Monday, December 28, 2009
Here's the skinny: The Children's Book is peopled with a large array of characters. First, the reader is introduced to the Wellwood family. Olive, a successful children's author, and Humphrey, a banker, tend to a boisterous group of children at an idyllic estate. We also meet Benedict Fludd, a celebrated potter, and his assorted family. And we also meet a motley group of other key characters - puppeteers, schoolmates, mistresses, museum directors, etc. In fact, there are so many characters, whose story lines are picked up and dropped again throughout the book, that it is difficult to care incredibly deeply about any of them. I think the book would have benefitted from a slightly narrower character focus.
Byatt's writing is, as always, lush with description and detail. However, I think she almost goes overboard with the research sometimes. Some sections began with several pages of "setting the cultural/political scene," which felt to me more like a display of her contextual knowledge rather than elegant backgrounding.
And, honestly, the plot just doesn't move along. The book is more of a character study, and a detailed view of a certain time and place, than anything. And while that is perfectly acceptable on its own merits, it's quite different from the gripping revelation found in Possession. Though not without its own charms, the new novel is a different kind of book altogether.
Overall, though I did find parts of the book enjoyable, it's slow going to read, and the payoff may not be worth it. Might be one to skip.
We celebrated Christmas with my side of the family on Christmas Eve, as we always do. On the menu:
MS State cheese with crackers, a delicious melted brie topped with fig jam, hummus with baby carrots, and a nice fresh fruit plate
Crown pork roast. This turned out really well. I just rubbed it well with a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, and sage. I roasted it in a 350 oven, basting every half hour or so with a seasoned mixture of warmed butter, chicken broth, and champagne. Delish! We got 9 ribs for a group of 6 adults and two little ones. That gave us plenty for dinner that night, as well as a couple of chops for sandwiches later. At about 8.5 pounds, it was the perfect amount.
Green beans with bacon, balsamic vinegar, and a touch of brown sugar. My sister made this, and it was divine. I'm definitely trying it later.
Sister Schubert rolls (or hubs would revolt).
Salad with Dad's famous dressing.
This was all washed down with liberal amounts of champagne, red wine, and sweet tea.
Christmas cupcakes. Clay and I made these white cupcakes with white icing, which we decorated with all kinds of Christmas sugars and sprinkles.
Gold butter rum cake with freshly whipped cream. Oh. My Lord. This was a new recipe for this year, and I am soooo glad I tried it. I picked it because I was looking for something different and Christmasy. And what's more Christmasy than a liquor-soaked cake, topped with a generous helping of walnuts and a large dollop of pillowy whipped cream? Everyone loved this. Definitely a keeper.
The food was absolutely delish, and we opened presents after dinner while we patted our (very full) tummies. Clay had a blast playing with his cousin and trying out his new doctor's kit on all the assembled "patients."
Then, it was off to home, where hubs and I put booger to bed and set up all the Christmas presents for the morning. In a true Christmas miracle, Clay slept in until 7 a.m. (Yes, Nicole, there is a Santa Claus.) When he woke up, we opened presents while enjoying our traditional Christmas breakfast of little country ham sandwiches with mimosas.
Clay loved his Mr. Potato Head and his carpenter tool set, but the favorites of the day were the three little plastic animals (a zebra, a kangaroo, and a leopard) that we tucked into his stocking. He has slept with them every night since.
Now, we have ONE MORE Christmas celebration this weekend, and our merry-making will be complete! In the meantime, we've taken all the decorations down at the house (save the wreath on the door), and we're in the process of the Great Annual Clutter Purge of 2009. I've got a call in to Gateway, 'cause we are getting rid of ALOT of stuff!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
On a whim, I loaded booger up in the car over the weekend and headed to Bass Pro Shops. I'd never been there, but I heard they had a Santa (for pictures) and a whole Christmas activity area for kids. And the cost? FREE! Thought it would be worth a shot.
First of all, little man LOVED Bass Pro Shops. Just the store itself. He loved all of the (very still) animals, the fish tanks, the steps, the big fire in the fireplace up at the front, all of it. It took me a while, actually, to even coax him back to Santa's Wonderland. And even then, it was some quick playing with the remote control cars they had set up, and then back to hopping in and out of the one-man tent on display and pretending he was zooming through the mud on the child-sized four-wheelers. We stayed there, playing, for TWO HOURS, then had a quick lunch in the restaurant located inside the store before I had to carry him, SCREAMING, out of that place. I think I have a budding sportsman on my hands here.
Hubs and I also took him out to Winners Circle Park in Flowood this past week. We didn't go on a night Santa was there (primarily because Clay has shown absolutely no interest in sitting on Santa's lap, but also because I didn't think I could stand in line one more time to ride a kiddie train). Instead, we headed out just to see the lights. Clay loved this. He ran all around the park. He played some on the playground equipment. He said "Hello there, reindeer!" to every lit-up fake reindeer in the place.
Last night, I took him to a wonderful annual dinner hosted by some of our oldest and dearest friends. He got to play with his cousin and meet a new little addition to our group. We all drank Christmas punch (equal parts ginger ale, blush/rose, and sweetened cranberry juice) and caught up with one another. The food was delicious, the company was delightful, and we left at 9 p.m. when he started to get cranky.
TODAY, we've made an absolutely sinful butter rum cake and an army of gorgeous little cupcakes. All that's left is to put the very large crown pork roast into the oven and whip up a little cream to top dessert with. (And, well, I can't spike the cream with rum, can I? That's a bit much. Maybe I could add a bit of cocoa?) We'll head out to meet the fam around 5 p.m. Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait!!!!
My heart is full. The very merriest of Christmases to you!!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Little man and I baked last weekend, then we delivered treats to our neighbors during the week. Everyone got a kick out of seeing booger all tricked out in his winter coat and hat, and I hope they enjoyed their cranberry bread! (The older couple across the street always seems to like our visits. And Clay LOVES the lit-up Santa they are displaying on their porch this holiday season.) Booger also had his little Christmas program at daycare. (That's my little reindeer at left, chilling out by the tree once we got home from the show.)
Got to eat a fun holiday lunch this week with some of my co-workers, too. We met at Broad Street, exchanged gifts, and ate WAY too much. (But not so much that I didn't pick up some baked goods to munch on over the weekend. Their apricot ginger scone? AMAZING, people.) Some other buddies met me at Margarita's for dinner one night, AND I've gotten lots of gifts of cookies, cheese straws, and other fattening goodness. Looks like I'll be dieting come January.
We ordered a crown pork roast for our holiday feast this year. Anybody ever make one? Not planning on stuffing it with anything, so it should be a pretty simple season and roast job. Hoping for a good result!
We took little man out to Canton last night to look at all the pretty lights, ride the carousel, and jut enjoy the general Christmasy wonderlandness of it all. He loved running around amidst the lights. Even more, he loved riding on the little rides and the trains. Hubs and I finally got weary of paying dollars and standing in lines, so we talked him into the car after about an hour and half. I'd recommend going out, though, to anyone. It makes for a great little evening. We may go out to Winners Circle Park, too, before the season is over. I've heard that even Bass Pro Shop has some cool holiday stuff going on.
On tap for this weekend - hanging out at home and loving on my two sweeties! I have a great creamy mushroom pasta dish I'm trying out tonight, and I have to figure out what fabulous dessert I'll make for after Christmas Eve dinner. Suggestions?
Never a dull moment!!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
1 egg white
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 pound pecan halves
Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (120 degrees C). Lightly butter a baking sheet. In a bowl, beat the egg white until foamy. Mix in cinnamon, sugars, salt, and vanilla. Mix well. Stir in pecan halves, stirring until well coated. Spread on baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes.
