The Land of Oz

 

A monthly editorial piece of masterful opinionated writing (insert joke here) regarding life and times in the big town of Tuscaloosa coupled with the musings of a guy nicknamed “Oz.” 

 

If you are anything like me (and bless your soul if you are), you might have looked at the calendar recently and asked yourself, “Hey… where in the heck did summer go?”

 

Technically, it’s still here. But for all intents and purposes, it begins when school lets out and ends when school resumes. Or does it?

 

Whether you have kids or not, there is a direct correlation (especially in the thriving metropolis of Tuscaloosa) as it relates to our living conditions. This includes, but is not limited to: much lighter traffic conditions, no lines, no wait at local eateries, and no dreading the approach to the unavoidable intersection at 15th and McFarland (hurry up with that Krispy Kreme turn lane, will ya?). No matter where you live, you’ve no doubt dealt with this issue.

 

Seasons seem to get shorter every year and unscientifically speaking, maybe it’s because that for a couple of brief months, life gets a little easier to navigate. Literally. Getting from point A to point B is a lot less hectic.

 

But it also may be because of timing. Let’s face it: The last week of May and the first week of August are a wash. If you’re not decompressing from the hustle of spring, you’re prepping for the upcoming hustle in the fall. Some of us never come out of the hustle to begin with, but at least the commute is a little less painful.

 

Eliminate those two weeks, and you have exactly two months remaining. After various sporting camps, and vacation bible school, and finishing baseball, and dodging bacteria in the neighborhood pool, and swim lessons, and reapplying sunscreen, and potentially squeezing in a vacation from which you return and need a vacation… it’s over.

 

In a puff of smoke, the school supply list is staring you in the face and we’re all mulling over preseason football polls.

 

Other school systems perform their summer break dance a little differently simply by altering dates while maintaining the allotment of off time.

 

As an example, certain systems in other necks of other woods shift the grand finale of the academic year until the end of June and then recommence after Labor Day. I’m not sure which is worse. The only sure positive is that statistically, July and August are the hottest months, and at least the kids would return as the weather is beginning to somewhat cool down.

 

Regardless, the summers seemingly continue to get shorter. And if the powers that be eventually shorten the actual break, then by the measurement of the title of this article, enjoy your one week of summer. Time flies when you’re reapplying sunscreen.

  

I tweet insignificant things @ozborn34.          

 

Derek Osborn is the Executive Director of PRIDE of Tuscaloosa by trade and writer by hobby. He lives in Tuscaloosa with his wife, Lynn, and daughters Savannah and Anica. 

 

 

 

By Amy Poore

 

Now that many of us have a bounty of fresh, juicy tomatoes, I thought it would be an excellent time to highlight a couple of wonderful recipes so we can serve them up! Nothing beats a tomato sandwich, of course, but these are excellent dinner options. The tomato pie is perfect for the peak of the tomato season, and the caprese salad skewers make an excellent (and quick to make) appetizer for pre-dinners or for backyard patio parties this summer.

 

Bon appétit!

 

Old Fashioned Tomato Pie

1 cup grated mozzarella
1 cup grated cheddar
9-inch prebaked deep dish pie shell
1/4 cup green onion (chopped)
10 fresh basil leaves (chopped)
4 tomatoes, sliced and drained of excess water (a strainer works well for this), divided
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of dry basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, salt and pepper in a medium bowl

Layer half of the sliced tomatoes over the pie shell (reserving a few slices for top of pie). Next, spread half of the mayonnaise mixture on top of tomatoes. Finally, layer all of the chopped basil and onions.

Repeat with remaining tomato slices and cheese layer.

Place the reserved slices on top and sprinkle with dried basil.

Bake for 30 minutes or until top is golden brown.

Serve hot or at room temperature.

 

Caprese Salad Skewers

Cherry tomatoes, whole or halved for size and arrangement
Fresh Basil Leaves
Fresh mini mozzarella balls
Good quality extra virgin olive oil
Good quality balsamic vinegar
Toothpicks or small bamboo skewers

On each skewer, slide on mozzarella ball(s), a folded basil leaf, followed by the tomato.

Arrange on serving platter and drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, to taste.

