Ponderosa Tree Farm AntiquesHappy 75th birthday to my mom, Susan Wood, of Antiques Manchester, Tennessee, today! She is practically the most awesome person I know, and my goal is to grow up to be just like her. And since she hates having her picture taken, I’ve done the next best thing and put pictures here of just one of her claims to fame: her antique shop, Ponderosa Tree Farm Antiques. She is known far and wide as an antiques and auction expert and she’s gathered some of the results Tennessee antiquesof her sharp eyes and buying skills here in her antiques shop. She also has three booths at an antiques mall, but my favorite is her shop. I love wandering through and discovering new finds she’s rescued from folks Manchester, Tennesseewho don’t appreciate the value of a vintage flour-sack apron or a chunky retro beaded bracelet. She’s got dishes, books, kitchen ware, dolls, toys, clothes, linens and almost any other thing you might want to collect. And, listen, she does all this herself — and with help from my dad. She loads and totes and prices and organizes and cleans and presses — it’s exhausting just to think about, but she loves it. I cannot keep up with her. In fact, I can’t keep up with either of my parents — they pretty much put me to shame. Read more in my weekly newspaper column,, and have a happy birthday, Mom! Love you!!!

American Girls

samanthaMy 22-year-old daughter and I were looking through the latest American kirsten1Girl doll catalog this weekend and started getting nostalgic. Back in the early 1990s — about 15 years ago — when we lived in Athens, Tennessee, she and her now 24-year-old sister loved these dolls. Me, too. Every birthday and Christmas we added to our collection with clothes, accessories, books and furniture. I even made some of the doll clothes and — I’m embarrassed to admit this, but it’s true — on a few occasions we were a complete mother-daughters-dolls matching set. Ouch. But we had fun. Among the three of us, we had the original three dolls: Kristen, the pioneer girl; Samantha, the Victorian girl; and Molly, the World War II girl. We then added Felicity, the Colonial girl; and Addy, who escaped slavery with molly1her mother. Almost all of our friends in Athens had them, too, and we’d have lovely tea parties with girls and dolls. Wonderful, wonderful memories. But the girls got older and gradually put away “childish” things. When we moved to north Alabama in 1995, the dolls stayed packed up and I’ve only sort of peripherally kept up with new American Girl dolls and the shifting emphasis from historical characters to contemporary Just-Like-You dolls. But when I noticed this past Christmas that the newest doll is Depression-era Kit Kittredge whose date is 1934, I knew she’d be perfect for my mom, who was born that year. The doll even looks like my mom, and Kit’s clothes and accessories seem straight from my mom’s Illinois childhood. My daughters and I are having fun getting back into American Girl collecting. I can’t wait until I have granddaughters to buy for, too. We’re sad beyond belief, however, to hear that Mattel — which owns the company now — is retiring Samantha. That’s a shame. Seems as if learning from the past is more important than ever. So long, Samantha. Thanks for being such a vital part of my daughters’ childhood. We’ll miss you. Click here to read more Samantha farewells: