Oct 30, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week, I like the potential for TV subscriptions. Recently, HBO announced that it will begin selling subscriptions to their programs. These subscriptions will not require a traditional cable subscription and allow viewers to watch popular shows on mobile devises via an internet connection. While I don't watch any HBO shows, I'm very excited for this move and the pressure it might put on other cable channels (and even networks) to make similar offers. Cord cutters rejoice!

This week, I love Julie's sales skills. I love my wife for thousands of reasons but one in particular is her shared low tolerance for unused items taking up precious space in our home. But where I'm perfectly satisfied to simply trash such an item, Julie exhausts all avenues to sell that item. I'm not just talking about eBay - - Julie has also tapped into local sales groups that utilize Facebook. I'm completely lost as to how it all works but I'm thankful that Julie is determined enough to make something out of nothing!

This week, I don't like the various approaches to updating a home. In our search for a bigger house, we've visited may area homes that are for sale. In the homes that are included in our price range, I've noticed two levels of effort made by home owners when keeping their bathrooms, kitchens etc. updated: none and cheap. The "none" approach is more popular. I get it...home repairs and renovations are expensive. But it amazes me each time we see a home interior that's had it's current look since 1973. On the flip side (pun intended), it's not always refreshing to see a bathroom that has received a lot of attention...but only with the bare-minimum spent on materials. It seems crazy that there's no middle ground but that probably goes back to the price range in which we're looking.

By the way, why did so many bathrooms feature a pink or mint green color scheme back in the day??

*Above photo used for reference only. Not seen in any homes we've considered buying....but a close example!

Sep 25, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week, I like drones. No, not the military types. I'm referring to the commercially-produced versions that are growing in popularity. When equipped with a decent camera, these vehicles can provide amazing vantage points that have never been so easily accessed by videographers. Drones are now crossing over from recreational to commercial use. Golf courses, realtors and other businesses are starting to incorporate this technology into their marketing efforts after realizing a video from above trumps the traditional ground-level photograph.

I don’t have any desire to own a drone but I enjoy watching this phenomenon from the sidelines. There is a lot of drama and controversy pertaining to regulated airspace when is comes to operating drones in public places - and that's always good entertainment.

Here are some of my favorite drone videos.

Oh, and watch for "dronies" to become a thing.

This week, I love our Chromecast. My sister gave me a gift card for my birthday and with that gift card I purchased a Chromecast. I’m here to tell you that Google has knocked it out of the park once again. Here's the breakdown: this device pairs with your smartphone/tablet and WiFi signal to stream videos, movies, music and shows directly to your TV. Many big players in the media industry, including ESPN, HBO and ABC, have worked with Google to make their mobile apps work seamlessly with the Chromecast device.

I've been completely amazed and the picture quality of the college football games I've watched this season via Chromecast when piped through my phone. As a cord cutter, this device gives me great hope that networks will soon bypass the overcharging cable companies and sell subscriptions to their content. I guess that's the only downfall of Chromecast at this time...in order to view premium TV content, you have to provide the login to the account you have with your cable provider. Time will tell!

This week, I don’t like NBC Sports. As I mentioned, I am a cord cutter and I really appreciate the opportunity to watch streaming programs and sporting events. PBS makes episodes of Downton Abbey available online. I can watch every PGA tournament that CBS Sports carries on a laptop or smartphone. ABC's website was the only place I could watch the final episodes of Happy Endings after we told Charter Communications "no thanks". This concept of sharing is wonderful!

Unfortunately, the folks at NBC Sports (owners of the Golf Channel) aren't in a giving mood. Earlier this summer, the men's and women's US Open was played at the same course in back-to-back weeks. NBC Sports carried the events. I was happily surprised to learn that I could watch the men's tourney online. Weirdly, I had no such luck when trying to watch the women's tournament the next week. NBC did not stream any of the recent PGA Tour playoff events either. You can forget about them streaming any of their Sunday Night Football games. Although that's more of an NFL issue, that’s a terrible policy because I watched the 49ers and the Ravens play in the freaking Super Bowl on CBS on a laptop just a few years ago!! The Golf Channel sends me an email and invites me to watch the Ryder Cup online LIVE...and this is what I get:

I’m not sure what can be done about the stinginess at NBC Sports but the good news is that they lost the rights to cover the US Open to Fox Sports. If the shot callers at Fox Sports are reading this (and I’m sure they are) take note: this is your chance to gain a lot of fans!!

