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Urban whitewater on the Chattahoochee River

The Chattahoochee River's 2.5 mile stretch that divides Phenix City and Columbus is said to be the longest urban whitewater run in the world.
The Chattahoochee River’s 2.5 mile stretch that divides Phenix City and Columbus is said to be the longest urban whitewater run in the world.

Story and photos by David Haynes

For nearly two centuries the whitewater rapids slept un- seen, submerged beneath the surface of the Chattahoochee River, the result of impoundments by textile-era mill dams.

But for the past two years these rapids, with names like Ambush, Cut Bait, Monkey Wrench and Wave Shaper, have come back to life on the 2.5-mile-long stretch of river that divides the cities of Phenix City, Ala., and Columbus, Ga.

The result is the longest urban whitewater run in the world! River rafting trips and canoe or kayak whitewater enthusiasts are embracing the recently reawakened river, which reopened in 2013, when some 16,000 people took

the thrill ride through the frothing white waves on rafting trips. Last year the number jumped to almost 25,000 and this year projections are for even higher numbers.

The rapids range in difficulty from Class II to IV depending on the riv- er’s flow rate, which is controlled by Georgia Power Company and typically ranges between 1,000 and 10,000 cubic feet per second. This has produced one of the most challenging whitewater runs in the country with rapids strong enough to flip a large raft at high water. And it’s all right downtown.

Both Phenix City and Columbus, which have always been tied together by the river and by numerous bridges that span between the two downtown areas, have each developed “River Walk” trails and parks along the river. In addition to the river-running experience, residents and visitors can enjoy a walk, a run, fishing, frequent concerts and other special events as well take a ride across the Chattahoochee on a zip line. The zip line’s tower resembles the nest of great blue heron, which, along with other wildlife, has made a comeback since the river was restored to its natural state. Brent Tucker, one of the managers at Whitewater Express, the Atlanta-based company that is the primary outfitter for raft trips, kayak instruction and the zip line rides, says their operation has seen a tremendous increase in business since the river trips began in 2013. And he expects 2015 to see double or more raft trips compared to just two years ago.

An avid kayaker himself, Tucker paddles on the Chattahoochee every chance he gets and even surfed his kayak in Wave Shaper Rapid for me to take photographs on my recent visit.

The overall visual effect of the river and two cities is one of nature reclaiming its place in the urban environment. While ospreys soar over- head and great blue herons perch to fish from the rocks that separate the rapids’ channels, nearby will stand a fisherman or a jogger or someone having lunch on a park bench, taking a break from a high-rise office building a block away.


For additional information on Columbus/Phenix City and the river-running opportunities and other happenings there, contact the Columbus Convention and Visitors Bureau (800-999-1613) or visit their website at visitcolumbusga.com.

For information or to schedule a raft trip or zipline tour, contact Whitewater Express (706-321-4720) or visit their website at whitewaterexpress.com.

Snakes alive!

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Feared animals actually serve a vital role in nature

Most of us have an innate fear of snakes. Bring them up in a group discussion and you’re likely to hear at least one person say, “The only good snake is a dead snake.”

But that’s just not true, wildlife biologists say. Snakes are carnivorous, meaning they eat other smaller animals. Most readily eat rodents like mice and rats, while others prey on insects. If not for snakes, many areas would be overrun with these pests. Snakes also help farmers by controlling rodent populations in seed or grain storage areas, barns, gardens, fields and houses.

Alabama is home to more than 40 species of snakes, but ac-cording to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, only six are venomous. Five of the six belong to a group termed the pit vipers; this includes the cottonmouth, copperhead and three rattlesnakes (timber, eastern diamondback and pygmy). The sixth is the reclusive coral snake.

Snakes by their nature are secretive, so their appearance on the family farm or yard will likely send the homeowner running for the house. But unless they are provoked, snakes in North America will not attack. They usually have to be picked up, cornered, stepped on or harmed in some way to provoke a strike; a snake’s first response is almost always to flee rather than bite.

The advice from the Conservation Department: Don’t be so quick to kill every snake that’s encountered. Most snakebites are the result of people trying to catch or kill a snake. If you encounter a venomous snake in the wild, just leave it alone. If it is in your yard, consider calling a professional wildlife damage control agent and have it captured and removed before killing it needlessly.

Still, for anyone who spends a good deal of time outdoors, it’s worth learning about the six venomous snakes and their markings.

PHOTO BY JAMIE BURCHILL
PHOTO BY JAMIE BURCHILL

COTTONMOUTH:

These are common in Alabama, particularly around any body of water, including swamp-lands. The name is derived from its white inner mouth, which is oft en exposed when the snake is disturbed. It tends to stand its ground more so than other snakes.


 PHOTO BY DAVID CLINE
PHOTO BY DAVID CLINE

COPPERHEAD:

The cottonmouth’s up-land counterpart. Dark brown bands on a coppery lighter background that resemble an hourglass pattern make this snake especially hard to detect in the forest leaf. More are bitten by this snake in the Southeast than any other venomous snake.


PHOTO BY RICHARD DOWLING
PHOTO BY RICHARD DOWLING

EASTERN DIAMONDBACK RATTLESNAKE:

The largest rattlesnake in Alabama prefers drier sites such as coastal sandy pine forests. This hefty snake has dark brown to black diamonds along the length of its back. An ambush predator, it often sits coiled and motion-less for hours while it waits for small rodents.


