If It’s Tuesday, It Must Be Mardi Gras

Have fun letting your good times roll today — whether you’re eating King Cake (watch out for that baby) or pancakes or paczki or your completely-bad-for-you pastry of choice. Of course, nothing goes better with eating rich fried sugary food than our other favorite activity: shopping. Younger Daughter and I spotted this could-be Mardi Gras wreath in Nellie Mae, an adorable boutique in downtown Tuscumbia, Ala., that’s owned by classmates of Older Daughter. And that sort of threw me. I mean, I’m used to my children’s friends being old enough to check my teeth and fill my prescriptions and give me speeding tickets, but buying clothes and jewelry from people I used to chaperon on field trips takes some getting used to. (Stay tuned for more Nellie Mae photos and other downtown-Tuscumbia finds — so cute!)

Going … Going … Gone. But Never Forgotten.

As so often happens, once you open your heart and fall madly in love, the object of your desire is cruelly yanked away and you’re left only with the crumbs of passion and teasing reminders of happier times. Not that I’m comparing the loss of Mellow Mushroom‘s seasonal Homegrown Harvest Pie & Drunken Fun Guys & other yummy menu items to an intense but doomed love affair … oh, wait … that’s exactly what it is. Mellow Mushroom craftily got us hooked on this absolutely delicious pizza, made with nutmeg-seasoned roasted butternut squash nutmeg on an olive oil and garlic base & topped with parmesan and Montamore cheeses and a swirl of Arugula pesto. And then there were the Drunken Fun Guys — little pillows of pizza dough served with three beer-infused sauces: a spicy cheese dip with Abita Turbodog brown ale, a stout and honey glaze and a Rouge Dead Guy ale spicy mustard. And there there were the Magic Mushroom Soup and Holy Shiitake Pie — also gone but never forgotten. I only mention these now-unattainable treasures because 1) I’m fascinated with how Mellow Mushroom has merged a successful capitalistic business plan with its counter-culture too-cool-to-care laid-back attitude, 2) maybe you’ll be inspired to try to recreate these taste treats at home and 3) maybe the next round of limited-time offerings will be just as good. Fingers crossed.

The New Baby is Here, the New Baby is Here!

I am a bad, bad blogger. I should have my three-year-old WordPress account ripped away and be forced to start all over for not posting in more than a week. That contravenes every piece of blogging advice ever written. But thanks to all who nagged bugged poked reminded me that even though I was BUSY HELPING WITH MY NEW BABY GRANDSON, I could take the time to post photos and share thoughts. You were correct. I didn’t do it, but you were correct. Anyway, I’m back in the decidedly adult home that my husband and I fill with the stuff of our grownup life: Newspapers, page proofs, espresso machines and stacks of to-be-read books along with deadlines, meetings and I-can’t-read-that-right-now-’cause-I’m-late-but-email-it-and-I’ll-take-a-look. That is pretty much my normal everyday life, but for a week I reveled in the precious & priceless world of newborn babies. Of course, you know that by “helping with my new baby grandson,” I actually mean “endless hours of playing with 3 1/2-year-old incumbent grandson Capt. Adorable” — which, it’s true, the new second-time parents (our daughter & son-in-law) considered a huge help. But I did get to sneak in a few rocking-chair moments with Baby Brother. I’m telling you, it was a grandmother’s dream: When I wasn’t playing Cars 2 Tokyo Spin-out Racetrack or building a Thomas train track or jumping on the bouncy thing at the indoor playground, I was holding that sweet days-old baby and breathing in that indefinable newborn smell. And you would be so proud of me. I pretty much almost always usually followed Mommy and Daddy’s household rules, didn’t say anything when they did something wrong chose alternate paths and offered advice only when asked — which, come to think of it, was never. But I was there to help my daughter over the weepy postpartum hump (she cried when she got home and unpacked her hospital bag — we’ve all been there) and when I left, she told my sincerely that she appreciated my being there more than I knew, so I must have done something right. Actually, I’m mindful of being on good behavior when I’m in grandma-mode since my husband has threatened to curtail my visiting rights if he gets any complaints from our daughter, so I rigorously keep to nap-time schedules and limit chocolate-chip cookies to only a couple (or three or four) at a time. And soak up all the grandbaby love I can get.

Jana & Claire: Do Not Read This Post. Look Away! Thank You.