Amy Poore is a new mom, a wife and a foodie. To see more of Amy's delicious recipes, visit her blog, Poore Amy, at www.pooreamy.com 

Photos: Amy Poore

 

By Tori Linville

 

So you want a convertible? Before you imagine the whole wind in your hair thing, you have to get the wheels first. We’ve listed a few options for you to consider, along with some tips to matching you with your ideal vehicle.

 

Obviously, a budget needs to be decided before moving ahead with the purchase. So imagining the perfect convertible for you involves some visualization and creativity. Another helpful way to determine what you’re willing to invest your money in would be to make a list of what you want in a convertible.

 

Here are a few things to consider, according to Consumer Reports:

 

·      The biggest priority – the price

The lowest price for convertibles sits at $20,000. If your budget is limited, the best advice would be to save until it isn’t, unless you plan to purchase a used convertible.

 

While a new car offers the latest technology, the used car market can be a more sensible option for many. Testing the reliability is the obvious action when looking at used convertibles.

 

·      Safety

This concern pretty much explains itself, but we’ll still make a few points. You’ll of course want to ensure antilock brakes, electronic stability control, standard dual front air bags and three-point safety belts just to start.

 

·      Fuel Economy

Convertibles are known to be zippy little suckers, so vehicles can range in size. Some models might require premium fuel, adding to operation costs.

 

·      Hard Top vs. Soft Top and Manual vs. Auto Top

Soft tops are known for allowing things to slip by it, so a multi-layered headliner will help where the soft top doesn’t. Hard tops obviously protect the car better but are pricier.

 

A manual top has a downside of needing to be stored after being removed, while an auto top is quick and efficient, but needs a big trunk to collapse into.

 

Consumer Reports’ favorites included Lexus, Mazda, Toyota, Audi and Subaru for 2015. Check out the pricings for the latest models of some of the mentioned manufacturers.

 

·      2015 Lexus IS

Up to 30 miles per gallon (highway)

Starting at $43,000

 

·      2015 Mazda MX-5 Miata

Up to 28 miles per gallon (highway

Starting at $23,000

 

·      2015 Audi A5

Up to 29 miles per gallon (highway)

Starting at $47,000



Of course, factors will all depend on what you plan to use the convertible for. To see more info. and selection, check out this article to guide you to your perfect fit.

 

Article sponsored by Townsend Auto.

Find them on the web at: http://www.townsendautofamily.com

Sponsored by: 

By Tori Linville

 

If your deck or patio has seen more dried up leaves, stray grass and weeds this summer than actual activity, you might be in need of an outdoor living space overhaul. Or maybe you just don’t feel like you’re getting enough out of your outdoor space. Well, we’ve gathered three of outdoor entertainment’s go-to and top trends to help you fix your outdoor woes in order to reach your seasonal escape.

 

First things first – start with an ideal outdoor room.

 

The classic outdoor room not only establishes an outdoor area, but also makes for a welcoming environment that guests will enjoy. The experts at bobvila.com have some great tips and tricks that make this seemingly overwhelming task a pretty easy fix.

 

·      Start with a roof that frames your outdoor area – a pergola with some vine potential or even an awning are some options to check out. After dealing with the roof, go to the ground: lay out an outdoor rug that compliments your color scheme and/or outdoor furniture.

 

·      Speaking of color schemes and what not, go for bulky(ish) furniture and earth tones that will obviously compliment the surroundings. Furniture pieces that allow for a guest to kick back and relax are almost always preferred over a dainty lawn chair (if those even exist). Easy care fabrics are an obvious choice for weather-wear.

 

·      Lastly, add some lighting. String lights here are a popular craze, but anything you prefer will do. Just as long as you have some to illuminate the area when it’s dark out.

 

Check out more info. here on how to get the perfect backyard escape.

 

Next up: an unforgettable grill

 

If there’s one trend that will never go out of style, it’s the outdoor stovetop otherwise known as a grill.

 

High-tech grills with tons of features can be found virtually everywhere. For example, the Saber Smart Edge Grill was Consumer Reports’ favored grill with infrared top and optional ceramic glass lid. If watching the food slowly cook wasn’t enough, the grill hooks up to WiFi so a phone can keep track of when to cook, when to clean and when to fuel up.

