Mar 162017

I love the Alabama Gulf Coast partially because I don’t have to leave home to get there. Where we stay is at the very bottom of my state—as far south as you can go in my state—but it’s still Alabama. We know our way around Gulf Shores well enough now for it to feel like home.

What I love most about it is that it’s so easy to find a peaceful beach experience. Food festivals, and live music, and beer, and all of those sorts of shenanigans are fantastic, but my sustained affection for them has waned considerably in the past several years. (Spirit still willing, blah blah blah.) Solution: stay in the Fort Morgan area. If/when you want the revelry, it isn’t far. But your default is a quiet drink, the surf, and good friends and family. (Well, quiet except for frequent copious laughter.)

Lea and I have rented condos in one of two complexes down Fort Morgan Road for decades. Now one of her sisters and her husband have purchased a house down there! And we got to borrow it for the weekend and the first part of this week. (Thanks guys! It was a blast!)

Our weather wasn’t great. It was pretty bad, actually. It rained most of the first two days, and then got colder as it cleared. But we got to hang on the beach a bit on the last afternoon. And really, it’s hard to complain. It may have been 12 years since we’ve had anything but great weather at the beach. (And hey, it was a lot nastier here while we were down there!)

The food was, as usual, fantastic. Our single best meal was at Doc’s. I also started trying the gumbo everywhere I went, after my pastor mentioned that was a favorite detail of his. The best gumbo I had was at The Original Oyster House.

Finally, Lea’s new van is a fine interstate vehicle, but the fuel mileage was disappointing. With the four of us and our stuff loaded, the compressor running, and the cruise set at 77, the ’14 Sienna returned 20 mpg. With most of 200K miles on it, that number was 22 in Lea’s ’04 Odyssey, and it was 24 when it was newer. I also prefer the handling of the Odyssey. The Sienna’s suspension is definitely tuned for ride comfort, which made it more than a little floaty in situations where the Odyssey was more tossable. Unambiguous positive for the Sienna: it’s much quieter.

Until next time, Gulf Shores. It’s never very long.

 Posted by at 6:49 pm
Mar 122017

We had our season-end, and program-end, celebration for Upward basketball and cheerleading yesterday. Kevin Davis of Kevin Davis Creations came in and did a fantastic job again for us this year. He is a funny fellow who relates well to children and loves God. He was also accommodating of our modest budget. I recommend him.

I think about Upward a lot, to the point that anytime I actually try to write/think about it in public, it’s bound to be a bit disjointed. I think about moments over the years in which I saw that a young person was likely hearing about Jesus for the first time. I think about thrilling games (and actually our very last one went to overtime). I think about when my boys started “clicking over.”

Mostly, now, I think about the energy I put into it, and how I can serve God’s kingdom with it now. I’ve had some time to get used to the idea of the program going away, and I was able to address the crowd yesterday without getting too choked up. Though I can still superficially express the few petty resentments I felt at certain aspects of this decision, I don’t feel any of that in my spirit anymore.

I had such a good time with Upward, but always tried to make sure the joy I felt was more God’s than mine. (Not that God doesn’t want us to be happy in His service, but it’s easier to lose sight of the goal than we realize sometimes.) I guess my ultimate Upward challenge starts now. If it was about God, what is my channel for that time and energy now?

I’m thinking. And praying.

 Posted by at 7:54 am
Mar 092017
  • The first green flag of the 2017 IndyCar season is Sunday!
  • A few nights ago, I dreamed I smoked a cigarette. I was sitting on a wall looking out over Logan Martin Lake at twilight, and my companion (don’t know who he was) passed me a pack of Winstons. I shook one out, lit it, and savored it. It was so vivid I woke up feeling guilty.
  • The Volkswagen Atlas is on the way. It looks like VW’s first credible play in the mainstream SUV space. It’s also another model that would have been built here had we landed the plant.
  • I’m standardizing the frequency of my hot wings reviews a bit more. I think you can reasonably expect a new #hsvhotwings review every other week now.
  • The boys and I are loving going through favorite movies of my childhood and young adulthood. It’s amusingly conspicuous that everyone has to use landline phones, though!
  • “Eugene? You didn’t say one wrong thing in that whole conversation!” – Daisy
  • Did you see the slight but non-negligible snow chances next week?
 Posted by at 11:28 pm
Mar 082017

“Building success with words takes investment. We wanted to create an atmosphere where that investment will begin or will expand.”

My friend and fellow writer Kathryn Lang chairs the inaugural Mountain Valley Writers Conference, an upcoming event in Guntersville. The event, for writers at all levels, will offer guidance on social media, digital marketing, independent publishing, freelancing, and self-promotion.

Kathryn writes fiction, hosts a talk show, and describes herself as a “professional encourager.” I once introduced her at a party as “my friend Kathryn, who crams rainbows down people’s throats for a living.” Heh. You can be sure she brings this same energy to this effort.

The MVWC is Thursday, March 23, and Friday, March 24, at the Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge. The conference fee includes all presentations, seminars, and meals for Thursday and Friday. More information about speakers and sessions is available here, and more details on writing contests are here.

 Posted by at 8:13 pm
Mar 072017

This is part of an ongoing series reviewing hot wings in the Huntsville area. Visit #HsvHotWings for a comprehensive linked list.

Wings To Go is a small national chain, with a few locations in the Huntsville area. I ate at the one at the southeast end of the shopping center where Wal-Mart is on Madison Boulevard in Madison.

The restaurant name notwithstanding, there is also ample dine-in space, with a fast casual model. My $8.71 lunch special included 10 wings, fries, celery, choice of dressing, and a fountain drink. It was ready as soon as I got my drink. Of the numerous available sauces, the hottest is Homicide, so I went with that.

Quality: 4/10. My six drums and four flats were served at an appealing temperature, and were fried properly, with a bit of crisp to the skin. Alas, they were also very small; easily in the bottom quartile of all of the wings I’ve reviewed to date. They pick up a full point here because they were inexpensive.

Flavor: 2/10. These begin rather firmly in buffalo wing territory, but then dive straight into the abyss. This sauce uses a great deal of pepper extract, and the entire experience quickly becomes overwhelmingly acrid and chemical. These wings did not taste good.

Heat: 8/10. Pepper extract is reliably hot, and the hiccups and neck sweating were definitely here to experience. It’s just so disappointing when it doesn’t taste any better than this. Total afterburn was about 15 minutes.

If your idea of “super hot” is defined mostly or solely by Homicide sauce at Wings To Go, please know that there are very hot wings out there that are also delicious! Don’t form an opinion based only on these.

 Posted by at 3:38 pm is using WP-Gravatar