Thursday, December 23, 2010

A Victorian Christmas!

Last weekend, hubs, booger, and I loaded up in the car and headed to Canton for their annual Victorian Christmas event and display. Every year, the town decorates its little square in thousands of twinkling lights. Visitors can also take little train rides around the square, view the scene from atop a carousel horse, take horse and buggy rides, and visit three little "museums" offering animatronic Christmas displays. Hot cocoa and snacks are on hand, too!

We took Clay to see the lights last year, and he really enjoyed it. We arrived early (5:20-ish), just as the evening was getting dark enough for the lights to put on a show. Canton lights up the whole square, with a giant lit Christmas tree; several light displays featuring toys, elves, etc.; and lights festooning the facades of many of the buildings on the square. After enjoying our train ride, we explored the lights and took some fun rides on the carousel and the little antique cars ride. By then, it was starting to get chilly, so we warmed up inside at the animatronic exhibits.

A word about the exhibits - they can be kinda creepy. It's basically three long hallways with various "booths" depicting loose themes - baking, toy making, etc. But, in addition to the animatronic characters, there are TONS of current and vintage toys crammed into these small spaces, many of which have no relation whatsoever to the theme. There's a lot to see, and kids love it, but it can be a little puzzling for adults. Regardless, for $1 per museum, it's a great way to get the feeling back in your fingers and toes for a while.

We so enjoyed our experience in Canton this year. We were in and out in about two hours, which was enough to feel Christmasy but not so long that we froze to death. Picked up a little dinner on the way home and turned in right on time.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Oasis of art

Sometimes, when I'm having a really hectic week, I'll try and visit the Mississippi Museum of Art during my lunch break. It doesn't always work out, but when it does, I'm very glad I went.

After rushing by the bank one afternoon last week, I thought to myself, "I'll pass the museum on my walk back. Why don't I duck in for a few minutes?" I was rewarded with a great exhibit, plus the gorgeous Bethlehem Tree!

There are two parts to the museum's current exhibit - 1.) Oraien Catledge : Photographs of Cabbagetown and 2.) River and Reverie: Paintings of the Mississippi by Rolland Golden.

The photography exhibit showcases black and white images of poverty, shot over two decades in an Atlanta neighborhood. You will recognize these faces - flattered but shy because they are not used to being photographed. Collections of dirty children, wearing only their diapers, as they gather on rickety porches. The whole town coming out to play in a busted fire hydrant. There are some similarities that stretch across the poor, no matter where they live. The pose of bravado that covers the naked need. I found these images extremely moving.

River and Reverie was more soothing, showing the many incarnations of the Mississippi river. Different seasons, different times of day. I love the sunsets, as they provide the kind of window view I think everyone wishes they had. Interestingly, some of these pieces had a pointilistic quality, and I found others to be very fluid. Colors ran the gamut, with some paintings offering multiple shades of brown (the muddy Mississippi) and others showing off all the blues, purples, yellows, and reds in God's paintbox. I loved so many of these: Pastel River I and II, Sultry Evening (with its reds and blacks), Eternal Passing (which showcased a sunset through headstones), Westerly Turn, Rainbow Sunset - just beautiful, beautiful to look at.

Golden notes in the exhibit literature that he'd spent several years working on Katrina-related art. When he couldn't keep doing that because of its emotional weight, he turned to the river for inspiration. How true that nature often seems to calm our souls. I found the resulting work to be like a cool hand on a fevered face. I wonder if he felt that way as he painted it.

In addition to these wonderful offerings, the museum also has its permanent collection on display and the Bethlehem Tree, both of which are free! The Bethlehem Tree is particularly notable, featuring more than 150 authentic eighteenth-century figures. You'll notice Mary, Joseph, and the Christ child at center, huddled at the base of an evergreen. In the branches of the tree, brightly colored angels hover, celebrating Jesus' birth. Scattered all around the holy family are the Three Magi, a host of townspeople, and various travelers. You'll notice that the angels are so bright and clean that they almost seem to glow, and that the townspeople are rendered in more earth tones. They are also pictured with fruit, vegetables, animals, and other things that tie them to Earth, as the angels twirl gloriously above. There's a lot to see and notice here. Definitely worth checking out.

A note: Even if you don't visit for the paid exhibits, you could enjoy the tree, the permanent collection, and grab lunch in the museum cafe. It would make for a wonderful morning, and you'd only have to pay for lunch! What a deal!

It's Christmas all over the place!

More holiday fun! On Friday night, Clay and I loaded up and headed to the Christmas celebration at Winners Circle Park. Every year, the city of Flowood decorates the park with thousands of twinkling lights. On select nights during the holiday season, they sweeten the deal with train rides through the park, appearances by Santa, and hot cocoa.

We picked the perfect night to go! It was cold enough to feel Christmasy, but not cold enough to necesitate lots of bundling up and Kleenex. Clay marched right up to Santa, said hello, and told him what a good boy he'd been this year. Santa asked him what he wanted for Christmas, and Clay replied that he'd love a teddy bear. After accepting his free candy cane, we headed to the train! A quick $1 ride later, we were exploring all of the lit-up paths of the park. We swang on the swings for a while, then sipped some hot chocolate before hopping back into the car to see lights in some of the neighborhoods near the reservoir.


