Sunday, December 04, 2011

Hollying and jollying

It's early December, and Christmas has arrived at the Bradshaw house! Last weekend, we took down all of the fall decorations and brought out our garland and tree! We decorated the inside of the house, hung ornaments, and introduced Clay to our new Elf on the Shelf.

If you've never had an Elf on the Shelf, I'll tell you a bit about it. My younger sister gave it to Clay last Christmas, so this is our first season using it. Basically, it's a little stuffed elf that comes with a book. The book tells you that the elf watches the goings-on at your house every day and flies to the North Pole each night to report to Santa. Each morning, he's in a different spot, so you have to wake up and find him!

We named our elf Jingleshanks, and he's doing a ton more than just reporting to Santa. He's couriered letters to and from Santa back and forth from the North Pole, in addition to bringing out our Christmas decorations, stocking the Advent calendar, and more. I have tons of plans for this little guy before the season is through!

We introduced Clay to him over a special Christmasy breakfast with snowmen doughnuts, fruit and milk.

This weekend, we decorated the front porch with lights and garland. We also went light peeping! There are some houses that are really done up! I also volunteered with a couple of friends to ring the Salvation Army bell outside of a grocery store, which was really fun! We wore nutty Santa hats, brought a boom box and a Christmas CD, and danced and sang along to the carols as we rang our bells. If you gave both going into and coming out of the store, you got four high kicks, a la The Rockettes!!

Thanksgiving!

We had such a wonderful Thanksgiving! Due to the kitchen renovation currently going on at Mom's house, we hosted the extended Thanksgiving celebration at the Bradshaw house this year. What fun! I had a great time decorating, cooking and enjoying the day!

Here's the menu:
Appetizers - I made a fun marinated goat cheese appetizer with sun-dried tomatoes, garlic, basil, rosemary, and chopped black olives. We served it with a loaf of sliced, toasted french bread. To go along with it, I had a fruit tray of sliced ripe red pear and purple grapes. As a finishing touch, I served a bowl of salted mixed nuts and some split dates, stuffed with whipped cream cheese and a half a pecan.

Main course - After some deliberation, I decided to make the same turkey recipe that I made last year. (The only change - I omitted the white wine in the gravy. One in our party is with child, and I felt it was better to be safe than sorry!)

For sides, my sweet sister Laura brought all kinds of delicious stuff. She made my grandmother's classic dressing, and she also made another stuffing with sausage and apple (a delicious meal in itself). Then, she made tender roasted brussels sprouts with prosciutto and a balsamic glaze. She also brought baked sweet potato rounds, dressed with a bit of red onion and bacon. YUM!!

We also had the now-traditional homemade cranberry sauce and Sister Schubert rolls.

Dessert - Here's the crazy thing - we had strawberry cake and sweet potato pie, but dang it if I could eat ANY of it!! I had a piece of cake a couple of days later at mom's house, and hubs ate some of the pie in the ensuing days, but I don't think anyone even ate dessert on Thanksgiving Day! We were all too stuffed from dinner!

At any rate, I really enjoyed hosting! Hubs and I found a sweet little wooden table (and matching chairs) at Target, and we dressed it up as the kids' table. It worked perfectly!

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Veterans Day

Taking little man to Vicksburg National Military Park had been on my list for a while. Mom took us there when we were little, and I have fond memories of patrolling the battlements, hopping around the monuments, manning cannons and just running around out there.

Yesterday was Veterans Day, and I thought, "What better time to visit?" The weather was gorgeous, the leaves were turning brilliant fall colors, and we had a free Saturday. So off we went.

We arrived at around 10:30 a.m. After a quick trip to the visitors center (where we learned more about the seige of Vicksburg and bought a cool Union infantry cap), we headed out for the driving tour. Clay LOVED running around (and on) the monuments, blasting the enemy with heavy cannon fire, and exploring the Cairo (the Union gunboat on site).

And it is a gorgeous time of year to visit. Cool enough to keep you from sweating as you run up and down all of those earth embankments, absolutely amazing fall foliage, a nice breeze - it couldn't have been prettier. Before we even left, Clay was asking when we'd go back!

Next time, we'll arrive a little bit earlier and bring a picnic. We stayed from about 10:30 a.m. until about 1 p.m., and we only left then so we could go grab a late lunch.

Halloween!

We had a great Halloween here at the Bradshaw house! First of all, the week before Halloween, we went out to Boo at the Zoo. What fun!

Years ago, Boo at the Zoo was a scary event that was desigend for older kids. The zoo would pay college and high school students to dress up in horrifying costumes and lie in wait for unsuspecting visitors in all of the park's nooks and crannies. SO, you'd be strolling nonchalantly along, and a hideous werewolf would jump out from behind a corner and scare the pee out of you.

Over the past couple of years, the Jackson Zoo has wisely reconsidered thier approach, turning Boo at the Zoo into more of a harvest carnival event, with games, candy, and a costume contest. We suited up and headed out. Clay loved the carnival games (and the hot dogs we purchased on site for dinner), but I think his favorite part was just getting to run through the zoo in his Batman costume as night was falling. The whole place was decorated, and he jumped and hopped and caught bad guys, all without having to constantly hold my hand. He was in heaven!

Then, on Halloween night, all of us suited up and went trick or treating. There was a great crowd in our neighborhood, and I loved getting to see all the kids (and some of the parents! Huzzah!) dressed up. We came home with a significant haul, and Clay enjoyed opening the door and handing out candy to the rest of the trick or treaters. (He kept exclaiming, "Look! Mom! We have some more customers!!")

Needless to say, we had a GREAT TIME! Other Halloween doings included carving three pumpkins (That's one of them at left. The other two looked like Jack Skellington and Boba Fett!), making our traditional spiced pumpkin seeds, and trying out a new recipe that I found on Pinterest for pumpkin cookies with caramel frosting. (OMG.)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My little punkin

We took a trip to Nichols Boyd Pumpkin Patch this weekend! For the past three years, it's been on our list to do in October. Clay loves seeing the animals, riding the hayride, selecting his pumpkin, and playing on the big swings and hay bales out by the pumpkin patch.

If you've never been to Nichols Boyd, it's easy to find. Just take 25/Lakeland out past Brandon. Get off at 43 and follow the signs! At most, it's a couple of miles off 25.

When you first get there, you'll sign in and pay for the hayride. Then, while you wait your turn, you can check out the caged bunnies, quail, chickens, turkeys, goats, and Porkchop the Pig. Once you board the hayride (Sit on the left-hand side to have a better view of all the animals.), off you'll go to check out the farm's zedonk, fallow deer, cows, donkeys, goats and ducks. Once your animal encounter is complete, the hayride will deposit you out at the pumpkin patch, which is surrounded by a shaded playground of rope swings and hay bale mazes. Adjacent fields of sunflowers make for great family pics.

Once you choose your pumpkin and let off some steam, you'll get back on the hayride for a trip back to the barn. There, you can buy fall treats (I cannot recommend the homemade peanut brittle enough. It's the best I've found.) before heading off for other adventures.

A few pics of my little sweeties:


This is Clay snuggling up to one of the stuffed scarecrows on site. They have tons of little vignettes set up everywhere for picture taking.




This is hubs and my little punkin on the hayride.

See the pretty sunflowers? I kept trying to get Clay to pose in this one with me, but he was soooo over the picture taking by this time.

Fall family fun!

When Brian and I first started dating, I remember going with him to the fair. His parents owned a pool shop then, and they had a booth in the TradeMart. After we swung by to visit them, I remember going on some rides and having our pictures taken in one of those Old West booths.

But since we've grown into adulthood, we've just not put the fair on our priority list. I mean, it's dirty. It's expensive. The food will harden your arteries in a hot minute.

But then, last year, we thought that booger might be old enough to enjoy the fair. And dang it all if he didn't LOVE every minute of it! It's fast becoming a fall tradition at the Bradshaw house, so here's our 2011 report:

We started at the petting zoo, which is completely free to enter. If you want to hand feed llamas, camels, goats, cows and more, you can either pay $2 for a bag of carrots or drop a few quarters into the feed machines throughout the tent.

The llamas and the wooly cows were amazingly soft. And the camels had long, dark lashes. There was even a zebra and a giant tortise in the back, though you couldn't feed them.

A few scenes from the day:




Clay and hubs atop the ferris wheel. Clay really wanted to ride this, but I think he was bored once we were aloft. Not enough risk for my little speed demon.


The dragon coaster was HILARIOUS, mainly because it was completely rickety and jarring and you felt like it would fall apart and kill you at any minute. We absolutely loved it. I honestly could not stop laughing the whole time.





