Life in the Wilson Wild

Team Wilson tends to operate somewhere between Busy and Really Busy. We don't intend for it to be that way, but we (generally speaking) are a family who likes to say "yes" to things. We want to make the most of this one life, and we like new experiences and opportunities and adventures. That makes us our life full in so many wonderful ways and it helps our kids feel brave in trying new things as well. 

But y' the past few months we kicked it up a few notches and are now running what could only be classified as Insanely-Threat-Level-Midnight-Busy. It's almost comical, really. Let me see if I can break it down...

Over the summer, I was honored to be offered a position at what has to be the most incredible school in the nation. It is a breathtakingly beautiful new building filled with precious teenagers and led by a team of the most phenomenal teachers and administrators filled with cutting edge technologies and ample support from the community. It is a dream world, and I still can't believe that I get to be a part of it. The first two weeks I teared up every single day I walked in the building, thanking the Lord in Heaven for providing me the opportunity to use my unique skills within this beautiful, peaceful, and positive place. It is an absolute delight to go to work. I miss my former students and teacher buds so much, but I am so thankful for this opportunity and I hope I never lose that feeling of gratitude. 

That wonderfulness led to transferring Sassafras and Pearl into new schools as well. Our "first day" this year was a mighty big one, and everyone was more than a little nervous. True to form, though, this sweet community has already wrapped its arms around my babies and finding ways to make them feel welcomed and loved. 

Matt and I believe that this place is where we are supposed to raise our little chitlins, so we set out immediately to work on getting the girls plugged in to extracurriculars in the city as well as listing our house on the market - our third time in the past four years. We endured many showings and the stress of constant high level house maintenance...but after about 6 weeks we had not one but two offers on our house! 

We wanted to avoid a gap in closings, so that led to a fast-and-furious search for a new house in our new community. Thankfully, we were led to a beautiful new home that has almost everything we have ever wanted in a house, and it's there we hope to stay for a good, long while. The kids are beyond excited and we already have boxes everywhere in anticipation of the move. 

The house selling and purchasing process has been relatively smooth, but we have hit a snag with our buyer that has caused some continual delays. The sale will still go through, it has just been hard to pin down the date as of yet...which has caused an unspeakable amount of stress on our daily lives and has led to many 15+ hour days away from home. We started out looking at this as, "Hey, we're Wilsons...we can do hard things!" <insert eye roll> And now we're like "GOD, HAVE MERCY. MAKE IT STOP!" 

So, we wait for closings, and we continue to hike up the steep learning curve of figuring out the cultures and policies of three new schools for our kids (soon to add a fourth with Sweet Love's new school), and in the midst of all that? 

You guys. I got accepted to a doctoral program. 

I know, right? New job, two new schools for kids, new city, moving to a new house...why not start graduate school? I applied to this program MONTHS ago (way back before the amazing new job was even a possibility), so while the timing is interesting, I'm so excited about these classes and the program experience as a whole. It is an entire degree in research on instructional leadership and technology and I'm not sure if we've ever had this conversation but RESEARCH IS MY JAM.  

We're happy. We're thankful. We know that all of these are good, good, happy things. But even for us, the family that is used to cooking on all burners simultaneously, we are at capacity. The Captain's work-related travels have picked up a bit the last few months, and most of those weeks I feel like it's only by the grace of God and the help from Gran, Pop, and Whitney that we are even making it at all. I can't tell you how many times I've dropped the ball lately. I missed one of the girls' pickups by 25 minutes one day. I forgot to make the turn and drop my kids off at school/the bus stop another day. I bought $50 worth of pre-cooked frozen meals from a local caterer last Friday AND I LEFT THEM IN THE VAN FOR TWO DAYS. Two very hot, very stinky days. My swagger wagon may never be the same, y'all, and I've considered punishing myself for wasting the $50 by eating crackers for lunch every day. Even my typically on-top-of-things Sassypants has forgotten to study for two tests, and every one of us is basically laying on the floor right now holding up a sign that says "WE CANNOT EVEN."  

Except Sweet Love. That little rascal is sitting on us eating chocolate ice cream.



Go see the Avatar Cirque du Soleil Show!

The Captain and I had a blast last night at the Avatar Cirque du Soleil show in Birmingham!

The thing about this show is, it’s great from the Cirque du Soleil side as the performers are insanely talented flippers, jumpers, jugglers, and acrobats. So even if you don’t know a thing about the Avatar movie, it’s still a fantastic show. But it’s also super cool from the Avatar perspective because the costumes, makeup, and setting are perfect for the Na’Vi of Pandora, and the storyline involving multiple tribes of the Na’Vi people was compelling. The blend of these two worlds makes the Toruk show really unique.

My Avatar nerdiness reached epic levels. I’ll spare you the bulk of it here (but if you wanna gab about it, I AM YOUR PERSON), but the general gist is that the blue people are the Na’Vi. They live in a moon-world called Pandora. The Na’vi are made up of many tribes or clans, our favorite being the Omaticaya (the tribe from the movie Avatar). What’s unique about this Cirque du Soleil show is that it brings in the Omaticaya but also introduces the audience to several other tribes - the Tawkami, Anurai, Tipani, and Kekunan - all of whom have unique talents highlighted as part of the story.

