Friday, October 31, 2008

Little ole ME?



Well, shut my mouth. Someone thinks that what I'm writing on this here blog is interesting. Stuck on Lunatic named me a Superior Scribbler.


I would just like to go on record as saying that I have no idea why. I started this blog mainly for myself, but also so that people that I knew who'd moved away, etc., could keep in touch with our family and know what we were up to down here. After Housewife in Flip-Flop's repeated RAVES about Statcounter, I finally installed the darn thing. And there are apparently a bunch of people reading this stuff. And I don't think I know all of them. Who are they? Your guess is as good as mine.


So, people in the computer, thanks for reading. And thanks, Lunatic, for the props. As you mentioned, we may not agree on everything, but we are both reasonable, sane people who can agree to disagree without wanting to blow one another's houses up. Praise be.


So here are the rules for this award: Every superior scribbler will name 5 other super scribblers. If you are named, link to the author & the name of the blog that gave you the award. Then you display the graphic above and link to this post, which explains the award. Finally you must visit this post and tell your name to mr. linky list. Then they will have a record of all the people who are super scribblers!


Here are my nominations:

Everything and Nothing
Hey Guy, The Blog

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Italian food

A dear friend and I met for dinner last night at Biaggi's. YUM! I had not been there thus far, so I was excited to try it out. I can happily report that the food there is DELICIOUS and reasonably priced. YAY!

We got there at about 6:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, and we were immediately seated. (At first, they tried to seat us in an out-of-the-way location, but we piped up and were re-directed to a comfy booth in the middle of the dining room.) The restaurant is decorated in cozy, warm colors, and everything appears comfortable and golden due to the gorgeous lighting.

As soon as we were seated, our sweet waiter (Ethan) appeared with menus. He made some wine suggestions, we ordered drinks, and off he went to get them. We'd chosen red wines, and we both ordered seafood pastas off the menu. I had the lobster fettuccine, and it was DIVINE. Beautiful, tender ribbons of dark pasta, liberally coated with lobster cream sauce. Chunks of lobster were hidden like pearls throughout the dish. Dear Lord. I could eat it OFTEN. To accompany, I scarfed down plenty of chewy bread and took many many sips of wine.

For dessert, we split the cannoli, which was ok but not super, with two cups of yummy decaf. When I return, I will pick a different dessert; there were TONS of great-looking choices.

With the wine, pasta entree, and the dessert and coffee (which I sprang for), my bill came to $30. Not too bad for such a nice meal. I'll be back!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Poetry Project

I love this poem. I think it plays into my restlessness to be going, doing, having adventures, etc. I decorated Clay's room in a sailboat motif, and I almost stenciled a line or two of this poem on his wall. I still may . . .

Sea Fever
by John Masefield

I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a gray mist on the sea's face, and a gray dawn breaking.

I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.

I must go down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way, where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover,
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.

Direct Mail

Hubs and I are dying out laughing.

Clay loves musical cards. One of his grandmothers got him one for his birthday this year, and we kept the thing around as a toy for a while. He'd open it, dance to the music for a while, then close it. Drag it around with him. Chew on the corner a bit. Finally, it was so worn and tattered from his opening and closing it that it gave up the ghost. So since about late August, we haven't had a musical card kicking around for him to play with.

Now, I am the first one to say that the congressional race between Roger Wicker and Ronnie Musgrove has gone beyond dirty. And, for the most part, I am sick and tired of my mailbox being clogged full of campaign mail from BOTH of them. But today, there was a small bright spot.

Wicker's campaign sent us a card, and when you open it, it plays a sound clip of Musgrove sounding shifty on the Paul Gallo radio show. First of all, I can't believe Wicker's campaign did this. I wonder how much money that thing cost and how many folks it went out to. But secondly, and more importantly, is how much fun hubs and I have had letting booger play with it.

He opens it, closes it. Opens it, closes it. Scratches his head. Looks inside. Waves it around. And all the while, Musgrove and Gallo are just prattling away. Poor little guy can't quite figure it out!

I will probably have to throw it away in self-defense pretty soon, but in the meantime, it's a free toy! Welcome to the political process, little dude!

In which I play pool

Ok, last night was pool night again. And while I'd still classify myself as "bad," I played better last night than I have so far. I actually scored some points!! And I won TWO games!! (Well, one of them I only won because my opponent hit the 8-ball into the pocket by mistake, but I WILL TAKE IT. The second game I totally, legitimately won on my own! Woo! And may I also say, hoo!!)

So, to recap - I still suck at pool. But I suck less than I did three weeks ago. And that, my friends, is progress.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Sweet and Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

This is another recipe that we make every fall. I got it from a Martha Stewart Living magazine years ago. We usually use the pumpkin seeds leftover from carving our jack-o-lantern. We carved our lantern this morning, and I'm enjoying munching on the seeds right now! (It's a quick recipe.)

*If you don't get a full cup of seeds from your pumpkin (or if you happen to get more), just adjust the spices a bit accordingly.

Spicy Pumpkin Seeds

1 medium pumpkin
5 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. ground cumin
1/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. ground ginger
1 1/2 T. oil

Line a plate with paper towels. Cut the pumpkin open, remove the seeds, and separate them from the flesh. Put seeds in a colander and wash thoroughly, then place them on the paper towel-lined plate to dry further.

Put seeds on a baking sheet and bake in a 250-degree-oven, stirring occassionally, for 1 hour. Let cool.

In a medium bowl, combine 3 T. sugar, salt, cumin, cinnamon and ginger. Heat oil in a skillet over high heat. Add dried seeds and remaining 2 T. sugar. Cook until sugar melts and seeds begin to caramelize. Transfer seeds to bowl of sugar/spices, and stir well to coat. Let cool.