As usual, the boy loved the vehicle rides. We rode this Jeep ride, a motorcycle ride, and another one that was designed to look like race cars.


We enjoyed all beef hot dogs and a lemonade at the Mississippi Cattlemen's Association booth, and we couldn't leave without sampling syrupy biscuits from the biscuit booth! Clay took a whirl down the big yellow slide with me (a perennial favorite), and we *might* have bought a bag of Malone's taffy when we left. (A bag that may or may not have lasted 24 hours once we got home.)


All in all, a GREAT TRIP! Think we'll be going every year for a while!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Adventuring in Jackson

This past week, Clay and I had TWO great adventures I thought I'd share!

First of all, we went to see a touring production of Peter Pan, starring Cathy Rigby. When I heard that Peter Pan would be playing in town, I knew it would be a perfect choice to serve as one of Clay's first big musical theatre shows. I invited my sister and her 8-year-old son to come along and bought our tickets.

We had a filling dinner at Sal and Mookie's pre-show, then arrived at Thalia Mara Hall just in time to take our seats as the lights dimmed. I had worried about Cathy Rigby in the role, but I had no need. She did a fine job and from our seats, her slight build and posture were easily believable as that of a boy.

The two little guys we brought with us loved the show, often commenting on specific characters, effects, and set pieces. Clay got scared a few times by the pirates and the crocodile, but a hug or two seemed to solve the problem.

During intermission, we trotted down to overlook the orchestra pit, where we pointed out the different instruments and waved to the musicians. (They seemed delighted to see us, by the way. I was amazed that we were the only ones taking advantage of such an educational opportunity.)

All four of us enjoyed the show, and I'm so glad we got the chance to attend! Kessler is bringing Beauty and the Beast to Jackson as their next production, which might also be worth checking out.

On Thursday night, I packed up little man and a picnic dinner and headed for Symphony at Sunset, an annual open-air concert held at The Cedars in Fondren. It was an absolutely gorgeous night, and we thoroughly enjoyed the evening. The orchestra played a selection of songs celebrating America, and the decor matched the stars-and-stripes theme. (Though I do wish they'd allow the musicians to wear slightly more casual clothing for outdoor concerts. We're all lounging around in jeans and flip flops, blankets spread out on the grass, and the musicians are up there in the same white button-ups and black slacks as always. I would have loved to have seen them in white T-shirts and black shorts, or even jeans and those cute black T-shirts with the tuxedo fronts on them!)

At any rate, Clay again got to see the musicians and the instruments (this time from an even closer vantage point). They also provided glow sticks for the kids and offered star-shaped iced cookies (from Campbell's! Yum!) and ice cream.

Clay did a great job paying attention for the first half of the concert. We left for home shortly after intermission so as to get little people into bed.

On both occasions, I was very proud of his behavior as an audience member! He seemed very interested in what was going on (particularly during Peter Pan), and I think he really enjoyed himself at both events! That's my boy!

Tremendous!

I got the chance to see the movie The Help a couple of weeks ago, and it was amazing. You may recall that I read the book this movie is based on a while back. Also, they filmed a few of the scenes here in Jackson, Miss., where the book/movie is set.

Even without all of that, though, I think I would have loved this movie. First of all, it was expertly cast. There wasn't a weak link in the ensemble. You may be aware of my love for Viola Davis. She doesn't disappoint here in her role as Aibileen Clark. Emma Stone, who plays Skeeter Phelan, is pitch perfect. Minny, played by Octavia Spencer, made me laugh and laugh. I could go on and on, but let's just say that each character is interesting, and leave it at that.

In addition, growing up in the Jackson area made watching this movie very special for me. I recognized some of the locations, some of the clothes, and many of the characters. And as a native Mississippian, I can tell you that the film is very true to Southern life in many ways.

Not only that, the story is engaging and uplifting. This one is a MUST-SEE!!!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Clay the adventurer!

We've been having lots of adventures lately! First of all, we went by the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science to see their Frogs! exhibit. We saw giant, ugly looking brown toads (They were super-still.); tiny, neon-colored poisonous dart frogs; and measured how far we could hop in relation to various amphibians.

Even though it was a hot day, Clay and I still hit the trail system out back. Of course, he picked the next-to-longest trail they had! We had a good time exploring and looking for lizards, but for our next visit, I may wear hiking boots!!

We also went by the Mississippi Wildlife Extravaganza. They hold it each year at the Trademart. Clay got to practice shooting a bow and arrow (several times), we sampled fudge and deer sausage, and we even heard wild turkey calls! The people at the booths gave him tons of free stuff (tote bags, wildlife posters, candy, etc.), and before we left, we even got to try zip-lining!! (That's him in the ziplining safety gear.)

In August, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus also came to town. We've not missed a single one of their performances in Jackson. The show was fun, with acrobats, clowns, and trained horses, elephants, and even camels! This year, they had a new act - the ring of terror. Three motorcyclists drove at dizzying speeds in a metal cage. Just when you though it was safe to look, they sent a woman in a sparkly costume in the cage to stand in the center, while the motorcycles whizzed all around her. Yikes!

Cly had such fun. We bought him a box of popcorn, and he was sticking his little arm ALLLLLL the way in it to get the last kernels before the night was over. On the way out, we also picked up a mug for him that looks like an elephant! Not too practical for drinking, but he's enjoyed playing with it!

Today, we visited the Mississippi Petrified Forest. I hadn't been since I was a kid, and WOW. There's a short and fun nature walk which takes you through the park. You can see the petrified logs in the same places that ancient floods washed them, centuries ago. After that portion of the visit, you can explore a small (but really cool) geological museum featuring fossils, more petrified wood, and precious stones. (They even have some giant shark jaws!) After that, we flumed for gems. (Think panning for gold.) We found obsidian, amethyst and more the little bags of dirt we purchased at the gift shop. And how could I fail to mention the gift shop?! Jewelry, polished stones, even slabs of petrified wood were all on offer.

Admission is $7 for adults, and preschoolers are free! (Fluming is $4 per bag of goodies.) They are open nearly every day of the year, and they even have a pavillion you can rent out for gatherings. (This place would be PERFECT for a little boy's birthday party!) I just cannot recommend it highly enough. We so enjoyed our visit!

Friday, September 02, 2011

Update on My 101

It's been MONTHS! Shame on me! BUT, even though I haven't been posting it here, I have been making progress! See below!!

101 things to do in 1001 days

Learn to juggle
Take a martial arts class
Make a will
Make a living will
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar (or, sheesh, just PRACTICE once in a while)
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Plant an herb garden
Make fresh pesto with basil I grew
Drink wine in California
Eat salsa in San Antonio
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Visit the famous fried chicken place in Lorman
Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Give blood
Learn to play the harmonica
Get my piano tuned
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Go ice skating
Attain APR accreditation - Woo hoo! This one is done! It was a long haul, but it was worth it!
Read at least 3 current books on my profession
Take a road tour through the Mississippi Delta
Enroll in a Millsaps Enrichment class of my choosing
Take Clay to Disney World
Celebrate my birthday in style
Boil/steam a live lobster
Go to a rodeo
Host a formal tea, like at the Savoy
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Book a session with a personal trainer
Learn more about how to maximize Adobe Photoshop
Plan a surprise party for someone
Replace at least three outdated light fixtures in my house
Plant some vegetables and keep them alive long enough to harvest them - We did this over the summer! Tons of cherry tomatoes!
Plan and take at least one “destination trip” in honor of a holiday (Salem at Halloween, Plymouth Rock at Thanksgiving, etc.)
Stop cussing. Seriously STOP.
Renew my passport - Check and check. We are ready for Rome!
Spend an entire day in complete silence (This one is going to be very difficult.)
Check out a library book, read it, and leave a note in it for the next reader
Attend one religious service of a faith other than my own, just to observe
Start buying more goods that are made in America
Find a professional mentor
Act as a mentor to someone who needs me
Take Clay fruit picking at a local farm
Make something yummy with what we pick - We went blueberry picking in May, and we made blueberry streusel muffins. YUM.
Take Clay to the Petrified Forest
Buy him a bag of shiny tumbled rocks
Take Clay to Rocky Springs
Take Mom to the opera
Rent a boat and go deep sea fishing with dad
Do a “Godfather Week” at the house, where we eat Italian food and watch the Godfather series (once Clay goes to bed. Eeek!)
Go camping
Have an indulgent breakfast in bed
Have my eyes checked (Dear Lord, I’m getting old.)
Take a weekend trip alone. COMPELTELY ALONE.
Win a bet
Look up more shadow puppet instructions and expand my repertoire (Dog, deer, dinosaur, rabbit, and bird are getting kinda old.)
Throw a tapas and wine party
Go on a picnic (Because you can never have too many.)
Toast the sunset
Go see an author read from his/her work
Fly a kite
Ride a horse
Go see a fortune teller or psychic
Ride a train
Find the perfect swimsuit - The one I bought for my trip to Orange Beach was pretty dang awesome. I got tons of compliments on it. Too bad that when I went online to buy it in every color it came in, it was nearly sold out. :(
Have a facial
Move more of my bills/notices over to electronic or auto-draft
Clean out/shred as necessary in ALL of my old files (Gulp.)
Add money to a parking meter about to run out
Repair the back yard arbor
Whittle something
Kiss a new baby - My sweet best friend had a new arrival in July! Baby love!!
Throw a Mediterranean party with grilled lamb, veggies, tzatziki, the whole nine
Start a personal, meaningful family tradition at Easter
Photograph a sunrise
Go to Pepsi Pops
Go to a ceramic painting shop and paint something cool
Take a family trip to the wildlife preserve in Louisiana
Learn how to change my own oil in my car
Learn how to check and flush/fill fluids in my car
Learn the basics of how my car works
Get a book on constellations
Try to identify at least five of them in the sky
Write a love letter
Surprise someone
Put Christmas decorations on the outside of the house
Have sandal heels re-tapped or CHUCK THEM
Make a care package for someone
Buy something hand made
Visit a place that’s rumored to be haunted
Tape and edit a video to create a FINISHED PRODUCT

