Monday, November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving Family Reunion

Sisters....the reason we were all together
Several months ago all of my side of the family agreed to come to Birmingham to visit over Thanksgiving and attend another Iron Bowl.  I immediately started planning, as there is nothing better than entertaining all of our family right here!  In addition, it was the first time for many of them to meet Walker and Lucy in person.  Though Facebook (and this blog) have been a great way to keep tabs on all of us, it is always nice to spend face to face time with family.

By Wednesday, my parents, Lisa and the kids and Aunt Sue and Uncle Jim arrived.  Since everyone wanted to catch up, and they had all been traveling that day....we opted to have food catered at our house.  We chowed on Taco Mama, drank margaritas and stayed up late visiting.

Thanksgiving day started with a walk, some mimosas, and then cooking.  Everyone began arriving by lunch, and we were well into enjoying our day by the time the Forrey's arrived.  We visited with everyone late into the night, and had a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner!  Steve smoked a turkey and chicken, and fried another turkey and chicken.  The rest of us contributed the other traditional sides.  We ate, drank, told stories and laughed a lot!

One of my faves, except it is missing Walker

All 12 great-grandchildren from Docky and Papa (both only children)!
Who doesn't like a selfie?

Steve showing us how it is done
We were a little slower on Friday morning, but ultimately got a group together to go clay shooting at Selwood Farms, a locally owned place about an hour south of Birmingham).  Those that didn't join us watched football, shopped or babysat the little ones.  Being a newbie to Selwood, and having not shot a gun in over a decade, I didn't do well, but it was a lot of fun.  We broke into two groups, one led by Steve and the other by Brian.  The only true competition was between Alex and Jim, and they tied at the end.

Dad did well
the whole gang before we left Selwood
After we returned, we all quickly showered so we could all meet up at Gian Marcos for a yummy Italian dinner where we had more fun, did more eating, and consumed a lot more wine!

For our final day together, we caravanned to Tuscaloosa for our 2nd Iron Bowl together.  The Mizeranys hosted all of us at their tailgate, and we all had a great time.  Unlike four years ago, it was a beautiful sunny day!  Since Jenna is beginning her college search, Steve walked us all around campus for a tour.  We swung by the bookstore to load up on Alabama gear, and then returned to the tailgate for game preparation.  Thankfully Alabama crushed Auburn this time around, so it was a win for everyone (but Brian)!  Unfortunately, the traffic following the game was horrendous, so it took us several hours to get home.  Sadly everyone flew out early the next morning.

So until we all meet again for Alex and Avery's wedding....

Sunday, November 20, 2016

A Saturday in Tuscaloosa

Entering the stadium
Saturday, Steve and Preston drove to Tuscaloosa to catch the Bama-UT-Chattanooga game.  It was supposed to be a blowout, but Preston didn't care.  He was dying to go to a game! 

Since the temperature dropped the night before, they bundled up and spent the afternoon tailgating with family.  They ate, drank, walked around the quad, and finally went into the game.  During their walk, Steve was able to score two club level passes so he and Pres lucked out with food and drinks.  Even though the kick wasn't until 6pm, Preston amazingly hung in there and enjoyed the whole complaining about being tired or cold.

Of course, eating nachos, drinking coke, and eating candy and ice cream sandwiches helped his mood, and energy level.  What a fun father-son day!

Right before he got on the jumbotran!

Really?  Look at all of that candy!!

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Another Grandpal's Day in the Books!

Shades Cahaba continued their tradition of hosting Grandpal's Day the Friday before school lets out for a week long Thanksgiving break.  And Louis and Myra fulfilled their grandparent duty by touring SCE for the 5th year in a row, meeting the kids teachers, and seeing their handcrafted art projects.  The kids love taking them around like they have never seen the school before! 

Preston's Clay Owl

Bennett's self-portrait & thankful wishes

Walker was so excited to see B and P!
Like last year, I volunteered to help out.  It is always nice to see how excited the grandparents are to be there, particularly those new to SCE.  Of course, our kids are always thrilled to have guests too, so I thank Louis and Myra for coming to support Bennett and Preston.

After Myra and Louis left, I checked the kids out of school early so we could surprise Walker at his class Thanksgiving party.  He was over the moon to see the three of us!  He even gave them a tour of his classroom.

My littlest love (showing his new cheesy grin)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Country Concert Circuit

With the Smiths and Passarellas at Chris Stapleton
Over the years Steve and I have grown to really enjoy country music more and more.  So each year, if one of our favorites comes to the area, we jump on the opportunity to see them.  This year was a great year!

We drove to Tuscaloosa twice in two weeks in October to see Chris Stapleton and Dierks Bentley perform, and then saw Carrie Underwood in November here in Birmingham.  It was a great two months of shows!