Aug 15, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week, I like Johnsonville Brats. I'm a fan of hot dogs. I'm a fan of sausages too. It's important to realize that there is a difference because I occasionally substitute hot dogs with sausages. But because grilling a sausage dog takes more time than zapping a hot dog in a microwave, the Baggetts don't enjoy sausage dogs very often. So on those special occasions, we have always reached for a package of Conecuh sausage and we have always been very pleased with the results. Well Julie recently changed the game by introducing the family to Johnsonville Brats. These are not the huge sausages you see Green Bay Packers fans preparing at their tailgate in a vat of beer and onions. These bad boys are found in the hot dog section of your grocery store and are only slightly bigger than your normal hot dog. I guess you could cook these brats in a microwave but I played it safe and used the grill. Pro tip: when grilling, remember that these are sausages with casings that can rip when exposed to prolonged heat. Rotation is the key.

These are so good! The brats Julie purchased had cheddar cheese inside the them but I cannot find this variety on the Johnsonville website. It doesn’t matter though - if you see some, buy them!

This week, I love the state of golf. I've seen a lot of golf trends come and go over the years - changes in apparel, swings, player physiques and much more. Golf is certainly more popular with regular folks these days and I fully believe that popularity is due to the success of Tiger Woods. However, as I watched the 2014 PGA Championship last weekend, it was clear to see that Tiger is struggling with his health and his game. That observation, combined with the troubling news from the golf retail industry, made me concerned about the future of golf. But that tournament was a great shot in the arm and proved that the sport is indeed in good shape.

Even though Tiger was not around for the weekend, the leaderboard featured young stars, old favorites (Phil!!!) and foreign players. Each year, golf experts roll their eyes and wonder aloud if the PGA Championship should be even considered one of the four "major" tournaments. Given the ratings success of this year’s event, I’d say that conversation has been silenced.

Having Tiger fade from the game could be good on an economic front. For hard core Tiger fans, it's Tiger or nothing. This approach could translate to lower demand for tee times and equipment, thus causing a drop in the amount of money one would have to spend to enjoy the game. That's always a good thing!

Time will tell. You never really know with Tiger - he could bounce back stronger than ever. Either way, the game of golf is in a really good position. Oh, and folks...we’re going to be seeing Rory for a very, very long time. He's good at everything.

This week, I don’t like the ice bucket challenge. You've probably noticed a lot of Facebook videos of celebrities or athletes pouring buckets of water over their own heads lately. This craze, called the ice bucket challenge, has really gained a lot of steam over the summer and is supposed to be a fun form of charitable fundraising.

Here's my understanding of the ice bucket challenge: PERSON A challenges PERSON B to donate money (usually $100) to a specified charity within a certain amount of time (usually 24 hours). If PERSON B fails to meet the challenge, he/she has to dump a bucket of cold water onto their own head. The act can be filmed and PERSON B can call out other people for a similar challenge.

In these videos, pouring the bucket of cold water onto your own head is the “punishment” for failing the challenge of donating money to the charity. So given the large number of videos seen across social media, it doesn't seem that charities are benefiting much from these challenges. Actually, it seems that people prefer to dump water on their head over donating money to charity!

NOOOooooo! Not you too, Coach!! I mean...am I wrong? Do I have a complete misunderstanding of this challenge? Please set me straight!

Jul 27, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like - Vacation Edition

The Baggetts just returned from a great vacation at the Corman's home in Destin. So, this will be a special edition of LL&DL.

This week, I like the new toll roads on the way to Destin. It's been a few years since I've been to the beach. The new toll road that bypasses Niceville is great and helps avoid a lot of traffic lights. I imagine that this road will be a big help with hurricane evacuations too. There's no need to stop and pay the toll on this new road. Your vehicle is photographed and an invoice is sent to the address associated with your license plate. I wonder what happens if your tag isn't updated or if you removed your license plate? Who knows but the new road helps make for a faster trip and the faster the trip, the faster we get to have fun!

This week, I love swimming with Graham. I've been a dad for a little more than 2.5 years now and I have never experienced a better "father moment" than when swimming with Graham this week. Graham showed no fear of the water (which was bad at times) and loved paddling around the pool on his own. He even built up the courage to climb out of the pool on his own and jump back in.

Graham would have loved for us to allow him to stay in the pool all day. Even when he was obviously tired, he still enjoyed bobbing up and down in his puddle jumper vest.