 

If you’re looking for a more straightforward number, other Consumer Reports grills included the Weber Spirit E-220, the Weber Spirit SP-320 and a Kenmore grill. See them (and other cooking gadgets) here.

 

 

Lastly, throw in a fire pit for a multipurpose focal point

 

Don’t actually throw one, but you get the point. Fire pits have been all the rage for a while and for good reason. As a center point for décor arrangements, the fire pit isn’t just for show. It’s also warmth, light and even serves as a Smores maker.

 

Also, it’s probably one of the biggest draws for winter outdoor entertainment (if you’re brave enough). That being said, a fire pit practically pays for itself.

 

Consumer Reports likes the Alfresco Fire N Table, Forshaw and Waterstone for a variety of reliable and quality fire pits.

 

Honorable Mention: outdoor movies, anyone?

 

A new, refreshing entertainment piece is the re-emergence of the outdoor screen for at-home enjoyment (in place of drive-thru movies, of course).

 

While a projector would be necessary, a screen could just as easily be made with some bed sheets and nails. If you’re feeling the outdoor movie vibe like we were, all you need is a blank wall (or screen) to get started!

 

Full outdoor entertainment systems are available on sites like Amazon but first, check out this article to see what it takes to blow away your guests with your outdoor film.

Photo Credit: HGTV.com

 

Article sponsored by Bama Exterminating and the Geoffrey Shook Agency of State Farm.

Find Bama Exterminating on the web at: http://bamaexterminating.com

 

 

Find the Shook Agency of State Farm on the web at: http://insurewithshook.com

By Allison Adams

 

Congratulations! You have made it to summer! School is out and hopefully things are slowing down a bit in your routine. 

After such a cold winter and a rainy spring, I’m eager to see if I even mind the scorching heat of southern summer this year. If so, I may just bear it and think of places such as Iceland, where June weather ranges between 47 and 53 degrees. Their official “summer” began on April 23.

Summer is a season, but for our kids, it is an extended holiday. All of our responsibilities we juggled with ease during the school year must now be combined with shuttling to and fro for pool dates, summer camps and other activities. Hopefully, we can also coordinate a bit of wandering for our young explorers.

A recent broadcast of a couple investigated for allowing their children, ages 10 and six, to roam the streets made national news. The story opened my eyes to terms such as “helicopter parents” (a.k.a. busy bodies) and “free-range parents” (the ones at home wondering why they haven’t seen the kids in a while). 

I was surrounded by both of these as a child growing up in Livingston. My best friend’s grandmother had ways of knowing when we’d ventured too far. My mom would send us out the door saying, “Go play, check in for lunch and don’t be later than dark.” It was the way we rolled in a small town. Tuscaloosa neighborhoods are no different.

Many of us remember timeless, "last a decade-like" afternoons roaming the sidewalks, walking or on bikes, lunches at the Dairy Queen where we snacked on a swirly cone, traversing creeks, culverts, pastures, and flag football games we just happened upon. There were no cell phones. Okay, maybe there was a pay phone - but who could keep a quarter in their hand while riding a bike?! We were adventurers! We didn’t carry purses! The end of the day was signaled by the subtle neon blinking of lightening bugs, as we’d say goodbye to our friends and peddle quickly home to see what was for dinner.

Being on the lake, it is hard to focus on work, I admit. The boat dock is usually dripping with kids, dogs and life jackets. This past month, my oldest graduated from college at Alabama. He’s headed to set the world on fire with his music. I just hope he remembers to take some time to savor the little things, to remember the mud pies, the ice cream truck and his little red plastic jeep. 

While he is on the road chasing his dream, I’ll be reminding myself to snuggle with his little sister (who just turned 10) and really immerse myself in her summer, while staying out of her way so she can explore, learn about the world and be completely carefree and creative the way we used to. 

Before too long, the days of summer will lead us into fall.

Icelandic summers include a full 20 hours of daylight each day in June. Here in the south, we’re given fewer hours of daylight – but many more hours of sunlight (Iceland’s summer includes, more often than not, lots of cloud cover).

So embrace the Southern Summertime! We can dream of summers elsewhere, but then we would miss out on all this sunshine, humidity (and sweat), and especially the adventures that are going on in our own back yards.