My house was blooming the other night when friends who are co-hosting a bridal shower for the daughter of another BFF came over to make tissue-paper flowers for the decor. These colorful blossoms have been popping up everywhere recently — I see them in store windows and displays. They’re even Martha-Stewart-approved, and she has a video tutorial on how to make them. But we tapped in to our many-decades-ago high-school memories of decorating homecoming floats and transforming gyms into dance floors and didn’t even need Martha’s help. You just layer sheets of tissue paper, pleat as if you’re making a fan, fold in half and scrunch up the center and secure with a pipe cleaner. Then, it’s on the fun part of separating the layers and shaking them out into a flower. We got better with each attempt and soon were experimenting with different colors and sizes. We’re not exactly sure what we’re going to do with them now, but they sure are impressive! This is easy enough for even awkward, uncoordinated and clumsy non-crafty folks like me to attempt and yet creative enough for talented crafters, like my friend on the left in the photo above, to be inspired. You see, after our flower-making marathon, she went home and stayed up until 2 a.m. making corsages out of fabric and netting, using the same tissue-paper principle. I, on the other hand,  drank more wine and went to bed.

P.S. I warned Jana & Claire, the mother of the bride-to-be and the bride-to-be herself, not to look at this post, but they probably did and now are hoping that my flowers somehow don’t make it to the shower in favor of the gorgeous ones everybody else created.  But I’m redeeming myself by bringing coffee and herb-cheese biscuits, so maybe that will help.

Capt. Adorableland

Oh my cookies. I cannot believe it’s been a whole week since I’ve had the chance to sit down at my laptop to blissfully and abundantly waste time write thoughtful and meaningful blog posts. But when I tell you what I’ve been doing instead, you’ll understand: Being a full-time grandma. Yes! Our 3-year-old grandson, Capt. Adorable, stayed with us for several days while his mommy and daddy (Older Daughter and our son-in-law) did a major kitchen renovation and baby-nursery redo (in preparation for the Captain’s baby brother, who’s planning a mid-November arrival). And you know that I absolutely and positively adore being with the Captain 24/7 and if it weren’t for pesky obstacles such as having to work a little bit to make some money and wanting to spend more time with my husband than a quick bleary-eyed good-night kiss, I’d do it more often. At least, I think I would. This visit was actually the Captain’s longest here at our house by himself, and I did learn a few lessons.

A) You know how everybody says, “Aw, you don’t look like a grandma!” when you meet people in your normal life and they learn you have grandchildren? That’s because in your normal life you’re able to spend an hour on your hair and makeup in your by-now-perfected daily age-defying routine and spend the next hour in your closet choosing a coolly chic not-too-young but not-too-old outfit that hides and smooths and camouflages and flatters. When you actually are on grandmother duty, nobody says that. But it’s not your fault — it simply is because you have no time. No. Time. No makeup. No hair styling. No color coordination. You’re lucky if you can swipe on some deodorant, zip up the jeans you’ve worn for five days and find a T-shirt without chocolate-milk stains. Young-mom grunge is cute when you’re a 26 and look adorable in a pony-tail. Thirty years later? Not so much.

B) Stock up on whatever your pain-reliever of choice is — and I’m talking aspirin or acetaminophen or whatever here. No matter how fit you are, no matter how much you work out, no matter how many mountains you’ve climbed or marathons you’ve run, nothing compares to spending 24/7 in grandchildren-land. Especially if your grandchildren’s parents encourage those wonderful modern concepts such as Using Imaginations, Turning Off the Electronic Devices and Learning by Doing. The days of spending summer vacation parked in front of the TV are gone. Children today Get Out and Engage in Active Playtime. The result? A well-rounded and happily grounded child. And a sore and exhausted grandparent.

C) Remember the Mommy Network? No, not a Facebook group. I’m talking about when you yourself were a young mom and everywhere you went you just sort of naturally gravitated toward other young moms in similar circumstances. Well, the same thing is true three decades later: Grandmothers intuitively identify each other and quickly band together to commiserate, complain and plan a margarita night intelligently discuss child-rearing issues of the 21st century. And of  course there’s bragging. It’s a given that grandparents can brag on their grandchildren, who, naturally, are the brightest, smartest, funniest, strongest, kindest, most talented and most creative kids in the whole world. Every single one of them. Learn to listen politely and smile courteously as others share their stories since, obviously, they’re just filling time with their averageness until it’s your turn to dazzle with exceptionality.

