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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.



Web Admin - Saturday, April 15, 2017

Another Installment of "Did you know"

Did you know that the first speech given in the south by a sitting President occurred in Birmingham?

When Birmingham Alabama was founded in 1871, it was a model city.  It boasted railroads, blast furnaces and steel mills.  There wasn't a more bustling industrial giant in the south at that time.  So it was no wonder when in 1921, President Harding decided to give a speech in the south that he chose to do so in Birmingham, Alabama. The remarkable part of this story is the fact that this was the first speech given in the South by a sitting president in which he called for racial equality.

The city threw a huge birthday party which lasted two days on its 50th anniversary in October 1921. President Harding arrived at the Birmingham Terminal Station at 8:45 A.M. aboard a special train from Washington.  A grand parade began at 10:00 A.M.  Sitting in the lead car President Harding greeted thousands of onlookers waving American flags.  His motorcade eventually traveled to the Tutwiler Hotel where the hotel's balcony served as the reviewing stand for the President and his party as the parade traveled past.  The parade included Civil War veterans, groups of industrial workers and National Guardsmen.  It seemed that the whole city had turned out for the Presidential visit.

Harding’s official address to the city was delivered in Woodrow Wilson Park in mid-morning to a large crowd. He planned to use this speech as his first public show of support for the Republican National Committee and their plan to reorganize in the South.

President Harding spoke of the great migrations of black laborers to the North during World War I and the meritorious service given by black soldiers during the war.  He then spoke of political equality as a guarantee of the U.S. Constitution: “Let the black man vote when he is fit to vote; prohibit the white man voting when he is unfit to vote.”  White listeners fell largely silent, the African American spectators cheered from their segregated section of the park.  In his call for “an end of prejudice” Harding went further than any president since Abraham Lincoln.
President Harding also participated in the cornerstone laying ceremony of the Masonic Temple and was given an honorary degree by Birmingham-Southern College in ceremonies conducted at the First Methodist Church.

The President observed a parade which included 67 women who selected by the different counties of Alabama to be their "Queen", and 1,000 members of the American Legion selected from every post in the state. Each Queen was provided a decorated car for their use in the parade.

(Jefferson County's Queen - Mary Elizabeth Caldwell)
To mark this historic event, commemorative coins were also made that same year. The coins were half-dollars issued in 1921 to honor the 100th Anniversary of Alabama Statehood, which occurred a few years earlier in 1919 but war time conditions had delayed the production of the coins until 1921. The coins were first placed on sale in Birmingham on Oct. 26,1921 in connection with Birmingham’s celebration and the first coin was presented to President Harding. 
Also, a special postage stamp was made that year in honor of Birmingham’s anniversary. It was the first postal commemoration of Birmingham.  Surviving copies are very rare.
The official start of this celebration began at noon on the 25th of October with the blare of bands and the blowing of whistles at every industrial plant in the district. The ceremonies started at Woodrow Wilson (Capitol) Park with a speech by Chairman Sydney J. Bowie.
President Harding arriving for festivities
The festivities began at noon and continued on into the night.  Highlights of the festivities included a fashion show by the Fashion-Industrial Exposition that took place in a long tent that extended the full length of West Twentieth Street. The Birmingham municipal band provided music. Henderson and his flying circus performed in the air over the middle of the city. His act ended with death defying stunts from an airplane while gripping the rope with his teeth.
In addition to the above activities, there was a children’s costume and baby parades on Friday with prizes awarded.  Baseball at Rickwood Field took place with a double-header. The first game was according to rules in 1871 and second according to rules in 1921.  Free bank concerts and orchestras continued throughout the event. Some orchestras came all the way from West Virginia to perform for the President.  
There was the Queen of the event contest, a Masquerade carnival, pageant at Avondale Park, and a Queen’s Ball at the Tutwiler hotel on Tuesday night.  These are just to name a few of the many events held.
While the President was in town, he also somehow made time to head the grand civic parade, attend a luncheon given by the Semi-Centennial committee at Tutwiler, attend the opening of Alabama division of American Cotton Association at Tutwiler, attend the Birmingham-Southern College inauguration of Dr. Guy Snavely where the President received degree of LL. D. Ceremonies were held in First Methodist at Sixth Avenue and Nineteenth Street, North.
As if his day wasn't already packed, the President also attended a reception in his honor at the Birmingham Country Club and witnessed mine demonstration at US bureau of mines station at West End. To round out his day, he took an auto ride through the city.

While I'm sure everyone involved needed a restful vacation after this week of constant festivities, overall, it was a very successful event.  Certainly never seen before or since.


Web Admin - Monday, April 03, 2017

Re-growing veggies you buy from the supermarket

Did you know there are several veggies that you can grow from scraps?  Yep.  How much money would you save and how much quicker, tastier and healthier would your dinners be if you could just step outside and pick whatever you needed?  Let's look at a few veggies that you should never have to buy from a store again.


