Category: Review

Our experiences with equipment, locations, and events.

Review of The Raw Food Detox by Ani Phyo

Review of The Raw Food Detox by Ani Phyo

I was walking through Mike’s Merchandise when “The Raw Food Detox” by Ani Phyo practically jumped into my cart – which was quite a feat since I didn’t even have a cart. It was in that moment that I remembered WHY I had avoided going into Mike’s for so long. The book aisles are too tempting.

The book had made such an effort, I decided to bring it home with me.

I confess the concept made me nervous. The idea of eating nothing but raw foods was not new to me. I did a Green Smoothie Challenge several years back and went almost all raw for that. It was 28 days. There was something about the cover of the book and the idea that there was a set plan that set my nerves on end.

*Those of you who know me, or have met me, or have read anything by me already have a clue that I am not good at following rules*

Ani Phyo did not expect me to jump in blind. I appreciated that before she expected me to dive into the process, she took the time to explain the benefits. She also invested more than a few pages to explain WHY the choices were beneficial.

RAw Food Detox Book Review

Because I wanted to reap the most from the experience, I determined I would follow the recipes. If nothing else had caused my nerves to fire then trying to follow a recipe would have done the trick. I don’t think I’ve followed an actual recipe since I was in the 4th Grade 4-H competition and I HAD to follow the recipe. Most of the time I guestimate my measurements and hope for the best.

I made it for the first three days before I started changing the recipes. I tried to stay true to them, and I did try them all first, but I made modifications so that I would enjoy them more and so that I would continue the process.

It is not a hard read and it is a great introduction to eating raw. The recipes were diverse enough to provide a wide range of flavors sure to please any palate. I will not be moving to a raw lifestyle anytime soon, but it did remind me that fresh and raw are tasty and filling.

What are your experiences with raw food options? Share your links and comments below!

Mystery Rock – Family Tourism Adventure Novel

Mystery Rock – Family Tourism Adventure Novel

Mystery, adventure, letterboxing, my love for the beauty of Alabama and the Gulf Coast all ran into each other. I won the 2012 SELTI Short Story Contest and wanted to turn that story into a tourism literature work.

Although I did find a way to expand it into the third book of the Big Springs series, it lost its tourism feel for me. I tried forcing the tourism aspect, but the characters were not cooperating.

That year, I determined to win #NaNoWriMo – which means, I determined to finish the National Novel Writing Month challenge of crafting 50,000 words in the month of November. I had read recently about a boat that was uncovered on the Gulf Coast after a hurricane. It lead me to wonder what else might be uncovered and that is where Mystery Rock was born.

As the story grew and I focused on the locations along the Gulf Coast, I begin to think of ways to could shine the spotlight on the locations. Adding the links to the sites seemed natural. Adding letterboxes to the locations seemed BRILLIANT.

Mystery Rock from the Scouting Out Adventure series

I worked with SELTI and Alabama Tourism to begin making contacts at the different locations. My family began making plans for a trip to the beach – the fact that we needed to go was of little importance. It took time. It took patience. Eventually, the plans came together.

We visited the Gulf Coast and toured some of the sites. The trip had two purposes in my mind – to scout out locations and to determine the validity of the story ideas. We returned home and began the process of finalizing the project.

My family was greatly disappointed when I informed them that we had to make a second trip to the coast. We plotted out our tour. We designed our letterboxes. We even worked with a stamp carver to get special stamps – when they are all four put together they form a single image from the book.

The trip to the Gulf Coast helped to stir the fuel of excitement about “Mystery Rock” for my family and for the locations where we hid the letterboxes. We took pictures of the locations, but sharing them was vetoed by the oldest son. “It’ll make finding them too easy.” We wrote the clues and tried to create the same excitement and challenges that the boys faced in “Mystery Rock.”

“Mystery Rock” shares the adventure of a family in a way that will allow your family to share the adventure. Read the story. Visit the sites. Discover the letterboxes. And in doing all of these, discover a part of Alabama that you may not even know was there.

