Category Archives: Quality of Life

Six years, and Shono’s Japanese Grill still pleases

Grilled chicken and shrimp is one of several combinations popular with diners at Shonos Japanese Grill in Riverchase.

Grilled chicken and shrimp is one of several combinations popular with diners at Shonos Japanese Grill in Riverchase.

Any restaurant that has us coming back regularly for six years has to be doing something right.

The simple fact is that Shonos Japanese Grill—on Hwy 31 just north of the Cahaba River in the same shopping center as Hobby Lobby—has never disappointed.

Run by Eddie and Flora Cui, Shonos has gained a loyal following over the years, and it’s little wonder why.

Whether it’s the grilled chicken, shrimp or “Eddie’s special” beef entree, Eddie and Flora pride themselves on making sure that any choice you make is fresh and flavorful.

Shonos does a strong business during lunch.  One reason is because time-sensitive visitors who work in the Hoover area know they can get in and out without having to worry about a slow kitchen; Eddie cooks everything himself.

Eddie and Flora Cui have simple goals for Shonos:  Good food that's reasonably priced.

Eddie and Flora Cui have simple goals for Shonos: Healthy, good tasting food that’s reasonably priced.

Entrees are made to order, but Shonos knows how to deliver with only a few minutes waiting.

The fancy theatrics so popular at many Japanese steakhouses don’t happen here, so if you’re looking for someone to flip a shrimp in your mouth, you’ll probably be disappointed.

What you can count on is consistently good food at prices that won’t make you feel as if you’ve made a big financial sacrifice.

Eddie and Flora take pride in food that’s healthy, too.  They recently started offering brown rice (in addition to steamed and fried), and their food contains no MSG.

Service is always friendly and efficient; Flora sees to that.

Shonos does a lot of to-go business.  Orders for pick-up can be placed by calling 205-988-3319.

You can check out the Shonos website here…

Shonos is open Monday through Saturday, for lunch and dinner.

Go-2-Grill: Mediterranean Food For Birmingham

Chicken Shawerma from Go-2-Grill in Hoover, Alabama

Chicken Shawerma, complete with salad, rice, hummus, baba ghanoush and pita bread, is one of Go-2-Grill’s signature servings, available as a dinner plate or lunch serving.

One of the great things about living in the Birmingham area is the fact that we are blessed with many good restaurants.

For just about any type of cuisine you could want, there is probably at least one good place, if not two or three. For Colleen and me, Mediterranean food is a favorite.

The term Mediterranean, of course, carries a rather general geographic reference, and can include food from lots of cultures, including Greece, Lebanon and Italy, to name just a few.

We were saddened when, a year ago this month, a locally run Persian restaurant in Hoover that had been a favorite of ours shut its doors, limiting our choices.

Mike Alassi, Owner, Go-2-Grill, Hoover, Alabama

Owner Mike Alassi is usually behind the register, and is always happy to explain the ingredients in Go-2-Grill’s varied offerings.

But there are still options to sample cuisine from cultures afar, and the Go-2-Grill in Hoover may pleasantly surprise you.

Opened by owner Mike Alassi in January of 2012, Go-2-Grill used to be known by a different name:  The In-N-Out Grill.

Though Alassi changed the name a couple of months ago, everything else—including the menu—remains the same.

Baba ghanoush, served by Go-2-Grill, Hoover, Alabama

Go-2-Grill is one of the few places in Birmingham where you can enjoy Baba ghanoush, a dish usually made with eggplant, tomatoes and other vegetables and that’s popular as an appetizer throughout much of the Middle East.

Located in the WalMart shopping center at 2978 Hwy 150 in Hoover, Go-2-Grill is admittedly a bit short on atmosphere. With fluorescent lighting, paper plates and utensils, there’s little to convey a Mediterranean setting, but we’re not counting off for that.

What does impress is the food.

When Colleen and I visit, we typically choose from the Greek offerings.  These include grilled chicken kabobs, lamb kabobs, gyros, tahini or Falafel (a traditional Arab concoction of ground chickpeas and fava beans).

But Go-2-Grill also appeals to folks looking for standard American fare.  In fact, though we’ve not tried them, we’ve heard comments that the burgers are outstanding, while others rave about their wings and baked potatoes (giant size and loaded).

We have always found the service to be friendly.  You’re likely to find Alassi himself at the register much of the time, and we appreciate his always checking with us to make sure the food is good.

If the choices overwhelm you, Go-2-Grill has lots of pictures of their entrees on the walls to help you decide.

Desserts include baklava, a rich and sweet pastry made in layers with phyllo dough, nuts and honey.

You can order to go by calling 205-444-2014.

You can find Go-to-Grill on Facebook, too.