PHOTO BY ERIC SOEHREN
PHOTO BY ERIC SOEHREN

CORAL SNAKE:

Brightly colored bands of black, yellow and red are its signature; it resembles other similarly colored snakes, but old sayings, such as “red on yellow will kill a fellow” and “red on black, friend of Jack” help distinguish it. Bites from this snake are rare and usually associated with someone trying to handle the snake.


PHOTO BY ERIC SOEHREN
PHOTO BY ERIC SOEHREN

PYGMY RATTLESNAKE:

The smallest rattlesnake is quick-tempered and is quick to coil and rattle, though it’s hardly perceptible. Often called a “ground rattler,” it has a light gray back-ground with dark brown to orange blotches along the back.


PHOTO BY RICHARD DOWLING
PHOTO BY RICHARD DOWLING

TIMBER (CANEBRAKE) RATTLESNAKE:

Varies in color from gray to brown, with dark brown V-shaped bands or chevrons evenly spaced down the length of its body. Its col-oration makes it also hard to detect. Usually occupies similar areas to that of the copperhead, but is found in areas that are a little wetter.


IF TROUBLE STRIKES:

Snakebites are uncommon, but can be deadly if not treated quickly. For those who spend a good deal of time outdoors, it’s worth remembering these initial first aid tips, from Children’s of Alabama and the Conservation Department: Seek medical attention immediately
  • Don’t use a tourniquet
  • Don’t use ice or a cold compress
  • Don’t try to cut into a bite with a knife or razor
  • Remove rings and constrictive items from arms and hands
  • Wrap wound with compression bandages. Go about four inches above the wound, wrapping as you would a sprained ankle
  • Immobilize the extremity
  • Keep patient calm and warm
  • Don’t try to suck the venom out by mouth
  • Don’t raise the site of the bite above heart level
  • Don’t drink caffeine or alcohol

Alabama Gardens: A peach of a month

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By Katie Jackson

I love June, the month that the famous 20th century garden writer and designer Gertrude Jekyll described as “the time of perfect young summer.”

It is that fresh, youthful promise of June that makes me adore it so. It is the month when summer officially arrives (on the Summer Solstice, June 21). And as the weather becomes reliably warm, but not so intensely hot as it will be later in the season, it’s a great month to work in the yard and garden. It’s also the month when we can begin to fill our tables and plates with summer fruits and vegetables of all kinds — the ones we have been longing for ever since last year.

Chief among those fruits, and arguably one of the most popular fruits in the world, are peaches, which are coming into full production in Alabama this month. While August is National Peach Month, June is when the peach is appropriately celebrated in Alabama. One of the oldest, if not THE oldest, of these celebrations is the Chilton County Peach Festival, which has been held since 1947 during the third week in June (this year’s festival is June 20-26).

The week-long festival features pageants, a “peach run,” art exhibitions, a cook-off, a fishing tournament, live music, parades, live and silent auctions, barbecue and much more (www.chiltonchamberonline.com or 205-755-2400). But most important of all, it celebrates the importance of peaches to Chilton County, which produces more than 80 percent of Alabama’s overall peach crop.

The peach, which is actually grown throughout the state, is such an important part of our state’s agricultural economy that, in 2006, the Alabama Legislature designated the peach as Alabama’s official state “tree fruit,” a declaration that raised a few eyebrows in Georgia and South Carolina, two states that are also famous for their peaches, but has nonetheless has stuck.

If you want to celebrate the peach and don’t have peach trees of your own from which to pick these lovely fruits, there are myriad opportunities to pick them or pick them up from growers throughout the state. Look for Alabama-grown peaches at roadside stands and farmers markets or check out the website www.pickyourown.org to find peach and other pick-your-own fruit and vegetable opportunities throughout the state.

Choosing the right peach

To choose the perfect peach, a rich color and a peachy fragrance are good indicators, but the best test is to squeeze them ever so gently. A perfectly ripe peach should yield a little to the touch but not be so soft it bruises. Of course, if you’re cooking them up for peach jam or preserves, riper ones are fine. And if you’re buying a large quantity of peaches to use over several days, get a mix of riper and less ripe ones.

One of the many fine attributes of peaches is that they ripen well even after they are picked. Simply leave less ripe peaches on the counter (preferably not stacked on top of each other) or, to help them ripen faster, store them in a paper bag. To slow down their ripening, keep them in the refrigerator, though check them every few days to make sure they are not drying out.

Another thing about peaches is that they make great gifts. The term “you’re a real peach” is said to have originated from the tradition of giving a peach as a sign of friendship or affection, so if you want to spread some affection and appreciation this June, share your peaches. In fact, since June is the month that we also celebrate fathers (Father’s Day is June 21), think about giving the dad or dads in your life a basket of peaches or a peach pie, cobbler or other dish or make him some peach jam.

Most important of all, get outside and enjoy this first month of summer—the peachy month of June.