You can grow a new bulb of garlic with just one clove. Plant a clove in some potting soil with the roots face down. Now in case you're new to gardening, there is a difference between a garlic bulb and a garlic clove.  I have included a photo below to show you which is which. Keep the pot in direct sunlight and cut the shoots back once they get established. This will help encourage bulb growth. After the bulb has reached maturity, take a clove and repeat the process for more garlic.

Bean Sprouts

You can get a new batch of bean sprouts with as little as a tablespoon of scraps. Soak the leftover sprouts in a jar with a little bit of water. Leave the mixture on the counter overnight and drain in the morning. With the sprouts back in the container, cover with a towel and rinse them the following morning. Repeat the process until the new sprouts reach the right size.


Celery might be the easiest vegetable to regrow. Simply cut the base of the celery stalk and place in a bowl with warm water. Keep the container in sunlight and you will start to see the stalks thickening and growing from the base. Once this happens, transplant the veggie into soil to finish the growing process.


Regrowing this superfood takes just a bowl of water and some toothpicks. Wash the seed thoroughly and suspend it over a bowl of water with some tooth picks inserted into the seed. The water should cover about an inch of the seed. Do not place the bowl in direct sunlight, but keep it somewhere warm. Add water on a daily basis as needed. A stem and roots will begin to appear, but it might take as long as six weeks for this to happen. When the stem gets to six inches in height, cut three inches off. Place the plant in soil once leaves start appearing.

Sweet Potatoes

You need half a sweet potato to regrow a new plant. Suspend the half of the potato with toothpicks over shallow water and wait for roots and sprouts to appear. When the sprouts hit about four inches, break them off and put them in a bowl of water. Once the roots in the new bowl reach an inch, it’s time to transplant to soil.


Like the sweet potato, regular potatoes are a resilient plant that can be regrown with just a few peelings. The trick is to make sure the peelings have eyes and are cut into smaller pieces. Now you might say....what's an eye?....I have included a photo of potatoes with eyes.  Notice the bumps that stick out on the potatoes?  Those are called "eyes".  You may have to do a little searching at the store to get potatoes with eyes these days as a lot of potato producers have them rubbed off before shipping (I don't know why).  They rub off super easily.  Each section should have about two or three eyes. Let the peelings dry overnight and then plant them in soil to a depth of about four inches. In a few weeks, you will begin to see a new potato plant sprouting leaves.  

Lettuce (practically any type) and Cabbage

It's easy to regrow lettuce and cabbage with just a few scraps. Pour a small amount of water in a bowl and place the lettuce scraps inside. Make sure the bowl gets a lot of sunlight and mist the lettuce a few times a week. In three or four days, you will begin to see new roots and leaves growing. At this time, remove the lettuce or cabbage from the bowl and place in soil.


Onions take a bit of a different approach.  I have included a link to a site that gives very good step by step instructions on how to regrown onions.  Short article with great step by step photo's and great information.  Well worth a read.


For other sites that offer even more veggies that you can regrow, try these:




Web Admin - Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Air that You Breathe

Renter's have a special problem and that's air quality.  If you are a renter, the chances are great that you aren't the only person who has ever rented that space.  There have been others.  That brings up a multitude of questions.  Did the people before you own dogs or cats?  Just because your landlord doesn't allow pets....doesn't mean there weren't any living there. Also, just because a pet owner swears their pet NEVER has "accidents" in the house....doesn't mean they haven't.   Did the former residents smoke?  Again, just because the landlord says they didn't...it doesn't mean that's true.  Even if they didn't smoke, you can never be certain that their visitors didn't smoke inside the house.

Was the carpeting replaced before you moved in?  If it was, was the subfloor resealed? Was the space painted and if so what kind of paint was used?  Is there a chance that asbestos, lead based paint or oil based products were ever used in your space and that there might be a trace of it still?.  These are a likely possibility if the space you're renting is older.  How is the ventilation in your rented space?  If it's an apartment, the chances are you have fewer windows and the ones you do have are probably smaller and seldom opened.  

Bad air quality can not only cause a plethora of health issues over time, it can greatly aggravate existing health issues like asthma, COPD, allergies, even migraines and sinus infections.

How do you handle poor air quality?  The first thing to do is clean.....everything.  Maybe your landlord had the carpets cleaned before you moved in....maybe not...maybe they just vacuumed.  Best to err on the side of extreme caution and head down to the local hardware store and rent a carpet cleaner.  The thing to know about cleaning your carpets is that the water will soak into your carpet pad to some extent.  If that isn't allowed to thoroughly dry, mold will grow.  Now it's not going to be the horrible black mold that everyone is so afraid of, but it will be mold and any type of mold can cause an unattractive odor.  It can also aggravate your sinuses or asthma so the best thing to do after cleaning your carpets is to put out fans and make sure everything is dry.  

