Dads of Daughters, This One’s For You

Apr 14 2014

If you have a daughter (or daughters), please take a couple of minutes to read this. I’ve had the opportunity to follow a fantastic blog over the past few years called “Life to Her Years.” The author, Michael Mitchell, captures perfectly the essence of being a father to a little girl in today’s world. Each entry in his blog is a short snippet that provides some insight into being a good father.

Michael now has a book coming out (in time for Father’s Day) called Life Lessons for Dad (Tea Parties, Tutus & All Things Pink) that contains some of the best entries from his blog plus some new entries. Each short entry is combined with a meaningful picture. If you’re a dad, some of the entries will make you laugh because you’ve seen the life lesson already played out in your life. Others will honestly make you tear up because you know you’ve passed a certain life lesson and it brings back a flood of emotions and good memories. One of my favorites: “Dry her off after bath time. When she lays her clean little head on your shoulder and grabs a piece of your shirt, you’ll want to freeze time.”

I’ve read through an advance copy of the book through a couple of times now, and it deserves a permanent spot in the favorites section of my bookshelf.

You can pick up the book at Barnes & Noble, LifeWay, Mardel, Walmart, Sam’s Club, Amazon, and other places. For the truly dedicated, you can preorder a signed copy from Michael and, if you order by May 1, delivery is guaranteed by Father’s Day!

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Remember to make memories

Mar 21 2012

In my previous post, I wrote about one of my wife’s students, Jason, and his father who has cancer and about the frailty and temporary nature of our life on this earth. This is one of the very reasons that I love photography. Photography allows us to freeze moments in time. It provides a way for us to remember the things we don’t want to forget. Our minds and our memories are amazing, but despite our best efforts, we forget things. Pictures help us to remember. Not only do we see where we were and what we were doing, but we remember how we felt at the time. We can recall the emotions and the events surrounding the photo as well. A picture can let us relive that moment that was captured, at least in our mind.

We don’t get a second chance to make memories. If those moments aren’t captured, eventually they will become fuzzy. Despite our best efforts, we will eventually forget parts of the moment or event or day. So make an effort to document any time that you want to remember. Whether it’s a cell phone snapshot from a day in the park with your kids or hiring a professional to capture all of the details of an important day like a wedding, don’t miss the moments.

Make pictures, keep the memories.

Both of our girls asleep in my lap. Taken and edited with my cell phone. A memory I’ll treasure forever.

Our Christmas card picture for 2011.
Do you know how hard it is to get a three-year-old and a 9-month-old to look at the camera and smile at the same time? (And we never sent the Christmas cards out!)

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Beyond this life

Mar 19 2012

This morning, as I was sitting in my office just getting my day started, I received a text message from my wife. She teaches preschool, so she only texts if she has something really important to tell me. (OK, every once and a while I get a text just to tell me that she loves me, and those make my day.) Today, her text read, “Jason in my class whose dad has cancer came in and told me his daddy is going to heaven today. And it’s true, they have called the family in. :( I can’t handle this!”

I read that and my heart skipped a beat. I don’t know Jason, but I do know that there is a four-year-old boy who will soon never see his father again on this earth. A hundred thoughts and questions filled my head. Sorrow for Jason, sorrow for his family, thankfulness for my good health, a prayer for those who are sick and hurting. I asked myself, “How do you explain to a young child that they will never be able to talk to or see their father again?” Then I thought about my own children, and how lucky I am to have my family.

Then I thought about the assurance we have in heaven, of a life infinitely better than this one that is to be had if we live this life for God and obey his commandments. To me, there is no greater comfort in death than this. Paul wrote in his second letter to the Christians in Corinth, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have hope to be reunited with our loved ones after death, that death is temporary, and that victory comes only after death. I pray that I will teach my children to love God and obey his commandments so that we can all be in heaven together when our time on earth has ended.