Eat, eat, eat!! They are especially good while they are still warm. Don't box them up before they cool, and they'll stay wonderfully crisp.
Note: When I make these again, I might add a tablespoon of whisky or amaretto to the coating mixture. I didn't think of it until I was already toasting the pecans, but it would be divine. As well, you can adjust the amount of sugar and salt to your tastes. The recipe above makes a pecan that's coated with the sugar mixture, but not encased or clumpy.
Friday, December 11, 2009
So far, Clay and I have made peppermint bark (yum) and candied pecans. (OMG. Double yum. I'll post that recipe in a few.) I've already made my grocery list, and we'll hit Kroger in the a.m. to load up for our annual holiday baking extravaganza. We'll make cranberry orange bread (something new for us this year), plus a bunch of different cookies. Those will be for both eating and giving.
I took yesterday off work to finish my Christmas shopping. Now, everything's bought except for hubs' gift. Tonight, the two of us will wrap gifts while we sip hot buttered rum and spiked apple ciders. (Hmmm . . . I wonder how crooked the bows will turn out?!)
Today, hubs secretly took the day off today to do a few things around the house. When Clay and I drove home tonight, it was all lit up!! We NEVER put holiday lights on the house. It's just something we've never had the energy to do. I took Clay out a couple of times last week to see other people's lights, though, and he LOVED them. (He was sooo cute, ooohing and aaahing over everything. He'd gasp and say, "Oh, mama! Look at the lights! They are so pretty!" Then, we'd try to find snowmen or Santas or reindeer. Cutest thing ever.) It was such a festive surprise to see them there tonight, and I thought it was an incredibly sweet thing for hubs to do for the baby.
This weekend, we're planning on taking him him out on Sunday night to Winners Circle Park to see the lights and Santa. He went last year and had a BLAST. We may also try to swing by the Old Capitol Museum (Mom used to take us here during the holidays, to see the big tree and the toy train.) or the Ag Museum tomorrow, to check out all the holiday decorations.
My parents are coming over tomorrow night for dinner, and they are bringing my sweet nephew! Clay LOVES his cousin, so I know we'll have a good time!
There is so much going on, and I'm giddy with the excitement of the season! Merry, merry Christmas!!
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
At any rate, she went to New Orleans over the weekend to hunt up a place to live. When I heard of this, I decided to crash her hotel pad and enjoy myself for the weekend. Here's how it shook out:
I didn't leave Jackson until about 10 a.m. I was chilling out with little man and hubs, and I almost chucked the whole trip all together when I was telling Clay it was time for me to go, and he said "Clay go? Go?" I got a little verklempt and almost couldn't leave him.
But forge on I did, because I had lunch at Middendorf's to look forward to. If you've never been to Middendorf's, you are missing out on the most perfectly fried thin catfish in the world. In the WORLD. I am so not kidding. There used to be huge Middendorf's billboards all the way down I-55. They're gone now, but the restaurant is still there. It seems to be about the only thing in the tiny town of Manchac, Louisiana.
Anyway, after fortifying myself over a nice helping of catfish, I cruised on into New Orleans. We were staying in the Renaissance Pere Marquette Hotel, located on Commons Street. It was a great location - just outside the Quarter. It was quiet and yet still convenient to everything. We were on the 16th floor in a nice room with two queen beds. They had valet parking, some great common spaces on the first floor, and a fun bar and restaurant.
Said friend took me to see one of the units she was eyeing before we did a bit of retail damage in the Shops at Canal. I was woebegone when I realized I found the perfect store for me at 5:25 p.m. (We had dinner reservations at 5:30 p.m. Boo. And may I also say, hoo.)
Already obsessing over the green dress I didn't get to try on and the purple coat that I KNOW would have looked fabulous on me, I walked with sweet friend to Cafe Adelaide, a divine little restaurant located in the Lowe's Hotel.
Once there, we were awarded our Christmas jingle bells (The restaurant gives them out to every guest during the month of December.) and commenced to dine. I had the fried oysters, the delightful soup of the day (a creamy potato made with Yukon Golds), and then the absolutely palate-enthralling satsuma strudel, topped with vanilla ice cream. Throw in a few delicious cocktails and some lagniappe (a tiny cup of minestrone, a small shot of thick egg nog), and I was STUFFED. Service was great, and I think each of us got out of there for about $40.
Not to worry, though. I didn't have to drive to see the show we'd bought tickets for. The cafe has a Broadway Express shuttle, which ferries patrons from the restaurant to the theatre and back again. They even validate parking for the car you drove to the cafe. It's completely brilliant.
We went to see The Color Purple, and it was wonderful. (I'll post a full review later.)
After that, well, I was so bloated and tired that I fell asleep as soon as my head hit the pillow.
The next morning, in a few hours of pure luxury, I got to STAY IN BED. I read a bit of my novel. I chatted with sweet friend. I lolled in my jammers. Those of you with young children know what a rarity this is.
I finally roused myself from the cocoon of covers in time to head over to The Court of Two Sisters for what is, perhaps, the most sinful brunch served on planet Earth. It's pricey (about $30 per person), but for the money you get a HUGE, all-you-can-eat buffet of New Orleans goodness. Omelets and eggs benedict made to order. Piles of fresh fruits and desserts. Breads, rolls, and biscuits. Turtle soup. Ham, bacon, sausage. Cornbread dressing, divinely-seasoned grits, and all kinds of entrees that would be perfectly at home on the luncheon table. I loaded up about three plates, while repeatedly telling myself that we were all going straight to hell for gluttony. Needless to say, we ate a metric ton. We took our time, though, listening to the jazz trio and enjoying the light-filled dining room. (Oh, and trash talking. There was definitely some of that.)
After that, it was time to hit the road for home! Now that sweet friend will be in New Orleans, you can bet I'll be visiting more often. I now have 3-4 friends in the city, which gives me even more of a reason to make the occasional weekend trip!
Monday, November 30, 2009
If Death Were a Woman
by Ellen Kort
I'd want her to come for me smelling of cinnamon
wearing bright cotton purple maybe hot pink
a red bandana in her hair She'd bring
good coffee papaya juice bouquet of sea grass
saltine crackers and a lottery ticket We'd dip
our fingers into moist pouches of lady's slippers
crouch down to see how cabbages feel when wind
bumps against them in the garden We'd walk
through Martin's woods find the old house
its crumbling foundation strung with honeysuckle vines
and in the front yard a surprise jonquils
turning the air yellow glistening and ripe
still blooming for a gardener long gone
We'd head for the beach wearing strings of shells
around our left ankles laugh at their ticking
sounds the measured beat that comes with dancing
on hard-packed sand the applause of ocean and fulls
She'd play ocarina songs to a moon almost full
and I'd sing off-key We'd glide and swoop
become confetti of leaf fall all wings
floating on small whirlwinds never once dreading
the heart-silenced drop And when it was time
she would not bathe me instead we'd scrub the porch
pour leftover water on flowers stand a long time
in the sun and silence then holding hands
we'd pose for pictures in the last light
We also decorated the mantel and the top of the piano. (Clay is completely in love with the advent calendar that looks like a little house. I keep having to take it down so we can open and close all the little doors. Needless to say, I don't think I'll be putting any candy in there this year.) We finished up by hanging the wreath on our front door and officially putting the back yard garden to bed for the winter. (Pruning, raking, putting up the hammock and the patio umbrella, etc. I even planted some daffodil bulbs to line one of the beds we've got out there. We love the bed edged in iris, so we thought we'd continue the trend.)
