Archives for April 2012

So, You’re Going To LA (Lower Alabama)…

Once or twice a month I’ll get an email from someone who’s planning a vacation and wondering if I have any recommendations about where to stay / where to eat / what to do in the Gulf Shores / Orange Beach area. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination – we only travel down that way two or three times a year at the most – but I thought it might be handy to have the info in a blog post since I’m not always a very strong emailer.

We also love Destin / San Destin / 30A, by the way, but we haven’t been down there in several years. I’m sure some of y’all have great recommendations for that neck of the woods (or beach, so to speak), so feel free to chime in with your favorite spots in the comments.

All righty. Here we go.

Where to Stay –

1) If you don’t mind a short walk or shuttle ride to the beach, Caribe is great for young’uns. They have three huge outdoor pools – two with big water slides – as well as indoor pools in every building. AND there’s a lazy river. We go every summer with my cousins and their kids, and what’s so fun is that you can rotate from pool to pool during the day and kids never get bored. The condos are huge with super-nice kitchens. We rarely eat out when we stay there because it’s so easy to pick up fresh seafood and cook, but there’s a good on-site restaurant called Cobalt that’s a five minute walk from the condos.

The Caribe has three buildings, and we like Building B. That pool is the easiest (to me) in terms of keeping an eye on small kids, and at night it’s rarely crowded. We are fans of the nighttime swimming.

If there’s any drawback, it might be that it can get a little loud next to the pools. Most of the big groups are families, though, so even if they get a little lively, it’s not rowdy. Does that make sense?

2) Turquoise Place is another great place for families, and it’s only a few years old. We’ve never stayed there, but I’ve heard raves about it, and it looks stunning from the outside.

3) Lots of folks here in Birmingham like the Phoenix properties. We’ve only stayed there once, when the little guy was about eight months old, but location-wise it was great. Phoenix West is the newest one, and it seems very nice.

All three places are really close to everything you need. There’s a new-ish Publix that’s in the center of Orange Beach, so you won’t have to go far for groceries.

4) If you go through Orange Beach and cross over the Florida line to Perdido Key (it’s all of 5 miles from Orange Beach – not far at all), there’s a place called Indigo that is absolutely beautiful and has gigantic condos. There are two pools, all sorts of amenities, and gorgeous beach front.

5) Another great place in Perdido is Beach Colony. It’s not in the thick of things as much as some of the places in Orange Beach because it’s at the end of the highway (before it loops back over the bay), and we love it. There are only four units per floor, it’s never very crowded, the pool is great, and there are all sorts of fun places to eat nearby. There’s another new Publix right over the bay bridge, and it’s also convenient to Walmart and Target (maybe y’all plan better than I do, but I always wind up at Target when I go to the beach).

Where To Eat –

Keep in mind that I don’t like to eat anywhere with a wait longer than about 25 minutes. If my option is to wait a sweet forever for a table, I’d rather stay in the condo and fix a grilled cheese. SO, you might not see some of the more popular spots on this list, but that’s because the popular spots typically involve waiting.

(When I can muster the strength, I will tell you about the time we waited almost 2 hours for a table at a really popular place in Perdido, only to leave 15 minutes after we sat down because the table next to us was so loud.)

(Sweet memories.)

(Also, I am a mamaw.)

1) Fisherman’s Corner – Perdido Key

The atmosphere is super-casual, and the food, which has a Cajun flair, is really special. Go early to beat the crowd, and save room for bread pudding.

2) Doc’s Seafood Shack – Gulf Shores or Orange Beach

Doc’s is one of my brother-in-law’s favorite places, and he raves about the hamburgers. The fried shrimp is legendary.

3) Lillian’s Pizza – Perdido Key

If we’re at the beach, we’re going to have pizza from Lillian’s at least one night while we’re there. Delicious.

4) Tacky Jack’s – Orange Beach

Yes, I know it’s tourist-y. But the kids in our family love it, and you can typically get a table at lunch without a wait. I love to sit outside on the bay, and we really like their sandwiches and burgers.

5) Lartigue’s Seafood Market – Gulf Shores

It’s not a restaurant, but when we’re planning meals for the cousins’ beach trip, we know that we’ll get fresh shrimp from Lartigue’s at least three times while we’re there. They have amazing seafood that they’ll steam for you, and oh my goodness – it is out of this world. Take cash, though, because they don’t accept debit or credit cards.

There are also some wonderful, couple-y restaurants, but I didn’t list any of those because we’re usually in family dining mode. However, if you’re on a little getaway with your hubby, try Cafe Grazie or Zen – and I hear that Villaggio Grille is excellent, too.

What To Do –

We mostly stick with sun, swimming and sand when we’re on vacation, but here are a few options if your kids (or you!) start to feel a little beached out and need a change of pace (and at least once a trip, somebody in our family needs a change of pace).

