Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dixieland Devastation

I have to admit that with Facebook, I hardly have a need for cable news channels...if you want to know anything, just go to Facebook and surely someone's talking about it!

Last night, according to Facebook, the South was experiencing tornadic activity.  It is storm season, after all, so I didn't think much of it.  Then my friend Tom, who is from Alabama, had a status update saying the state had pretty much been leveled.  What?!

We turned to The Weather Channel and sure enough, Tom was pretty much right.  My heart sank.  I have such fond memories of visiting my sister while she lived in Alabama and it's absolutely BEAUTIFUL down there.  I can't even begin to fathom what the effected communities are waking up to this morning...

Below are some pictures I saw online this morning.
15th Street in Tuscaloosa

Inside their Krispy Kreme store--this was where I had my very first hot 'n ready Krispy Kreme :-(
Amazingly enough, the cups survived the storm

I just pray that the recovery process goes as well as possible.  My heart goes out to those who lost loved ones and the places they called home. 

Being 17-hours away from the damage, it will be hard to know what survived the storm and what was ruined by it...but here are some of my favorite sites/pics from our travels to the "Heart of Dixie."

Family pic from when we moved Tawnya & Adam to Tuscaloosa...had to be 2001? 
The streets by campus...gotta love ALL the green trees!!!
One of the now-historic homes on the UA campus
Sitting on the top of a hill in Tuscaloosa is some of the best bbq in the world--no joke.  It's UH-mazing.  All these years later and I still crave Dreamland's.

The Paul W. "Bear" Bryant Museum on campus

This is NOT in Tuscaloosa...or Alabama, for that matter.  But it's one of my favorite sites we visited while in the South--Oak Alley Mansion in Vacherie, Louisiana.  To me, this is the epitome of Southern Beauty

I couldn't steal any other pics of things I liked from the those will have to do!

Generally, enjoying a song or two usually makes things better.  Right?  So far, all of those near and dear to us in Alabama and surrounding states are accounted for--yippee!   So here's a few songs for your listening pleasure...from none other than Alabama ;-)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

My New Toy

I have a new "toy"!!!!!

The first week of March, I came home from work with a nagging headache that Tylenol wasn't touching.  All of a sudden, I had an incredibly sharp, shooting pain above my temple and then from my temple down to my jaw the left side of my face went tingly numb.

I freaked out.  I was convinced I was having a stroke.  Considering I had JUST switched insurance 4 days earlier, I called my new provider to see what my coverage was for ER visits.  Nothing like trying to be cost-effective at all times!  Justin was still at work so I called Mom to describe what was going on.  As we talked, I looked in the mirror and the left side of my face was still moving--so maybe I wasn't stroking out after all?!

As is typical for myself, I decided to wait it out.  After all, if it was a stroke, I probably wasn't going to succesfully drive myself to the hospital.  Guess Justin would just come home from work and find me! 

As I sat on the couch with a cold pack, I did some internet research about my symptoms.  According to a variety of sites, I either had a brain tumor, ice-pick headaches or TMJ.  I decided it was time to stop scaring myself and I went to my gardening class...

The next morning I woke up and I could barely move my jaw.  The joint itself didn't want to move and the muscles on the left side of my face were super tight and ached like crazy.  Guess I wouldn't be doing any public speaking that day!

I called my regular doctor and they couldn't get me in for another 2 weeks.  My regular dentist was off that day so I saw someone else instead.  One poke at a muscle in my jaw and I about jumped out of my chair!

TMJ it was.  I just wish it would have progressed slowly.  Wait, you mean being unable to open your mouth wide enough to eat an apple is a sign?  Waking up in the middle of the night with clenched teeth wasn't good?  All my ear pain and nagging headaches might be related to my jaw problems?  Huh, guess that's why I'm not a dentist.

Anyhow, fast forward 8 weeks and bunches of muscle relaxers the way, muscle relaxers are no joke!!!  I stopped by my dentist today to pick up my new Occlusal Device!

This is NOT my mouth...but that's basically what my mouthguard looks like!
That's right--a mouthguard is my new *and crazy expensive piece of plastic* toy. 

I'm super excited.  My daily pain has already decreased some since my flare-up but I still wake up in the mornings with sharp pains along my jaw joint and soreness in my cheeks/temporal area by the end of the day.  I'm hoping I will be pain-free before long!