Start date: February 16, 2011
End date: November 13, 2013

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Pinterest - my new addiction

If you haven't been over to Pinterest.com yet, I almost hesitate to tell you about it. For a list-making, project- and recipe-collecting, (slightly?) OCD person like myself, it's the web version of crack cocaine.

You see, Pinterest allows you to save photos and bookmarks of the things you find on the web. All kinds of things - products, project ideas, recipes, funny quotes. And it lets you organize these things on "boards" any way you wish. So, I have a "Spooktacular!" board where I've pinned fun Halloween ideas - foods, costumes, decorating schemes, links to products I want to buy.

And the site just keeps that information there for you, organized in your intuitive way. AND THEN you can see what your friends on Facebook are pinning. Or just browse what everyone's pinning, to see if there's anything there you like.

You can see how this is dangerous for me, no? I've already had to get ruthless about what I pin. If it doesn't look fairly cheap, pretty easy, quick, and fabulous, I won't pin it. Otherwise, you end up with something like 3,000 pins. Like some of my friends. (I am sooooo not kidding.)

The process is completely addictive and a huge time sink.

However, if you decide to click on over there despite my warnings, welcome to the dark side! Be sure to look me up!

Scrutinized

For years, it's been on my personal "to do" list to attain APR accreditation. The process to do so is rather lengthy:

1.) Submit an application and a readiness review questionnaire. On the basis of these documents, you are allowed (or not) to go to the next step.
2.) Sit for a readiness review. You put together a professional portfolio, then you present it to a panel of 3 APRs. They ask questions to determine your professional areas of strength/weakness. Based on this review, you are allowed (or not) to go to the next step.
3.) A computer-based examination of 187 questions that tests your knowledge, skills and abilities in a variety of topics necessary to the field. You must pass the exam to achieve accreditation.

After a little more than 6 months to get through all the steps, I think I can safely say I've done it at last. I took the exam on Saturday and got a B! Woo hoo! It's not technically official until I hear from the Public Relations Society of America, but it's looking like I can FINALLY mark this one DONE!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Table 100

There's a new restaurant in town! Table 100 is located on Lakeland Drive in Flowood, right next to Lowe's. I've been there twice now, so I thought I'd weigh in.

On my first visit, I popped in for lunch one weekend. After settling myself at the bar, I ordered the macaroni and cheese gratin (small plate) and the farm to table vegetable plate. First - the macaroni and cheese. It comes out in a small iron skillet, which I think makes for a wonderful presentation. It's also quite a large portion, so I think it would make a great appetizer to share. Secondly, the dish has a nice, crunchy breadcrumb topping. (YUM!) The macaroni is flavored with Parmesan cheese and ham, which is a great combination. My only regret? I wanted MORE HAM. Bites with a piece of ham in them were perfectly seasoned, owing to the saltiness of the meat. Bites without a piece of ham, however, were undersalted to my taste. (Plus, I love ham. More ham equals more love.)

Then, my vegetable plate came. It featured a delicious, buttery ear of Silver Queen corn, a gorgeous cornbread muffin, a tender pile of creamy lady peas, a nice heap of mashed potatoes studded with sauteed onions, and a divine bowl of black eyed peas. Each vegetable was absolutely delicious. (Particularly the black-eyed peas. I'm not sure what they were cooked with, but they came in almost a light brown sauce that was rich and full of flavor.) I do have one small gripe, though. The vegetables on this plate rotate according to what's in season, available, looks good, etc. But the combination of vegetables that ended up on my plate were very starchy. Beans, corn, potatoes, and bread. I longed for something greener (green beans, perhaps?), or something just raw and fresh (a bit of sliced, dressed fresh tomato?) to balance the plate and provide color. Other than that, though, I had no problems with this dish. Each vegetable was delicious and expertly cooked.

I returned for dinner last week. I started with the watermelon mojito. Dear LORD, it was good. I could have easily drank two or three of them. Delicious. I followed it with the duck confit spring rolls, which were yummy and served with a kicky sauce. My friend chose the crabcake, and I found myself stealing bites form her plate. (When I return, that will be the first thing I order.)

For an entree, I selected the pasta bolognese. I was surprised to see that they were putting the hearty sauce on angel hair noodles. While the taste was excellent, I am used to seeing bolognese served on a much more robust noodle, such as a penne. At any rate, it was very tasty, and the sauce held a hint of sweetness that I still haven't been able to pin down. I finished with a nice, creamy peach melba that was entirely satisfying. My friend got the cheesecake, infused with some sort of tropical flavor that I can't seem to recall at the moment. (Must be the mojitos. Heh.)

At any rate, I highly recommend this place. Prices are spendy, but the food is made with care and the service is outstanding. I enjoyed both of my visits there, and I'll definitely be returning!

Nose in a book

I've had my nose in a book for a while now. Because hubs and I are planning to go to Italy in the spring, I've been gravitating towards books involving travel and/or Italy in some way. Thought I'd weigh in and report on some of the pages I've devoured.

Lady in the Palazzo is written by Marlena de Blasi, she of A Thousand Days in Venice fame. In the autobiographical book, de Blasi relates how she and her husband relocate to Orvieto, a charming hill town in Umbria. The couple finds an apartment, contracts to renovate it, and settles into a new life of friends and food in the town. It's not much of a plot, but de Blasi writes evocatively of food and the Italian way of life. (And there are some recipes at the end! Woo hoo!) This is a great armchair traveling book for those who love either or both.

Eat My Globe, by Simon Majumdar, has alot more action. Upon turning 40, the author realizes that he has some unaccomplished goals. Namely, to go everywhere and eat everything. To whit, he quits his job and schedules a 14-month jaunt around the world, basing his itinerary on the best dishes the world has to offer. Majumdar really does cover quite a bit of territory during his trip, and he honestly evaluates both the places he visits and the foodstuffs he consumes. Plus, he's both a gifted write and a funny guy. Highly recommended! (P.S. Majumdar and his brother run a food blog - Dos Hermanos - that's updated regularly. Worth checking out, even if the photos and text layout rather oddly on screen.)

Lastly, I just finished Passion on the Vine, by Sergio Esposito. A native Italian and a devotee of both wine and food, Esposito runs Italian Wine Merchants in New York City. His book describes how he fell in love with Italian wines, got to know their producers, and developed a market for them in the United States. Readers follow him as he rambles across Italy, meeting winemakers and tasting delicious dishes. I learned alot about Italian wines by reading this book, knowledge I plan to put to good use when we visit Rome!

All three were great books for vicarious traveling. Hmmmm . . . what will I read next?

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Stop the drama!

Mmmmmmkay, so just before we went to the beach, Clay gave me a black eye. Then, after a (blissfully uneventful) week on vacation, I came back home and had emergency gallbladder surgery. That was quite enough excitement for me, but apparently the universe disagreed.

The week after my surgery, I get a call at work from our daycare. Seems Clay was reaching/climbing up to the top of his cubby to get something, and the whole thing fell over on him. Seems he has a big gash in his head. (Turned out to be on the back of his scalp, but I was imagining it right in the center of his forehead at the time.) Seems he will probably need stitches.


