Sunday, September 27, 2009

Mobile Public Library System

September 26 through October 3 is Banned Books Week, an annual event that celebrates the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. This seems like a great time to write about one of my favorite places, the library. I know what you're thinking and you can stop rolling your eyes. If the last time you visited a Mobile County Library was to research a term paper then you need to take another look at your local branch. Our libraries really do qualify as someplace to go - something to do and the best part is they're free.

There are nine branches so the entire county is covered and for those people who can't get to a local branch there's the Bookmobile. The branch locations and bookmobile stops are listed on the Library website as are the hours of operation for each branch. Of course you can check out books on a variety of topics at the library but there is so much more than that going on. Music CD's from all genres and a huge selection of Books on Tape can be checked out at no cost and the DVD section contains movies and TV shows that rent for only $1 a week. Computers are available for use and Internet service is provided at no cost, however you will need to pay for anything you want printed.

Much of this may not be news to you but did you know that the library also offers a variety of free classes and events? You can learn basic computer skills, Excel and Power Point, take genealogical courses or learn the basics of grant proposal writing. A class entitled Job Hunting in the 21st Century will teach attendees how to write a resume and use the Internet to find employment opportunities. Classes in art and crocheting, a chess club and weekly Storytelling sessions are some of the available options for children and the Library website offers homework help online from live tutors.

Book lovers can join any of the seven book clubs that meet at the various branches. They include Not Your Average Book Club, Ebony Moments, Classics Revisited, Life Begins at 50, Poetry Enthusiasts, Murder by Numbers and a new club called The Eclectic Book Club. There are also a variety of free movies shown at the various branches each month. Many are family oriented but there are also documentaries, foreign films, science fiction and film classics for adults. Check the event schedule on the website for the upcoming list and locations.

The libraries offers a variety of exhibits on art, science, gardening and crafts just to cover a few topics. All events can be found on the website but you can pick up brochures at any branch or sign up for a variety of email alerts that will keep you up to date.

The days are already getting shorter, the weather will be turning colder and the holidays will be on us before we know it. We'll all be spending more time indoors and we'll be wondering how we're going to pay for Christmas. So this is the perfect time to stop by your local library and check out some books on weatherproofing your home, mixing that perfect cup of hot cocoa, or how to make a Halloween Costume. Better still, just grab a classic Holiday DVD or pick up an intriguing little murder mystery to read in bed under the covers. Happy reading!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Wind Creek Casino

My husband and I headed over to Atmore, Alabama last weekend to buy a lottery ticket and decided, on the way back, to stop in at the Wind Creek Casino & Hotel. The casino is located on Highway 21 and is owned and operated by the Poarch Creek Indians. It opened in January of this year and features a 236 room hotel, three restaurants, 50,000 square feet of gaming tables, a spa and some major entertainment (Hank Williams Jr., Reba, and Brett Michaels, just to name a few).

The casino has no gaming tables, only slot machines. I was told by a staff member that gaming tables are illegal in Alabama, even on Indian land. The majority of the machines are penny and nickle machines, although I saw a few that were higher denominations. There is a separate room for high stakes players but I didn't investigate what constituted "high stakes". Whatever it was I knew I couldn't afford it. The nickle slots are a little misleading in that you have to bet at least five credits per spin (one credit being the equivalent of five cents) so essentially you're betting a quarter each time. I put $5 in the machine and won $46 in 30 minutes so I cashed out. As long as I'm ahead I'm happy.

A quick word about the drink service on the gaming floor. Everyone keeps asking me how long it took to get a drink. We arrived at 7:15 and I didn't see a waitress until 7:45. Once we ordered, it took 10 minutes to get our drinks. As the night wore on there were a lot more waitresses on the floor. Maybe they all start their shifts at 8:00. If you don't want to wait for a server (or if you're too stingy to tip) there is a free serve-yourself soda fountain and coffee area centrally located on the gaming floor.

I decided after cashing out my "huge" winnings to check out Wind Creek's other offerings. Dave and I thought we'd go dancing in the lounge called Sound, but it was hosting a football game. Every Saturday night they show football on a giant projection screen. Since Mississippi State was playing (GO DAWGS!) we stayed to watch the second half of the game. The booths were comfortable, the drinks were reasonably priced and there was a free buffet laid out (meatballs, hot wings and nachos). A casino host was drawing names after every touch down and at the end of each quarter to give away free play. I won the last drawing of the night and got $50 in free play, so it was back out to the casino floor for us.

Although we did not have dinner in any of the casino restaurants (a steakhouse called Fire, a buffet named Taste and a restaurant called Grill) I did stop by the coffee shop (called Brew) for a quick latte and a brownie. Both were good and again reasonably priced. We also passed through the gift shop which had some lovely items that I couldn't afford and a great clearance sale. It took some self control not to spend my meager, I mean "huge", winnings in there.

By the time we left at 1:00 a.m. I had won enough money to pay all of our expenses for the evening, as well as our gas, and still had $35; so I was a happy camper. Whether you want to gamble, watch sports, have dinner, or go dancing Wind Creek is a good value for your entertainment dollar and it's close enough to drive home at the end of the night (provided you have a designated driver). If you're looking for a change of pace in your night life, give this place a shot. Good Luck!