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Temporary life

Mar 19 2012

This morning, as I was getting in my office to start my day, I noticed I had a message from my wife. She teaches preschool, so she only contacts me if she has something really important to tell me. (OK, every once and a while She might leave a message just to tell me that she loves me, and those make my day.) The message I received today was basically, “Jason in my class whose dad has cancer came in and told me his daddy is going to heaven today. And it’s true, they have called the family in. I can’t handle this!”

When I finished the message, my heart skipped a beat. Then it fell into my stomach. I don’t know Jason, but I do know that there is a four-year-old boy who will soon never see his father again on this earth. A hundred thoughts and questions filled my head. Sorrow for Jason, sorrow for his family, thankfulness for my good health, a prayer for those who are sick and hurting. I asked myself, “How do you explain to a young child that they will never be able to talk to or see their father again?” “What would I do if I were in that situation?” Then I thought about my own children, and how lucky I am to have my family.

Then I thought about the assurance we have in heaven, of a life infinitely better than this one that is to be had if we live this life for God and obey his commandments. To me, there is no greater comfort in death than this. Paul wrote in his second letter to the Christians in Corinth, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” We have hope to be reunited with our loved ones after death, that death is temporary, and that victory comes only after death. I pray that I will teach my children to love God and obey his commandments so that we can all be in heaven together when our time on earth has ended.

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What Really Matters

Feb 17 2012

Tonight my 11-month-old made me step back and evaluate how I see things. Rebecca and I (ok, mainly Rebecca) have been cleaning our house in preparation for having company this weekend. Here’s basically how things went. Rebecca or I pick up toys, clothes, etc. and put them away. Claire follows and proceeds to get out whatever was just put away plus one other item. We move Claire, put up what she got out, and the process starts over again. Needless to say we felt like we were getting nowhere.

As Rebecca and I were both trying to clean her room she started playing with one of her ring stacking toys. Rebecca and I got some things put away and then we found ourselves sitting in the floor playing with her and cheering for her as she stacked the rings on the base. It was then that Rebecca made a statement that struck a chord in me. She said to Claire, “Thank you for helping me realize what is important.”

That simple statement made me realize how easily and how often we let “things” get in the way of people. In Luke’s gospel we read about Jesus going to spend time in the house of Mary and Martha. These sisters took very different approaches to entertaining Jesus. Martha cooked and cleaned while Mary sat and talked with Jesus. When Martha became angry that Mary wasn’t helping her, Jesus took Mary’s side. He said to Martha, “Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her” (luke 10:42).

We only get one chance to spend each moment we are given. Sometimes we must choose between doing two “good” things such as cleaning and being hospitable or spending time with loved ones and becoming invested in their lives. My eleven-month-old will be a year old very soon, and I know I’m not going to feel bad if my house is a little bit untidy because I was busy spending time with her.

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Valentine’s Day Date at Connor’s

Feb 15 2012

As I said previously, Connor’s Steakhouse made my list of best places to eat in Huntsville even though I had never eaten there. Now that I have experienced Connor’s, I know it deserves its place on my list.  My wife and I went on our Valentine’s Day date on Saturday because it’s easier to find a babysitter on a Saturday than on a Tuesday.  We enjoyed having a little time to ourselves and being able to have adult conversation without being interrupted.  (Read: there were some long pauses where we didn’t know what to say or do because we’re so used to having two girls with us all the time.)  Now, back to Connor’s.

I had made reservations at the end of January just to make sure we got a table since I knew they’d be busy around Valentine’s Day.  We walked in just before our reservation time, told the hostess our name, and were seated in a booth in the back of the restaurant immediately. We were greeted quickly by our waiter who provided us with a description of the Valentine’s Day specials. We were both hungry, so everything sounded good.  We ordered our drinks and an appetizer of battered fried mushrooms with a creole mustard sauce. The mushrooms were fresh, meaty and delicately battered and fried, much better than any other fried mushrooms I’ve ever had. We only ate about half of them to make sure we saved room for the rest of our meal.