Gulp. I hurry over to the daycare, calling the pediatrician's office on the way to see if sewing up a head is something they can do at the office. (It is. Seriously?) Get to little man, get him to the doctor's office, then physically HOLD him still while they put four STAPLES in his scalp. (Apparently, staples hold the scalp together better than stitches. Who knew? I'm learning all kinds of things I don't care to be informed about.) It was special.

Mom and dad were kind enough to keep him for a couple of days, until the wound wasn't so sore and raw. (Ick.) Back to daycare he went the following week.

And did I mention the following week? HOW could I have forgotten? On the way in to work, I got a big ugly flat tire on the Interstate. It was burning up hot outside, and I was wearing a dress with a full skirt. I called hubs, who didn't pick up his phone. Then I called my boss to let him know I'd be late.

My boss was all, "So you didn't actually TALK to Brian? You left him a message? Don't worry. I'm on my way. I can put the spare on in, like, 10 minutes."

Little did the poor man remember that NOTHING involving me takes 10 minutes.

He gets there, jacks up the car a bit, and it rolls. (We were on a bit of an incline.) So, we inch the car up a bit to get on level ground (probably shredding what's left of the tire). Then, he jacks the car up again, puts the spare on, and lowers the jack. We are sweating like pigs. It is a sad state of affairs, people in the computer.

I'm trying to "help," in my anemic way, and in the meantime, every 18-wheeler whizzing past is blowing my skirt to kingdom come. (I'm still convinced that half of I-55 saw my panties that morning.)

Guess what? Spare's out of air. Blankety-blank-blank.

By this time, hubs is there, and he luckily has some fix-a-flat. We fill the spare with air, take it to the shop, then go back to work. Picked the car back up on the way home.

Needless to say, I'm really, REALLY hoping that this week is drama-free.

Party on.

A little more than a week post-op, we had little man's birthday party. Every year since he's been born, I have pulled out all the stops and thrown a huge birthday party for him at home. Year 1: big election-year theme party. Year 2: a rootin' tootin' cowboy party. Year 3: the luau to end all luaus.

The only problem? By year 4, little people have their own ideas about what they want their party to be. I was gearing up for a huge backyard circus party with a pony, a clown, and a cotton candy machine, but Clay insisted on a party at Pump It Up. And, well, considering I was barely off the operating table, it ended up being a good idea. (Looking back on it, I have no idea how I would have been able to clean up after that pony.)

All in all, I probably spent about the same amount I would have on a blow-out home party, but 1.) I didn't have to clean up the house before the party, 2.) I didn't have to clean up the house after the party, 3.) I didn't have to decorate, and 4.) I didn't have to cook. Worked out pretty well.

Scenes from the day are below. What a little cutie!






Monday, July 04, 2011

She's got a ticket to ride . . .

It's official. I've sent the passports off to be renewed (and Brian has already gotten his back), and we bought the airline tickets shortly before we left for the beach. Hubs and I are going to Rome - ALONE - in the spring! Woo hoo!!

You may already know that before booger was born, hubs and I traveled to Europe a few times. Since little man came on the scene, I haven't felt comfortable being that far away from him. But by next spring, he'll almost be FIVE, so I think it's time for hubs and I to continue our treks overseas.

I've bought a few guidebooks, and so far, here's what I'm interested in seeing:
Colosseum
Roman Forum
Pantheon
National Museum of Rome
Borghese Gallery
Vatican Museum
St. Peter's Basilica
Capolitine Museum
Appian Way/Catacombs
Trevi Fountain
Baths of Diocletian
Cappuccin Crypt

Plus, maybe a day trip to Tivoli to see Hadrian's Villa OR maybe to Pompeii or Ostia Antica.

Still left to do: book an apartment, buy advance passes for top attractions, and learn a little Italian. Woo hoo! Rome, here we come!

Saturday, July 02, 2011

Never a dull moment at the Bradshaw house . . .

Ever since we got back from the beach, I've been having some stomach troubles. On Saturday (the day we came home), I was hurting a bit. I told myself, "Well, Nicole. You are just getting too old to eat and drink like that. Time to suck it up and admit you aren't 20 anymore."

But in the ensuing days, even light, healthy meals were causing me pain. And on Thursday night, after I got Clay home from the salon, I was in so much pain that I knew this was something more than indigestion. It got to the point that, though I felt foolish, I had to ask hubs to take me to the emergency room. (Dad was kind enough to meet us up there to pick up little man.)

After lots of questions and an ultrasound, I was told that I had gallstones. Lots of them. And that if I wanted the pain to stop, I needed to have my gallbladder removed post-haste.

I couldn't believe it. I eat a pretty healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, all that good stuff. The doctors and nurses kept telling me that we really don't know what causes gallstones and that gallbladder removal is a very common surgery for them to perform. (One nurse said they even call it their "blue light special," because they do so many of them.)

So, the next morning found me getting prepped for laproscopic surgery. By mid-morning, I was in the O.R, and by about 2 p.m., I was waking up from anesthesia. I was back home by 7 p.m., held together with stitches and surgical glue.

The whole thing was just wild, and it happened so fast. I'm a bit sore, but all in all, I seem to be recovering well. The doctor told me I'd need to take a week off work, but I'm not sure that'll be the case. I could definitely see myself going in for some half days, at least, next week. (Just can't drive if I have the pain meds in my system.) According to the doctors, you don't even need your gallbladder to live. The body adjusts once it's removed, and you apparently never notice it's gone.

So, now I'm the same Nicole I was, minus one pesky gallbladder. Nuts, ain't it?

Adventures in hair care

On Wednesday night, after Clay had his bath, he was puttering around in the bathroom. Brian and I noticed he was awfully quiet in there. When we checked on him, we discovered that he'd been cutting his own hair. And not just a strand or two in the back.

There was a patch in the very center of his forehead that he'd cut right down to the scalp. I gasped as I saw him, and he immediately said, "I'm sorry, mama." (At least the boy knows when he's done wrong.)

I didn't want to make it any worse, so we scheduled a salon appointment for Thursday night to see if anything could be done to correct the damage. When I ask Miss Kathy (our hairdresser) if she could salvage anything, she shook her head sadly. "We're pretty much gonna have to buzz this one." Dangit. Clay has such pretty hair, and I love the style of it.

At first, Clay thought the trimmers were really fun, then he happened to catch a glimpse of his reflection in the mirror. I don't think he was prepared for how different he'd look. He cried a little and said, "I want my hair back!" I felt like the devil.

However, one sucker and a couple of pep talks later, he was telling me he liked it. And I notice now that he's mentioning some of the same positives I talked up (it's cooler for summer, easier to wash, hey - it might even make you faster in the pool!) when he's telling others about his cool new 'do.

Before:




After:


Tasty reads.

While at the beach, I had the chance to devour two food-centered books that I think nearly anyone could enjoy. The first one (my fave among the two) was The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender. The book had been recommended by a friend, as well as O Magazine, and it was actually released last summer.

Rose Edelstein's life is trucking along just fine, until her ninth birthday. Around that time, she begins being able to taste emotions in her food. Whether the person preparing her meals is angry, rushed, sad, happy, unfulfilled - Rose can eat one bite and know. This magical gift, of course, tells Rose much more than she wants to know about her mom, dad, and other adults in her life. As she grows older, Rose learns to cope with and eventually embrace her gift, while also discovering the she isn't the only member of her family with special skills.

I thought this was a great, original novel. Bender does a admirable job taking things that seem impossible and making them absolutely believable. It's also a delight to watch Rose's eventual triumph unfold.

I also read The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister. In this book, chef Lillian holds a cooking class at her restaurant once a month. The book tells the story not only of Lillian, but of each of her students. Each one is dealing with different problems and joys in their lives, and each one is taking the class for a different reason.

As the story progresses, I realized that the essential ingredients were actually the students and the impacts they have on one another throughout the book. This tome is not as complex as the first one, but made for a perfect beach read. Plus, the descriptions of food were divine.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Life's a Beach! continued . . .

Day 5 dawned a bit cloudy. To make the most of the weather we had, hubs, Clay and I took a nice drive out to Fort Morgan to explore. The historic fort there, completed in 1834, is open for visitors, and there's also a small museum you can visit.

Fort Morgan was active during four wars — the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, and World Wars I and II. The fort is most famous for its role in the Civil War Battle of Mobile Bay. In that historic battle, Union Admiral David Farragut uttered his famous "damn the torpedoes and full speed ahead," going on to win the conflict. The fort has tons of dark, spooky corners that you can explore, so bring a flashlight and a sense of adventure! Admission for all three of us was only $10.

