No, this is not THAT kind of post. Where is your mind, people??? It’s just that I wanted to share with you a prime example*** of the unassailable difference between men and women: shoes. You know where we’re headed, don’t you? This is my husband’s entire shoe collection, minus a beautiful pair of dress shoes he has carefully taken care of for years. His. Entire. Shoe. Collection. I can’t emphasize that enough. Because I literally will wear more pairs than this in a single day. Also, my shoes are different. From each other. I don’t need to say anything else, do I? Just ponder on that.
*** This was one of my dad’s favorite phrases back in the day, as in, “That is a prime example of what happens when you don’t pay attention,” which, it will come as no surprise, was usually directly at my middle brother because I ALWAYS listened and anything the baby brother — also known as The Favorite Child of All Time — did was just fine and dandy. In fact, I don’t think he ever was prime-exampled.
I love being a grandma. And I’m pretty good at it. Look, when you are the mommy and you have kids, you’re pretty much stressed and busy and even though you know you’re supposed to slow down and enjoy, there are clothes to wash and homework to check and teachers’ presents to come up with and cookie dough and wrapping paper to buy and so on and WHO HAS TIME TO SLOW DOWN??? But when those kids grow up and give you the most wonderful and adorable grandbabies in the world and you no longer have to worry about 101 ways to make chicken casserole, you can relax and indulge in grandbaby love. Which is The. Best. Ever. But I do try to follow the rules Older Daughter sets down. First, because she is an awesome parent and I have no idea where she learned to be so wise. And, second, if I follow the rules, that means more grandbaby love for me. So I try to be as creative and low-key and green as her standards request. That’s why, one recent afternoon, we all were sitting at the kitchen bar and I noticed four random rectangles of paper — tickets or coupons or something. Eager to show how smart environmentally friendly I was and proud of my educational initiative, I quickly drew a shape on each piece for an impromptu game with 2-year-old grandson of Identify This Shape. And as the genius baby he is, he got the triangle. He got the square. He got the “E” (first letter of his name). But when I held up the fourth shape, he wrinkled his cute little adorable grandbaby forehead in concentration and then, puzzled, looked at his mom, his primary interpreter. She then literally fell on the floor laughing. “What? What?? WHAT???” I said, not sure what was happening. And in that patient tone of voice she uses with me with alarming frequency, she explained: “That doesn’t look like any circle he’s ever seen.” So, OK. I’m not a great artist. And nobody can read my handwriting. But, I ask you, isn’t that clearly a circle? Sort of, anyway? Thank you.
Susan’s coffee table is gorgeously decorated for the holidays. And see those papers? We actually read our assigned books and go over discussion questions and have some lively conversations. Over wine, of course. But still.
You know that friend you have who has been through so much yet still is a rock(ette) and everybody relies on her and she is cheerful and giving and loving despite every reason not to be and you want only good things for her always? My friend like that — let’s randomly call her ‘Susan’ for no reason whatsoever — is the DEAREST AND BEST person ever and I am so lucky she lets me be her friend. She recently bought and moved into her own house and because I am a bad friend who doesn’t deserve her, I hadn’t seen the new place until this week when she hosted a Christmas party for our four-woman book club. (We are small but extremely opinionated — or maybe that’s just me. The opinionated part, I mean.) She was beaming as she welcomed us in to her warm and cozy and festive oh-so-her home. Even if I didn’t know she lived there, I would have said she should — it fits her so well. She didn’t have to do a thing to it, paint-wise, and her furniture works perfectly, with plenty of space and traffic flow for family and friends as well as her own woman-cave for relaxing. She has such good taste in decorating — simple yet elegant with a big dash of creativity is the best way to describe her style. For instance, look at her china cabinet (below).
The clear glass centerpiece reflects the candlelight and the silver and white colors add to the festive wintry atmosphere.
Susan adds personal touches to her china cabinet with a unique display of her Gail Pittman collection.