Booger and I also went to Wal-Mart and bought alot of toys for the "Toys for Tots" bin (as well as a whole bunch of Christmas books for ourselves). Then, we went to the grocery (I let him put some money in the Salvation Army bucket. So cute!) so we could get what we needed to make peppermint bark! Yum! (Incidentally, Clay is not a huge fan of the finished product, though he ate so many of the chocolate chips that I almost had to make a smaller batch of bark!) We managed to get all of our Christmas cards addressed, and we're planning our baking. (We make those little loaves of different breads for our neighbors and our family members.)
Any ideas for a new, different main course for Christmas dinner? We did standing rib roast last year, and it was a huge hit. I'm thinking of either trying a crown pork roast or a huge seafood-y something this year. (Kroger sells a 10-lb. box of crab legs that I've kinda got my eye on.) Thoughts?
Hubs and I are also in the middle of a home improvement tear, fixing up a broken screen from one of the windows, having the carpet cleaned and replacing the garbage disposal. (Sadly, I have a long history of killing garbage disposals.)
Throw in a pretty demanding project at work, and it all adds up to one busy winter for me! Let's hope I can stay sane. My trip to New Orleans this weekend to see The Color Purple should help. I'm hoping that between that and brunch at The Court of Two Sisters, I will be fortified for next week!
Fa la la!!
The movie tells the story of Jamal, his brother Silam, and Latika. All three children are orphaned in an attack on the Mumbai slum in which they live. They join forces to lead an adventurous, poverty-stricken life. Jamal and Silam become separated from Lakita in the midst of a daring escape from a gangster. For years thereafter, Jamal searches for Lakita. He finds her years later, only to be separated from her again.
In desperation, Jamal manages to land a spot as a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?", hoping aginst hope that Latika will be watching so they can be reunited. In a twist of destiny, Jamal discovers that, due to the unique experiences growing up in the slums, he knows the answer to question after question.
Though there are definitely some very difficult parts of this movie to watch (especially at the beginning, when the primary characters are helpless children, prey to the unsavory environments that surround them), the film is ultimately uplifting. A marvel of casting, to boot, as a gifted actor portrays each of the princpal characters in different stages of life.
Sooooo worth seeing. I really loved it!
Saturday, November 28, 2009
My celebration started on Wednesday, when I went out to one of our offices to have Thanksgiving lunch with a group of employees. (At the corporate building, we celebrate holidays with something like cheese straws and cookies. At the satellite offices, where they have full kitchens, they have turkey, dressing, tons of veggies and about a million desserts. Now, where would YOU rather work?) Anyway, it was very fun (and filling!).
For my "dish," I brought a big box of precious little autumnal cookies from Campbell's Bakery in Fondren. They were shaped like squirrels, acorns, leaves turkeys, etc., and they were all iced and decorated! So cute! (And tasty!)
For lunch on Thanksgiving Day, I made the turkey, gravy, cranberry sauce and appetizers. Laura pitched in with dressing and green bean casserole. And mom and sweet Grace made salad, rolls and pecan pies. I think each of us probably opened a bottle of wine. (Ha!) We had the BEST time. Clay and Caleb went tearing around the den and running through the backyard, and we all enjoyed one another's company.
Then, it was off to my in-laws for dinner. Delicious turkey, dressing, and green bean casserole (it seems I can NEVER get enough of that stuff!), plus a delicious, light strawberry dessert that I'll be making myself sometime. We sat around and patted our bellies, moaning and groaning, before taking a very tired little toddler home for an early bedtime.
Now, I'm sure you're thinking that with all of the eating I just described, nothing but chicken broth passed my lips on Friday. And that would have been perfectly sane.
But I am insane.
I had to go to FRYDAY, at Stacey's house. If you've never heard of FryDay, you can learn more about it here. I grabbed some shrimp, some catfish, some potatoes, a few veggies, and the tempura batter, then Clay and I headed over. I nearly made myself sick eating fried seafood, some delicious homemade eggrolls, and a truly unbelievable Dutch apple frittery-thing with brandy-soaked raisins in it. I came home and spent the rest of the evening willing my arteries not to harden.
I've been hardly better today, gorging myself on leftovers. I have NO will power.
Luckily, I DO have a pair of fat pants. And, really, I am sooooo thankful.
The most notable good flick I've seen lately is Capote. I know, I know. I should have watched it back in 2005 with everyone else. But, look, I have been really BUSY since then, ok? Cut me some slack, dangit.
At any rate, I finally did get around to watching it, and it really is as good as everyone said. Phillip Seymour Hoffman clearly deserved the Oscar he won for his performance as author Truman Capote. When the movie begins, Capote is fresh off the success of Breakfast at Tiffany's. He's looking for a new story to write, and he stumbles across a newspaper story about some brutal murders in Kansas.
He heads to the tiny town that has been turned upside down by the tragedy and quickly realizes that the raw material there will help him create the best book he's ever written. As part of his research, Capote develops a close relationship with one of the accused killers, Perry White. As a viewer, I was unsure whether or not his relationship was genuine or self-serving, and I think that's the way director Bennett Miller wanted it.
Over the course of four years, Capote works with Perry, trying to get him to tell him the story of the night of the murders. In the end, Capote publishes one of the most revolutionary novels of the 20th century - In Cold Blood. However, the experience clearly takes its toll on Capote, whose career follows a steady downward trend after In Cold Blood's marvelous success. It is the viewer's pondering of what effect writing the novel must have had on the author that makes watching the film so worthwhile.
Definitely worth seeing. Performances are wonderful, and the story will make you think.
I also had the chance to see the film adaptation of The Secret Life of Bees, a novel that I really loved. Starring Dakota Fanning, Jennifer Hudson, Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys, and Paul Bettany, you can hardly go wrong here. As I mentioned, I loved the book, and I was a little disappointed that some of the "magic" qualities of the novel were not translated to the film. Overall, though, I thought performances were strong (particularly Dakota Fanning and Queen Latifah) and enough of the book's original charm made the leap between mediums.
Worth watching; more of a chick flick than anything else.
Friday, November 06, 2009
When I was little, mom would take us up to Memaw's house every summer for a couple of weeks. She had this huge, ornately-carved dining room table. She'd let us dust it, and when we were finished, she'd say, "My what smart girls you are!" because our little fingers could get the dust cloth into all the nooks and crannies in the wood.
She'd take us blackberry picking on her property. We'd eat nearly as many blackberries as we put in the bucket. When we got back to the house, we'd have fresh blackberries robed in cream and sugar.
She'd make silver dollar pancakes for us for breakfast, with homemade syrup. Or she'd make biscuit dough and give us each a little piece of dough to play with ourselves. When we were done kneading it, we each made a tiny biscuit with it. Those little biscuits were always brown and crispy after they cooked in the cast-iron pan.
We'd go fishing with bamboo poles in the ponds up there. Once we'd brought our catch home, she was tough enough to cut the fish heads off while the poor fish were still alive. As they'd wriggle, she'd say to them, "Oh, I'm sorry. I know that hurts."
Memaw had a baby Grand piano that my grandfather bought her, a beautiful shiny black one. She'd play the piano and sing old hymns to us.
She had a green thumb. Every plant she touched seemed to flourish. She grew all kinds of flowers and shrubs, everywhere. Pawpaw built her a greenhouse, and it was always full of all kinds of thriving specimens.
She was very interested in family history, tracing it back generation after generation. She'd tell us all kinds of funny stories about our family members to make us laugh. The time her brother Joyce thought he could fly and jumped off the roof with an umbrella. The time James, her other brother, got his hands rubbed raw when he tried to haul her up into the hayloft with a pail and a rope.
When we'd visit, my sister always slept with Pawpaw, but I was Memaw's girl. I always slept with her. I'd watch as she washed her face with Pond's and took her dentures out. If I squirmed too much in bed, she'd pinch me.