Once that's done, it's time to clean all the other surfaces no matter how clean you think they look.  Even if your landlord hired professionals to come in and clean it top to bottom, you still have to wonder what products they used.  Cleaning products like bleach and/or ammonia are super cleaning products in that they will kill about any germ that they come into contact with.  However, they are also not at all user friendly in that their chemical components can linger for days even weeks after they've been used.  While you're cleaning, don't forget the ceilings.  Remember smoke rises and the ceilings will collect it all.

Once your rental is spotless and you're feeling great about how clean it is, the next step to living a clean life is to get plants that actually purify the air.  Of course, you can buy an air purifier but how pretty is that?  

Plants are cheaper than purifiers, lower maintenance than purifiers, they don't wear out or break down and best of all, they're prettier than purifiers.  Some studies suggest that having plants in your house can actually help lower your blood pressure.

Let's look at some indoor plants that make great purifiers.

English Ivy

These plants are super easy to care for and control.  Because they're an ivy, they will trail. All you have to do is train them to trail where you want, or snip off the growth.  Kinda like giving your plant a haircut.  They don't require a ton of light or a ton of water.

The dense foliage of the Ivy absorbs formaldehyde - a chemical that is extremely common in the making of carpeting.  Formaldehyde is the most prevalent indoor pollution of them all and is present in glues, pressed woods products such as some flooring, kitchen/bathroom cabinets, pressed wood shelving, wall paneling and even some furniture.

Peace Lilly

Some people call this plant the funeral flower.  This is another easy to care for plant that requires little light, little water and little maintenance.  I would recommend whenever you dust your furniture, to dust the leaves of this plant, while you're at it.  A thick layer of dust on any plant will prevent it from breathing and from absorbing pollutants.  I recommend putting a large dollop of olive oil or pure vegetable oil on a clean cloth or paper towel, then using that to clean the leaves of your plant.  It not only gets all the dirt off your plant but give them a shiny appearance.  Warning:  some plants don't like to have their leaves cleaned with oily products so google before you oil a plant if you have any doubts. 

This plant is one of the absolute best plants to have in every room of your house.  This hard worker gets rid of VOC benzene which is a carcinogen found in paints, furniture waxes and polishes.  It also sucks up acetone, which is emitted by electronics, certain cleaners and adhesives.

Lady Palm

The  Lady Palm is a hardy plant that can tolerate semi low light.  It's best to keep this one near a light source.  I have one that I've kept beside a floor lamp in my not at all sunny living room and it does fine.  This plant can get up to 6 feet tall but it is a very slow grower so you have plenty of time to figure out where to put it once it's that tall.

She is not only gracefully built and easy on the eyes, but she actually rids your air of ammonia which is a super villain of the respiratory system and is a major component of certain dyes, textiles and cleaners.

Boston Fern

The Boston Fern is such a beautiful plant.  However, it can be a picky plant and I've never had good luck with them.  I've known others who have tremendous success with them....but not me.  These plants have a need for constant moisture and humidity.

They are actually one of the best air purifiers known.  They remove formaldehyde which is present in glues, pressed woods products such as some flooring, kitchen/bathroom cabinets, pressed wood shelving, wall paneling and even some furniture.  There have been studies that show this plant even removes toxic metals such as mercury and arsenic.

Snake Plant (aka Mother in Law's Tongue)

If you can't keep this plant alive.....you don't need to have plants...at all.  This plant is so easy, it's crazy.  The only plant that is easier to keep alive is a plastic plant.  Once in a while dust the leaves and give it a small drink when the soil is dry.  That's it.

This is maybe the best plant for a small space.  It grows up - not out - and it tolerates low light or bright light.

This easy fella does his work at night.  During the night, he will absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the room.  He's one to have in every room of your house - including the bathroom.  Put more than one in your bedroom for a boost of oxygen while you sleep.

To make him even more invaluable, he also sucks in benzene and formaldehyde. 

Golden Pothos

Every live plant that I've ever received from a florist has this little ivy in it.  It's a medium growing ivy, it tolerates low light or bright light, it can go long periods of time without watering....it just likes to be dusted from time to time.  If you don't know whether it wants a drink, look at the leaves....when it's really thirsty, the leaves curl up and begin to look wilted.  Give it a good drink of water, and they will unfurl and look good as new. Like the English Ivy, you can trim it if it reaches further than you'd like and it's easily trained.

The Pothos suck in formaldehyde, carbon dioxide and Benzene.  Triple threat with this one!  This plant can be found anywhere that live plants are sold and it is the cheapest houseplant around.

Wax Begonia

If you have a sunny location and want some color in your plant choices, this is the one for you.  It has lovely leaves that look as though they've been waxed and the plant comes in a variety of colors.

This beauty cleans benzene and chemicals produced by toluene, a liquid found in some waxes and adhesives.

Red Edges Dracaena 

Beautiful plant that can actually get up to 15 feet tall, loves a sunny location and is compact enough to fit into most sunny corners.  Moderate to bright sunlight.  Requires little water and you will love the red edges on each frond.

