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Replace at least three outdated light fixtures in my house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!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Memphis fun!

Last weekend, our little tribe packed up and headed to Memphis for some family fun! We took off Thursday night and checked in at a Residence Inn in Southaven. (We always stay in suite-style accommodations, and we didn't really feel a need to be in Memphis proper in the evenings.)

Friday morning found us headed for the Memphis Zoo! I'd never been there before. First of all, the neighborhood surrounding the zoo is gorgeous. Large, historic homes sit back from the street, nestled among mature lawns and plantings. (I wonder how much some of those houses cost. Shivers.)

We arrived just as the zoo was opening at 9 a.m. Parking was $5, but because we are members at the Jackson Zoo, we got in for half-price ($20 for all three of us)! Yay! Because we anticipated a long day there, we rented one of the cute covered strollers they offer (8$). Then, off we headed to explore.

The entrance to the zoo is very impressive. A large, Egyptian-style structure serves as your ticketing area, and in front of it are large, two-dimensional animal statues. (Clay loved them, insisting on having his picture taken in front of the hippo.) Once inside, you're greeted by all the public facilities (restrooms, stroller rental, information office, shop, etc.), plus some beautiful fountains and statuary, before entering the actual exhibit space.

First, we toured the "Cat Country" exhibit, where we saw leopards, cheetahs, and other gorgeous animals. We noticed that the lions didn't appear to be out this early, which was a disappointing discovery we remedied later in the day. Then, we peeked into the Tropical Bird House. We LOVED this. Though in many parts of the house, a glass or cage separates you from the birds, two large open-air viewing rooms put you up close and personal with gorgeous specimens. They were flying all around us. A great experience.

We were disappointed to find the penguin exhibit empty, though we did enjoy watching a nearby pelican exhibit for a while. We spent a little time in their jewel-box of an aquarium before getting to know the Komodo Dragons. There were three of them, all in different enclosures, and Clay was completely fascinated by them, going right up to the Plexiglas for a chat, then stepping back a bit when one got a little *too* active. (Incidentally, did you know that a Komodo Dragon can eat a small deer in about 20 minutes? No joke. Clay clearly understood the food chain.)

After stopping by the hippo exhibit for an ice cream, we checked out the China exhibit. It started with a short educational film, then you entered this part of the zoo to observe Asian monkeys, otters, birds, and the star attraction - giant pandas. There were two of them, and they were so cute! Much more social than I thought they'd be. One was in the day room, clearly posing for pictures and enjoying being adored by throngs of fans.

Afterwards, we made our way through the African Veldt exhibits, getting up-close looks at elephants, ostrich, zebras, and rhinos. At the giraffe exhibit, we arrived just in time for a keeper chat, so we got to see the giraffes reach their looooong tongues out to fetch the pieces of banana he offered them. Fun!

Then, it was off to the Northwest Passage exhibit, which was probably my absolute favorite part of the zoo. Decorated with totem poles and interactive play spaces (a canoe you can climb in, little nooks and crannies you can explore and use for photos ops, etc.), this exhibit features polar bears, bald eagles, sea lions and other favorites. There's even an air-conditioned space (though it wasn't hot that day, I can imagine how valuable this would be as the months creep into summer) where you can view the polar bears from one side and the sea lions from another in perfect, climate-controlled comfort. Smart.

Directly adjacent to the Northwest Passage exhibit was the Teton Trek, another snazzy combination of enclosures featuring grizzly bears, wolves, and elk. This exhibit also features a gorgeous lodge (perfect for special events) and a fun water feature that the kids can cool off in on hot days. We were getting hungry by this time, so we stopped at a couple of food carts nearby and bought hot dogs, popcorn, and drinks to enjoy in the picnic area next to this exhibit. While there was nothing particularly bad about this fare, if I had it to do again, I might try to time my day so I could lunch at either the Cat House Cafe (sandwiches, salads, pizza, etc.) or one of the other sit-down restaurants in the zoo.

A quick loop around took us to primate canyon, where we saw monkeys, chimpanzees and orangutans. We also enjoyed the flamingos in this part of the park. The Denizens of the Deep South exhibit was closed due to renovation. (These exhibits are clearly in an older part of the zoo.) We ended our day back at the GREAT playground adjacent to the Cat House Cafe. Clay loved playing here, and the equipment was completely age-appropriate for him. A loud roar from the nearby Cat Country exhibit sent us running to see the lions, which were out and on the prowl, before leaving.

To tour the entire zoo took us from about 9 a.m. until about 2 p.m., so it's a full day to be sure. But it's a GREAT facility, and we all really enjoyed it. So many of the animals they feature are not available at our local zoo.

As well, much like my experience of the Museum of Natural History Museum in New York, I think one can observe at the Memphis Zoo the evolution of what the American public thinks a zoo should be. Older parts of the facility showcase animals in smaller enclosures, viewable from one side. The newer, flashier exhibits (China, Northwest Passage, Teton Trek) brand each experience with corresponding architecture/decor, enclosures viewable from multiple vantage points, complimentary indoor spaces, larger habitats, and more interactive features. Just walking through the Memphis Zoo, you can see how the expectations of the consumer have risen over the past couple of decades, and it's obvious that the zoo's strategic plan (They are building a Chickasaw Bluffs exhibit next.) is responding to customer demand. Very impressive.