This week, I don't like the end of vacation week. I occasionally suffer from the "Sunday Night Blues" but that's got nothing on the way I feel at the end of a vacation week. We had such a great time and it's really hard to accept that the week has come to an end. But, I don't regret anything - we had great weather and got to do everything we wanted. It will be hard to duplicate the fun time we had on this trip but we'll use that challenge to keep us working hard for our next vacation opportunity!

Jun 2, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week, I like the plans to upgrade Wrigley Field. Part of the charm of being a fan of the Chicago Cubs is knowing that your patience will pay off a thousandfold when/if the Cubs ever win the World Series (The Cubs last won it all in 1908). But I'm tired of waiting and the waiting is only made worse with all of the frustrating decisions made over the last few years made by Chicago's front office. Theo Epstein, President of Baseball Operations for the Cubs, has not been able to duplicate the success he saw as General Manager of the Boston Red Sox, where he was part of two world championship teams. He made one of his bros from his Red Sox days, Jed Hoyer, the General Manager of the Cubs and Hoyer is probably responsible for the questionable hiring of Rick Renteria to be the current manager of the Cubs (Hoyer and Renteria have roots in the San Deigo Padres organization). I have not watched any Cubs games this year but I get a final score update sent to my phone after every game. More often than not, the Cub lose and they lose by a lot of runs. Other than first baseman Anthony Rizzo and shortstop Starlin Castro, I can't name a single position player on the roster. When Jeff Samardzija is considered your ace pitcher, you know things are bad. You may remember Samardzija from his college football days at Notre Dame.

But there is a glimmer of hope. The Cubs owners have recently decided make some significant upgrades to Wrigley Field in a move that I think will instill some much-needed team pride. I was once someone that loved Wrigley for her rich nostalgia. But that park is 100 years old now (the Cubs even managed to screw up Wrigley’s centennial celebration) and it is really lacking in areas that benefit the players. There is no bullpen - pitchers and catchers have to warm up just off the playing field in foul territory. You just know the locker rooms are undesirable too. The Cubs are probably the only team in baseball that look forward to road trips! But, I like the announcement - it shows that the owners are tired of waiting too.

This week, I love Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Anthony Bourdain is an accomplished chef from New York that gained notoriety after writing his book, Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly. You may know Bourdain from his popular television show titled, Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations. After this show’s 9th and final season on the Travel Channel, Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown began airing on CNN in 2013. I recently became aware of Unknown on Netflix and had it not been for a little boy’s need to get his Thomas the Train fix, I would have blown through every available episode by now. In each episode, Bourdain travels to non-typical locations, samples the local fare and provides a brief history of each destination. It’s a great way to learn about different cities and cultures. This show also contains excellent reminders that there are some poor, poor, poor people on this planet and God has provided me much, much, much more than I actually need. The following clip is from an episode filmed during his trip to Canada. He did not hang out with poor people on this particular trip.

This week, I don’t like the Wrigley Rooftops. This announcement I mentioned above does not come without controversy. One of the main reasons that prevented the Cubs from making these improvements is the existence of the Wrigley Field Rooftop Association - real estate owners with well-placed bleachers on top of buildings that are across the street from the outfield. These groups charge discounted admission to people who don’t mind watching the Cubs play from afar. The Cubs aren't big fans of these groups and had to work out an agreement several years ago that allowed the Rooftops to remain in business for a hefty fee. The new renovations to Wrigley Field call for changes that would obstruct the view from the Rooftops and more legal action is anticipated, which will likely delay the renovations and the amenities needed for a better team.

Photo Courtesy

Apr 29, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week, I like Billionaire. I've stated in the past how much I enjoy movies that feature tales of financial scandal. Billionaire somewhat falls into this category and is a real-life account of Larry Hillblom, co-founder of shipping giant DHL (he’s the “H”). I won’t overshare details of this documentary, which you can watch for free on Hulu, but Larry relocated to Micronesia in order avoid paying taxes on his mountain of money in the US. After Larry’s early and unexpected death, the real drama began when his estate’s executors tried to honor Larry’s will (and the fact that he named no heirs) despite multiple island children coming forward to claim their piece of the pie. That’s all I’m going to share. Please watch the film for yourself - you will enjoy it. If you’re like me, you’ll be blown away about the massive dollar amounts that were discussed in the aftermath of Larry’s death.

Here’s a clip from a TV special that covered the same drama.