1) Adventure Island – They have putt-putt, go-karts, bumper boats, etc. – and it’s a good size if you’re going to have to keep up with little ones. They also have ice cold air conditioning and an Icee machine inside the arcade, oh hallelujah.

2) The Track – It’s a little bigger than Adventure Island, and there’s more stuff to keep your older kids entertained.

3) Tanger Outlets at Foley – There are approximately four kajillion stores in this outlet mall. Give or take a quadrillion.

4) Deep Sea Fishing – Someone at your condo will be able to recommend a favorite charter boat. Surprisingly, deep sea fishing isn’t really my thing, but my sister-in-law’s brother and his boys absolutely love it.

5) The Wharf – There’s a huge Rave movie theatre there, not to mention a great line-up of concerts. Shopping, too!

What suggestions do y’all have for folks who are traveling to beaches in this part of the country? Any favorite spots that I neglected to mention?

p.s. – Nobody asked me to mention any of these condos or restaurants or activities. This isn’t a sponsored post or an affiliate post; it’s just me rambling about places I enjoy at the beach. Just FYI.

Oh, It’s Something Special All Right

I’m not sure what this tendency says about me and the very particular nature of my crazy, but sometimes, when I really want to procrastinate, I like to click over to the YouTube and search for old Miss America clips.

It fulfills me on so many levels.

I also like to search for clips from old Mississippi State football games, but that’s usually if I’m trying to get motivated. If I’m feeling stressed and need to calm down a little bit before I start to tackle whatever task is at hand, I go straight for the Miss America moments. They are a soothing presence in my life. A healing balm, if you will.

I first saw this clip from the 1991 Miss America pageant back in January, I think, and it dawned on me tonight that it’s just plain inconsiderate that I haven’t posted it yet because IT IS A GEM. I love the double-breasted suits, the rapping (in my mind the entire rapping segment is a veiled tribute to the “Opposites Attract” influence of the incomparable Paula Abdul and MC Skat Cat), the contestants in their Sensible (Leslie Lucks?) Dresses, the vogue-ing Miss America dancers, the bouncy authority with which Gary Collins and Phyllis George walk down the runway, THE WHOLE THING.

Really, the only piece of the 1991 Opening Number puzzle that troubles me is that I can’t figure out if the contestants are wearing Silky Reflections hose in Travel Buff or Pearl. It’s a tough call. I’m thinking that it’s Travel Buff, but I’m not ready to make a definitive ruling just yet.

So I guess I’ve figured out my plan for the week: take care of my people, go to work, do a little writing, and resolve the matter of the 1991 Silky Reflections shade once and for all. I’m also going to work on my scatting and maybe practice that kick move that once of the dancers does at the 4:36 mark.

What can I say? I’m feeling inspired.

Have a great Monday, y’all!

This One Goes Out To The One I Love

I was just reading the Twitter a little while ago – as I so often do when I’m procrastinating – and a friend of mine reminded me of something that I haven’t thought of in years. YEARS, I TELL YOU.

Do y’all remember when people used to call the radio station and talk to a real-live DJ on the air and dedicate songs?

Oh, it was huge in the 80s. HUGE.

Until tonight it hadn’t really occurred to me that there’s probably not a lot of song dedication going on anymore – unless you’re listening to Delilah – and I have to say that I’m a little sad for this current generation of tweens and teens. They are missing out. Sending someone a link to a song on Facebook or making an iTunes playlist is nice and all, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the same impact as declaring your undying love and adoration on the FM airwaves while thousands of people listen.

I mean, I don’t want to overstate it, but dedicating a song to someone on the radio meant that you were practically pre-engaged. It was a sign of undying devotion – or at least a sign of borderline obsession before the whole relationship went to pieces after a jealousy-fueled misunderstanding during a particularly emotional couple skate to “Hard to Say I’m Sorry.”

I know that I don’t exactly have the best memory when it comes to the songs that people dedicated to each other when I would while away the weeknight hours listening to Q101 and sponge-rolling my hair, but here are the first ten that come to mind. These songs helped shape my very dramatic notions of teenage love – or LUV, as it were – and even now, if I heard one of them, I think I would stop whatever I was doing to sing into a hairbrush with great conviction and feeling. NO DOUBT ABOUT IT.

“Never Gonna Let You Go” – Sergio Mendes
“Sweet Love” – Anita Baker
“Can’t Fight This Feeling” – REO Speedwagon
“Faithfully” – Journey
“Open Arms” – Journey
“Every Woman In The World” – Air Supply
“Hello” – Lionel Richie
“Endless Love” – Lionel Richie and Diana Ross
“True” – Spandau Ballet
“You’re The Inspiration” – Chicago

It isn’t an exhaustive list by any stretch of the imagination, but my goodness. They don’t write love songs like they used to, do they?

