Sunday, December 26, 2010

White Christmas (sort of)

The novelty of snow, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

We saw significant snow in Birmingham for the second time this year, and amazingly enough it came on Christmas day. Snow fell steadily all day long yesterday, so I'll call it a "white Christmas," though it didn't really accumulate until today.

Emily and Kendall spent a few minutes outside trying to catch snowflakes on their tongues and having a snowball fight with Misty (which they claim to have won, but Misty says otherwise).

This makes three winters in a row where Birmingham has had enough snow to play in (Feb. 2009, Feb. 2010). The girls are going to think that it happens every winter -- they have no idea how strange this trend is. The rarity of a Christmas snowfall made it extra special this time.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Jingling all the way

Misty in the Jingle Bell Run, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

I continue to be proud of my wife. Today she ran her fourth 5K race since she completed the "Couch to 5K" program earlier this year. This morning, Misty donned an "I believe" Santa shirt, looped bells in her shoelaces, and ran in the Jingle Bell Run, a benefit event for the Arthritis Foundation.

During the race, Emily, Kendall, and I hung out in Underwood Park along with my parents, who were in town for the weekend. There were all sorts of snacks and drinks -- oranges, cookies, hot cocoa, cotton candy, even pizza -- to enjoy, along with some giant inflatables.

I managed to pull the girls away from their fun just in time to see Misty's finish, which crept up on us quicker than expected. She shaved seven minutes off her time from the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure!

Following the Jingle Bell Run, we headed over near my office for the final day of the Pepper Place Fall Market. Emily was really excited about showing Grammy and Haha the secluded garden at Charlie Thigpen's Garden Galley.

We finished up our outing with some time at Railroad Park where the girls got to run around and play some more. Finally though, the cold weather drove us indoors.

Racing at Railroad Park, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Or, at least, I'd hoped I'd be indoors. While Emily and Kendall went off to swim at the hotel where my parents were staying, Misty worked on baking projects and I set to hang up the outdoor Christmas lights. If I didn't do it today, it wasn't going to get done this year.

Much to my dismay, I'd forgotten that first I'd have to trim the crepe myrtles, which is an hour-long project in itself. However, once I finished hauling off the branches and got to the lights, the project went much faster than it has in years past. This time I used snap-on light hooks that attach to the gutters, and they were so easy! I couldn't figure out how to make the extending pole work right though, but even having to climb a ladder, this method was way better than using a staple gun. Maybe now, hanging the lights can cease being a holiday project that I dread.

Here are a few more photos from our morning activities.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

An elf has been assigned to our house

When I returned home with the girls last night, there was an "Elf on the Shelf" box sitting on the back porch. We can only assume that it came from Santa.

We read the little story about the elf and learned that he flies back to the North Pole each night to deliver a report. He returns before the girls wake, and each day he appears in a different spot (sometimes getting into mischief along the way). Their job is to find him in the morning. They're not supposed to touch him though, or the magic that allows him to fly home each night might rub off. They can, however, talk to him (though Santa's rules forbid him from speaking to us).

Emily and Kendall named our elf "Eddie," and we set him atop the baker's rack in the kitchen (so he can keep an eye on Kendall while she refuses to eat dinner each night). The girls set up chairs in front of his perch and spent 20 minutes chatting to Eddie, listing 142 things they want for Christmas, telling him about how they plan to be good, and detailing other family holiday activities for him.

The girls haven't woken up yet this morning, but I noticed Eddie hanging out in the branches of the Christmas tree. I can't wait to see where he shows up tomorrow.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Art is everywhere

This afternoon, Misty and I took the girls on an art-filled outing. It wasn't intended as such -- it just turned out that way.

We had lunch at Bottletree, which, if you don't know, is decorated with an eclectic assortment of artwork. I finally tried the "Viking Funeral" -- a plate of sweet potato fries smothered with their award-winning chili and pimento cheese (which Misty says is the best ever). It easily lived up to the praise I'd heard from others.

After lunch, we had some time to kill, so we headed over to the Birmingham Museum of Art for a bit. The girls breezed through the rooms and weren't too interested in most of the art on display. However, they were quick to spot a kids drawing area where they could post their sketches on a bulletin board. That was a big hit.

Finally, we went to the movies where we saw "Tangled," in which Rapunzel painted scenes from her dreams on the walls of the tower in which she was imprisoned. It was a beautiful movie, but it didn't quite resonate with me like other recent Disney animated films. Misty and the girls loved it, though.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Christmas decorations: Check (well, almost)

Oh, Christmas tree, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

While other poor suckers were stampeding for Black Friday sales or watching some silly football game, we spent the day putting up our Christmas decorations.

The girls have been looking forward to this for a while and were very enthusiastic about helping -- so much so that Misty continually had to tell them to stop because they were handling breakable ornaments, pulling out too much at once, or simply putting things in the "wrong place" (Misty has a very structured system to how she likes to decorate the tree, and it is not to be trifled with).

With as much staying-out-of-the-way as possible for me, the job is complete (inside, at least -- outdoor lights are another story). Thanks to Misty, our house looks beautiful and festive, with Christmas decor everywhere (the picture above doesn't begin to tell the story).

And those Black Friday deals we "missed out" on? We compared prices online this morning and did some shopping that fared equally or better, price-wise -- and we didn't have to stay up all night, hunt for parking spaces, or cram ourselves into a huge crowd.

A nice change of pace for Thanksgiving

Cousins group portriat, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Do you know how difficult it is to get five kids to smile at once? It's easy -- so long as you don't have a camera pointed at them. Pull out a camera though, and suddenly they're determined to put on a sullen expression and a stiff pose. And no ammount of coaxing will get them to look in the right direction.

