Cold weather may not be among your foremost thoughts right now, but as the temps cool through the fall, it’s a sure sign that we’re not far from winter. Along with that brings the task of transitioning your family’s wardrobes, packing and storing the tank tops and swimsuits, and unpacking the stored sweatshirts and coats.

Keep a child warm this winter. Bring gently used coats and jackets to a dropoff location by October 11.

If you have children, it’s very possible that Johnny’s brand new heavy coat and Susie’s jacket used only a few times last winter are now too small for them. These items are too good to just throw away, so what do you do with them?

Coats4Kids has created a solution. This nonprofit program exists to help families by providing necessities such as warm fall and winter clothing. Your family’s gently worn outerwear can have a new home with someone who might have gone without warm, properly fitting attire due to financial difficulties.

Between the dates of September 25 and October 11, 2010, Coats4Kids drop boxes will be available at the following businesses in the Gulf Shores/Foley area:

· American National (across from Foley Elementary School)

· $5 Christian Book Store (Tanger Outlets, Foley)

· Wright’s Drugs Book Exchange (Hwys. 59 & 98, Foley)

· WCSN Sunny 105.7 (2nd St., Gulf Shores)

· Reynolds Ace Hardware (Hwy. 59 near Ft. Morgan Rd., Gulf Shores)

· Meyer Real Estate (Hwy. 59 just north of Ft. Morgan Rd., Gulf Shores)

Look for this large, colorful box at any of the dropoff locations.

Coats and jackets are needed for ages toddler through 12th grade. Distribution is October 16 at Liberty Church (formerly Cinema 12, in Foley), from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. For further information, call 251-978-6323 or e-mail

Whether you live in this area or will be visiting before October 11, you are encouraged to take inventory of your family’s warm-weather gear, and bring all unneeded coats and jackets to one of the drop-off locations. You’ll feel lighter by removing these items from your storage, and you will feel the warmth of a good deed by helping other families cope with winter weather.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

Photographers and Wannabes

Grab your camera and show up for one, some or all of the digital photography classes offered at the Orange Beach Arts Center.

Become a digital photographer in a snap with classes at the Orange Beach Arts Center.

Each Saturday through December 11, 2010 (except Thanksgiving weekend), you can learn a specific technique of photography and its presentation. Maybe you feel like an expert in certain aspects of this artistic genre, but some other skills could use a little tweaking. Or maybe you’ve never really tried to take pictures but would like to find out if it’s something you would enjoy pursuing. Either way, the class offerings will open your eyes—and your shutters—to a whole new level of ability.

Oct. 2—Digital Photography Tips and Tricks
Oct. 9—Digital Photography Composition
Oct. 16—Digital Photography Capturing Light and Motion
Oct. 23—Editing and Sharing your Digital Photographs
Oct. 30—Creating Your Own Photo Book
Nov. 6—Digital Photography Tips and Tricks
Nov. 13—Digital Photography Composition
Nov. 20—Digital Photography Capturing Light and Motion
Dec. 4— Editing and Sharing your Digital Photographs
Dec. 11—Creating Your Own Photo Book

All of these hands-on classes begin at 9:30 and end at 11:30. The cost for each session is $27. You may have noticed that it is set up as a series of 5 classes, which is then repeated. Feel free to repeat a class or the entire series, as there is always something new to learn.

The instructor, Dorie Parsons, is a prize-winning photographer with many years of teaching experience, including kindergarten through graduate school students, in the U.S. and abroad, and at sea for three different cruise lines.

For registration and further information, contact the Orange Beach Arts Center at 251-981-2787. Or register at their facility at 26389 Canal Road and then stay to enjoy the exhibits, gift shop and Hot Shop.

With these fun classes, you’ll become a digital photography expert in a snap!

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

Oktoberfest in Perdido Key

Quick: What are the first things that come to mind when you think about German heritage?

Win a prize in the costume contest for all ages at Oktoberfest on Saturday, October 2, 2010, in Perdido Key, FL.

An inaugural event based on German traditions is about to launch, and it’s probably safe to say that at least some of your answers (see below) will be found aplenty at Perdido Key’s first Oktoberfest.

Sauerkraut—Of course, no German festival would be complete without traditional German foods.

Beer—You need something fun to drink with the delicious food—and you can purchase a souvenir mug, too.

Accordion—German-inspired entertainment will fill the festival. (Anybody know how to dance the Schuhplatter?)

Lederhosen—Get out your leather britches. The winners of the costume contest will take home prizes.

Sample more than 100 beers and enjoy traditional German food and entertainment at the First Annual Oktoberfest.

The fun begins at 2:00 on Saturday, October 2, but only lasts until 6:00. Arrive at The Villagio (13700 Perdido Key Dr.) when Oktoberfest opens to get the most enjoyment from the afternoon.

Admission to the festival is free, and families are welcome. If you wish to purchase the unlimited sampling of more than 100 beers, the cost is $15. Or for $30 you get that plus an event T-shirt and a beer mug.

For further details, contact the Perdido Key Chamber of Commerce at 850-492-4660.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

Jubilee Festival Sept. 25–26

It’s truly a weekend event for everyone: regional arts and crafts including a juried art show, children’s art activities, festival food, local musical entertainment, and televised football games indoors on large screens.

Festival food fuels your weekend at the Jubilee Festival in Daphne on September 25 & 26, 2010.

The 22nd Annual Jubilee Festival in Daphne will also donate ten percent of the profits to the Alabama Coastal Foundation to aid in the recovery and regeneration of the Gulf Coast.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday, September 25 and again Sunday, September 26, you are invited to admire the handiwork of some of the region’s best talent. Better yet, support the artists and enhance your home or wardrobe when you purchase your favorite masterpieces. (You’ll find lots of wonderful gifts here, as well!) Plan on lunch, snacks and dinner during the festival—you know you can’t resist festival food! And don’t forget to pick up souvenir magnets, stickers, T-shirts and posters before you head home.

