Saturday, November 29, 2014

Page-turner

Been reading a good bit lately. A few of the highlights:

  • After finishing Simon Sinek's Start With Why, I moved on to his Leaders Eat Last. This is a better book than the first. There's more meat to it, and I found myself underlining more passages. Sinek's is a people-first management style - leaders take care of their people, and the rest of the business takes care of itself.
  • You can see that Sinek's philosophy echoes that of Max DePree in Leadership is an Art, first published in 1989. DePree instructs his reader to ask the right questions about a business so as to clarify identity and true objectives. He also contends that all businesses are truly in the people business. (DePree's book is famous, widely read, and I agree with much of what he wrote wholeheartedly. The problem then becomes - if we all agree this is the ideal, why do so few business actually operate on a people-first model? I'm going to have to find a few people to have that conversation with.)
  • A girl I worked with once has written and published a novel! It's called The Story of Land and Sea. It's a beautiful, glimmering book that tells the story of a Carolina family during the Revolutionary War and the years after. In some ways, the story is very much about women - young Helen, who falls in love with an ex-pirate-turned-soldier; her daughter, Tabitha, who yearns for adventure on the open water; Moll, a slave girl given to Helen as a birthday present. It's also very much about loss. Happiness is fleeting for all of the characters, none moreso than the female ones. This is not a happy book, but it's delicately and beautifully written.
  • My favorite book of the ones I've read recently is All the Light We Cannot See. Though the book is set in Europe before, during and after World War II, this book is really more about wanting something more for one's life and knowing oneself than it is about the war. The two main characters are Marie Laure, a young, blind girl whose father is the locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Werner is a young German orphan obsessed with science and mechanics. The reader follows their paths as war tears the fabric of the world, knowing all along that at some point, they will meet. They do, and it's wonderful. I love the economy of author Anthony Doerr's prose. There's not a word wasted, but the novel is lushly descriptive. Loved, loved, loved this book.
  • And then, just to keep things fun, I read Neil Patrick Harris: Choose Your Own Autobiography. This was a hoot! I enjoyed getting to know Harris better, and I thought the gimmick of the book was a fun throwback to my own childhood. Worth picking up for a fun read; this book would be legend - wait for it - ary as a beach read.

Adventures in scouting

We signed Clay up for Cub Scouts this year! They send flyers home from school, and since I was a Girl Scout until I graduated high school (and since the Boy Scouts have lately decided to be a bit more welcoming), I thought we'd check it out!

We headed to the informational meeting, asked lots of questions, got lots of answers, and decided to give it a whirl.

We've really enjoyed it so far! A lot of the boys in our den are either kids Clay knows from the neighborhood or boys he goes to school with. It's fun to get to know them and see the boys together. We participated in the car-washing fundraiser (Cars and boys got soaked!), learned how to use tools (The whole pack was surprised when I pulled my little multi-tool out of my purse!) and toured the police station. (When we toured the station, the officers put all the boys in the holding cell together. You could see all of the parents outside, exchanging glances, wondering if we had time to shut the door and make a run for it! Heh.)

We haven't been much for selling popcorn, and we didn't go on the first camp out (Work travel made timing difficult for that one.), but so far, we all enjoy scouting!

Playing dress up

Ready for Oz!
Clay and I had TWO opportunities to throw on costumes this fall!Not only did we get to dress up as super-ninjas for Halloween (more on that later), we also got to spend an evening in Oz for the fall festival at the Mississippi Children's Museum.

Clay has loved this museum since it opened. We have a family membership there, and we even held Clay's birthday party there earlier this year. When we heard their annual fall festival was going to be a big, costumed version of the Wizard of Oz, we were in! I threw on last year's witch costume, and with a little makeup, a floppy hat, and some hay, we turned Clay into a scarecrow.

We had a blast at the party, which offered food, special activities and Oz-themed crafts. We also loved seeing tons of other kids and parents in their costumes. A local high school was putting on The Wizard of Oz as a stage play in the next couple of weeks, and so their costumed cast (and, I'll bet, some of their cool painted backdrops) were throughout the museum. Just really, really fun and cool. We had a great time!

