Cupcakes and T-shirts and Fireworks, Oh My!

Is it wrong that some of the things I most look forward to when it comes to the Fourth of July are eating and wearing all things red, white and blue? I mean, fireworks are fun and cookouts are cool, but give me an artificially colored sugary treat and a patriotic T-shirt made halfway across the world and I’m happy. Seriously! I’m not being sarcastic here … well, maybe a little bit. But these incredibly yummy cupcakes were made with care and sold with joy at a small and local family bakery — the lemonade one especially is delicious with its tart and refreshing burst of lemony flavor. And the T-shirt, priced at $5.99, came from a discount store that has successfully brought style within reach of almost all budgets. So, in celebrating our national birthday, I’m also honoring our quintessential American values of capitalism, entrepreneurship and democratization. On the other hand, you could point out that I’m contributing to the growing problems of obesity and job loss. But here’s the thing: I’m free to do that. I’m free to shop for cupcakes anywhere I want to and eat as many as I feel I can. (Are all four too many? Please say “no.”)  I’m free to go anywhere I want on a T-shirt search and buy anything I can sneak into the house without my husband noticing that fits into my budget. Free to do pretty much what I want to do. Free. To. Do. What. I. Want. I don’t always make the best choices, but at least I’m free to make them. Thank you, Founding Fathers and Unheralded Founding Mothers. Happy Birthday!

And now I’m going to put on my T-shirt, eat a cupcake and drink more coffee because I’m not used to such deep thinking before lunch.

If There’s Chocolate, It Must Be Easter

Hoppy Easter! Hope your day is filled with chocolate and eggs and family and fun. I’m just happy that my two daughters are grownup and in their 20s now and I didn’t have to spend Easter Eve hemming little smocked dresses and desperately trying to concoct matching  hair bows. Not that I ever was so unorganized and frazzled that I waited until the last minute to finish Easter dresses. No! Not me!!! Oh, OK. Definitely me. The best thing about Easter, of course, is being with family and friends. (The availability of unlimited chocolate goes without saying.) My family gathered this past weekend to celebrate the joint birthdays of our oldest — my dad, turning 77 — and our youngest — my nephew, turning 1. Photo ops! But with young ‘uns, you never know what you’re going to get. Three-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable is good for about two shots of holding still and saying “cheese,” but then he’s done with you and on to more important things. So I just click away, sort through everything later and hope for the best. Such as this shot of the Captain and his cousin, the Birthday Boy. (We think they’re cousins, at least — the Captain’s mom is the Birthday Boy’s daddy’s niece. Is that right?) It took me a couple of times before I realized that both boys are intently studying the backs of their books. Must be a family trait. And I love the shot with most of my favorite girls in it — daughters and sisters-in-law — and my two absolute favorite little guys. Even though it wasn’t Easter, it was wonderful family time. There even was plenty of chocolate. But, thankfully, no hemming of dresses.

Welcome, 2011 — Come On In and Stay A While

Happy New Year’s Eve! Go forth and have fun tonight. With safety, please. And if you decide to stay home — whether you’re hosting a crowd or a romantic dinner for two — you’ll need something special and sparkly to drink. Several friends shared their favorite bubbly cocktail recipes in the food story I did this week for the TimesDaily. Check it out — it’s not too late to run to the store and stock up on beverage supplies. I did leave out one recipe from my friend Steve, who started off his list of ingredients with “Get some moonshine.” I love the South!

And then take a minute to read my weekly newspaper column for inspiration on making resolutions. Oh my goodness — I could fill pages and pages with promises to do things better. But then it would take me so long to sit down and write all my resolutions down that I wouldn’t have the time to actually, you know, do them. That’s my excuse, anyway. Like right now. I really should go out and walk before it starts raining. But it looks like it might rain any minute. And it’s windy. And cold, maybe. So I’ll just stay inside where it’s nice and warm and dry and THINK about going out to walk. I mean, that’s almost as good, right???

This past week I did get a headstart on one of my resolutions, which is to write more fiction. Of course, friends and family will argue that my newspaper columns already have touches of fiction but they’re all good sports and don’t mind that I might perhaps slightly edit things they say and/or do — for journalism’s sake, of course. Except for almost-3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable, whose adorability is an absolute fact that needs no exaggeration whatsoever.

Oh, Christmas Tree!