After our tour, hubs wanted to take us to a restaurant we'd heard a lot about, but never visited. Off we went to Lambert's, home of the throwed roll. Lambert's isn't far from the outlet mall in Gulf Shores, and it's a big, family restaurant. Clay amused himself on the big wooden toy train out front while we waited for our table to be ready. At Lambert's, you order your dinner from the menu (I had chicken and dumplings with green beans and fried apples, hubs had fried chicken.), but you also get the "passalongs," big pots of food that are brought to your table and free for the taking. (Passalongs were cabbage, black eyed peas, apple butter, fried potatoes, etc.) Plus, you get all the rolls you can eat tossed your way. (Clay caught one all by himself!) The food, particularly the potatoes and the rolls, was tasty! We really enjoyed our lunch here, more for the atmosphere and friendly service than anything.

Feeling like an evening in, we flew kites on the beach after our nap that afternoon. There was a great breeze, and Clay just had to hold on to the end of the string. No effort required! A great day!

The next morning, we hit the pool almost as soon as we woke up. After a nice swim and a shower, my older sister Laura and I dolled up. We were headed to Foley to get our shop on at the outlet mall. After a quick and delicious lunch at The Shrimp Basket (I, of course, had the shrimp basket. Laura got some tasty steamed oysters. YUM!), we found treasures at Banana Republic (Button-up dress shirts for $11?! Whooopeee!), Gymboree (I didn't pay more than $3.99 for any piece of clothing I bought for Clay here. Great deals.), and more. (Starfish jewelry! Cute sandals! I was in heaven!) Fun!

We had to keep an eye on the time, though, because we'd chartered a boat for the whole family (plus some old friends of ours who also happened to be in Gulf Shores) that evening. We wanted to stop by and get some drinks and snacks and make it out to the dock before the rest of the family arrived. We'd chosen the boat and tour we'd booked very carefully. We wanted a pontoon boat, due to mom's shaky footing and all of the little ones aboard. We lucked out with the Josephine, docked at Pirate's Cove. It was the perfect vessel for us, and captain Jerry motored us around the bay, showed us some dolphins, and generally charmed our whole group. All in all, there were the nine adults and four children on our boat, and we all had a great time. The sky was a bit cloudy that evening, which kept it from being too hot, and Jerry let us stay out on the water as long as we wanted. This was one of the highlight activities of our trip!


We decided to keep our last day in Orange Beach low-key. We walked the beach, looking for shells. We flew kites. To spice up our day, we had one last, throw down meal. The previous evening, our boat captain had recommended Wolf Bay Lodge. (There are locations both on 20 and at Zeke's Landing. Very convenient.) After a trip to the salad bar and a cup of oyster stew, I had the grilled snapper. Dear Lord. That was some of the best grilled fish I've ever had. Well-seasoned, perfectly cooked, and a super-generous portion. Hubs had the flounder. We could have easily ordered one entree and split it, ordering an extra salad/potato. We each boxed up half of our orders, but not before we tried the chocolate eclair cake. It was at this point that I realized if I didn't go home soon, none of my clothes were going to fit.

All that, plus a few pitchers of Josh's spiked lemonade, a bunch of hands of Spades, some margaritas, and a 500-piece puzzle of the American flag and Lady Liberty (actually, it was only 499 pieces. ONE PIECE was missing!), and you have our vacation!

After doing a last bit of laundry and packing up a bit, we left the following morning. On the way back home, we stopped off in Seminary at Heather's Dixie Grill for a quick lunch. Delicious, cheap, and speedy! Just what we needed! We also stopped by Donna's #6 on the way back in from Jackson for fresh berries, cucumbers, tomatoes and a big cantaloupe. (A little homemade peach ice cream didn't hurt, either.)

We had such fun! Hmmmm . . . I wonder where we'll all go NEXT year?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Life's a Beach!!

We just returned from a week in Orange Beach! Wow! So. Much. FUN!

This is the first vacation I've taken with my extended family as a group. Yep, that meant me, hubs, little man, plus mom and dad, plus my older sister, her husband, and their son, PLUS my younger sister, Grace (who flew in from Oregon), and her boyfriend. I would be lying if I didn't admit that I had been a little worried I'd wrap my fingers around someone's neck before the week was out.

But, really, I shouldn't have fretted over it. We all had a great time, and it was a wonderful, relaxing week.

They key was finding the right condo. Because Grace and her boyfriend were only there for two nights (and my brother-in-law ended up only staying a night or two more), we did just fine with a big, three bedroom, three bath condo. Each family had their own bedroom, and Grace and Ryan sacked out in the den. We stayed at The Enclave, in unit 707 (We booked via http://www.homeaway.com/), and I couldn't have been more pleased. There was an ample beachfront balcony for mom, an indoor and outdoor pool for the boys, and a gorgeous, inviting stretch of sand just steps from our door.

On Day 1, we traveled in. Hubs, Clay, and I stopped off in Lucedale, Miss., for lunch. (At Tommy's. Two words. DON'T. GO. The place is a dive, service was slow and surly, and the food isn't even very good. We always try to eat local. Sometimes, it's a smashing success. Others, an epic failure. Tommy's was the latter. Stay away.) We rolled into Orange Beach at around 4 p.m. or so, ordered some pizzas, and then hit the beach. Clay loved chasing the waves, playing tag with everyone, and generally getting all his ya-yas out.

The next morning, we made some bloody marys and headed back down to the water. After a day of sand and sun, we had a big, family photo taken on the beach. Our sweet photographer (who shoots a lot of beach weddings there) was so patient with our big group. I can't wait to get the pics back!! We decided to have photos made because, really, we are so rarely all together. Now that Grace lives in the Northwest, we only see her during the holidays, and it's difficult to schedule a portrait then. This way, we were all in the photo, relaxed, and in a gorgeous setting. The photographer took a big group photo of all of us, plus photos of each smaller family, some of us girls with daddy, the grandkids with the grandparents, etc. Lots of great combinations.

Monday was Grace and Ryan's last day at the beach, so the two of them went parasailing with Brian and I. I'd always wanted to try it, and it seemed as good a time as any. I found it incredibly peaceful, almost like hot-air ballooning, but even quieter. We saw all kinds of rays and jellyfish in the water from above. Plus, we got great views of the shoreline. I would do it again in a heartbeat. (Incidentally, we went with the parasailing folks down at Zeke's Landing. It wasn't far from our hotel, and they had great prices.) Then, we got to enjoy the boat ride while Grace and Ryan parasailed, so it was a two-fer! I really enjoyed it.

We'd worked up an appetite by this time, so we headed to FloraBama for lunch. If you've never been, it's this big, ramshackle bar/restaurant right on the Florida/Alabama state line. I had an order of steamed Royal Reds (shrimp) with an order of fries, and hubs had a big, juicy cheeseburger. Grace got the oysters (spicy), and Ryan had a burger as well. YUM!

After a shower and a nap, we had shrimp boil from Lartigue's that night and walked the beach, looking for shells.

After a leisurely breakfast of cinnamon rolls and fruit the next day, we spent the morning at the pool.

My brother-in-law had plans for all of us for lunch that day. We headed to the Tin Top, which was a short drive from our condo, for some of the best seafood I've ever had the privilege of eating. We started with the crab claws, which were served in loads of creamy Tin Top sauce with bread for sopping. OMG. We nearly licked the bowl. We also tried the Oysters Fenton, which come in a rich, buttery, garlicky broth. Dear Lord, have mercy. For our entree, hubs and I split the steamed crab leg and shrimp platter, which was delicious. Needless to say, we didn't have room for dessert. Though eating like we did at the Tin Top was not cheap, it was absolutely worth it. One of the highlight meals of our trip.

That evening, we loaded up the boys and visited Adventure Island. What fun! My sis, her husband, and my sweet nephew played putt putt while hubs, Clay and I hit the arcade. Clay loved playing the Jurassic Park game with hubs, and they looked darling riding the Go-Karts together! We took a spin on the tugboat ride, cashed in our tickets for a few prizes, and had some ice cream before heading home.

More to come . . .

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Most Amazing Room EVER

When I was pregnant with Clay, I decided that his nursery would have a nautical theme. I spent some of the months of my pregnancy choosing crib bedding with sweet little sailboats on it, buying a matching window valance and lamp, and searching ebay for tiny model ships and hand-carved wooden captain figurines. I even found a brass plate that said "Captain" to hang over his bed and a wooden sign reading "Poop Deck" that we put by the changing table.

Well, needless to say, my little baby has grown up. And the four-year old boy that I have now is not really amazed by sailboats. He much prefers Spiderman.

So when we ran across a Spiderman sheet set at Target during Memorial Day weekend, he was enthralled. How could I say no? And so it began.

We bought the sheet set, plus a light red blanket and pillow sham, as well as a dark blue dust ruffle, red window valance, and Spiderman throw for the rocker. Once all of that was in place, we scooted by Lowe's and picked up a cool contemporary lamp. We painted the shade black.