This plant will take care of gases released by xylene, trichloroethylene, and formaldehyde, which can be introduced by lacquers, varnishes, and sealers.

Spider Plant

Another easy to care for plant.  You can use it as a hanging plant or in a pot atop a pedestal or table.  It is a prolific reproducer so if you want more of them, it's not necessary to go out and spend money on more plants.  All you have to do is wait until the plant grows "mini" spider plants at the end of it's leaves.  Pick one off and sit it atop some soil, it will root and grow.

This is a another plant that absorbs formaldehyde and benzene.  

Between the cleaning and these plants....you will have a super healthy indoor environment!

As always, enjoy your space!

Lake Martin

Web Admin - Thursday, March 02, 2017

Lake Martin

Alabama is a beautiful state.  You have beaches, farmland, rolling hills, mountains, rivers...and lakes....lots and lots of lakes.  

One lake that is enormously popular is Lake Martin.  This lake is located in Tallapoosa, Elmore and Coosa counties and is not to be confused with the equally popular Logan Martin Lake.  These two lakes do not share the same water source and are located about 90 miles from one another.

Lake Martin gets its water from the Tallapoosa river.  Its maximum length is 31 miles with an average depth of 41 feet but a maximum depth of 150 feet.  It boasts 743 miles of shoreline.

The Martin powerhouse is used to generate electricity for the Alabama Power Company. Construction on the damn began in 1923 and was completed in 1926 creating what was at the time, the largest man made body of water in the entire world.  Originally known as Cherokee Bluffs, for the geological formation upon which it was built, the name was changed in 1936 to honor Thomas Martin, then President of the Alabama Power Company.

There's never a shortage of things to do when at Lake Martin.  Fishing, swimming, boating, skiing and hiking are just a few of the pleasures afforded visitors and residents alike.  There are festivals scattered throughout the year.

Aquapalooza Festival

One of the most popular attractions of the lake are the islands.  Listed below are the main islands.

  • Chimney Rock Island - Chimney Rock Island has long been a famous landmark on Lake Martin. Its name came from a tall rock resembling a chimney that protrudes from the top of the island.

  • Acapulco Rock Island - Acapulco Rock Island is adjacent to Chimney Rock Island at the Tallapoosa River Gorge. It is often mistaken for Chimney Rock.

  • Doctor's Island - So named because a group of doctors used the island as a base camp to fish. Their camp was destroyed by fire a few years ago. (no photo's)
  • Goat Island - Goat Island is north of Martin Dam. It has become the residence for a family of goats.  Everyone is welcome to visit the island.  However, no dogs or guns are allowed on Goats Island....for obvious reasons.

  • Graveyard Island - A small county graveyard from before the construction of Martin Dam is located on what is now a tiny island in Lake Martin. About 30 by 30 yards (27 m) around, it is in the Bay Pine area.

  • Real Island - Not an island or distinct community, residents named it for "Real Island Road," which runs through it, and a nearby marina. (no photo's)
  • Sand Island - Sand Island is a small island located between Willow Point and Kowaliga Marina. Over the years erosion has taken its toll on the island, but rocks have recently been placed around the island to prevent it from being completed washed away. Boats frequently park on its sandy shallow beach. It is likely the smallest island on the lake.

  • Young's Island - The Young residence (of Young's ferry) was here and was destroyed by fire in the early 1990s. The foundation remains and there are historic markers for the graves of the family's children. 

  • Weed Hill Island - Weed Hill is a small island almost directly across from the Pleasure Point Marina boat ramp. Although at one time it was much larger, erosion has reduced the landmass. (No photo's)
  • Wood's Island - Wood's Island is a larger island, connected to the mainland by a land bridge during low water times. It has several trails for hiking. It can be found at the end of Young's Ferry Rd on the West side of the lake. 

  • Wilmarth's Island- only inhabited island on the lake.

  • Neptune Island

  • Flag Island 

If you happen to get hungry while at Lake Martin try these amazing eateries:

For a sit down meal that offers everything from incredible burgers to prime rib, try the secluded Kowaliga Restaurant.  Every seat has a view of the lake.  Opened in 1953, it has been a stable of this area for decades.  Hank Williams, Jr even wrote a song about a poor lonesome wooden Indian which was about the wooden Indian that has graced this restaurant since its opening.

If you're not in the mood to have a sit down dinner.....try this floating food "truck" instead!
Tired of water related activities?  Try the Children's Harbor.  Great place for the kids to explore and the parents to relax.

Another great activity are the Jim Scott gardens.  This isn't a tourist spot even though it is a tourist attraction and anyone who misses it is missing an incredible experience.  Jim Scott has been working on his gardens for 20 years or so.  Bit by bit he has landscaped his land to hold multitudes of secrets and surprises around every bend.  He isn't a landscape professional or a horticulturist.  I honestly don't know what he did for a living.  All I've been able to find out is that he was not a professional landscape guy.  There are a minimum of 5 full time employees who help maintain this unbelievable garden.