Get your copy of “Mystery Rock” today!

Review of the Mobile Drury Inn

Review of the Mobile Drury Inn

The Drury Inn, Mobile, Alabama offered some great perks for our one night stay. The price compared to the other locations in the area. It also allowed for all five of us to stay in the same room.

We arrived later than I had planned. The Drury Inn offers an evening meal to guests, as well as drinks. Our arrival happened about thirty minutes after they had finished serving, but my crew was too tired to eat anyway.

The check-in went smooth and the attendant was very pleasant. We found a parking place next to our entrance and unloaded.

The moment we walked in, my son made it clear that we had chosen well. Spencer awed at the chandelier hanging in the lobby ceiling. We found our room and settled in for the night.

It was a tight fit for our crew, but everyone slept just fine.


Most hotel rooms offer little privacy for study or work. Occasionally, a suite will have a nook where I can get away. The Drury Inn had several niches around the first floor that worked perfectly for my morning quiet time. It was only two doors down from our room so that I could keep an eye out for early wakers. Breakfast started serving at 6 am, so I got a cup a coffee and enjoyed my quiet time.

The rest of the crew began to stir a couple of hours later. Spencer was first to wake and request breakfast, so he and I made our way to the breakfast spread. They offered sausage, gravy, biscuits, toast, bagels, eggs, potatoes, oatmeal (not instant) and “make your own waffles.” My son went straight for the cereal – because he never gets that at home. The rest of the crew made their way to the lounge area and filled up for the morning adventures.



LOCATION:

The Drury Inn, Mobile is easy to locate – IF you have some understanding of the Mobile service roads. It can be a little more of a challenge otherwise. The Drury Inn sits just off I-65 and Airport.



STAFF:

There are not enough positive adjectives to describe the staff. I even had the chance to meet one of the customer service operators (who happened to be staying there) and she was a delight. They were all friendly, greeted me with a smile, and were helpful – at 10:30 pm and at 6:00 am.



ACCOMMODATIONS:

The room and facilities were clean. The bed was comfortable. The room was quiet. The Drury Inn is extremely pet-friendly and kid-friendly.



BIGGEST BONUS FOR US:

The evening meal can be a great way to save a little money and some hassle while traveling with the family. Most hotels now offer some type of breakfast, but the Drury Inn is the only one that we have encountered that offers the evening option as well.

BONUS FOR OTHERS:

This chain is pet-friendly. We have stayed at hotels that allowed people to bring their pets, but this is the first one where we have seen people traveling even with their large dogs. Your elevator experience is taken to a new level when you have the chance to share it with a Labrador.

BIGGEST COMPLAINT:

There are only three Drury Inns in Alabama at this time. Adding one to Tuscaloosa is a much-needed addition for this chain. P.S. Locate it close to downtown for my convenience.

Review of the Gulf State Park Primitive Camping

Review of the Gulf State Park Primitive Camping

zipline-at-alabama-gulf-state-park
The Gulf State Park offered fun and adventure for the family. It also had some potential for hidden surprises that did not seem so appealing to me. Anyone that has met me has probably heard at least one story that proves I have few fears of things in this world. I have been known to get up close and personal with snakes to determine their identity. Spiders and I have no issues.

My concerns are more of the exotic type – or at least the salt water type. I have no love for sharks or their land walking cousins the alligators. Alligators actually creep me out even more than sharks, but that is probably because I have never had a shark grin at me. The information about the local alligators almost had me shying away from the benefits that the Gulf State Park had to offer.

I endured for my family because I am just that kind.

I spent weeks talking myself into the trip – or maybe it took me that long to block out the natives. My Facebook alligator nemesis took those very weeks to take a hiatus.

lake-cabins-at-gulf-state-park

We packed for our trip and drove down to the Gulf on a crystal blue afternoon. My husband got us checked into the campground and we drove to our assigned primitive camping spot. The men unpacked and I drove off to the grocery store while they set up camp.

