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The Norwood Neighborhood in Birmingham, AL

Web Admin - Friday, September 15, 2017

The Norwood Neighborhood in Birmingham, AL

Norwood is a historic neighborhood in Birmingham, Alabama. It is located in the northeast corner of the "North Highlands" area.

The neighborhood borders follow an irregular path of creek, roads, and railroad tracks. Village Creek forms the northern border for 1.24 miles. To the east, the border comes down along the Louisville & Nashville Railroad's track to Interstate 20/59, then follows the interstate west to Vanderbilt Road; it then follows that road down to Richard Arrington, Jr. Boulevard and back to the east to the railroad and then down to the southern border. The southern border follows 9th Avenue North southwest to 31st Street North, then turns due west until meeting Arrington Boulevard; it follows Arrington briefly before turning due west again across the interstate to meet Carraway Boulevard. Carraway is the western border up to 19th Avenue North. The northwestern border follows 19th Avenue east to the Southern Railroad track, then follows the track NNW back to Village Creek.

The location of this neighborhood is ideal.  It is a 10-minute walk from the BJCC, 20 minutes from Linn Park and about that distance from the Railroad Park.  Interstate access is literally next door to the neighborhood and it lies smack in the middle between downtown and the airport.
Norwood was designated a historic neighborhood in 2012.  The main street in the neighborhood (Norwood Blvd) had been on the National Registries for many years prior.

In 2013, the popular television show and magazine, "This Old House" comprised a list of 61 historic neighborhoods nationwide that they viewed as the best historic neighborhoods in which to buy and renovate.  In the southern region, Norwood was number 2.  Nationally, Norwood was in the top 61.  The results were based on community involvement, purchase price, condition and cost of renovation as well as the city in which the neighborhood was located.
Once Norwood is brought back to life, it will be the largest restored historic neighborhood in the state of Alabama.
This neighborhood has a total of 3,510 people.  The houses are built in the styles of Craftsman, American Foursquare, neoclassical, prairie and various Victorian era styles.  Prices for these houses range the gamut of well under $20,000 (for fixer uppers) all the way to over $120,000 for the more renovated and completely renovated houses.
There are over 1,000 homes included in this neighborhood.  They range in size from 2 bedroom bungalows all the way to 8 bedroom mansions.  As a matter of fact out of the 1,000 homes included 382 of them have more than 4 bedrooms and 352 of them have 4 bedrooms.
Below are just a sample of both renovated homes and homes in need of renovation as of December 2014.

The house below is the original home of Dr. Charles Carraway.  He was the namesake for Carraway Blvd and also for the Carraway Hospital. Both of which are in the Norwood neighborhood.

When this neighborhood was developed around 1910, it was a well-planned neighborhood with a gorgeous scenic boulevard running the middle.  This neighborhood was where the doctor's, lawyers and entrepreneurs built their dream houses.  In the mid-1960's, the development of Interstate 20/59 cut the neighborhood off from having direct access to the rest of the city and in effect gave the neighborhood 1 easy way in and out.  It was about this time that the original homeowners began moving to the suburbs.  Was it because 20/59 was built near their homes or because 20/59 made it much easier to live outside the city yet commute to the city for work? Probably a combination of the two.  At any rate, the neighborhood began to see a gradual decline with fewer professionals either buying into the neighborhood or staying.  After a time, people focused on other historic neighborhoods, buying up the properties, renovating them and turning them into thriving districts while Norwood was all but forgotten.  As a result, many of the stately mansions have either been torn down, burned down or left to fall down naturally.  
Beginning in about 2005, a renewed interest in the neighborhood flared.  Many young professionals who wanted to own and renovate a mansion but had been priced out of many of the historic neighborhoods began to buy and fix up those in Norwood.  The Village Creek that runs for over a mile on the edge was cleaned up and turned into the Village Creek Greenway. An involved homeowners association was developed and a group known as the Norwood Resource Center began to sponsor such yearly events as the "Couch to 5K Walk/Run", the "Blvd Blast 5K", the "Garden Workday" and the "Norwood Market at the Trolley Stop".  A "Learning Garden" and community garden was developed.
Below is a picture of the running trail that follows Norwood Blvd.

