Saturday, November 27, 2010

Hark! Hear the bells!

We've spent the past few days bringing Christmas to the Bradshaw house! On Friday, Clay and I packed up all of the fall decorations and started pulling the Christmas bins out. We've got garlands draped over the top of the piano and the mantel, and we put the Advent calendar up. Everything looks so festive! Clay has been running around, chattering about Christmas and decorations ever since!

I love the holiday season - the hot cider and cocoa, the cookie baking and cards, the decorations and the music. The only thing I'm not too excited about these days is the present shopping, which is why I'm doing most of that online this year. (I just tire of crowds and lines. I can get the same deal online, shipping is often free, and the item is delivered right to my door. Plus, I can shop in my pajamas at 10 p.m., and no one is the wiser. What's not to love?) I went to www.Hearthsong.com and got some perfect gifts for booger - a little chef's set with an apron and some cooking tools, a play mat that looks like a little town with roads running through it, some building toys, and some fun animals masks that make sounds.

Today, we put up our big Christmas tree. Clay helped us hang the ornaments, and he was so excited! (He only broke one!) Later, I made a quick run to the crafts store for a few extra things. I got some special candy for the Advent calendar, and kit for a gingerbread train (which I think booger will LOVE), and a tiny, metallic retro tree that will look GREAT in my kitchen with a few ornaments and some tinsel.

Hurrah for Christmas! Now, what on earth am I going to cook this year? Two years ago, it was rib roast (divine). Last year, it was crown pork roast (good, but not as divine as the rib roast). Any ideas, people in the computer? I'm thinking maybe seafood? Or game?

Thanksgiving!


Oy vey. We have had a busy Thanksgiving!

For about two months now, hubs has been having trouble with his back. He has a large herniated disc, and pressure from said disc has been tampering with his sciatic nerve and giving him all sorts of pain. After physical therapy, pain meds, wait-and-see, etc., his doc finally recommended back surgery, which we rolled into on Tuesday. (The Tuesday before Thanksgiving. Aaack!)

At any rate, it was an out-patient procedure, and he has been recovering very well. It's just been one more ball to juggle as the holiday season begins. (And on the up side, I addressed all of our Christmas cards in the hospital waiting room. Expect your glad tidings early this year!)

So, for Thanksgiving, I spread my work load out over the week, which served me very well on Thursday. Tuesday night, I made hubs' favorite cranberry sauce. (I thought for half a minute about switching to a recipe with port and oranges in it this year, but hubs begged me not to. Ah, me. NEXT year then!) I also went ahead and made my pie dough on Tuesday night.

On Wednesday night, I made a delicious pumpkin almond amaretto pie. Found the recipe at epicurious.com. I whipped up some amaretto vanilla whipped cream to top it with (which was VERY well received).

Then, on Thursday, I just had turkey and gravy duty. I chose another epicurious.com recipe, with an herb butter and lots of shallots. The gravy had a delicious cup of white wine in it, and I pureed the shallots in, too, so the gravy would be smooth. OMG. Delish. The gravy? Good on everything. Dressing, turkey, rolls split in half. I've even ladled it over some plain brown rice. Dear Lord, it's good.

My sweet sister made some amazing savory sweet potatoes, sliced into rounds and baked with bits of red onion and bacon on top, as well as some roated asparagus with red bell pepper and a lemony dressing and some yummy green beans. (And let's not forget the traditional cornbread stuffing! Yum!) Mom handled rolls, appetizers (Her spinach dip was soooo good.), and drinks. (Ballatore Gran Spumante, anyone?)

Booger and my sweet nephew sat at the "kids' table," which we decorated with a HUGE turkey Clay, hubs, and I made. (See little man above, putting the finishing touches on the brown body with craft paint.) I also bought little silk autumn leaves and wrote each person's name on them to use as place cards. Festive, without being the least bit fussy. I've tucked them away for next year!

Hope you and yours had a happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 15, 2010

My 101

Well, I kinda fell off the wagon on this in 2010, didn't I? The challenge officially ended Sept. 28, and here it is, six weeks later, and I'm just getting back around to the final tally! See below for how far I came!