I returned to find our tent set up just five yards from a small canal. All of the efforts to eliminate the land walking shark cousin from my mind went right out the window. I was sleeping next to their hunting ground. I tried to keep my eyes off the canal while never turning my back to it. It was an interesting time.

The next day my oldest son pointed out that the canal was only a few inches deep. I may have slept easier had he pointed that out before we went to sleep (or tried to sleep). I still believe he did it on purpose.

Despite my unease, the wildlife kept their distance. We never saw an alligator – or a shark – the whole time we were there. We did see lots of birds, several types of crabs (on the beach), and even a coyote – across the park.

The campsite was perfect. The Gulf State Park recently added the primitive sites. They are set back in the trees and shrubs so you have plenty of privacy in the sites. The fire pit was nice, but it was too deep to be practical for cooking with the items we brought with us. I will know for next time to take our grilling set and maybe even a grate to put over the pit.

primitive-camp-site-gulf-state-park

The primitive sites come without electricity or water, but we were only a short distance from the bathrooms so it was never an issue. After the meals, the guys would walk up to the bathrooms and wash out the pots or pans. It took them about as long to wash as it did for me to pack up from cooking.

Basic Review of the Alabama Gulf State Park

CLEANLINESS:

I give the Gulf State Park 10 out of 10. The area around the park was clear of debris and the bathrooms were very well kept.

ACCOMMODATIONS:

The camp site was very nice and I appreciated the seclusion that the primitive sites provided. The park had set out mulch on the sites, and that made for some rough sleeping. The site we were in could have used about three or four more feet on either side. I give the camp site 8 out of 10.

BENEFITS:

The camping area was very family friendly. I would say the majority of people camping the weekend we were there had children. People stayed pretty active until later in the night, but we turned on a small fan and the white noise helped block out their enthusiasm.

BONUS:

The scenery around the Gulf State Park is amazing, and it is always a bonus for my crew to be within a few miles of the beach.

Review of the Ozark Trail Single Burner Camp Stove

Review of the Ozark Trail Single Burner Camp Stove

My first meeting with the single burner camp stove came after the April 27th, 2011 tornado outbreaks in North Alabama. Our little area was hit with four funnel clouds, the last of which ripped up four telephone poles along the main line. I knew we were in for the long haul, and the single burner (Coleman) was just the thing I needed to make things work.

I fell in love with the ease of use, the flexibility, and especially the amount of heat the small burner produced. It could handle the heaviness of a cast iron skillet, or manage the perfect temperature for percolating coffee.

Our first family camp out down at the beach expanded my love – and our cooking family. As we set up that first night, I realized that the single burner had not made the trip.

Ozark Trails single burner camping stove

I understand that meals can be cooked in a variety of ways. When you mix together ingenuity, creativity, and a dash of patience, anything can be possible . . . or almost anything. Try as I might, I could not figure out a way to make coffee with the limited resources that had made it to the gulf with us.

I tried to survive, but I realized by that next morning that a single burner was necessary (even if only for the coffee). I sent my family off to Walmart to purchase a single burner and they returned with the Ozark Trail Single Burner Camp Stove.

He told me when he returned that he had considered investing in a double burner. “It required a different fuel canister.” We have learned that consistency in the fuel can be vital when it comes to camping activities. The single burner was similar to the one we already had at home, and it took the same fuel as that single burner as well as the camping stoves that we own.

Coffee was ready within moments of their return.

My favorite feature of the single burner is the versatility. It worked well with my large soup pot and just as easily with my small tea pot. It also helps that the single burner is easy to set up, takes up very little space, and breaks down just as easily as it sets up.

We were smart this time around and kept the box for repacking. In the future, we may find a container that will hold both single burners and also have space for the fuel canisters. For now, we are happy to have the Ozark Trail Single Burner Camp Stove join our family.