Blessings for a memorable summer. 

Allison Adams

 

Photo: Allison Adams

 

Article sponsored by Med Center.

Find them on the web: https://www.medcenterurgentcare.com

By Tori Linville

 

So the new of summer has just about worn off and the local fro-yo store has been visited so many times, they know your name. Sound familiar? Don’t panic! We have some game changers for you. All of these easy-to-make summer treats can be made in the comfort of your judgment-free home. Sure enough, these will become your summertime staples in no time.

 

Homemade Slurpee

 

Though this recipe takes some time, it’s only in the beginning and then you have your slurpee in minutes. The best part is that it can be made with different sodas, but the freezing times might change.

 

            What you’ll need:   

                        500 mL of your favorite soda

 

            What you’ll make:

                        Shake the bottle heavily for five to 10 seconds to increase pressure. Then, put it in the freezer for about three and a half to four hours. Here’s where you get experimental. This recipe says for three hours and 50 minutes is the ideal slurpee time – as in to where it’s almost frozen, but not really.

                       

                        Remove the bottle from the freezer and in one continuous movement, unscrew the cap and quickly tighten it back up. Turn the bottle upside down and return it upright. Ice crystals should immediately start forming.  Pour into a glass and enjoy.

           

For more explanation into the recipe, find it here.

 

Homemade Slushee

 

The difference from the slurpee? Many things. Mainly texture. Which is why by the end of creating this sweet treat, you’ll be a slushee-slurpee expert. You’re welcome.

 

            What you’ll need:

                        4 cups of ice

                        1 cup of sugar

                        1 1/2 tsp. of raspberry extract (or any other flavor you’re feeling

                        4-6 drops of food coloring (any color, really)

           

            What you’ll make:

                        Mix water and sugar. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Then add in the extract, stirring well. Add in the food coloring until you get the color you want.

Pour into a blender until roughly blended for perfect slushee texture.

We changed things around a little bit, so check out the original recipe here to get an idea of what’s really going on.

 

Fruity Flops

 

From Betty Crocker herself, these cute little treats will have you looking at your summer shoes in a whole new light. Rice Krispy bars in the shape of flip flops? Definitely.

 

            What you’ll need:

                        1 crispy marshmallow bar – homemade or store bought should be fine needs to be at least four by two inches colored candy sprinkles

                        1 roll of Fruit Roll Ups (one roll up per flop)

                        2 Fruit Gushers (one gusher per flop)

                       

            What you’ll make:

                        First, cut the marshmallow into the shape of a flip flop, then press candy sprinkles onto the sides of the flip flop shapes.        

 

                        Then unroll Fruit Roll-Up and remove the paper. Cut two strips to form a V-shape to create the flip flop straps. Place Fruit Gusher a the tip of the V.

 

See the recipe here.

 

Banana Split Bites

 

These don’t actually have ice cream in them, making them healthier but just as sweet. This recipe takes a little bit more TLC, but what results will be appreciated by your taste buds.

 

            What you’ll need:   

                        1 inch pieces of pineapple (one per bite)

                        bite-sized un-ripe pieces of banana (one per bite)

                        medium sized strawberry pieces (one per bite)

                        2.5 oz. dark chocolate

                        1 tsp. coconut oil

                        chopped nuts/coconut (if you feel like it)

 

            What you’ll make:

                        First cut the fruit and assemble so that each bite has a piece of each fruit.  Skewer with a popsicle stick and freeze. Melt chocolate with coconut oil and stir frequently so it doesn’t burn. Once melted, dip the fruit in the chocolate and sprinkle with optional nuts/coconut then place on baking sheet to harden. Freeze again until ready to serve.

We simplified the recipe slightly, so look here for reference if needed.

 

Article sponsored by Lakeside Dental.

Find them on the web: http://www.lakesidedentalsmiles.com

By Tori Linville

 

It’s hard work keeping up with a human. And in the summer? A pup needs a break every once in a while. There’s only so much man’s best friend can do without opposable thumbs! What’s a person to do? Start with frozen dog treats specially made with summer in mind and never look back. May you be the god you dog thinks you are.