My grandparents grew alot of vegetables, and I'd pick beans with her. When we started picking, all the grandkids would be out there. But by the end, it was usually just Memaw and me. I liked it best that way.
She was high-tempered, like me, and stubborn, like me. She was smart and knew it. (I suppose all that tended to get her into trouble from time to time. Who does that sound like?) We both have green eyes. I even have a little red in my hair, though hers is much more pronounced.
My grandmother surrendered to dementia years ago. At first, she'd get details wrong, and then the big stuff. She'd tell us she'd been to Scotland (and she hadn't) or that she'd earned a certain degree (that she hadn't). Later, her stories got much wilder. She'd tell us she had a plane that she parked in the basement and she used it to fly over the White House and wave at the president. (Seriously.) Later, she didn't recognize us. She'd know we were related to her, but wouldn't remember our names. And on and on.
To be honest, I mourned her passing long before now. Even though she always told me she'd live long enough to see me get married, she didn't come to my wedding. And when the baby was born, she couldn't come to see him.
Memaw, the one I remember, the one who used to whisper to me that, really, I might just be her favorite, went away a long time ago. But now that it looks like she might really be completely gone, I have a heavy feeling.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
Clay's first Halloween, he was about 3 months old. It was my last day of work before staying home for about a year and a half to be a full-time mom. Hubs was out of town on business, and I was exhausted. So, our first Halloween was a bust.
Last year, we dressed up for Halloween, but we didn't go trick or treating. We just thought he was still a bit too little, so we put on our costumes and stayed home to open the door for other trick or treaters.
THIS YEAR, though, we thought it was high time to unleash the Bradshaws for Halloween. We decided early on to go as Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Yoda. We picked these costumes because a.) hubs is a huge star Wars fan, b.) all costumes were readily available at the Halloween store, and c.) Yoda was a comfy costume that was warm, but not too warm.
We decided to meet up with my sister and her family at my parents' house for supper before hitting the streets. Clay's cousin, Caleb, was the cutest little Batman ever. After we feasted on steak, mashed potatoes, salad and rolls, we all changed into our costumes. At first, Clay wasn't so sure he wanted to wear his. But as soon as he realized it was his ticket to go outside and run around the darkened streets, he was all for it.
He held Caleb's hand the whole night as they trick or treated, clutching his little treat bag in the other hand. He dutifully said "Trick or treat!" (usually before the person even came to the door) and "Thank you!" Having Caleb there to show him the ropes really helped. By the time we got to the fourth house or so, he had this trick or treating thing DOWN.
It was soooo cute to watch him, walking down the street with his huge Yoda ears flapping. Though he wasn't a big fan of the candy in general (he can eat about two pieces before he decides he's done with it for a while.), he LOVED his treat bag. He held it all the way home in the car, and insisted on sleeping with it last night.
I love that kid.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
The weather was nice, so when I picked Clay up from daycare, I told him we could ride his bike when we got home. We went straight from the garage, through the house, and into the back yard via the kitchen door. As I closed the door behind us, I thought I heard a click.
Now, we have one of those kitchen door knobs that automatically locks if you turn the button one way, but doesn't if you keep the button turned in the other direction. For this reason, we always keep the button in the "unlock" position. However, either someone moved it sometime this week, or I nudged it myself when I was opening and closing the door, because IT AUTOMATICALLY LOCKED US OUT. So there Clay and I sit in the back yard at 5 p.m. There'll be no sign of hubs until at least 6:15 p.m. In the meantime, I've got to occupy a hungry (and soon to be dirty) toddler.
Now, part of me was frustrated with myself for being dumb enough to lock us out. But part of me started to think that this might be a pretty fun adventure. First off, we went next door to see the neighbor's dog. The dog barks like crazy every time he sees us. Clay is always scared at first, but then he starts getting excited and yelling, "Dog! Dog! Woof!"
Then, we decided to go over and talk to our across-the-street neighbors. They were out in their driveway working on some furniture projects. This was fun. They are an older couple, and they think Clay is the cutest thing ever. Plus, they have tons of little statues in their front yard - bunnies, frogs, dogs, all kinds of stuff. Clay loves pointing them out to me, telling me what each animal is, the sound it makes, etc. (We also used their phone to leave hubs a quick voicemail, letting him know we were locked out, just in case he wanted to knock off a little early.)
After that, we decided to walk down to the res, which is really close to our house. We saw a guy on a jet ski. He kept motoring out and back. I almost started to think he was doing tricks for us! (Clay kept saying, "HEY!! Whatcha doin'?" to him. Soooo precious!) We jumped in some puddles. We met a man and his mother who were picking up pecans off the ground under a few of the pecan trees out there. (They were on a 4-wheeler, which Clay found completely fascinating.) We found a bunch of those little white flowers (weeds, but I always thought they were beautiful when I was little). We ran around in them, picked a few. We saw a plane in the sky and watched it until we couldn't see it anymore.
Then, we walked a little bit down the walking trail that runs by the side of the road. As we were trotting along, who should drive up but hubs? He picked us up and took us back to the house, where we had a very satisfying dinner of chicken nuggets and chunks of pear.
Little man was all smiles as we kicked off our shoes and sunk our bare toes into the carpet. He ate nearly all of his supper and hopped into a bubble bath (these are becoming really popular at our house) before watching 30 minutes of Bee Movie, reading some stories, and going happily to bed.
We actually had a really great time. And if I'd been "together" enough to have left the door unlocked, we would have missed it.
The world, I am convinced, is a wonderful place.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Our party of six (plus three little people) gathered at the house last night to find out who really killed Mr. Boddy. My only real concern was behavior of little people. Would they be sweet? Would they destroy the house? Would we be able to play an entire board game in peace? We'd have to risk it to find out.
First, the menu. Here's what I served:
Appetizers - mixed nuts, garlic herb dip with veggie dippers and crackers. (The dip was a recipe from this month's edition of Cooking Light. I really liked this. It was light, and not too strongly-flavored.)
Entree - Baked Chicken with Peas (This was an old recipe that I used to make all the time in college. I thought, "Hey, since we are going retro with the game, I'll make a retro recipe!" In hindsight, I probably would not make this again. My tastes have changed in 10+ years. Plus, for fear of oversalting, I under-seasoned this dish. This one goes in the toss pile. But, hey, you can't win 'em all.)
Dessert - Apple Crostada with Vanilla Ice Cream (I made this one from scratch from a Barefoot Contessa cookbook, and I thought it came out really well. The crust was reallyreally good, probably because it was mostly butter!)
We also ordered a cheese pizza for the little ones to inhale while they watched Bolt on hubs' big-screen TV. Once the dishes were cleared away, out came the board game.
The good thing about Clue is that, even if you've never played before, it's an easy game to pick up. Plus, it doesn't go on and on and on like Monopoly. It's fairly quick to play a game, which was good for us, since we had two toddlers to tend to. We played two games, then bowed to the demands of little people and packed it up.
And might I say that our little people were pretty well-behaved? Aside from pile-driving poor Adeline as if he were in the WWF (I've got to send that girl some babysitting money or SOMETHING.), Clay was pretty decent. (A relief. I never know what I'm going to get!) Adeline was, as always, a sweetie, and precious little Ace kept us company with regular informative updates such as "I'm a boy!" (I love that kid.)
We ate at 6-ish, played the game around 7, and were wrapping up by 8:30-ish, a perfectly acceptable toddler schedule. (Though Stace did say that they achieved full nuclear meltdown on the way home. Whoops.)
Anyway, I got started reading it, and I simply could not put it down. The novel is like a cross between a murder mystery, an epic tale about a successful business family, and a business/financial labyrinth, with a bit of love thrown in.
