Callaway Gardens, a Photographical Journey.

140927d A Symphony of Skies

Chris and I wanted to go off for my birthday (early, by the way – you still have time to mark October 9 as a Very Important Date on your calendar), but we didn’t know where to go.

We only had a weekend available, so we needed to go somewhere relatively close, and we wanted to go somewhere new, somewhere pretty, and somewhere flat to be able to run.

So we did what any logical person would do: we asked Twitter. And got about four pages of responses. As we weighed your suggestions against our needs, Callaway Gardens, suggested by Katherine, Giann, and Emily, stood out the most.

Located in South Georgia, it appeared to be just what we needed: miles of trails, beautiful scenery, and a good deal of flatness.

So I dumped the children onto my parents, where they didn’t even look up to say goodbye,

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(because who would when there was sand to scoop?), and we skipped town.

As soon as we arrived Friday afternoon, we took off for a run. Because I’m an all or nothing person, and since I’ve discovered the power of a run over my Dysautonomia, it’s kinda all I want to do.

(Sorry, blogging.)

We quickly realized why our fancy suite at the fancy hotel on property had been so shockingly cheap: we were clearly between seasons. Post flower season, pre Fall Foliage season. Our first run felt more like running through the most beautiful campground with lovely amenities and beautiful lakes rather than through the world’s biggest flower garden as we’d expected.

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However, we quickly adjusted and enjoyed the views as they were.

And we managed to spot a few glimpses of fall along our way, making the backdrop of our runs even more beautiful.

140927 Sneak Peek at Autumn

I’m a nature lover of all sorts, so I was also thrilled to spot deer, all kinds of birds of the large variety, and this guy, who obliged me by becoming my pet for approximately 30 seconds.

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And, although I would have rather discovered an actual one, finding this former home of a snake was pretty exciting.

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Between the three days, we ran over 18 miles in Callaway Gardens (it’s a big place, y’all!) and walked at least five more. We discovered beautiful sites such as this chapel,

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And, even though it said “Wedding in Progress” on the sign out front, we took our cues from the silence and risked entry to see the stunning interior.

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It nearly made us want to get married all over again. Except for all the trouble.

Instead, we moved onto Mr. Cason’s Vegetable Garden, which was lovingly flanked with all the gorgeous flowers we’d been missing from our visit.

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The flowers grew around and atop the vegetables and herbs to distract the bad bugs and, furthermore, entice the good bugs to come eat the bad bugs. Who knew flowers were so smart? And here I thought they were just a pretty face.

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Chris discovered the Analemmatic Sun Dial, where you stand on the proper month, lift your arm, and it tells you what time it is.

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I’m positive it works a heck of a lot better when it’s not completely overcast.

We moved on again, this time to the Butterfly garden.

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My favorite part of all butterfly exhibits is the chrysalis room. They’re so fascinatingly beautiful, with their blazing jewel-like quality.

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The paper kite chrysalides were especially fascinating, because they were bright yellow with iridescent qualities and gold highlights – until the butterfly came out, leaving them mysteriously clear, despite the butterfly not being the least bit yellow.

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WHERE DID THE YELLOW GO?

The world will never know.

The chrysalis room was also quite creepy because there were butterflies actively hatching. Watch the black chrysalides closely:

Butterflies Breaking out of Chrysalides on Make A Gif

The butterflies themselves were housed in a garden in a greenhouse of sorts,

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which itself was surrounded by beautiful gardens,

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…which might explain this Blue Morpho’s adolescent angst.

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But if only he knew that out there in the real world, nobody’s going to hang him sliced fruit.

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Nobody’s going to water his leaves continuously.

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And nobody’s going to protect him from butterfly-chasing children.

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At times, I did realize how very fascinating this trip would have been for my children and how it would have counted for like a week of school.

But then we would have never gotten to run. Or celebrate our runs quietly with identical books and frozen drinks.

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Ultimately I felt no guilt. After all, they were too busy to tell me goodbye.

The gardens had their quirks, too. Chris raved about how they had been careful to build their parking lots around trees, making them shady and preserving nature – he thought that was so great. Until he parked in this extraordinarily un-square spot, perfectly lined up on his side and murdering the line on mine.

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He got out.

He inspected. He couldn’t rest until he’d proven that it was clearly the parking space’s fault, not his. (And I had to agree, as much fun as it was to see him perplexed.)

And he moved his car to a more deserving spot.

Building your parking lots around trees can also have other undesirable outcomes, such as root damage. This particularly unfriendly handicapped spot may have made us giggle a little too much.

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The hotel we stayed at had a spa, and every time we got in the elevator, we had no choice but to stare at this woman.

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Which was completely fine until I told Chris “You know, if you look at the picture just right, it looks like holes all the way through her back instead of rocks on top of her back.”

