that I am ungrateful for all the things that the Lord has blessed me with because I am truly grateful; but, when it comes to putting it down on paper I guess it's just hard to think of some things. You give it a try.

Ann's book focuses not necessarily on the big blessings, but on the small ones, on things you may not even realize you are thankful for - such as a gorgeous sunset or rainy days. Ann talks about living a life based on the word Eucharisteo - a life of grace, thankgiving and joy - and she goes on to describe what that means for her throughout the course of the book.

Ann brings her personal life experiences into the book as examples of how she herself has struggled with this worldly life and what God wants from her. The book is very well written and a beautiful reflection of how Ann found the way to incorporate Eucharisteo in her own life.

On her blog, Ann has provided you a way to be thankful for a blessing from God each day of the year by putting together a calendar of sorts. It's called the Joy Dare collection and each day lists something for you to take a moment and reflect on - for example, July 3 is a "Gift in Faith, Family, and Freedom". At the end of the one year period, you should have written down a total of 1,000 gifts. Even if you start now, you can continue until July of next year. It's a positive exercise that will surely help you and me to realize that God has blessed us beyond measure, even when it seems that nothing is going your way.

There is also an accompanying devotional book which I wouldn't mind having for myself and hope to buy in the near future. I think it would be helpful in keeping me on track and assisting me in realizing all the blessings in my life.

If you are looking for a way to challenge yourself to more clearly see the thousands of blessings the Lord has given you; to help you discover joy right where you are, then I would encourage you to read Ann's book. In fact, the nice folks at Zondervan are providing one lucky reader with a copy of Ann's book One Thousand Gifts. All you have to do to enter is to leave a comment on this post.  Since we're talking about blessings, tell us about a blessing in your life when you comment. The winner will be drawn Wednesday night and announced on Thursday morning.

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Rainy Fourth

As expected, it rained and rained and rained some more on the Fourth of July; but I've got to be honest, I really didn't mind it at all. I'm a fan of lazy rainy days. The rain came in waves, sometimes slow and steady and other times a heavy downpour. Rain is forecast for the next three days as well so everything should be lush and green in the coming days.

I spent the morning of the Fourth watching le Tour (of course) and I once again had French toast for breakfast. Thursday morning's batch finished off my French bread so no French toast for me today which is probably a good thing. Mostly it was just a supremely lazy morning as I didn't do much of anything in terms of productiveness.

Later in the day I made my infamous coleslaw and a peanut butter pie to take over to my parents' house for the cookout they were hosting. I had no idea how many people were going to be there and just made a little larger batch of coleslaw than normal in case there was a larger crowd.

The cookout started at 4:00 and about 20 minutes til I finally headed towards their house. I often forget that it takes longer than usual to get to their house these days because of the massive amount of road construction that blocks the road going to their house. So, I ended up getting there a few minutes late and being the last one to arrive which is highly unusual for me.

There were about 15 people at the cookout so the larger batch of coleslaw was a good decision. My dad cooked Khalua Pig (I'm probably spelling that wrong) and there was also potato salad, baked beans, bread, and a plethora of desserts, most of which contained coconut which was weird. I'm not a fan of coconut so I stuck with my peanut butter pie.

I stayed until about 7:00 and then came home and watched a movie, Looper, which was really good. I had heard good things about it but had never seen it until Thursday night.

So, it was a low-key and relaxing day which is really all a girl needs on her day off. The only bummer of the day was that I did not witness any fireworks. I could have driven down to the Space and Rocket Center but I don't think they held their fireworks show until late in the evening. Lots of people in the neighborhood were shooting off fireworks into the wee hours of the night, but I never ventured out to take a look. I'm sure the same thing will be taking place tonight so perhaps I'll enjoy the view from the front porch.

Hope your Fourth was relaxing and fun and filled with good friends, good family and good food!

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth

Hope you and your family have a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Stinky Lunchboxes and Cool Evenings

Serious question here - does anyone know of a type of lunchbox that will not stink after multiple uses because I am in need of one. You see, I bring my lunch to work probably 95% of the time and the lunchbox I'm using right now stinks so bad I can hardly stand to be around it. I'm definitely going to throw it out soon and look for a new one because the stench is about more than my poor nose can handle. 