Encourage your children to discover new interests and talents during hands-on art experiences.

Children’s activities are available Saturday 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. While admission to the festival is free, Kids Art in the Park requires tickets at a cost of 50 cents; most activities require just one or two tickets. Your children can even paint their own artwork on the fence in Centennial Park.

Rest a few minutes while listening to top-notch local musical entertainment in front of City Hall or enjoying your favorite football team on the large screens in the Council Chambers.

Everyone is encouraged to bring a canned item to donate to Prodisee Pantry or purchase drinks that benefit this nonprofit organization’s programs.

It’s all in Daphne at the Jubilee Festival. From Highway 98, turn west onto Whispering Pines Road, then south onto Main Street. For more information, contact the Eastern Shore Chamber of Commerce at 251-621-8222.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

Nature Photography Workshop

It’s a picture-perfect moment. That osprey (or pitcher plant or butterfly) could actually be posing just for you, and you can’t resist. Up comes the camera . . . click.

Hurry to register for the Nature Photography Workshop held on Friday and Saturday, September 24 & 25, 2010.

But when you look at what should be your prize-winning photograph, it appears washed out, or the nearby water created a terrible glare. Aargh!

Lucky for you, that disappointing scenario does not have to be repeated. Local nature photography experts Michelle Thomas and Luanne Burnett are excited about sharing their techniques for capturing the best images in forest and water settings during the upcoming Nature Photography Workshop.

The small class size (maximum 20) assures plenty of time for group and personal instruction. Any digital camera may be used—even your basic point-and-click equipment can produce better quality than you thought possible when you know how to adjust for the scenery.

You don’t need to know anything about photography, so don’t let a lack of experience keep you away. All that’s required (beyond a camera, of course) is a desire to explore the possibilities. Michelle and Luanne can also assist if your camera is so new that you’re not fully acquainted with how it operates.

Intermediate photographers will quickly realize that there are still plenty of lessons to be learned by sharing the time with professionals and other like-minded amateurs.

The weekend begins with the sunset photography class at 4:30 on Friday, September 24. Saturday brings morning light instruction, then guidance for afternoon shadows. Each class is followed by plenty of time to apply the techniques and then share and discuss your successes. You’ll find that the beautiful location at The Plantation at D&S Farms Forest Retreat in rural Robertsdale offers infinite possibilities for exceptional photographs.

Your meals (light supper Friday, Saturday breakfast and lunch) are included in the fee. Even better news is that when you go to the registration page you will find a price tag of only $125, broken into a deposit and then a final payment. What a great deal! This is a wonderful opportunity to learn from experienced professionals, so hurry to sign up before the class is filled. With this type of personalized instruction, you could soon be a sought-after nature photographer!

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

The Call of the Kayak

My husband and I—creatures of habit—recently ventured out of our routine. We love being outdoors, but lately we’ve allowed life to get in the way of that pleasure. It was time to combine the blue sky with a new experience.

Launching our kayaks on a beautiful morning.

I have been following Kayak_Alabama on Twitter for a few months, and seeing their posts always makes me wish I was out there experiencing it instead of just reading about it. So—yes, I’m sure you’ve figured it out—I made the contact and arranged for a guided kayak tour. (I’m not into fishing, but you can arrange a kayak fishing tour as well.)

Not knowing much about our waterways, I let Chris, the main man behind Alabama Kayak Adventures, choose the spot. He pulled into Graham Creek Nature Preserve just ahead of us, with a truck bed filled with four kayaks. As he untied the colorful load, another guide, Laurel, arrived with her kayak, and photographer Michelle also joined us. Chris and Laurel are both USCG-licensed captains as well as certified Coastal Nature Guides, so I knew we were in good hands.

A welcome feeling of tranquility is inevitable when surrounded by nature.

We dragged our kayaks to the launch ramp and got a quick lesson on how to paddle (so simple!), and next thing we knew we were skimming along a beautiful, winding creek. Neither of us had been in a kayak before, and we were surprised by the stability and ease of maneuvering. With no current to negotiate, we could easily stop to study plants or wildlife, or just paddle slowly and effortlessly.

Eventually the serene creek opened up into Wolf Bay, where we glided past houses, piers and boat docks, and observed schools of fish as they darted around our kayaks. As we started our return, a pair of dolphins teased us with their intermittent presence.

Throughout the morning, the word “peaceful” kept popping into my head. Other than a small plane overhead and the brief passing of a fisherman’s boat, the only sounds were that of Mother Nature. The thick vegetation and some tall trees insulated the creek from the outside world, allowing the illusion of being miles from civilization. And the houses on the bay were set far enough back so as not to intrude on the waterway.

So different from the nearby gulf beaches, with its own amazing beauty.

While we did enjoy conversation during the 3-hour journey, there was also plenty of opportunity to soak up the stillness and focus on the natural setting. Our guides seemed to intuitively understand how special that silence is, perfectly balancing friendly chit-chat, information sharing, and leaving us to our own thoughts.

My first encounter with a kayak now makes me want one of my own, but I know that won’t happen with the crazy schedule I keep. At least now I know how enjoyable it is, and I have memories to call on when I want an escape but don’t have time for such. And best of all, I know who to contact when I can’t resist the call of the kayak any longer.

Stay informed of local activities, vacation rental specials and more by subscribing to this Discover Alabama Beaches blog and Meyer Muse, and by following Meyer Real Estate on Twitter, Facebook and MySpace.

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