This week, I love my Mashie. It’s a little-known fact that one’s success on the golf course has a lot to do with the alignment of the cosmos. I really hope I don’t jinx the great relationship that I’m currently enjoying with my Cleveland Mashie hybrid golf club, but I really need to show it some love for its cooperation as of late. We haven’t always been on speaking terms - it’s mostly produced gnarly hooks for me since I obtained it on the cheap off of eBay a few years ago. But something’s clicked lately and I've managed to hit some nice shots with it, even from a bunker. Thanks to the cheesy infomercial Cleveland developed to sell Mashies, these clubs have a bit of a gimmicky stigma to overcome. But it gets the job done for me as long as I keep in mind the time-tested swing thoughts of “don’t swing hard” and “let the club do the work”.

This week, I don’t like the hype surrounding the recent unearthing of a bunch of E.T. games at a landfill. Before I give you the back story on this event, you need to get a clear understanding of the rise and fall of video games in the early 1980’s. Atari made huge waves with their home consoles but there was about a 2 or 3-year period of video game nothingness prior to the success of the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985. Many people blame Atari for this gap thanks to their horrible, uninspired games that drove people away from video games. The E.T. game made by Atari and based on the hit movie is largely considered to be the absolute worst game ever made. Although I've never played this game, I would have to agree based on this gameplay footage.

{Photo Courtesy}

As the story goes, sales of the E.T. game were so poor that retailers shipped their unsold supply back to Atari. Decades later, a rumor that Atari buried all of their E.T. inventory in a landfill began making the rounds online. This added to the lore of this game’s history and it wasn't long before the rumor was confirmed by a former Atari executive (or something like that). Flash forward to last week’s unearthing, which was heavily documented:

This all leaves me with two questions:
  1. What did this accomplish? Good job on your big find but seriously...you do know why items are sent to landfills, don’t you? 
  2. Uh, did anyone else notice the near-pristine condition of some of those boxes and instruction manuals? I would expect the plastic game cartridges to hold up fairly well to 30 years of underground conditions but not the paper goods! HOLY COW - that stuff hasn’t decomposed one bit!! I know the games, boxes, etc. were probably held within other containers but...WOW.

Apr 10, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week, I like Amazon’s Wish List feature. This embodies the next-level laziness and an aversion to interacting with other people that is brought on by the Internet. Let’s say I’m browsing the web and come across a neat t-shirt that I would like to own. Using the Amazon Wish List extension on my browser, a simple click of a button adds this shirt to a list of other items that I've added to a Wish List that’s associated with my Amazon profile. I can add or delete items at any time and even share a link to my Wish List with others. Adding items to my Wish List has become my newest hobby.

This week, I love food trucks. April 6th was “Food Truck Fellowship Sunday” at Covenant Presbyterian Church. Four (4!!) local food trucks were on site to serve up a variety of great food after church and Sunday school. I don’t get to enjoy this type of dining experience very often so I was really looking forward to digging in. They did not disappoint! Best of the bunch had to be Off the Hook - I had some great shrimp tacos and Julie had some awesome “rocket shrimp”. The size and taste of these shrimp FAR exceeded my expectations. It was hard to believe that something so tasty was prepared inside of a truck! I don’t know why I had a less-than-stellar impression of food trucks and food truck cuisine before this experience but I will always keep my eyes peeled for food trucks from now on.

Graham loved the food too but I think he liked the “bounce houses” the church set up even more.

This week, I don’t like NPR pledge drives. So, I've been listening to NPR a lot in my car lately. Before you label me a tree-huggin’ Democrat, know that NPR programming is surprisingly entertaining and their news segments are very informative. You've gotta love the somber tone use by the on-air personalities too...very soothing for post-work, rush hour traffic. NPR’s advertising-free stance is a definite bonus too since programs like The Rick and Bubba Show feature 49 minutes of ads per hour. You’ll never hear a full-on ad like you will on other stations.

Ah, but all good things must come to an end (at least for a little bit). WBHM, the local NPR affiliate, is currently hosting a pledge drive in which they constantly ask listeners to donate money to the station. This has been driving me crazy. They've got everyone from the general manager to the station janitor coming on air and reminding people how much a donation means. What’s worse is that they know it’s annoying. They try to compensate by regularly stating that WBHM is cutting the number of pledge drives in half this year. That’s a nice thought but all that really does is create a situation for a higher dosage of pledge drive begging!

I guess I should take comfort in knowing that the current pledge drive will be over soon and that we can get back to regular to normal programming that hits close to home.