Since we wanted group pictures of the kids at Thanksgiving, Misty's solution was to stand behind me and act like a fool, hoping they would look her way and crack a smile. I don't know what she was doing back there, but it worked. We wound up with a few really good shots.

Our annual Thanksgiving meal in Cullman this year was great -- in large part because this is the first time I can remember when it was just family. The kids had fun playing together outside. They jumped in the leaves and pulled one another around in a wagon. The rest of us were able to relax and socialize.

Maybe the best part of all though, was that since my parents were in New England, we had no plans to go to Atlanta the next day. Not that I don't enjoy visiting them, but since we're staying in Alabama, we were able to take home leftovers!

Monday, November 22, 2010

A tough day for the family

I attended a funeral today for the son of one of my co-workers.

Actually, Brian is more than a co-worker. He's a long-time friend too -- one I've known for about 17 years. We lived in the same dorm building at UAH. We both majored in communication arts and had many of our classes together -- including the dreaded CM 431, where we wrote and defended our theses. We were in PRCA together. He drove me home safely the first time I was ever drunk (something he has delighted in reminding me about for years -- if only I could find a picture of him from back when he had his big mane of hair). I started working at, and when a new internship opened up there a few months later, I pointed Brian toward it and our editor-in-chief scooped him right up. We've been among the steadfast members of the company, working together for over a decade.

Brian's daughter Taylor is about a year older than Emily. He and his wife, Elizabeth, had their second child in September -- a boy they named Keith. I only met him once, when they brought him by to visit the office one afternoon, and he was a sweet little baby.

This past Thursday night, we got a call at home from's office manager telling us that Keith had died. He'd stopped breathing and was rushed to Children's Hospital, but doctors were unable to save him. He was just over two months old.

The funeral was not what I expected. Brian and Elizabeth seemed to be holding up amazingly well, but I have no doubt they're a wreck on the inside. My guess is that with Taylor to consider, they have to be strong for her sake. Seeing Keith's coffin didn't even effect me that much -- it was so tiny, it just didn't seem real. Instead, looking at Taylor was what made me choke up.

I can't conceive what it would be like to experience the death of one's own child -- probably the most horrible thing ever -- but it seems even worse with another child in the picture. Not only are you going through torment that you wouldn't wish upon anyone, but your child -- the one you want to protect from all harm -- is experiencing it too. Thinking about my own girls, you may as well cut one of them in half as take away the other forever. They're inseperable, even if they don't act like it all the time.

It may sound odd, but I don't grieve for Keith. I know he's OK. It's Brian, Elizabeth, and Taylor that have my prayers. I hope they can find strength in their faith. From what I know of them, they will.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A busy and rewarding weekend

We had an awesome weekend leading up to the week of Thanksgiving.

To start off, Misty and I celebrated our 7-year anniversary a few days early on Friday. I dropped off the girls with their grandmother and met Misty at the movie theater to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 1. We loved it, but we're glad we didn't bring the kids -- and not just because we wanted a night to ourselves. It's a very intense movie with non-stop peril (and a nearly naked Harry Potter and Hermione). Following the movie, we had dinner at Carrabba's where we enjoyed dining without having to take multiple bathroom breaks or plead with anyone to please stay in their chair.

Saturday Misty and I went for a morning walk through an adjacent neighborhood, then we headed out to Wylam to help our church serve an early Thanksgiving dinner to the community through Acknowledge Outreach Ministries. Afterward, we picked up the girls, finally relieving Misty's mom of her 24-hour marathon babysitting duty. In the evening, we went to a dinner at church which included a Q&A with marriage specialist Joe Beam.

Sunday morning, all the regular Sunday school classes were combined for another lesson from Joe Beam. He talked about how we've become accustomed to worshiping the created God, rather than God the creator -- or, in other words, that we love God when He fits the picture we've painted of Him, but become angry or doubtful when He doesn't.

When church let out, we rushed down to Montgomery to the Alabama Shakespeare Festival, where we saw their production of Peter Pan (which Emily and Kendall helped me review). We had a great time, and all of us loved the show. There was a cast meet-and-greet afterward with champaign, cupcakes, and lots of other goodies. Kendall had a glass of "Sprout" (aka Sprite). As we watched a blue moon rise (at 5 p.m.!), the girls enjoyed running around in the field in front of the theater, pretending to be Wendy and Tiger Lily.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

7 days of dessert

Cookies at Culinard, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

I've been eating a lot of dessert over the past week.

For Birmingham's 2nd annual Sweet on a Cure event, where local restaurants offered 100% of the proceeds from select desserts to benefit cancer research, I ate a different dessert every day and wrote about it on

Misty made an amusing observation that while she participated in Race for the Cure, I ate dessert for the cure.

Here's a roundup of my adventure in deliciousness...

Day 1: Cantina - Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding
Day 2: Brannon's - Truly Scrumptious Cupcakes
Day 3: Jim 'N Nick's - Lemon Pie
Day 4: Culinard - White Chocolate Blueberry Cookies / Rojo - Chango
Day 5: Silvertron - White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Day 6: Famous Fred's - Baklava
Day 7: Frankie's Market Cafe - Banana Pudding

Saturday, November 13, 2010

The holidays are here (whether you're ready or not)

We attended the Galleria's Christmas lighting ceremony last night. Unfortunately, it was a big buildup for little reward.

As expected, the Galleria food court and the balcony surrounding it above were jam-packed. We wound up with a decent spot to stand and watch, but we couldn't hear very well. It was as if the microphones weren't turned on for some of the performers. We could hear that they were speaking or singing, but we couldn't tell understand any of the words. Also, the event had promised "snow," but that turned out to be a bust -- just one little area was involved, and you couldn't even see it from where we were. The kids weren't really interested in sitting still for the whole thing, but we stuck it out.