Here's the skinny: Mikael Blomkvist is a journalist who has just been burned by a major expose that went wrong. As he recovers from the greatest setback of his career, Blomkvist is hired by Henrik Vanger, an aging business giant, to discover what became of his favorite niece, Harriet. (Harriet disappeared more than forty years ago. No body has ever been found, and no one has ever heard what became of her.)
For various reasons, Blomkvist takes the job. In his search, he pairs up with Lisbeth Salander, a tattooed punk computer prodigy. The two develop a relationship as they uncover clues to the old mystery.
Though there are certainly some parts of the book that were difficult to read (Blomkvist and Salander research a series of grisly murders), character development in this novel, particularly in the case of Salander, is amazing. The plot moves quickly and keeps the reader guessing as to the truth - suspects, motives, the lot.
I liked the book so much that, upon completing it, I went out and bought the sequel (now in hardback) - The Girl Who Played with Fire. The second book features both Blomkvist and Salander, but more of the latter than the former.
In book two, we learn much more about Salander, her history, and her motives. And though I wouldn't say that the end of book two leaves the reader hanging, there are certainly a few loose ends to be tied up.
That noted, I admit that the tale of the novels' author was another driving factor in my reading tear. From Wikipedia: Stieg Larsson was a Swedish journalist widely considered an expert on extreme right and racist organizations. He frequently wrote and spoke publicly against such movements. Because of his public position, he'd made some enemies in Sweden. As a result, he reportedly lived under death threats from his political enemies for years. Swedish law states that, to marry, one must have a public address on record, and Larsson was so against his address being made available that he did not marry his long-term companion, Eva Gabrielsson.
Apparently, Larsson worked as a journalist and speaker during the day, and he came home and wrote these books at night. His goal was to complete a series of 10 books. However, he had written three books before he even approached a publisher about having them printed. Once he'd had a contract written up and delivered the first three books, Larsson died. He died, at the age of 50, of a massive myocardial infarction (heart attack). He left behind the unfinished manuscript of the fourth novel and synopses of the fifth and sixth in the series.
Now, to me, the story of the novelist is nearly as interesting as that of the novels themselves. Who works all day, lives under the threat of death, then goes home at night and completes THREE ENTIRE BOOKS without a peep? Then, he just shows up at a publishing house, turns the three books over, then promptly dies? Utterly fascinating.
And what's also intriguing is the unfinished work. I will forever wonder what he would have written, what, say, the ninth book would have been about, had he lived to write it.
Regardless, I can vouch for the fact that the first two novels are thrilling page-turners and worth every word. I anxiously await installment three: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Our table got The Brady Bunch, and because a certain member of our party is reallyreally competitive, we were determined to have one of the best-looking tables at the event. To wit, we trolled Gateway Mission until we found an authentic little TV from the 70s. Then we dug up some shag carpeting and some darling place mats/napkins/napkin rings. Lastly, we surfed online for a good print-out of the classic Brady grid and purchased an mp3 of the television theme song. (Which we burned onto a CD and looped for a THIRTY MINUTE run time. Have you ever listened to the Brady Bunch theme song for THIRTY MINUTES STRAIGHT? I beg you not to attempt it.) We made a bunch of psychedelic flowers out of foam and threw in some huge, clear containers of bright-colored candies.
But were we satisfied? Of course not. As a final touch, we all dressed in 60s/70s garb. (So, while everyone else slinked around in their black cocktail dresses, we were rocking the headbands and wild colors.) I pulled on a pair of white go-go boots, a mini sheath dress, and a set of white acrylic jewelry. The rest of my table mates did not disappoint. One woman came in a FABULOUS wig, with kicky black boots and amazing yellow accessories. And one member of our party actually dressed as Cindy Brady. (I told you we were committed, right?) We were forced to try and avoid the photographers from VIP Jackson the entire night, because NO ONE wanted photographic evidence of our outfits.
However, we were all still surprised when it was announced that we had WON the table decorating contest! (There were a bunch of really amazing tablescapes there.) Woo to the hoo! They even shone the spotlight on us. We were positively giddy with attention.
And what, you may ask, did we win? We each got a $100 gift certificate to Faces, a plastic surgery clinic in Ridgeland. (I am soooo not kidding.) I'm kinda wondering what kind of plastic surgery I can get for $100. Half a chin implant, maybe? Perhaps we should all pool our gift certificates, then vote on which one of our party is the most needy (Lord, I hope they don't pick me.), and send her in for a lip plumping or something.
I'm thinking that the clinic also does facials and the like (or rather, I'm really hoping), so maybe that could work. Because I am so not up for Botox. I'd like my eyebrows to raise and lower for at least a few more years!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
A week or so ago, I decided to ring in the season with an Oktoberfest dinner. I made homemade pretzels, which we served with this reallyreally good whole grain mustard with garlic. For the main course, I made brats braised in beer with a bit of kraut, carrot and sliced green apple. It was really yummy! And even though I'm not a beer drinker, I got hubs one of those "pick six" six packs, with six different beers to try. (I think that at least two of them are still in the fridge. They will probably sit in there forever.)
Yesterday, we loaded up and went to Nichols Boyd Farm to pick out our pumpkins. Due to the rainy weather, they didn't drive us out to the patch to pick our pumpkins. It was too muddy. (Boo, and may I also say, hoo.) BUT, Clay did get to see all the animals (chickens, goats, donkeys, cows, even some fish in the lake) AND ride in the hayride, which I think was his absolute favorite part. We could have taken 3 pumpkins but, truth be told, we could only carry two and keep up with Clay at the same time! No worries. We're never short on pumpkins during October at the Bradshaw household.
Today, we carved our pumpkin! We used one of the patterns from the old carving kit we bought last year, called "Two Face." I think it turned out pretty darn well! It may or may not last until Halloween, but no worries. We have a plug-in jack o' lantern that we can use if need be. Now, the pumpkin seeds are drying on a cookie sheet in the kitchen, (We'll toast them up and spice them for a snack!), and the pot roast I put in the crock pot is bubbling away.
I also found a bit of time this weekend to clean out my kitchen cupboards, so I'll be ready for baking! I went through everything pretty systematically, tossing what seemed old or out of date and making a list of things that we might need for all our holiday favorites. I was really surprised how well-stocked we are. I can say this for myself, there's ALWAYS something to eat around here.
NEXT weekend, I'm planning a Clue party! I've always wanted to host one around Halloween. We'll each come dressed as a character from the game, have dinner, then play! I've been practicing my accusatory hand gestures and shocked gasps all week!
Fall totally rocks.
Friday, October 16, 2009
I decorated the house for fall, too! I've got my garland above the door, my fall wreaths hung in the den and I even bought some pumpkins for the front porch. (I will likely buy more before the end of the season. I always jump the gun! By the time Thanksgiving gets here, I need to replace them!)
Clay and I baked pumpkin bread tonight, and I've already made pumpkin butter! (I need to get some cinnamon raisin bread to spread that stuff on. Making a mental grocery list . . . ) Tomorrow, if the rain holds off, our little family is going out to Nichols Boyd Farm to choose our jack o'lantern pumpkin! We went there for the first time last year, and it was really fun! They have a hay bale maze, big fields full of pumpkins, and lots of fun little places where you can take great pictures. (If your kid cooperates. Which mine won't.) I'm hoping that we'll have a good time tomorrow, and that the weather is decent.
We'll probably carve our pumpkin (I miraculously found our carving kit and design booklet from last year, stuffed in the kitchen junk drawer) and make spiced pumpkin seeds (which are sooooo good) on Sunday.