June Garden Tips

  • Plant tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and sweet potatoes.
  • Sow seeds for beans, field peas, pumpkins, squash, corn, cantaloupes and watermelon.
  • Deadhead flowering annuals to encourage continued blooming.
  • Irrigate (with long, deep weekly waterings) houseplants, newly planted shrubs and perennials and lawns as needed if the weather turns dry.
  • Remove dry and yellow foliage from spring bulbs.
  • Keep an eye out for insect and disease problems in the garden and on houseplants.
  • Thin the new fruits on apple, pear and peach trees to produce larger fruit.
  • Add fresh water frequently to birdbaths and ornamental pools to reduce mosquito breeding.

History on display

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Permanent markers tell stories about an area’s past

By Allison Griffin

They’re often overlooked by motorists flying down the highway, but the historic markers that dot Alabama’s roadsides are a valuable, permanent resource for history buffs and travelers alike.

Two groups in Alabama have had historical marker programs. The Alabama Historical Commission, a state-funded agency based in Montgomery, started its marker program in 1975 to help educate the public about historically significant sites, structures, buildings, objects, cemeteries and districts in Alabama. The marker program is no longer active due to budget cuts.

Any requests for markers that come now are referred to the Alabama Historical Association (AHA), a non-profit, volunteer-led and membership-supported organization based in Livingston, whose historical markers program dates to the 1950s. A committee of the AHA helps interested groups in the purchase and erection of markers for historical sites, and checks the accuracy of information of the proposed marker texts and attests to a site’s historic importance.

The AHA’s program is still active, and the group’s website (www.alabamahistory.net) has an index of existing markers with addresses, arranged by county.

Families and groups interested in erecting a historical marker should note that they must pay for such markers (which can cost in the $2,000 range), and they must do their own research to verify the potential site’s significance.

In our April issue, we asked readers to submit photos and memories associated with their favorite markers, and we received responses from all parts of the state. We have published a selection of those submissions.

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Sandy Whisenant of Joppa submitted the Corbin Homestead marker in northeast Cullman County. In 2001, Whisenant became friends with Mrs. Anne Ferguson Humphries, who spent much of her childhood at the Corbin Homestead, and it held a special place in Humphries’ heart. Humphries died in 2012 at the age of 82, but Whisenant said that Humphries always wanted the home place to be seen and appreciated by the public.


 

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Bettye Matkin and Carolyn Chunn Glenn spent two years working to get this Morgan County marker erected, with monetary help from the community and out-of-state friends. Glenn writes: “On very old maps, this was ‘Chunn Springs,’ a health resort with a three-story hotel and many visitors from America and Europe. There were seven springs, one containing iodine water – at that time, the only iodine water found in America.”


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Meredith Brunson, tourism director for the city of Enterprise, submitted a marker to the well-known boll weevil: “Enterprise is steeped in rich history, but the historic marker that sits downtown on the southeast corner of Main and College streets really tells the story of the city’s claim to fame. Enterprise is the only city in the world with a monument honoring an insect. The Boll Weevil Monument in the heart of downtown pays tribute to the bug that destroyed the thriving cotton crop, leading to the area’s diversification into peanut farming, which remains a staple of the local economy. It is our favorite marker because without the boll weevil, Enterprise might not be the ‘City of Progress’ that we know and love today.”


 

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Ann Biggs-Williams submitted this marker, dedicated to the town of Lottie: “The Lottie, Alabama historical marker at the crossroads of County Roads 47 and 61 in Baldwin County is my favorite historical marker.  Seeing the marker instantly takes me back to 2010 when the entire community came together to plan a Memorial Day event that recognized veterans and placed flags on the community’s graves of area residents that had served in the military. … Having researched the text for the marker, it is a special blessing to pass and see someone reading or photographing our marker.”


 

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From Agnes Windsor of Slocomb, whose great-grandparents founded Countyline Missionary Baptist Church and cemetery: “(The) cemetery is my favorite historic marker because it tells many stories. The marker is a reminder of many who have lived here. … A brief history is inscribed on the marker as to who donated the land to the colored people of Countyline and names the oldest grave in the cemetery of 1892 (as) that of Novie Miller Copeland. This is truly a preservation of history and is the third or fourth to be established in Geneva County and the first in Slocomb.”


SILAS

This is from the town of Silas, in southwest Alabama: “The Choctaw County Board of Education built Silas Elementary School in 1936 with support from the Alabama State Department of Education. Students attended the school from 1936-2005.  After nearly 70 years as a school, the building took on a new purpose in 2005 when the town of Silas purchased the property from the board of education.  The town restored the building and opened it in 2009 as the Silas Municipal Complex.  The Alabama Historical Commission added Silas Elementary School to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage on June 20, 2013.”


 

HM_SHADY

From Darrell Brock, a member of Cullman Electric Cooperative: “The little white church and its cemetery, sitting way up on a hill top, so far from the hustle and bustle of normal life, takes me back to an earlier time. A time when the first settlers of the little community in the valley below drove their horses and wagons to the little church to worship and praise God for the many blessings he had given them. If you close your eyes you can almost hear the church hymns ringing out from the church and down to the community below. It is a place to be close to both God and the past. That is why I love Shady Grove Church.”


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Another submission from the Cullman area: Old Houston, located a few miles away from present day Houston, was the first county seat for Winston County. In the late 1850s, a log jail was constructed. Pro-Union men who were trying to prevent fellow citizens that refused to enlist in the Confederate Army from being imprisoned burned the jail twice during the Civil War. It was rebuilt a third time in 1868 from hand-hewn hardwood logs. … Cullman County was created partly out of Winston County in 1877. Houston was no longer in the center of Winston, so the county seat moved to Double Springs, effective July 23, 1883. Sometime after the move, the jail was sold to others and privately owned and used as a house until the early 1960s. The jail was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. A comprehensive restoration project on the jail was completed in 2008.


