Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Bashing the Tool Box and Cleaning Up the Aftermath

A few weekends ago (as usual, I'm really late posting), I helped Crystel host her yearly fundraising event. This post describes our weekend.

I spent Saturday helping Crystel with the Tool Box Bash, Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis' largest fund raising event of the year. It's a huge production that essentially begins as soon as the previous year's event ends. Much of the responsibility for the event falls on Crystel, so our household becomes a bit chaotic this time each year. 

I stopped by Bridges (the site of the event) Saturday morning to help out with a few things before sneaking away for lunch around 11:30. Since I was downtown, I decided to head over to Bardog Tavern for sliders so I could watch a little football. Bardog is probably my favorite downtown bar, mostly because it has such a local flavor just a few blocks away from a tourist mecca. 

I headed back to Bridges to help Crystel with a few more things and to drag her out of there so she could get home and get herself ready for the event. When we arrived back at Bridges that evening, I ran around helping out with a few last minute things before the event started. Mostly, I worked to get electricity to the stage via a large generator parked outside, and yards and yards of heavy gage power cable. I enjoyed pretending I was a roadie for the band for a while.

Later, with the event underway, I wandered around and bid on several silent auction items winning a subscription to the Playhouse on the Square, passes to Graceland (I've been promising to take my grandparents there since last Christmas) and gift certificates to Neely's BBQ and Cafe Society. I also won two tickets to the Nutcracker at the Orpheum, a night at the Peabody and dinner for two at the Capriccio Grill in the live auction. That's another great thing about the Tool Box Bash, I always buy several cool things to do in Memphis, so our December is usually filled with fun activities. 

Here are the few pictures I managed to get.

See Crystel, hard at work...

Memphis' best party band, The Soul Shockers!

We didn't leave Bridges until roughly 2:00 A.M. so Sunday got off to kind of a slow start. We did manage to stop by the Playhouse on the Square to activate our subscriptions and reserve seats for the two Christmas plays. Afterwards, we had a late lunch at Imagine Vegan Cafe in Cooper Young. Imagine is a great place to get "Vegan Junk Food," and I'd highly recommend it. I spoke with the owner on Sunday, and he's a really nice guy too.  

We spent the rest of the day straightening up the house and I had to pack for a work trip to Dallas on Monday morning. Since my company's office in Dallas is attached to the Galleria mall, I got to see this Christmas tree develop over the course of 3 days. 

The following Monday morning I was greeted with news that both Houston Nutt sand Pete Boone would be gone soon. I'm kind of bittersweet about Nutt, but pretty happy about Boone if most of what I've heard can be believed. I don't feel as strongly as most Ole Miss fans about Boone, but I do think it was time for a change. He accomplished some great things in his tenure, but had exceeded his shelf-life. I just hope the University leaders make smart decisions going forward so we come out the other end of this stronger. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

YouTube Discoveries: The Possum Posse - A Guy on a Buffalo

Over the Thanksgiving holidays, I discovered this piece of awesomeness:

Then, I discovered the sequel:

There's even a third one:

 And a 4th one:

If we're lucky, there may be more of this awesomeness to come.

From what I can gather, Texas band The Possum Posse took it upon themselves to narrate a little known Western movie titled Buffalo Rider in song. Whatever the reason, humanity is better off for their contribution to the entertainment world. You can even find Guy on a Buffalo shirts over at their website, and just in time for Christmas (I wear a large and prefer the "Break Your Gun On a Stump" version)! If these guys play anywhere close to home, I'm freaking going.

Their slogan is "The Possum Posse - The Greatest Band in the World. Possibly, Ever." They may be right, possibly.

Ah, where would we be without you YouTube?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Here We Go Again

This post is about 6 months after the fact. I wrote most of this while we were on a trip in July 2011, but never got around to cleaning it up and posting it until now.

So, for the 2nd time in roughly 6 months, we spent a week in Los Angeles. After trying to plan a trip to the east coast to visit Charleston and Savannah, we suddenly changed our minds, and had everything booked for a trip to L. A. within 24 hours. See, ironically, it's easier to get to L.A than it is to get to the east coast due to availability of direct flights.

Crystel is drawn to this area for obvious reasons. Her grandmother lived here for much of her life, and her mom was raised here. While she was growing up in England, this was where she came when visiting the states. America for her was pretty much California.

The real question is why do I like it here? Most people I know wouldn't choose Los Angeles as a repeat destination. It isn't really a lounge by the beach and relax type of vacation. Even I can't really explain why I'm so drawn to this area. There's the obvious reasons: beautiful beaches, a city with virtually anything you could possibly want to do and the legendary southern California weather. It's more than that though.