Love, love, love the way she propped up her square Gail Pittman plates in the back to look like inlaid tiles. Clever! (And remind me to tell you about some of our Gail Pittman adventures. You wouldn’t believe what folks will do for a matching dessert plate and espresso cup. And by “folks,” I mean me.) Anyway, for Christmas Susan used silver and pale blue and glittery white to create a magical wintry evening. She fed us yummy food and fun cranberry margaritas and we opened presents and talked about the book and laughed a whole big bunch. Doesn’t get much better than that, especially when you’ve got a hostess who is so happy to share her own home with her friends. Seems like that’s the way to do Christmas parties.
It does exist! I’d heard rumors about sugar-free pumpkin spice syrup but had not spotted this rarely seen creation in all of my many meanderings through T.J. Maxx grocery aisles … until now. I found this lone bottle tucked away behind the vanilla and hazelnut flavors on the top shelf in the Tupelo store (which is one of my favorite T.J.s, with its smattering of good-zip-code designer finds and a truly breathtaking hair and skin-care section). Not sure if I had broken into someone’s pumpkin-spice stash or if it had inadvertently been pushed to the back, but I grabbed the pumpkin-spice and put it in my cart immediately, under the jealously watchful eyes of two other shoppers who were not as quick. Or fast. Or, perhaps, pumpkin-spice obsessed. Yeah, yeah, I know. I know that “pumpkin spice” is (brilliant) marketing and mostly has nothing to do with actual pumpkins. I know that Starbucks and other retailers have wiggled their way into my head and made me lust after cozy & rustic & warming pumpkin stuff I didn’t even know I wanted. (Candles! Lotions! Pringles!) I know that no actual real pumpkins are harmed in the making of almost everything claiming a connection to our favorite orange squash. And yet. Here I am drinking pumpkin spice coffee and eating a pumpkin spice muffin with pumpkin butter, thinking about lunch with pumpkin beer to go with pumpkin salsa and pumpkin-seed crackers. I may need an intervention. But could you wait until Christmas, please? I’ve got a bunch of pumpkin soup leftover in the fridge.
Husband JP and I were lucky enough to be invited to Thanksgiving dinner with Older Daughter’s in-laws, who pretty much set the standard for Southern hospitality and generosity. Not to mention incredibly good food — melt-in-your-mouth smoked turkey, Older Daughter’s signature corn casserole, homemade sourdough rolls and that broccoli salad with onions and grapes I love but never make myself were only a few of the highlights, along with JP’s favorites of deviled eggs and green-bean casserole. After we rolled ourselves away from the table, it was time for after-dinner entertainment — which, predictably, seemed to split along gender lines. Those who were planning upcoming shopping trips — this group seemed to be mostly women — settled in to scan the ads and make a schedule. Outside, another group — and this one was mostly men — tried to outdo each other with feats of strength, skill and endurance chopped firewood from a lovely old cherry tree and fixed a balky chainsaw. But then we regrouped for a late afternoon hike. And I got to take some banana pudding home! So my Thanksgiving started out with precious grandbaby hugs and ended with a bowl of leftover goodness. Hope yours was full of love and sweetness, too.