Mar 29, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week, I like This Old House. I’m handy to the point where Julie keeps me around. Not only am I without the knowledge of how to frame a door, I really can’t say I have the desire to frame a door. But I really like watching that kind of stuff on This Old House. I can’t explain it. It’s amazing to watch some of the jobs they accomplish in just half an hour! OK, kidding - but I do like the continuation they have for each season’s house. I like all of the characters on the show too - Tom’s got little-man syndrome, Norm rarely picks up a tool, Roger (or Rahjah) seems to have a decent green thumb for a Yankee, Richard the plumber is really sarcastic and they ALL give Kevin the host a hard time. Interesting side note: as much as I like This Old House, I couldn't care less about Ask This Old House.

TOH's opening theme has come a long way since things began in 1980:

This week, I love Hoverpost. This is work-related but I really, really like this new tool I stumbled across just the other day. In general, working in the marketing world is all about proving your worth. We love us some analytics. In turn, social media is all about keeping it short and sweet - especially with URL links that eat up valuable character space. Hoverpost helps handle all of the above. Basically, it’s a URL shortener that produces a link that, when clicked, will display embeddable media over your website. So, when the viewer finishes watching the video you linked (for example), your website will appear. Hoverpost provides added pageviews for your website AND the analytics to track your clicks!

Here’s a real-life example: I shared a link to a YouTube video on my employer’s Facebook page earlier this week. Rather than using my normal URL shortener, I used Hoverpost. Click this link to see the results: http://hovr.us/2oviP

This week, I don’t like being a victim of leftism. No, this doesn’t have anything to do with political preferences. Leftism - or maybe I should say rightism? - pertains to the ratio of right-hand golf clubs to left-handed golf clubs in the marketplace. I’ve played golf for the majority of my life now and while the availability of left-handed equipment has tremendously improved over the last two decades, dexterity equality is a concept that has always seemed unattainable by us lefties. I was recently saddened to learn that some of the major equipment manufacturers are still incorporating leftist practices into their production lines. Long story short, I found out that the loft/bounce combo for a particular wedge I like is not available in a left-handed model. This is a REAL problem. It is 2014, people - it is time for this unfair treatment to end. Please write to your Congressman on my behalf.

Of course, I could always follow Bubba's lead:

Mar 21, 2014


While paroosing Pinterest a few weeks ago I stumbled upon this picture

Aren't those zinnias AMAZING!  So I clicked on the link and it took me to Floret Flower Farm Blog

Warning do not even start unless you have a few hours to devote to reading.  I was instantly sucked in.  In a nutshell Erin and her family live in Washington state and own/operate a small flower farm.  The blog is packed full of stories of their family, information on different flowers, daily life on the farm, and gobs and gobs of the most beautiful flower pictures you have ever seen.  Definitely check it out when you have time.  

After spending days reading through all of the posts from the last few years.  I decided that I wanted to give gardening a shot.  I have dabbled with it here and there in the past, but really haven't put the time and research into it that I feel like is needed to be successful.  Also I have been aching for a new hobby/project. Aching may be a strong word, but see I have this slightly wonderful, slightly irritating drive within me.  I come by it honestly...my grandmother was the exact same way.  When I am interested in something rather than take the easy way and just buy the product or hire someone to do it for me...I am compelled to do it myself. 

On one hand it is a good quality, but there have been so many times I have found myself knee deep in something and thought why must I always make this harder on myself (like the time I reupholstered a sofa...click here.  Never again.).  But for some crazy reason I love the process of learning a new skill...reading, taking classes, talking to experts, etc.  And if I'm honest with myself the main reason I do it is that I relish in the sense of accomplishment once I'm done.  For me there is just something invigorating about pouring yourself into something, working hard then stepping back and being proud of what you have made.  

To date I have gone down this road with smocking, sewing, upholstery, and calligraphy.  It just seams like gardening is the next logical choice for me.   

So here goes nothing!  My seeds arrived yesterday and the growing cell trays should be here soon.  I hope to get everything planted next week!  

If anyone reading this is an experienced gardener and has any tips/recommendations to offer I would welcome any and all advice.  

Mar 20, 2014

Spring Begins

I need all of the help I can get! :)

Feb 27, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week, I like Fish Dogs. Recently, Julie and I dined on fried fish fillets. They were delicious. We had some bonus fish (aka: leftovers) so the next night, while Julie was out of town, I got creative in the kitchen. You may not enjoy the fish filet sandwiches from McDonald's as much as me but I really wanted to replicate this delicacy using the bonus fish. However, I ran into an obstacle when I realized that we didn't have any hamburger buns. I did what anyone would do in this situation and grabbed the hot dog buns. (Did I mention that the creative juices were already flowing?) A strip of oven-warmed bonus fish + warm hot dog bun + tartar sauce = goodness. I give you the Fish Dog, America. You are welcome.
The inspiration for the Fish Dog.