D) And, finally, when the visit’s over and your household routine’s returned to normal and the cats have come out of hiding and you’ve cleaned cookie handprints off walls and roller-skate marks off floors and gotten all the chocolate-milk gunk out of the shot glasses, take a deep breath and enjoy a minute of well-earned quiet. Because even as you’re enjoying the chance to sip a glass of wine and read something that’s not Dr. Seuss, you can’t wait to do it all again.

Teenagers, Parents and Peach Jam

To all parents who look at their teenagers — those strange alien creatures who know everything and about everything and believe you know nothing about anything — and cannot imagine them as coherent and responsible adults, I promise there’s hope. For instance, let’s say you have a teenage daughter who sports purple hair and multiple piercings (when she can get away with it) and has the annoying habit of seeing how far she can stretch your patience parental boundaries. I just happened to randomly pick this example, by the way. Nothing to do with any real person at all. Not at all. Anyway, if you’re in this situation, do not despair. It will seem as if one day your teenager incurs multiple weekends of enforced home time due to multiple infractions of parental rules (“No. 3. Being home by curfew means all parts of your body are inside the house and the door is closed. It does not mean you’re in the same general zip code.”)  and the next day she’s a wife and a mom and a Martha Stewart devotee who gets her whole family involved in making batches of lovely and delicious peach jam. Promise.

The Cookin’ is Easy

When I was little, I hated vegetables. Hated them. Avoided them at any price.  Would not eat them unless I was forced to, which generally was in the form of having to stay at the supper table until I cleaned my plate. And we all know how wonderfully delicious cold lima beans are. (Parents!) But now? As a card-carrying adult — and that’s an AARP card — I adore fresh vegetables and eat them any chance I get. Luckily, folks dear to my heart are skilled vegetable cooks so I get to enjoy the fruits of their labors. Such as Older Daughter, who replanted her vegetable and herb garden after the April 27 tornado near Huntsville, Alabama, pretty much flattened it. Today, less than three months later, it’s thriving and healthy and all she has to do is walk across her back yard to get makings for the lightest and most flavorful vegetable & pasta dish ever. I’m not a big fan of pasta — although I love the way Nigella Lawson says it: “Past-ah.” — but I asked for seconds of this. It was that good. And then my friend Evelyn made a yummy summer feast that starred a cool and refreshing watermelon salad along with lightly cooked and delicious yellow squash. Now, what’s for dessert?

 

If It’s “Tuscany,” It Must Be Good

Husband JP was flummoxed by this loaf of "Neo-Tuscan" bread we found in a Wal-Mart bakery department. I mean, "neo-Tuscan?" What does that even mean? Is there such a thing as "new-Tuscan?" We in no way would ever be confused that we perhaps were buying "old-Tuscan" bread. But at least the label has all the triggering words that make me add an item to my shopping bags: natural, Tuscan, boule. Never mind that this basically is a round loaf of soft crusty white bread. It's "neo-Tuscan!" So there!

Can We Fit an 8-foot Table into a 6-foot Backseat?

Let’s go shopping! It’s the best kind — where you just look and don’t bring anything home. (Incidentally, this is my husband’s preferred way of shopping.) Recently friends and I were cruising around nearby Smith Lake, close to Cullman, Alabama, and we passed an ironworks store/wedding rental on a county road. There were four of us, and three of the four have wonderful taste in all things decorative and are excellent and enthusiastic shoppers: One has an eye for vintage bargains, one keeps an organized list and only buys for specific needs and one thinks looooong and hard about each purchase. On the other hand, one of us just wants to go drink but always says “Sure! Let’s stop!! That looks like fun!!!” when the others see a tempting gardening/furniture/home decor/antiques shop because I she’s afraid they’ll make her stay home next time. But sometimes treasures such as gracefully scrolled metal furniture and luminous and colorful glassware delight even the most impatient shopper.

And to prove that I am not a total decorating and shopping failure, I offer Exhibit A: Part of our front porch. I was going for cozy, casual and not ugly. The rocking chair we bought a few years ago from Cracker Barrel, the fern stand I got at Hobby Lobby at one of those incredible sales at which you feel as if the store’s paying you to take stuff away, the pillow’s from T.J. Maxx and the flowers (picked out with help of Husband JP) are from Lowe’s. I buy all greenery at Lowe’s because I’m terrified of the workers at local nurseries who actually talk to you and ask if they can help you and who expect a somewhat intelligent reply in return when all I know is that I need plants I can’t kill that have the little sun and shade icons on them. Sigh. Come to think of it, my friends probably WILL leave me home next time.