Leah, me and Kathryn Hornbuckle

Dierks put on a ridiculous show!

With the Passarellas at the Dierks Bentley concert
To top off the awesome shows, we were able to go with such fun friends.  We hired a driver to both concerts in Tuscaloosa so we could enjoy ourselves there and back, and then it was a date night for just us when we went to see Carrie Underwood.

What a fun Fall!
Carrie was beautiful and awesome!

Steve and me at Carrie Underwood

Friday, November 11, 2016

Happy Belated 10th Anniversary to Us!

Our first night!
At the beginning of the year, we decided that we were going to celebrate our 10 year anniversary with a vacation.  However, we wanted to spread out our vacations, so we chose November!  We researched a lot of places, and finally decided that we would go somewhere closer to home where we could catch up on sleep and scuba dive.  We settled on Tulum, Mexico - a city about 80 miles south of Cancun.   In Tulum, you’ll find the remains of a walled Mayan city on the sea dating back to the 12th century, the Great Maya Reef (also known as the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef), which runs along the coast down to Belize (over 620 miles), and over 7,000 cenotes, which are natural sinkholes filled with water.

We chose an all-inclusive resort which ended up being just okay.  However, thankfully we slept A LOT, and had some awesome dives.  We spent the first couple of days just sleeping, crazy how tired we really were.  Thankfully the weather was pretty good while we were there, despite being at the tail end of hurricane season.  Relaxing by the pool and beach, reading, and eating was just what the doctor ordered for the first couple of days.  By Sunday we were ready to start doing something, so we did a diving refresher in the pool since it had been 10.5 years since our previous dives.

Dinner at Portofino (Italian restaurant on property)

Spinytail Iguanas were everywhere!

Swinging by the pool bar while awaiting a refill

Monday morning we went out with our divemaster and three other people to dive around the second largest reef in the world.  To say I was excited to see a sea turtle after being down for only 10 minutes was an understatement!  We followed it around for a bit, and then swam off to see more of the reef.  We saw a barracuda, lobster, lion fish, and a variety of other small fish.  We swam through some reefs, and could see all the way to the top from about 35-40 feet down.  We did a two tank dive that morning without any issues, and were excited to go back out on Wednesday.

Selfie underwater!

diving through a reef

Tuesday we went out with a different divemaster and another couple.  We went to a nearby cenote, Dos Ojos, and did two dives there.  I was a little nervous going into it, as these caverns are fairly dark, and it feels like you are in a cave.  But as our divemaster explained, they are not caves because natural light does shine through in different spots, and caves dead-end, caverns or cenotes do not.  While we didn't go very deep, and there wasn't much marine life, the dives were so unique and beautiful.  The water was crystal clear and the stalagmites and stalactites were something else.  In addition, when our bubbles floated up and got stuck on the rocks above us, they shimmered.  During our second cenote dive we came up in one area nicknamed "the bat cave" because there were tons of bats hanging above us.  I hate that we didn't have a decent camera, but I had to include a couple I pulled from the internet just so we won't forget its beauty.

The word “cenote” means sacred well.  These caves and underground rivers were created naturally over 6,500 years ago, but have only been explored by divers the past 20 years.  Experienced scuba divers have explored these caves discovering more than 300 miles of interconnected passageways and marked them with string so people can safely dive through them and not get lost.  These cenotes are only found in Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, so we were thrilled to get to dive in one.

A professional photographer got this shot of Steve

That evening we tried our hardest to tune out the election going on back home, but we couldn't.  It sucked us in, and we ended up falling asleep to fox news with Trump winning a couple of key states.  We woke up a couple hours later to him securing more, which left us thinking he would win.  But when we woke up at 2am to Pence giving his acceptance speech, we were STUNNED!  I know the writing was on the wall earlier in the evening, but it still left us shocked.  Not that we were Hillary supporters, but Trump wasn't our top pick either.

During our final full day in Tulum, we took a cab to the Mayan Ruins.  The ruins in Tulum are unique in that they are the only ones built on the coast, which ended up being one of the walls of this very old city.  The city built of limestone still has partial structures throughout its walled city.  Historians have put up signs speculating as to what each building was, and how the people of that time utilized the space.  The inhabitants worshipped the "Descending God," by sculpting angel-like figures with their heads all pointing downward.

panoramic view of the ruins from one of the high points
Steve by the temple, overlooking the cliffs

Great Palace (still amazingly upright)

One of the five doorways into the Mayan city

The afternoon after our tour was spent soaking in the last few hours of relaxation with cocktails on the beach, listening to the waves crash with a book in hand.  Our final dinner was at an Asian inspired restaurant on property.  The following day, we headed home to see our babies and hear everything first hand about how our country excepted our President-Elect Donald Trump!  Happy 10th Anniversary to us, and to MANY more years!