Our second course consisted of soups. My wife ordered their signature lobster and crab bisque, and I ordered the soup du jour. I don’t remember the exact name of it, but it was something like smoky chicken poblano soup. Whatever it was called, it was wonderful. It had a bit of a southwestern kick to it (from the smoked peppers). If it’s available, I’d highly recommend it. If it’s not, the lobster and crab bisque is fantastic as well.

For our main dishes, my wife ordered the Connor’s 6 oz filet cooked medium with a side of their made-from-scratch mac and cheese. I ordered the 6 oz boursin filet cooked medium with a side of cheese grits. The presentation was simple with the side dishes in their own bowls.  My steak was topped with a generous portion of boursin cheese and tobacco onions.  As we started cutting into our steaks, we knew we were in for a treat. Our butter knives sliced the steak without any trouble. After one bite, we both realize we were going to have a new high mark with which we will compare all other steaks.  Just to see how tender my steak was, I cut my second bite with my fork, and it cut easily. Hands down, the filets at Connor’s are THE BEST STEAKS we have ever eaten.

Their mac and cheese is good, not overly cheesy with just a hint of pepper. The cheese grits were fantastic. I’m not really a fan of grits, but I’m pretty sure they used the lobster and crab bisque to add flavor and moisture to the grits. We went in hungry, and we left with a full to-go box because we couldn’t even eat our sides.

If you ever get a chance to experience Connor’s, do yourself a favor and make a reservation and never look back.  We will be dining there again.

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Best of Huntsville Dining

Feb 10 2012

My wife and I live in Decatur, but we both work in Huntsville. We go to church in Huntsville, we shop in Huntsville, we go to movies in Huntsville.  We practically live in Huntsville, with the exception of owning a house and sleeping in Huntsville.  We’re working on that part, but I digress…

One other thing we do in Huntsville quite a bit is eat. Yes, we both like to eat, and so do our children. We have eaten at many places in Huntsville so I figured making a list of the best places we’ve eaten, or the best dishes we’ve eaten, wouldn’t be too hard.  Then my cohorts and I agreed that the places on the list should be local to Huntsville or at least not a franchise or a chain.  So that threw out my favorite fast food place, Chick-fil-a.  (It’s the only fast food place I like!)  I put on my thinking cap (and I asked my wife), and here’s my list of the best places to dine in Huntsville.  They are categorized by type of food, but in no particular order.

Mexican

Bandito Burrito – Grande Burrito with Rice and Beans
I dare you to finish it. I’ve gone in starving and not been able to eat it all. The original location on Governor’s Drive may not look as nice as their Madison location, but it has character. And sometimes character just makes the food taste a little bit better.  When you order a side of cheese dip, they bring it in a taco shell bowl.  Eat the dip, then eat the bowl!  Another good thing: the grande burrito with rice and beans will only set you back about $6.

Phil Sandoval’s – chips and salsa
The Year of Alabama Food webite lists Rosie’s as the place to go for Mexican food, but I prefer Phil Sandoval’s, or Phil’s for short. Their chips and salsa are fantastic. I could make a meal out of just the chips and salsa. The chips are thinner than most tortilla chips, but they still hold salsa well. Even though their service is fast, I tend to fill up on chips and salsa before my entree arrives. For lunch I’ll often order a chicken soft taco and a side of rice, and it only sets me back about $5. I never leave hungry. Actually, I usually have to work to make room for the free soft-serve ice cream they provide at the end of my meal.

Pizza

Tommy’s Pizza – Mediterranean Pizza
Tommy’s doesn’t just make pizza, they make pizza pies.  Their New York style pizza is fresh and different from every other pizza place in Huntsville.  The large slices of thin crust pizza ensure you get plenty of toppings and that you can actually taste the toppings and not just the dough.  Their original location at Bridge Street Towne Centre is a little bit funky and very fun. You can sit outdoors and overlook the carousel and the lake, or you can sit inside and enjoy a timeline about the history of pizza and photographs by local photographers. It’s very kid-friendly, too!