Here’s where to find the place:

Vickers: ‘Perfect Storm’ For Alabaster Schools

Even if you don’t have a child in Alabaster schools…even if you don’t have any connection to the city’s school system, you can’t be around DSC_7025Wayne Vickers long without getting excited.

Alabaster is poised to become a top school system in the state, he’ll tell you.  Vickers isn’t bashful.  The city’s new school system superintendent, who began his job July 1st, will also tell you how the transformation will happen.

Vickers says Alabaster is in a perfect storm of resources, opportunity and people.

Vickers inspires.  His enthusiasm is contagious.

“We will not fail,” he vows.

Many parents have not had the chance to meet Dr. Vickers, or understand his vision for the city’s schools.

So, here’s your chance to hear the man and his plan.  Click the player in the video window below, and enjoy!

Helena Market Days

If you’re looking for a home for sale in the Birmingham area and don’t know the territory well, Shelby Co.—just south of Birmingham—offers a great quality of life.

If you want a great community to live in with plenty of things to do, here’s one of many reasons why Shelby Co. is so popular.

Lots of folks love Helena Market Days, the annual summer farmer’s market that takes place along Buck Creek in Helena every Saturday from 8am until noon.

We thought we’d share some sights and sounds of Market Days from our visit on July 13th.  And nope, we couldn’t leave without some of those wonderful Chilton Co. peaches…they’re just plain hard to beat!

Here’s where you can find more information on Helena Market Days.

Enjoy the video!



Alabaster’s CityFest: Fun For All

If you’re looking for a home for sale in the Birmingham area and are wondering what living in the community is like, here’s a taste.

Alabaster, one of Shelby county’s most popular cities, has just concluded another very successful CityFest, a family friendly day of food, arts, crafts, games, rides, entertainment and more, put together by the City of Alabaster with support from area businesses.

Check out our video of the festivities:

Germany Gains Two Cats From Alabama

You’re looking at what was almost a $2,500 cat.

Times two.Juergen & Helga Lauer

Colleen and I had a great time helping Juergen and Helga Lauer of Lake Forest in Alabaster sell their home.

The Lauers were moving to Germany.

Getting everything shipped overseas went pretty smoothly…until it came to the Lauer’s two cats.

The moving company said, ‘sure, we’ll ship them—for $2,500 each.’

We guess that was almost enough to put Juergen and Helga into a—pardon the pun—catatonic state.

Surely, the Lauers wondered, there must be a less expensive way to transport two cats from Alabama to Germany!

After some more research, the Lauers found their solution:  Delta.

$200 each, flown/done.

No word on what the cats thought of the trip…

Tangling With Tornadoes In Birmingham

DSC_6054 Being awakened in the middle of the night is seldom fun.

If your weather radio goes off for a Tornado Warning and then nothing seems to come of it, your first inclination may be to toss the radio in the trash.

If false alarm warnings have ever frustrated you, you missed a good chance to see ‘the other side of the story’ last night in Birmingham:

My head is still spinning after being around a bunch of very sharp scientific minds — the local chapter of the Nat’l Weather Association held its first meeting of the year last evening.

Kevin Laws, Science and Operations Officer for the National Weather Service’s local office, gave a fascinating presentation on Dual Polarization radar, a recent upgrade to the government’s Doppler radar network.

Kevin spoke about the success the NWS is having in working toward two huge goals:  Reducing the number of false alarm tornado warnings, and improving the probability of detection at the same time.  After hearing Kevin talk about the challenges involved, you realize quickly that this is a task that’s much easier said than done.

I enjoyed this meeting a lot.  If you find it interesting to learn how the NWS is trying to improve its warning and other services, this was a valuable chance to learn and appreciate what these folks are doing.

If you’re a weather geek, being part of the NWA’s local chapter is strongly recommended (you can join on line for less than $27; not a bad deal at all).

Visit the local chapter’s website for more information…


Mediterranean Dining at In-N-Out

If you enjoy Mediterranean dining, Hoover’s In-N-Out Grill—in the WalMart shopping center on Hwy 150—needs to be high on your list to visit.

I wouldn’t call the atmosphere elegant, but the food makes up for it.  We’ve visited several times and have never been disappointed.

Colleen and I stopped there for dinner Saturday evening.  She had the Chicken Kabobs, and I had the Chicken Kawerma, one of their signature dishes.  Our dinners, complete with fresh salads and an order of their wonderful Baba Ghanouj appetizer with Pita bread, set us back less than $20.

We left full, happy and satisfied.

Falafeel, lamb, and grape leaves are among In-N-Out Grill’s Mediterranean offerings, but others rave about their hamburgers.

Service has always been friendly and efficient.  Mike, the owner, seems genuinely interested in making sure that your dining experience is a good one.