 

DIY Ice Lick

 

Fill a bucket with water or chicken or beef broth. Fill it with the normal dog treats your sidekick usually likes or any dog toys laying around. Freeze and present to your four legged friend. The treats and toys will create a happy reward for persistence and you’ll be able to relax with a happy pup.

 

PB and Fruit Ice Circle

 

Blend a half cup of peanut butter and water in a blender and pour into a bundt cake pan. Add one cup of chopped fruit* and two tablespoons of flax seeds. Freeze for about four to six hours.

 

*Fruits that are dog friendly include apples (no seeds), bananas, blueberries, kiwis, lemon, watermelon (without the rind), oranges, peaches (no pit), pineapples and strawberries.

 

PUPsicle

 

Blend ripe bananas, some plain yogurt, peanut butter, honey and water until you have a consistent texture. Pour into ice cube trays, and stick a dog bone in the middle for a fun (and useless) popsicle handle. Freeze overnight.

Basically, just mix a healthy dog-friendly bunch of ingredients into different shapes, freeze and watch an excited tail wag!

 

Article sponsored by Holy Spirit.

Find them on the web at: http://www.hschurch.com

 

By Tori Linville

 

The temperature for July easily stretches toward the hundreds and sometimes, outdoor fun just isn’t worth the sweat stains. To save you some body stress and worry, we’ve listed July’s top movies to watch for. Instead of applying the sticky sunblock, apply to some butter to your popcorn, sit back and relax.

 

 

Magic Mike XXL (R) – July 1

 

Creating a different kind of heat is the sequel to Magic Mike, “Magic Mike XXL.” The second installment of the Magic Mike line sees Mike three years after he left his stripper job while he was in serious demand. “Magic Mike XXL” follows Mike and the Kings of Tampa as they visit Myrtle Beach for a last hurrah. In other words, hunky Channing Tatum and other hunks with abs go to beach and look even hunkier than thought possible. Hunks all around, people.

 

Minions (PG) – July 10

 

Despicable Me’s minions have finally received their own movie, and we hope it to be everything you wished for. More specifically, minions Stuart, Kevin and Bob are taken up by Scarlet Overkill (voiced by Sandra Bullock). She and her husband, an inventor named Herb (voiced by Jon Hamm), have the age-old plot to take over the world. Maybe Stuart, Kevin and Bob will stop them?

 

The Gallows (R) – July 10

 

A small town tries to honor the anniversary of a tragedy that occurred during a school play 20 years before. Years ago the lead actor, a boy named Charlie, died on stage due to a prop malfunction. The resurrection of the play turns out to be a really bad idea – go figure. Creepy and dark, the movie utilizes the horror home-video aspect that adds suspense. Go watch if you dare.

 

Trainwreck (R) – July 17

 

Growing up, Amy’s father chanted to her that “monogamy isn’t realistic. Years later, Amy is doing what she likes, when she likes it, while working at a men’s magazine. Then she meets Aaron, who actually wants a relationship – which isn’t in Amy’s playbook. Amy Schumer and Bill Hader star in what the movie’s trailer dubs the film “not your mother’s romantic comedy.” Which is enough reason in itself to go see.

 

Ant-Man (PG-13) – July 17

 

Marvel is back in action after the second Avengers with “Ant-Man.” Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is a con-man. After being watched closely by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Scott is sprung from prison in order to become the ultimate soldier (well, kinda). Armed with a suit that can shrink to the size of an ant, but has unmeasured strength, Ant-Man comes alive. Then he has to fight this guy named Yellowjacket (Corey Stoll). Fun stuff.

 

Paper Towns (PG-13) – July 24

 

Margo Roth Spiegelman is not your average girl next door. But ever since Quentin saw her, he’s been hooked. One night, Margo needs a get-away driver and Q’s hand-me-down minivan is the vehicle that will get the job done. The two avenge Margo’s cheating boyfriend in a memory-filled night, and then Margo goes missing. Q and his friends set out for the road trip of a lifetime to find Margo and learn about themselves along the way. Based on John Green’s novel “Paper Towns,” the movie stars Cara Delevingne and Nat Wolff.

 

Article sponsored by DCH.