Steak

Connor’s Steakhouse – Boursin Filet (filet topped with boursin cheese and tobacco onions)
I’m going to make a confession. I haven’t eaten here…yet. My wife and I are celebrating Valentine’s Day there tomorrow.  Maybe I shouldn’t put it on the list since I haven’t eaten here, but I’m basing its inclusion on what I’ve heard from everyone who has eaten there. Everyone says it’s the best steak in Huntsville, and everyone says to get the Boursin Filet and the cheese grits.  We have tried to eat there before only to be turned away by a two hour wait for a table. This time, I made reservations (highly recommended), and tomorrow I will finally have a chance to taste the steak everyone seems to love.

German

Ol’ Heidelburg – bread and desserts
This is the only place I’ve had German food in Huntsville. Actually, it’s the only place I’ve ever had German food unless you count the ice cream I at when I spent a few hours in Germany.  Ol’ Heidelburg does have some of the best bread I’ve ever eaten. They bring a basket to the table when you sit down, and I could easily eat a basket by myself. The bread is always warm when they bring it out. I like mine with some butter and a bit of their mustard.  As for the desserts, I’ve heard they are homemade, and I wouldn’t doubt it. They are absolutely fantastic!  A warning: a lot of the food is very rich and can sit heavy since it’s fried and smothered in sauces.

Thai

Phuket - Thai Coconut Soup
There are several local Thai restaurants, but I love the coconut soup at Phuket. It has just enough spice to warm your palette, but it’s sweet enough that you can’t stop eating it. The entrees are good, too, but not noticeably better than other local Thai places.

Wings

Beauregard’s – Habanero wings
Sure, Beauregard’s seems to make all of the Huntsville’s best lists, and for good reason. I know a guy from the DC area who makes it a point to eat here every time he visits, and he’ll buy their hot sauce to take home. The habanero wings are hot, but they also have flavor. The wings are crisp and delicious. A word of caution: the habanero wings WILL make you sweat,. I think they might have given me a little chemical burn on my lips.

Breakfast

Blue Plate Cafe
I’ve only eaten here one time (breakfast), but when I came home that day I told my wife that I had to take her to try it. It’s just good food. Several people mentioned Blue Plate to me when I told them about this list, so I know I’m not the only one who believes you should eat here.

To see what my friends listed, check out their blogs:
Neal Edwards
Ari Pepper

As of right now, this is my list of places I wouldn’t want to miss if I were looking for local fare in Huntsville.  I know I haven’t eaten at every local place, so I’ve probably overlooked some places. If you know of a place you think should be on the list, let me know so I can check it out!

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Upcoming post – The Best of Huntsville Dining

Feb 06 2012

After a long blogging hiatus, I find myself blogging again. Maybe this will get me started back and provide motivation to keep blogging. I’m not very optimistic (which I suppose is odd because I consider myself an overly optimistic person), but this post is at least a fresh start.

You may be wondering why I will blogging about dining and places to eat in a blog that has, at least until very recently, been all about photography. Here’s why…

A co-worker of mine and I were recently compared to Statler and Waldorf. You may remember those guys as the “old guys” who always heckle the Muppets. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be a complement, but we’re both muppet fans and so we rolled with it. At the time, we were critiquing food and, more specifically, Alabama tourism board’s new list of 100 dishes to eat in Alabama before you die. We wondered how certain places made the list and how others missed the list. We took our conversation to twitter, and found another person who shared some of our same concerns. And so we each decided to blog our own list of places to eat in Huntsville, AL, before you die. (If that’s a bit morbid, then maybe you could call it “Can’t Miss Dining in Huntsville” or something else more upbeat.)

You can see my list of top places to eat on Friday. Because I like to build suspense.

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Jan 25 2011

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Are you alive?

Mar 21 2010

Recent events in my life have caused me to ask myself whether I’m actually alive or whether I’m just living.  My wife’s great-aunt passed away on Thursday night.  While we were at the funeral home for visitation tonight, my mother called and told me that my great-aunt had passed away.  Two deaths in your family within a matter of days will make you stop and re-evaluate your life.

Are you just living or are you really alive?

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