After such a long day, we headed back to the hotel for a nap, a dip in the pool, and a light dinner in Southaven.

More to come . . .

Saturday, April 02, 2011

What Clay is doing now.

Eeek! I haven't been doing these for quite a while! Here's what Clay's up to these days:

  1. Clay can identify all of his letters (and the sounds they make) and his numbers.

  2. When we are speaking words, he can tell me the letters they start and end with, based on the sound of the word.

  3. He can successfully count to 15. (After that, he starts making stuff up.)

  4. He can write his name.

  5. He can dress himself, use the bathroom himself, wash his hands, and brush his own teeth. (Though I still try to get in there and do a couple of swipes with the toothbrush, just to be sure we're covered.)

  6. Last night, he slept the whole night through in his underwear, not a pull-up. No accidents!

  7. He can color inside the lines of a picture, but he seems to prefer drawing his own creations.

  8. When he's drawing or writing his letters, he is completely focused on what he's doing.

  9. He seems to remember everything we do! This is good most of the time and annoying only occasionally.

  10. He loves role playing. Sometimes we're fire fighters. Sometimes we're Velma and Scooby. Sometimes we're doctors or dinasaurs or superheroes. (And sometimes, mama and daddy are REALLY TIRED.)

Good eats.

I had the chance to try a couple of new (to me) places for lunch this week. Though I've purchased bread from Great Harvest Bread Company before, they recently opened up a location in Ridgeland where they serve lunch. A co-worker and I swung by there for a bite this week. I ordered the Ya Ya Chicken salad sandwich on wheat bread. It was deliciously savory, and the bread choice was just right. I bravely resisted the temptation to order one of their come-hither desserts. (They seem to have every baked delicacy in the world on display, and they are selling cookies in packs of SIX. Waistline says no. Maybe if they'd sell single cookies, I could sample one?)

As they are new to the lunch-serving business (They've only been serving lunch for about a month.), I found they still had a few kinks to work out. Only 1 register (a mistake, as the line got quite long at times), probably not quite enough tables (people started circling for them like vultures before we left), and not quite enough staff (meals were a little slow to come out, but more noticeably, tables were not often bussed quickly). I'll definitely go there again in another month or so to see how they're coming along.

This afternoon, I finally got around to trying Five Guys Burgers and Fries. YUM! The chain restaurant has a pretty limited menu of burgers, fries, and hot dogs, but they do well with the items they focus on. Portions are generous. A small burger is quite big enough, and I'd say that three people could split an order of small fries. (The fries were especially good.) The Ridgeland Renaissance location has a lovely outdoor seating area, and you can also choose to snag an inside table near the kitchen and watch the staff at work.

They are also building a Five Guys at the Dogwood Festival Mall in Flowood, so you'll have even more options to choose from to satisfy your burger-and-fries-fetish!


Last weekend, we planted all of our patio pots! They look so beautiful! I love red geraniums, and I plant them nearly every year. They're great because they are hardy, don't mind drying out a bit (I'm notorious for forgetting to water.), and I love their bright red flowers. This year, we also put out a cherry tomato plant and a strawberry vine, in addition to our usual potted herbs (basil, chives, thyme and parsley). Both the front and back yards are looking beautiful!

Last Sunday, we packed up our little clan and headed to the Disney Live! Magic Show at the Mississippi Coliseum. The show featured Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, and Donald in addition to several of the popular princesses. There was song and dance, a little bit of magic, and a whole lotta relentless cheer (which, as you know, Disney is famous for the world over).

Clay watched the whole thing very intently. (It amazes me how he focuses so closely on live performances. I never worry about taking him to see any live show, because I know that once the lights go down and the curtain goes up, he will absolutely be the ideal audience member.) We snacked on our popcorn, enjoyed the show, and bought a quick little souvenir on the way out.

Yesterday was my sweet nephew's birthday. He had his party at the Baptist Healthplex in Clinton, and it was so fun! When the gym first opened, they had a glassed-in room that featured a rock-climbing wall. For whatever reason, they later removed the climbing wall and put active games in the glassed-in room instead. They had a couple of Wiis; a Dance Dance Revolution game; some neat stationary bikes with video monitors that let you ride different races/routes (harder than it looks!); a big, lit-up electronic floor game with tons of options (step on the lit red dots, avoid the lit-up panels, etc.); and tons of other fun stuff. Clay loved being there and playing with the older kids, and it was great to share another birthday with my nephew.

This Saturday, we decided to swing by the arts festival out at Ridgeland's Renaissance Mall. They held it for the first time in 2009, and it's grown every year since then. Basically, they invite artists from all over the Southeast to come out and exhibit/sell their work at booths. This year, they had some great activities for the little ones. Clay sculpted with play-dough, made his own hat at another crafts booth, decorated a hand puppet at a third tent, and, finally, colored his own T-shirt with fabric markers. He looked awfully cute, hopping all around with his handmade hat and shirt. We perused some of the art booths, caught a quick lunch, and headed home.

The arts festival lasts through Sunday, April 3. So if you didn't get by there today, it's not too late!