I've always had a strong sniffer and smelling is the strongest of my senses (I could probably write a whole post on that alone); so, I don't know if it is my overly sensitive sense of smell or if everyone that comes within five feet of my lunchbox can smell the stench. The bad smell comes from leaks and spills that occur during transport - right now there is a strong smell of Clausen pickles and pineapple. No matter how many times I send my lunchbox (it's a Vera Bradley soft cooler type bag) through the laundry cycle, it still reeks. So, if anyone out there knows of a good lunchbox/lunchbag that will come out smelling like a bed of roses after multiple uses then please do tell. Inquiring mind desperately want to know. 

Moving on to lovelier things... Monday night my aunt and I ventured out to Concerts in the Park to listen to Strings of Pearl and Olde Towne Brass. We left my house a few minutes after 6:00, found a parking spot and walked over to the park, setting up our chairs under the magnolia trees. We had made plans earlier in the day to get a pizza from Pane e Vino and we did just that. We got the white pizza, or Van Gogh as it is called on the menu, and it was really delicious. That was the first time I had eaten anything from Pane e Vino and I would recommend it and will certainly be going back again soon. Our pizza was ready about 6:45 and I walked over and picked it up and we ate while listening to the bands and catching up on this and that. 

The evening was absolutely delightful! I have never enjoyed July weather in Alabama as much as I did on Monday night. There was a slight breeze blowing and the humidity wasn't bad and the temperature was in the high 80s and after the sun started going down it was probably in the low 80s. It was quite enjoyable and I didn't even break a sweat! I seriously cannot get over how nice it was outside. We have really lucked out so far this summer with minimal blazing hot days so far. I'm sure July and August will have some scorchers in store for us, but in the meantime I am really enjoying these cooler summer nights and have my fingers crossed that there will be a few more!

The weather was also nice on Tuesday evening and I actually rode my bike to the gym for my WOW class. The class that night was a combination of cardio and weights and by the time our hour was up, I was pooped. One of the girls in the class offered to give me and The Blonde Adonis (my bike) a ride home and I took her up on it to save what little energy I had left. 

I spent the rest of the evening putting the finishing touches on mine and my dad's photo books from our trip in May, eating French toast (each batch seems to get better) and watching le Tour. Tuesday's stage was the team time trial which is my favorite event. Unfortunately, my favorite team did not win. C'est la vie. 

I've got Thursday and Friday off from work for Independence Day and am looking forward to having some time away from the office for more than just a weekend. It's supposed to rain for most of the next few days, but I'm sure it won't put a damper on the festivities.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Farm Party

After getting all the yard work done on Friday night, as well as most of the laundry, I was able to get up bright and early Saturday morning and cook myself some bacon and French toast for the first stage of le Tour. I also needed bacon for a salad I was taking to a cookout at the Five Points Farm later that evening so I cooked two pounds. One of the packages was maple bacon and my house still smells like maple bacon and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Also, my French toast turned out delightfully delicious - it was a great morning! 

I spent the afternoon doing some cleaning and napping and made a broccoli salad to take to the farm party that evening. My friends Jane and Joe (names have been changed to protect the innocent) were having a cookout at their house which was otherwise known as the farm party. Why, you may ask? Well, Jane and Joe live close by and in addition to their two dogs and one cat, they also have a goat, a sheep and three chickens which do in fact produce eggs. I think I overheard Jane say that everything but the sheep is legal per city ordinance. What the city has against sheep, I have no idea; and just in case you were wondering the cookout did not involve the cooking of any chickens, sheep or goats. 

I headed over to the home of J and J with salad in hand close to 5:30. Before the night was over there was probably 20 people or so there. Some people came late, others left early, all ate. We feasted on grilled burgers and hot dogs and in addition to my broccoli salad, there was also potato salad, pasta salad and all manner of chip and dip. 

Not long after arriving, Jane had some eggs to collect from the hen house and I went out with her to collect. I didn't actually go into the hen house, but I did see the eggs in the nest. I also petted the goat and of course the dogs. The sheep is a little skittish of people though, but after we ate the sheep was cornered so that one of our friends could hold it.

