Can We Fit an 8-foot Table into a 6-foot Backseat?

Let’s go shopping! It’s the best kind — where you just look and don’t bring anything home. (Incidentally, this is my husband’s preferred way of shopping.) Recently friends and I were cruising around nearby Smith Lake, close to Cullman, Alabama, and we passed an ironworks store/wedding rental on a county road. There were four of us, and three of the four have wonderful taste in all things decorative and are excellent and enthusiastic shoppers: One has an eye for vintage bargains, one keeps an organized list and only buys for specific needs and one thinks looooong and hard about each purchase. On the other hand, one of us just wants to go drink but always says “Sure! Let’s stop!! That looks like fun!!!” when the others see a tempting gardening/furniture/home decor/antiques shop because I she’s afraid they’ll make her stay home next time. But sometimes treasures such as gracefully scrolled metal furniture and luminous and colorful glassware delight even the most impatient shopper.

And to prove that I am not a total decorating and shopping failure, I offer Exhibit A: Part of our front porch. I was going for cozy, casual and not ugly. The rocking chair we bought a few years ago from Cracker Barrel, the fern stand I got at Hobby Lobby at one of those incredible sales at which you feel as if the store’s paying you to take stuff away, the pillow’s from T.J. Maxx and the flowers (picked out with help of Husband JP) are from Lowe’s. I buy all greenery at Lowe’s because I’m terrified of the workers at local nurseries who actually talk to you and ask if they can help you and who expect a somewhat intelligent reply in return when all I know is that I need plants I can’t kill that have the little sun and shade icons on them. Sigh. Come to think of it, my friends probably WILL leave me home next time.

Tornado Damage

You read the newspaper articles. You see the photos. You listen to the radio reports and hear of close calls from friends of friends. But nothing — nothing — prepares you for seeing first-hand the devastation from the late-April storms that ripped through the South, decimating communities and killing more than 300 people.  Such as in downtown Cullman, Alabama — a town of about 15,000 in north central Alabama east of I-65 known for its German heritage, its Oktoberfest and All Steak restaurant’s orange rolls. And now it’s known for the April 27 tornado that roared through. My friend Susan and I were stunned to speechlessness as we drove past blocks and blocks that literally looked as if they’d been bombed. We were especially struck by scenes such as the American Red Cross headquarters, clinging to the corner of a relatively minor-damaged street, that’s in no shape to shelter anybody. And the man in what was left of his backyard, doggedly replanting a vegetable garden in the midst of unbelievable destruction. Cullman — and Hackleburg and Phil Campbell and Harvest and Tuscaloosa and Smithville, Miss., as well as other towns, will rebuild and recover … and always remember.

Creative consulting/photography support: Susan Cantrell, who kept saying, “Oh, you’ve got to take that picture and put it on your blog.”