 

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Margaret Gaston, curator of the Hank Williams Museum in Georgiana, offered this: “The Hank Williams Boyhood Home in Georgiana became one of several sites in Alabama assigned by Alabama Department of Tourism as part of their Hank Trail tourist attractions in 2006. This marker was unveiled at the June 6, 2006 Hank Williams Festival. The reverse side of the marker tells the story of Thigpen’s Log Cabin, a roadhouse a half-mile north of the museum on old U.S. 31. The salvageable remains of the log cabin were dismantled and rebuilt within the Hank Williams Park, adjacent to the museum. Hank & the Driftin’ Cowboys played at Thigpen’s regularly beginning in late 1930s and early 1940s.”


 

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A.J. Wright of Pelham sent this photo and a link to his blog post: “Near Pelham City Hall stands a historical marker that includes the following text: ‘Near this site stood Shelbyville, A.T., first county seat of Shelby County; named for Isaac Shelby, governor of Tennessee. Shelby County was established February 7, 1818 by an act of the Alabama Territorial Legislature.’ Yes, the first seat of county government was located where Pelham is now. And yes, the community and the county existed before Alabama became a state.”

Helen Keller’s birthplace

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A pilgrimage of wonder and respect

By Marilyn Jones

A modest white clapboard house on the edge of Tuscumbia was home to Captain Arthur H. Keller, his wife Kate Adams and their toddler, Helen, who was born June 27, 1880. Their lives were happy and idyllic until, at the age of 19 months, Helen was stricken with a severe illness that left her blind and deaf.

At the age of six, Helen Keller was a hard to control, angry child when her parents decided to take her to see Dr. Alexander Graham Bell. Because of this visit, Helen was united with teacher Anne Mansfield Sullivan on March 3, 1887.

If you have seen the play or movie “The Miracle Worker” by William Gibson or read Keller’s autobiography, you know that at the water pump in back of this house, Anne steadily pumped cool water into one of Helen’s hands while repeatedly tapping out an alphabet code of five letters in the other, over and over again.

Suddenly Helen understood: “W-a-t-e-r” meant the cool something flowing over her hand. By nightfall, she had learned 30 words; within six months she knew 625.

Visiting Ivy Green

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Entering the home where Captain and Mrs. Keller, Helen, Anne, and the couple’s other children lived looks as if any one of them could be found sitting around the dining room table or resting by one of the fireplaces.

Built in 1820, only one year after Alabama became the 22nd State of the Union, the main house is of Virginia cottage construction. There are four large rooms on the first floor divided by a hallway and three rooms upstairs.

A half dozen visitors are welcomed this day by docent Mary Eubanks who tells the story of a little girl lost in darkness, who was rescued by the determination and creativity of her teacher and by her own intelligence and willingness to engage with the world.

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Eubanks points to family furnishings and decorative accents, photographs and other treasured mementoes as she leads the group along the hallway past the parlor, dining room, master bedroom and into a room now used as a museum. Guests are invited to go upstairs to the boy’s room, a trunk room, and Helen and Anne’s bedroom.

After a brief self-guided tour of the second floor and museum, guests exit through a small gift shop into the back yard. Here is the famous water pump where Helen learned her first word, setting her on a path of higher education and fame.

Also on the tour is the kitchen building and the cottage where Helen was born. Later Anne used the cottage as a school for Helen.

The Shoals Master Gardeners designed, built and maintain the flower beds on the grounds. According to Betty Balch and her husband Dennis, who often work in the garden, the flowers and shrubs chosen were mentioned in Helen’s writings about her childhood home.

Helen’s Life

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By the age of 10, Helen had mastered Braille as well as the manual alphabet and how to use a typewriter. At age 16, she could speak well enough to go to preparatory school and eventually to college. In 1904 she graduated cum laude from Radcliffe College. Anne stayed with her through those years, interpreting lectures and class discussions to her.

Helen dedicated her life to improving the conditions of blind and the deaf-blind all over the world and brought hope to millions of people.

She died in her sleep on June 1, 1968, just a few weeks before her 88th birthday. During her remarkable life, Keller stood as a powerful example of how determination, hard work and imagination can allow an individual to triumph over adversity. She was a respected and world-renowned activist who labored for the betterment of others.

If you go:

Since 1954, when Helen Keller’s birthplace was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, it has been a shrine to the “miracle” that occurred in a blind and deaf seven-year old girl’s life and a place of homage to this remarkable woman.

A production of “The Miracle Worker” is performed on the grounds of Ivy Green Friday and Saturdays at 8 p.m. from June 5 through July 11. It chronicles the lives of Helen Keller and Anne Sullivan.

Ivy Green is located at 300 North Commons Street West in Tuscumbia. Tours are offered Monday through Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Closed New Year’s Day, Easter, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and December 24, 25 and 26. Admission is charged.

For more information call (256) 383-4066 or www.helenkellerbirthplace.org.

Alabama Recipes: Daddy’s Favorite

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Growing up, my Dad always made the best egg sandwiches. I still ask for him to make me one occasionally. Or if he knows I need one, he will make me one without me asking. That’s the thing about Dads: They always know what we need when we need it the most. So cheers to all the Dads who make our lives better, every day. Happy Father’s Day, Pop.

Upcoming recipe themes and deadlines are:

August Cool drinks June 15
September Tailgating July 15
October Homemade candy August 15

Submit your recipes here, email to recipes@alabamaliving.coop or mail to: Recipes, P.O. Box 244014, Montgomery, AL 36124. Don’t forget to check us out on Facebook for updates throughout the month.

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Mary Tyler Spivey is a graduate of Huntingdon College
where she studied history and French but she also has a
passion for great food.

Contact her at recipes@alabamaliving.coop.


 

Cook of the month:

Jane Kendrick, Coosa Valley EC

Chicken Pot Pie

  • ½ stick margarine
  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped fine
  • ½ cup flour
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 chicken, boiled and deboned
  • 2 cans mixed vegetables (Veg-All), drained and rinsed
  • 1 pie crust for top

In large saucepan, melt margarine and sauté onion and celery. Stir in flour and add milk and chicken broth.  Cook until thickened.  Watch carefully and stir slowly, almost constantly. Add chicken and mixed vegetables and mix thoroughly.  Put into 9 x 13 casserole dish. Top with pie crust; use a pastry wheel or lattice roller on crust for an eye-catching presentation. Dot with margarine and sesame seeds if desired. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes.


Dad’s Favorite Breakfast Grits

  • 3 cups water
  • 2 chicken bouillon cubes
  • 6 tablespoons of grits
  • 3/4 onion, chopped
  • 1 handful of chili cheese Fritos, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon Sazon Goya con culantro yachiote (coriander & annatto)
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon (heaping) chili powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon (heaping) cayenne pepper
  • 3-4 slices Swiss cheese

Add water to large saucepan. Combine all ingredients except grits and cheese. Bring to a boil. Sprinkle in grits and simmer until thick. Stir in cheese till melted and serve. Can be complemented with a fried egg on top.

Harold A. Weinbaum III, Joe Wheeler EMC


 

Don’s Oven “Fried” Chicken

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    1 4-ounce bag thin potato chips, crushed

  • 4 chicken breasts, skin removed
  • ½ cup sour cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted

Heat oven to 375 degrees.  Poke small hole in one end of potato chip bag to release air and crush chips with cup or sturdy, flat object.  Set aside.  Wash chicken and pat dry.  Line cookie sheet with foil and spray with cooking spray.  With hands, apply coat of sour cream to each breast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in bag of crushed chips to coat.  Place on baking sheet and repeat process until each breast is coated.  Drizzle all with melted butter or margarine.  Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes, depending on size of breasts.  Be sure juices are clear before removing from oven.  Do not overcook.  Serves 4.

Mary Donaldson, Covington EC


 

Daddy’s Lemon Chicken

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can lemon-lime soda
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • Lemon pepper spice
  • Salt & pepper, if desired

Rub dry lemon pepper onto wet chicken breasts. Grill until pretty grill marks appear. Place into glass casserole pan, then cover with juice and soda. Sprinkle with more lemon pepper. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 minutes. Remove foil and let chicken brown on top.

Becky Chappelle, Cullman EC


 

Daddy’s Favorite Casserole

  • 1½ – 2 pounds of ground lean beef
  • 1 17-ounce can corn (niblets, drained)
  • 1 15-ounce can pinto beans (drained)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons seasoning salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper (optional)
  • 1½ tablespoons lemon pepper
  • 1½ teaspoons pepper
  • 1 6-ounce can tomato paste
  • ½ cup ketchup

Brown beef in skillet. Drain excess grease. Add onion and all seasonings to meat and cook until onions are clear. Add tomato paste and mix. Add beans and corn. Stir well and add ketchup. If needed add ¼ to ½ cup of water. Simmer for 30 to 40 minutes.

Mildred Nordman, North Alabama EC


 

Hashbrown Casserole

  • 1 package frozen hashbrowns, thawed
  • 1 stick butter or margarine, melted
  • 2 cups Colby cheese, shredded
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • Dash of garlic powder
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • French fried onion rings, optional

Melt butter in a 13×9-baking dish in a 350-degree oven. Mix butter, hashbrowns, cheese, minced onion, salt, pepper, garlic and soup. Place in baking dish and bake for 30 minutes. Remove and top with French fried onions and bake 10 minutes longer. Enjoy! This is my husband’s and daddy’s favorite!

Wendi Luther, Central Alabama EC


 

Lablash

  • 2.5 pounds ground chuck
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 large bell pepper, diced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 pound cooked rotini pasta
  • 1 28-ounce can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 can Rotel tomatoes
  • 1 cup sliced green olives
  • 1 cup sliced black olives
  • 1 8-ounce can sliced water chestnuts
  • 8 ounces grated extra sharp cheddar cheese

Cook ground chuck on medium high, breaking up with spoon until fully cooked. Drain fat. Sautee diced onion and bell pepper in olive oil until soft. Combine meat and all listed ingredients except cheese. Place in casserole dish and sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350 degrees about 30 minutes until bubbly. Freezes well.