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 - Got this one done in Orlando.
Ride in a hot air balloon - Got this one done in Orlando, too!

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
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
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


Now, even though I didn't finish all the items on my list, I found this to be a very rewarding exercise. I'm going to reassess the items I didn't get to this go round. Look for a fresh list on January 1, 2011!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Megamind!

Last weekend, hubs and I took little man to see his second movie in the theatre. We found ourselves with nothing to do on a Sunday afternoon (Gasp!), so, on a whim, we decided to see Megamind, the new computer-animated film voiced by Will Ferrell, Brad Pitt and Tina Fey.

What fun! The movie was fine for children, but there was plenty in it for adults, too. Here's the plot: Megamind (whose head is unnaturally large and whose skin is a bright shade of blue) and Metro Man (who looks deceivingly human) are sent to Earth from dying planets when they are just babies. Metro Man (voiced by Pitt) has to good fortune to land in a mansion, where he's adopted by a wealthy family. Megamind (voiced by Ferrell) lands in the yard of a prison.

As the two grow up, they find themselves at odds. Metro Man is always receiving praise and saving people. Megamind, unfortunately, undertakes several science experiments that go wrong, bringing scolding and punishment from the same teachers that dote on lucky Metro Man. In exasperation, Megamind finally decides being bad is the only thing he's good at, so he chooses a life of crime.

For the next decade or so, the two aliens battle it out against the backdrop of Metro City, their epic struggle covered in detail by local news reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Fey). In a fluke plan, Megamind apparently kills poor Metro Man. Suddenly, the outcast has achieved his dream - a city he can rule with impunity. But all the stolen loot and fancy paintings in the world don't satisfy him now that his archenemy is gone. Purposeless, Megamind finally has to come to terms with who he is and what he really wants in life.

I thought this movie was a hoot. I laughed out loud several times and found myself smiling throughout. The scripts is smart and funny, with quick pacing and an especially lovable protagonist. Voice work was excellent, and the animation was fun, too!

If you're smart, you'll go see it!

More fall traditions

Since we've got TONS of pine cones lying around the yard these days, Clay and I decided to make pine cone bird feeders last week. First, we smeared the pine cones with crunchy peanut butter. (No one in my house ever eats the crunchy kind. I'd bought it for a recipe a while back, so it was nice to have an excuse to use it for something!) Then, we rolled the gooey pine cones in bird seed, tied a string around one end, and hung them in the trees near the birdbath. So far, one has been totally picked clean, one has been discovered, and a third lurks, undetected.

Also, since we've been reading a lot about leaves changing color with the seasons, we decided to go on a leaf walk. Little man and I headed down the trail near the old Mississippi Craftsmen's Guild, on the Natchez Trace, with a plastic zip-top bag to collect interesting specimens. It was a gorgeous day, and we found tons of stuff - feathery leaves that had turned deep red, some yellow heart-shaped leaves, and lots of acorns. When we got back home, we made a little booklet out of construction paper, decorated the front of it with colored leaf stamps, and glued our specimens inside. (They have slowly been turning brown ever since, but he loves his leaf book. I don't have the heart to take it from him!)

We stopped at a farmer's market to get some new pumpkins for the front porch. They had the white ghost pumpkins, the pretty gray Cinderella variety, and those cute jack be little pumpkins that Clay loves. We also got a couple of turban squash. (I adore their distinctive shape and mottled colors.) The front porch looks very festive!

We've also been slipping pureed pumpkin into everything - especially pancakes and waffles on weekend mornings. We've decided we like both topped with blackstrap molasses, rather than traditional maple syrup. It just tastes more like the season to me, for some reason. (Must be the association with the molasses cookies I make each fall. STILL haven't gotten to that recipe yet this year!)

We planted about 45 iris bulbs in the back yard, and I'm hoping they grow well in the springtime! I'm really excited about how the back yard is coming along. My plants are filling out a bit and becoming further established, and it's really starting to look nice out there.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Curtain up!