You can see their menu on their website.  For orders to go, call 205-444-2014.

In-N-Out Grill is open seven days a week:  Sundays through Thursdays from 10am ’til 9pm, and Fridays and Saturdays, 10am ’til 10pm.


A California Trio’s Birmingham Visit

If you’ve never heard Paul Richards, Bert Lams and Hideyo Moriya, you’ve just flat been missing out on something great.

Colleen and I enjoyed an absolute treat yesterday, taking in last night’s performance of these guys, known as the California Guitar Trio, at the Alys Stephens Center.  Performances like this are part of what make living in Birmingham so enjoyable.cgt_enh

This was our third time to see these incredibly talented musicians, who so skillfully turn anything from a Beethoven Sonata to Dave Brubeck jazz piece to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody into an acoustic masterpiece.

Last night’s show was special, too, because it marked the 22nd anniversary (to the day) of their first performance.

These guys represent quite a mix: Paul is from Salt Lake City, Bert is from Belgium, and Hideyo is from Tokyo. They started playing together while studying guitar in England.

I don’t think there’s anything they can’t play well. If you’ve never heard ’em, check out some samples at their website.

They’ve released over a dozen albums, and we couldn’t walk out without a copy of their all classical Masterworks CD.

Their CDs are great, but getting to see them perform is something you never forget…


Radio History Lives In Birmingham


Members of the Alabama Historical Radio Society gather at their workshop near Alabama Power’s main headquarters for holiday cheer.

My broadcasting and ham radio friends will drool over a place Colleen and I visited Thursday evening.

We were guests of the Alabama Historical Radio Society, whose members invited us to their Christmas party in downtown Birmingham.

This was my first visit to the Society’s workshop, which is a large facility housing a collection of radio equipment and memorabilia that is simply amazing.

The Society also runs a museum in the main headquarters of Alabama Power.

There are radios of every size and design you could imagine, but there are also radios here I’d say you can’t imagine, too—like a Coke bottle radio, and another radio made of cardboard.


Dave Cisco is one of the leaders of the Society and the effort to preserve radio history in Birmingham.

Dave Cisco, W4AXL, is one of the driving forces behind the Society.  He is very proud of the Society’s library, and I can’t blame him.

This place has an incredible collection of vintage amateur radio and broadcasting publications.  For starters:  Every single QST magazine since 1915, every single CQ magazine and every Ham Radio magazine.

There’s enough to keep you looking for a long time, including broadcasting year books, and even a Signal Corps handbook from World War I.

So, what are you likely to run across in this vast collection?  “Just about anything you can think of that’s related to radio,” Dave says.


The late Joe Dentici’s radio studio is preserved, complete with a Gates broadcast console, QRK turntables and a stack of cart machines. And it all works.

The Society has one of only two known surviving Superflex radios in the world.  Superflex is a broadcast radio receiver made in the 1920s by a company in Birmingham.

If you’re a broadcasting geek like me, the Society’s radio studio will impress.

Assembled by the late Joe Dentici, a legend of Birmingham radio and engineering, the equipment—mostly from the ’50s and ’60s—was saved from the dumpster.

“Joe had this studio in his home,” Cisco said.  “He made it up from stuff being thrown out by various stations he worked at.  He would salvage it from scrap and rebuilt it.”

The Society decided that Dentici’s studio should live on in a new setting, and, it does, thanks to the work of volunteer radio enthusiasts.  The studio is complete right down to the Gates 12 channel broadcast console, ITC Delta and BE cart machines and two QRK turntables with Gray tonearms.

And here’s the best part:  It all works.  The studio sure brought back memories for me—I worked in various radio stations during my teenage years, and used to have a Harris Executive console with two Gates CB-77 turntables.

They may look like microphones, but they're not. These vintage pieces are actually radios, and some are locked to the frequency of the radio station they promoted.

They may look like microphones, but they’re not. These vintage pieces are actually radios, and some are locked to the frequency of the radio station they promoted.

I especially enjoyed the display of studio microphones that aren’t really studio microphones.  They’re actually radios, and many are permanently tuned to one station … how’s that for a captive audience?

The museum’s presence in Birmingham is a treasure that permits a fascinating look back across decades of radio history, and into a time when radio was—well, just plain big, or as I like to say, back when radio was real.

The Society has ongoing activities including meetings every Saturday and Tuesday.  They’re a bunch of people who are fun to be around.  As one of their members told me at the party, “we like to get together and swap lies.”


Radios of every size, type and kind fill the shelves of the Alabama Historical Radio Society’s workshop.

If you want to know more about the Society, visit them on line at their website.

I asked a few members at the party if there is a collection like this anywhere else around.

No one was really sure.

Regardless, we are lucky to have something like this in Birmingham…