For Halloween this year, Clay wanted to be a ninja. No problem! (Ninja costumes are warm and
The Bradshaw ninjas . . .
comfortable, and since we had a cold snap right around Halloween - and bone-chilling wind that night - it turned out to be PERFECT!)

Halloween was really fun in our neighborhood this year! Our little crew carved two pumpkins and decorated to the hilt. As a neighborhood, we'd organized a bit ahead of time. Several houses hosted "attractions" for the kids!

. . . not so silent, not so deadly.
We had a beanbag toss, a family photo booth, one of those "put your hands in and guess the creepy thing you're touching" table, and I set up a table and handed out warm apple cider and Halloween snack mix. (We tried to get a neighborhood hayride, too, with no luck. Liability issues, I guess.) It was fun! We trick or treated with Clay and easily covered half the neighborhood before calling it a night. Our little ninja came home with an impressive haul (nearly half of which we sent to school the next Monday, just to reduce the diet carnage at our house).

Thursday, November 27, 2014

New eats in Jackson

During the past few months, I've tried a few new restaurants in the Jackson area with sharing.

1.) Saltine. This fun new oyster bar is located in Duling Hall, and you will love it! Both the woodfired and the fried oysters are delicious, as is their po' bao appetizer (inventive). You will LOVE their banoffee pie, and amazing combination of banana, coffee, caramelized sugar and whipped cream in a mason jar. Just get the banoffee pie. Trust me on this one.

2.) Caet is a little spot specializing in wine and small plates, perfect for dinner/drinks with a friend. (It, too, is located in Fondren, practically adjacent to Saltine.) We started with the chickpea appetizer, which is a really good value for the money (huge portion, and tasty to boot!). We also chose a fish small plate and a beef carpaccio small plate. Both were good. Service was speedy, and prices were reasonable. A fun, social spot!

3.) Lou's recently opened up in Belhaven, in the location of the old Basil's (adjacent to the old Jitney 14). In the past few weeks, I've eaten at a reception they catered, joined them for dinner, and taken a friend to lunch there. The food here is really, really good. Service is young and adorable. Prices are reasonable. And they have a cute side deck where you can eat in the open air. But, mainly, the food is really, really good. At lunch, I had the roasted chicken daily special. Amazing. When I went by for dinner, I chose the smoked salmon dip (which I would recommend to ANYONE. Delicious!!) and a side anti-Caesar salad (named so because Lou's uses anchovy-less dressing). Get over there. The food is really, really good. Just get over there.

Memphis!

Slides at Shelby Farms Park
At the end of the summer, hubs, little man, and I headed to Memphis for a weekend of fun! The three of us hadn't been in a few years, and we were anxious to hit a few of the spots we missed on the first go-round.

We headed up on a Friday after work, stopping for a quick Italian dinner in Grenada, Miss., at Carmella's Ristorante. I had the tasty Greek Goddess pizza, a Mediterranean-style pie, and Clay and I split some tiramisu for dessert. Then it was on to our hotel for the weekend. We'd booked a room at the Fairfield Inn & Suites Memphis/East Galleria, largely due to their positive reviews on TripAdvisor. Once checked in, we cleaned up and bedded down for the night.

After a quick breakfast at the hotel the next morning, we headed straight to what many say is one of the best family attractions in Memphis - Shelby Farms Park. I cannot BELIEVE I'd never visited this place until recently. First of all, the park is HUGE - some 4,500 acres. Secondly, they have nearly everything you can possibly imagine - really cool/inventive play spaces, tons of trails, lakes with paddle boats, bike rentals, disc golf, horseback riding, and a freaking HERD OF BUFFALO. And lastly, to just show up and enjoy the trails and play spaces is completely FREE!

Climbing skillz
When we went, they were doing some renovations to one end of the park, near where the dog park/trails are. We parked near the welcome center, oriented ourselves, and headed to the nearby playgrounds. They were such fun concept spaces! A deep hole was lined with play mats and big, wide slides. Another area had complicated webbing that kids could climb on like spiders, with cables connecting tree houses, hammocks for swinging, and platforms from which you could survey your athletic achievement. They also had areas for water play. We loved this place, and we stayed there all morning. (A park staffer even came around at 11-ish, offering free bottled waters to guests. Now THAT'S customer service!)