The finished seeds store in an airtight container for a week or two. And they are sooooo yummy!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pie

I am not a baker. Other than making the occasional muffins, cookies, and fruit bread, I don't bake very often. But something about fall, and the ensuing holidays, makes me want to bake. I have traditional recipes that I make every year, and baking during the fall and winter months just makes me feel homey and good. So last night, I stayed in, spent some time with hubs, and made a resplendant apple pie.

Now, some folks might think that homemade pie is alot of work. But I use shortcuts, and I've noticed very little difference in the quality of the pie as a result. Though there are those that make homemade piecrust (and I've made my fair share), I've discovered that the Marie Callender's deep-dish frozen pie crusts are pretty dang good. (They're great for quiche, too.) They stay flaky and light, and they taste buttery. (Yum.)

I filled one up last night with about 5 sliced apples and all the sugar/flour/spices called for in the recipe. I also tried something new - instead of a top piecrust, I covered the top of a the pie with an apple-crisp-like topping. (Which is way easier than rolling out even the roll-and-bake piecrusts in the refrigerated foods section - no mess.) You can buy this pre-made in the store, but I threw one together using flour, oats, sugar, butter, and chopped pecans.

I peeled, cored, and sliced the apples (which was made easier by my apple-corer/slicer.) and mixed them with a bit of flour, sugar, and spices. Dumped the mixture in the pre-made pie crust, and topped it with the quick crisp topping. It baked for about 45 minutes while I watched some programs I'd TiVoed.

It was AMAZING. So if you're lazy (like me), and you want a pie with VERY little effort, buy a pre-made crust, an apple-corer, and, heck, even a packet of that crisp topping at the store. You will have delicious homemade pie, and your house will smell amazing while it bakes. (Incidentally, your husband will sing your praises.)

Friday, October 24, 2008

Not so subtle

I recently finished reading the next book in Pullman's His Dark Materials series. The Subtle Knife is the sequel to The Golden Compass, and now I clearly see why the church has its panties in a twist about these books.

In this book, we follow Lyra as she hops between worlds. In her travels she (and we) learn that Lord Asriel is planning to mount an army that can succeed where previous attempts have failed - to overthrow the ultimate Authority (i.e. God). He is moving between worlds to assemble the most intimidating army possible in accomplishing his task.

Ahem. These are definitely weighty matters for young adult fiction.

During Lyra's journeys, she meets Will Parry, and young boy with his own role to play in these large events. Will becomes the chosen bearer of the subtle knife, which is the only known tool that can open doorways between worlds. (So now, Lyra is the bearer of the golden compass, and Will is the bearer of the subtle knife.) We know that their destinies are entertwined, but we are not completely sure how.

By the end of book 2, the reader is still not certain which "side" Pullman is espousing - the side of the "Authority," which man seems to have perverted into an increasingly dictator-like theocracy; or the side of Lord Asriel, the contemporary rebel whose actions are shaking the very particles that make up reality.

Intrigued, I did a little research on Pullman and his thoughts. (You'll remember that he got tons of press when the movie came out.) Check out this interview. It's really long, but it has helped me understand Pullman's philosophy a bit better.

I am pressing on. I plan to read the final book in the series - The Amber Spyglass - next.

Look me in the eye

I had the chance to watch Iris, starring Kate Winslet, Hugh Bonneville, Judi Dench, and Jim Broadbent this week. It's based on the book Elegy for Iris, which I read a while back and really liked. (And I thought, with this cast, how could you lose?)

Basically, the film (and the book) detail the relationship between John and Iris, two young academics who meet, fall in love, and marry. John seems in a perpetual state of admiration for Iris, who blossoms into a celebrated novelist. Clearly, John is the lover and Iris is the loved in their relationship. Iris is the sun, and John is the planet that orbits around her. And John seems ecstatic that this is the nature of things.

As the two age, however, Iris falls prey to Alzheimer's, and her fine mind, which has always been her greatest attribute (and one of John's greatest loves), begins to fail. The story follows John and Iris as the illness takes greater possession of her and John struggles to cope without the central force/focus of his life.

Performances are wonderful in this, particularly those of Broadbent and Dench. Hugh Bonneville gives an uncanny take on a young Jim Broadbent/John Bayley. This movie is sad, because it is about losing someone that you love. But there are hopeful moments, too, when John celebrates the pieces of Iris that are still left to him, the brief moments of lucidity that the universe seems to grant her.

I find it interesting that, though Iris Murdoch is much more widely-published than Bayley has been (most of his work is literary criticism), it is his silm, loving volume of tribute to her that is so well-known. Broadbent won an Oscar for portraying Bayley in this film, and it was well-deserved.

Worth seeing.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pool, take #2

I was a busy bee last night! I started off the evening dressed to the nines at the Hilton Hotel. The Madison Chamber of Commerce was honoring a group of dynamic business-women at a formal dinner. I saw tons of people I knew there, including my sweet table of Clarion-Ledger buddies. Plus, I felt a little bit like Cinderella in my black cocktail frock. (Stay-at-home moms don't have too many occasions at which to dress in formal-wear, kwim? I have pretty much been rocking a T-shirts-and-jeans wardrobe since I left the office last fall.)

The evening started at 6:30 p.m. and was supposed to last until something like 10:30 p.m. The only problem with that is that Tuesday night is now pool night. Sooooo, after a couple of hours at the Hilton (after dinner was served, but before the live show really got cooking), I headed out to Byram for another round of pool at This is It. (Don't worry. I brought along some extra clothes so that I could turn back into a pumpkin before a second night of billiards humiliation.)