Jane A. Smith, Joe Wheeler EMC


 

Hot Ham and Cheese Sandwiches

  • 1-2 packages of 24 rolls or any packaged small rolls, either sliced or not, but all connected
  • 2 sticks butter, softened at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon dry poppy seeds (optional)
  • 1 pound of sliced deli ham
  • 1 pound of sliced Swiss cheese

Cream together, either by hand or mixer, the butter, mustard, and Worcestershire sauce, then stir in onion and poppy seeds. Keep the buns together and if they are not sliced, then slice them horizontally altogether in a slab. Open the slab up, like a book, and spread the softened butter mixture on both sides of the buns. Layer the ham slices and cheese slices on the bottom side only. Then fold the top slab buns on top. Wrap tightly in aluminum foil and put them in a preheated 400-degree oven for 15 minutes to melt the cheese and the butter mixture into the buns. Unwrap and cut into individual sandwiches.

Victoria Motyka, Baldwin EMC

Worth the Drive: Jake’s Fish Camp

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While away a summer day at Jake’s Fish Camp

By Jennifer Kornegay

While the name of Jake’s Fish Camp is a little misleading — there is no fish on the small menu, and it’s run by a friendly guy named Frank — the place is pretty straightforward about what you will find there: tasty burgers, barbecue and sandwiches; cold beer; and on most weekends in the spring and summer, live music, all in an environment that gives new meaning to the term “laid back.”

Sitting on a dark muddy slip of Pintlala Creek flowing to and from the Alabama River, Jake’s was once a marina in addition to a restaurant/bar that welcomed all kinds of characters for more than 30 years. When its namesake passed away a decade ago, the place died with him. But Jake’s son Frank re-opened Jake’s two and half years ago, much to the delight of those who’d once frequented the joint as well as its many new fans.

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It’s not much to look at: a small cabin painted the color of the pines around it with a covered side porch boasting a water view and an overhead sprinkler system to cool things down in the heat of summer; a pool room up front; a bar and a few tables in the back room lit by neon beer logos; and an outdoor stage out front. Its proximity to the creek is a constant threat, but one that Jake and now Frank have always taken in stride. It’s all been completely underwater several times (look for the notation above the front door showing how high the water got in 1990), which explains a lot. “Dad never really bothered fixing the place up too much since we flooded so often,” Frank said.

But the food is good, the service is friendly, and Theo the wiener dog — Jake’s unofficial mascot — greets all who come with a tail wag and a loud bark. Frank likes to call his spot “a little Flora-Bama,” and the description is accurate. It’s nothing fancy, but the experience is all about fun.

Frank is particularly proud of the musical acts he’s been bringing in, a slew of the Southeast’s most popular and prolific bar bands, and they’re bringing in the crowds. On a weekend in April, 60s star Billy Joe Royal played at Jake’s. And later in the month, Brandon Self (who’s opened for David Allan Coe) drew more than 200 people with his country music crooning, despite a downpour that pushed the show inside.

Even when there’s no musical act scheduled to perform, visitors find their way to Jake’s (and there’s always a juke box playing good-time tunes). They come by land and they come by boat. The spot is definitely off the beaten path, but the drive through countryside or ride down the creek to get there plus the relaxed vibe courtesy of its semi-hidden spot on a bank lined with silvery moss-draped trees is a large part of the appeal, as is the humble but hearty food.

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It may be simple, but some folks swear that Jake’s hot ham and cheese sandwich is the best they’ve ever had. Frank smokes barbecue out front that’s earned rave reviews from diners, too. But it’s the Jake’s Cheeseburger that is not to be missed. It’s basic and not too big, and the secret to its deliciousness lies in the toppings. Fine chopped onion and shredded lettuce covered in coarse black pepper add crunch and kick that complement the juicy beef patty blanketed in melty American cheese. Enjoy it all with an icy can of Coke or a brew while watching the creek roll by and listening to some grinning guy picking a guitar, and you’re well on your way to a perfect summer day.


Jake’s Fish Camp
125 Jake’s Landing Road
Burkville, Ala.
334-263-1991
Check out Jake’s Facebook page to see upcoming bands and events.


If you’re using your phone or a car navigation system to find Jake’s, you may get thrown off course. If you’re coming from around Montgomery, head away from downtown toward Maxwell AFB on Day Street and go past the Air Force Base entrance. Not far after that, take a left on Old Selma Road. Follow that for eight miles and look for Jake’s Landing Road on your right.

 

Artistic impressions

Photo by Michael Cornelison
Photos by Michael Cornelison

Glassmaker creates stunning pieces of art

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By Lori Quiller

Perched atop a mountain overlooking Little River Canyon National Preserve and nestled between a thicket of trees and a pond is an unassuming cabin hiding some of Alabama’s most beautiful handcrafted artwork.

Art not borne of pastel-colored paints or carved from stone or etched from steel. The art in this cabin is borne of fire. This art is handmade glassware with clean lines and vibrant colors, some small and some large, all stunning in their perfection.

Master glass artist Cal Breed and his wife, Christy, formally opened Orbix Hot Glass in 2002, but it wasn’t an easy task. Breed, who studied marine biology at Auburn University, became interested in glasswork while still in college after seeing an old photo of stained glass being made. It intrigued him so much that he decided to take a class in the art of stained glass.