Friday, October 09, 2009
The show featured a great band (keys, drums, three horns, two guitars) plus the singing, guitar-playing, acting sensation of Billy McGuigan as the legendary Buddy Holly. The music was so much fun! As I was listening to the band, I realized how seldom it is in this market that one hears a full band like that. I mean, three horns? And the sax guy was crazy-good. Hearing him play made me remember why musicians get all the girls.
McGuigan gave a marathon performance. Basically, this one guy carries most of the show. He's the only one who really speaks, plus he's singing, dancing, and playing his guitar. Not only that, he wrote, produced and directed this production. Amazing. I was very impressed with him.
The songs are classics, and they were very well-performed. The audience really got into it, too, singing, clapping, swaying. A couple of ladies down front even got up and danced.
And by the way, ol' Buddy threw ONE guitar pic into the audience that night. Guess who ended up with it?
Sometimes, my life sooooo rocks.
Hubs (while cleaning the kitchen one evening): Why do you NEVER rinse out your coffee cup in the mornings?! There is always this ring around the cup because you won't rinse it out! Then, I have to SCRUB it before I put it in the dishwasher!
Me: That's some pretty big talking from a man who doesn't know how to put the toilet paper back on the roll.
As you may know, we have made some forays into the wildly discouraging world of potty training. One evening, while Clay was in the tub, my angelic little boy abruptly stood up and said, "It's yuck."
I looked to see that he had just dropped a deuce into the tub. I quickly plucked him out of the tub, cleaned his little dirty bottom, wrapped him in a towel, and toted him into the den, where I could put his diaper/jammies on him, etc.
At such time, I said to Brian, "Clay just pooped in the tub."
Did hubs say any of the following?:
A. "He pooped in the TUB?! GROSS!"
B. "How could you let him poop in the tub?!"
C. "Good luck cleaning THAT mess up."
Nope. With nary a word, hubs got up from the couch, went to the kitchen, and started cutting up a paper towel roll, which he then used to scoop the poop out of the tub and into the toilet. Then, this sainted man cleaned up the tub and the bath toys.
~Sigh.~ Am I a lucky girl or what?
Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Hubs and I slept late on Thursday, but when we finally got going, we took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge. We walked about half of it and got great views of both Brooklyn and Manhattan's financial district. There are plaques and little signs with information about the bridge's construction and history along the footpath, and I really enjoyed taking pictures of all the cool cable formations that make up the bridge's support system.
After that, we decided to swing by Chinatown, which was only a subway stop or two away. Have I mentioned my love of Chinatowns in previous posts? Every time I go to a major city, I investigate to find out if it has a Chinatown. And if it does, I go there. Why? Not only can you find cheap souvenirs, you can eat DIM SUM! If you've never had dim sum, allow me to enlighten you. It's almost like the Chinese version of a buffet. You sit at a table, and some nice waiter or waitress brings you a lovely pot of hot tea, plates, silverware and cups. You pour your tea, sweeten it, and take a few sips, letting the cup warm your hands.
Before you know it, another waiter/waitress comes by, pushing a rolling cart filled with all these little covered dishes. He/She begins opening the lids, and the little dishes are each filled with all kinds of things: steamed dumplings with every imaginable filling (and you KNOW how I loved a steamed dumpling, right?), pork buns, egg rolls, spring rolls, sesame cookies, little pastries filled with chicken and pork and other stuff, little heaps of steamed veggies, tender little morsels of beef and chicken. So you point to what you want, and she puts the little covered dish on your table, marking the piece of paper at the table's edge to reflect what you've chosen. AND THE CARTS KEEP COMING. And each one of them offers something different. You don't even get up from the table! You just point and eat!
And here's the best part. Dim sum is CHEAP. Like, two people can order half the stuff on the cart, and still pay only $20. I've eaten dim sum in three U.S. cities: Honolulu, Portland, and now, New York, and it's been yummy every time. The only challenge is not to fill up on the first two carts, because there are usually at least four. (FOUR! Woo to the hoo!)
Anyhoo, hubs and I found a little place in Chinatown called Mandarin and had a great lunch, then we poked around all the cramped little shops and bought touristy souvenirs. I got a scarf, some chopsticks, and a bunch of T-shirts.
That night for dinner, we hit the street for a good slice of pizza. We ended up at Naples 45, a great Italian restaurant right behind Grand Central Terminal, in the bottom of the MetLife building. The restaurant imports alot of its ingredients from Italy, and everything else is made from scratch on site. I got a kick out of watching them toss the pizza dough.
Hubs and I ordered two small appetizers - the meatballs (which were YUM) and the fried calamari (the best I'd ever had. IF ONLY they served it with a saffron garlic aioli, like they used to at Del Sol. That was the best stuff EVER. Unfortunately, Naples 45 serves theirs with a spicy marinara. The sauce was ok, but not a show-stopper.) Then, I tucked into a super pizza. It was very simple - just tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and basil - but all of the ingredients were so good that it was nearly perfect.
After dinner, we headed out to rue B (a little restaurant/bar on the lower East side) to meet up with Paul and Brooke for drinks and dessert. Brooke is a darling, delightful former co-worker of mine, and she lives in Brooklyn as a newlywed with her precious husband, Paul. They'd been apart for about a week right before we arrived in the city, and they made the most adorable goo-goo eyes at one another all evening! It was wonderful to see them so happy, and we had delightful conversation for a few hours before I declared that I was old and needed to hit the hay!
We caught a cab back to the apartment and sank gratefully into bed.
We lazed around our last full day in New York City. After a late breakfast, we went to Central Park. We spent some time at Bethesda Terrace, then we ran around in Sheep Meadow for a while. After that, we sat a spell at Strawberry Fields. The park is absolutely beautiful and, for all the greenery, it's pretty densely packed with attractions - statues, lakes, fountains, amphitheatres. There's just alot there. In the more touristy areas of the park (Bethesda Terrace, Strawberry Fields), there are lots of visitors, but the less high-profile areas just seemed to have a smattering of New Yorkers in them.
After enjoying the park for a while, we figured we'd seek out a classic New York deli for lunch. We ended up at Carnegie Deli, where hubs and I split the biggest open-faced Reuben sandwich that I have ever seen. I was only responsible for eating half of it, and I think I left about 30 percent of my portion on my plate. If only I'd been more discriminating, I would have had more room for cheesecake! (Their desserts looked DIVINE.) The place was packed, though I think alot of the customers were tourists. (The deli's proximity to Times Square definitely skewed the clientele.)
After that, we turned our attention to souvenir shopping. We picked up a bunch of campy stuff for the family back home, plus nabbed a few things for ourselves, at the big and gaudy Grand Slam shop near Times Square. Fun!
Then, it was pack, pack, pack. In the morning, we were off to Jackson again, where I was so excited to see little man that I nearly wept! We had a really great time, and I'm soooo glad that hubs and I decided to take some time out for ourselves. We've already decided that we'll return to NYC, for a shorter trip, some time in the future!
Monday, October 05, 2009
Sunday, October 04, 2009
We're baaa-aack! Hubs and I just returned from our first non-baby vacation since Clay was born two years ago. We spent a romantic, exciting week in New York City! Read on for the trip report. (If any of you are planning a similar getaway to the city, I hope the info will be helpful!)
We flew out of the Jackson airport on Saturday morning. Flights were on time! (The "trend" watch in this month's Sky Magazine is bacon. I need to write the editors and let them know that, where I come from, bacon is not a trend. It is a mainstay.)
We got to NYC mid-afternoon and took Super Shuttle from the Newark airport to our apartment. (We chose to fly into Newark because the flight times there matched our desires most closely). They picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at our apartment door for about $35. (A cab would have cost $45, plus tolls and tip.) Our little studio apartment was spacious, clean, and much quieter than I thought it would be. (We were on the 9th floor, which helped.) We booked it through Homeaway.com, which we've used to book properties before. The apartment was near Times Square on 41st Street. If we'd been a few blocks farther downtown, we would have been in a gritty neighborhood. As it was, though, we were super-close enough to attractions and a major transportation hub, and we got the place for a steal.