Find them on the web: https://www.dchsystem.com

Independence Day Barbecue Burgers 

Serves:  4

Ingredients

·      2 pounds ground beef

·      Dash salt and black pepper

·      4 slices bacon

·      1 onion, cut into 1/4 –inch thick rings

·      4 hamburger buns

·      4 slices cheddar cheese

·      ½ cup barbecue sauce of choice 

Directions

Create 4 evenly shaped burger patties.  Light grill and set on high heat. 

Place burgers on grill and cook until well charred (about 2 minutes).  Flip patties and brush with bbq sauce.  Then cook for another 2 minutes and occasionally brushing on sauce.

Brush bacon with bbq sauce and place directly over hot grill, sauce side down. Brush top with bbq sauce.  Cook until well charred (about 1 minute).  And repeat after flipping. 

Place onions on grill for 20 seconds, then flip and repeat. 

If you prefer the buns to be toasted, place them on the hot grill until browned.

Assemble burger. 

 

Article sponsored by Belle Chambre of Tuscaloosa and Lakeside Dental.

 

Find Belle Chambre of Tuscaloosa on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BelleChambreTuscaloosa/

 

 

 

Find Lakeside Dental on the web: http://www.lakesidedentalsmiles.com

 

 

By Tori Linville

 

One of the best accessories of summer is a great tan, but frying skin in ultraviolet rays is not the way to go. Tanning beds are also out, as the health risks have been under the microscope for a while. The newest way to achieve glowing skin without the threat of skin cancer? Spray tans. Don’t worry about researching what to do and how to get one, because we’ve done it for you. See how you can maintain a glistening complexion that takes no time at all.

 

Before You Go

 

Spray tans aren’t your normal everyday situations. They vary, but usually last five to seven days, with careful maintenance before and after to achieve the best results. One of the best things you can do to minimize spray tan muck ups has to do with your prep before you even step into a booth.

·      Exfoliate, exfoliate, exfoliate: This helps skin maintain a more even tan, because your skin will be refreshed, and pores will be minimized.

·       Get rid of unwanted hair: Shave and/or wax before your spray tan. This doesn’t necessarily mean go crazy and shave arm hair (unless that’s your regular routine). It just means be sure to nix any stubble that will have the potential to cause funky tan lines later. As the tanning solution sticks to leg hair, it’s best to take care of it before the tan.

·      Get nails done first: Most spray tan services provide some type of barrier cream to apply to the nails so they won’t end up with a wonky tan color that looks unnatural on anything but skin. Even so, getting a manicure after a spray tan can result in paler hands from all the friction and lotions applied during a mani.

·      Wardrobe choices are vital: You’ll want to pick some loose clothing that doesn’t cause much friction against the skin, so this is one outfit that deserves some forethought. As the spray tan settles, residue will rub against clothing, so something you’re not afraid to stain is ideal. Outfits like maxi dresses or big t-shirts are the best choices. Some choose to wear undies; others don’t.

·      Bring something for hair: A ponytail holder will do just fine here. The main point is that your hair will need to be up and away from the skin for the rest of the day.

·      Get comfortable with a color: This is the time to play it safe with tones. Opt for less bronze sprays if you’re more fair skinned. Olive toned skins can get away with more, but it’s always best to consult your spray tanner for advice. Basically, avoid looking like a Dorito at all costs.

 

Tan Time

 

With all these rules, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. What can you actually have on your skin as your getting your tan? Do you have to be in a bubble after the tan? Well, no. But there are a few activities all spray tan services wish you wouldn’t do while you’re waiting for the tan to set.

 

During the tan, certain things are allowed, such as lip balms, deodorants and mascaras as these areas are as effected by the spray tan.

 

After the tan, avoiding moisture is key.

 

·      While washing hands is unavoidable, most services recommend restricting the washing to the palms only.

·      Sweating, rain and swimming are total no-nos after a spray tan for the first day, as you’re basically washing your money down the drain. Make up shouldn’t be applied either.

·      If you’ve received an original formula spray tan, it’s recommended that you don’t shower anywhere from 10 to 12 hours. For express spray tans, the time is reduced to four to six hours.

 

Last but not least, spray tans smell. Not in a bad way, but just a special spray tan way. This usually goes away quickly, but it can be startling for first time spray tanners. A small price to pay for healthy skin!

Azalea City Living is Mobile, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

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