On the fun side, Misty got us each gingerbread cookies to eat while we watched. They were really good. Afterward we rode the carousel (which has the regular animals swapped out with reindeer for the holidays) and ran into some friends from church. We also got to meet the missionary family our church sponsors in Burkina Faso, Africa, who were visiting for the week.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A day of fun with Dad

Racing at Railroad Park, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Since was off work for Veterans Day, the girls and I devised a day of fun activities.

We started off with a snack at Culinard Cafe while we waited for Misty's mom at the doctor's office. Once we dropped her back at her home, we went out to explore the new Railroad Park in downtown Birmingham. We played on the playground, watched some kids skateboarding, threw a frisbee back and forth (Emily caught it three times! She was so proud), and listened to a couple of guys play bluegrass music. Next we headed to the McWane Science Center where we played in "Just Mice Size" and checked out the model train exhibit. We finished up with lunch at Rojo where we ate on the patio under their year-round Christmas lights.

I'd hoped to take the girls to the Veterans Day parade, but lunch lasted longer than I'd expected. They wanted to keep going to the zoo and Wald Park playground afterward, but it was time for a nap.

Here are a few more photos from our outing.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The exclusivity of railway travel

On our way home from tonight's free mini model build at the Lego Store (where the girls each built a Thanksgiving turkey), the subject of trains came up.

I mentioned that I'd never ridden on a real train before -- only little trains like those at the zoo or Stone Mountain -- but that it's something I'd like to do one day.

"Well, you can't, Dad," Emily said. "Only hobos."

Monday, November 01, 2010

Thou shalt not trick-or-treat on a Sunday

Misty alerted me today that one of our neighbors had posted the following comment on her Facebook wall:

Our neighborhood posted a sign saying we're to Trick-or-Treat tonight from 6:00-8:00. I suppose tomorrow night we will have barricades set up at the entrance of our neighborhood with lil' old cane-wielding ladies standing guard.

That cracked me up. The thing is, the sign telling us that Halloween would be moving from Sunday to Saturday wasn't posted until Saturday morning. I spent more than 20 minutes on the phone with our neighborhood association president, explaining that you can't wait until the day of the event to let people know that it's happening (never mind the absurdity of moving Halloween in the first place) because people have already made plans.

As it turned out, trick-or-treaters at our house were about evenly spit between the two days. I really didn't care when kids wanted to come by -- I just didn't want to be told (at the last minute) when mine were allowed to participate.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Spooky supper

This is why my wife is awesome. Check out the Halloween-themed dinner she made tonight.

Halloween fun at church

Dressed up for Trunk-or-Treat, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Sunday night was Trunk-or-Treat at our church. I didn't get any good photos, but someone posted this one on the Homewood Children's Ministry Facebook page. Beautiful.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The irony of a temper tantrum

Emily was having a tantrum today as we were getting ready for lunch. So of course I grabbed the video camera to record it.

Threatened with showing this video to her hypothetical future boyfriends, Emily ran from the kitchen screaming and slammed her bedroom door. The sign on her door adds delicious irony to her meltdown.

Posting this probably makes me a candidate for worst parent ever.

Scarecrows aren't as scary as the vegetables they guard

Children of the corn, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

For a long time, I've wanted to take the girls to a corn field maze. Misty and I hadn't been to once since before they were born, but up until now, we didn't think their little legs could handle all the walking -- especially when you don't know how much of it there will be. This year we finally took the plunge and made a trip to The Maize in Huntsville.

We had to time our visit just right so that we could arrive during daylight hours on a day when the maze wasn't categorized as "haunted." We didn't want Jason Voorhees jumping out at the girls with a chainsaw.

On our way there, we stopped at the Huntsville Botanical Gardens, since I had some free tickets for their scarecrow trail. I'd never been to the HBG before, but I was impressed. There was a lot of stuff there aimed at kids -- including an entire Chilren's Garden -- and Emily and Kendall loved it. Aside from checking out dozens of themed scarecrows, they climed inside a giant flower pot, played in Dorothy's house that had fallen on the Witch of the East, made their way through a miniature hedge maze, and saw sculptures of Frog and Toad.

Unfortunately, the mini-maze did not quite prepare them for a full-scale corn field maze.

The Maize was broken into two sections -- the first half of which we completed in a relatively short amount of time. I don't know if the second half was much harder, or if we just got lucky the first time, but we kept finding outselves back at the same spots again and again. All the while, the staff was setting up for the evening's haunted scenes as the sun sank lower in the sky. Kendall and Emily began to get really frustrated with all the walking (particularly since it turned out that we weren't really going anywhere), so eventually we had to cheat, hopping over a barrier and reversing our path to exit the way we came in. Misty and I had fun, but the girls weren't really fans of being lost amid the stalks of corn.

Afterward, we returned to town for dinner at our favorite Mexican buffet only to find that it was gone. Not just closed -- the whole building had been demolished. Luckily, after some investigating, we learned that the restaurant had only changed locations, and the new spot was nearby. It turned out that La Alameda now occupies the old Mill restaurant location. It was really strange sitting there in the same spot where I'd eaten so many times as a student at UAH. Almost all of the interior was the same.

We rounded out the evening with a walk through Bridge Street Town Centre. We listened to street musicians, rode the carousel, watched the gondola and paddle boats, checked out a couple of stores, and made wishes in a fountain with pennies. Kendall's wishes are always easily attainable -- along the lines of: "I wish I could spend the night at Mimi's house" -- whereas Emily's tend to be somewhat less so -- things like: "I wish we could put this fountain in my bedroom."

All in all, it was another enjoyable visit to Huntsville.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Hold Steady rocks Birmingham with Positive Jams

Last night I got to see one of my favorite bands, The Hold Steady, at WorkPlay. I went to the concert by myself, although I did chat a bit via e-mail with my colleague Jim Dunn who was up in the balcony to review the performance.