After getting settled and freshening up a bit, we headed out to Times Square, which is a total assault on the senses. It's crowded, gaudy, and full of tourist traps. A hot mess. But we had to go and check it out. That night, we stopped for dinner at Nizza, a wonderful little place on 9th Avenue. I had a delicious arugula salad, the broiled clams, and a glass of wine, and hubs had the veal. We really loved this little place. There were a ton of great little restaurants on 9th Avenue - delicious, reasonable, not too crowded. It became a favorite place for us to troll for lunch and dinner.
After that, we went to an improv comedy show very much like the old "Who's Line Is It, Anyway?" television show, over at The Broadway Comedy Club. (Yep, we got hustled there by one of those hawkers in Times Square. Totally fell for that one, but we didn't have plans that night, and the show was funny, so it worked out.) Lots of audience participation (which you KNOW I love).
Sunday morning, we started out with a full breakfast at a little deli near the apartment. Then, we hit the stores (in the rain) for some essentials. We had to go all the way to Macy's to find towels. TOWELS! "This is the greatest city in America," I thought. "Surely we'll find a purveyor of towels close to our apartment." WRONG. If someone was selling towels in the blocks surrounding our apartment, I sure as hell couldn't find them. No, I had to take the subway all the way to the freakin' GARMENT DISTRICT, in the RAIN, and go to the SIXTH FLOOR of Macy's. Yeesh. I was rather hoping to avoid Macy's altogether, but it was not to be.
At any rate, I felt much better after a long shower. Hubs and I headed out to the Upper West Side for a delightful lunch at Savann. I had a delicious salmon fettuccine with tomatoes, scallions, and a light cream sauce. Hubs had a GORGEOUS steak sandwich. Loved this little place, too. They brought these sweet little rolls and muffins out to you when you were seated. We wanted to try the bistro next door (Nice Matin, I think?), but we didn't get back over there.
Much restored, we went to the American Museum of Natural History to escape the rain. And what an escape it was! I LOVED this museum! We gave short shrift to the "people" exhibits, but we covered pretty much all of the animal exhibits, including the amazing dinosaur skeletons. What I really enjoyed about this museum is that the building itself is historic. In addition to the scientific value of the actual exhibits, the facility presents the visitor with a wonderful, evolving idea of what a museum should be, and how that ideal has changed over the course of American history. Riveting. Before leaving, we also stopped by the planetarium to catch the current show. It was short and very entertaining!
Since we'd spent virtually all day at the museum, we were starving by the time we left. We ate dinner at Bella Vita, a boisterous, crowded little Italian restaurant a few blocks off Times Square. I washed down my heaping plate of spaghetti and meatballs with a nice glass of cab sav, but the pizzas and the salads looked absolutely amazing, too!
We started Monday with an early trip to the Empire State Building. We got there at around 9:15 a.m., and we'd already bought our City Passes online (which include admission to the history museum, the Empire State Building, the Met, and many other must-see attractions), so we didn't have to wait to buy tickets. As a result, we absolutely whizzed up to the top of the building. The Empire State Building is a beautiful structure, and it's obvious that it was built to impress. (Take a look around the lobby. Not only is it razzle-dazzle, there are images of the silhouette of the building everywhere. I wonder what Freud would have to say about that . . . )
Views from the top are amazing (you get a great view of the Chrysler Building, in particular), and I was really glad we'd decided to do this early in our trip. It helped us orient ourselves in the city as we explored later in the week. We got the audio tour with our City Passes, and I thought it was extremely informative. Hubs and I took goofy pictures of ourselves at the top that look strikingly similar to the goofy pictures we took of ourselves atop the Eiffel Tower in 2002. (The Bradshaws - goofy for at least seven years, and counting!)
After that, we legged it up 5th Avenue to the New York Public Library. Now, I'm sure many people go to New York and never feel the need to visit the New York Public Library, but it was important to me. I observed the lions, standing guard over the library's entrance and keeping a wary eye on the street traffic. Then, we went inside and poked around. There are a few public exhibits inside on the library's history and restoration. In addition, I wanted to take a peek into the reading room, which is probably the most beautiful room inside a library that I'll ever have the occasion to be in. Huge windows let the sunlight stream in, there are gorgeous chandeliers in addition to table lamps, and even the roof is decorated, painted with the sky and clouds. All of this, plus loads of books. Heaven.
We crossed the street in front of St. Patrick's to check out Rockefeller Center. It's a large complex of buildings that houses television studios, shops, and performance venues. We had planned to take the Stage Door Tour at Radio City Music Hall here, but I have to admit that by this time, we were pretty pooped! Instead of the 1-2 hour tour, we headed back to the apartment to take a load off.
Later that day, we ventured out to Grand Central Station so we could see the rush-hour traffic hit. We parked ourselves in an out-of-the-way location and watched as people ran all over the terminal, lugging bags, listening to their headphones, and looking terribly worried they'd miss their next train.
The terminal itself is a feat of architecture. You could clearly see what parts of the structure were older and what had been added, and I loved the painted, illuminated ceiling. I was getting a little hungry by this time, but we had dinner plans with friends, so I satisfied myself with a fig balsamic gelato from the dining concourse. (By the way, there is no excuse to be hungry at Grand Central Station. There are tons of cheap, tasty options in the dining concourse, as well as a few nicer restaurants on the ground floor.) We stepped outside while I licked my cone to get a better look at the Chrysler Building from up close.
After that, we headed to Gyu Kaku on 3rd Avenue to meet a very sweet friend of mine, Anna Lise, and her boyfriend for dinner. We loved this place. You basically sit at a table that features your own little grill in the center. You order raw meats and veggies, then you can cook them yourself on the grill. It was fun!
I started with a mango mojito and the delicious house salad. Then, hubs and I ordered Chateaubriand, garlic chicken, and sausages (which were dang good), as well as broccoli and mushrooms. I finished up with a great crepe/cream/green tea layered dessert (which tasted soooo much better than it sounds). The company was wonderful. I hadn't seen Anna Lise in so long, and she seems to really be thriving in New York. It made me happy to see her so happy, and her boyfriend was perfectly lovely! Yay for meet-ups!
After that, we headed straight back to the apartment and collapsed!
More to come . . .
101 things to do in 1001 days
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 - I have just returned from this trip, and it was AWESOME! Look for a full trip report in coming posts.
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
See the ocean
Adopt an Angel at Christmas
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 - Check and check. Hubs and I took our New York trip solo.
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
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 - I think I can count this one done. Last month, Belk had a big sale, and their Fossil sunglasses were more than half off. I stocked up. Surely at least ONE of those pairs will change my life, eh?
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
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 in the hammock
First day of the challenge: January 1, 2008
Last day of the challenge: September 28, 2010
Wednesday, September 23, 2009
First of all, I never thought he was old enough to have a baby. However, I've learned during my stint in pool that nearly anyone you meet in a pool hall, no matter how young, probably has a baby (or two). Apparently, playing pool dramatically improves your virility. And it won't do you any good to assume that the baby's mama is the guy's wife. It's another common misconception that these guys marry the women to birth their children. ~Sigh.~
Anyway, this sweet little guy was 10 months old, and he had the cutest little feet! I went over to coo at him.
A pool hall is a smoky place (and really no place AT ALL for a baby, though I am trying reallyreally hard not to judge here). While I was standing over there, the little feller coughed, and his pacifier popped out of his mouth and fell on the grungy, nasty, carpeted pool hall floor.
