Saturday, April 30, 2011

My gardening debut

Perk #1 to planting a vegetable garden
(Hopefully) I'll have lots of yummy, fresh food to eat this summer!

Perk # 2 to planting a vegetable garden: 
I got to be outside with my husband all afternoon on a beautiful day!

Perk # 3 to planting a vegetable garden: 
One more thing to cross off my 30 before 30 list!

We started with these...

Best Basic-to-advanced gardening book! Favorite part: LOTS of pictures on every page!
The goods.

Phil's addition during our Lowe's run. Yum!

Here's a before shot of our garden area:

Then we added a stone border, tilled some soil, and put topsoil on top of that: 

And finally, voila! 
Notice the small shrine Phil built around his blackberry bush in the back of the picture. And yes, I realize the bed is slightly crooked. I'm blaming the bend in the grass.

It took a little over three hours from start to finish, not including time at Lowe's, and we planted:

cherry tomatoes
slicing tomatoes
bush beans (the only seeds we planted--hence, what looks like a blank area)
green & red bell peppers

We'll see how well they do. Worst case scenario: the veggies fail and I end up with a nice flower bed on the side of my house. Best case scenario: the veggies thrive and I get to eat them and share with friends! It's a win-win.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Boston Marathon 2011

Let's get one thing straight: I did not run the Boston Marathon. My 45-year-old aunt, however, did, and she invited me to come along for support. Of course, I wasn't going to turn down the opportunity to spend extended time with one of my favorite people, take off two days of school, go to a new city, and experience the Boston Marathon from the sidelines!

You have to know that my aunt has struggled with an auto-immune disease, aplastic anemia, for ten years now and she's a cancer survivor. Keep that in mind when I tell you that she finished in the top 10% of all runners, the top 5% of all women, and 79th in her age group. Boo-yah!

The trip was full of highlights (not the least of which was the fact that there were over 100 Dunkin' Donuts stores within a 5 mile radius--no kidding). BUT the best part for me was watching my aunt in her element, watching her do what she's passionate about, seeing her on her turf. I really don't know much about running. In fact, I probably learned more about running in a 72-hour period than I had in the rest of my life combined. But there's something about seeing a person do what they love--whether or not I understand it and whether or not I share their passion for it--that gives me JOY. I was overcome with emotion watching her run toward the finish line, knowing that this was probably the most memorable moment of her running career, knowing how hard she'd worked to be there and knowing what she'd overcome in the last decade.

I get a similar feeling when I watch my friend Lauren sing, or when I see my brother play baseball, or listen to my sister tell me about her artwork. There's something unspeakably sweet about seeing people do what they were created to do and it makes me gush joy.
My aunt, running in pink!

Eric Liddell, an Olympic runner and Scottish missionary, famously said, "When I run, I feel His glory," and while I don't quite feel that glory when I run, I feel it when I write, and when I see His glory in others as they use their gifts, I get the glow of glory as an onlooker.

So, Boston was enjoyable, Dunkin' Donuts' chocolate cake glazed donuts (let's be honest: I ate more than one) were delicious, but the sweet spot of the trip was really the glow of glory I felt watching my aunt do what she was created to do: run for His glory.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Four new Birmingham restaurants--already!

I actually knocked out this 30 before 30 goal back in January, but I'm just now getting around to writing about it. Apparently, I set my bar low for how many new restaurants I could try in a year. I forget that I hate eating at the same place twice. :) Anyway, here's where I went:

Over Easy
My friend Kara and I went here for brunch one morning, and despite a bit of a wait because it's one of the most popular breakfast places in town, and despite them mixing up our order and making us wait way too long for our food, the food and atmosphere did deliver. Its retro colors and design made for a happy tone and the food was varied and delicious! They even had a healthy/organic part of their menu, which I ordered from not because I was trying to be particularly healthy, but because it sounded good. Egg whites, toast, fresh fruit (and not the apples and melon kind either), and turkey bacon. Yum! The best part: the meal doesn't break the budget. With coffee and milk, I still came in under $10. Check out their menu here.

If you're looking for a mom-and-pop authentic Italian place, DeVinci's is a great choice. Their pizzas and calzones are delicious, although I made a mistake by branching out and ordering the chicken parmesan. Honestly, it didn't taste any better than what I could make at home. That being said, I still love the place and enjoyed eating some of Phil's calzone. The atmosphere is cozy and casual, and almost feels like you're sitting in someone's living room. While their prices are really reasonable, they're even better because they're on! To whet your appetite, here's their menu.

5 Guys 
I know, I know--it's a chain. BUT I'd never been there before, so it counts. I went with my friend Camille and her brother and I got the small burger (with almost everything on it) and the three of us split an order of oh-so-delicious fries. Yes, they give you that many fries! It was your typical burger joint, but it was delicious, and if you have a hankering for a burger and fries, 5 guys will hit the spot! Apparently, Americans everywhere agree because they sell 350, 000 burgers a day! Sheesh!

Pianeta 3
This is a new restaurant in Mountain Brook, and I ended up trying it with some colleagues on one of our teacher work days (a.k.a. the days we actually get to go to lunch somewhere instead of work through it). I was excited about this swanky little Italian place, but it turned out to be quite a disappointment. Not only was the food overpriced, but the amount of food was far too conservative. I ordered a couple of slices of pizza and a salad ($9.00), which wouldn't have been too bad of a price if the pizza had been hearty, but it was thin, had very few toppings on it, and was luke warm. Ehh. While I'd be willing to give Pianeta 3 another chance, I probably won't choose to go back; there are too many other restaurants that I haven't tried yet! In case you're curious, here's their lunch menu.