This week, I love my Bible app. **HYPOCRITE ALERT**HYPOCRITE ALERT** In the past, I've mentioned my disappointment in people that use iPads in Church as opposed to the pew Bible that’s sitting less than a foot away. But, after installing a Bible app on my new phone, I must say that it is hard to beat. The app I use makes navigating to scriptures very easy and gives me the option to read from any version under the sun. I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to those of you that worship with your mobile devices.

Of course, it's never a bad idea to keep The Good Book on you at all times.

This week, I don’t like iMessage. That new phone I mentioned above? It’s not an iPhone. I really like my Android phone but I may have stayed with Apple had I known about a very common problem people encounter when switching to Android from Apple. After making the switch myself, it became very clear that I was having difficulty receiving texts from my contacts with iPhones. After much research (that I would have never known to make prior to making the switch), I determined that the issue was far greater than a matter of me being listed as an “iPhone” in my contacts’ phones. No, the problem stemmed from the fact that Apple’s iMessage feature had latched onto my phone number - and wouldn't let go. It’s been likened an iOS 7 bug and it won’t let iPhones make the distinction between phone numbers that accept iMessages or SMS texts. This created a very frustrating situation for me (and many others). A tip from the Internet eventually led me to call Apple Support and request to revoke my iMessage certificate. I mean...who would have known to do that? Everything seems to be working properly now but this ordeal was a scary reminder of the evil, sinister ways of Apple and the safety and trustworthiness of Google.

I’m kidding people! Calm down! I know that Google is Big Brother.

Feb 15, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week, I like Native American history. Julie and I enjoyed watching Dances with Wolves earlier this week. It had been a long time since either of us had watched this classic movie. As I watched, I thought about how this movie (released in 1990) was probably one of the first mainstream films to feature Native Americans as victims of America's western expansion. Wolves also made me remember how much I enjoyed Ken Burns' American West series, which is what gave me the majority of my limited knowledge of Native American history. It's not a very "happy" history but it's really something to think that there was a time when whole cultures thrived using only the survival techniques they developed over hundreds of years.

This week, I love thinking about my birthday lunch. At the beginning of 2014, I severely altered my lifestyle by cutting out all sodas from my diet and eating only small portions of my wife's delicious cooking. I'm happy with the weight-loss results but I miss some elements of my old lifestyle. I've decided that I will treat myself on my birthday this year, which falls on a Saturday. I might enjoy thinking about what I'm going to eat more than I'll actually enjoy eating this food. Here are some options that have been on my mind lately:
  • Doritos Locos Tacos from Taco Bell. I never have been a frequent patron of Taco Bell but my goodness - these things have been catchin' my eye lately.
  • Five Guys Burger and Fries. Cheeseburger with ketchup and pickles, please.
  • Southwestern Eggrolls from Chili's. I never said this would be a classy list.

These are all items that I would normally wash down with a Coke. Even though I am going to splurge a little on my birthday in terms of food, I plan on staying committed to my no-soda lifestyle. Just FYI.

This week, I don't like Keyboard Courage. One of the biggest holidays of the year, National Signing Day, recently occurred. Thousands of high school football players indicated where they'll be playing (and studying) next year. Shortly after, hundreds of thousands of anonymous college football fans took to the Internet to display their loyalty to their favorite school while using juvenile tactics to belittle other fans that don't share their same views. There's no better example of keyboard courage than the clowns that seemingly spend all day posting comments on football articles at al.com. The very worst aspect of this epidemic is that not one of these blowhards have the fortitude to use their real name or feature their photo as their avatar. A few months ago, I applauded Google for requiring YouTube users to use their real name and likeness to post comments. That decision was met with a mountain of backlash (even from one of the founders of YouTube) and it now seems that Google has caved under the pressure. If al.com put a similar overhaul into play, the viciousness seen there would decrease dramatically.

Feb 5, 2014

Rub 'n Buff

If you do Pinterest or read DIY blogs you are more than likely familiar with Rub 'n Buff.  If you aren't familiar with this glorious little tube of goodness....allow me to introduce you.  In a nutshell it is an alternative to spray paint that works on a variety of surfaces to give a different finish.  It comes in a ton on colors, but the most popular is the Antique Gold which is was I bought.