Here's a video I shot from the show.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Long overdue meeting

Just over a year after she was born, we FINALLY got to meet my niece Miriam this weekend. And she is awesome.

Emily and Kendall were overjoyed to get to spend time with their cousin (who smiles non-stop). They read together, played with blocks, went to the park, and blew bubbles in the yard.

We'll miss Miriam as she returns to Colorado. All of us wish we got to see her more often.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Our little (big) first grader

First day of 1st grade
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
Emily started first grade today. Misty dropped her off at school and took a few pictures to commemorate the occasion.

A couple days ago, we went by the shool to drop off supplies, see Emily's classroom, and meet her teacher, Mrs. Avery. Emily had already met her though, as earlier this summer both first grade teachers paid a visit to each student's house to introduce themselves and deliver a welcome packet (which included a little book, a pencil box, and some other fun stuff for the kids).

Have you ever heard of another school doing something like this? It's exactly that sort of attentiveness that comforts me that Emily is in a good place. A lot of people in our area advocate moving to a "better" school district, but I think we're doing just fine where we are.

Friday, July 30, 2010

A peek into Hindu culture

This afternoon Misty and I visited the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn, Georgia. We'd come across it by accident one day driving along Highway 29, where it sticks out like a sore thumb. It's the sort of thing you'd expect to see in an exotic foreign country, but not in the middle of the commercial zoning of metro Atlanta.

The Mandir is a Hindu temple of sorts. It's surrounded and filled with statues of various gods. From what I understand, the whole place was shipped in piece by piece from India and assempled without using any screws or nails. It's like a gigantic Lego project. And it's exquisite.

Being inside made me nervous because there are a lot of rules, and I didn't want to offend someone in their place of worship. Cameras aren't permitted beyond a certain point, you have to remove your shoes, and you're asked not to speak above a whisper. There's even a guard at the front gate making sure incoming cars aren't bringing any unauthorized materials inside.

It's unbelievable how intricate the designs are inside the Mandir. It's not just the detail, but the scope -- it's huge, and nearly everything is hand-carved. We were in awe of it all.

Here are some more of our pictures (from the outside).

Conquering a mountain

For years I've been trying to get Misty to agree to hike up Stone Mountain together on one of our trips to Atlanta. Now that she's gotten herself on an exercise kick -- getting up almost every day to run or work out at the gym -- she finally relented (actually, we'd tried once before, a couple years ago, but it started to rain, and we had to turn back).

Today while visiting my parents, we made an early-morning drive to Stone Mountain. There were a ton of other people there doing the same thing. We hiked to the top just in time to see the sunrise.

It's an empowering feeling to make it to the top. Even though it isn't a particularly difficult thing to do, the panoramic scene from the summit makes you proud of the accomplishment.

Misty, however, wasn't satisfied. When we got to the bottom, she asked me if I wanted to walk back up again. I chose to veto that idea.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Art , culture, and history in Huntsville

Interacting with art, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Yesterday was a day filled with fun in Huntsville.

We started by driving up to Ditto Landing for an Indian powow. There was traditional dancing, music, and costumes, but the event was much smaller than we'd expected. The girls ate sno-cones while we watched a few of the dances, and we checked out the inside of a teepee. Soon though, we headed on our way for lunch.

We ate a Rosie's Mexican Cantina, a place Misty had been itching to try, but I'd never been overly impressed with when I lived in Huntsville. My memory was clearly distorted, as this time I enjoyed some of the best fish tacos I've ever had. Apparently the hype is justified, after all.

Following lunch, we went to check out Lowe Mill, an artists' collective inside an old building. This place blew me away. I'd been there before, but only briefly, and hadn't taken a good look around. On the weekends Lowe Mill houses an art market with tons of people selling everything from paintings, to knitted caps, to blown glass, to fresh baked bread. However, the art isn't just a weekend event -- the artists' studios are housed in the building as well, so you can stop by and watch them work at their offices. In one room, Emily and Kendall were encouraged to add their own contribution by coloring on the wall. The place was super-cool.

Next we went for a walk at Big Spring Park. We dodged duck poop and crossed the red bridge, then made our way to the actual spring where Misty and I had our first date years ago. Alas, it was really hot, so we didn't feel like staying long. We retreated to Sam & Greg's for some gellato to cool off.

Huntsville continues to grow into a fabulous city -- one that I remember how much I miss with each visit.

Here are several more pictures from our trip.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Droid X scavenger hunt

Just in case you ever get the urge to run from the Birmingham Museum of Art to the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame on a July afternoon... Don't.

Verizon reps were in Birmingham today to give away a new Droid X phone. Clues have been trickling out though Twitter over the past few days as to where the Droid X would be hidden. This morning they confirmed what we'd already expected -- that it would indeed be in Birmingham. Then around 1:00 this afternoon, they dropped the final clue before giving out exact GPS coordinates: "Droid X designate #8 has hit south of Interstate 20. GPS coordinates transmitting in 30 minutes. Are you prepared?"

I guessed that this meant either the Birmingham Museum of Art of Linn Park, both of which are immediately south of I-20. I drove over there and sat at the edge of the park, directly across from the museum, figuring that if I was correct, I'd be right there.

The GPS coordinates came in, I plugged them into Google Maps, and saw that the destination was only a block south of the park. I was close, so I took off running.

As I reached 6th Ave., I glanced at the map again to try to figure out exactly where the phone was hidden. It was then that I realized my error. The destination was a block south of Kelly Ingram Park, not Linn Park. I still had another 2 blocks down and 3 blocks over to go, but by now I was too far from my car to double back and get it. I figured if I did, I'd lose any chance of getting to the phone in time. I kept running.