Jane also made a pinata and some of us donned the blindfold and took a whack at the paper machine box filled with sour candies. I actually got a couple of good smacks in and was quite proud of myself. After the pinata various yard games were played and there was also lots of good conversation, or "Girl Talk" as our group calls it. 

I called it a night close to 9:00 p.m. full of food and fellowship and well, farm life... in a round about sort of way. It was a really fun night and I was thankful to have the opportunity to spend such a nice evening with my friends at the Five Points Farm. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Halfway Through The Year 2013

It's July, which means we are halfway through 2013, and y'all, I have never been so thrilled to be halfway through a year before. As you know, this has not been the greatest year for me between deaths and sheds blowing away and everything in between. My saving grace was my vacation in May - if it had not been for that vacation, I would probably be in the looney bin by now. At any rate, here's to wishing and hoping and praying that the second half of 2013 is better than the first. I've got my eyes on 2014 - no doubt about that!

Friday afternoon my aunt rounded up all her people (otherwise known as her boyfriend (Chris) and the man who might as well be her son-in-law (Robert)) and they loaded up all my "junk" and brought it over for us to load up my shed. I cannot even begin to tell you how awesome this new shed is. I had planned on cleaning out and throwing out some items as I loaded up the shed, but didn't really throw out all that much (surprising, I know). Really, it was just so darn humid and hot that I didn't want to deal with going through tubs and hopefully when the weather cools off I will actually tackle that daunting task. The new shed is a lot taller than the old shed was and I can stack things higher which makes for a lot more space to walk around inside. Robert even had some hooks in his truck and hung them up in the shed so that I could hang up my weed eater. It's the little things in life, people! It took us all of about 40 minutes to load up the shed which was a lot quicker than I anticipated it taking. After we finished with the shed, I chatted with my aunt for a while and then I took on the lawn. 

In the midst of mowing, my brother showed up while I had my back to the house. So, when I turned towards the house on one of my laps in the yard, I saw him standing there and it scared me nearly to death. I, of course, let out a big scream. I finished up mowing and my brother graciously did the weed eating for me. I really loathe weed eating. Honestly it's not that I mind it do much as I am completely terrible at it. As my brother says, it's an acquired skill and man do I believe it. 

My brother had stopped by to fork over some cash for our upcoming white water rafting trip on July 13. We are going with some folks from the class I attend on Sunday mornings, or have been attending I should say as I have actually changed in the past few weeks. I don't know what came over me when I agreed to go. Don't get me wrong, I do love white water rafting, but this is July, which means le Tour is in full force and clearly I had a momentary lapse of judgement when I didn't even consider that I would rather be piled up in front of and screaming at the TV than paddling down the Ocoee River. Nevertheless, I'm sure it will be a fun day and I can watch le Tour when I get home that evening. 

After Justin left I picked up some dinner from Tender's because I was too lazy to cook and had already decided in my mind that I would, in fact, be buying myself something for dinner as a reward for all of my hard work that afternoon. I don't know why I always expect Tender's to taste better than it does, but I am always disappointed after eating there. The best part of the meal is always the Texas toast - would you agree? 

I spent what was left of the night watching TV and playing Bejeweled which, thanks to my dad, has become my latest game addiction. Thankfully, I think the newness of it is wearing off and I'll soon move on to the next game. I had never played Bejeweled until we were on vacation and I downloaded it to my Kindle. Now I play while watching TV for hours and hours. I've reached a point where I don't even get frustrated when I lose which probably means I'll be giving it up soon, thank goodness. 

I spent Saturday evening at the Five Points Farm, which I will tell you about in my next post, so you'll have to stop in tomorrow for that. Tonight, I'm headed to Concerts in the Park and dinner at Pane e Vino, and I'm really looking forward to it. The weather hasn't been to terrible so far this summer and if you don't move too much, the humidity isn't even that bad. Some time before and after the show I will have to squeeze in the remainder of today's le Tour stage. I started watching at 5:30 this morning and got a good 45 minutes in before leaving for work. I think it goes without saying that I'm a little tired today.

I've having a difficult time finding an ending point here today. So, I'll just bid you adieu and will hopefully be back tomorrow. Until then!