The following shot is of a small portion of the Norwood Learning Gardens.
This picture is of Norwood Market at the Trolley Stop.
This neighborhood is an incredible area with tons of history as well as charm.  The rents in this neighborhood are diverse.  There are apartments that rent for as little as $350 a month and some single family dwellings that rent for as much as $1,200 a month and everything in between.
As with all historic neighborhoods, if people don't come in and turn it around, it will eventually become a ghetto wasteland.  Sadly we've seen far too many of those.  However, every time a house or apartment building is renovated, the neighborhood goes up a notch.  The property values go up a notch and the rents go up a notch.  
Norwood isn't beyond repair - yet.  I'd live in one of those majestic mansions sitting on the winding gently sloping historic Norwood Blvd.
But that's just me.


Web Admin - Friday, September 01, 2017

Unique Lighting Doesn't Have to Break the Bank!

Even if you rent, you can personalize your space.  

Warning:  Always check with your landlord before removing or adding any fixture.  Once you've gotten the okay from your landlord, you are ready to make these amazing fixtures.  

Most landlords don't mind as long as you put the original fixture right back where you found it before you move....some landlords might like the new one so much, they won't mind if you leave it....who knows?

But what do you do if your landlord doesn't want you to alter his property at all or if you don't want to leave them when you move?  You can still make these amazing fixtures.

Instead of wiring them for electricity, you can use candles.  Another way to make them more portable would be to hang them from your ceiling with plant hooks and add an actual plug in type cord to the fixture so you can hang your fixture and then plug it in rather than hardwire it.

Here are some great ideas for empty coffee cans, paint cans, mason jars or any pretty jars with a screw top. 

This is actually SO easy!  Go to Michael's (or your favorite hobby store) buy 4 lamp kits, drill holes in the lids and board, thread the lamp cords through the board, connect the wires and voila!!  Instant mason jar lamp. 

The whole connect the wires thing stumps me every time....so I took mine to a local lighting company and they did that for me.  Still cheaper than purchasing them already made AND I had an extra bonus in that I was able to pick and choose the materials.  Win-win. BTW they are using rods normally intended to drop a ceiling fan.

Yet another use for those pallets I mentioned in an earlier post!  This one I know I can do because there's no electrical involved!

What a great light!  I may just have to make a visit to my friendly electrician when I get this assembled!  Notice the first one is made utilizing a wire basket!

This would look awesome over my sink!

Nothing beats the playful light of a punched tin shade!

These paint can lights are great for an industrial look!

These crafty ideas are super easy.  Pick your materials, put them together and then (in the case of people like me, who are electrically challenged) head down to your local lighting or electrical company and get them to wire it up for you!  Done!

Enjoy your space!


Web Admin - Thursday, August 17, 2017

Eight Things that are Essential to a Clutter Free Kitchen

Most of us don't have enormous storage filled kitchens.  We have a galley kitchen or an eat-in kitchen at best.  If you do a lot of cooking, clutter can get out of control before you know it.

Here are some helpful tips to master the main culprits that cause a cluttered kitchen.  

Too many dishes

I love buying colorful pretty dishes.  While they might be pretty, unless you use them regularly, multiple sets of dishes can be a big source of kitchen clutter. Choose the dishes that you actually use on a regular basis, keep enough for when you host gatherings, and donate the rest. Also, declutter regularly by getting rid of chipped or broken pieces.

Storage in the walls

Odd little corners and between the studs are kitchen decluttering gold.  They're perfect for a single depth of containers or dishware, which makes it less of a chore to find and organize items. Look for spots where you can easily carve out 6 or so inches -- by a door or between the studs in your wall. To give the space a design boost, paint the back wall a complementary color, and skip doors in favor of well-chosen items and pretty containers. 

Counter Tops

No matter how large your kitchen is, if you have the counter tops loaded with appliances, canisters and other items, you have a cluttered kitchen that will feel half the size.   Try to clear off those surfaces and organize them at least once a day. Stash unnecessary pieces in cabinets, and corral loose bits and pieces in pretty bowls or trays.

Pots and Pans

Many big cooking pieces, such as pots and pans, aren't used with daily frequency. But still, they're good to have when the need arises. A good storage solution that can help declutter a drawer is to install a hanging rod -- here, a simple length of pipe. If you don't have room to suspend it over an island or sink, consider a near-the-ceiling spot in an open kitchen eating space -- here, in a seating nook adjacent to the kitchen.

Another great idea is to deal with it the way Julia Child dealt with it....hang them on your wall.  I mean, who can argue with Julia Child?  Right?

Appliance Clutter

Honestly, when's the last time you used that fancy mixer, food processor or juicer? Those pieces can quickly gobble precious counter and cabinet space, even as they gather dust. It's time to declutter: If you haven't used an appliance in a year, find it a new home. If you use it several times a year, find a spot other than the countertop to store it.

Plastic Containers

A cracked lid, a chipped container, a plastic container that is now pink because you once stored Strawberry Jello in it.  What about the seemingly thousands of plastic containers whose lids have vanished?  At least twice a year, pull them all out of your cabinets, pairing lids with containers and throwing away anything that doesn't have a match or has seen better days. Replace, if necessary, with clear containers that have useable lids as in those that flip, snap, and are pourable.

Windows and Walls

A few inches here and there can quickly add up to loads of organization ready square feet, especially around windows and near ceilings. That, in turn, can offer space to open up cabinets and drawers by displaying pretty collections or oft-used pieces in convenient spots. Here, narrow shelves stretch around a low window and up to the ceiling; the pared-down display of wood, ceramic, and glass pieces helps the space to feel open and airy.

Out with the old!

Dingy kitchen towels, a pan with a broken handle, a cracked cutting board: Sentiment or habit might have prevented you from tossing or replacing these pieces, but anything old or broken simply adds to your kitchen's clutter problems. Take an hour or two to review your cabinets and drawers, and get rid of anything that is in disrepair or has outlived its usefulness......don't forget that "junk" drawer while you're at it.


Web Admin - Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Ballplay Alabama and Burnt Corn Alabama

Summer is the month for traveling.  It's the time of year when folks like to get into their cars and see what lies beyond their home city.  Here are two small communities that are more than worth a tank of gas to visit.

Ballplay Alabama

Nestled in a large bend of the Coosa River in Etowah County, Alabama is the little town of Ballplay.  It sits about an hour from Huntsville to the northwest and an hour to Birmingham to the Southwest and only 15 miles northeast of Gadsden.

A post office was established in Ballplay in 1840 and remained in operation until 1905.  As of the 2010 census, there were 1,580 permanent residents of Ballplay.  10% of them have earned a bachelors or greater from a college or university.  The median age in Ballplay is 38 with a median income level of $43,346.  Unemployment rates in Ballplay are significantly lower than the state and national levels.

Ballplay is a scenic little community with a unique name.  Long before the town was established, the area was a Court of sorts for the native Americans who inhabited the area.  They would meet at Ballplay and would play ball to resolve disputes among various tribes.  Thus, the name. 

Old farmhouse on the main road leading into Ballplay

The majority of the jobs in this area involve farming or construction.  Nearby Gadsden offers a wide range of manufacturing and other areas of employment.  It is close to numerous community colleges and Universities and within minutes from 6 hospitals.

This is a view of Ballplay from atop a nearby hill.

Christmas sees Ballplay decked out in its finest Christmas lights and is a marvel to behold.  Mr. Gilley lights his farm up from Thanksgiving to New Years and people from all over make a special trip to see it.

Burnt Corn, Alabama

Located in southwest Alabama, Burnt Corn is the earliest known settlement in Monroe County, Alabama.  The population in 1880 was 33.  In 2004 the population had risen to a booming 300.

 Main Street

Abandoned Church on Main Street

Oral history states that the town received its name from the burning of the corn fields as part of the scorched earth policies during the Creek was in early 1800's.  It is also said that the nearby Murder Creek was so named because victims of the Creek war were thrown into the creek.

 One lane bridge over Murder Creek

Murder Creek as seen from the bank.

The Battle of Burnt Corn, an episode of the Creek War in July 1813, did not actually occur in the town of Burnt Corn but at a ford of Burnt Corn Creek to the south, in present day Escambia County.  when the Creek Nation was forced to cede land to the US, in 1815, Burnt Corn Spring was included in a 640-acre land grant to Jim Cornells, a trader who along with his brothers married into the Creek Indian Nation and were assimilated into the tribe.  The Cornells fought on the US side in the war.  Jim's second eldest daughter married Alexander McGillivray who was the most influential of all Creek Chiefs. He had uncanny diplomatic skills and until his death had successfully played the British, Spanish and Americans against one another to the advantage of his people.

Alexander McGillivray aka Hoboi-Hili-Miko 

As for the story behind the cause of the Creek War, according to General Thomas Woodward in his "Woodward's Reminiscences," Jim Cornells "swapped" his niece, Polly Kean, to a man named Sam Jones for a woman named Betsy Coulter with whom he had traveled in the Creek Nation with from Fort Wilkinson. He took Betsy for his wife. Sam Jones did marry Polly Kean but was killed by Jim Cornells in 1816 (Polly then married "one-eyed Billy Oliver" as he was known in Indian Country.")