Being here harkens back to the glory days of America. Vintage cars can be spotted around every corner, the Hollywood sign lingers in the distance, reminding us of the golden age of film, Art Deco buildings are eveywhee you turn and there's a feeling here that I can't put into words.

On our second day we rode around all day with the windows down, in July nontheless. We didn't break a sweat either. Crystel was actually cold by 5:00. The weather here is incredible. If there is one part of the South that I hate, it's the weather in July and August. Then again, I think it makes us appreciate the spring and fall that much more.

Also, we spotted classic car after classic car in our journey to Orange County to visit Costa Mesa, Balboa, and Huntington Beach. There were too many classic VW Beetles and Buses to count. My favorite of the day was a '69 Camaro with hideaway headlights. It looked to be in mint, original condition when it was pulling up beside me. Soon, however, I smelled the racing fuel, and as it passed me by I noticed the wide pro-street tires on the back. Only in L.A. Just a Sunday drive.

Here are a few vintage rides (mostly VW's, I think the Chevy's were too fast for me to catch) we spotted on our trip.

We finished our travels in my mother-in-law's old stomping grounds of Palos Verdes. She really did grow up in one of  the most beautiful places on earth. See for yourself.

That night we ate at Mucho, an awesome upscale Mexican restaurant in Manhattan beach. While the ambiance and food is decidedly upscale, the prices are actually pretty reasonable for the area. Be warned, the margaritas are strong. The vegan enchiladas were my favorite, made with coconut cheese.

Monday was the 4th, so we spent most of our time close to the hotel and the beach. We witnessed a spectacular fireworks show laying on a blanket on Hermosa Beach. I think we need to make our July 4th California trip a yearly tradition.

On Tuesday, we explored the neighborhoods Echo Park, Silver Lake, and Beverly Hills. Echo Park and Silver Lake are okay at first, but after a while, the overwhelming hipster vibe starts to wear thin. Especially at Silver Lake. There are a few cool shops and restaurants around, and we had a good time (although it was nearly as hot as Memphis).

On Tuesday night, Crystel and I had dinner at La Playita with our friend Shalisha, who just moved to Inglewood from Memphis. Dinner was good, the Margaritas were great and the atmosphere of eating outside and listening to the Pacific Ocean was unbeatable. We stopped by my second favorite Irish Pub (behind only McCreary's in Franklin, TN) afterwards to listen to an awesome duo play for a while.

Wednesday, we headed out to Orange, CA and were mightily impressed by the Old Towne area. Oddly enough, it sort of reminded me of being in the South. It has some of the oldest homes and buildings in the state. We had lunch at the Filling Station, where I got a burger with at least half an avocado, half a tomato, and almost a whole head of lettuce. it was one of the best burgers I've had, though I wound up with half of the avocado in my lap.

As a side note, we passed through Garden Grove on the way to and from Orange, and I've had the Sublime song of the same name in my head all day. Give it a listen.

We finished the day in Cerritos where we visited Crystel's grandmother's old house and gravesite, shopped for a while, and had dinner at Don Jose with her mom (who was in town working on her mother's house). We realized tonight, that the first Don Jose was opened on my birthday in 1972 in Orange, CA. Coincidence?

Today we went to Long Beach to visit Retro Row. We found lot of great vintage shops, and I picked up a few shirts including this awesome vintage Ocean Pacific shirt:

One of the stores we visited had a Retro Stereo section. It's a company in Long Beach that specializes in rescuing vintage electronics and refurbishing them. I'm definitely buying a retro receiver sometime in the future. They are capable of all I need to do, and they look much better than the new ones. I highly reccommend "Liking" these guys on facebook if you're a fan of vintage music, movies and goods. They keep me entertained on my facebook feed daily.

So, another trip to Southern California comes to an end. We decided to spend today soaking up the perfect weather on the beach. We played in the ocean like kids, walked from Hermosa to Manhattan (twice), took a nap on the beach and ate at The Gumtree Cafe for both breakfast and lunch.

I'm always searching for something when I take a vacation. I found what I was looking for today. It sounds cliched, but the salt water crashing into me washed all my troubles away. I feel refreshed, ten years younger. I continue to learn more about the life I want to live every time I come here, and I'm closer to the man I want to be when I return home. Here are a few beach pics.

The Pacific Ocean has once again revived me, and I can go home.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving 2011: I'm thankful for...