I had actually tried to practice during the week, but I discovered that most places that have a pool table don't open much during the morning/early afternoon. And since that's when booger's sleeping or at Mother's Morning Out, that's the time I have. Soooo, that effort was a wash.

Anyhoo, I was in luck last night. The person I played against was better than me, but not crazy-better. It made for a little bit less of a bloodbath, which I was grateful for. And, hey, I made more points last night than I did last week. That's progress, isn't it? Onward and upward . . .

Oh, and HERE'S and interesting tidbit - today, when I was picking booger up at Mother's Morning Out, I bumped into a man, also there to pick up his kids, who said to me, "Hey, I remember you from last night!" And I was thinking - the Hilton? And he said, "You played pool!"

Just call me Ace. What a small, small world.

Stark raving mad

Hubs and I FINALLY got around to watching Iron Man this week. Because it was an effects movie, we longed to go see it in the theatre. There's nothing quite like watching all that action and pyrotechnics on a big screen. However, life had other plans, so we settled for seeing it at home this week.

If you know the comic, you know the story. Billionaire inventor and weapons producer Tony Stark is captured by renegade forces who want him to create a super-weapon for them. After requesting the supplies he'll need, Stark instead creates a metal suit for himself, using it to bust out of captivity. Now fully realizing the great havoc his weapons inflict, Stark vows to act as a protector of the human race and undo some of the damage his creations have caused.

I thought that this movie was good, but I was actually expecting it be a tad more spectacular. Maybe because I'd heard it being discussed in glowing terms for the better part of a year. It's hard to live up to such hype.

I thought Robert Downey Jr. did a fabulous job. Gwyneth Paltrow did a fair job for the role she had, but Pepper Potts didn't seem to be a very pivotal character in this film. I loved Terence Howard, and I'm disappointed about the rumors that he may be replaced in the next film in the series. Jeff Bridges chewed the scenery gloriously. (He looks very ominous without his hair, no?)

The effects were great, and I'm glad to see how the SpiderMan series and King Kong have cemented a new rule of thumb in hero/effects films (one started by Titanic, I think): even if the movie is all about effects, it will be better if you cast people who can actually ACT in the lead roles. (Not just models. Not just bodybuilders. ACTORS.) Everything will benefit from strong performances at the core of the film, even if you think audiences are really only coming to see you blow stuff up.

Books by Byatt

I was blown away when I read A.S. Byatt's Possession for book club earlier this year. I realized that I'd read her once before - a novella called Morpho Eugenia - and I dimly recalled there being another Byatt novella kicking around the Bradshaw house that I'd yet to peruse.

I'm happy to say that I've found it and read it. Byatt published a book called Angels and Insects which contained two novellas - Morpho Eugenia and The Conjugial Angel. I'd read the first novella, but not the second. I'm happy to report now, though, that both novellas are engaging examples of Byatt's work. She is a contemporary author writing in a very literary style, with loads of allusions, quotations from the canon, and original passages rife with symbolism.

Much like the other Byatt pieces I've read, The Conjugial Angel incorporates many of the themes indicative of the Victorian period - faith and doubt, the rise of naturalism, an interest in spiritualism/seance, the romantic influence, etc. I must add that I actually liked The Conjugial Angel better than Morpho Eugenia, which sports some rather unsavory plot devices. In addition, the story moves along at a good click, and the ending is very satisfying.

Byatt's published a good deal; I will be reading more of her work in the future. If you are interested in a contemporary author who writes books that read like modern classics, check her out.

A word

I have a bone to pick with David L. Hoyt, the man who creates the Jumble word puzzle syndicated in newspapers nationwide. Hubs and I sometimes work the puzzle together (for fun. Yes, working puzzles is one way that two nerds in love have fun. Don't be a hater.), and we were unusually stumped a couple of mornings ago.

Well, we finally found out what the unscrambled word was after going online. It was FIESTA. Now, Mr. Hoyt, I am all for not dumbing-down your little puzzles. We want to keep them fun to figure out, and not too easy, etc. But if you are going to start routinely jumbling words from languages OTHER THAN ENGLISH and expect me to just intuitively know that you've decided to hop from one language to another in the course of one puzzle, we've got a problem.

I mean, I do know a bit of Spanish, but other than that and a smattering of French and Arabic, I only speak English. So it should come as no surprise to you, Mr. Hoyt, that I do not maintain an ability to unjumble letters in words not in my native tongue, especially when I am expecting all of those jumbled words to at least be in the same language.

Sheesh. I'm good, but I'm not THAT good.

Family photos

We got our shots back from our portrait sitting on Saturday! Lest you think I'm violating copyright law by posting these, I just want to say right here that I bought all the rights to these images. So, if I want to post them online, make my own prints, or have them screened onto a T-shirt, I CAN.


Look, just LOOK, at this adorable child. I know that I'm his mama, and so I'm supposed to think he's the cutest baby in the world. But this photo confirms it, don't you think?





And might I add that these two people look pretty darn good?



Plus, we have plenty of shots of all three of us from which to choose our Christmas card image. Woo to the hoo! I'd say the shoot was a success!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Wonderful weekend

Ahhhh, what a great weekend. On Saturday, hubs, booger and I headed out to Millsaps. They had an open-air archaeology fair going on in the bowl with artifact displays, a big inflatable slide, and other booths. The weather was divine, and there were tons of kids and families there. Clay puttered around, looking at all the people and checking out my old stomping grounds.