As tensions heightened, a group of warriors headed to Pensacola to purchase weapons from the Spanish. Along the way, Betsy was captured by the leader, Peter McQueen, son of another trader, Old James McQueen who supposedly went into the nation in 1716 and married a Tallassee woman. Jim and his family did not follow the Prophet Tecumseh who had pushed the Creeks toward war with the whites. He and many half-native Americans were becoming victims of their fellow Indians. Peter and Jim Boy, another principal war chief, took Jim's wife and a man named Marlowe to Pensacola. They sold Betsy to Madame Barrone, a French lady, for one blanket.

Jim was not at his home when this out rage took place. When he returned and found his wife gone, his house and corn crib burned, he mounted "a fast grey horse" and rode south, warning others, including settlers at Jackson. On July 27, Cornells and others formed a large group of mixed blood and whites and waited in ambush for the returning war party. So began the battle of Burnt Corn.

After the surrender of Weatherford at Fort Jackson, William Weatherford returned to his home on Little River. But because of the hostile feeling his neighbor felt towards him, he decided to turn himself into Col. Russell at Fort Claiborne. He was placed in a tent and under guard. One of the guards assigned to him was Jim Cornells. Jim had sworn to kill Weatherford, whom he held responsible for the capture of his wife. Weatherford heard of the threat and confronted Jim directly, asking if Jim would take advantage of him while under guard. Jim replied that no, he would not take advantage of him while under his care. But promised to kill Weatherford when the time was over. Cornells later learned that Weatherford had nothing to do with the kidnapping of his wife and the two became friends.

U.S. Postal service to Burnt Corn began in 1817 when the village also became part of the Alabama Territory.  The post office was closed in 2002.

In December 2009 the Burnt Corn Creek overflowed causing major damage to the farming community.

Today, Burnt Corn is a sleepy little farming community.  Many of the old buildings are still standing and provide a historical backdrop to this old town.  Definitely worth a road trip.


Web Admin - Wednesday, July 19, 2017

How to Make an Unexciting Bedroom Exciting

I have a bedroom shaped like a small box.  Nothing architecturally stunning about it.  4 walls, 2 windows and a floor.  Yawn.

When you have a large bedroom there is just so much you can do to spruce it up.  There are amazing occasional chairs that you can put in there to form a reading nook.  Or perhaps an ornate dressing table?  How about splurging on a canopy bed much as they had in medieval times?  But when your bedroom is small, you have to be far more creative.

Most designers will tell you that you need to splurge on one big dollar item and build your room around that.  I say that's great if you have $5,000 (or more) to spend on a big wonderful bed!  However, I don't.  So my solution is to snaz up what I have and improvise.  Nearly anything can be made to look far more expensive than it is if you dress it up a bit.

Dreaming of a canopy bed?  Try this trick.

Look how elegant this is! Curtain rods attached to the ceiling and heavy drapery.  
That's all you need to accomplish this look!

The look above is so simple! Attach a curtain rod to your wall and slap on a set of curtains! As your mood or the season changes...so can your mini canopy! Works wonders for a small room with low ceilings! AND if you put a mirror behind it?  The illusion of a window will be born!

Curtain rods can be attached to the wall behind your bed OR they can be attached to your ceiling!  You can hang heavy draperies to give it drama or hang lightweight curtains to give it an airy and light feel!  And the absolute best thing about this type of canopy bed, is you can change it out at a whim.  You're not married to any particular look, style or color scheme.

What if you're just not a canopy kind of person?  What to do?  How about a comfy "head board" that will look great and give you a cushion for those nights when you want to sit in bed and read or watch TV?  All you have to do is purchase inexpensive beadboard, nail or glue it to your wall, paint it and then attach comfy pillows to it.  Note:  If you are a renter, make sure to get permission from your landlord before permanently affixing anything to your walls.  If your landlord won't allow a permanent improvement, then hang it like a picture.  Attach picture hangers on the back of your beadboard and hang it.  Nothing permanent about that!

If you don't want to do the beadboard, this would still be comfy and super cute if all you did was hang floor cushions on the wall behind your bed.  Either way, you get a great look for very little cash.

For the head board above, all you need are two (or three depending on how big your bed is) floor cushions.  Try thrift stores or bargain stores.  Don't worry if you hate the look of them when you buy them.  You can easily change that with a bit of fabric or pretty pillow cases.  Get the cheapest ones you can find, recover them, hang a couple of hooks on your wall and sew a couple of rings on the back of the cushions and you have a head board that will give you style AND comfort!!

What always makes a room, any room, appear larger and brighter than it really is.......mirrors!