When I was about a block away from the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame (which, by now, I'd realized was the destination), I saw two other guys dash inside. At least I knew I could quit running. As it turned out, they weren't the first ones there, either. There were a bunch of people in the lobby, some out of breath and sweaty, like me.

Here's the guy who won. He said he'd gotten lucky and parked about a block and a half away. There was no way I'd have arrived before him.

Local man wins Motorola Droid X phone during nationwide scavenger hunt.

Luckily, I didn't care if I won the phone. I'm still quite happy with the one I have. I just figured this scavenger hunt of sorts would be a fun way to spend my lunch break. And it was -- except for the running in the heat.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Guys' night out with Mates of State

My friend Jeven and I have been trying to get together for months to see a concert. But, like me, he's married with two little girls and a full-time job, so it's been difficult to get our schedules to mesh on the same night when there's a particular show that we'd both want to see.

On Saturday, we finally pulled it off and caught a performance by Mates of State at WorkPlay. It was a show that also included a (seemingly) drunk magician and a stand-up comic (Mates of State's bus driver) as opening acts. We had a good time and enjoyed the music.

Here's my review of the Mates of State show.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Giving a couple Canadians a brief tour of Birmingham

This afternoon, I met a pair of travelers from Canada who were traveling through Alabama on a social media experiement. Alex and Luke are two friends who have set out to visit every state and every Canadian province. The really interesting part though, is that their journey is being entirely guided by crowdsourcing. Through their blog and Twitter, they let other people vote on where they'll go next, what attractions to see while there, where to eat, and even what hotel to stay in.

I interviewed them for an article and video on, and I'm quite proud of how it turned out.

Alex and Luke are really cool people, and I wish them the best on their continuing journey. You can find lots more about them at their web site: If their experiment ever gets turned into a show on the Travel Channel, I'd definitely watch.

Update (7/12): I showed up in Alex and Luke's latest YouTube video.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Bringing our tater tots to McWane

Ever since the Adventures of Mr. Potato Head opened at McWane Science Center, Emily and Kendall have been bugging us to go. After seeing Mr. Potato Head's heroism in the new Toy Story movie, their pleas ramped up a notch. Their wish was granted today, and as you can see in the picture, they were overjoyed.

The Mr. Potato Head exhibit was better than I expected. The girls spent quite a bit of time playing in there, as well as in the "Just Mice Size" area. They're at the age where they're far more interested in touching and playing with the exhibits than learning about them, but hopefully some of the science stuff rubs off.

We ran into two families from our church while there, and another afterward when we stopped for lunch at Chick-fil-A. Apparently, everyone was out enjoying the extended holiday.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Baking blueberry pies

The proud cooker bakers
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
Since we picked a huge amount of blueberries yesterday, we needed to find something to do with them other than sprinkling them on our breakfast cereal. Misty and the girls whipped up a couple of blueberry pies this afternoon -- one for us, and another that we brought to tonight's 4th of July picnic-themed potluck dinner at the church core group.

Kendall and Emily really did help with the baking, and they are of course proud of their accomplishment. However, I did hear a few exclamations coming from the kitchen along the lines of: "Kendall, stop! No, that's enough!"

We haven't tried our pie yet, but some folks at church declared it to be the best blueberry pie they'd ever eaten.

There are still plenty of blueberries left, though.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Super-fun-filled day

Juicy nectarines, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Today was a super-fun-filled day.

We started off by heading down to Clanton, Alabama, home of the giant peach water tower (or the "butt peach," as Misty calls it) to pick blueberries at Petals from the past. The girls loved picking berries, and we filled up two baskets full (which I guessed was about 6 pints). We were also permitted to eat as many berries as we wanted while we were in the garden, so plenty more went into our mouths.

Next we headed to a farm that offered peach and strawberry picking. After getting turned around a couple times, we finally found the farm's office and learned from the owner that they no longer offer pick-your-own fruits. However, she directed us to another farm a few miles away that had what we were looking for.

We wound up at McCraw's U-Pick, a farm that had peaches and nectarines. We walked through the field filling up our basket, again enjoying eating fresh samples right off the trees as we picked. At one point, Kendall had a nectarine in each hand, juice dripping on her cheeks as munched on both of them in turn.

On the way home, we stopped for a picnic lunch at a rest area. Nothing fancy, but a picnic is always fun.

In the evening, we headed out to Helena for the city's fireworks show -- which they were hosting a day early either to avoid competing with Birmingham's fireworks or to avoid being on a Sunday; I don't know which. Before the show, went to Carmella's Italian Ice Company and got cups of red, white, and blue colored shaved ice. Then we walked down by the waterfall, laid out on a blanket, and waited for the fireworks. It was crowded, but we had a great spot. A boy walked up to us and thrust forth a crawdad that he'd plucked out of the creek, proud of his discovery.

The fireworks were great. The presentation in Helena makes us want to never fight the traffic for Birmingham's fireworks show again. This time even Kendall enjoyed them (she's been scared of the noise in the past).

On our way home, Misty ran into Publix to pick up a couple of pie crusts to make blueberry pie. By the time she returned to the car, the girls were already asleep. Our super-fun-filled day had worn them out.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Not so long ago in a galaxy only 2 hours away

Earlier this week, I had the chance to visit the U.S. Space & Rocket Center along with The Huntsville Times for an exclusive early look at the "Star Wars: Where Science Meets Imagination" exhibit. Yesterday I returned with Misty and the girls for the Space Center's media and family event.

We drove up to Huntsville the night before and stayed in a hotel, making the trip feel like a mini-cation. There was a cardboard cutout of C-3PO in the lobby, which the girls thought was super-cool. Misty, on the other hand, delighted in our dinner at La Alameda, a Mexican buffet.

