Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Post 2011 Tornadoes

Alabama has been rocked and turned upside down and spun around in a blender. On Wednesday a lot things were going on with life. I was still in Clemson, SC finishing up work so that I could come home early this weekend. I got a text message from my boyfriend telling me that an F5 tornado just went through my best friends city (Tuscaloosa, AL) and that everything had been decimated. There was a 30 minute window of time when I couldn’t get in touch with her, our friends, or any of her family. I cannot stress the amount of discomfort that shot through my body. We were joking about the number of sirens that had gone off earlier that day and asking why everyone was making such a fuss — I remember the last sarcastic thing she said to me , “You know, these people are really just trying to interrupt my Braves game.”

Being from Alabama, it’s not an uncommon occurrence to hear the sirens and do nothing — we’ve become a bit numb to them and we’ve forgotten how fragile life can be. I was thinking as the night wore on that she better have gone for cover because I would not be able to deal with the alternative if she hadn’t. Finally (later that evening), I spoke to her brother and mother and they both assured me that she was safe. We soon found out that a lot of the cell towers were taken down and that it was difficult for anyone to call in and out of the city. It was more reliable to be texting. Later that night she told me that one of her friends saved her life. I am so, so thankful. We now know that the tornado was a mile wide and went across the whole of Alabama West to East, killing more than 300 people across the southeast–leaving over 200 uncalled for.

On Thursday my boyfriend went down to Tuscaloosa with work to see what they could do and how they could help. He said that it looked like a war zone. Places were unrecognizable. He said that one city block would be totally demolished while the next would be totally the same — untouched. Parts of houses and walls were torn off; however, books would still be sitting on the shelves. He said it was amazing–these are his photographs.

Above is a photograph of a family that lost everything — the Dad is carrying the fish bowl. Can you even imagine? Check out some incredible before and after images from google maps… click here. What’s really scary, is that in those images you can see the path of the tornado – the actual path it took.

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Today I am thankful for good friends and wonderful family.

Guest Post

My best friend asked me to be a guest writer on her blog; this blog. I thought for a while about what I would like to share with the world and I kept coming back to the only exciting thing I have ever done: Travel. As everyone who knows us understands, Allison and I come as a pair. I am the photographer who shoots people and she is the one who captures the landscape. I think it is probably because she is more artistic than me and because I like people more than she does. Additionally, I have been missing being near water recently. This is my attempt to introduce you to my favorite places in the world near water, in no particular order, without showing you any people (this is Allison’s blog after all).

First there is Venice. It is a beautiful city where my best friend took me on a gondola ride. Surely this means we will be friends forever.

Cinq Terra is another beautiful town in Italy. Allison and I went their separately but we both came back knowing that it is a place where we would like to spend our summers when we have made our millions.

Lake Geneva in Switzerland is another one of my favorite places. It is so quiet out on the water and there are these huge mountains looming in the background. The natives don’t appear to notice the mountains anymore, but they are truly breathtaking.

Interlaken, Switzerland is known for its extreme sports. While I was there were went canyoning, which if you don’t know what it is you should click here. Another really great part of Interlaken is the series of lakes which you can boat through.

To complete this top five is Bempton Cliffs. These cliffs are in England and are a fixture in my childhood memories. I cannot count the number of times that I have walked along them and each time they become more and more beautiful.

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Today I am thankful for: a little time to breathe.

 

House on the Hill

On my most recent trip to the Farm in Tennessee, I noticed for the second time that there is a beautiful cabin on a hill. And it’s for SALE. It must be mine. For that reason, I will not tell you where it is 🙂

This is part of the beautiful landscape that you see as you make your way up the drive. This is so perfect.

This is the view looking back towards the drive once you’ve arrived on top of the hill. On the right, is the storage shed.

And this is the beautiful Cabin that sits atop the wonderful hill. There is a man made lake at the bottom where the first picture was taken and my boyfriend has already decided where a bike course could run where we can do flips off of ramps into the lake and then build a ski lift to take us back to the top of the hill. I’m sure our neighbors would love us. Oh yes, we live live’s of adventure and ingenuity 🙂 And then on the other side of the cabin there is a fire pit made out of rocks and seats made out of rocks. Ohhhh, I love this house.