If you have a wall that perhaps isn't right for a piece of furniture due to traffic flow or maybe it's just too close to the bed or another door such as the closet, try putting a mirror there.  It will furnish that space, allow light to bounce around and give it some style and functionality all at the same time.  Let me show you a sample of a unique mirror below.....

Old doors can be found at salvage companies, on the curb, at Habitat for Humanity outlets or maybe even in your basement or attic.  This one was just a simple unadorned door from a renovation that was going to be tossed out.

All it took was some paintable wallpaper for the inset at the top, some molding to put around the inset as well as on the top and then going to the glass store to get a piece of mirror to fit nicely in the front.  Once you have your mirror, glue it in place and put a thin molding around the edges with brad nails and glue.  This will not only give it that finishing touch, but will keep it firmly in place for generations to come!  Note: do any painting before you place your mirror otherwise you just might have a mess to clean off your mirror.

As for the door knob, take it out and using a wall repair kit that comes with a plastic screen for large holes in walls, patch the area where the knob used to be.  Once it's all dried, paint and no one will ever know it was even there.

OR you could leave the doorknob if it's an unusual piece and use that to hang your purse or scarves on.  Whatever you wish!

Enjoy and have a great time trying these tips out in your own home!

Ensley Alabama

Web Admin - Friday, July 07, 2017

Ensley, Alabama

A large city neighborhood in Jefferson County, Alabama, Ensley was once a separate and thriving industrial city. It was formally incorporated on February 12, 1899, but later annexed into Birmingham on January 1, 1910 under the "Greater Birmingham" legislation.

Founded in 1886 by Memphis entrepreneur, Enoch Ensley, as a new industrial city on the outskirts of a rapidly developing Birmingham (then just 15 years old) and directly adjacent to the Pratt coal seam. Zealously promoting and investing his own wealth in the project, Ensley soon attracted the interest of the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company (TCI), which bought a controlling interest in the Ensley Land Company. In the first year of development, sanitary engineer Edwin Waring, Jr. of Rhode Island was contracted to lay out the new city's streets and infrastructure, including an early application of separate storm and sanitary sewers. Meanwhile, Ensley and TCI erected four 200-ton blast furnaces which were in operation by April, 1889, the largest such grouping in the world. Despite the grand beginning, a series of setbacks began with the death of Colonel Ensley in 1891. The economic panic of 1893 resulted in the dissolution of the land company. The entire property was sold at sheriff's auction for less than $16,000.

In 1898 the Ensley Land Company was reorganized and active industrial development resumed, including the construction of hundreds of small workers' cottages. It was here that TCI pioneered the open-hearth process of making steel in the Birmingham District. By 1906 two more blast furnaces were completed and a record 400,000 tons of steel were produced in a single year. Schools, churches, public buildings and stores were rapidly constructed to keep pace with the scores of new mills and plants opening up.

The success of the development established a corridor of industrial development reaching out to the southwest of Birmingham. During its heyday between the late 1890s and the Great Depression, Ensley was known for its lively fraternal halls and dance clubs, including Tuxedo Junction at the crossing of the Wylam and Pratt City streetcar lines. In 1939 the hit song "Tuxedo Junction" made the spot nationally famous. It was written by local musician Erskine Hawkins and arranged by Glenn Miller.
When U. S. Steel purchased TCI in 1907 they began planning a new, larger plant northeast in the center of a large planned community to be named Corey (now named Fairfield). Although the new plant was close enough that workers living in Ensley wouldn't have to relocate, the move did stifle any ongoing development. 

With the loss of the major industrial activities in the 1970s, Ensley has lost much of its population and economic base and white residents fled to the suburbs after desegregation.

(The following is an excerpt from AL.com)

Mr. McCall is Ensley's neighborhood president, and his neighborhood stretches from about the old U.S. Steel plant to Avenue W, and from Village Creek to about 35th Street. It's a big area, but it's not as big as the area of Birmingham where the streets are named "Ensley." In Five Points West, Ensley Highlands and other areas south of Interstate 20/59 that aren't part of the Ensley neighborhood or community, as defined by the city, the street names still end with "Ensley."