And in all fairness, I should point out that “Sweet Love” is still every bit as awesome as it was back in 1987.

Just in case you need an idea for a song to dedicate to your beloved on Facebook, of course.

Epiphanic-ish

So here’s what I’ve realized over the course of my bloggy break:

I am absolutely, positively, full-to-the-dadgum-brim sick of myself.

There you have it.

Writing the book has been a bunch of fun (except for the last two weekends, when I have had the worst writer’s block ever and closed the computer and settled in for back-to-back episodes of Chopped All-Stars or Diners, Drive-Ins & Dives or whatever happened to be on Food Network). But I’m not gonna lie: it’s a lot of time to spend in my own head. And it makes me a little bit crazy. Because even after I shut the computer in frustration, I’m still in my head, still trying to figure my way into or out of a story, still trying to convince myself that the book, IT WILL NOT BEAT ME.

So I’ve just been loads of fun to be around. You can’t even imagine. Just think of someone who’s lighthearted and carefree and amusing. Then picture the total opposite of that.

Needless to say, I’d love it if I could get away from myself for a few days. That would be THE MOST FUN.

Anyway. Here are a few items of note. And by “items of note,” I mean “items that are, for whatever reason, on a running loop in my brain.”

– Trisha Yearwood’s new show on Food Network is darlin’.

– While I was watching Trisha Yearwood’s new show, I saw a commercial for The Next Food Network Star. And the commercial said that TNFNS is going to have an all-new format. I’m not sure how I feel about that. I adore Bob Tuschman and Susie Fogleson; I hope they’re not going anywhere.

Smash is a source of frustration in my life. I’ve written blog posts in my head about it (and may wind up writing one for Ree’s entertainment section, now that I think about it). The music is phenomenal. The main characters are, for the most part, pretty compelling. But there are way too many minor characters, and the plot lines are all over the place. I feel like it’s trying so hard – but they could cover half of the material twice as well.

– When this season of Mad Men started, I was a little underwhelmed by the first couple of episodes. But after the last two weeks? SWEET MERCY. Don Draper is a character for the ages, and after last night’s episode, I kept thinking about a saying I heard a long time ago: No matter where you go, you take yourself with you.

– I haven’t been able to get into this season of Survivor at all. I’ve tried, but it’s been a no-go. Anybody else had the same experience?

– Maybe I’ve grown a little too dependent on the TV for decompressing (ya think?), but today, when I read that Giuliana and Bill Rancic are expecting their first baby, I got a little teary-eyed.

– This one is completely unrelated to TV (SHOCKING), but yesterday our pastor preached on Matthew 17, and it was one of those messages that crawled up in my heart and won’t go away. It also reminded me how much I identify with Peter, OH MY WORD.

All righty. That’s it for now. I’m going to spend the rest of the afternoon thinking of how in the sam hill I can get away from myself. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

I’ve missed y’all!

The Balance, It Is Tricky

I’ve mentioned before that I fall right in the middle of introvert and extrovert on the Myers-Briggs. My brain can’t seem to decide if it’s more inclined to I or E, but the good news is that I usually feel comfortable wearing either hat. The I serves me well when I’m writing or hanging out at home in my pajamas. The E serves me well when I’m talking ninety to nothing with my family and friends.

But when that I or that E gets out of whack?

Whoa, Nellie Olsen. It ain’t pretty.

And honestly, the out of whack region is exactly where I’ve been living for the last couple of weeks. I have been running in super-high “E” mode – lots of plans and lunches and dinners and conversations and emails and phone calls and texts – and it has been a blast. I’ve felt very connected! and relational! and community-minded! and etc.! That part of things has been great. But yesterday afternoon? My “I” was begging for mercy. For some slow-down. For lots of not talking and shhhhh, no whispering, either. In fact, how about the quiet game? How about the quiet game for many days in a row while everybody keeps their thoughts to themselves and we just enjoy all the blessed quiet?

Oh, that does sound delightful. It’s not at all realistic, of course, and I’d be bored to tears within 24 hours, but being bored doesn’t sound so bad, come to think of it.

Anyway, in the interest of feeling a little more balanced and steady and level in my real life, I’m going to unplug this week. I don’t have a single obligation on the calendar other than work stuff and taking care of my people, so I’m going to lay low, soak up a slower pace, and hopefully de-clutter my brain a little bit. It’s gonna be a good thing.

Hope y’all have a wonderful week!

Slightly Obsessed

I thought American Idol was so great last night. And while yes, Colton was pretty much brilliant (such a gorgeous arrangement of his song), Joshua was the one who really blew me away. I loved everything about his performance, and by my best estimation, I have now watched it approximately 23 times.

Make that 24.

For what it’s worth, I expect that Hollie will be the one to go home tonight, but anything can happen, I reckon.

Who’s your favorite so far?