It’s in Birmingham for this weekend only, so grab some tickets and squeeze it in. You won’t regret it!

I’m including a far better description of the show, cut from the promotional kit (and sharing here with permission).

“TORUK – The First Flight is a live immersive multimedia spectacle that brings to the stage the breathtaking world of James Cameron’s AVATAR like you have never seen it before. Through a riveting fusion of cutting-edge visuals, puppetry and stagecraft buoyed by a soaring cinematic score, Cirque du Soleil applies its unique signature style to James Cameron’s imaginary world and 'makes the bond' between two kindred artistic visions that capture the imagination.

This live immersive experience also bears the distinct signature of directors and multimedia innovators Michel Lemieux and Victor Pilon. It is a living ode to the Na’vi’s symbiotic coexistence with nature and their belief in the basic interconnectedness of all living things.Narrated by a “Na’vi Storyteller” and populated by unforgettable characters, TORUK –The First Flight is a mythical tale set thousands of years before the events depicted in the film AVATAR, and before any humans ever set foot on Pandora.

When a natural catastrophe threatens to destroy the sacred Tree of Souls, Ralu and Entu, two Omaticaya boys on the brink of adulthood, fearlessly decide to take matters into their own hands. Upon learning that Toruk can help them save the Tree of Souls, they set out, together with their newfound friend Tsyal, on a quest high up in the Floating Mountains to find the mighty red and orange predator that rules the Pandoran sky. Prophecy is fulfilled when a pure soul rises among the clans to ride Toruk for the first time and save the Na’vi from a terrible fate.”

The tech-side of it was also highly fascinating to me! It’s truly a visually dynamic combination of technology, light, and color, and the inclusion of audience members’ smartphones as part of the show is a pretty cool idea as well.

“Total projection surface, excluding projections that reach out into the audience, is approximately 20,000 square feet, more than five times the size of a standard IMAX screen: 12,750 for the stage, 3,600 for the two lateral screens, and another 3,600 for the two columns of Hometree. There are 40 video projectors in all: half are 30,000-lumen each, the other half, 20,000-lumen. 22 video projectors are used for projections on the ground; 6 projectors send video images on Hometree; 2 projectors are dedicated to the two lateral screens; and 8 projectors are used for immersive projections into the audience.”

Every detail is carefully crafted to ensure an immersive and exciting experience. We absolutely loved every second of it, and I hope you’ll make plans to go see Cirque du Soleil Avatar Toruk today or tomorrow!

Cirque du Soleil, Avatar-style, is coming to Birmingham!

One of the very few movies we actually own that doesn't have "Disney" plastered on the cover, Avatar is one of my all-time favorite films. The setting is surprising and visually rich, and the plot is heavily mixed with the full range of man vs. man, self, and nature conflicts. There is a unique blend of science fiction with that all-too-familiar historical scenario of a native group's homeland being targeted by invaders...and oh, there's also some romance, too. Avatar is an underestimated and intricate movie that I count as a favorite, and I will go to my grave believing that Stephen Lang was robbed of an MTV Movie Award for Best Villain in it. Seriously, that last fight scene?! James Cameron is a genius.

Recently while scooting through downtown Birmingham, I noticed an Avatar billboard. Those blue Na'Vi people will just jump right out at you. As it turns out, Cirque du Soleil has this whole big Avatar-themed show! Called TORUK - The First Flight, audience members are immersed in the land of Pandora in a performance based on the first flight of the toruk, which is the gigantic dragon-like creatures with whom the native Na'Vi people must bond before taking flight throughout the floating mountains.

 My brain can't even sort out how they're gonna pull this off at the BJCC, but these three things I know for sure:

1. It is going to be fabulous.
2. I am so going to be there.
3. I want you to see it, too!

I've been given 4 free tickets to give away to the opening night of Cirque du Soleil's TORUK! They're good for Friday, August 19th (show time is at 7:30pm and it is considered family-friendly).

To enter, comment below for an entry in the random drawing. Just tell me why you want these tickets and who you'll take if you win.

This is a value of over $130, folks! The giveaway will end at 5:00pm on Wednesday, August 17th, and I'll post the winner shortly thereafter. Check back next Wednesday to see if you're the winner!

And if you're just not patient enough to wait til Wednesday, go here to buy your tickets now.

Jalapeno Poppin' Goodness

My weekly small group just kicked back up, and the theme was finger foods. The Captain has been craving these jalapeno poppers lately, so it was a good time to whip some up for my peoples. It's a pretty simple recipe but packs quite the kick!

Prepping for our group of about 10, I started with 20 whole jalapeno peppers. 

Cut them in half, and scrape out the seeds and membrane, as this is the really hot part of the pepper. I learned the hard way that if you're gonna be handling some jalapenos, then honey, you better glove up. My hands burned for 24 hours and it took a combination of about 10 different home remedies to stop the insanity. Next time? Rubber/plastic gloves for sure.