“I was fortunate to find Cam Langley in Birmingham, who showed me just how beautiful glasswork can be,” Breed says. “He was a great mentor and friend, and I was able to learn so much from him.” Langley passed away in 2013, but his friendship with Breed and influence can been seen threading through some of the experimental pieces in the Orbix Hot Glass showroom.

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Glass is a unique substance as a medium for art, Breed says. While it’s not the easiest substance to use, that’s the main reason why he’s so drawn to it for his work.

“There’s something about glass,” Breed explained. “The transparency of it, the color. It changes when we work with it, and it changes the light when we look through it. It has a tremendous texture that you only realize after you’ve been working with it for a while. And, you have to work quickly. There’s an amazing amount of concentration that you find yourself in when you’re working with glass. You really get focused on what this object is, or is going to be, when you’re working with hot glass. The question is whether it turns out the way I want it to, or will it go in a different direction?”

Pieces can take from five minutes to a month or more to complete, which is a good reason why Breed has extra hands to help in the studio. Artists Eric Harper and Mark Leputa and student Lori Cummings join Breed in making the Orbix masterpieces.

Each masterpiece begins with a bulb of molten glass on the end of a hollow iron tube. The tip is quickly placed into a furnace in which the temperature averages 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit. The glass bulb is brought out, and air is blown into the tube. Within seconds, a small bubble can be seen inside the bulb on the other end of the tube, and then it goes back into the furnace. The process is repeated over and over, adding a few flourishes, depending on what the project is going to be. One thing never wavers — the glass never stops moving until the piece is finished.

Drawing inspiration from nature

As with all handcrafted art, no two pieces are alike. Breed draws his inspiration from nature around him, and he and his wife truly believe their piece of heaven lies atop Lookout Mountain. Mountain life affords him the time to spend with his family to rock climb, kayak or hike — all experiences he cherishes and ideas he can bring back to the hot shop, like the time he decided to drop hot glass down a hole to see what would come up. The piece is in the front gallery, and it’s jaw dropping!

Orbix Hot Glass has had visitors from as near as Birmingham and as far away as France, as well as pieces featured in magazines, including Southern Living and O: The Oprah Magazine. Breed recently finished a gallery show in Huntsville, and although he doesn’t have a show planned for 2015, he’s not ruling one out. He’s a regular participant in Southern Makers, an annual gathering of statewide creative artists in Montgomery.

“There have been some pieces that I’ve made and held onto for a while,” Breed says. “Some are harder to let go of than others. But, there’s a lot of craft that goes into these pieces, so I truly enjoy doing those pieces that I know will give joy to someone else. I can see that here in the gallery when someone looks at a piece for a really long time, and then takes it home. You can just see something in a person when a piece catches hold. There’s happiness there, and I’m glad to be able to do that for someone.”

Check out Cal Breed and Orbix Hot Glass online at www.calbreed.com or www.orbixhotglass.com.

Frank Lloyd Wright’s Alabama legacy

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Florence’s Rosenbaum home is Frank Lloyd Wright’s Alabama legacy

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By Marilyn Jones

The sign along Riverview Drive in Florence marks a brown house looking like several building blocks arranged side by side as the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House and my destination. I have long been fascinated with Wright, the man as much as his work. And, as Rosenbaum House Director Libby Jordan shows me around the house, I will also, in turn, become fascinated with Mildred and Stanley Rosenbaum as well.

The Rosenbaums

Mildred was a Vogue model in New York when she met Stanley in the 1930s. They married in 1938. As a wedding gift, Stanley’s parents gave the newlyweds a two-acre corner lot and $7,500 to build their first home. “They had one request,” says Jordan. “And that was that the couple build the house toward the corner of the lot so that the elder Rosenbaums could still see the Tennessee River from their home across the street.”

Aaron Green, a local architectural student and friend of Mildred and Stanley, actually designed the first house for the Rosenbaums, but when his design came in way over their budget, he suggested Frank Lloyd Wright. Green contacted Wright, who designed the house and asked Green to help oversee its construction.

The house was built on a slab with concrete floors. There was an L-shaped floor plan, based on Wright’s original Usonian design, and the house was made of cypress wood, brick and glass-mitered windows.

The House

Photo by Marilyn Jones
Photo by Marilyn Jones

“This house is considered the purest example of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian home,” Jordan says.

“Usonian stands for the United State of America and was offered as a low-cost home for middle income families,” Jordan continues as we stand at the back of the house, which serves as the house’s main entrance. “With Wright’s plans, a young family could build their own home, fulfilling the American dream of home ownership.”

There are only 26 pre-World War II Usonian houses. This is the only Wright house of any design in Alabama.

Then Jordan opens the door it as if she is lifting the lid of a jewelry box to reveal the treasures inside. Immediately the Wright magic comes into focus as I gaze into the living room and walk into the study; so many features of art and practicality become even clearer.

A geometric design — created specifically for the Rosenbaums — was used over and over again in lighting fixtures and shallow windows along the roof line. Many elements were built in, including the bookcases in the living room, desk and book cases in the study, and table and shelving in the dining area.

A wall lined with glass doors offered the Rosenbaums a view of the river although it cannot be seen today. The house is decorated with many of the Rosenbaums’ personal items, including Stanley’s books and furniture designed by Wright.

Past a small kitchen, divided from the dining area by folding doors, I walk with Jordan down a long hall and into each of three bedrooms which also feature glass doors opening out onto the lawn.