And then he couldn’t look at her ever again without getting an internal shiver.

Of course, we had to find the best views in the area, and there were plenty from which to pick.

140926b FDR's Lookout

This one was at the garden’s adjoining state park, F.D. Roosevelt State Park, and Chris caught me photographing from atop FDR’s favorite place to think.

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I’m pretty sure I could end a war now if I had to.

And then there were the sunsets.

140926 A Moody Sunset at Callaway Gardens

As breathtaking and gorgeous as all of the views were in and outside the park, a straight shot at the sunset was surprisingly hard to find. After fighting my way through cobwebs and underbrush and running down an abandoned trail for half a mile, I finally found my spot.

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Chris managed to catch my graceful journey out onto my log…

Creeping Toward the Sunset on Make A Gif

In my defense, I was carrying a camera and an iPhone, the water was pretty murky, and I was uncharacteristically concerned about a snake slithering by – in my mind, if a snake is in the water, it’s probably poisonous.

Fortunately, I didn’t consider the fact that I was much more likely alligator bait than snake bait – we were, after all, in South Georgia.

But the view was worth every fear.

140927b Front Row Seat for Sunset

Every time I thought I’d caught the best of the sunset, I’d run back up on shore to escape any creepy crawlies and the family of mosquitoes that were munching my flesh…and then I’d look back and see that it just got better, and I’d splash back out to my log.

140927e Waves Over Callaway Gardens

Chris was highly amused to watch my ridiculous back-and-forth and asked why I didn’t just stay out on the log until after dark.

140927c A Perfect Reflection

I sneered at him. Was HE out on that log? No. He was safe on shore with nothing to fear but the spiders, who seemed, as they should be, more interested in the skies than him.

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On my fourth trip out to the log, I captured my final picture,

140927f Nature's Playground

then told Chris I was done.

We needed to leave.

Before I looked back and it got even better.

But, like Lot’s Wife, I did look back. And through the thick layer of trees, I could see that the skies were pinker than any neon light ever dreamed of being.

The moral of this story is: always stay on your log until it’s completely dark. Even if an alligator has you for a beautiful sunset dinner, the taxidermist will probably be able to recover the camera card.

Short Stories From the Road.

So you drive a Prius.
You park next to me at the bank. With an empty parking space on the other side of you.
The bank has very, very spacious parking spots, too, by the way.
Yet you park so close to me that I literally (and I do mean literally literally and not figuratively literally) cannot get in my car.
You are sitting in your car.
You light up in a goofy grin when you see me TURN SIDEWAYS to desperately reach my driver’s door. You wave happily as I unsuccessfully maneuver my boobs between our mirrors.
I open my car door the full four inches that you have left available to me.
I try to squeeze my body through the hole.
It does not fit.
This. This. THIS is when you realize that you’ve caused this problem.
And that you can be the solution.
Your goofy smile turns into an apologetic spewing forth of words that I can’t hear because – windows.
You wave for me to move out of the way and, to symbolically represent your intentions, you lift up your key ring that is hanging around your neck (Really? Your neck? Who wears their keys as a necklace?)
You put the key in the ignition…while it is still hanging from your neck…and you back up.
Into yet another empty spot in the very empty parking lot.


This may be my favorite find in the history of my online shopping love affair.

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Because it brings up so many fascinating, yet burning, issues.

Do you have to fold this dress neatly and ceremoniously?
Never let it touch the ground?
Do people sing the national anthem when you walk by?
If someone is in the same room with you while wearing a State of Alabama Flag Dress, do they have to stoop down so they’re shorter than you?
To qualify for this dress, do you have to be somewhat talented at going half-staff in case of national mourning?
Can you eat French Fries while wearing this dress or would that just be too unpatriotic? “One order of Freedom Fries, please!”


Sometimes I run by something that makes me want to immediately quit running, get my degree in Sewer Management, and FIX THAT LID.

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Instead, I have a moment of silence, wondering what happened to all the OCD wastewater treatment employees.


I spotted this gorgeous black shirt while out to eat in downtown Birmingham.

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From show-stopping to door-stopping. The rise and fall of Karen Kane fashion.


Aretha Franklin has not quit singing in my head since I saw this.

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And I’ll never hear that song again without loudly yell-singing “NATURAL NAPKIN!!!” over “natural woman.”


I spend a lot of time in the Chick-Fil-A drive-through line.

Sometimes while waiting, I do math. And discover Deep Secrets of the Chickens. Such as, every fourth chicken strip has 10 less calories in it.

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…which makes me want to have this conversation upon my next visit to the drive-through.