But the best part?  Justin's had a full-coverage mouthguard for about 6 months now to prevent him from further grinding down his teeth.  I used to give him a hard time for being so "sexy" with his mouthpiece (NOT!) and we'll be popping in our plastic devices together come bedtime tonight.  Wow.  How old are we again?!  Last I checked we have only been married 7 months but it's never too early to grow old together :-)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Yard Crashers

Next weekend I head to Hesston, KS to purchase the plants for our new flowerbed...

Killing off the grass to make room for plants!
Something tells me that the tilling, planting, mulching and edging will be a time consuming project.  My outdoor ADD has been on overdrive and I decided this morning that I needed to tackle some of our smaller projects while we could.

The hostas we planted last summer are looking great.  The "courtyard" they are in is pretty bare so I planted some English Ivy groundcover.  It took way more ivy than I thought it would (23 containers in all), but I can't wait to watch it fill in the bare spots!  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can find some Astilbe plants in Hesston--if so, our courtyard will be complete.

I have a thing for Ivy--frankly, any kind of vine--and I wish we could have it all over our property.  Our neighbor's tree is covered with it and it is amazing!  With our house being in the old part of town, vines just add a lot of character...According to Justin, our Hackberry tree also had vines on it--until he ripped them off.  And why did he admit to that?!  Oh well, I'll just live with having vines on the ground.

Around the corner from the hostas we have a flowerbed that receives plenty of sunlight.  With the purchase of our house came this super wimpy rose bush that has never bloomed...I was hoping it would get torn out when they put up the fence, but I wasn't so lucky.

Once the ivy was in, I started digging out the rose and the few irises by it.  A few weeks ago, Mom suggested we plant 3 Double-Red Knock Out Roses in the spot as it receives plenty of sunlight.  Justin got super excited.  He loves roses...I can't stand them.  However, this particular spot receives plenty of sunshine and Wal-Mart had the roses for $11.75 each.   I also can't stand Wal-Mart but at the price, it's worth making my annual appearance and letting Justin have a say in something ;-)

They're not very big but according to their container, they're bound to be 3-4' tall at maturation.  We'll see if I can manage to keep them alive that long.  Regardless, they're already adding a nice pop of color to the yard!

I also decided to put our salsa garden in today...I know it's a bit early, but I put it in at the same time last year and it did great!  Amazingly enough, our garlic chives, onion chives and cilantro came back on their own...the Rosemary bush never hibernated so it's still hanging out in the corner!

Ready for some tomatoes and peppers!

I decided to plant only two tomatoes this year--our three plants produced WAY too much fruit last time.  I added an extra pepper plant (an Italian Pepperocini) and decided to try a Tomatillo plant for salsa verde...I hope it does well!  Oh, and I also had to make sure we planted basil for making pesto and our favorite Thai Chicken dish.

Near the end of putting in the garden, I noticed Justin was no longer spraying the yard.  I went inside and found this...

Sleeping on the job!  His nap lasted about two seconds longer as we had an owl to deal with.

Birds LOVE the maple tree in our front yard.  Problem is, we end up with bird doo-doo all over our vehicles within hours of visiting the carwash.  And it's not just one or two spot--they leave our vehicles looking like a piece of Swiss cheese. 

Solution?  Hanging a fake owl in their tree!

Thankfully, Justin didn't fall out of the tree.  Even though he knows what he is doing, it makes me beyond anxious to watch.  And so far, the owl hasn't fallen out either.  Hopefully the crazy $20 plastic bird of prey is an effective remedy...I like having birds around as they entertain Malcolm and after all, we did just buy a bird bath!  However, paying to bathe our vehicles several times a week gets old AND expensive.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Outdoor Projects

The weather has been BEAUTIFUL the past couple of weekends!  We have managed to knock off a few items from our "To-Do" list, but I'm having a bit of ADD with all the projects we want to complete.

Last weekend--we repainted the front porch, started painting the back porch, concealed the downspouts that ran along the front of the house and Justin sprayed 2-4-D all over the visible weeds...

This weekend--Justin and I picked out a stain for our fence and we started in on it.