The girls have turned into quite the little Star Wars fans, so they were very excited about the exhibit. Kendall loves Princess Leia (especially with "her loops"), Chewbacca, RT-TTO (which is pretty much how she refers to both C-3PO and R2D2), and Yoda. Meanwhile, Emily has been enjoying playing the Lego Star Wars game.

They liked the exhibit as much as any kids their age enjoy a museum (which is to say, it held their attention for about 10 seconds), but the real treat for them was meeting the characters. There were tons of people there in costume -- from Darth Vader and Obi Wan to Tusken Raiders and Rutian Twi'leks (yeah, I didn't know either -- I had to look it up). Emily and Kendall got their pictures taken with as many as they could. Here are more photos from the event.

Afterward, we had lunch at lunch at Tortora's, which we found to be deserving of its title of "Best Pizza" from a Huntsville Times readers poll. We had their house salad and a pizza called the "Sydney," both of which were superb.

Despite being full, we followed up lunch with dessert at Gigi's Cupcakes. That place is a little girl's dream come true; the cupcakes are so fancy. I was shocked that neither Kendall nor Emily wanted the Princess cupcake, though. Regardless, they loved their desserts -- which they're still working on finishing.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Goodbye, Tulip

Kendall pets Tulip
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
Alas, poor Tulip has departed our family. She's gone to a better place -- back to the pet store while their two-week return policy was still valid.

Tulip was definitely cute, and the girls did love her, but she prooved more than we were ready for. Originally, we thought she'd be a better option than a dog, requiring much less care. Everything we read said guinea pigs make great first pets. However, everything we read also said that guinea pigs require a lot of attention -- they need to be taken out and handled frequently, and they are best in the company of another guinea pig.

It seems strange, then, that this would lead us to un-adopt Tulip, since holding and petting her is exactly what the girls want to do. But that's also what we're afraid of. They have a hard time gauging the fragility of a tiny life, so we'd have to constantly supervise them while holding Tulip. Not only did we worry they might accidentally break one of her little legs, but we knew it was only a matter of time before one of them let her escape their grasp so that we'd have to tear the house apart looking for her. Couple that with the fact that Kendall is home with Misty's mom during the day and could very likely decide to open Tulip's cage herself, and we were left with the realization that owning a guinea pig isn't quite right for us.

Farewell, Tulip. We will always remember your little squeaks and your "popcorn" jumps when we opened a bag of food.

Saturday, June 05, 2010

Surprise visitor

Surprise visitor, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

This huge frog just jumped onto our living room window and scared the heck out of Misty while she was playing Super Mario Galaxy 2.

Emily and Kendall go bowling for the first time

Misty and the girls joined some friends from church for a free bowling event today. Unfortunately, I was at work, so I missed it, but Misty took pictures and recorded video clips for me.

Emily and Kendall had never bowled before, but they say they loved it. They want me to go with them next time. I do too.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Meet Tulip

Tulip the guinea pig, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

This is the newest member of our family. Isn't she cute?

Tulip the guinea pig has taken up residence in the corner of our kitchen. Her name is pronounced "Too-lup" (according to Kendall).

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Learning to swim

All smiles after swim lessons, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Emily and Kendall began swim lessons today at the Wald Park pool in Vestavia Hills.

Kendall has always been a fan of the water -- to the point of being oblivious to danger. She'll sink under the water, and we'll have to pull her up coughing and sputtering, but she'll gladly go right back for more of the same.

Emily, on the other hand, hates getting in the pool -- even with a float. She doesn't want to do anything more than sit on the steps. If we approach her, she darts to safety at a deck chair, afraid that we'll pull her out into the water.

So it was a big relief that Emily loved her first swim lesson.

Kendall did too -- you just can't tell from the picture because she was mad that it was over.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Geeks in costume

Alien waits for elevator, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

I went over to the McWane Science Center today to shoot some photos and video from this weekend's ImagiCon science fiction and fantasy convention. This was my favorite.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Running Wild for Orangutans

Misty finished her second 5K this morning! This time she participated in the 5th annual Zoo Run at the Birmingham Zoo, which was themed "Run Wild for Orangutans" (it was a benefit for the Orangutan Conservatory).

The girls and I cheered from the sidelines, where we were joined by our friends David and Hayes from our church core group. Kristin (David's wife / Hayes' mom) was running with Misty, but they didn't stick together much past the starting gate.

While we waited for the race to finish, the girls played at the zoo playground (where there was a peacock hanging out!) and Kendall got her face painted.

Misty ended up shaving a bit of time off her previous run in the Rupshaker 5K. She's still going strong!

Here's her finish...

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Another rained out game

Empty ballbark, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

After church today, we met a few other families for a Barons game. Unfortunately, the game never happened.

The start kept getting delayed because of rain in the forecast. Presumably, this is also what kept away several other families who were supposed to have joined our group. We sat around waiting while the kids climbed through the stands, but finally (when it actually did start raining), the game got called.

On the plus side, our tickets included free kids meals, which we were able to redeem, and since the game was called, we got tickets to come back another time.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Musical talent

Emily's kindergarten class has been practicing a song for their upcoming graduation. She gave us a preview last night.

Not wanting her sister to get all the attention, Kendall sang us a song that she's learned.

Pretty impressive, considering she attended her first baseball game only a week ago. I love her interpretation of the line, "We'll root to root for the Holstein."

Why you should not let my wife babysit your kids

We've been keeping Misty's cousin's daughter Paige while her dad Trion stays at the hospital with his own father who's had a heart attack and bypass surgery. Trion will surely be proud at what Misty's been teaching his child.

Yes, that's the "Pants on the Ground" song by American Idol reject Larry Platt.

