Little Local Look n’ Find: Avondale Park.

Avondale Park Little Local Look N Find

During our first year of dating, Chris and I discovered the Itty Bitty Magic City Scavenger Hunt. It was an annual feature in The Birmingham News (now more commonly known as where once a year, they would choose a location and publish 20-30 pictures of microscopic details. The first one we did was in Five Points South, and we had our most memorable date ever walking up and down our city, looking for tiny clues. We studiously wrote down all of our answers and mailed them in (this was, after all, 14 years ago,) and we both won giant duffel bags full of Birmingham News-branded crap that we were SERIOUSLY proud of.

(We still use those duffel bags.)

We eagerly awaited the annual scavenger hunt after we got married, each year with a different location – The Botanical Gardens, various downtown city blocks, Aldridge Gardens, Sloss Furnaces, Railroad Park, Vulcan, plus others I’m sure I’m not remembering. Every time we departed with a deeper appreciation for that slice of our city, and with the elation only brought by a beautiful Spring day spent outside.

We even took Ali one year, but quickly decided that the level of detail with which we wanted to perform our hunt was best left to dates. We evangelically told all of our friends about the fun and got them hooked, creating a bit of a cult following for the Itty Bitty.

The Birmingham News didn’t publish the annual hunt in 2013, which was met with great sadness. We weren’t sure if it would return this year, and before it did (they actually created one for Birmingham, Huntsville, Orange Beach, and Mobile this year,) one of my converted friends bemoaned to me her extreme need for a scavenger hunt.

“WHY did they stop PUBLISHING it?!”

“I don’t know, friend. I don’t know.”

“You know what. YOU should publish one!”

“Me? Well, that’s not a bad idea…it would be fun finding the clues…”


And so I did.

After much pondering as to where the location should be, I decided on Avondale Park.

140401 Avondale Park

Built in 1886 but given a major renovation in 2011, the park is adjacent to downtown and has a vast history, which indicated to me that it would be a great spot to find interesting details for a scavenger hunt.

Also, it’s a park that I never visited until six months ago – Birmingham has many hidden treasures, and the 40 acres of Avondale Park are certainly among them.

140408 Cloud Watching at Avondale Park

It suffered many decades of neglect and bad reputation, but the revitalization of Avondale and renovation of the park itself has made it a gorgeous urban hot spot, and a place that more of us need to appreciate.

140408c Babies at Avondale Park

I mean – it’s so pristine that I couldn’t find a single Moist, Daze or Blaes tag to use as a clue. And I’ve pretty much found them at every park in the metro area.

Chris’ Aunt Kitty was in town for a few days, so I took her and the kids along. The last time she’d visited that park was fifty years ago, so getting to see it in its new and quite dashing state was a thrill for her.

The kids loved the playgrounds, especially the duck-guarded slides.


After which Noah herded the ducks back to where they belonged.


But in between playground visits, they were happy to help me find clues for you.

So. Without further ado, here’s the First Grasping for Objectivity Little Local Look n’ Find.

Here are the rules and information you’ll need:

1. All 26 photographs are located in the confines of Avondale Park, and I tried to make sure that the items were semi-permanent and unique enough that there could only be one.
2. A lot of them can be found with the help of your kids, but some might be difficult, so you will need to make the decision as to how determined you’re going to feel after you start.
3. Submit detailed information as to the location of the items on this form by May 31. You don’t have to find every item to win, so don’t obsess too much.
4. There will be prizes!! The person who finds the most items will receive a $50 Gift Certificate to Picture Birmingham. In case of tie, I’ll do a drawing. Also, five participants will be randomly chosen and will receive a a 6-pack of Picture Birmingham note cards.
5. The clues are below for you to study, but be sure to snag the printable version before you head to the park.
6. Do not tamper with the clues to hinder other finders. Someone did that to us one fateful year and we still haven’t forgiven them.
7. If you get stuck, you can email or tweet me for an extra hint, but I’m not guaranteeing an immediate response.
8. While you’re in the area, I recommend eating at Silvertron (my review), FIVE (my review), Slice Pizza (my review), or Saw’s Soul Kitchen (my review of their other location, Saw’s Juke Joint.) You won’t regret any of them.

Here are the clues.

Avondale Park Page One

Avondale Park Page Two

If enough people enjoy this, then I won’t wait a year before creating another one. So get out there and enjoy our beautiful spring!

Topper’s a Teenager.


We meant to eat him on our first anniversary (or at least taste him for sentimentality, since we didn’t really like him when he was fresh), but we forgot.

So we left him in the freezer. And moved, with him, twice. Topper unfroze and refroze dozens of times during power outages and freezer doors being left ajar, but he lived on.

And today, Topper is turning thirteen.


He’s getting kinda moody, spends a lot of time alone in the freezer, and is sprouting peach fuzz in lots of new places.

To help him process his hormonal blossoming and remind him that it’s important to have strong bonds with one’s parents, we felt it would do him good to get him out of the basement and go on an adventure with us.

So we took him on our anniversary trip.

We made sure to keep him properly restrained during the drive,

Topper Gets Buckled In

But he’s a bit sulky about the booster seat, so don’t give him a hard time about being a Little Cake.

Topper Riding Safe

We got him out to see the sights, starting with the courthouse in Ashville, Alabama on the way to Asheville, North Carolina. It’s always good to paint a brooding adolescent a clear picture of consequences for actions.

