Come Fire-Hoop with Me. Also: Laura Bush Stole My Tomatoes

Today was the sort of day which makes me glad for the blogosphere, as most of my friends in Real World already are incredibly tired of hearing this story and so I get to bore and test the patience of share this with y’all sweet people in Blog World. Anyway, this is the story of my Very Strange Day that started out weird, got better and then ended up with Laura Bush — yes, the Mrs. President Laura Bush — stealing tomatoes from me.  You just never know.

The morning kicked off great. I woke up — always a good sign. For once it was not already 91 degrees outside by 6 a.m. and was, in fact, quite pleasant. Plus, I’d made Toddy (cold-pressed coffee) overnight and it drained perfectly for a smooth and fresh first cup of the day. Then the weirdness began, because then I powered up the laptop, logged onto Facebook … and saw a video of Older Daughter hooping with fire. Hooping. With. Fire. She’s a talented and skilled hooper, teaches several hooping classes and even makes and sells hoops with her husband. All that I know. I did not know, however, that you could actually set fire to your hoop and then hoop with it. I think I wish I still didn’t know you could do that. Older Daughter assured me, however, that she’d gone through an intense fire-safety class beforehand and there were bunches of people standing around with a fire extinguisher, a fire blanket and several wet towels. I was not reassured.

However, after that my day improved immensely. Despite me yelling at her over the phone — “Why would you think that hooping with fire is a good idea???” — Older Daughter brought 2 1/2-year-old Capt. Adorable over while she got her hair cut. The Captain and I ran up and down the backyard, tormented the kitty cats (at least, he tormented while I protected) and ate blueberries with grilled-cheese sandwiches. After they left, the magic kept rolling. I went to get a pedicure and didn’t have to wait one single minute. Then I used coupons to get freebies at a couple of my favorite mall stories and racked up some bargains in the Belk clearance rack — I don’t care what my husband anybody says, $65 for a dress and three tops is pretty good.

And then things got weird again, because we’re coming to the part where Lara Bush stole my tomatoes. All day I’d been looking forward to stopping by the farmers’ market this afternoon to pick up some heirloom tomatoes. I love these heirloom tomatoes. They’re so full of flavorful tomato goodness, I can’t even tell you. I’d run out of my latest batch a couple of days ago and couldn’t wait to replenish. But, no. No heirloom tomatoes anywhere at the market. That I could see, anyway. And when I asked Steve, the owner of the market, if he had any of these tomato treasures stashed away, he sorrowfully shook his head and pointed to a long list pinned to his bulletin board. I knew Laura Bush was coming to town to speak at a fund-raising dinner. I did not know that the chefs preparing the dinner had asked Steve to save all his best things for the menu — including my heirloom tomatoes. Hence — and how often do you get to use the word “hence” anymore? — Laura Bush stole my tomatoes. But I still think she’s a nice person. A stealer of tomatoes, but a nice person.

St. Patrick’s Day

Irish things I like:

1) Pretty much any sort of food that has any sort of Irish connection. Particularly if it’s chocolate and/or fried. Or bread. So I hit the jackpot this year at Kalou’s Corner Market and Cafe in Huntsville, Alabama, which was celebrating St. Patrick’s Day with these treats. Who could resist a shamrock-shaped chocolate-covered chocolate brownie? And then there were two intriguing types of Irish beer bread — rye and cheddar. This bread was moist, dense, light and tender all that same time — and my bread-loving family did not let a crumb go to waste. Details at

2) Guinness beer, but only for the first two or three sips. That’s about all I can handle.

3) McGuire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida. This is my favorite Irish pub ever. Okay — I know that you know this is the only Irish pub I’ve ever been in. But it’s still my favorite. It’s on my must-go list every time I’m anywhere close by. This is the place that’s papered in customers’ dollar bills. McGuire’s has its own brewery and serves wonderfully fresh-tasting beers,ales, porters and stouts. And for my dollar bills, the best dishes are on the appetizer menu — boxtys (fried mashed potatoes), seared fresh tuna over mashed garlic red potatoes and the Irish Bleu Chips, which is homemade potato chips with blue cheese. And if you detect a theme of fried and mashed potatoes here, you are so right. Check it out at

4) Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt. I knew this was a memoir of a boy’s Irish childhood, but I didn’t read it until recently because I mistakenly thought it was sweet and heartwarming and sentimental — sort of the literary version of “Oh Danny Boy.” It’s not. It’s spare and harsh and ugly — and I couldn’t put it down. You won’t be able to, either.