Last night, the whole family showed up at the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Museum for their annual Christmas event. We enjoyed a free hayride through the decorated Small Town, Mississippi, before heading to the Children's Barnyard to check on our favorite animal friends. (The pig was particularly active last night.) Before it started to rain, we ducked into the General Store to get a few little treats, then went back to the indoor part of the museum for the Christmas show. (It's a largely ad-libbed affair featuring Santa, Rudolph, and the Pearl River Redneck. No joke. Funny, though!)

After that, it was a fun tour through the museum, with the toy trains being a star attraction. (Though Clay always loves the antique planes, too!)

Hmmmm . . . what'll we do next?

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Babalu

Wanted to weigh in on a new restaurant I tried out this week. Babalu Tacos and Tapas has opened up at the Duling Street complex in Fondren. It's in some of the space the old Auditorium used to occupy. I'd been following them on Facebook prior to opening, and I was excited to try them out when they began serving lunch last week. Here's the skinny:

First of all, park down near the sign for the restaurant. If you park up where you used to park to get into The Auditorium, you'll be too far down. The entrance is right where you see the pretty outdoor tables and green umbrellas.

The inside of the place has a Cuban feel, with washed-out blues on the walls and a spare aesthetic. They had a noiseless episode of The I Love Lucy Show projected onto the wall, showing off Ricky Ricardo at about 15 feet tall! The restaurant specializes in small plates, so you'll have the opportunity to try several things when you visit. I chose the calamari (very very good, with a masa flour coating), the Mexican corn (delicious roasted on the cob, with a cheesy, buttery sauce. I would have preferred, though, for lunch, if they'd cut the corn OFF the cob after roasting and then added the mix-ins, serving in a bowl with a fork. Corn on the cob is a bit messy for lunch on a weekday.), and the chicken empanadas (which were tasty enough, but lacked the zip of chili, lime, cilantro, etc. that I was expecting).

As I watched the other tables receive their orders, I began wishing we had gotten some of the dips on the menu as well. The guacamole is made table side with a stone mortar and pestle (much like Dos Caminos in Las Vegas), and the quesos and salsas looked really really good. In addition, the drink menu looked fun.

Verdict - This would be a perfect place for drinks and appetizers after work with friends. (Or a place to duck into during Fondren After 5 or Fondren Unwrapped.) If you're starving, though, don't go, because it will take several small plates to fill you up.

Holiday happenings

Last night, hubs, my dad, and I took Clay to the Clinton Christmas parade! What fun!

I hadn't been to a small-town Christmas parade in YEARS. I realized with a start this year that we hadn't taken Clay to a single parade his whole little life. So, we called my dad, picked him up, and headed to Old Town Clinton. The weather was really mild, and since we got there about 20 minutes early, we found a great spot to watch from, right near First Baptist Church. We threw a blanket from the car down on the grass and prepared for the festivities.

It was so cute to watch Daddy and Clay together. After we got there, they took off to explore before the parade got started. They walked all over downtown Clinton, scooting right back to our blanket just as the parade began. We saw tons of lit-up floats, caught candy and treats, and clapped our hands to the music of the marching bands before Santa and Mrs. Claus came by in a horse-drawn carriage. "I've been very good this year!! Very good!!" Clay shouted out, letting Santa know that he was extremely deserving of any special toys that might be on the wish list.

After the parade, mom came to meet us all at The Irish Frog for dinner. After a very filling meal (I had the grilled shrimp, AFTER I downed nearly an entire order of queso and chips.) and lots of kisses, it was home and to bed. It was a really great night!

Clay and I also spent some time this weekend making a gingerbread train from a kit I bought at Target. It was awesome! All the gingerbread pieces are already baked and ready to go inside, as well as the icing and the candy. The kit came with a handy tray to mount your creation on. All we had to do was glue the pieces together with the icing and decorate! So fun! Clay insisted that we use EVERY PIECE of candy that came in the kit, so our train is quite encrusted! Heh.

Also this weekend, I got the chance to go to the Preview Party for the Chimneyville Crafts Festival. So nice! I invited a good friend of mine, and we headed out on Friday night to check out all the handmade items on offer.

While sipping drinks and nibbling on spinach dip, little roast beef sandwiches, chocolates, and other delights, I bought a beautiful piece of yard art from Pearl River Glass Studio, a gorgeous dogwood bracelet, two lovely handmade pottery items (a jar for honey and a pretty teal berry bowl), and a hilarious clock for Brian made from a piece of computer motherboard. I also found some delightful little pottery Christmas trees that Clay has loved rearranging into different formations on the TV console.

I really enjoyed the show this year! There were tons of gorgeous things for sale, and I took lots of cards to refer back to one our bathroom remodel gets under way. (Yikes. Pray for me.)

Christmas pics

We got our holiday photos made a few weeks ago for our Christmas cards. Since I've sent them out now, I can give you the big reveal! Look at my sweet little angels!



And I love this one. The way Clay is looking back at the camera over his shoulder is so him.



And then one of all three of us. Brian doesn't like this one (He thinks he looks goofy.), but I think it's sweet!



Lastly, me and hubs. I always love to get pics of just the two of us together. It reminds me that when we started out, we were just two, and now we are three.