Even in Green Acres, which is far closer to Midfield and southwest Birmingham than to the old U.S. Steel plant, the street names say Ensley. The City of Birmingham annexed Green Acres in 1949, nearly four decades after Birmingham merged with the old City of Ensley.
McCall has seen how people refer to the entire west side as Ensley, and has seen how, when people see every bad thing that happens west of Legion Field lumped in with one name, it's hurt the chances for growth in his neighborhood.
"It doesn't make Ensley look good," McCall said. "I guess people don't know when they talk about Ensley, what Ensley really is."
Ensley still has its crime, he said, but it's not as bad as its reputation suggests.
"Ensley is a safe community," he said. "You don't see kids standing on the corners like other areas, you don't see that."
When Mr. Hawkins talks about bringing Ensley back, he sees the hesitation from people who live in other parts of Birmingham. He knows the thoughts of crimes that might have happened in Central Park or Five Points West are going through their minds.
"I tell them Ensley is really safe and they always challenge me on that," he said.
Both Hawkins and McCall realize that the key to bringing Ensley back is to convince people of its potential.
"I believe it can come back," McCall said. "You've got to get the people with the money that there is a need to come back to this area.
"There are opportunities out here that could make it come back to what it used to be." (end)

Historical Ensley

1st Baptist - organized 1900

Ensley Ambulance - circa 1900

Ensley Bank - cica 1909

2801 Lomb Ave -circa 1950's

Ensley-Franklin Theater - circa 1900-1910

Ensley High School Basketball Team - circa 1910

Ensley Yearly Kindergarten Picnic - circa early 1900's

Holy Family Hospital

In February 1941 four nurses---three of them nuns---from Nazareth, Kentucky, arrived in Ensley to open a clinic to serve poor blacks in the area. For a little over $12,000 they bought land, a duplex for the convent and "a little Negro hut" for the clinic. Interns from St. Vincent Hospital donated their services two days a week to the free clinic.

After the U.S. entered World War II, the Sisters of Charity were unable to obtain materials to build a clinic, so they added two more "huts" to the complex. In 1946 seven black physicians formed the first official medical staff, and fund raising efforts began in the city for a new building. By July 1950 some $250,000 had been raised.

On January 10, 1954, the new structure, Holy Family Hospital, was dedicated. After an expansion in 1964, the hospital had 83 beds and a staff of 130. Four years later the Sisters sold the facility and the new owners renamed it Community Hospital. After another sale and renaming to Medical Park West, the hospital closed in 1988. 

Investment Opportunities for Ensley

The area of Ensley, Alabama has mainly smaller single family homes and apartments and has the potential to grow which comes from the continued progress of its local enterprises. The population has increased by 20% since 2010 and is projected to grow by an additional 10% by 2018. The median household income of the area is $50,051 with 20% of those occupants holding a bachelor’s degrees or higher. Health care and social services make up 15.81% of the civilian workforce in this area and retail trade making up 10.81% of the workforce. 

According to City-Data's website, as of 2015, there were 7,379 people living within Ensley's zip code of 35218.  60% of them were renters.  That site also touted Ensley as being significantly above the state average when it comes to renters "length of stay since moving in."  This is a very good thing for potential investors.  Couple that with the much lower than state average home prices and a solid average age group of 38.5 and Ensley would appear to be a very good place for landlords.

The town of Ensley is only 7 miles west of Birmingham, so if you are trying to plan your commute to work, expect an average travel time between 15-25 minutes, depending on traffic patterns. 

Ensley has a long historic history.  With a long history comes periods of great prosperity and equally long periods of economic struggle.  I, for one, see Ensley making a comeback.


Web Admin - Sunday, June 18, 2017

Yard Tea Party!

I am always on the lookout for a cheap yet attractive project.  I ran across this on the Hometalk page and had to share it.  It looks cheap, easy and really really cute!

Super easy way to get that pouring tea pot/kettle into a teacup look for your backyard.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
You will need:

A tea/coffee pot of your choice (Thrift Store)
Candle holder stand (Thrift Store)
Tea cup and saucer (Thrift Store)
Plastic crystals (Hobby Lobby)
Garden hook (Dollar Tree)
Silicone or outdoor adhesive of your choice.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Silicone your tea cup and saucer together to make them stable.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Silicone your cup and saucer onto your candle holder.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Silicone your plastic crystal into place on your tea/coffee pot.

Let all silicone dry completely before bringing outside.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Place your garden hook in the ground and hang your tea/coffee pot on it.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
Place your tea cup and saucer stand under the "drip" of the pot.
  • pouring tea pot tea cup decor
If you want the tea cup stand to be more solid, dig a little hole and bury the stand bottom in the ground.

Some of the best locally owned Birmingham Restaurants!

Web Admin - Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Some of the best locally owned Birmingham Restaurants!

Birmingham Alabama has earned quite a reputation in the past decade not only for its amazing food but the incredible choices available to diners.  Just about any style of food that you could possibly want is generously represented here.  Here are my top 10.