Today, Thanksgiving 2011, I've been contemplating the many things I have to be thankful for in life. The more I thought about it, the more the list grew, and I began to realize how truly blessed I am.

Crystel and I took the entire week off of work and decided to forgo our usual globe-trotting and spend some quality time with our family. The first part of the week was spent with my family in Booneville. Here are a few of the things I got to enjoy this week, all reminders of my blessings.

Spending time with my dad and grandfather... pictured here starting the fish cooker for an excellent mid-day feast.

Being fortunate enough to have a dad who gave me the skills to make this...

Look like this.

He also gave me the confidence that I can make this something you'd want to drive.
I was also reminded of how thankful I am to have a brother to lend a hand to make all of this happen. I'm thankful for a loving mom who taught me more than she'll ever know. She taught me the right way to treat people and how to be loving and compassionate. I'm thankful for my sister for her unconditional love throughout the years and for showing me (along with my brother-in-law Josh, who I'm also thankful for) by example how to be a good parent. I'm thankful for my niece Eliza for thinking I hung the moon and making me want children of my own a little more every time I see her. I'm thankful for my grandparents who allowed me to travel the country with them when I was younger and showed me things I otherwise would have never seen growing up. They're like a second set of parents to me, and I can never repay them.

Being in Booneville, and spending time with my family reminded me of all these blessings. On Wednesday, we headed to Oxford to spend time with my in-laws. While there, I noticed how fortunate I am to have such a loving extended family. Fred and Julie allowed me to marry their daughter almost 4 years ago, and I'll be forever grateful. They have welcomed me into their family unconditionally. I'm especially thankful for Julie who cooks a feast fit for a king every holiday. I'm also thankful for my sister-in-law Lauren and her boyfriend Chris who round out the group and complete the family.

A few more things I'm thankful for:

I'm thankful that I fell in love with her, right here, way back in 2003.

I'm thankful that I got my education here.

I'm thankful for our little family in Memphis.

I'm also thankful for all of my aunts, cousins, grandparents, mentors, friends, co-workers (past and present) and instructors that I haven't specifically mentioned, including the overseas friends and family I've met because of Crystel. I'm thankful for our jobs and the comfortable lifestyle they allow us to enjoy. I'm thankful for our health. I'm thankful for our service men and women, past and present, for keeping us safe at home and abroad and allowing me to feel safe when I sit here writing this blog. 

I'm thankful for my wife Crystel, the love of my life. As we near our 4th anniversary, I can't remember life without her. She's made me a better person in every way and I hate to think about where I'd be without her.

Most of all, I'm thankful to God for making all of this possible. I try harder every day to live my life in a way that's acceptable to Him, and every day I fail, but that's part of being a Christian. That's why I'm thankful that we are given forgiveness because Jesus died on the cross for our sins.

What are you thankful for?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Bulldozers and Dirt

Again, I'm posting this incredibly late, so ignore the timeline...

We finally stayed home in Memphis this past weekend. We've been in Mississippi every weekend for roughly a month, so we needed to stick arond and catch up on a few things. 

Here's what we faced on Friday morning:

Which led to this on Saturday:

Our drain line from our house to the road backed up (for the 5th time since we've lived here) and it was time to finally fix it. It required digging up the old clay pipe from the house to the road and replacing it. The original pipe had broken in a few places and was filled with Magnolia tree roots, so drainage was becoming impossible. They fixed the pipe on Saturday, but had to leave the trench open until Monday when the city inspectors could approve the work. Thus, we had a huge ditch in our yard and a Bobcat sitting on the sidewalk. I joked that we dressed our yard up as a construction site for Halloween. 

I also put a water pump on my pickup in the driveway. Between the Bobcat in the front yard and the mechanic work going on the drive way, I'm sure the neighbors thought the Clampets had moved to town. Although I realize they weren't using a bulldozer for the job, this song played in my head all weekend.

Next weekend, Crystel is organizing Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis' Tool Box Bash. This is Habitat's largest fundraiser of the year, and always a blast. I'll be helping out with that all weekend.
Oh yeah, if anyone wants to help lay sod this spring, let me know.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Memphis to Oxford to Booneville to Oxford to Booneville to Oxford to Memphis, All in One Weekend

So, last weekend in Oxford was hectic to say the least. It was also fun though, so all is good.

We arrived on Friday night, and after unloading our stuff, we headed back to the South Depot Taco Shop on the square for Crystel's birthday dinner. Again, it was excellent. Here are some pictures of the night.