We decided to paint the silhouette of a city skyline on the long wall, then buy some Spiderman wall decals and have Spiderman siwnging and jumping his way through the city. THEN we thought, "Why not paint the city in black chalkboard paint? That way, he can write on it." Check and check.

We trolled ebay (my trusty sidekick) for the decals, as well as a couple of lots of Spiderman toys and some comic books that we could frame and hang on the wall. By the end of the weekend - Voila! Clay thinks he has the coolest room ever.



This is the long wall before we applied the decals. We brought the baseline of the city up fairly high on the wall so Clay would have plenty of eye-level room to draw.



Here's the bed and the same wall with some of the decals up. You can also see the neat lamp. (We put a few decals on the shade of it, too!)





Here's the rest of the city, the corner rocker, and the bookcase. I have some Spiderman comic books that I've framed to hang above the bookshelf, but I haven't put them up yet.



Spiderman is everywhere! More decals around the dresser.

More eye drama

Remember back when my mom had that awful eye infection? Well, for the past week, I've had some eye drama of my own.

Last Tuesday night, I was sprawled out on the floor in the den, reading with Clay. He was goofing off and hopping around like he always does, when WHAP! He hit me in the eye with his hand. Hard. It stung a bit, but the pain subsided quickly. (He was all, "I'm sorry! It was an accident!" and I was all "Ouch.") I didn't think anything of it until later in the evening, when I noticed my eye was sore.

When I awoke Wednesday morning, my eye was bright red and almost swollen shut. Eeeeek. I went to MEA to make sure he hadn't scratched my cornea. After some (very painful) tests, they determined that he'd just given me a really bad shiner. (I blame Wii boxing.)

And guess what? There's not a whole lot you can do for a beat-up eye when it comes to medical treatment. I was instructed to take Aleve to reduce swelling and a apply hot and cold compresses. Really?

The eye has healed, but veryvery slowly. After the initial red/swollen look, I rocked a purple puffy eye for several days. Then, the swelling concentrated itself into one rather large bump in the center of my eyelid for a few days. Today (more than a week after Clay hit me) is the first day it's even looked close to normal.

So, my advice to all the other moms out there? Bob and weave, sister. Bob and weave.

Catching up.

Sooooo much has been going on lately that I have failed (miserably) to visit this space.

A quick recap of recent activities:

I don't think I ever mentioned that I had the opportunity to sing at New Stage's annual benefit performance at the Fairview Inn. They assigned me two songs from Wicked (a solo and a duet), and I got the chance to perform with some super-talented people. It was a fun night, and just the right amount of rehearsal commitment (small) for my crazy schedule. (Plus, dinner was DIVINE! The whole staff stayed late and served us our dinner in a private room once we finished performing. So sweet of them!)

I took Clay to a birthday party at Shiloh Water Park a couple of weekends ago. The place is still a huge hit! He actually enjoyed getting his face wet more this summer (must be all the time we've been spending at Grammy and Poppy's pool!), and he was fierce with the water cannon!

Last weekend, Clay and I went blueberry picking at Locust Grove Berry Farms. Ooooooh, how I loved it! We got there right at 7 a.m., when they open, and picked for about an hour. (Which ended up being perfect, because, believe it or not, it started to get warm at about 8 a.m.) We ended up with several cups of berries for about $4. We're making muffins tomorrow!

It's official - Hubs and I are going to ROME in the spring! We've sent off our passport renewal documents and booked our airline tickets! Hoooray! I've been dreaming of visiting Italy since before I got pregnant with Clay, but it's never been the right time. Guess what? It's the right time!! I cannot WAIT. I will spend the next several months poring over accommodations, attractions, etc. The planning and anticipation of a trip is definitely something I count among the pleasures of travel.

In the meantime, I'm taking a quick vacation to the beach with my entire family! We've rented a condo in Orange Beach, and the whole gang will be there! Should be fun!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Update on My 101

Truckin' right along . . . Four more things checked off!

101 things to do in 1001 days

Learn to juggle
Take a martial arts class
Make a will
Make a living will
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar (or, sheesh, just PRACTICE once in a while)
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Plant an herb garden
Make fresh pesto with basil I grew - Done! You know, I was never a huge fan of pesto in restaurants. It always seemed way too oily for me. But when I make it myself, I can control the ingredients! I LOVED the pesto I made. We served it over orzo. Delish!
Drink wine in California
Eat salsa in San Antonio
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Visit the famous fried chicken place in Lorman
Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Give blood
Learn to play the harmonica
Get my piano tuned
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Go ice skating
Attain APR accreditation
Read at least 3 current books on my profession
Take a road tour through the Mississippi Delta
Enroll in a Millsaps Enrichment class of my choosing
Take Clay to Disney World
Celebrate my birthday in style
Boil/steam a live lobster
Go to a rodeo
Host a formal tea, like at the Savoy
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Book a session with a personal trainer
Learn more about how to maximize Adobe Photoshop
Plan a surprise party for someone
Replace at least three outdated light fixtures in my house
Plant some vegetables and keep them alive long enough to harvest them
Plan and take at least one “destination trip” in honor of a holiday (Salem at Halloween, Plymouth Rock at Thanksgiving, etc.)
Stop cussing. Seriously STOP.
Renew my passport
Spend an entire day in complete silence (This one is going to be very difficult.)
Check out a library book, read it, and leave a note in it for the next reader - This one was easy (and fun)!
Attend one religious service of a faith other than my own, just to observe
Start buying more goods that are made in America
Find a professional mentor
Act as a mentor to someone who needs me
Take Clay fruit picking at a local farm
Make something yummy with what we pick
Take Clay to the Petrified Forest
Buy him a bag of shiny tumbled rocks
Take Clay to Rocky Springs
Take Mom to the opera
Rent a boat and go deep sea fishing with dad
Do a “Godfather Week” at the house, where we eat Italian food and watch the Godfather series (once Clay goes to bed. Eeek!)
Go camping
Have an indulgent breakfast in bed
Have my eyes checked (Dear Lord, I’m getting old.)
Take a weekend trip alone. COMPELTELY ALONE.
Win a bet
Look up more shadow puppet instructions and expand my repertoire (Dog, deer, dinosaur, rabbit, and bird are getting kinda old.)
Throw a tapas and wine party
Go on a picnic (Because you can never have too many.)
Toast the sunset
Go see an author read from his/her work
Fly a kite
Ride a horse
Go see a fortune teller or psychic
Ride a train
Find the perfect swimsuit
Have a facial
Move more of my bills/notices over to electronic or auto-draft
Clean out/shred as necessary in ALL of my old files (Gulp.)
Add money to a parking meter about to run out
Repair the back yard arbor
Whittle something
Kiss a new baby
Throw a Mediterranean party with grilled lamb, veggies, tzatziki, the whole nine
Start a personal, meaningful family tradition at Easter
Photograph a sunrise
Go to Pepsi Pops
Go to a ceramic painting shop and paint something cool - Clay and I did this together a few weeks ago. His piece turned out cooler than mine, I think, but hey, I'm trying, right?
Take a family trip to the wildlife preserve in Louisiana
Learn how to change my own oil in my car
Learn how to check and flush/fill fluids in my car
Learn the basics of how my car works
Get a book on constellations
Try to identify at least five of them in the sky
Write a love letter
Surprise someone
Put Christmas decorations on the outside of the house
Have sandal heels re-tapped or CHUCK THEM
Make a care package for someone
Buy something hand made - This one has been accomplished several times over! I bought lots of cool stuff at Arts Alive, an annual arts festival held in Smith Park. I also ordered some wonderful things on etsy for a friend's sweet new baby!
Visit a place that’s rumored to be haunted
Tape and edit a video to create a FINISHED PRODUCT

Start date: February 16, 2011
End date: November 13, 2013

A fine line

I finally had the chance to get by the Mississippi Museum of Art today for their current exhibit - The Orient Expressed. The exhibit explores the cultural phenomenon known as Japonisme through more than 200 pieces from throughout France, Belgium and the United States. The collection will be on display through July 17, so you still have time to catch it!

As for myself, I enjoyed the exhibit very much. There were several pieces that particularly caught my eye. Coastline of the Orient was like a tiny, perfect window onto a seaside landscape. So delicate and fine. Fusiyama from the Foot of the Hakani Mountains, a photograph, almost looked like a fantasy image. The mountain is ephemeral, wrapped in fog, looking like a voluminous ghost. The Rice of Plenty reminded me of something out of a fairy tale book - three women walking, viewed almost as if through a keyhole. I thought it was enchanting.