Topper Visits the Ashville Courthouse

We made it to Knoxville by dusk, so we took Topper up to Sharp’s Ridge to see the city. He seemed to appreciate our sightseeing, but you know – he’s in that quiet angsty stage, so he didn’t say much.

Topper Visits Knoxville

We arrived at the Grove Park Inn fairly late, and we put him right to bed. He slept till noon, of course, so we took him to see the view before he’d made it out of his pajamas.

Topper Visits Grove Park View

But he insisted on primping a bit and taking a Grove Park Selfie.

Topper Visits The Grove Park Inn

He enjoyed the giant fireplaces in the lobby, but we couldn’t let him sit too long, or his face would start to break out.

Topper Visits The Grove Park Inn Fireplace

Plus, there were loads of old people who wanted to talk to him, and he just shrugged his piping and moped.

So we gave him his space when we weren’t sightseeing.

Topper Comfortable in the Freezer

When we did make him go out in public with us, Chris carried him comfortably, not embarrassing him or forcing him to converse with too many strangers.

Topper In His Carrying Case

But we did strategically nudge him into some low pressure group activities.

Topper Visits The Biltmore

Of course, we also learned about the glorious excesses of The Industrial Revolution. He got pretty excited, but we’re not going to make him write a report about it.

Topper Visits Biltmore

His one request was that we take him to French Broad Chocolate Lounge so that he could check out the artisanal ladies.

Topper Visits French Broad Chocolates

But he seemed to get a little jealous when he had to watch us drooling over our fresh dessert – yet when we touched him, we washed our hands with scalding water and soap – because of his raunchy teenage B.O.

Topper Eats Chocolate

Topper even got to see snow, which he loved because he keeps his room pretty frosty at home.

Topper Gets To See Snow

And of course, as you should do any teenager, we absolutely forced him to take part in family traditions.

Topper Chases the Sunset


And his birthday present? He gets a brand new Ziploc Bag.

Because that old one now takes the fun out of funky.



Happy Birthday, Topper!

Wedding Picture with Topper

The Bathroom Chronicles.

Stuff happens in public restrooms.


Sometimes you get to see it after the fact, like this beautiful graffiti on a Church bathroom door…

IMG_5521…even for defacing Church Property.

And sometimes you are blessed enough to live through it – like the time, almost exactly a year ago, when I was in a Tampa restaurant bathroom stall while Chris and I were on our anniversary trip.

It was Tampa that finally helped me understand why Florida is considered the retirement destination of the world. I’d always been to North Florida, near the border of Alabama and Georgia, where it is full of gazoodles of families with small children, all watching the Perpetually Spring Breaking Girls Gone Wild walk up and down the beach while digging out their bikini wedgies every three steps. So I was left to wonder how Florida managed to hide all the retirement villages I’d heard so much about.

But Tampa – Tampa is a different Florida. I’m pretty sure their average resident age is 88 and a half. Which really cuts down on the beachfront wedgie picking ratio.

During one of our many delicious meals, we found ourselves in a restaurant that was wildly popular on the retirement scene. If they knew how to use UrbanSpoon on that newfangled smart phone their son-in-law insisted they have, they’d give it a rating of at least five denture creams. And maybe two hemorrhoid salves to boot.

I wandered to the Ladies’ Room. But before I continue, I must make a confession – at times, I quickly check my email while on the toilet – it only takes a couple of extra seconds, and I’m conscientious about being sanitary – I promise.

So I was checking my email.

The bathroom door opened and a retiree creaked in. I’m not precisely sure how I could tell that she was at least 95 – whether it was that she smelled like my Great-Grandmother’s kitchen or that her bionic hips were squeaking like the Tin Man in a Rain Forest Café.

She stepped into the other stall and heaved a great sigh and a couple small groans as she sat down.

I was ready to head back out to dinner, so I turned off my phone.

But you know that horrifically annoying camera-like click that an iPhone is defaulted to make when you turn it off?


She heard it too. And wasn’t exactly familiar with the meaning of the sound.

So she declared loudly, “I don’t know WHAT people do in here these days.”

As soon as I got back to our booth, I figured out how to disable that sound. While ducking for the ten minutes it took her to walk by.

Last night, Ali had her very own “Stuff Happens in Public Restrooms” moment.

We walked into a two-stall Ladies’ Room – an old one, the kind with the black lids on the white toilets and the rusty doors and a half-inch-buildup of grime on top of the tile grout – you know, the ones you wash your hands twice after you go. Ali was the reason for our visit, so Noah and I stood in the…commodal common area, for lack of a better term, as Ali entered the stall.

But before she could close the door and commence her business, an unusually round apple bounced underneath the wall, across the floor of Ali’s stall, and landed, perfectly leaning up against her toilet.

The inhabitor of stall-next-door would clearly dominate in a game of horseshoes.

All three of us watched the apple’s grand entrance, but Ali kept staring at it, then looked up at me.

“Um, Mommy? There’s an apple. Next to the toilet. What do I do?”

Captain Obvious. But a valid question.

I hoped stall-next-door would convey her wishes as to my daughter’s action with her fruit, but there was silence.

“Well…I guess you should pass it back under the stall, since that’s where it came from.”

The silence next door ceased not.

Ali looked doubtfully at me. “Okay, Mommy…”

She picked up the apple and stretched her arm under the stall, where a silent hand reached back and took it.

Then at long last, she spoke. In a muffled voice. “Guess I’m gonna have to wash that.”