And some more pictures aftter we got back to the house. We had an excellent vegan cake from Muddy's in Memphis. Crystel's sister Lauren did an excellent job picking out the cake this year.

The next morning, I got up early and headed for a run around the lake. I've already mentioned how much I love running around Wells Gate, but it deserves repeating. I even saw a couple of deer on my run.

After I got back to the house and had a shower, Crystel's dad and I hooked up the stereo to the built in speakers in the house. I was a little nervous because I had to cut a hole in the back of Crystel's grandmothers cabinet. I really didn't want to screw that up. After Fred and I made a trip to Home Depot for the appropriate hole saw, the job was fairly easy. Once that was done, we decided to head to Booneville to pick up a load of things from her mom's other house. It's been interesting moving stuff from two houses into one. The trip was good, but I regretted not leaving a little sooner to have a little time to visit my family who live right down the road in Booneville.

We got back to Oxford, unloaded everything, hung some pictures and ate Papa John's. Fred played me a few tracks by some up and coming artists he's been working with, and I especially enjoyed the new songs by one of the acts, Chastity Brown. She's an extraordinary talent. You can check out one of her songs below, and you'll find information about the other her and the other artists Fred is working with as part of the Creative and Dreams Music Network here. The team is developing quite the roster of talent, and one of my favorite aspects is the variety of styles represented by these artists.

And another one of the Creative and Dreams acts, Small Room 9 from Mississippi.

Since we needed to get one more load of stuff from the old house on Sunday, I decided to get up early (4:45) to head to Booneville for breakfast with my family. I figured I'd just go before everyone else and meet them in Booneville later. It worked out perfectly, and I got to see everyone for over 3 hours before Crystel's family got there. Plus, I got to see this awesome Mississippi sunrise.

On the way to Booneville, I saw something else that is uniquely small town. On highway 9 between Oxford and Tupelo, I passed a gas station at roughly 6:00 A.M. It was still dark and the roads were pretty much deserted. However, this random country store had a parking lot full of 4-wheel drive pickups, no doubt headed out for deer hunting. I sometimes miss that whole groups of people can gather in unity over something so simple, with minimal planning. Just get yourself up and go. Everyone else will do the same. I would bet that a similar gathering happened later in the day as everyone was leaving the woods to talk about their success (or lack thereof) for the day and maybe even show off the day's kill.

Anyway, the nice, relazing drive to Booneville was just what I needed that morning. I blasted Eric Church the whole way. Here's my favorite song from his new album.

Heading home for an excellent home cooked meal from my mom was just what the doctor ordered. My sister brought my niece Eliza over, still asleep and wrapped up in a blanket. She's not much of a morning person, but when I went over and talked to her, she opened her eyes and crawled into my arms. She loves her Uncle Jon-Jon, and though I'm not quite ready for kids, she makes me realize that I might have what it takes to be dad someday. After breakfast, I spent some time teaching her how to play tic-tac-toe. We'd played it a few weekends before on my iPad, but she didn't realize you could play it with a pencil and paper, the old fashioned way. She even ended up beating me a few times.

Later on, I spent some time wandering around outside catching up on what my dad and brother have been up to. Their activities consist of a mix of repairing cars, bailing hay, raising cattle, growing a garden, drag racing, buying and fixing wrecked cars and a number of other things I can't keep up with. Variety? It's always interesting to see what the latest project is.

After we got another load of stuff from the house in Booneville, we headed back to Oxford to unload everything. Crystel's dad, Fred had to head back to Nashville, and I cleaned out the garage while Julie and Crystel unpacked boxes in the house. We were able to get the garage cleared out enough to get her cars parked in the garage, which made her very happy. We were also able to get several pictures and other items hung on the walls, but we still have a lot to go.

We stayed in Oxford until Monday morning. Even though we left later than we planned, we still made it to work on time.
I have to say it was a pretty good weekend. We didn't have time to go to the game, and I missed seeing all of my friends that were in town, but it was more important that we help get Julie situated while we were all in town. She's been stuck doing so much of the work by herself, that it's good to pitch in when we can. Plus, we'll have plenty of time in the future to see games and catch up with friends in Oxford once she is settled in. We've missed that a lot over the past couple of years because we haven't really had a place big enough for us all to stay and we don't really like driving there and back in the same day.

We actually stayed home in Memphis this past weekend, so maybe I'll finally have time to post a blog about our summer trip to California. Or maybe something fun will happen in Memphis that I'll write about. Maybe both.