I froze for just a second. The guy was reaching down to the floor to get the pacifier, and I swear to God he planned to put it right back in that sweet little baby's mouth! Luckily, years of hard living slowed him down, and I was able to grab the pacifier before he got to it. The baby's mom was standing over at the bar, and I took the pacifier to her so she could have it cleaned. I tried to avoid eye contact with all of them for the rest of the night, because my frazzled nerves couldn't take much more.
I hope one day, someone tells that baby the story of how an anonymous woman saved him from swine flu, gangrene of the toungue, and maybe even stomach cancer one hot night in September.
A few weeks ago, coach was playing a girl from another team in a league game. Now, I don't need to tell you that coach likes to win. (And, incidentally, he usually does.) Everyone agrees - winning is a heckuva lot more fun than losing. I stink, and even I can admit that.
Anyway, the match finally boiled down to this - if the girl won one more game, she took the match. Coach was shooting at one of the last balls on the table before the nine ball (the winning shot), and he missed. He missed a shot that he apparently thought he should have made, and the girl would have had ball in hand (meaning she could put the cue ball anywhere she wanted on the table), thus practically guaranteeing her the win. All she'd have to do is hit one ball in, then pocket the nine.
So coach got frustrated and knocked the cue ball with his cue again, in his pissed-offness. Even though he didn't hit any of the other balls with it (leaving the table unchanged), she called him on a foul and claimed the match. Claimed the match WITHOUT hitting in the last two balls, which, let's face it, should have been pretty easy for her to do.
Oh, dear Lord. First of all, it was a sorry call. If it were me, I would have just taken the ball in hand and finished the game. At least then I would have known I won it fair and square. I think that's the difference between playing for fun, when that kind of stuff is no big deal, and playing in a money league, where some of these folks seem to be counting on that cash coming in. (Sad, no?)
Well, coach got all worked up about it, packed up his cue, was getting all ready to storm out of there bubbling with rage, etc.
The next week, guess who he was matched up against for the SECOND time? I just stopped playing at my practice table a while for that match, because I knew that if he lost to her again, we'd never hear the end of it.
She had won one game, and I think he had won one or two (?) when I asked him if I should put the Lebanese curse on her. Now, the Lebanese curse is very powerful, precisely because I don't overuse it. But I am telling you, there is virtually no defense against it. I've used it a couple of times before in pool league, and it's worked every time. It's easy to cast and easy to remove. The friends of mine who have seen me do it think it's hilarious, but no one can argue with the results. (I've also used it very occasionally in life, though I nearly gave it up after a particularly snobby cheerleader was almost hit by a bus once.)
Coach was all, "I don't believe in that stuff," blah blah blah.
All I'm saying is this. I put the curse on her, and she didn't win another game. Coach turned around and beat her 5-6 times in a row. She never knew what hit her.
I fully acknowledge that it could have just been coach's superior playing (and desire to completely decimate her after what she'd done the week prior) that won the match. But just a little piece of me believes that the curse had something to do with it.
Don't piss me off. I'm just sayin'.
A friend and I showed up on a Saturday afternoon, and we were pleasantly surprised to find brunch on the menu as well as standard lunch fare. I had the crab eggs benedict (served with asparagus) with a refreshing mimosa. Friend had a delicious plate of pork enchiladas (not too spicy, very generous serving). Then, we split the Chocolate Hammer (yummmmm). Service was prompt and friendly, and the food was wonderful.
OH, and if you haven't been to the Highland Colony mall lately, you are in for a real treat! A store called Charming Charlie has just opened up, and it's DIVINE!! They sell a HUGE variety of accessories - jewelry, shoes, bags, tops - and they are all organized by COLOR. Now, those of you who know me know what a nut I am about wearing bright colors. (I think I am the only person I know who has - and wears - a bright yellow blazer.) I went crazy in there. I got tons of jewelry, a bag or two, a pair of shoes, etc. And prices were sooooo reasonable that this generous dose of retail therapy did not wreck my budget. If you haven't checked it out yet, go soon! They've only been open for about six weeks!
Basically, it's a two-man musical comedy. Bud and Doug, two nerdy little guys whose day jobs include working at Starbucks and at a nursing home, have written a musical about Johan Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press. The show's premise is that these two are giving a "staged reading" of the piece to a small audience, with the hopes that there's a Broadway producer ensconced somewhere in the audience. So, our two guys play ALL the characters and sing all the songs in their show.
The script has a very SNL vibe (it was developed by the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre), and the two actors the theatre cast are perfect in their roles. Turner Crumbley plays Doug, who stands in as Gutenberg and numerous other characters. Danny Dauphin plays Bud, who most notably performs the roles of Monk (the villain) and the hilariously feminine Helvetica.
I spent most of the show laughing so hard I had coughing fits. The rest of the time, I was smiling so hard that my face hurt when I left the theatre.
I will admit - this show is not for everybody. It's not standarad mainstage fare for New Stage, and it skews well outside the preferences of their older supporters. I imagine that a patron will either love it or hate it.
However, I think it's a great attempt to get younger audiences involved and enchanted, something that every major arts organization in the Jackson area is trying to do. Well done.
The show plays through September 27, so it's not too late to catch it! Call the box office at 601-948-3533 to get tickets!
Thursday, September 17, 2009
On Monday, I had pool night. I lost my match, but not miserably. First of all, I was matched against a very good player. (I wondered if I'd win any games at all.) And even though I didn't win, I thought I played pretty well (for me, anyway). It took her a LONG time to win the match. She'd hook me, then, by some miracle, I'd manage to hit the ball and hook HER. So we spent alot of time just figuring out some difficult shots and hitting balls, even though we didn't pocket them.
At any rate, though I wasn't walking on air (like I would have been if I'd managed to win the match), I did feel like I played well and didn't just hand the win over.
On Tuesday, I went to a dinner in honor of Leland Speed. I've been to my share of tribute events, and most of them are, shall we say, less than exciting. But this one was different. In fact, it was an almost perfect model of how a tribute event SHOULD go. First of all, I really felt as if most of the people there actually CARED about the honoree. Secondly, the event planners asked the right people to speak - people who were really close to Mr. Speed, people who really knew him. Thirdly, speakers kept their remarks brief and heartfelt. I really enjoyed listening to the speakers, which is almost unheard of at these events. Add in the fact that the program clipped along briskly and that the event ended on time, and you have success. I'm writing this one down as a good structure to follow.
In addition to activities here and there, we've been busy at home. Since we leave for New York City in a little over a week, hubs and I have been trying to get all our ducks in a row, both for the trip and for Clay's care while we are gone. We've been doing last little things like booking transportation to/fro the airport, and I've also been compiling THE MASTER DOCUMENT. See, hubs and I have never left Clay with anyone for more than an overnight, much less an entire week. So even though I know that he will be very well cared for, I am determined to provide every scrap of information necessary to the grandparents to ENSURE the whole thing goes as smoothly as possible.
So far, I've got his daily schedule (with all our routines typed in there), foods he likes, all the info for the daycare, all the info for hubs and I (where we're staying, flight schedule, etc.), all the info for the house (some of the family is staying here while we're away), all the contact numbers so that everyone can get in touch with everyone else, and all the info for the pediatrician (plus a copy of the insurance card). What am I forgetting? Anything? (I have to admit that, now that the trip's almost here, I'm freaking out a little bit about leaving my precious baby for an entire week. Aack! Talk me down, people!)
This weekend - could be anything. The zoo got scrapped last weekend due to weather, so we may pick that back up. OR we may trot out to New Stage to see Gutenberg. Regardless, we'll have to squeeze in more trip prep! No rest for the wicked!