Jim's gardens are off the beaten path on Lake Martin.  It will take a GPS and someone who's been there before to find your way but once you get there.....it's as if Heaven has been in Alabama all the time.  Unfortunately, Jim only opens his gardens to the public a couple of times a year, so missing that window of opportunity is pretty easy.

There are so many incredible pictures that I could fill this blog with them.  It was nearly impossible to choose "just a few".  Folks this is a MUST SEE.

Now that you've gotten a sneak peak at Lake Martin......put in for your vacation time and head out!  There are cabins, houses, boat slips, RV camps and campsites for rent so there's no reason not to stay for a few days!



Web Admin - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

A Few Tidbits about Alabama....How many did you know?

Maybe you were born and raised in Alabama.  Maybe you moved here as a child.  Maybe you moved here as an adult or only vacationed here.  Whatever your reason for being here or the length of time you spent here, we're glad you did.  

The Alabama State flag, also known as the Crimson St. Andrew's cross on a white field, patterned after the Confederate Battle Flag, and adopted in 1895. The bars forming the cross must not be less than six inches broad and must extend diagonally across the flag from side to side.

But did you know the following 12 tidbits about Alabama?  I'll confess, I didn't know one or two of them.

1.    Alabama entered the Union as the 22nd state on December 14, 1819

2.    The origin of the name "Alabama" comes from the Choctaws and means "thicket clearers" or "vegetation gatherers".

3.    The motto of Alabama is: Audemus jura nostra defendere (We dare defend our rights)

4.    Did you know Alabama has 21 State forests and 22 State parks?

5.    Alabama has the largest concentration of "glow worms" outside Australia and New Zealand.  "Although the creatures known locally as Dismalites are close cousins of the rare glowworms found in Australia and New Zealand, they are actually fly larvae", said Auburn University entomologist Gary Mullen, who has studied the insects. What makes the Dismals population so unusual is the large number of them.  

6.    The Confederacy was founded at Montgomery in Feb. 1861, and, for a time, the city was the Confederate capital.

7.    Alabama is often called the "Yellowhammer" state.  The story behind that curious nickname is as follows.  A company of young Confederate cavalry soldiers from Huntsville, under the command of Rev. D.C. Kelly, arrived at Hopkinsville, KY, where Gen. Forrest's troops were stationed. The officers and men of the Huntsville company wore new uniforms, whereas the soldiers who had long been on the battlefields were dressed in faded, worn uniforms. On the sleeves, collars and coattails of the new Calvary troop were bits of brilliant yellow cloth. As the company rode past Company A, Will Arnett cried out in greeting "Yellowhammer, Yellowhammer, flicker, flicker!" The greeting brought a roar of laughter from the men and from that moment the Huntsville soldiers were spoken of as the "Yellowhammer Company." The term quickly spread throughout the Confederate Army and all Alabama troops were referred to as the "Yellowhammers."  Yellowhammer is also the name of the State bird....but it's actually a Northern Flicker Woodpecker.

8.   1540: On October 18, 1540, the largest Indian battle in North America occurred when the Spaniards under Hernando de Soto attacked Chief Tuscaloosa's village of Mabila (or Mauvila). Most of the 2,000 inhabitants were killed during the battle.

9.   1886: The world's first electric trolley system was introduced in Montgomery, Alabama.

10.   The Boll Weevil Monument in Enterprise, Alabama is the world's only monument dedicated to an insect pest.

11.   Alabama is the only state with the major natural resources to make iron and steel, Alabama is the largest supplier of cast-iron and steel pipe products.

12.   Huntsville, Alabama is known as the Rocket Capital of the World and is home of the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center.


Web Admin - Monday, February 13, 2017

Dark Boring Apartments....What to do?

You find an apartment in the perfect location at the perfect price and you jump on it only to discover after you've moved your stuff in, that's it might be a bit small, a lot darker and with far less storage than you'd remembered.  I think we've all done that a time or two.  Now you're stuck in a lease for at least a year....how are you going to make this work?

With just a little creativity and imagination, that small, dark apartment will work without breaking the bank.  Let's take a look at some great ideas from Better Home and Gardens as well as a couple from Pop Sugar.

Kitchen Storage

Kitchen storage is usually the first thing sacrificed when developers build apartments.  I guess they think apartment dwellers never cook anything more involved than a frozen pizza.  Depending on your sense of style and the style of your apartment, you have tons of choices in a free standing "pantry".  Head down to the nearest thrift store, garage sale..or if you're flush with cash...a big box store that sells shelving.  Keep in mind that closed in shelving such as bookcases with closed in sides and backs are heavy to the eye and tend to close in a space even more than it already is.  Ornate shelving does the same thing.  You don't want ornate moldings or ornate metal work on your new pantry.  You want clean simple lines preferable in a material that reflects light.  Chrome works best in my opinion.

