By Stan J. Griffin

As the 2015 college football season inches ever closer, many pundits and observers are projecting big things once again for Nick Saban's University of Alabama team.

In fact, many of those scribes and soothsayers are predicting the Crimson Tide to once again be back in the College Football Playoff, with the opportunity to battle for the program's 16th national title.

While it is certainly acknowledged that this edition of the Tide enters the 2015 season with a few question marks, including at quarterback, along the offensive line and in the defensive backfield, the good work of Saban and his coaching staff, combined with the abundance of talent and potential available at the Capstone, should be more than enough to compensate for whatever flaws this team might have.

There is no question that most of the uncertainty regarding this year’s team starts with an offense that must replace a host of proven contributors, including quarterback Blake Sims, running back T.J. Yeldon and receivers Amari Cooper and DeAndrew White.

Although there are currently five quarterbacks battling for the right to take the first snap against Wisconsin in the season opener Sept. 5, senior Jake Coker is considered the favorite due to the fact that he is the only candidate with any meaningful experience.

Despite the fact that only two starters are returning on the UA offensive line, senior center Ryan Kelly and sophomore left tackle Cam Robinson, veterans such as sophomore Bradley Bozeman, senior Dominick Jackson and junior Brandon Greene should help to at least make the line a formidable one.

Junior Derrick Henry is back to lead the Alabama running back corps, and the Tide is also counting on a return to full health and good form by senior tailback Kenyan Drake, a back who can be used in a number of ways as he showed by catching an 87-yard touchdown pass against Florida last season. Due to lack of depth at this position, freshman back Damien Harris of Berea, Kentucky, may be counted on for meaningful snaps in his first season.

It will be impossible, of course, to replace the phenomenal and prolific production of Cooper, who is now gearing up for his rookie season with the Oakland Raiders, but Alabama still has talent and potential at that position, and athletes such as Robert Foster and ArDarius Stewart showed during the spring that they may be capable of putting forth some big numbers of their own come the fall.

While the Tide is stacked with talent and experience along the defensive line (with juniors A’Shawn Robinson and Jonathan Allen leading the way) and at the linebacker position (with stellar returnees including senior Reggie Ragland and junior Ryan Anderson), the secondary is still somewhat of a mystery, especially after an uneven and unimpressive performance by the unit a year ago.

Expect greater competition for playing time in that department in 2015, with young returnees such as freshmen Marlon Humphrey and Ronnie Harrison and sophomore Tony Brown battling it out for significant snaps alongside proven returnees such as senior Cyrus Jones.

The kicking game returns both key members in junior placekicker Adam Griffith and sophomore punter JK Scott, who was a finalist for the Ray Guy Award last season.



By Liz Stephens

We did it: We just booked our first-ever trip to Europe! 12 days of fun and frolicking in London and Paris. And of course, this means a lot of walking. As much as I heart my Antelope wedges, something tells me they won’t work so well on the cobblestone streets of the UK and France. No, I need new kicks that will give me enough support to walk much more than I normally do.

Therein lies the problem. No one wears actual “kicks” in Paris. No, the women of Paris float around effortlessly in adorable ballet flats all day long (looking perfectly put together, of course). I’ve tried ballet flats before – they typically don’t offer enough support for all-day walking. But is it even possible to buy cute shoes that are also good for traipsing around, tourist-style all the time?

I’m here to tell you, after exhaustive research and tons of shopping (and returning), yes, you can find cute walking shoes for Europe that won’t leave your feet aching after day one of your vacation.

I found three pairs. Three. Pairs. Of. Shoes. I. Love. I now own a new pair of boots, a pair of Mary Janes and a pair of delicate-but-supportive flats – and that’s all my happy traveling feet will need for this trip.

First, the boots: Autumn in London and Paris can be a tricky time, shoe-wise. Average temps are between 45-60 degrees, and it rains. A lot. My thinking was, I needed a pair of boots that were waterproof and slip-proof.

That’s where these awesome ECCO boots came in. The ECCO Abelone GTX Short Boot is perfect for my needs. It is extremely waterproof, it offers plenty of sole support (and a removable footbed if you need to put in some orthotics), and it’s actually really cool looking (IMO). The GORE-TEX was a concern – would they be simply too hot for fall? I’ve worn them around for several days now and I can honestly say that no, they’re no warmer than any other ankle boot.

See? Nice, right? I like the sleek look of this boot – it will pair really well with my black pants and jeans. ECCO shoes/boots are not cheap, but at long last, I’ve finally learned that you almost always do get what you pay for – spend the $$$ and get good shoes. I’ve earned it.