I found mine at Michael's in the fine arts section. (near the professional paints and brushes)

I've had it for several months and have a number of projects that I want to tackle.  However,  in typical Julie fashion it sat in the drawer for two months until I finally pulled it out a few weeks ago to give it a try.

Graham's crib was first on my list.  I love this crib, but at first I hated the wheels.  I was ready to take them off when we were putting the crib together 2 years ago, but my best friend, Kiley, urged me to leave them on.  See she is more experienced and wiser than I am.  For once I listened to her, and am so thankful that I did.  We are constantly wheeling the crib away from the wall to change the sheets, hunt for pacifiers, or make the lamps out of arms reach (we learned that one the hard way).  

So taking the wheels off wasn't an option, but I still hated the nasty, bright yellow plastic wheel covers. Aren't they terrible! For a while I thought about painting them black, but was afraid if the paint chipped that the gold would stand out even more, and I certainly didn't want that.  So I decided to try Rub 'n Buff.

The wheel on the Left has RnB and the one on the right doesn't.  So much better right?  I think so.  It is still gold, but not the horrible yellowy gold.

And the best part is it took me all of 10 minutes to do all 4 wheels.  I just rubbed it on with my finder and let it dry.  After a few hours of drying I lightly buffed it with a clean, dry towel.  DONE! No taping, no brushes, no mess....That's my kind of project.

Hoping to have some time in the next few weeks to tackle another RnB project or two!

Feb 4, 2014

Julie's Take on the January 28th Winter Weather

I'm not going to rehash the story since Nick covered most everything, but I did want to add some pictures from our (more specifically me and Graham) 73 hours being home bound.

In the beginning Graham was content watching the snow out the playroom window, but as it began to get thicker...he started to let me know that he wanted to check out this white stuff.

Around 4:00 when it had actually stopped snowing I let him venture outside.  There were about 3 inches of snow on the ground and the temperature was around 21.  

He walked around, but quickly decided that the gloves were hindering his ability to pick thing up so those had to go. 

Approximately two minutes after the gloves were shed the tears started falling.  His hands were freezing, and his interest in being outside was over!  

Flash forward 24 hours to Thursday and this was our reaction when Nick called to say that he made it back to his truck and was on his way home!

He was happy to be home.  I was thrilled for him to be home, and Graham finally had his playmate back!  Everyone was happy.

That afternoon when it was about 45 outside we decided to let Graham have a second go at the snow (what was left of it).  He kept his gloves on this time and had a blast.

I was ready for Spring before January 28th, but now I am BEYOND ready.  We don't do cold.  We obviously don't do snow and ice.  So let's just be done with it already!

Jan 30, 2014

My Take on the January 28th Winter Weather

So how was your January 28th?

If you live in most parts of the southeast United States, it probably wasn't very fun. The unexpected winter weather that hit Birmingham, Atlanta and all points in between really served as a knockout punch.

The day started off like any normal day. Snowflakes tend to really get people's attention in the Birmingham - but not because of it's pleasant appearance. No, snow makes people in these parts immediately cringe at the thought of school closings and driving conditions for which none of us are prepared.

My office building is located on Valleydale Road, very close to Hwy 31. When my employer made the call to send everyone home at 10:30 am on January 28th, I figured the best route to my home in the Hwy 280 area would be to take Hwy 31 over to Co Rd 119. I would last only about 50 yards on Hwy 31 as my tires lost all traction, just like everyone else around me. For some reason that I can't explain, I opted to back down into the Walgreens parking lot located on the corner of Hwy 31 and Helena Road to gather my thoughts. It didn't feel like it at the time, but this was a good decision. It seemed that the first of the snowfall melted on the paved roads and quickly froze - creating a sheet of ice on most surfaces. The snow that continued to fall didn't help the situation. Even vehicles equipped with 4WD were no match for the ice.

I instantly knew that I would not be able to drive home anytime soon but I assumed that the traffic situation would improve shortly. To kill some time, I walked to the IHOP restaurant that's located next to the Walgreens. I enjoyed a nice lunch and had the place all to myself.

A few other travelers joined me in IHOP after about an hour. But the staff politely informed us that the restaurant was closing and we had to leave. I paid for my meal and walked back to Walgreens. The snow was still falling at this point so I took a quick photo of the IHOP as I left.