Here is the view as you leave the cabin down the drive. Isn’t it perfect? It would be the most perfect graduation present ever! Wishful thinking, right?

Here is a pic of me and my favorite person at the Christmas Tea after the hunt. We were there with all of the riders. Remember this post? It was really cool and they were all so nice. AND there was mistletoe everywhere-thankfully, I had my special someone! I’m sure our wonderful host had something to do with that! I love it up there, hence the reason why I must have that beautiful cabin.

 

Shipley Do-Nuts

So we played Mom and Dad for a day and took our friends’ children to their tennis game last Saturday morning. The other parents kept asking me which child is mine… and I said the beautiful blond hair blue eyed children that would be impossible for me to produce. It was funny. After a close game and an unfortunate loss there is nothing better than a doughnut! So we went to one of my favorite doughnut shops: Shipley Do-nuts — Birmingham, AL. I think it’s a chain but it sure doesn’t feel like one. Every one that I have been to feels like a hole-in-the-wall mom and pop kinda shop that has survived the times by the blood, sweat, and delicious tears that go into their remarkable baking. YUMMY.

Now this is what a doughnut shop should look like!

I love doughnuts! I ALWAYS get the doughnut holes!!!! We got three dozen. And this is how the looked only 5 minutes later. It was absolutely delicious. Oh I want more right now!!!

Looks Good!

Yummy doughnuts, awesome kids… sounds like a good day to me!!

Atlanta, GA : The Varsity

There are so many wonderful things going on in the “Dirty Dirty” aka Atlanta. But one of the most touristy and best things in Atlanta has to be–without a doubt–The Varsity. A. They have awesome fast food B. You can pull up and order your food to a bellhop (or whatever you might call them) — cash only C. They have Coke products (lately I’ve noticed along the East Coast specifically in the Carolinas; their love for Pepsi Products — gross) D. They yell at you when you don’t order quickly enough E. They have orange drink aka “Frosted Orange” and F. They have CHILLI DOGS!!! What more could a girl ask for??

Drive-In

Here’s the Menu for all of those inquiring minds out there.

Yummy Yum

And then the Money Shot…

Oh so Beautiful.

For more information on The Varsity, check out their website here. Y’all have a great day.

Ringing of the Bells

Bells in the Bell Tower

This past Sunday we took my boyfriends grandmother and aunt to church at 1st Presbyterian on 4th Ave. North. Its a really beautiful old church that’s in the heart of Birmingham. His grandmother, who is 80+ years in age, still enjoys playing the bells after the service is over. So, after communion, we went up 2 spiral staircases (that was only the width of a small child)  and made our way to the top of the bell tower and listened to her play. We, being us, went all the way to the very top of the bell tower and watched the bells ding away. It was beautiful. I never knew how it worked. I envisioned it being a Notre Dame scene and we would be swinging from the bells… not quite.

Being in the Bible Belt, it was especially nice to hear all of the churches in the downtown area have their bells ring as well.

The Key Board for the Bells

At the Tip Top of the Bell Tower

The Invisible Man

Liu Bolin

“Liu Bolin, the 35 year old artist from Shandong, China has mastered the art of camouflaging himself against virtually any background.

The talented Liu Bolin says his art is a protest against the actions of the Government, who shut down his art studio in 2005 and persecutes artists. It’s about not fitting into modern society. Despite problems with Chinese authorities, Liu’s works are appreciated at an international level.

Liu often works over 10 hours straight on his art to achieve masterful perfection.”  (Quoted text borrowed from this website)

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We’ve Got Tomatoes!

That’s right, we’re growin’ tomatoes in the backyard. My mother and I decided we would try our hands at a little gardening. What I really mean to say is that my mother has a green thumb and if I look at these tomatoes the wrong way they might all die. But she has shown me, that with a little bit of water and some of that killer Alabama sunshine and more than a little love, we can grow tomatoes in our backyard. Look at how lovely they are!

Look at Those Tomatoes Hiding

B-E-A-Utiful.

Before...

... and AFTER!

Does everyone remember my wretched puppy, Porcini? Well, he decided that I couldn’t keep ALL of my tomatoes. So he STOLE one. BAD DOG!

WRETCHED CREATURE!

For inquiring minds, I must tell you, Tomatoes are a far superior vegetable to Potatoes.

Y’all have a great day! PLTW.