THEN we met our photographer (we'd arranged to meet her out there ahead of time) and had shots taken for our Christmas card this year. There are tons of nooks and crannies on campus where you can get great shots, and she took tons of pics. I'm sure we got at least some usable ones, though I don't know if I can possibly top last year's awesome card.

After that, we headed home for a rest before going to my parents' house for dinner. My nephew, Caleb, was there, too, and we all had dinner together. Then, I put booger in the tub. (That way, he could just fall asleep in the car on the way home. No bigee.) Well, Caleb wanted to join Clay in the bath. What ensued was perhaps one of the cutest things I've ever seen. Caleb brought some toys and hopped in the tub, and the two little fellows started playing. Clay thought EVERYTHING Caleb did was hilarious. He laughed like crazy through the whole bath. Then Caleb would laugh. Then I would laugh. It sounded like some sort of giggle convention in there. I nearly grabbed Caleb up myself, soap and water be damned, when he said, in his thick Southern accent, "It's so much more fun to take a bath when you've got a buddy in the tub with ya! I have to take a bath all alone every night!" They were PRECIOUS. I am kicking myself that I didn't have my camera with me and praying that I can recreate that moment again and capture it on film.

On Sunday, mom kept booger for a bit while hubs and I actually went out and had a nice lunch - TOGETHER! Boy, that rarely happens these days! We ate at Bravo!, visited the Renaissance Colony mall, and just enjoyed one another's company. It was lovely!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Gorgeous home in Eastover+Clay=Quick Exit

My sweet little nephew is a student at First Presbyterian. Well, the school was having a fundraiser today, and my sister invited me to attend. Basically, we were all touring a gorgeous home in Eastover, enjoying little snacks, a silent auction, and time in the amazing garden behind the home.

When sis invited me, I noted that I'd have to bring little man, and she ASSURED me that it would be fine, that there would be other kids there, etc. And I thought to myself, "Well it is, after all, a fundraiser for a school. It wouldn't be illogical to think there'd be other children around at the event."

Oh, how wrong we were.

Clay and I arrived just after lunch. Because of all the cars parked in the street, we had to park a looong way away. Luckily, a sweet guy with a golf cart appeared out of nowhere to whisk us to the front door. During the tour of the home, I held little man on my hip, and he was remarkably well-behaved. And the house was beautiful, furnished with lots of antiques, with amazing photos of the family hanging everywhere. (Though there was wallpaper everywhere. And as one who has had to remove wallpaper numerous times, I admit that I don't think I'd ever have the courage to actually APPLY wallpaper. I'd be too worried about the day I'd change my mind and have to take it down.)

Anyhoo, when we arrived at the garden, where I'd hoped to let him run around for a while, there were way too many people everywhere to let him get too active. So, we skipped the silent auction items and the baked goods tent in lieu of a little walking and a delightful conversation with one of my junior high school teachers that I happened to see there. Luckily, we were also able to enjoy a little bit of the yummy refreshments before hitching a ride on the golf cart back to our car.

If I had it to do again, I probably wouldn't take him. BUT he was fairly well-behaved, and we got in and out of there without too much drama, though our visit was short.

On a totally unrelated note, the mother of a dear friend passed away recently. Though we keep in touch via the Internet, I hadn't actually seen him in a while. I went to the visitation to express my condolences, and I got the opportunity to talk with him for a bit. I've really missed him. He's smart, he actually thinks about things, he has a kind spirit, and he's fun to be around, even when he's sad.

But it got me to thinking - no matter how old you are, or how sick she's been, you're never ready to lose your mama, are you?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

I've been tagged.


Blogtag. See the rules in the graphic above. I was tagged by Hey Guy, the Blog.
First, here are the facts. Then the tags.
  1. I have wanderlust. I love traveling, and I've been to several foreign countries (Lebanon, Scotland, England, France, Spain, Mexico, Jamaica/Carribbean) and a few U.S. destinations. I like traveling because I like seeing how big/small the world really is, how people are innately the same no matter where you are, and how many different ways there are to live. I personally think that if everyone traveled more, foreign relations wordwide would improve.
  2. Even though I *think* I am a pretty decent housekeeper, my silverware drawer is akin to a large, debris-spewing monster. I have never been able to keep it under control. If you open it and start looking for something, it's like one of those "hidden objects" pages in the old Highlights children's magazine. Can YOU find the can opener? The cheese knife? The potato peeler? (Neither can I.)
  3. I sing all the time - in the shower, in the car, under my breath at the grocery store. Half the time, I don't even realize I'm doing it. When I'm really concentrating on something, sometimes I'll catch myself humming. I'm sure this gave my co-workers no end of anguish when I worked in a cubicle. There's nothing like a rousing rendition of "500 Miles" drifting over the top of your office partition when you're trying to conduct a conference call.
  4. I honk my horn often when I'm driving. Hubs and I have had debates about this. He doesn't believe in honking at folks. I will honk for even the slightest offense. I honk punatively, so if you cut me off, I don't just give the "Hey, I'm back here! Did you not see me?" sweet little courtesy honk. I will lean on the horn, several times, letting you know that I think you're a cretin.
  5. I was a huge fan of the Highlander television series. I mean, what could be better? You've got this gorgeous, honorable immortal guy. He spends his time working out shirtless, legging it around Europe, and crying over all of the wonderful women in his life that (oddly) seemed to meet with untimely ends. I thought the Highlander movies (even the one starring Adrian Paul) sucked, but the TV series was on my must list.
  6. I laugh alot. I laugh when I get nervous. (Remember our harrowing drive from Pheonix to Sedona? I giggled like an idiot the whole way, while Brian sweated and clutched the steering wheel with steely determination.) I laugh when anybody makes a joke that's the least bit funny. I laugh at my OWN jokes. I laugh as much as possible, even though I have this weird, huge laugh. (I KNOW I don't look very lady-like when I laugh, but I guess I'd rather have fun than be lady-like.)
  7. I grew up in a neighborhood full of boys. My sister, myself, and our back door neighbors (two little girls) were the only girls for blocks and blocks and blocks. So, that meant lots of touch football, battle/fort games, and bike riding (and later, lots of spin the bottle) for us growing up. (Plus, we had the longest, flattest driveway in the neighborhood and the biggest, flattest back yard, so our house was Kid Central. It was great.)
I'm not tagging seven people, but I AM tagging:

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Physics and geometry

I'm continuing to work my way through my 101 list, and I embarked on one of my goals this week. I have long wanted to play pool with some degree of acceptability. I've always been a crummy pool player. I sucked at physics and geometry in high school, and it has been years since I've studied angles. In addition, I've never been the sporty type. About the only "sport" I've done with any regularity is running/jogging, which requires little coordination and no strategy. I've barely "danced" my way through musical theatre roles in the past, always billing myself as an actor/singer who can walk. So clearly, the deck is stacked against me when it comes to playing pool well.

But Sandi told me a while back that her husband is a pool player. And when they came to dinner a week or so ago, he invited me to come play with him sometime. (The schmuck. He clearly had no idea what he was getting himself into, poor thing.) To my utter shock, he actually called later in the week and invited me to come out on a specific night and start learning how to play pool. (I ask you, how much more pronounced can the will of the universe get? If people are calling ME up to help me accomplish my goals, I think that's a sign. Somebody up there loves me, right?)

On Tuesday night, off I went to a pool hall. The place is in Byram, and it's called This Is It. (And I'm still not sure if that's meant as "Eureka! This is it!" or, after a dismissive glance, "You mean, THIS is it?") As one who doesn't spend much time at pool halls or bars, I don't have much to compare it to, but it seemed pretty nice and reasonably safe. It was packed with pool players, and everyone looked to be having a good time.

We got there early to practice a bit (and Lord knows I needed it), and I learned a little more about this venture. Turns out, this guy is in a pool league. And they were having an "official match" that night. And I was playing in it. Wha . . . ? THEN I learned the real motivation behind everything. He's on a team with a high handicap, meaning that all his team's players are pretty good. This handicap hurts the team, because it means they all have to score more points to win games. But by signing up a REALLY SUCKY player, their handicap improves. After the light bulb over my head went off, I said, "Oh, you need a BAD player? Well, shucks, then! I'm your gal!"

Over the next three hours or so, I did learn a few things about pool. I still stink, but, hey, practice makes passable, right? I lost all my games, and I think I only scored a few points all night. (Though I did knock the cue ball in repeatedly. Ooops.) But I'm learning. I'm learning something new. And I have to admit, I did have some fun. The other guys on the team were really sweet and didn't mock me for being awful. And I'm super-hoping that I improve over the next few months, because I'd hate for all their goodwill to be in vain.

Anybody got The Hustler on DVD? Or their old high school geometry book? Bueller? Bueller?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Musical movies

Hubs and I watched two movies about music this week: Once and August Rush. Of the two, I much preferred Once.

Here's the skinny: There's this Irish guy (played by Glen Hansard) who's nursing a broken heart. He's a musician, and all his songs seem to be about a particular ex-girlfriend. He plays his guitar and sings in the street for change, also working in his father's vacuum cleaner repair shop to make money. One day, our guy meets a girl (played by Marketa Irglova). The girl, a Czech immigrant, has a young daughter, and she works like crazy (flower seller, paper seller, etc.) to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Turns out, she's also a musician. She plays the piano and writes songs.

The two feel an immediate affinity for one another, and pretty soon, they are playing songs together. The girl has immense confidence in our guy, and she helps him get a small business loan so that he can record a professional demo in a Dublin studio. They get a small band together, haggle with a sound guy over studio space, and spend a wonderful weekend cutting the demo, which everyone pretty much agrees is brilliant.

Over the course of the film, we realize that the two are falling for each other, but the ending is not trite and syrupy. It's real.

What I loved about this movie - The film was shot in a little over two weeks and with a tiny budget. It feels like you are listening in on other people's lives. There is no posturing here, no "acting." Just understated conversations and amazing music. In a movie about musicians, it makes sense that most of the screen time is either spent playing music or talking about music. And the music, largely written and performed by Hansard and Irglova, is wonderful. I'll be buying the soundtrack shortly.

This is a not-to-be-missed film. One of the primary songs in the film, "Falling Slowly," won the Oscar for original music last year. It's gorgeous and deserved the win.

Now, as for August Rush . . . well, it wasn't terrible, but it just didn't do the job for this viewer. The movie tells the story of Evan (Freddie Highmore), a young orphan in a boy's home somewhere in New York State. Evan insists that he can hear music everywhere, that he knows his parents want him and will find him, that he doesn't want to be placed with a new family because he's already GOT a family.

Rewind 11 years to meet Lyla (Kerri Russell), a famed cellist, with a controlling father and an engagement to play with the New York Philharmonic. After her big performance, she meets Louis (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), the lead singer in a band, at a party. The two instantly click and share a passionate night together. However, the next day, Lyla's father forbids her from seeing Louis again and ships her off . . . somewhere.

Lyla later discovers she'd pregnant due to her encounter with Louis, but cannot find him. A car accident late in her pregnancy lands her in the hospital. While Lyla is still unconscious, her father gives her baby up for adoption. When she comes to, he tells her the baby died as a result of the accident. The baby, of course, is Evan.