The Addition

Jordan explains that the original house was 1,540 square feet. “But when the Rosenbaum household grew to include four sons, they asked Wright to design an addition,” she says.

In 1948, 1,084 square feet was added, including a larger kitchen, a guest bedroom, storage space and a dormitory for the boys. This seamless addition clearly shows Wright’s concept of a Usonian house that could grow as a family grew.

But, when Wright was originally approached to design the addition he resisted, so the couple drove to Wisconsin to convince Wright, and he finally agreed.

We walk along a very narrow hallway to the guest bedroom now used for display purposes. Along the hallway are closet after closet — just what Mildred wanted and needed with four boys; storage space.

Back down the hall we arrive in the large dormitory room with four bunk beds suspended from the ceiling along the far wall. Each boy also had his own built-in storage space for clothes and toys.

The Restoration

Stanley, a literature professor at the University of North Alabama, passed away in 1983 and the Rosenbaums’ four sons moved away from Florence. But Mildred, devoted to the house, stayed, even though the roof leaked and the heating system no longer worked.

By 1999, the house had reached a critical stage. Years of leaking roofs had damaged the joists, ceilings, walls and exterior trim. Termites had also taken their toll and cored many of the walls.

Fortunately the city of Florence developed a plan to save the house, using a capital improvements account funded by a one-cent sales tax. Volunteers and professionals also contributed to the restoration. The city spent $600,000 on repairs, using original plans sent by the Wright Foundation.

Mildred witnessed the restoration of her home which opened as a museum in 2002. She was even able to lead a few private tours through the house. She passed away in 2006.

A visit to the Frank Lloyd Wright Rosenbaum House is a look back at another era: a glimpse of the Rosenbaum family and the design genius of Wright.

If you go:

The Rosenbaum House is located at 601 Riverview Drive in Florence. Visit www.wrightinalabama.com. Hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.; Sunday, 1 – 4 p.m. Reservations required for large groups. Call (256) 718-5050. Admissions/ gift shop is located across the street from the house. $8 for adults. $5 for seniors and students. For area information, visit www.colbertcountytourism.com or call (800) 344-0783.

Blow your own glass creation at the beach

Colors available to add to glass pieces on display at The Hot Shop of Coastal Art Center in Orange Beach. Photos by Michelle Rolls-Thomas.
Colors available to add to glass pieces on display at The Hot Shop of Coastal Art Center in Orange Beach. Photos by Michelle Rolls-Thomas.

By Lori Quiller

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The phrase “blowing glass” may sound strange, but it’s precisely what Orange Beach glass artists Adam Burges and Kerry Parks do to create spellbinding works of art with swirls of rich, vibrant colors.

As resident artists for The Hot Shop, Alabama’s only public-access hot glass studio located in the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach, Burges and Parks work together to create the stunning creations. So, what’s their secret?

“I’ve had people say that it’s like painting on a 3D canvas. That’s true, but with glass, the canvas is a little less forgiving,” Burges says with a laugh.

Kerry Parks and Adam Burges, resident artists, instruct a class at The Hot Shop. Photo by Michelle Rolls-Thomas.
Kerry Parks and Adam Burges, resident artists, instruct a class at The Hot Shop. Photo by Michelle Rolls-Thomas.

According to Burges, who has been the resident glass artist with The Hot Shop since 2012, the key to working with glass is not only being able to “see” in your mind what you want the glass to do, but to be patient enough with the often temperamental substance to make it yield to your vision.

Burges was studying for his fine arts degree at the University of South Alabama, specializing in sculpture, until USA began a glass program that limited the courses available in sculpting. Because the glasswork would be considered three dimensional, the glass courses would be applied toward his degree, so Burges decided to give it a try — and he never looked back. In fact, Burges furthered his training for a time in Murano, Italy, where families perfected the art of glassblowing for generations.

“I love working with glass,” Burges explains. “There’s just something about it that draws me in. It’s an experience that I truly enjoy sharing with others, so that’s why I enjoy teaching it as well.”

What makes The Hot Shop special is not only the artists’ dedication to the fine art of glasswork, but also their camaraderie with patrons who visit the Coastal Arts Center of Orange Beach either to watch projects being made or to take part in a class.

We teach about 90 percent of the time because we want our visitors to get involved and have fun playing with the glass and make something of their own…

“We teach about 90 percent of the time because we want our visitors to get involved and have fun playing with the glass and make something of their own,” Burges said. “It’s really all about having a unique experience you can’t do anywhere else in Alabama. Classes are popular and book quickly with families vacationing in the area looking for something interesting to do.”

Burges said the beginner Make Your Own Glass Class is the perfect introduction to learn how to blow glass and make something of your own. The hands-on class includes glass, tools, personal instruction and the opportunity to make a choice of beginner glass creations. A favorite for children, the Make Your Own Glass Class does require that you leave your artwork at the facility overnight to cool, but you can pick it up the next day. Burges also offers one-on-one classes for more adventurous patrons.

“We love having kids in the studio!” he says. “It’s so much fun watching their faces when we’re working with the glass. Their faces say it all. We feel the same way!”

The Hot Shop offers classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and the gallery is open on Saturdays. Because classes book quickly, advance reservations are recommended. Call (251) 981-2787or visit www.coastalartscenter.com.