Next up: My casual, practical walking shoe – the Naot Sea. I’ve heard friends rave for years about Naot shoes. “They’re the most comfy shoes ever!” “It’s like walking on clouds!”

But wow, the price. Yikes. The high price always held me back, but given how much we’re shelling out for our trip, I figured I should at least order a pair and see what all the fuss is about.

I’ll be honest: The Naot Sea isn’t the greatest looking shoe out of the box. The shoes are definitely much cuter ON. Don’t write off Naot until you try a pair. The Sea shoes feature a 1.5” polyurethane sole (very sturdy for cobblestone walking), along with an anatomic cork and latex footbed that molds to your feet as you wear them.

And you know what? The moment I slipped these shoes on, I knew why everyone was raving. Yep, it really does feel like you are walking on clouds, with some support of course. But the cushioning is definitely there.

See? Not bad looking, but not the shoe you grab in the store and scream over. It’s a much better looking shoe ON. Just remember that. You owe it to yourself to at least try the Naot. If you aren’t thrilled with the thicker sole, you can always go with one of Naot’s other popular Mary Jane styles (the Matai is nice looking, for example).

And now for the “fun” part of my shoe shopping experience: the search for the delicate-but-supportive flats! The challenge here, without a doubt, was to find a great feminine-looking shoe that I could wear out to nice dinners.

IF I win the lottery tomorrow, I can tell you I’ll purchase a pair of Tieks, but the high price point keeps me from pulling the trigger and ordering. For now, I’m really thrilled to say that I found a great pair of stylish, black travel flats by Yosi Samra.  

Adorable, right? And SO comfortable! These are the shoes I think I’ll wear the most around town on a day-to-day basis, though for Europe I may have to limit them to just evenings (possibly with tights). They have a great, durable sole and a bit of padding but very little arch support. The Samra is a slip-on flat that just seems perfect for everything from running errands or a nice dinner out. Also? They are lightweight, and they pack extremely well. They fold right up into the cutest little dust bag for traveling (and they fit in my tote – another plus).

I hope this helps anyone worrying about the agony of aching feet (or in my case, also an aching back) – you can absolutely find cute shoes for fall walking in Europe, you just have to start shopping early and be prepared to return the shoes or boots if they don’t fit right. Allow plenty of time for this process, because I’m told that shoes really are the MOST important thing when it comes to packing right for a European trip.

Bon Voyage!







Ah, September: The month we all finally exhale – football season is here! But in addition to the Bama games, Tuscaloosa has a lot of music shows coming up that everyone should take note of. There’s something for everyone’s tastes, really. Here’s the scoop:

Black Jacket Symphony

If you haven’t heard Black Jacket Symphony before, you should – particularly if the band is playing one of your favorite albums. BJS does everything from Zeppelin to Prince to Michael Jackson, and on Sept. 11, the band will perform AC/DC’s Back in Black at the Bama Theatre in downtown Tuscaloosa. Tickets are $25 and 30. For more information, visit

Tuscaloosa Symphony Orchestra

TSO kicks off its 2015-2016 season with the opening concert, “Postcards,” on Monday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m. in Moody Concert Hall. “Postcards” will focus on words and music as they celebrate exploration. The selections depict literal journeys throughout the world, and feature Dvorak’s New World Symphony, Mozart’s Linz Symphony and Route 66 by Michael Daugherty.

Tuscaloosa Amphitheater: “Sounds of Motown”

Three of the best R&B/Motown bands ever will take the stage at the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater on Sept. 25: The Whispers, The Manhattans and The Spinners. The show starts at 7 p.m. Ticket prices range from $21 to $55.50. If you want tickets, visit, call the Tuscaloosa Amphitheater Box Office at (205) 248-5280 or charge by phone at (800) 745-3000.

Photo: Tuscaloosa Amphiteater

By Chloe Monte


According to the NASA’s Clean Air Study, the following plants not only absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen, but they also absorb harmful chemicals from the air.  And it is recommended that a home or office have one plant per 100 square feet. 


Areca Palm - Areca palms are great for filtering xylene and toluene from the air.  As well, it is known for being good humidifiers.   Areca palms like bright light, so place near a large window. 


Boston Fern  - Boston Ferns are great at filtering formaldehyde, xylene and toluene from the air.  Place them in humid areas as they thrive in humidity.  


English Ivy - English Ivy is good at filtering benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene and toluene from the air.  It’s an excellent broad filtering plant and it’s also recommended for those with allergies. 