Back to the present - Determined to find his parents, Evan runs away from the orphanage. "Following the music" lands him in New York, where he meets all sorts of unsavory characters, discovers his own musical talents, and searches for the missing pieces of his family.

While I think the initial concept of this movie was a decent one, it suffered in the execution. Too many plotpoints were thin or didn't make sense. Too many things seemed sooooo improbable that it kept me from fully engaging in the world of the movie. And it was so sugary sweet that I almost got a toothache.

All performances were pretty solid (though one does wonder why Louis' Irish brogue hasn't softened at least a little after living in the U.S. for 10+ years). I fully believe that, with a better script, this could have been a great movie.

As hubs said, "I might have liked it better if I had been a 17-year-old girl."

Pumpkin picking party!

Our little family went out to the Nichols-Boyd Pumpkin Patch yesterday for some more fall fun! Located at the north end of the reservoir, the farm made for a WONDERFUL afternoon of activity.

When we first arrived (around 1 p.m.), we parked our car (there were plenty of spaces, plus two parking attendants to direct us) and headed for the barn. Inside, there are rows of hay bales to sit on, cold drinks you can buy, and tons of fall-themed decor and items available for sale. We paid our admission for the hay ride and pumpkin picking ($5 per person, little man was FREE!) and then explored the barn a bit while they readied the hay ride.

The hay ride takes you out on the property, where you can see a zedonk (a cross between a zebra and a donkey), some deer, some goats, the catfish/duck pond, and some cattle. Clay loved seeing the animals, and there was a nice breeze to keep us cool. (A note - it would be wise to take a cold drink with you on the hay ride. Being out in the sun like that gets hot for a little person. So, if you forget to bring your own cold drink, buy one in the barn to sip during the hay ride.)

After seeing the animals, we were driven to the pumpkin patch. Clay loved running around out there, examining this pumpkin and that one. They also had piles of hay bales that the kids could climb on and hay bale mazes. Even better, the whole play area near the patch was situated beneath tall, mature trees, so the kids played in the shade.

Once we chose our pumpkins, we loaded back into the hay ride and headed for the barn. When we got out, we got a close look at more animals - pigs, turkeys, and more goats. Clay loved this part, because he could go right up to the cages. Also, there are great set-ups for fall photos all around the barn. I couldn't get Clay to keep still enough to get any good pictures, but if you have either older OR younger kids (who aren't walking yet), you'll easily be able to get some nice photos out there.

Visiting the Nichols-Boyd Farm in the fall is going to become a tradition at the Bradshaw house! We loved it!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

What I've been reading . . .

Continuing on my "great books" kick, I finished Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, by James Joyce, last week. This book is widely considered one of the greatest in the English language. Personally, I had some problems with it.

To give a brief sketch - The book describes the early years of Stephen Deadalus, Joyce's alter-ego, as he confronts his resistance to the traditional teachings of the Catholic church, disillusionment with his father, and his own early experiences/thoughts about the creation and consumption of art. The book is chock full of symbolism and allusion (ie. Deadalus is Icarus' father in mythology; he created the wax/feather wings which Icarus used to fly too close to the sun, etc.), and the characters engage in lengthy discussions about the doctrines of the church, the creation/meaning of art, and more.

And while I found the discussions intellectually interesting (and Joyce writes some wonderfully gorgeous descriptive passages), I longed for more of a plotline in which to couch such things. Basically, Stephen goes to school, talks to his schoolmates, thinks about art/religion/sex, and decides he wants to write. As a modern reader, I wanted more to actually happen in the novel, which is largely a cerebral affair. I don't think the book is without its charms, but I would not read it again, kwim?

The second book I read this week was The Golden Compass. It's October's selection in my book club, and other readers chose it to see what all the controversy was about. (You may remember the hue and cry when the recent film adaptation, starring Nicole Kidman, was released in 2007.) This is a book for young adult readers, and it's about 400 pages long. Once you get past page 50 or so, it flies by.

This richly-imagined tome tells the story of Lyra, a young girl growing up in a world not totally unlike our own. An orphan, she's ensconced at the highly-respected Jordan College, where she's cared for and occasionally taught. In Lyra's world, every human is born with a daemon, a soul-like animal that accompanies them everywhere. Daemons stay with their humans throughout life, protecting them, consoling them, keeping them company.

As we soon learn, however, things are changing in Lyra's world, and vast, dark powers are afoot. The Magisterium, sort-of a super-powerful religious entity, is at work politically. In addition, local people talk in hushed tones about the Gobblers, who spirit wayward children off. The children are never seen or heard from again.

When Lyra meets the glamourous Ms. Coulter at a college luncheon, she's enchanted. Her dreams come true when college officials tell her that Ms. Coulter is going to be put in charge of her education. Lyra trips off to London with Coulter, who lavishes her with expensive clothes, gifts, fancy meals, and parties.

Pretty soon, though, Lyra realizes there is something quietly dangerous about her new guardian. Fearing for her safety, she runs away, putting into motion an ancient prophecy that is only hinted at in this volume. (The complete Pullman trilogy, I assume, will explain it satisfactorily.)

I really enjoyed this book, and I imagine that I will also eventually read the other two books in the series. I know that the Catholic church got its dander up about the movie, but I didn't see too much to worry about in the book. Pullman does base *some* of his world on our Catholic church, using similar terms, drawing from their history, etc., but what people seem to forget is that The Golden Compass (like the popular DaVinci Code) is just a BOOK. And a fantasy at that.