Finally got back to New Stage recently to see The Miracle Worker. I'd never seen this show live, and I knew some of the cast members, so I was excited to settle into my comfortable new theatre seat and take in the show.

First and foremost, I thought this show was cast and directed very well. Absolutely no weak links in the main players. Sharon Miles (as Viney) and Larry Wells (as Captain Keller) gave me particular joy, and of course Jessica Wilkinson (as Annie Sullivan) was a major pillar of the production. Blocking was obviously carefully thought-out, as in many scenes, quite a few actors on stage could result in a cluttered appearance and/or nonsensical crosses.

Though the play was written in the late 50s, it being a period piece protects it from seeming dated. The set and lighting were beautiful and served the production well. Costuming by Angelle Mundia was wonderful, save for one odd-shaped bustle on Mrs. Keller that I found a bit distracting.

All in all, I thought this was a wonderful production, and I'm glad I had the chance to go see it! Next up at New Stage: The 39 Steps, a thriller/comedy, Jan. 25-Feb. 6.

Food as art

I grabbed a friend and ran off to Parlor Market last week to indulge. The restaurant's been open for about six weeks, and I'd heard great things about it.

We parked less than a block away, then made our way inside. It's a cozy, slightly dim space. The restaurant is located in an old downtown building, and it's been beautifully refurbished. Some of the walls look like old, historic brick, and there is gorgeous stained wood everywhere. An L-shaped bar and an open kitchen add to the ambiance.

We started off with cocktails and appetizers. I had the Front Porch cocktail, a mix of iced tea, lemonade, vodka, and mint. So delicious I had to get a second one. To start, we chose the mussels, which were cooked just until done and served in a spicy, tomato-based broth inspired by South Carolinian cuisine. Excellent portion size, and the crispy shoestring potatoes on top gave the dish nice texture. (We didn't leave a single mussel, in case you were wondering. No appetizers left behind!) Then, we had the soup special, a rich celeriac and truffle bisque, with lots of cream and butter. A few vinegary mushrooms awaited at the bottom of the bowl, and a crispy sage leaf garnished the top. I found it delightful to eat this dish with a bit of the tiny cornbread muffins that are served table side.

For the main event, we got the boar special - a braised cut of wild boar, served atop herbed speatzle and dressed with an amazing chimichuri sauce. The meat was very tender; you didn't even need a knife to cut it. And the chimichuri sauce made the dish - lots of complex flavors in there. We also chose the beef short ribs with homemade pasta. OMG. Tender pasta, creamy mushroom sauce, beef like butter, and maybe a few fried capers thrown in. We were in heaven.

After all that, it's no wonder we didn't go for dessert. Next time . . . ;-)

Final salvo

I had the chance to read The Last Lecture, by Randy Pausch, recently. If you aren't already aware, Pausch was a professor in the computer sciences department at Carnegie Mellon. He was in his early 40s, his career was cooking, and he was married and had three very young children. Everything was going great.

Then, he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. His physician gave him 3-6 months to live.

While Randy beat the odds for something like 10 months, he eventually succumbed to his disease. But fighting cancer for nearly a year gave him time to put his affairs in order, make some plans for his family, and give one final lecture at Carnegie Mellon.

He decided to talk about how to live well and achieve your dreams. The lecture was an instant phenomenon, and the book grew out of that presentation.

Though the book is slim, it can be difficult to read sometimes. Not because the writing is, in any way, clunky or tiresome, but because as you read, you feel sorry that a person like this didn't beat cancer. The book shares stories of some of the people who impacted Pausch's life, taught him things, made him a better person. Several stories illustrate the importance of following one's heart and going about one's life work with passion. Still more vignettes teach us how to get out of our own way and keep trying, even when things seem hopeless.

There is a lot of good advice in this book. Pausch noted in the final pages that part of his motivation for giving the last lecture, and for writing the book, was so that his children would have something tangible to remember him by once he was gone. Though some books an recordings are certainly cold comfort in place of a living, breathing father, I admire Pausch for all he did to try and be a presence in his children's lives, even after he was gone.

Recommended.