Oh, and Kendall's black eye is courtesy of running into a Wrought iron chair in the outdoor waiting area of Princeton Baptist Medical Center.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Take me out to the ball game

At the Barons game, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

Misty and I took the girls to see a baseball game today. It was the Birmingham Barons vs. the Jacksonville Suns.

Emily's school was supposedly having a group meetup there, but we couldn't find a group. We saw her teacher, Ms. Veitch, outside the stadium, and one other kid Emily knew in the stands, but I guess everyone just sat wherever they wanted.

I was surprised at how complicated baseball seems when you find yourself trying to explain it to a 6-year-old.

Me: "If he hits the ball, but it goes backwards, that's called a 'foul,' and it also counts as a 'strike,' but only the first two times -- if he already has two strikes, more fouls are OK, but if he swings and misses, that'll be a strike, and he'll be 'out'."

Emily: "Huh?"

The game lasted only 3½ innings before it got called for rain -- which was about perfect for the girls' attention span, anyway.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

How Snow White broke my girls' hearts

Arr! Who ye gonna call?, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

This morning we paid a visit to the Town of Mt. Laurel for the annual Mt. Laurel Spring Fling. The ads for the event touted that they'd have costumed role-players including Snow White and characters from Harry Potter and Star Wars. Unfortunately, we shared that information with the girls.

The event went OK for us for a little while. We walked through the streets looking at the wares of different vendors -- from crafts to antiques to vegetables. Kendall did a small art project and Emily jumped around in a giant inflatable bounce house. Pretty soon though, they caught on that they hadn't seen Snow White.

When we finally found the costume troupe, it turned out to be Princess Leia, a pirate, and a couple Ghostbusters. Leia was OK on the girls' list, but they were pretty irritated to find no Disney or Harry Potter characters. As it turned out, the woman dressed as Leia was also the Harry Potter menagerie -- she was planning on changing into a witch costume later on.

I tried to placate the girls with fruit smoothies, but that didn't last long. The damage was done. They were grumpy about any further suggestions, and we wound up leaving before lunch.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Misty shakes her rump to fight cancer

Inside a cancerous colon, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

One of Misty's New Year's resolutions this year was to complete a 5K. She's been working on a "Couch to 5K" program, running through the neighborhood.

Today she accomplished her goal, participating in the Rumpshaker 5K, a benefit for colon cancer research. I am so proud of her!

Kendall and I accompanied Misty to the race, which began and ended at Sloss Furnaces. After the event, the runners walk through a giant inflatable colon that shows cancerous cells growing inside. It's a lighthearted look at a serious disease.

Here are some more pictures from the event.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Birthday party disaster averted

Kendall's birthday party almost didn't happen this weekend. She'd requested a party at Vestavia's Wald Park, which she loves because the playground is set up like a big wooden castle. Unfortunately, with an outdoor event there's no accounting for weather, and as the day drew closer, rain appeared imminent.

On top of that, almost everyone who was invited (just family) said they couldn't make it. My dad was prepping for a colonoscopy, so my parents were out. Two of Misty's cousins had to work. Then another of Misty's cousins -- the one who would have been bringing the kids -- called the morning of the party to say she wouldn't be making it, either.

Suddenly we were faced with hosting a "party" for Misty's mom and her aunt & uncle. And while Kendall loves them all dearly, that's not a very exciting guest list for a 3-year-old.

Misty was pretty upset about it and was ready to just throw in the towel. I knew it would break Kendall's heart though, to hear that her birthday party was cancelled because no one was going to show up. I got on the phone and called up a couple friends from church who have kids around Kendall's age, explained the situation, and asked if they could join us at the park for a while.

Tasting the cake
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
Our friends saved the day. They didn't even hesitate -- they just said, "we'll be there."

Kendall never knew the difference. Instead of her little cousins, she had Addison, Kennedy, Tyler, Nolan, and Liliana to play with at her party, and she had a great time.

The intermitent rain, too, turned out to be a blessing, because it created a means for us to encourage the kids to leave the playground for a few minutes to eat. After pizza, the shower ended and they were back running around again. When another spurt of rain hit, we rounded the kids up for cake. Back to the playground for a while, then another shower meant it was time to open presents. It worked out perfectly.

Here are a few more pictures from the party.

I am so thankful for our friends who came through at the last minute to help make it a special day for Kendall.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A trip to the Georgia Aquarium

Watching the fish
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
We made a trip to the Georgia Aquarium this weekend since I got a pair of comp tickets for something called "Planet Shark Blogger Day." For four years since it opened, we've been wanting to go, but it just never happened -- we'd always heard it was super crowded, so we waited. Our delay didn't seem to help much, as the aquarium was still packed with people, but we were very happy to finally take the plunge.

The girls had a great time there -- even though most of the time they just bugged us about going to the playground with the whale slide. Misty and I could have spent all day there watching some of the exhibits. The huge tank with whale sharks, manta rays, etc. was our favorite. One particular manta ray named Nandi kept doing flips as if showing off for the people on the other side of the glass. We were disappointed that we missed the beluga whales, though -- they were off exhibit the day were were there.

Here's my complete write-up about the Georgia Aquarium (with video), and more photos from our visit.

After we left the aquarium, we had planned to go to Old Spagetti Factory to celebrate my birthday. Alas, when we arrived we found it boarded up with a sign on the door saying it had closed down. Bummer! It was one of our favorite restaurants. Since we were already hungry, we didn't want to spend a bunch of time looking for another suitable place to eat, so we wound up eating at a nearby Whole Foods. That turned out to be fun anyway.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Toad and Teng

In high school or college, I would have readily named Toad the Wet Sprocket as one of my favorite music artists. Last night, I had the opportunity to film an exclusive acoustic rendion of their song "Dam Will Break" by the band's lead singer Glen Phillips during his sound check before a concert at WorkPlay Theatre. Even better, Vienna Teng joined him on piano for the song. My job is so cool.