For example, in this book, talking warrior polar bears play a fairly large role. Now, do you see bear advocates getting in a lather, saying that this portrays bears as violent? No. And it would be absurd if they did. Now, there may be more to gripe about in the remaining two volumens, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. As for this book, I found it to be a highly-enjoyable, fantastically creative fantasy.

I look forward to reading the other books in the trilogy.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Autumn dinner

Ok, I have hosted very few gatherings since the baby was born. (I've had two parties - an Easter brunch, which was family-only; and my wine and roses dinner for friends, which was gals-only, so Brian kept little man.) It's just difficult to host anything nice with little people running around.

But I want to do more of it. That's one of the reasons there are so many "entertaining" goals on My 101 List. So, I made an effort towards that last night. I had some folks over for (what I'd hoped would be) a nice autumn dinner. (I had initially thought we might eat out on the back patio, but because we had some wee ones in attendance, I opted to serve dinner inside.) We had six adults, two little guys, and one VERY well-behaved older child.

The menu:

Appetizers - an assortment of yummy cheeses, bagel crisps, and other munchies. (Sweet Sandi brought these.)

Salad - an autumn recipe of field greens, pears, red grapes, cheddar cheese (I picked a variety with a delicious paprika-spiced exterior), apples, and pecans. I thought this was really good, and I will probably make it again. It's dressed with an apple juice reduction, with apple cider, olive oil, salt, and pepper blended in.

Entree - Pork roast with autumn vegetables - rutabagas, fennel, carrots, and onions. (We make this recipe every fall. I love, love, LOVE it.) Sandi also brought some of the best-tasting sweet-potato biscuits I've ever had. (I snatched the recipe and will post it later. Those bad boys are going on my annual fall recipes list.)

Dessert - Pecan tartlets that I purchased at the awesome new Kroger bakery counter.

To drink, we served iced tea, really bad red wine, mulled apple cider, and pecan praline coffee.

The food was great. The company was great. The problem? Clay had a total meltdown. He wanted me to hold him the entire night. I know that he's had a rough week, and part of me felt really sorry for him. But most of me just wanted to put him to bed at 6:30 p.m.

Here's the rub - you plan and prepare for a nice evening. But sometimes, your kid's got OTHER plans, kwim? And last night, Clay had other plans. He has NEVER been that fussy when we've had people over. Ad it made it very difficult for either Brian or I to enjoy the night. Poo on him. Next time, he's going to grandma's.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

The Great Pumpkin

Clay and I visited the Mississippi Museum of Agriculture and Forestry today! During the month of October, you can enjoy a hayride, the Children's Barnyard (which offers an up-close look at chickens, cows, donkeys, pigs, goats, horses, and other animals), and then choose a small pumpkin from the pumpkin patch. Since we only took one pumpkin, we paid $7 for the whole she-bang (which also included a bottled water and a quick snack). Your admission fee also gets you into all the Small Town Mississippi exhibits, but we were pretty pooped after the hayride, barnyard, and pumpkin picking, so we went home for a nap.

Clay was good for ~most~ of the trip. He got fussy when we had to leave the barnyard, and again when I wouldn't let him play in the ditch next to the pumpkin patch. (They really should fence the ditch off. It's a safety hazard.) He chose an awesome pumpkin, and we brought it back home.
We're also planning on visiting the Boyd Nichols Farm on Saturday (it'll be nice to have some extra pumpkins, both for pies and for yummy toasted/spiced seeds!), so expect more pumpkin pictures soon!

Foodie heaven!

The new Kroger just opened up at the corner of Spillway and Lakeshore Parkway in Rankin county. Now, I realize that I am completely a suburban housewife for evern blogging about this, but I have been waiting for this grocery store to re-open for YEARS. It is the most convenient grocery store, location-wise, to my house, and it was really chapping my hide to have to drive by it every day on my way to another store.

I think it might have been worth the wait. The new store reminds me very much of Fresh Market in the Renaissance Colony development. They have an AWESOME cheese counter, lots of organic products, a nice floral area, and some great takeway foods at the lunch counter (pork loin, lasagna, a good variety that you don't often see at a grocery store lunch counter). Plus, they have some really gorgeous pre-made pastries, tarts, and specialty desserts at the bakery counter, in addition to all of the usual stuff. I also noticed takeway sushi! YAY!

Ok, but back to the cheese counter. I went on opening day, and there was a delightful staff member there to assist customers. There were samples galore, and she helped me choose a delicious gouda as well as a paprika-spiced cheddar. She also allowed me to sample a FABULOUS, creamy blue cheese. Now, I have never been a big blue cheese fan. It always reminds me of stinky feet. But when I tried the blue cheese she offered me, I nearly fell to my knees. The stuff was amazing. Though earthy, it wasn't stinky at all. I bought a nice wedge of it, and I've been enjoying it with slices of ripe pear this week. Heaven.

If you haven't gotten out there yet, do so! Even the floral area is nice.

Little trooper

It's been a tough week for little man. Over the weekend, I noticed that he was feeling warm. We took his temperature, and he had a low-grade fever. Attributing it to teething (he's got some molars coming in), I figured I'd monitor it and call the doctor on Monday morning if I had any concerns. Well, Monday morning his temperature was 101.3 AND he had a little rash around his mouth. So, off to the doctor we went.

The doctor siad his ears looked a little red (infection), so he prescribed an antibiotic. Clay hated taking every dose. But we forged ahead, giving him two doses on Monday, two on Tuesday, and one on Wednesday morning. By this time, his fever was definitely gone, and he seemed to be doing better. Wednesday morning, before going to Mother's Morning Out, I noticed him scratching at his head alot. I took a closer look, and while there was some redness, I didn't see any cause for alarm. So, off to MMO he went.