Lilyturf - Lilyturf is known for its ability to filter formaldehyde, ammonia, xylene, and toluene from the air.  It is excellent for bright spaces or shaded areas of the house. 


Devil’s Ivy - Devil’s Ivy is great at filtering benzene, formaldehyde, xylene and toluene. 


Peace Lily - The Peace Lily is an excellent broad filtering plant.  It filters: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia. 


Mother-in-law’s Tongue - This plant is an excellent plant for areas of your home with low sunlight.  As well, it releases oxygen at night, so it is great to place next to your bed. It filters: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene


Red-edged Dracaena - This Dracaena variety filters: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, and toluene.  This plant is very sensitive to fluoride and it requires the use of filtered water. 


Florist’s Chrysanthemum - Chrysanthemums filter the air best when they are flowering.  They filter: benzene, formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, xylene, toluene, and ammonia. 


Thank you to for providing excellent information for this article. 


Article sponsored by DCH, Lift Fund, and Morning Pointe.

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It’s finally here: Happy Game Week, everyone, and Roll Tide! Thousands of Alabama Crimson Tide fans will soon be packing up to head to Dallas, Texas, where Alabama will take on Wisconsin in the season opener at AT&T Stadium in Arlington on Sept. 5.

For those of you heading to Texas, here are a few things that might be of interest.

Tide in Texas Alumni Kick-Off Classic Party

The Tide in Texas alumni group is throwing a huge party, a benefit for the Lee Roy Jordan Scholarship fund, at the famed Gilleys Music Hall in Dallas on Friday, Sept. 4. The Tide in Texas Alumni Kick-Off features live music from the Ray Johnson Band, mechanical bull riding, Texas BBQ and Tex-Mex, along with beer, wine and cocktails. In addition, a live and silent auction will be held.

Interested? Tickets are $75 (21 and up) and $40 (under 21) in advance. At the door, they go up to $90 and $50, respectively. To purchase ahead, visit

Tailgating Pre-Game Bash

 Several Tuscaloosa bars have banded together to once again set up a great tailgate for Alabama fans who’ll be attending the game at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. The Annual Kick-Off Bash party starts at noon on Saturday, Sept. 5, at 1003 N. Collins – walking distance to the stadium.

Tickets include live entertainment and a buffet while it lasts. Tickets are $20 in advance or $25 at the door. To purchase, visit

Know the Stadium Bag Policy

If you haven’t attended an NFL game in recent years, you should know that the policy for bags and purses on game day is pretty strict. The AT&T Stadium’s bag policy will be enforced for the Bama/Badgers game. The big thing to know? Keep it small.

Prohibited bags include, but are not limited to, the following: all purses, bags or containers larger than a small clutch bag, coolers, briefcases, backpacks, fanny packs, cinch bags, luggage of any kind, computer bags, camera bags, binocular cases (binoculars may be worn around the neck), diaper bags and seat cushions. 

Stadium approved bags/purses must be clear plastic, vinyl or PVC and cannot exceed 12 inches x 6 inches x 12 inches in size. Small, one-compartment clutch bags that do not exceed 8½" by 5½" with or without a handle or strap are also permitted. All bags are subject to inspection upon entry and are subject to addition inspections within the stadium. Exceptions will be made for medically necessary items after proper inspection within the stadium. 

Whatever you do, if you’re heading to the game, stay safe, have fun and above all else: ROLL with the TIDE!

Marine Corps JROTC students from Bryant High School in Tuscaloosa participated in the All Alabama Veterans and Family Reunion Festival held on the grounds of the Veterans Medical Center on Aug. 29. The WW II vehicles were provided by the Dixie Division Military Vehicles Club.

Photo: Nicolas Britto

Need some great BBQ for your football tailgating party this weekend? Here’s an idea: Eagles’ Wings is having a barbecue sale/fundraiser on Friday, Sept. 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. You can purchase Boston butt, hams and ribs.

The BBQ is being prepared by George and Renee Robertson. Boston butts are $35, ribs (12 bones) are $25, smoked hams are $40 and sauce is $6. Delivery is available upon request.

To order, call the Eagles’ Wings office at (205) 345-5484.

By Tori Linville


The best game days are marked by the football and the food. If your last tailgate wasn’t one that your taste buds remember, it’s time for a change. Revamp your table with these classic dip recipes on us.


 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.” 