We didn't get too far.  6 hours later and the northeast section of the fence was done--but just one side of it :-)  Staining is one of the most boring and tedious things I have ever done.  Boo.  Realistically, we'll be lucky if the fence is done by the time school lets out for Summer Break.

Thanks to a former classmate's suggestion, we went with a wood tone.  After all, when you look around our neighborhood, all you see is a sea of white/beige/khaki...the last thing I wanted was for our fence to blend in with everything else!

Looking North...
Looking East...
Looking South...
Looking West...

The fence isn't much to look at yet, but at least this picture will give you an idea of the contrast the stain provides...

Once we got the east-facing part of the section painted, we outlined the space for a new flowerbed and Justin sprayed the grass with Round-Up.  Now I just have to patiently wait until April 30th when I go pick up all the plants for the landscaping!

In the meantime, I've been trying to track down some Toffee Chip Ajuga groundcover to line our two sets of front steps.  Turns out, our little Eastside Market was willing to order it for me!  It won't be here for a couple more weeks, but it will be pretty once it goes in--and it will really help brighten the shaded front yard.  And hopefully help with some of our erosion issues.

"Toffee Chip" Ajuga

In the meantime, we need to continue staining the fence...finish painting the back porch...paint our old metal patio set before it starts to rust out...repaint our metal porch chairs...fix a few boards on the porch swing...plant a few rose bushes on the south end of the porch...plant some astilbe plants in the hosta beds...oh, and get our salsa garden planted as well.  Is your head spinning yet?  Because mine is.  The worker bee in me wants to get it all done right away but common sense tells me it's going to be a while ;-) 

Friday, April 15, 2011

Fenced In...

I've been waiting for the perfect time to paint our fence.  We've had several perfect days--but painting the fence requires that I am home on those days!

Since our fence went up in September, I wanted to paint it forward to last week when I repainted our front porch.  That whole mess convinced me that the last thing I would want to do is scrape/sand/brush a fence the next time it needed a new coat of white paint.

I was back to Square One.  I did some online research and found that they make colored stains.  Yes, color!  No scraping or sanding required!  I checked with our local Sherwinn-Williams and they had plenty of options.

Personally, I would love to paint our fence a "color."  Considering that this will NOT be our forever home, though, I think I need to move past that idea.

They make a white solid-colored stain and if we go that route, our fence would look something like this...

However, we have about 250 feet of fencing.  That's a lot of white.  Do we want that much white???  On the flipside, it would keep with the age of the house, go with the existing white trim and help blend in the side of the neighbor's white garage.

Our other "safe" option is to stain it a wood color...if so, I would like to do something a little richer and deeper than the existing cedar planks.  Something like this...

To me, our house needs to be a bit more of the Craftsman tradition to warrant a wood colored stain. 

When I price-checked the stains, there was no difference in cost.  That didn't help make the decision any easier!!!

I have no idea what to do.  My heart is wanting some color but my head is telling me "no."  Wow, that just sounded like a horrible love song...Then there's a crazy side of me that says paint the fence a color I like AND paint the house a complimentary shade to go with the fence.  Like I said, that's crazy. 

Any feeback would be appreciated.  We have 4' fencing on the front of the house and by the big side yard along the alley, but 6' fencing along the backside and narrow portion between the other houses.  That also seems to throw me for a loop--who's ever seen a 6 foot tall white picket fence?!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Plan Diverted

Today was supposed to be my last day of Life Skills with one of my 8th Grade teams.  Supposed to be.

I was pumped!  We have had a great semester together and according to building professionals, the students were actually paying attention and applying the information to real-life situations.  That's EXACTLY what I was hoping to achieve!

I had planned a quick little ditty to share with them--something about enjoying the past 10 weeks, wishing them well in their future endeavors, etc.  Nothing too "mushy" because after all, they're teen-agers and already have life figured out.  Riiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiight ;-)

Last night I caught wind of something concerning on Facebook.  I checked the 10 o'clock news and something had happened earlier that evening that warranted a significant response from our local police department--but no details were being released.

Being my typical curious self, I turned the news back on this morning and nothing was said.  I still wanted some kind of "answer" so I checked a local radio's website on my way out the door.  They were reporting that a 14-year old's body was found yesterday over by the Middle School I was headed to.  News reports indicate that it is being treated as a homicide.