This is why I love my job as marketing director at an art museum — during December, my workplace looks like this. Every year we host an annual exhibit of huge live trees that people in our community volunteer to decorate, and I have to say that this year is one of the best ever. A woman whose husband is a firefighter decorated the tree on the right to honor local fire departments. The tree on the left was decorated by a medical auxiliary to raise awareness of childhood cancer. We’ve got a tree celebrating books, one featuring “visions of sugarplums” and one called “Fleece Navidad” that’s full of every kind of stuffed and carved and sewn and decorated lamb you can imagine. I love hearing people walk through the exhibit and “ooh” and “ahh” in delight. Makes me think that I really should put our tree up … sometime soon.

It Feels Like Christmas, Just Like Christmas

This Exhibit A why I’ll never ever ever be an interior decorator and/or marvelous hostess: These photos illustrate the way the holidays are supposed to be done, as opposed to my method of tying a few bows on light fixtures, opening a box of fancy Ritz crackers and hoping for the best. Thankfully, there are people like Mary Katherine Butler, an interior decorator and lover of all things colorful who owns a shop called Kates and Co. in downtown Corinth, Mississippi. She carries the slack for the rest of us … well, slackers. This was the Christmas open house at her shop a few days ago, and it definitely put everybody in a festive spirit. How could it not? I smile just walking into her shop. In the hands of folks who know what they’re doing — like Mary Katherine and several of my good friends — a bunch of stuff on a table turns into something gorgeous and magical. But if I arranged a bunch of stuff on a table, it simply would look like a bunch of stuff on a table. But at least that’s better than a bunch of cat hair, which is what’s usually on our tables. Sigh.

Holidays

Happy first Monday of 2010! With folks sort of starting to get back in the normal routine, some people are clinging to their Christmas decorations by pointing out that Jan. 6, or Epiphany, is still part of the season — a valid argument, but one that exceedingly gets pushed out of the way by the retail holiday rush. Dear Husband and I were out and about on New Year’s Day and spied these competing holiday displays: Valentine’s Day versus Easter, in the same store. With Christmas and New Year’s on sale just a couple aisles over. What’s a shopper to do???

Mississippi

This is why I love Christmas in Mississippi. Look at this gorgeous old house, with its classically festive holiday decorations of red and green — enlivened by the riot of pansies planted in the front yard. It’s like, “Christmas is here, but spring is coming!” Although I have to say that the past few days here in the South have been sort of wintry — chilly with a chance of freezing. Younger Daughter has been in Maine visiting her uncle and aunt there in the Frozen North, but I believe it’s been only minimally colder here. Then again, what do I know? Anything below 85 degrees is sweater weather to me.

New Year’s

Happy New Year! Hope it’s a fabulous one for you and your family. And if you’re taking a break from football today, go to http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100101/ARTICLES/1015000 to read my weekly newspaper column that includes resolutions folks sent me from all over. See if yours made it in, and thanks to everybody who helped me with this project. And here’s hoping your favorite teams win — as long as those teams are SEC, of course!

Weddings

I love holiday weddings! It probably goes back to my own parents’ wedding on Dec. 18, 1955. I wasn’t there but I’ve always been entranced by my mom’s description of her bridesmaids carrying muffs with holly sprigs pinned to them — how romantic and lovely is that? So I was tickled when Younger Daughter asked me to go with her to a friend’s wedding that was the weekend before Christmas. Her friends had so many sweet touches to the ceremony — a processional of guitar music, simple and classic knee-length bridesmaids’ dresses, a swirly logo on the invitations and programs — that I should have known the reception would be equally classic. It was at Locust Hill, an outstanding historic house in Tuscumbia, Alabama — a town full of outstanding historic houses. I especially was enthralled with the entryway, where a holiday-decorated antique sidebar held scrapbook pages for guests to sign plus photos of the couple. And the groom’s cake was fun with its fishing theme. Now, I can hear some of you non-Southern folks scratching your heads and wondering what a “groom’s cake” is. While it’s true that this tradition of honoring the groom with his own cake is no longer confined to states that consider Jefferson Davis’ birthday an official holiday, it’s still not a common tradition outside of the South. And I’m not even sure why it’s such a Southern thing, sort of like cheese straws and using the word “tea” to mean “a tall glass of cold iced sweet goodness.” But I’m glad weddings are celebrated everywhere. Even where nobody knows what a groom’s cake is.