Safe and Happy Home Vacation Tips (From a Man Who Doesn’t Go On Many Vacations)


It's the end of summer! Tuscaloosa translation: It might be time for a quick family vacation, because football season starts in like two weeks.


I treasure “Tip Lists,” especially the ones that insult the intelligence of my four-year-old daughter,  even though they do make valid points. You know, like, “Be sure to unplug your curling iron” or, “Don’t leave the lasagna in the oven on 450” if you are going to be gone for a week.


Nothing ruins a sabbatical like seeing the charred timbers of your home as you pull in the driveway. 


This briefing of tips is contrived by Yours Truly in an attempt to uncover some of the more important suggestions as they relate to our happy community.


This list is by no means scientific and/or thorough. The editor limits my shenanigans (as she should).


Turn Your Thermostat Up: There is no need to spend money on cooling your house while you’re gone, right? Articles I’ve read on the subject suggest that 85 is a good setting while on summer vacay. But here is the “We live in the south” rebuttal:  Leaving the thermostat on 85 means that after I get finished taking a cramped flight or driving for hours with the Griswold smell coming from the back seat, I will return to my restful abode which has become a sauna. And that sauna won’t get back down to 72 degrees until sometime the next day. That is a problem for weary travelers. Southern suggestion: 79, unless you are lucky enough to have a programmable thermostat.


Don’t Socialize Your Sunburn: While I love nothing more than seeing Facebook photos of everyone having the time of their lives basking in the sun and eating crab legs as the rest of us tend to the daily grind, it’s best to not to advertise the fact on social media. “But only my friends see it!” Not true. But even if it was, how well do you know all of your friends on Facebook? Southern suggestion: Post the photos when you get back.


“Leaving the Lights on Will Make Others Think I’m Home:” In theory, yes. But when the lights don’t turn off for two or more days, it’s a direct indication that the cat is away. And we all know what happens next. Southern suggestion: Invest in a timer. If it appears that someone is turning the lights off and on, the perception is that the cats are roaming.


There are many more potentials, but alas, I have covered my word allotment. In conclusion, don't put your spare key under that cement frog statue in the garden… it’s the first place I’ll look. 


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. 


Being able to expand its Success By 6 initiative into surrounding counties has long been part of United Way of West Alabama’s (UWWA) long-term goals. Now, with an anonymous $150,000 donation, that will be happening sooner than later.

“Expanding United Way’s Success By 6 school readiness initiatives into our entire nine county region has been a goal of ours,” said Jackie Wuska, President & CEO of UWWA. “We are delighted to receive this funding because it will help us prepare more children in West Alabama to go to school on the first day ready and eager to learn.”

Success By 6, the early childhood learning initiative of United Way, has served more than 100,000 children in Tuscaloosa County in its 14 years through JumpStart, Bright Minds Volunteer Reading Program and Getting Ready for Kindergarten Calendar programs and by partnering with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) to provide free books each month to children ages birth to five-years-old who are registered.

“We are very excited that someone has realized the progress that has been made helping young children in West Alabama, and we look forward to using this money to expand many of our programs that help them grow educationally, cognitively and socially,” explained Ruth Gaddis, Director of Success By 6.

United Way of West Alabama was one of several United Way selected by an individual donor to receive this gift based on geographic location, poverty level in the region and an established record by the local agency of positive impact in the community. Half of the gift will be received this year, with the remaining $75,000 coming in 2016.

Some of these programs have already spread to surrounding counties—JumpStart just finished a third year in Sumter County and DPIL, which is already offered in Sumter County kicked off in Marengo County earlier this month and will soon be in Hale County. This gift effectively allows for these programs to become available in our nine county region (Bibb, Fayette, Greene, Hale, Lamar, Marengo, Pickens, Sumter and Tuscaloosa) depending upon need.

Next steps are to examine the early childhood needs in each individual county to see which of the programs we furnish will best help them. Not all counties need all services, as some already have successful programs. This will include talking with educators in the area and looking at poverty levels and graduation rates. This process will begin as soon as the funds are made available.

By Tori Linville


Autumn calls for an explosion of colors. Copper, reds, browns, golds and more. Mother nature’s finest moments can be found in fall foliage. Trees change colors and the summer plants you placed in your beds in May can no longer stand the weather. Replace them with some of our fall plant suggestions we’ve gathered for you here.


‘October Glory’ Red Maple




Producing some of fall’s most breathtaking colors for the South, these trees can be found at most garden centers. September is the best time to plant these beauties for best results. The trees grow upwards from 50 feet.


Confederate Rose




This rose keeps a pop of color going through late summer into the fall. Most times, three colors appear on this shrub as different blooms turn from white to pink to a darker pink. These shrubs can be found online and cuttings do well in water.






Straying just a little from the normal autumn colors, Bluestars are perfect for those who don’t have green thumbs. While schedules become even more busy during the fall, Bluestars are low-maintenance, so there’s no reason to be worried about wasting money on landscaping.


Spanish Bluebell




These beauties grow up to 20 inches tall and come in white, pink and blue. Perfect for a fall flower bed, they’re sure to surprise as not many people seem to know about the quality of the Spanish Bluebell


Pitcher Plants



These exotic-looking flowers can be just the pop of different you need to set your bed apart from the neighborhood. Not only are they unique in appearance, they’re unique for a reason. These special plants live on a diet of bugs – perfect for a gardener’s needs. Add some sun, acid and moist soil, you’ll be sure to stun with these plants.


Article sponsored by the following: Applico, ERC, and Bradford.  

Find Applico on the web at:

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By Tori Linville   


Tuscaloosa will honor its veterans and their families Aug. 28 through 30 with the second annual All Alabama Veterans and Family Reunion, hosted by Tuscaloosa Tourism and Sports. The Embassy Suites on University Blvd. will see a weekend of events, including a formal banquet, a motorcycle ride and a memorial service.


The reunion serves as a way to raise awareness for veterans and their families, Brandt Garrison, director of communications for TTS, said. The weekend is free to veterans and their families, with the exception of the formal dinner. Those interested in registering for the dinner can visit


The weekend lineup includes a performance by The GIs of Comedy on Aug. 28 and the Veterans Appreciation Festival and formal dinner on Aug. 29. A memorial service at Veteran’s Park will be held on Aug. 30.


“The festival will begin with a ceremonial healing walk to honor fallen and current service members,” Garrison said. “The 151st Army Band will perform, along with country music artist Glen Templeton.”


Individual tickets for the formal dinner are about $50, while tickets for couples are about $80. Dress is semi-formal and the dinner will feature guest speakers Noah Galloway and Marine Corps Lt. General Willie Williams.

Alabama veteran and ABC’s Dancing With the Stars participant Noah Galloway will be a guest speaker at the Alabama Veterans Reunion Veterans Appreciation Banquet.


Galloway served in Operation Iraqi Freedom and lost his left arm and leg. Now a motivational speaker and personal trainer, he also took third place in ABC’s Dancing with the Stars, Garrison said. Williams served as the director of the Marine Corps Staff and is one of only four African-American Marines to wear the rank of three-star general.


To kick off the festival, there will be a walk to honor current and fallen service members. The event is a great way to receive information and browse vendors as well, Retired Chief Warrant Officer Mel Shinholster, U.S. Army Aviation, said.


“There was a display set up with vendors and representatives from veteran service organizations for all veterans and their families to come and look around to gather information,” he said. “We also got to tour Tuscaloosa and it helped because if someone says ‘Come to Tuscaloosa,’ you think, ‘Why should I? What is there for me to see; what is there for my family?’”


Shinholster and others will meet to discuss the possibilities for the future reunions. He said there is interest in lining up a celebrity speaker and even a concert.


“We hope to provide veterans a way to join their families for a fun weekend of celebration,” Garrison said. “The reunion is meant to honor the veterans and their family members who have made so many personal sacrifices. We are excited to be able to host this event to show gratitude and appreciation to these men and women.”

By Tori Linville


The South’s fifth season is approaching: football season. Do you have the right tailgating gear? We’ve found the best tailgating coolers for you to add to your arsenal before it’s too late.


Coleman 62 Quart Xtreme Wheeled Cooler, $50



This puppy can carry all the essentials and then some. Get it on the ground and see it fly with you on your way to keep your tailgating spot on the quad. The wheels make the cooler easy to move before and after the tailgating events. Complete with extended handle and cupholders, there’s no real reason not to invest in this tailgating must.


Cooladio Cart, $112


(picture: get


If you’re really serious about tailgating with some tunes, the Cooladio Cart might be something for you to check out. It’s price pays for the quality speakers that keep  a party going long after your tailgate DJ has checked out. Throw in some beer or soda, add some football and you’ve pretty much got it made.


Picnic Time Collegiate Vulcan BBQ Grill, $300



For the grill master in your family, this cooler will check all the boxes. The insulated cooler comes with a propane grill, along with a three piece barbeque set. Throw in some extra pockets, and you’ve got a small tailgate already going on with just one piece of equipment.


Yeti Tundra 45 quart cooler, $350



This line of cooler has long been lauded as THE tailgating cooler, so it’s a no-brainer for our list. With a  dry goods rack and dry ice compatibility, the Yeti cooler offers tons of insulation for all your tailgating hydration needs.


Wagan 10.5 Liter Personal Thermo-Fridge/Warmer




If a cooler just doesn’t cut it for you, a personal fridge could be another option for your tailgating needs. It keeps things cold in the summer and warm in the winter, added jealousy from friends at no extra charge.


Article sponsored by the following: Nancy and Co., Plus One Tactical, and Russell Lee Flooring.

Find Nancy and Co. on the web at:

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Tuscaloosa’s Old Jail will be transformed into a showcase of imaginatively themed rooms the weekend of August 29 and 30, when decorators and designers take custody of the 19th century jail as part of the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society’s 2015 Heritage celebration.

The Decorators’ Break-Out Showcase will turn the Jail’s former cells and offices into elegant and, sometimes, whimsical spaces.


Tuscaloosa’s last showcase was held in 2001 according to Claire Friday, president of the Tuscaloosa County Preservation Society Board.


“Because we are using a historic structure that is not a house we decided to call our event a Decorators’ Showcase. We are very excited by the enthusiasm of the decorators who are transforming everything from the front hallway to the adjacent lawn into areas that would fit into any home and garden,” Friday said.


In addition to the reformed inner areas, a Monet inspired tea garden outside will offer thirst-quenching iced tea, lemonade and pastries each day. There will be musical entertainment on Saturday, August 29, at 1 p.m. and on Sunday, August 30 at 2 p.m.


“We are indebted to Dr. McKendrick and the Tuscaloosa City Board of Education for allowing the Preservation Society use of this historic structure,” said Showcase Chairperson Judi Rabel. “The Tuscaloosa City Board’s cooperation and overall assistance preparing the building has been unquestionably one of major factors in our ability to offer this fun weekend to area residents.”

Rabel also added that she hopes former students of Central High School’s American Studies programs will come and enjoy all of the changes in the building.


On August 29, the Jail will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On August 30, hours are from 1 to 4 p.m. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday are $25 per person.


For more information, including tickets, call the Tuscaloosa Preservation Society at (205) 758-2238 or (205) 758-2906, or visit

Summer and fall are popular times for outdoor activities such as hiking, gardening and playing outside. Unfortunately, poisonous plants can get in the way of enjoying your time outdoors.

Poisonous plants have a range of harmful effects. Poison ivy, Toxicodendron radicans, is the most recognized poisonous plant in Alabama. It can cause a skin rash and sometimes an allergic reaction requiring medical treatment.

Certain plants, such as caladiums, contain sharp oxalate crystals that irritate the skin if touched and the mouth if eaten. Many familiar plants contain toxins that cause vomiting and diarrhea or lead to death.

Did you know azaleas are toxic if ingested?

Protecting yourself and others from poisonous plants requires learning to identify familiar plants, taking steps to avoid exposure and knowing what to do if you are exposed.

Monica Watkins, director of the University of Alabama Arboretum, has some suggestions on ways to avoid poisonous plants.

  • Purchase or borrow a simple plant field guide. A good one will include a section describing different types of leaves, flowers and fruits using botanical terminology. Stick to learning the more basic terms at first, and look up more challenging terms in the glossary later. Plant descriptions will use these terms along with photos or drawings to distinguish between different plants. Descriptions should include both common and Latin names.
  • Start learning to identify familiar plants in your yard. Identify native plants with the field guide and ornamental plants from gardening books. If you aren’t certain of your identification, seek assistance from an expert by contacting your county extension office. Once you know what your plants are, label them and make a list for reference in case of poisoning.
  • Find out if the plants in your yard are toxic to children or pets, then move on to plants you might encounter on hikes or in local gardens. The book “Poisonous Plants and Venomous Animals of Alabama and Adjoining States,” by Whit Gibbons, Robert R. Haynes and Joab L. Thomas, can help you get started.
  • Protect yourself when outdoors, especially if you will be disturbing plants. Wear long sleeves, long pants and gloves. If you think you’ve come in contact with a poisonous plant, wash your skin as soon as possible. If you are particularly sensitive, use a poison ivy wash that neutralizes urushiol, the irritating chemical found in poison ivy, poison oak and poison sumac.
  • Teach older children how to identify plants that should be avoided, such as poison ivy. “Leaves of three, let them be” is an easy way to remember to avoid poison ivy.
  • Supervise pets and younger children around poisonous plants. Teach children not to eat anything unless an adult has told them it is safe. If you suspect that a poisonous plant has been ingested, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.