Of course, I can't possibly write about Birmingham food without mentioning Pepper Place!  Located in historic Avondale, this area is full of great restaurants, coffee shops, antique shops and one of the best farmer's markets in the state!  


One of the restaurants in Pepper place is Bettola's.  James Lewis, who was named one of Food & Wine magazine’s 11 best new chefs in America in 2011, began serving his oven-fired pizzas and house-made pastas at this Italian trattoria in the Pepper Place complex a decade ago. Lewis is always coming up with new and creative takes on traditional Italian dishes, but our favorite remains the classic Margherita pizza, with San Marzano tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella and basil. On a nice fall or spring night, we highly recommend that you dine out under the stars on their roomy patio.

Address: 2901 Second Ave. South, Suite 150, Birmingham
Phone: 205-731-6499


The original Bogue's in Highland Park has been replaced with a Walgreen's.  However, Bogue's bought and renovated an historic fire station next door and now that Bogue's is larger,, even more folks can enjoy the incredible food at this historic Birmingham restaurant!  Pat and Mildred Bogue opened their namesake diner in downtown Birmingham in 1938 and eight years later moved to the Highland Park area, where it became a neighborhood breakfast institution for decades. While the location may have changed, Bogue’s remains an old reliable for omelets, pancakes and its famous sweet rolls, as well as daily lunch specials that include turkey and dressing, country-fried steak and baked spaghetti.
Address: 3028 Clairmont Ave. South, Birmingham
Phone: 205-254-9780


Web Admin - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Where do you take out of town visitors?

The weather is getting warmer, the days are getting longer and people are beginning to crawl out of their houses and head out looking for fun things to do, places to see and places to take out of town visitors.  So here are a few of my favorites.

Hungry?  You really should try The Garage.  Located at 2304 10th Terrace South
Birmingham, AL 35204, this place has tons of atmosphere and good food to boot.

Warning: Bring cash with you because The Garage accepts nothing else.  Also, if you're looking for a place that ON the beaten path....this isn't the place for you.  It's almost a badge of pride to know exactly how to get to this bar without getting lost and spending hours winding through the back streets of Southside.  But the hunt is well worth it. Their patio is eclectically cluttered with architectural artifacts and antiques while nearly completely covered in Wisteria.  The attitude is "Welcome, grab a seat!"  Not only is the ambiance supreme but the food is excellent too.  Toss in live music and you've got a great place to wile away a few hours.  But before you go, make sure to browse the antiques.  It's my favorite place to take out of towners because there's really nothing quite like it anywhere.

Reed Book Store at 2021 3rd Ave. North, Birmingham, AL 35203 is such a gem.  If you love books and/or antiques 1/100th as much as I do.....this store will blow your mind!  It's part bookstore part antique store but all mind blowing!  I can't go there unless I know I have at least 2 hours to spare.  As soon as you enter, you are nearly overwhelmed by all the goodies to look at and drool over.  Yes, it really is that great.

Jim Reed, the proprietor, has spent decades amassing a very impressive collection of rare and antique books.  He is also a popular inspirational columnist and gothic humorist who has authored several books of his own.  He has catalogued over 50,000 books, magazines and posters but estimates he has an additional 250,000 that he has not catalogued and are just waiting for someone to dig through them and find their dream book (or poster or magazine).

Birmingham has its very own Statue of Liberty.

The Birmingham Statue of Liberty is visible to motorists driving on the southern outskirts of Birmingham on the I-459 bypass.  Located in a commercial development called "Liberty Park" it sits right next door to the Boy Scouts of America local headquarters.

For over 30 years Ms. Liberty graced the top of the Liberty National Insurance Company building in downtown Birmingham.  Over two decades ago, she was lifted from her perch by crane, carefully restored and has since enjoyed her permanent home in the Liberty Park area of Birmingham.

According to the inscription on the plaque:
"A bronze replica, one-fifth the size of the Statue of Liberty, was commissioned by Frank Park Samford as the symbol for the company he founded, Liberty National Life Insurance Company. Created by sculptors Archer and Lee Lawrie, the statue was cast in Sommerville Haut Marine, France, in 1956 and was placed atop Liberty National's home office building in downtown Birmingham and then moved to its present location and dedicated on July 4, 1989."

Birmingham also has its super hero...well, actually it's a Goddess...but anyway.  Miss Electra has lightning bolts for hair and wears absolutely no clothes.  Her sculptor named her "Divinity of Light" in 1926 but Miss Electra was adopted by the locals and the name stuck.  She stands on tiptoe 20 stories above ground on the roof of the Alabama Power Building in downtown Birmingham.  Although she is 23 feet tall, she is the smallest of Birmingham's mythical giants trailing Statue of Liberty (36 feet tall) and The Vulcan (56 feet tall).