Our younger grandson turned 1 year old this past weekend and my son-in-law’s family hosted a joyous party on a perfect fall afternoon. Older Daughter, mom to the birthday boy, asked one of her friends who’s a super photographer, Danielle McCann, to come and take photos. This was the best idea ever, because that meant we adoring relatives could simply stand around and admire instead of stressing about preserving precious moments for posterity. Well done, Older Daughter! And well done, Danielle (Or “DeeDee” as she’s known at our house) for these wonderful photos. And well done Younger Daughter, too, who couldn’t resist the creative forces that were unleashed and so wrote this caption for the photo above: “As he stood from the ashes of the dying trees, the Young Child suddenly realized his camouflage had failed him. He froze. But the game was over. ‘Curse you, Robin’s Egg Blue!! CURSE YOUUU!!!'” My family …
Happy Birthday to my mom, also known in our family as “Grommy” — although I’ve forgotten which grand- or great-grandchild named her that. We gathered to celebrate her day along with other fall family birthdays a couple of weeks ago, and I started the thing I’ve been threatening to do for years: Wrap all presents in plain brown paper and then decorate accordingly. I have to admit that my mom’s birthday present was my first effort, and I think worked pretty well. It was fun, anyway. Her present was a wooden plaque making fun of celebrating her preference to have a little coffee with her cream and sugar. I wrapped it up and then my 4 1/2-year-old grandson, Nolan, and I collected fall leaves from the yard — he liked the crackly brown ones best while I went for the pretty red and orange ones. We then carefully and meticulously taped the leaves to the top of the wrapped package and wrote our birthday message directly on the brown paper. Okay, that’s a big fat lie. The “careful and meticulous” part was purely Nolan, who scorned my haphazard design approach and spent several minutes A) planning a template for the leaves (“No, Kacky. The little red one should go HERE.”) and B) unrolling the tape edges that had folded back on themselves so we would have smooth and wrinkle-free strips. Plus, his handwriting on the “happy birthday” was better than mine. Obviously, one of us has artists for parents, and it’s not me. But I have a beautiful, talented, strong, loving, kind and smart mom — who always A) makes detailed plans before attempting a project and B) reuses and repairs things instead of throwing them out. Happy Birthday, Grommy! We love you!
Beautiful flowers? Sweet treats? Decadent chocolates? Why not surprise Mom with all three, in one. After all, Mother’s Day is the day when moms can have their cake — such as these gorgeously decorated chocolate and vanilla cupcakes from Yummies bakery in my town of Tuscumbia, Ala. — and eat all the icing off before anyone else, too.
In honor of Mother’s Day — which is Sunday, May 13, for everybody slapping their foreheads and saying, “Uh-oh. Mother’s Day is coming? I knew it was sometime in the spring.” — here’s a conversation Older Daughter reported to me the other day. Because Mother’s Day is sort of Grandmother’s Day, too:
Older Daughter was driving with her 4-year-old son/our grandson Nolan in the backseat. Nolan asked his mommy if she would hand him one of his Cars books to read. “No,” she said. “Remember that looking at books while you’re in your car seat makes you throw up sometimes.” He considered this for a moment and then asked, “Mommy, do you feel like you’re going to throw up right now?” Wondering where this was headed, she said, “No. I don’t feel sick at all. Why?” Explaining his well-thought-out plan, Nolan said, “Well, if you did throw up then we could go home and you could get in bed and Daddy could take care of you and we could call Kacky (Note: That’s me!) to come take care of me and you could throw up with Daddy and Kacky could play with me.”
Genius child! So, to recap — I’m the first person our grandson Nolan thinks of when the subject is being sick and throwing up. Which is exactly what we grandmothers want.
Older Daughter and son-in-law are the most incredibly creative parents I know. I understand where my son-in-law gets that from: His parents are do-it-yourself and use-what-you-have advocates from way back. I’m not sure where Older Daughter gets it from since my idea of creativity is making peanut-butter chip instead of chocolate-chip cookies, but somehow she takes ideas from Martha Stewart and inspiration from Pinterest and, with a few fabric scraps and leftover nails, she’ll end up with something wonderful. The two of them collaborated on this fantastic backyard project that’s the talk of their neighborhood: A music station and a tunnel-maze, both made from found and recycled items. First, they collected their materials. Older Daughter hit yard sales and resale stores for the used kitchen tools that would become the musical instruments, and my son-in-law measured and cut leftover PVC pipes for the maze. They then spent much design time working out the configurations before attaching everything to the two plywood pieces they’d nailed to their fence. The buckets in between hold spatulas, whisks, spoons and other “mallets” for music-making as well as cars and balls for the maze (which also, as almost-4-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable naturally needed only 30 seconds to figure out, works great for small water balloons.) Whenever I visit the Captain’s friends come over, I head they run straight for the backyard. Listen, I can play a mean roasting rack, accented with a really cool saucepan beat.