Helpful tip:  Keep all the less pretty items hidden in your cabinets and only put the pretty items on the open shelving.  Canned vegetables, boxes of pasta, your cat food really needs to be hidden away.  Instead free up valuable cabinet space (for the ugly stuff) by putting your wine glasses, decent dinnerware, colanders and the like on this shelving.  Anything that isn't super attractive can be placed in nice baskets or wooden crates and placed on the shelving to keep it handy but out of sight.  I think this is also a great place to store those pasta pots, roasting pans, mixing bowls and bakeware that never seems to fit into the cabinets of an apartment kitchen.


What about those windows?  Most apartments made between 1980 and 2000 have fewer windows which are smaller and without casings.  While this gives you more wall space to hang your prized artwork or photographs and it helps keep the utility bills down a bit, it also tends to make a room dark and feel a bit closed in.

One way to combat this problem is giving yourself a wall of curtains.  Now, curtains can be pricey.  Especially since you are putting them from one end of the wall to the other.  The solution?  Fabric shower curtains.  One shower curtain is the equivalent of 2 to 2 1/2 panels of curtains and usually cost about half of what 2 curtain panels would cost.  Nowadays fabric shower curtains come in a huge assortment of colors and patterns.  

The beauty of this trick is when you move, you take the curtains with you versus painting where you are out of pocket for the price of paint and supplies yet when you move not only will you obviously have to leave your investment behind but you just might lose your deposit as well.

Another beauty of this trick is the fact that fabric will add color, pattern, texture and movement to your room not to mention that if your tastes or furnishings change, it's easy to swap out.

Helpful tip:  Hand the curtain rods higher than the top of the window.  This will give the illusion that your walls are taller and the window larger.  Curtain rods can be pricey.  A cheap alternative to those rods are copper tubes usually used for plumbing.  Measure the length you need, head to the hardware store, have them cut what you need and then purchase the brackets at a discount store.  If you don't like copper, get aluminum pipes or even wooden dowels.  If all else fails....go to the dollar store, buy a few brooks with wooden handles and use those.  You're only going to see a few inches of the rod when the curtains are opened.  Otherwise the rods will be covered.  Last tip on this subject:  If you don't like the color of the broom sticks or pipes, spray paint them.  Problem solved.


Some people are okay with dark rooms.  They like the cozy, cave like feel of it.  I do not.  I like light and bright.  If you like light and bright rooms what do you do if your room only has one window or maybe more than one window but they're facing shrubbery or trees or another building is blocking a lot of the light?

What you do is invest in lamps.  Table lamps, hanging lamps and floor lamps.  Lamps of all types.  In a previous post, I wrote about transforming ugly, garage sale lamps into gorgeous "new" lamps.  There's no need to break the bank buying lamps.  Head out to the thriftstores and garage sales and grandma's attic and redo them for a fraction of the price of new ones.  Here is a link to that post http://stagingdecoratingonthecheap.blogspot.com/2016/07/forget-paying-top-dollar-for-lamps-and.html

A floor lamp in a dark corner will immediately make a room feel larger.  To keep the electric bill down and prevent the room from being over lit, try to limit the bulb wattage to 40 or 60 watts per lamp.  You will still achieve a dramatic difference without making the room or a particular area in the room appearing overly lit while keeping the electric bill down.


Lots of apartments come with standard, builder's grade, boring carpet.  Usually beige.  The best way to combat this is by investing in room sized rugs.  Again, this is a fix that you can take with you when you move so it's money well invested.

Rugs aren't the expensive luxury they once were.  The best thing about the price is if you get tired of the look or it becomes stained, you can throw it out and replace it without getting a second mortgage.

Texture, pattern and color aren't the only benefits to having a rug.  Rugs also offer insulation not only from the weather but also from noise which is a great benefit if you live above another apartment.


Mirrors can open a room almost as much as a window.  Well placed mirrors will bounce light around a room and will also trick the eye into thinking there's another window in the room.  If you find a mirror whose frame isn't really the color that you like....spray paint it.  There's precious little that spray paint won't improve.

Ugly Dated Bathroom Tiles

Sometimes you just have to wonder what the contractor's were thinking when you look at some of their "design" choices.  Especially when you see some of their tile choices.  An otherwise perfectly fine bathroom can become a real eyesore in the blink of an eye when you look on the wall.  

Ugly tile isn't something that you can easily remove or paint over.  BTW it can be painted over with the right technique and products.  But I doubt your landlord would allow it.

What to do this case?  Try to tone it down.  That's really all you can do.  The picture below shows a bathroom with yellow tile that was toned down using a lot of green accents.    Pink tile was all the rage for a while.  Black, gray and white are all good choices to tone down that pink.  Ugly tiled bathrooms would be the one time that I'd beg a landlord to allow me to wallpaper and/or paint the walls.  Sometimes the tile simply has to be toned down in order to live with the bathroom.

Below is a pink tiled bath left alone and another of a pink tiled bath that has been accented with a nice gray upper wall and accessories. Notice how the additions of a gray upper wall and black accidents tones down the pink?