And some of the images of women - tending children, washing, sealing letters - were striking in their universality. Baby Talk, which showed an Asian woman cooing to her newborn, captured the essentially human way we interact with our children. The child was cradled close, and as the mother cooed to her little one, her chin jutted up and out a bit and a smile lifted the corners of her mouth. I remember having the exact same posture and expression when I "discussed" things with my tiny bundle!

Some of the pottery, glass and china on display is amazing. The large lobster platter they have, tilted impressively so you really can appreciate it, is striking in its coloring. (And it doesn't hurt, I suppose, that I can imagine eating lobster right off it! Hee! Probably not the thought the museum had in mind!) There was a crackled glass two-handled vase that completely won me over. It's a large-to-medium-sized piece, and the clear, textured glass is tinted the palest amber. The design features underwater plants and fish, and the almost tactile quality of the glass really does complete the illusion that the fish are swimming through water. Breathtaking. I think, of all the pieces on display, it was my favorite.

If you haven't been by the museum for this exhibit, I encourage you to make a little time to appreciate it! Plus, the companion items they have for sale in the museum gift shop are amazing. Everything from elaborate kimonos to tiny dolls to interesting books and paper goods.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Just call me Daisy Fay

I took Clay to the library a couple of weeks ago. I'd intended to check out a nice stack of books for both of us, but after we selected HIS books, he sorta lost interest. Which meant I had to hurriedly grab a tome or two of my own while making sure he didn't wreak havoc. Hovering near the end of the large-print aisle as I watched him cavort in the reading area, I finally just grabbed a book that looked halfway decent and told myself it would have to do.

The book I checked out was Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man, by Fannie Flagg. I've never read much Fannie Flagg, though I was aware she was the author of Fried Green Tomatoes. This book turned out to be a delight. The device Flagg uses to tell Daisy's story is that of a diary, and it was wonderful to hear Daisy grow up, and "listen" to her voice changing a bit as she got older.

Basically, Daisy is the only daughter of a Mississippi couple in the 1950s. Her father is charming, but he is a hard drinker. The reader follows Daisy on her adventures in Jackson, then down to Shell Beach on the Gulf Coast, then up to Hattiesburg, and finally to the Miss Mississippi contest in Tupelo. Throughout, Daisy's opinionated, honest take on the world around her will make you root for her. A funny cast of supporting characters also makes this book a joy to read.

Recommended!

Clay doings

A while back, Clay and I found ourselves with a free morning. We headed over to Harry the Potter, a paint-your-own pottery store in Flowood, for a fun morning activity.

Clay chose a small dish shaped like a fish, and he picked lots of blues, purples and grays to paint it with. I selected a large chip and dip plate and tons of greens, browns, and a fiery red. We had such fun! Clay mixed his paint and dabbled it all over the fish, while my design was a bit more structured. When we finished, we signed our names on the bottom of our creations and paid for our pottery.

I picked up the finished pieces last week. Clay's fish looks WAY better than my chip and dip plate! (Clearly, his artistic technique was superior.) Next time, I'm going to let him paint the big, expensive piece!

We also swung by the Amazing Butterflies exhibit at the Mississippi Museum of Natural Science last weekend. It was big fun! Clay loved climbing on the rope spiderweb, reflecting light into the mirror with his butterfly wings, and curling up in the cocoon. We paid our regular visits to all the fish and frogs in the aquarium section, and we also really enjoyed walking on some of the trails behind the museum.

Before we left Lefleur's Bluff State Park, we also took the opportunity to play at the Riverside Playground. We'd never been there before, and it's so much fun! First of all, it's really BIG. And there's lots of places to be and things to do inside. Clay loved climbing up into the towers, walking on the balance toys, and riding the rocky horses. Bathrooms are conveniently located adjacent to the park, and the day was absolutely gorgeous for playing outside.

This morning, the whole Bradshaw clan headed to the Mississippi Children's Museum. We love this attraction, and Clay could spend days inside. Particular favorites this morning included the forest maze, the build-a-boat racing stream, the digestive tract (He loves the sound effects!), and milking the cow at the barnyard. (They've been talking about farms at daycare.)

Oh, plus - we found time to dress up like pirates and create a treasure map. ARGH!!

Riots of bloom

It's May, and my garden is blooming! First, the cheery little daffodils and iris bloomed. Then, the confederate jasmine filled the air with its heady scent. Now, we've got lilies, gorgeous blue hydrangea, butterfly bush, gardenias, and tons of red geraniums. The forsythia I put out in the fall is also shooting up, and all of my mums from last fall have already budded.

On Easter weekend, we planted our first vegetable garden at this house. Clay went with me to Lowe's to pick out all of our plants. We chose two blackberry bushes, three strawberry bushes, three tomato plants (two cherry tomatoes, and one big striped variety), two pepper plants, two cucumber plants, and an eggplant. (Me, to Clay, as he was putting the eggplant in the cart, "But you don't even LIKE eggplant." Clay - "Oh, I do. I like eggplant." We shall see!) We also planted some seeds - sunflowers, radishes, and nasturtiums - in addition to some spring onions.


So far, all the rain we've been having has been kind to our vegetable garden. All the seeds have sprouted, and we've got little tomatoes on each of our tomato plants. The onions have started coming up, and our strawberry plants have put out a few little tentative white berries. (Though I may not get any. I have a feeling it's going to be a war with the creatures of the wild on that.)


If I can keep everything watered and disease-free, we'll be eating tons of great stuff in just a few short weeks! YAY!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Update on My 101

An update on my list! Five things checked off so far, and a couple of others are in progress! Woo hoo!

101 things to do in 1001 days

Learn to juggle
Take a martial arts class
Make a will
Make a living will
Train to run 3 miles without stopping
Try a yoga or pilates class
Go to the Lauren Rogers Museum
Learn to play at least one song on the guitar (or, sheesh, just PRACTICE once in a while)
Write a food article and get it published
Write at least one poem or short story
Plant an herb garden - Done! We've got basil, rosemary, chives, sage, dill, parsley, and thyme! Yum!
Make fresh pesto with basil I grew
Drink wine in California
Eat salsa in San Antonio
Treasure hunt on Highway 49
Host a New Year’s open house party
Visit the famous fried chicken place in Lorman
Go the fall flower show/festival in Crystal Springs
Learn more about the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict
Give blood
Learn to play the harmonica
Get my piano tuned
Buy sheet music for a song I like and learn to play it on the piano
Learn to do a passable waltz
Go ice skating
Attain APR accreditation
Read at least 3 current books on my profession
Take a road tour through the Mississippi Delta
Enroll in a Millsaps Enrichment class of my choosing
Take Clay to Disney World
Celebrate my birthday in style
Boil/steam a live lobster
Go to a rodeo
Host a formal tea, like at the Savoy
Write a letter to the editor of my local newspaper
Perform in at least one stage production
Attend at least one college alumni event
Get back in touch with some of my college professors
Book a session with a personal trainer
Learn more about how to maximize Adobe Photoshop
Plan a surprise party for someone
Replace at least three outdated light fixtures in my house
Plant some vegetables and keep them alive long enough to harvest them
Plan and take at least one “destination trip” in honor of a holiday (Salem at Halloween, Plymouth Rock at Thanksgiving, etc.)
Stop cussing. Seriously STOP.
Renew my passport
Spend an entire day in complete silence (This one is going to be very difficult.)
Check out a library book, read it, and leave a note in it for the next reader
Attend one religious service of a faith other than my own, just to observe
Start buying more goods that are made in America
Find a professional mentor - Check and check! Woo hoo!
Act as a mentor to someone who needs me
Take Clay fruit picking at a local farm
Make something yummy with what we pick
Take Clay to the Petrified Forest
Buy him a bag of shiny tumbled rocks
Take Clay to Rocky Springs
Take Mom to the opera
Rent a boat and go deep sea fishing with dad
Do a “Godfather Week” at the house, where we eat Italian food and watch the Godfather series (once Clay goes to bed. Eeek!)
Go camping
Have an indulgent breakfast in bed - Who knew that all I had to do to get this was ASK?!
Have my eyes checked (Dear Lord, I’m getting old.)
Take a weekend trip alone. COMPELTELY ALONE.
Win a bet
Look up more shadow puppet instructions and expand my repertoire (Dog, deer, dinosaur, rabbit, and bird are getting kinda old.)
Throw a tapas and wine party
Go on a picnic (Because you can never have too many.)
Toast the sunset
Go see an author read from his/her work
Fly a kite - Clay and I bought kites at the toy store in the Renaissance mall, and they are so easy to fly out on the reservoir. On a windy day, you just kinda toss them in the air!
Ride a horse
Go see a fortune teller or psychic
Ride a train
Find the perfect swimsuit
Have a facial
Move more of my bills/notices over to electronic or auto-draft
Clean out/shred as necessary in ALL of my old files (Gulp.)
Add money to a parking meter about to run out
Repair the back yard arbor
Whittle something
Kiss a new baby
Throw a Mediterranean party with grilled lamb, veggies, tzatziki, the whole nine
Start a personal, meaningful family tradition at Easter
Photograph a sunrise
Go to Pepsi Pops
Go to a ceramic painting shop and paint something cool
Take a family trip to the wildlife preserve in Louisiana
Learn how to change my own oil in my car
Learn how to check and flush/fill fluids in my car
Learn the basics of how my car works
Get a book on constellations
Try to identify at least five of them in the sky
Write a love letter
Surprise someone
Put Christmas decorations on the outside of the house
Have sandal heels re-tapped or CHUCK THEM
Make a care package for someone
Buy something hand made
Visit a place that’s rumored to be haunted
Tape and edit a video to create a FINISHED PRODUCT - I did this, too! Though my completed video was no great shakes, now I know it isn't such a big deal to put one together. It's easier than you think!

