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!

Jan 24, 2014

conversation diary

I stumbled on a new blog this week, conversation diary by Jennifer Fulwiler.  I don't know much about her, but this week she posted 22 things I learned in my first 10 years of parenthood.  The list is so funny and definitely worth reading, but number 19 was my personal favorite:

"19.  It would be awesome if your kids could have a mom who had the holiness of Mother Teresa, the energy of Mary Poppins, and the domestic skills of Martha Stewart. But if you’re not there yet, saying “I love you guys and I love Jesus and I’m doing the best I can” works too."

If you are interested you can read the entire list here.

Jan 18, 2014

Like, Love and Don't Like

This week I like Google Keep. There's nothing overly exciting about Google Keep. It's very simple - and that's what so great about it.

Google Keep allows you to jot down a note or list from any device thanks to Google Drive. I've always been the type to write down a to-do list on a scrap piece of paper, only to lose the piece of paper. Google Keep has almost completely replaced the old paper method for me and it really keeps me on track.

This week, I love the Pioneer Woman. I've never met this woman and couldn't pick her out of a lineup but I sure do like her cookin'. To be more specific, Julie has really been knocking dinner out of the park lately thanks to PW's recipes. Julie recently made some steak strips that were so good that I almost could not stop eating them. Plus, I kinda feel like I'm eating some sort of dangerous, exotic meat when I know that the recipe came from someone with the word "Pioneer" in their stage kitchen name.

Didn't see me going there, did ya?
This week, I don't like Internet problems. In addition to all of her other many duties, Julie has been working tirelessly to put the nice, new modem and wireless router we got for Christmas to good use. Unfortunately, this hasn't been as simple as unplugging the old equipment and installing the new pieces. Our Internet provider, Charter Communications, has been slightly helpful but it's taken Julie many long phone calls and multiple visits from technicians to get the new equipment functioning. She's done a great job while exhibiting much, much more patience than I would have shown. Everything is working great now, except for one odd issue. Much like Graham, our Internet doesn't like waking up in the morning. You can count on the Internet going out for short periods at approximately the same time each morning. When you've got a little boy that really likes to watch train videos, those few minutes seem like an eternity. 

Woo woo!

Jan 7, 2014

Good Stuff

I am amazed at the originality and creativity I put into my titles...aren't you?  I out-due myself sometimes. We have recovered from Christmas and are looking forward to a low key, relaxing January.

For the past month or so I've come across several items/recipes/projects that I am in LOVE with.  Since I don't work and rarely have time to talk to my friends on the phone....I just figured that I would share them on the blog and maybe someone will find one (or all of them) useful!

#1  I'll be honest.  I ONLY bought these because they were B1G1 at Publix a few weeks ago, and I had a coupon.  Since we are the throes of cold and flu season you can never have too may anti-bacterial products. So I ended up with these because the shelves were almost wiped clean by the time I got around to shopping that week, and this was the only variety left.

The great thing about them is one side of the wipe is rough and can be used as a scrubber.  While the other side is soft and perfect for wiping.  These reside under my kitchen sink, and I use them mainly for cleaning the kitchen counter and stove, but since Graham is obsessed with coloring they also wipe up stray crayon marks very well.

#2  I've never really spent a whole lot of time on my skin care regimen, well that is until after I had Graham and exhaustion set in and those pesky hormones somehow changed my skin from extra oily to combination.  How does that happen?  It probably also has something to do with the fact that I'm not 21 anymore.  Regardless it became overly apparent to me about a year ago that I needed to step up my skin care efforts.  I've tried a number of products, but this is one of my favorites so far.

Fresh Lotus Youth Preserve Face Cream.  I apply it every night all over my face and neck.  It is very thick which at first I didn't think I would like, but it is the good kind of thick.  When I apply it I can instantly feel my skin soaking it up.  I've been using it for a little over two weeks, and I am not lying when I say my skin hasn't felt this good in...I can't even remember when it felt this good.  It is hydrated (despite our frigid temperature lately), but not oily, and I even feel like it is beginning to even out some of my splotchyness.  It does smell like cucumbers so if you aren't a fan of that scent you may not like it, but I'm in love with it and so thankful that my tired, combination skin is getting the help it needed.

#3  My mother-in-law is full of useful advice, but over Christmas she showed me something that rocked my world...well that may be a stretch.  Did you know that at the end of the aluminum foil boxes there are perforations for you to punch in so that the roll stays in place and doesn't pull out of the box when you are trying to tear some off?  WHO KNEW?  I certainly didn't.  Such a good and useful thing to know.

#4  Lately I've been making a more concerted effort to add some new recipes to our normal rotation, and recently I come across two that are great and worth sharing:

Pioneer Woman - Salisbury Steak

I know it doesn't sound appealing, but it is DELICIOUS!   I have made it a few times, and Nick tells me that it is possibly his new favorite...and it's one of my top choices as well.  Try it!

Best Ham Sandwich Ever

My mom introduced me to these over Christmas, and they are just awesome.  It seems weird when you are making them, but the results are beyond delicious.

#5  You may remember that last year at this time one of my resolutions was 30 Bags in 30 Days.  As I reported later in the year I didn't quite get it done in 30 days, but I did complete my list eventually.  I loved this so much I decided to do it again this year.  I worked on my list of spaces that needed to be cleaned out and at the top was the pantry.  It was a complete mess and gave me anxiety every time I opened the door.  So on New Years Eve I set out to not only clean it out but give it some much needed organization.  There are tons of different ways and methods of going about this, but I tried to pull tips and techniques from several different places to come up with a plan that worked for our needs and our space.  Here is the before and after.

I found these baskets at Wal-Mart for $2.50/ea.  They are a great size and the handles make them very accessible.

I also found these at Wal-Mart.  They were between $4.50-$7.00 each depending on the size.  They are dishwasher safe and airtight which are both pluses in my book.  I've been eyeing the OXO band containers at Target that are very similar to these, but they are around $15 each and since I ended up buying about 12....those weren't quite in the budget.  I am beyond pleased with the ones from Wal-Mart!

I purchased two of these cereal containers from Publix, and I noticed that they are 50% off this week!  I may have to pick up one more!

The baskets are from Michaels.  I wasn't sure I was going to like these, so I left the tags on just in case...but after living with it for a week I pretty sure I'm keeping them.  They are a great place for paper products and chips.

By using the new containers I eliminated over 35 boxes!  It does require a little bit more effort when putting up groceries, but I LOVE that I can see how much I have left of something.  I am also hoping that since these are airtight containers that our food will stay fresher longer!  This process took me almost all day, but it was WELL worth the time and effort!

My apologies for the random nature of this list but maybe one of these will become one of your favorites too!