CFA: “Welcome to Chick-Fil-A. How may we serve you?”
Me: “Yes. I’d like a four-pack of fourth Chick-n-Strips.”
CFA: “Of what kind of Chick-n-Strips?”
Me: “Fourth ones. You know – the ones with only 110 calories each?”
CFA: “I’m sorry?”
Me: “I would like all fourth Chick-n-Strips. Simply break into four four-packs and pull me out the fourth strips of each one. This isn’t chicken science.”
CFA: “Um….Okay…..I’ll check with my manager.”
Me: “Thank you!”
CFA: “My pleasure.”


I often clip things to my fridge so that I’ll remember them – invitations, schedules, coupons, and other such vital information.

Then I realized that this was also still on my fridge.

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And decided that perhaps my refrigerator is not the best place to put things if I want to actually notice that they’re there – at least within a three year time period.

How to Properly Use Alabama Jell-O Molds.

In a huge announcement of unprecedented importance, Jell-O proclaimed that they were releasing University of Alabama Jell-O Molds.

(Along with molds for 22 other Universities, but I’m positive none of them took it nearly as seriously as Alabama fans.)

Because I love my husband and I’m a sucker for a good Jell-O mold, I immediately went to my personal shopper (named Amazon) and bought a set for my family.

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However, my purchase was made amidst great state controversy.

Not only was this exciting news for football fans, it was also exciting news for the Alabama political machine. Because, you see, at least one lobbyist immediately condemned these Jell-O molds for fear that they would encourage underage drinking.

Yes, drinking.

I would like to say a few things to this lobbyist.

1. I’ve seen a lot of people slurp down Jell-O shots on Alabama Football gamedays. A LOT. And not a single one of them was actually a *student* at the university. In fact, most were over 50 and probably never even attended the University. Perhaps your concern might also extend to Alabama Football Fans with no educational ties to the University?

2. “I wasn’t going to drink while underage, but now that there are Jell-O molds for my University, well, that changes everything!”, said no college student ever.

3. Silly Lobbyist, Jell-O Molds are for Kids. Err, kids too young for underage drinking, that is.

To prove it, I present to you, my children.

There’s nothing my kids enjoy more than preparing for a Football Party, so I gave them the beautiful new Jell-O molds. Because football is upon us, y’all.

I wanted to delve into all the ways these molds could be used, so I bought chocolate, my favorite candy melts, and had the Jell-O that came with the molds. I also figured we could use the molds to create ice cubes.

There were two molds, which were apparently quite stuck together.

University of Alabama Jell-O Molds 1

But that did not deter the palpable excitement in my home.

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Okay no really. Were they superglued??

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Noah even got in on the action. At least in moral support.

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Finally, my daughter found the strength within herself to pull them apart.

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They wanted to start with candy melts, and I didn’t blame them – it’s the purest form of sugar, and it seems to travel straight to the blood stream.

Using Melting Candy with Children

It can even be absorbed straight through fingers!

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We melted and poured, then dropped the mold on the countertop a few dozen times to beat out the bubbles.

Uses for University of Alabama Jell-O molds

After refrigeration, they came out beautifully, although next time I will fill the molds halfway to prevent the messy bottoms and make the serving size of straight sugar a little less coma-inducing.

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Next came Jell-O.

I’m always amazed at how quickly Jell-O cooks, as opposed to my childhood when it seemed to take five lifetimes.

Noah, however, did not agree.

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He aged fifteen years in that two minutes.

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While we’re waiting for a boiling point, let’s talk about the background of my picture, also known as Random Clutter on Rachel’s Kitchen Table (RCoRKT).

What's in the Background

A: Two pairs of Noah’s Toms (my hypocrisy grows daily) and my running knee braces. Because that’s what belongs on chairs.
B: Running Socks. Hopefully just washed and laid out to dry, but there’s no guarantee that they hadn’t been sweat in.
C: Sunblock. Which is puzzling since I nearly never sunblock my children. Because hey – skin grows back, right?
D: A really unique sunset canvas. There’s this site where you can get one of your own…or use it as an excuse to come see me in person!
E: An Underwear Chart. Need I say more?

You’re welcome.

The water finally boiled, and Ali immediately volunteered to stir in the Jell-O. Noah, meanwhile, had moved onto other pursuits.

Making Jell-O with Children 1

But he’s never one to turn down a chance to splash and spill hot liquid, so he did take his turn.

Making Jell-O with Children 2

We pulled out our Lego and Magic Wand molds and filled nearly everything we had.

Making Jell-O with Children 3

The Jell-O came out just as beautifully as the candy, albeit harder to photograph.

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And, although we haven’t melted our chocolate yet or made our ice cubes, we’re ready for tomorrow.

University of Alabama Candy and Jell-O

Because really, snacks are football’s redeeming value.

To some of us.

Disclosure: Jell-O did not sponsor me or this post. Nor did lobbyists, Alabama Football, or children. Okay – maybe the kids did. They did get a lot of sugar out of it, after all.