The following bathrooms are, in my opinion, beyond toning down.  They are too wild for any accessory to cure.

Apartment living can be frustrating in that you can't really make dramatic changes to your spaces.  However, you can make changes to how you live in those spaces through your accessories, furniture and lighting.  That can make all the difference in the world!  

As always, enjoy your space!

Never too early to get ready for mosquito's!

Web Admin - Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Never too early to get ready for mosquito's!

Practically every week I read about a new horrifying disease that is spread via mosquito's.  While I realize it's winter, it's never too early to begin planning for the inevitable "mosquito" weather.  Keeping yourself, your loved ones and your pets safe from these disease ridden creatures does not require dousing yourself with harmful chemicals or locking yourself indoors.
There are many types of flowers, herbs, and grasses that naturally repel mosquitoes due to the plants naturally occurring essential oils.  The oils are released into the air, particularly when a plant is cut or “bruised.” Higher temperatures also cause more of the oils to be released.  Coincidentally, higher temperatures are a mosquito's favorite climate.
Here are a sampling of plants that naturally repel mosquitoes:
The flower’s aroma not only repels mosquitoes, but marigolds are easy to care for and add beauty to your yard.  If you live in the warmer states of America, you can actually leave these in the pots outside all winter.  Once the weather begins to warm, most of the time these will regrow.  

Many of us love the scent, but mosquitoes can’t stand it. Lavender is great for people who are lazy about watering since it is drought resistant. Crush the leaves and rub them on your skin and clothes for personal mosquito protection.

Citronella and lemon grass
These related herbs have a lemony scent. Lemon grass is widely used in Asian cooking.  The Citronella plant is sometimes called the mosquito plant.  If you have ever bought a citronella candle to put on your patio to keep the mosquito's away, you will be familiar with the scent of it.  Also many of the mosquito repellent sprays that you buy to smear all over you when you go outside contain this in them. If you buy citronella, make sure you get the varieties Cymbopogon nardus or Citronella winterianus. They work best.  Both of these plants are hardy and fairly fast growing.  they should last for years with a minimum of care.

Contrary to popular belief, a 2005 study found that eating garlic does nothing to ward off mosquitoes. However, garlic plants do repel them. You can plant the edible form of garlic or try society garlic which is an ornamental garlic that is not edible but has pretty purple flowers that these insects hate.  Edible garlic also sprouts flowers just before harvesting time but they aren't as long lasting or as pretty.

The pungent pine-like scent drives away mosquitoes. It does well in the ground in warm climates. But if you live in the north, grow it in a pot and keep it inside in the winter. Use it generously in cooking. As a bonus, rosemary is a powerful antioxidant. As a bonus, this plant has been linked to improved memory functions.  This can be grown in any size pot or you can plant it directly in the ground and allow it to get as large as it wants depending on the size of your outdoor space.

Bruise a few leaves on your basil plant to help repel mosquitoes.
Mosquitoes can’t stand it and your cat will love you for growing it. It can be invasive and take over your yard. So restrict it to pots or plant it in between hardscape to restrict its growth.

Mint is another plant that is usually best grown in a pots because of its aggressive growing habits. There are tons of variations of mint.  Lemon, spearmint, peppermint, even strawberry.  For mosquito control, I would stick with the traditional mint.  This is a great plant if your yard is mostly shaded or contains a lot of pine trees because this plant if left to its own devices will become a hardy grown cover.  However, if allowing it to take over your yard isn't your thing, then you should truly plant these in pots in order to control their growth.  The great thing about having this as ground cover, is the scent you get from it every time you walk in the yard or mow your yard.  It's really heavenly.  If you have a bit of "lawn" between a walkway and the house or by your patio and a fence or wall, this would be a wonderful place to plant it directly in the ground.  Or you can use it to fill in the spaces between pavers or bricks and still reap the scented rewards.

Lantana just may be the best mosquito-repelling plant of all. Researchers in Africa found it was so effective that it helped control malaria. Scientists planted lantana outside 90 homes in Tanzania. They used another 231 homes as a control group. The lantana-planted homes had 83% fewer mosquitoes.  All of these plants will thrive in most parts of the country in the summer months when mosquitoes abound. An excellent strategy is to keep pots of them near doorways to keep mosquitoes out of your house. And plant them in high traffic areas throughout your yard.  Some states such as Florida have labeled Lantana as an invasive species so planting it directly into your ground may be prohibited in your community, so it's best to check on that prior to planting.  However, I'm not aware of any community that has forbid this plant from being kept in a container.  Lantana comes in many colors so the hardest part about having them is deciding which color to buy.  They are hardy plants that thrive in most conditions/soils.  Another great thing about lantana is the fact that butterflies, hummingbirds and all manner of wonderful creatures love their flowers.