Joe Minter's Yard is not really a business but it is an experience that everyone should have.  Mr. Minter's Yard is located at 912 Nassau Street near Shadow Lawn Memorial Park in the Woodland Park neighborhood.

Joe Minter is a retired construction worker and self proclaimed "outside artist".  He has transformed his yard and the vacant lot next door into an outside African American museum.  While his is not a formal museum, he is always happy to take folks on a tour.


Web Admin - Wednesday, May 03, 2017

DIY Concrete Planter Idea

I love unusual planters.  But unusual planters can be super expensive.  So what do you do if you want them but don't want to take out a second mortgage on your house in order to have them?

You make them!  Yep.  It's not as difficult as  you have think.  Below are step by step instructions and pictures.  Make sure you read the tips at the end of this article.  They can save you a lot of money, time and frustration.  

Aren't these just the cutest planters?  Now onto the instructions!


All you’ll need for this easy DIY project is 

A dust mask, 
A safety pin, 
Bag of rapid dry cement, 
A couple pair of rubber house cleaning gloves, or old garden gloves and 
A big bucket to mix your concrete in. 

Of course, once everything is dry you’ll need an assortment of flower or succulents to fill it with, of course. Put this concrete planter in your home or adorn your garden with a collection of these.


Before starting this project make sure you are working in a well ventilated area. Protect your hands with disposable rubber gloves and your nose/mouth with a dust mask. Avoid breathing in any of cement particles. In a medium size bowl, carefully mix your cement and water. Follow the instructions on the package, mix until the cement is smooth.
Take your gloves and using a safety pin carefully poke holes in the fingertips. This will help remove air pockets. Place the gloves in a tall container to help hold it upright.  You can use a bucket, an empty clay pot or even a bowl.  It all depends on what you have on hand and what fits best.  
Carefully take your cement and pour it into the gloves. If the cement is too dry and difficult to work with, add a small amount of water to smooth it out.  It should have the consistency of oatmeal or pudding.  Carefully push the cement through the gloves, distributing throughout the gloves evenly. Gently tap your rubber gloves to remove any remaining air bubbles.
Once you have filled your gloves with the cement, you can keep them in the shape you want them to be when they're dry by using bricks, rocks or even votive candle holders and place them under the fingers or wherever you want.  If you just want the fingers to be curved in a  natural position, place them in a plastic bowl.  

Create a 2nd cement hand for a larger two hand planter. To merge your hands together carefully create a cut on your gloves where the two pieces meet. Scoop out a small amount of cement to merge the two pieces together. To create a bowl shape, place a piece of plastic wrap over the exposed cement and place a small bowl over the plastic wrap to create the bowl shape.
Let your cement cure for at least 24 hours. Thicker cement will require more time to dry.  If you live in a very humid area or it has rained recently, it might take longer than 24 hours.
Once your cement has dried carefully remove the rubber gloves. Strategically cut the rubber gloves off. Avoid applying too much pressure to the cement when removing the rubber gloves. If a finger is broken during the removal process, reattach it using E6000 glue.

Use small pliers to help remove the small stubborn left over glove pieces.
Once our hands are completely dry, all you have to do is add potting soil and small succulents.  You can also add pieces of preserved moss to decorate your planter. Water accordingly with a spray bottle.


1.  Always wear a dust mask whenever pouring dry concrete or cement.  You cannot avoid the dust that blows up and you most certainly do NOT want to breathe any of it.

2.  When buying your materials for this project, BUY CEMENT - NOT CONCRETE.  Also makes sure it states on the bag that is can be used for casting.  Rapid set cement is what you want to buy.  Below is a picture of the bag.  You can see it states it can be used for casting.

3.  My last tip is to let you know that while this is a really easy project, the most difficult part of it will be getting the cement down into the fingers.  It will take a little patience and a lot of squeezing to get it down there but after the first finger or two, you will get the knack of it and the rest will be quick and easy.

4.  If you want a little color to your project, you can either add cement coloring to the cement when you are mixing it, or wait until the hands have completely cured (dried) and then simply paint them.  I have used left over interior wall paint, spray paint and even fabric paint on concrete planters and have had excellent results with all of the above.



490 Wildwood Cir North 
Suite 170 
Birmingham, AL 35209

Phone: (205) 982-5647
Fax: (205) 982-5649


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