Glenn Phillips and Vienna Teng - "Dam Will Break" acoustic

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Ad on Facebook uses terrorist as spokesmodel

I was on Facebook today when I came across this ad on my profile page. It's one of those that pulls your zip code and delivers a result geared toward your own location, thus the weird looking Alabama driver's license.

What disgusts me though, is the photo. I've been seeing a lot of photos lately that look like they're using mug shots -- some creepy looking guy with scraggly hair and a long beard (yeah, if you have a beard, I am totally judging you) shows up on an ad for mortgage rates or something like that. The photos don't seem to match the subject of the ads, but they certainly grab your attention.

This time you can actually recognize the mug shot. It's a pretty famous one. The photo is squished down a bit, but that's Mohamed Atta, one of the 9/11 hijackers who helped fly a plane into the World Trade Center.

It's not exactly the face that would convince me to buy a product or service.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Day streches into a week

Valentine's Day started out with heart-shaped pancakes and pink milk, thanks to Misty.

Last night she and I went out to see the movie "Valentine's Day" then had a brief dinner at Whole Foods before moving on to the main course -- dessert at the "Wild About Chocolate" fundraiser for the Alabama Wildlife Center.

You may notice from the picture that some of Misty's flowers seem to be drooping -- that's because I got them for her on Monday so she'd have them to look at all week in her office. On Tuesday (when I took a day off work to get the garage door fixed) Kendall and I brought her some heart-shapped donuts from Krispy Kreme. Misty's co-workers suggested that I do something for her each day of the week, so I did my best at coming up with different things. I think their enthusiasm for this idea may have had more to do with wanting to suggest it to their own husbands, though.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Snow day

This can't lead anywhere good, originally uploaded by MCuthbert.

We enjoyed a rare snowfall today in Alabama -- so much so that Misty and I were both sent home from our places of work. Jefferson County schools were also cancelled for the day, so Emily got to stay home.

The girls loved playing in the snow, though from the pictures it looks like Kendall was most interested in eating it (Misty made some snow ice cream later). They ran around throwing snowballs at each other, and Misty and Emily made a pair of snowmen (neither of which lasted long before they toppled over).

Here are a few more photos from our snow day, and some video footage.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Emily the librarian

Misty's mom reads a whole lot, but she doesn't drive, so it's not unusual for her to ask us to pick out a few books for her whenever we're headed to the library. Her favorites are mysteries, so typically I'll just grab a few random books from that section. It's hard to know what to get for her because I don't know what she's read before, but she's not picky -- she'll read just about anything.

It surprised me though, when a few days ago she said to me, "Matt, that book that Emily picked out was the smuttiest thing I've read in years."

I didn't even realize that Misty had let Emily pick out a book for her grandmother, but the result turned out to be pretty funny, so you can bet that now we're going to let her do it every time.

Today when we set Emily loose at the library to select books for Misty's mom, she came back with this...
'My Life Outside the Ring' by Hulk Hogan

And this...
'And Mistress Makes Three' by Francis Ray
(chosen because it had a "yucky bellybutton" on the cover)

And this...
'The Pirates! In an Adventure with Napoleon' by Gideon Defoe

She also briefly considered a book about "Gossip Girl," but decided against it based on the following reasoning...

Emily: "Mom, can Gossip Girl fly?"

Misty: "No."

Emily: "Oh. Mimi wouldn't want this one then."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kendall's musical ambitions

While some friends were over for dinner last night, Kendall entertained us with a musical performance.

Obviously, Emily isn't the only No Doubt fan Misty has helped create.

Also, yes, Kendall does have other clothes. She just prefers to substitute a princess costume at every opportunity.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Why parents shouldn't sleep in

Kendall's "donut"
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
Misty and I made the mistake of sleeping in this morning. It wasn't a mistake in the sense of missing our alarm, but rather a poor decision we made by deciding to stay in bed under the warm covers. When you do that, you never know what your kids are up to.

We knew they were awake -- we could hear them downstairs, but we figured they'd come get us when they needed us. Bad assumption.

When I heard them rummaging around in the kitchen, I dragged myself out of bed to investigate. When I peeked in, both of our girls were dressed in their princess costumes. The were standing on stools at the kitchen counter and had out a loaf of bread, from which they were cutting shapes with cookie cutters and eating.

Emily's fancy breakfast
Originally uploaded by MCuthbert
"It's a little messy," I thought, "but not too bad -- and at least they're eating what they get out." I decided to let them have their fun, and went back upstairs.

A little while later, when Misty and I finally resigned to leave the comfort of our blankets and quilts, we discovered that Emily and Kendall had moved on to a more advanced cooking project.

They'd gotten out some dinner rolls, sprayed them with colored cake spray, and covered them with sprinkles. Emily had also gotten out one of the "fancy" glasses and poured herself some apple juice. "Look, Mom and Dad!," Emily said proudly. "We made donuts!"

They looked like the least appetizing donuts I'd ever seen, but the girls were so pleased with themselves. I was not surprised when, after a few bites, they were "full."

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year's hoopla

Misty had the bright idea to let the girls stay up late for New Year's Eve last night. We all camped out on the floor of the living room and watched the celebrations on TV. It was fun, but Emily zonked out around 10 p.m. Kendall made it until 11:20, so she saw the Times Square ball drop, and as far as she was concerned, that meant she'd made it until midnight.

The one thing that threatened to derail the evening into chaos was the fact that Misty's mom bought the girls noisemakers. The paper tweeters that unfurl as you blow them weren't too bad, but the clackers were another story. Oh, the clackers! I need to find a way to repay Misty's mother for her "kindness." Maybe I'll give the girls air horns the next time they're spending the night with her.