They are really pretty when their innards are scooped out!

Blend 1/2 block of cream cheese and about 1/2 cup of shredded cheddar. Spread about a tablespoon of stuffing into each pepper. You want it to be even with the top of the pepper.

Ahhhh, bacon. Delicious bacon.... Take your package and cut it in half down the center.

Wrap one 1/2 slice of bacon around your stuffed pepper, making sure to keep the seam on the bottom side of the pepper (this eliminates the need for toothpicks, which are fickle and tend to burn anyway).

Bake for 30 minutes at 350, then turn on your broiler for 5-10 minutes to crisp up that bacon. Watch it closely during the last five minutes or so to make sure they don't burn.

Let these babies cool, and then you have a delicious appetizer for your spicy food lovers!

Shelby County Wine Trail

This post has been very...trying. For reasons neither I nor my friendly web fairies can explain, the Internet deleted the entire text of the post I first wrote on this topic. So I rewrote it.

But guys, then it happened again. So I've had to walk away from this post for a bit before something like this happened:

Image from Pixabay under CC0.

Image from Pixabay under CC0.

Despite having written this post three whole times now (plus that time in my head, so I guess we are at FOUR), I'm still probably going to forget something.

The thing is, The Captain and I love celebrating our anniversary and man, we do it up right. We spent our second anniversary touring old parts of Montgomery and taking in a Shakespeare Festival play, and for our 10th we went to New York. For our 12th we took a no-kids trip to Universal Studios (my gift to Matt was no stopping for pictures; his gift to me was not having to carry one single solitary thing around in that park, not even in my pockets...ah, the simple things in life!!). This year was our 14th, and we spent the first part of our day together slowly making our way around Shelby County to hit a few stops on the Alabama Wine Trail

The three vineyards we visited were:

We started off in North Calera at Vizzini Farms, and arrived just as the lunch rush was trailing off. They offered a free tasting and tour of the winery room, led by the owner who was gruff yet endearing in that old-man-from-the-North sort of way. He showed us pictures of his ancestors and told us all about his family's immigration journey and struggles to establish their business. We were very intrigued by a single bottle of wine he had on display that had a whole peach inside. When I asked how he got the entire peach into the bottle whole, he said "Well, I GREW it in the bottle - how else do ya think I'd have got it in there?!" He said it with a twinkle, though, and walked us out to one of his peach trees on which, sure enough, he has four or five other bottles affixed to the branches with tiny little budding peaches growing inside. Very limited edition, he said.

This was the tasting room and cafe, which we'd like to visit another time just for lunch. The back patio is frequently rented out for events, and one such was wrapping up during our visit as well.

From Vizzini we made our way further into the country part of Calera to Ozan Vineyards and Winery. Ozan was much different than we were expecting. It is on the smaller side but newer than any other Alabama winery we have ever visited. It was set on top of a hill, overlooking the vineyards. On a beautiful, clear day like the one we were enjoying, it was easy to forget we were in Alabama at all, or even possibly the country itself! We learned that Ozan has evening concert events from time to time, and if we had not already bought tickets for another event that night we would have stayed there the rest of the day. We arrived when they were transitioning from the afternoon tasting hours to setting up for their event, but we were still able to squeeze in a brief tasting and enjoyed a few minutes on the patio. With the breeze, beautiful weather, and nothing to see but lush green vines, we loved the calm and easygoing vibe that Ozan provides its visitors. We definitely plan to go back and try a few other of their many award-winning wines.

From Ozan we drove over to Harpersville, where we visited Morgan Creek Winery. The fun fact about this place was that we toured it on our first anniversary as part of a package deal with a local Bed and Breakfast (also when we discovered that, though quite lovely for some, the B&B world is just not for us...we are just not the kind of people who want to hang out with strangers when we're on vacation). The Morgan Creek owners have made lots of great changes in the past 13 years, and we even got to see them setting up for a summer wedding out on the lawn as well as pictures from other events on the digital display playing in the tasting room. We enjoyed some time on the front porch by the fountain, just chatting and appreciating the view.

From Harpersville we headed back to Bham for the Alabama Symphony Orchestra's annual Sci-Fi Soundtrack Concert. The guest conductor was hysterical, and we learned all kinds of cool back-stories about some of the great Science Fiction films as well as all about the theremin, a bizarre instrument that is electronically-based but played without actual physical contact. The theremin is what they used in old horror movies to make that odd wavy-like sound. The ASO even brought in a special guest, an expert theremin player, who talked about the instrument's history and then demonstrated how to play it. It was so strange and yet so awesome all at the same time. We had a lovely time on our first visit to the Symphony, but this time we had an absolute blast. Maybe because this time we knew when to clap

Our 14th anniversary was pretty simple, but it was low-key and calm...exactly what we needed. There are links below for more info if you and your honey or your BFFs want to check out any of the wineries we visited.

Vizzini Farms Winery - Calera, Alabama

Ozan Vineyard and Winery - Calera, Alabama

Morgan Creek Vineyards and Winery - Harpersville, AL

Alabama Wine Trail