While he was at MMO, he got into a little scuffle. Another child scratched his head and bit him on the cheek. (You can see the mark.) He was whiny for the rest of the day, and when I put him in the tub that night, I noticed that he had a rash all over his chest and groin. So, I called the triage nurse, who told me to discontinue using the antibiotic, dose him with Benadryl, and call the doctor's office in the morning.

So, this week, Clay got sick. The medicine we gave him made it worse. Then, he got bit on the face. Poor kid can't catch a break.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

REGISTER to VOTE

Saw this video and really liked it. Only one thing they left out. Registering and voting are not your only responsibilities as an American citizen. You must also INFORM yourself about the candidates, their voting records, and their positions/plans on the issues. Otherwise, you're easily caught up in the constant spin of personalities and partisanship, easily manipulated by the campaign machines. When that happens, your vote might as well be useless, because you don't really know what you're voting FOR or AGAINST.

But, I guess when you think about doing all that research, and fact-checking what candidates say and what they've voted for, it sounds like a whole lotta work. And it is. And it's hard to sell the idea of a whole lotta work in a 5-minute video. So, I give props to the spirit of the video, but I still think it's not a totally honest sell.

At some point, we're going to have to acknowledge that full, informed participation in American government is not an easy matter. We've got some medicine to swallow.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

If I were a Palin?

Ok, I just had to post this. I am the FIRST person to encourage people to focus on the issues, not on personalities, looks, etc., during elections, but this is too good to pass up.

With her children's names being Track, Trig, Bristol, Willow, and Piper, it is notable that Sarah Palin seems to have an interest in unusual names. You can visit this link, type in your name, and the generator will spit out what your name would be if you had been born into the Palin family.

Just call me Torpedo Vindicator Palin.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

My 101

An update on My 101 list. I crossed off two things (almost three! I am mere pages away from finishing the 5th book on my "great books" list!) during September.

Nicole's 101

Record family history (Create a family tree with my grandmother? Photos? Stories?)
Take Clay’s picture professionally at least once every 6 months
Make a will
Make a living will
Talk with Laura about Clay
Send a Christmas card to an estranged family member
Write to my grandmother
Attend services at three local churches
Volunteer in a way that’s meaningful to me
Go back to the gym – at least 3 times a week
Lose 10 pounds
Keep it off for 6 months
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the International Museum of Muslim Cultures
Go to the Smith Robertson Museum
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Take an art class (pottery, painting, etc.)
Paint a picture
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Paint the front porch swing
Tile the master bathroom
Plant some flowering shrubs in the back yard and DON’T let them die
Plant an herb garden
Fix the patio table
Get a window shade for the baby’s bedroom
Have an energy audit done on the house

Paint the shed in the back yard
Paint the inside of the garage
Take Clay swimming
Drink wine in California
Ride in a helicopter
Ride in a hot air balloon
Go to Graceland
Go to New York City
Create a “great books list” and start reading (at least 5 books)
Create a “great movies list” and start watching (at least 5 movies)
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Host a “dinner among the leaves” party
Host an Easter brunch
Throw a Kentucky Derby party
Celebrate the Chinese New Year
Pay off the last of my student loan
Buy some sexy new underwear

Attend at least one live concert
Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Visit a botanic garden
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Watch a meteor shower
Give blood
See snow
See the ocean
Adopt an Angel at Christmas
Go bowling
Pay for the person behind me in line
Do an anonymous good deed
Learn to bake a good loaf of bread
Go on a day hike
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Go on a vacation sans baby
Let Clay ride in the convertible with the top down
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one Mensa meeting
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Learn how to play poker
Learn how to shoot a decent game of pool
Make a real paella
Make a real sangria, to go with the paella
Get a facial
Start taking vitamins again
Take mom to have her makeup done
Discover 5 new recording artists I really like and buy their CDs
Find a pair of sunglasses that will change my life
Find my signature fragrance
Take some pictures of leaves turning color in the fall
Set up and take some faux-tography shots of the baby
Write to Grace
Visit Grace in Oregon
Go on a picnic and eat food that I MADE, not food that I bought
Visit a dermatologist
Book a session with a personal trainer
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Bring the baby to visit my dad at work
Take a bubble bath
Light some candles just for us, when we DON’T have someone coming over
Make mint juleps and drink them on the front porch swing
Go ice skating
Preserve Clay’s foot and hand prints
Attain APR accreditation
Buy or make Clay a kick-ass Halloween costume - This one is new for September! He's going to be Superman, and the kid looks pretty kick-ass. Check back after Halloween for photos of the Bradshaw clan.
Give a gift that I made.
Send someone flowers for no reason
Begin using my wine notebook again and identify at least three new wines that I like
Buy a birdfeeder and set it up in the back yard

Fix the broken window pane on the porch
Spend an afternoon lying the hammock - This one is also new for September. We've been spending so much time outside, enjoying the wonderful weather! I've spent several afternoons in the hammock! Clay will putter around the yard a while, then come lie in the hammock a while with me. Then, he'll get down and putter some more, then come back to lie down a bit. It's been pretty heavenly.

First day of the challenge: January 1, 2008
Last day of the challenge: September 28, 2010

On taking a 15-month old to the dentist

I took Clay to the pediatric dentist for his first-ever check up. In honor of the occasion, I humbly submit the following haiku:



Your tiny teeth gnash
onto rubber-clad fingers.
I hear loud wailing.



And fodder for such artistic expression cost me a mere $121.