The following article is part of the University of Alabama’s ongoing series, “UA Matters.” To see more articles, visit

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.


This weekend, a group of walkers will hit the bricks inside Tuscaloosa's University Mall for a great cause: supporting those with Alzheimer's disease and memory disorders, along with their families and their caretakers. This year marks the 10th year for the Vicki Kerr Walk 2 Remember. On Saturday, August 22, the walk will be held from 8 to 10 a.m.

Money raised from the Walk 2 Remember helps to support the programs of Caring Days: Mal & Charlotte Moore Center, Caring Together Day Care, Project Lifesaver, Yellow Dot, Alzheimer’s Family Support Groups and Sitter/Caregiver Training programs.

If you're interested in taking part, you can choose to walk as an individual or as a team. Get friends, family, church members, co-workers and neighbors to sponsor you in the walk.

Preregistration will be held on Thursday, August 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. at the Mal & Charlotte Moore Center. For more information, call (205) 752-6840 or visit Caring Days' official website

Photo: Caring Days Facebook

By Tori Linville


A five star experience doesn’t mean a bad bed in a gross hotel and it doesn’t mean bad food. Even if you’re not on vacation, no one wants to deal with subpar experiences, regardless of the establishment. So wherever you’re going, whatever you’re doing – whether you’re a native or a visitor, we’ve hit up Trip Advisor in the area to help you have a top-rated time.




Top Hotel: Embassy Suites by Hilton


This Tuscaloosa hotel gets nothing but praise for its staff and amenities. One reviewer labels it a “southern gem,” while another says “Tuscaloosa got exactly what was desperately needed” while describing their stay.  Most visitors really enjoy the location of the Embassy Suites, as it’s next to plenty of restaurants and shopping opportunities. And if you don’t like it, be sure to say so on Trip Advisor – the general manager, Steven, makes sure to reply to most reviews and digs deeper into why a customer didn’t enjoy his or her stay.


Top Restaurant: The Ave Pub


Great burgers, great fish tacos, great drink selection. Trip Advisor has spoken and The Ave Pub is one of the best places to fill a stomach. One review by added, “I am glad that they offer healthier foods with real substance, such as their greens in their salad; it's not just your average iceburg lettuce.” From the service to the food presentation to the drink selection, people are raving about all the good things happening down at The Ave.


#2 Thing to Do: Paul W. Bryant Museum


Why the second? Because in a town like Tuscaloosa, the obvious first choice is Bryant-Denny Stadium. No need to explain. Since it’s off-season, the second choice is Paul W. Bryant Museum. Just down the street from the stadium, the museum is the perfect off-season stop to help all your Alabama football yearnings. As one reviewer said, “Bear will love to see you stop in and visit.”




Top Hotel: Hampton Inn & Suites Birmingham/280 East-Eagle Point


If you’re in the mood for some comfortable beds, clean rooms and some above-average complimentary breakfast (seriously, who isn’t?) then Trip Advisor says the Hampton Inn is for you. The location and hotel basics are a shoe-in at this place and the staff seems to be on top of their game. As one reviewer put it, a stay at this Birmingham hotel is “always a great stay.”


Top Restaurant: Highlands Bar and Grill


Trip Advisor has 834 restaurants listed for the Birmingham area and Highlands Bar and Grill lands at number one. Highlands offers a fine dining experience that can’t be missed. The menu changes frequently and the wine is not to be missed. It is a more high-end place though, which threw some reviewers off. That’s not to say you won’t be welcomed regardless – it’s still true to its Southern hospitality.


#1 Thing to Do: Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum


The top-ranked thing to do in Birmingham lies with Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Why? The Trip Advisor consensus is that there’s just so much to see, one trip is only the tip of the motorcycle iceberg. The museum boasts the largest collection of Lotus cars in the U.S. and as one reviewer said, “This is a one of a kind museum for everyone to see. You don't have to be interested in motorcycles or a 'gear head' to appreciate this spectacle.”




Top Hotel: Henderson Park Inn


Not only is it the number one hotel for Destin on Trip Advisor, Henderson Park Inn is also Destin’s 2015 Travelers’ Choice for the website. Number one thing to know? It has a no children policy – this is for the adults who need time away! The staff is more than accommodating and the beach location definitely doesn’t hurt. Dinner reservations are a must, but freebies abound in the form of water, candy bars and other treats. Take it from the guy who flew from New York City on a whim: “We were very impressed. It's got excellent location, a solid restaurant, friendly staff - everything we wanted for a getaway. Highly recommend. We will be back.”