Start date: February 16, 2011
End date: November 13, 2013

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Easter fun!

Our little family celebrated a fun Easter last weekend! We made cupcakes, visited the Easter Festival at the Mississippi Museum of Agriculture and Forestry (where we ran into Grammy and a rose garden full of beautiful blooms), and had a relaxing dinner with my family!


Our weekend in pictures:




Yum! We took these to Clay's classroom for sharing!






Our love of carousels knows no bounds.



It seemed as though every rose bush at the Ag Museum was in bloom! Gorgeous!








I love this picture. Even though Clay looks SO OLD in it!







Little people were very excited about their Easter baskets!

I've met my match.

I recently finished reading The Man Who Ate Everything by Jeffrey Steingarten. What can I say? As a lover of food and a voracious eater, the title appealed to me.

Steingarten serves as food critic for Vogue magazine. (Yeah. I thought the same thing as you. "Vogue has a food critic?" When I think of Vogue, I think of dresses and bags and makeup and jewelry and tons of super-skinny models who never eat anything, much less consult the advice of a food critic. But I guess I've been wrong.)

At any rate, the book is a collection of essays on various food-related topics: Kobe beef, the perfect french fry (and the perfect ketchup to dip it in), truffle hunting, ice cream, salt, the American obsession with low fat foods, produce in the American supermarket, and on and on.

Steingarten is rapaciously curious about food, and he seems to revel in research and recipe testing. These tendencies, combined with a love of eating and a nice sense of humor, make for entertaining and informative reading.

The only thing I found off-putting, at times, was that Steingarten is obviously writing from a position of, well, privilege. He lives in New York City and thinks nothing of popping out at any hour of the day to track down the most obscure ingredients. He pays insanely high prices for foodstuffs, writing in dulcet tones about a crate of glorious peaches he had shipped direct from California (to the tune of $6 or $7 PER PEACH). He has ample time and resources to buy hundreds of pounds of potatoes, various jugs of different oils, and several versions of deep fryers to conduct an extensive french fry test at his apartment.

Man, that Vogue expense account must be generous.

Other than that slight chafing, however, I found the book enjoyable and enormously interesting. I learned a lot, and I'm considering buying his second book, It Must've Been Something I Ate.

Friday, April 15, 2011

The book of greed.

I recently finished reading Curtis Wilkie's Fall of the House of Zeus, which chronicles the meteoric rise and subsequent indictment of Dickie Scruggs. Wow.

If you aren't familiar with Dickie Sruggs, he was a home-grown Mississippi trial lawyer who took on some of America's biggest businesses and won. He landed big settlements for victims of asbestos poisoning in Mississippi and later went on to litigate Mississippi's tobacco settlement, a HUGE case that sent ripple effects throughout the United States and made Scruggs a millionaire for life.

As you read the book, you'll learn more than you ever wanted to know about a parade of familiar Mississippi politicians and lawyers. Even more astonishing, though, the book pulls back the curtain a bit and shows you how things really get done in state politics and law.

Wilkie delineates the connections between local business leaders, elected officials, and others with clout, and these connections are countless. The people that run this state went to Ole Miss together, pledged the same fraternity, grew up in the same small town, etc. And how do things get done once these folks are in positions of power? Well, one calls in a personal favor to another, and that's pretty much that.

In other words, your average John Q. Public, who doesn't happen to have such connections, doesn't have a prayer when trying to get legislation passed or effect some other desired outcome. He's not part of the network.

The other thing that disturbed me was the absolute greed I read about in this book. For many of these lawyers, $1 million in fees wasn't considered acceptable. (How can a million dollars be unacceptable?! I find it difficult to grasp.) They were all after what Wilkie calls the "big lick" - a giant settlement that would support a lavish lifestyle indefinitely. And the awful thing is, many of them got it. Private jets, multiple homes, frequent world travel, expensive cars and jewelry. The pursuit of these things dominated their thoughts, and some of the "characters" Wilkie writes about also seemed to begrudge other colleagues their success.

While reading this book certainly won't shore up your faith in humanity, I did find it fascinating. And aptly named. The story of Dickie Scruggs is something of a Greek tragedy.

Worth reading.

Dinner with Guy

A quick weigh-in with an out-of-the-way restaurant review - Guy's Catfish and Steak House in Vaiden, Miss.

We were driving up towards Memphis from Jackson on Thursday night when hunger struck. A quick search on the smartphone told us that Guy's Catfish was just ahead at Vaiden. We called them to make sure they were open and get the (incredibly simple) directions we needed to find them from the interstate, and we were in business!

First of all, you can tell from the moment you enter Guy's that this is a family-owned business. The whole clan seems to be there, from babies to grandmothers. We were lured by the heavenly smell of the catfish buffet, so we ordered that for dinner and started loading up our plates.

First the catfish - I don't know what spices they are putting in the breading/coating of their fried catfish, but they make for an amazing result. The fish is perfectly seasoned. I would tell you that you could skip tartar sauce (and really, you could), but then you would miss out on their delicious homemade tartar sauce. And nobody wants that, right?

The hush puppies were crispy and oniony, and the green beans had a sweet, vinegary note that I loved.

All that to say, Guy's is a winner. If you find yourself up near Vaiden, check it out!!

More Memphis . . .

Saturday morning found us up and at 'em for a fun-filled trip to the Children's Museum of Memphis. We arrived promptly at 9 a.m. (when it opened), enjoyed free on-site parking, and paid our $30 (total) to get in.

Clay immediately noticed the big FedEx plane to the right of the museum entrance, so our first stop was a stint as pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit. We explored the Mississippi river exhibit, then spent some time checking out groceries at the mini-Kroger before heading into educational exhibits about dentistry, auto mechanics, and more!

Clay loved the fire truck and police car, and we spent a good while on the "stage" where you can be in your own music video. (He loved seeing himself on TV!) He also really loved the construction area, where you can climb through a "house" in construction, connect different bits of PVC pipe together, and practice drawing blueprints. Then, it was off to build structures with wood slats and see how far your paper airplanes would fly in another exhibit.

We finished up in the Wizard of Oz section, where we practiced putting the stuffed scarecrow back together and tried on wild Ozian hats. A trip to the museum store for a puzzle and a little yellow car rounded out the visit, and we were back in Southaven for lunch and a nap a short while later.

One we'd had a rest, we decided to explore the Memphis Botanic Garden. I'd heard good things about the "Your Big Back Yard" exhibit, which sounded perfect for little man.

They've basically created a giant bird house (complete with a HUGE bluebird and a suspension bridge that leads to a fun slide) in one section of the garden. It's flanked by a GIANT nest for kids to play in, a little woodsy "theatre" where they can put on shows, and an interactive maze and spiderweb crawl.

Past all of that, kids can tunnel through the ground like worms and play in one of several playhouses designed and constructed by local artists. (Clay loved the house of twigs. We got inside and pretended we were two little pigs. Daddy was the wolf and, of course, we DID NOT let him in!) The houses are fanciful and imaginative. One contains all sorts of "found" instruments, like a xylophone made out of old wrenches. Another has a cool little loft space the kids can climb up into, with a tiny, high window they can peep out of. Just lots of fun and creativity.

Once we finished enjoying that part of the garden, we checked out the rest of it - roses, a beautiful water garden, and some fun swings. We finished up shortly before they closed, then headed out for dinner.

The next morning, it was back home! 9I didn't get to go to a SINGLE outlet mall. Sniff.) I can recommend a family trip to Memphis without reservation. We thoroughly enjoyed our visit!