Traffic had still not improved so I went into the Walgreens to purchase a magazine and snacks to keep me occupied in my truck while I continued to wait for the traffic to continue. I was not cold in my truck but watching over an unchanging scene at the intersection of Hwy 31 and Helena Road made me realize that I was not going to get home anytime soon. Here's a video I shot with my phone to recap the situation:

I spent the next few hours going from my truck back to Walgreens and the only thing that changed was the temperature - it was getting colder. The snow had stopped falling but I was not excited about the posibility of continuing my truck-to-Walgreens routine all night. However, it seemed like Walgreens was making the most of their surge in business.

Well played, Walgreens.

Several attempts to contact nearby motels were unsuccessful. I managed to contact my best friend that lived nearby to explore the possibility of staying at his house. It turned out that he was stuck at his office and his wife was actually at my house with Julie. He was fully supportive of me staying at his house...even though doing so would require me to break a window to get into his house.

At about 4:00 pm, I made the decision to start driving towards my friend's house. I turned left out of the Walgreens parking lot onto Helena Road and my tires immediately lost traction. Two kind gentlemen that were walking by helped push my truck all the way up to the next intersection and I turned right onto Old Montgomery Hwy. I managed to go about 200 yards before the back of my vehicle seemingly spun out from under me and I came to rest halfway in a ditch. Fortunately, I was right in front of an auto repair shop and the owner was at the ready with his four wheeler. He pushed my truck out of the ditch and offered for me to park in his lot. The road ahead was long and uphill so I quickly took him up on his offer.

By the crow flies, I was only a few hundred yards from my friend's house. But I'm not a crow and found myself walking almost a mile to his home. I'm not sure if it was adrenalin or the fast pace of my walk but I never got unbearably cold or numb during the walk. I took some photos of the winter scene before bringing myself to break my buddy's window.

I really didn't want to break the window and the first items I attempted to use were not successful. I borrowed a hammer from the neighbor and broke the window on the second swing.

I made my way into the house (still not very cold) and placed phone calls to some very worried people. I then cleaned up the broken glass to the best of my abilities and made a makeshift patch for the window.

I parked myself on my buddy's couch and tried to wrap my mind around what just happened. I watched the local news on in glorious HD while I ate some of the snacks from Walgreens.

More phone calls and more TV but soon I was off to sleep - warm, dry and safe thanks to my friends.

The roads were still icy on the morning of the 29th. Newscasters were encouraging everyone to stay put. I imagined that the neighborhood roads looked like my friend's driveway - like an ice skating rink.

I passed the time with phone calls, texts and watching TV. I'm pretty sure I watched the only appearance or mention of Red Man chewing tobacco in the entire Miami Vice series.

In addition to bad driving conditions, my friends had another big concern at hand. They had been unable to reach their 2 year old son at his school. I cannot even begin to understand how frustrating and frightening that situation must have felt. Fortunately, they were both able to make their way home the afternoon of the 29th. Even better, my buddy was able to pick up his son on his way home. It was a big relief when their family was all together again and we all took a minute to enjoy the snow with their son.

We continued to watch the news and what I saw didn't make me feel as if I could drive home. My friends allowed me to stay another night. We traded war stories while we ate a great dinner before hitting the hay.

On the morning of the 30th, we continued to watch news reports as the temperature climbed to the upper teens. It was encouraging to see more cars driving past the house so at about 11:00 am, my friend and I decided to make our way to our cars, in opposite directions. The road conditions had vastly improved - and the temperature hadn't even eclipsed the freezing point yet. The day was only going to get better. I finished the walk back to my truck and took a quick photo of the auto repair shop so that I could remember to thank them properly later.

I noticed some lingering icy patches on the roads on the way back home but I bet they didn't last long as the day continued to warm. Many cars remained along the roadsides but many drivers were also getting their cars out of the way. Driving slow and carefully, it didn't take me long to get home - and I had two very happy people waiting to greet me when I arrived!

Thinking back on the whole experience, I realize that the best outcome for me definitely played out. Had I decided to go home on Valleydale Road, I would have gotten stuck just like hundreds of other people. But I would have been nowhere near my house or my friend's house. The Lord was watching over me and got me as far as I could go. When I couldn't go any further, He put me right in front of that auto repair shop. I'm so thankful for my friends (Emily and Clay Branch) for allowing me to break their window and to stay in their home. I really, really don't know what I would have done without them. Don't worry guys - Julie has already been in touch with a window repairman!

I'm also thankful for all the prayers that everyone sent up for me - they really worked!

If you will excuse me now, I've got to pack a winter survival bag to keep in my truck and obtain a copy of my friend's house key!