At lunchtime, our stomachs started rumbling. A little Google mapping led us straight to The Elegant Farmer, another place new to us that had received great online reviews. (P.S. It appears that recently, they've dropped the word "elegant" from their name. FYI if you are in search of them while in town.) The restaurant serves what they call "elevated" comfort food, with ingredients locally sourced and sustainably grown.

This place was a find, and the food completely hit the spot! I had a gorgeous farmer salad and a plate of creamy macaroni and cheese. Clay had a PB&J, and hubs had an amazing patty melt. Service was quickish and friendly, and we really enjoyed our lunch here.

Lunch at The Elegant Farmer
After that, it was off to another main attraction - The Pink Palace Museum. I LOVED this place as a girl. (I can remember being captivated by the miniature circus and the shrunken head!) We hadn't brought Clay there on his previous trip, and I couldn't wait to show him all of my old favorites!

We started with an awesome temporary exhibit on tarantulas that Clay loved. Live tarantulas, tarantula facts, images of webs projected onto walls so you could pretend you were a giant spider, and one conspicuously EMPTY tarantula case! Fun! Then, we moved on to some of the permanent exhibits. (My darling circus is still there, but it's no longer animated, due to age and the delicacy of the figures. Clay thought the medical exhibit was particularly interesting. We looked at all the tools doctors use to get beans and buttons and other tiny objects out of the noses, ears, and throats of too-curious little boys!)

We stopped for a light dessert and drinks in the museum cafe, then headed toward the shrunken head. But when we got to that part of the museum, it was cordoned off. It looked as though a wedding reception were going to take place there. I couldn't figure out how to get us around the wedding and into the room where the shrunken head is housed, so down to the front desk we went to ask for directions.

The Pink Palace Museum!
Turns out, that WHOLE PART of the museum was booked for the private event. Including the shrunken head room! I bemoaned my situation to the sweet girl at the front desk. I explained that I'd been talking up this shrunken head for days. After a second, she asked me, "Was the event already started, or were the tables empty?" Empty. With a finger to her lips, she led us quickly back to the area, pushed aside the velvet rope, and gave us our own private audience with the shrunken head. Clay was pretty amazed. And so was I! (The hilarious thing about it is that, on the placard next to the head, they provide directions for making your own shrunken head. This leads you to believe that obtaining a decapitated human head is literally the only thing standing between you and a shrunken head of your very own.)

On the monorail at Mud Island
After that, we went back to our hotel for a rest before meeting up with one of my husband's college roommates and his girlfriend for dinner. We went to Firebirds Wood Fired Grill, a nice, open-plan restaurant with plenty of menu variety. I chose the kobe beef meatloaf, and both hubs and little man had steaks. The meatloaf was soooo good! It came with a rich mushroom sauce and parmesan mashed potatoes. I washed it down with a glass of red.

We had the best time talking and laughing with our dining companions! I hadn't spent much time with them (and had never event met the sweet girlfriend
Mud Island's scale river model
before), but they were quick and funny and smart and easy to spend time with. And Clay behaved very well and ate his veggies! Success!

The next morning, it was another quick breakfast at the hotel, then off to Mud Island! I hadn't been to Mud Island, a scale model of the lower Mississippi River that you can wade in and play on, since I was a child. As it was a gorgeous day, we didn't choose to visit the museum, opting instead to head straight for the monorail and the outdoor model.

We rode the red monorail car slowly out to the model and the Riverwalk, enjoying the views and the novelty. Then, it was off with our socks and into the water! Clay loved wading the whole length of the Mississippi! The model is very educational, with placards throughout explaining topography and history. They also have large bronze (?) aerial maps of the cities along the river, and we loved finding cities we knew!

Though we all really enjoyed this attraction, it could use some refurbishing. It's beginning to show its age. I don't know if they plan to do any repairing or sprucing up soon, but I hope they do.

I love this guy!
We were getting hungry for lunch by this time. Luckily, we were only blocks away from Gus's World Famous Fried Chicken! We just barely beat the major lunch rush. After a short wait, we were seated and digging into spicy, perfectly-fried yard bird.

Our tummies full, we headed for home. Until next time, Memphis!