Perhaps the most important part of mosquito control is standing water. This is the most common breeding ground for mosquitoes.  It doesn't take a swimming pool worth of water for these creatures to call home.  Things as shallow as your pets outside water bowl, an empty flower pot, birdbaths, your house gutters that have become a bit clogged thus creating small pools of water, anything that is thumb deep will suffice and these horrible things will lay their eggs and grow more mosquito's before you know it.  If you are vigilant about ridding your property of standing water and plant some of the above plants near your windows and doors, you should have as mosquito free environment as possible.

As always, enjoy your space!

Grasselli Heights neighborhood of Birmingham Alabama

Web Admin - Monday, January 02, 2017

Grasselli Heights neighborhood of Birmingham Alabama

Grasselli Heights is a neighborhood in the Grasselli community of Birmingham. It was developed originally as a residential neighborhood for managers at the Grasselli Chemical Company plant nearby.
The neighborhood is bounded to the north by tracks owned by the Seaboard System Railroad, which separates it from the Western Steel Fabricators plant in unincorporated Jefferson County and from Birmingham's Riley-Travellick neighborhood. On the east and northeast the neighborhood is separated from Tarpley City by 37th Street SouthwestRutledge Avenue and Wilson Road Southwest. Lawson State Community College and Wenonah High School are located just north of Grasselli Heights on Wilson Road.
Grasselli Heights borders East Brownsville to the south, bounded by Felix Avenue near Venice Road and then following the alleyways behind Willard Avenue and Carver Avenue. East Brownsville Park abuts Grasselli Heights at Felix Avenue. On the west the neighborhood is separated from Hillman Park by 45th Street Southwest.
Many confuse the Grasselli Heights neighborhood with the Little Italy neighborhood of Birmingham.  They are not the same neighborhoods.  Little Italy is a 21 block area in Ensley that centered on Avenue F and encompassed the entire blocks of 12th Street to 17th Street while Grasselli Heights is further away centered along 37th and 39th Streets.
The namesake of this neighborhood, The Grasselli Chemical Company was an Ohio-based manufacturer of chemicals whose Southern territory was once headquartered in Birmingham.
The company was founded in Cincinnati, Ohio in 1839 by Eugene Ramiro Grasselli as a manufacturer of sulfuric acid. It moved its headquarters to Cleveland in 1867 in order to better supply that city's oil refining industry.

Grasselli acquired a 100-acre parcel near Hillman, four miles from Bessemer in 1899 for a new chemical works. It spent an estimated $100,000 to $200,000 building and equipping the plant for the production of nitric acid and other heavy chemicals. The company also opened a downtown office in the Brown-Marx Building.
Brown-Marx Bldg circa 1901
The Grasselli Company promoted a type of "social welfare" common among many of the Birmingham District's large employers in the early 20th century. Through various programs companies would seek to improve the health and loyalty of its workforce. In addition to sponsoring an Industrial League baseball team, the Grasselli company constructed houses for workers near the plant, a practice thought to attract a more stable workforce. The residences were heated with steam generated at the plant. The area has since been annexed into Birmingham and is part of the neighborhood of Grasselli Heights in the Grasselli community.
The Grasselli Chemical Company was acquired by E. I. Du Pont de Nemours Co. in 1928. Du Pont closed down its Birmingham operations in the 1940s.
The Grasselli Heights and the Little Italy neighborhoods were arguably the first self integrated neighborhoods in the Birmingham area.  Most of the residents were either Italian or black but there were those of northern European descent, Greeks and Lebanese residents as well. 
Several of the residents realized that grocery shopping was something of a chore for their area.  In response to this, they opened "mom and pop" grocery stores.  Often the family would live either above the store or behind the store.  They maintained grueling hours. They were open 6 days a week from as early as 6 am to 10 pm at night to accommodate the workers schedules.  They allowed neighborhood residents to charge their groceries.

Usually the wives and children would run the stores with the husband working in the stores after their usual shifts at the factory and on their rare days off.
Most of the homes built in this area were what we could now consider "starter homes".  With very few exceptions, they were small nondescript homes.  Most of the original homes in the area have long since vanished with single story ranch homes replacing them.
The majority of the homes now occupying this area were built between 1940 and 1970.  Rent in this area is incredibly inexpensive in comparison to most of the other areas in Jefferson County.  The location is fairly central so commuting for work is not difficult.
Approximately 24% of the residents in this area are renters with a median income of just over $22,000 per year with a median rent of $564.
As this neighborhood abuts Lawson State College, this would conceivably be a great place to own rental property.
Below are a couple of houses in this area that either are for sale or have recently been for sale.

Everyone needs a roof over their heads.  Investing in the more aesthetic and trendily located neighborhoods will, of course, bring in more money for the landlord.  However, providing affordable rentals will not only bring in consistent monthly cash but will provide a much needed service.  It's been shown over and over again that renters who pay a reasonable amount of monthly rent and have a responsive landlord tend to stay put. 


490 Wildwood Cir North 
Suite 170 
Birmingham, AL 35209

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


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