My stomach dropped.  My 8th graders are 14 years old.  Was it one of my students?  Naturally, I wanted to know what I was getting into so I did a quick Facebook check.  He was a Freshman at our local high school.

The first person I saw at the school was the principal and I quickly learned that the individual had attended that very Middle School--we talked about what to expect during the day and the faculty's crisis plan.  I had a very bad feeling about things.  After all, the usually buzzing cafetaria was silent.

First Hour started and the students were stone-cold zombies.  Not a single word was spoken.  An announcement was made and half the class burst into tears.  We gave the students a few minutes to themselves and then gently, I started my unit. 

It was a disaster.  The kids were unresponsive and completely distracted.  As they should be.  Their world of invincibility had just been rocked.  Honestly, I just wanted to put the books down and let them be.  I knew the group discussions and role plays were not going to happen.  I hit the major parts of the unit and wrapped it up a few minutes early so they could have time to themselves.  I'm not sure who was more relieved to be done--the students or myself?

At that point, the principal, teacher, social worker and I decided to call it quits and reschedule for a later date.  We wanted the day to be as "normal" as possible but they had some serious issues to work through.  The school office was bursting with traumatized students.  Rumors and stories were spreading like wildfire.  It was not the time for Life Skills...or my little pep talk about their potential in life.

Not much is being released right now.  For me, the details don't matter.  Unfortunately, a 14 year old boy lost his life and I can't even fathom what his family and support system is going through right now.  His friends, neighbors, classmates and teammates shouldn't have to experience such a loss.  I hope the students are able to draw on some of the coping methods we talked about this semester. The grieving process isn't easy and things are confusing at their age.  I hope that as the investigation reveals answers or clues, the kids can find peace.  In the meantime, please keep the young man's family and friends in your thoughts and prayers.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Going Underground...

Some homeowners are worried about their downspouts letting water creep into their foundation and causing all sorts of problems...

With downspouts like ours, it was never a concern!

It's like they wanted to reach out and hug ya!
This particular downspout created lots of erosion issues last year

You can see where they used to run the downspout...

Aside from causing some serious erosion problems, they did nothing for our curb appeal.  After Justin had a conversation with Dad about them yesterday, he decided he was ready to tackle the downspouts.

It seemed most appropriate to bury the northern downspout.

Buried underground!!!
The opening where the water will drain

I wish I had a picture further away from the house--you really notice the difference then! But...we had our cars parked out front and didn't have the keys to move them.  All we did for the southern downspout was get a new piece to shoot it the other direction--back onto it's cement drain--and cut off the excess length.  In all, the project cost us about $25 and will be worth every penny!

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Painted Porch

I love our porch.

It's huge.  It has a great old-fashioned feel.  It's one of the elements I fell in love with when we looked at our house.

I could never stand the grey porch floor and steps.  After a year of wear-and-tear, they weren't looking so hot.

FINALLY, this morning I woke up and decided it was time to do something about it.

I went to our local rental place and told them what I was doing--I made a point of letting them know that the porch is about 28'x8' so I wanted something that would make the sanding go quickly.

Long story short, this is what they sent me home with.  Justin immediately questioned the size of the sander...

One hour later, after only getting maybe a  2' section of the porch sanded, Justin felt bad and went back to the store.

Apparently, sending a nearly 7' tall black man to the hardware store ensures you get the proper tools for the job...

The machine was huge.  It was heavy.  It liked to bounce around.  However, it did an awesome job of removing the loose paint and creating TONS of dust!

In less time than I spent messing with the previous sander, the entire porch had been sanded with various levels of was time for the new paint!

Last Spring, I was convinced I wanted to paint the porch a lavender color.  Then I realized I wouldn't want to paint it later down the road in case the lavender turned off prospective buyers.  It was time to pick a different color.

I ended up going with Blue Blood.  Not sure how it got it's name...but it was pretty on the swatch!

After putting on the paint, it was a lot darker than I expected it to be.  I'm not sure why I was surprised as it matched up to the color on the swatch.  As I told Justin, I think things are just more surprising after you've been living with a different color for so long.

According to this picture, the porch doesn't look that different.  I'm glad.  In person, the color is much more noticeable--especially once you reach the porch floor.  Best the best part--there are no worn spots on the boards.  The only problem--now I want to paint our metal chairs a different color so they don't blend in.  It's never ending!!!