#2 Restaurant: Buck’s Smokehouse


Since the top rated restaurant was Beach Walk at – you guessed it – Henderson Park Inn, we decided to switch the scenery and check up on the number two. Buck’s Smokehouse is home to some of Destin’s best barbeque. Though some reviewers were disappointed in comparing it to Texas barbeque, the brisket is still a crowd favorite. Add it to a clean atmosphere, friendly staff and an array of sauces that’ll have you coming back for more, it’s no wonder it’s dubbed the “best BBQ on the beach” by one reviewer.


#2 Thing to Do: Crystal Sands Beach


In a coastal town like Destin, obviously the main thing to do is to veg out on the beach and get some well-deserved sun. The number one beach was back to the Henderson Beach State Park, so we again saw what number two had to offer. Crystal Sands Beach stands on its own (not literally), with “sugary white sand” and “gorgeous blue water” that has reviewers handing out five stars all around. The best parts? It’s great for children, but not too crowded.


Article sponsored by Tuscaloosa Tourism Black Warrior and Tuscaloosa Tourism Veterans.


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By Tori Linville


1.     Make a roommate agreement immediately

While taking time to get to know your roommate can be fun, drawing some clear and concise boundaries ahead of time will save some heartache if you’re out a pot and pan set because said roommate can’t cook. After you both know what each other likes and doesn’t like, you can face the semester together with less to worry about.



2.     Don’t over-commit…

The famed interest fairs with free t-shirt giveaways can have you slingin’ your email at every honor society and club that throws you a complimentary cup. The best thing to do? Take the shirt, but only leave your email and contact information at the clubs that really strike your interests. That way, you’ll be able to spend your time on things you actually care about, instead of spreading yourself too thin!




3.     But don’t be a hermit!

On the other hand, staying inside your dorm room while binge-watching Netflix isn’t too healthy either. So either add some friends to your binge spree, or get out and about. Just don’t end up stuck to your bed to where you’re in a daze and don’t know what day it is.



4.     Get to know campus (and the city) before classes begin

This is where the whole ‘out and about’ thing comes in. Knowing the campus cuts down on the stopping-staring-you’re-definitely-a-freshman-move. It also saves time and keeps you from getting lost. Once you’re familiar with campus, branch out to the remaining town around you in order to know the best places for shopping, coffee and more.


5.     Avoid the freshman fifteen

One of the best things you can do is to remember to take care of your body. While unlimited fried foods at the dining halls will always be tempting, exercise can give you more energy for class, studying and friend time.



6.     Hunt for textbook bargains    
Be aware that the campus bookstore might not have the best prices for your textbooks. Shop around and spend the extra time comparing prices in order to save your wallet some pain.




7.     Find a study space that fits you
It might be the campus library, or it could be the coffee shop clear across town. You won’t know it until you find it and when you find it, it can make all the difference.



8.     Don’t forget to breathe (and have fun!)
College is a time to learn, grow and have fun. Don’t let the stress get to you



Article sponsored by DCH and First South Farm Credit.

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By Sheena Gregg

Though back to school can be a time of excitement and new memories for your kids, it can also feel overwhelming when it comes to good nutrition. Here are a few tips for maintaining a convenient, tasty, and nutritious school year!

  • Morning hectic? Consider putting breakfast fixings in an easy-to-grab place. Putting fresh fruit, yogurts, or cereal bars in convenient locations can make it easy for the kiddos or parents to grab and eat on the ride to school.
  • If your student isn’t a big fan of traditional breakfast food, don’t be afraid to encourage evening leftovers. A slice of pizza from the night before can be paired with orange juice or a cup of fruit to make a well-balanced breakfast.
  • Feel like jazzing up your child’s packed lunch? Wraps, salads in mason jars (or other fun containers), and fruit and cheese kabobs can be a great way to get away from the basic peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
  • Worried about your child’s food choices in the cafeteria? Spend time reviewing the monthly cafeteria menu with your child to discuss making balanced choices in the cafeteria line.
  • If your child is involved in after school sports, consider packing a cooler with nourishing options like Greek yogurt, peanut butter and banana wraps, or low fat string cheese with apples. These great carb-and-protein combinations can ensure that your child has some quick energy and a satisfied tummy!

Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.


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