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.

Signs of Fall

Everybody here in the South agrees that this is one of the best falls ever. Usuallyf we go straight from summer into winter, but this year we’ve actually had the warm days & cool nights of autumn.  The leaves are getting gorgeous, but there are other signs of fall. Such as scarecrows, as pictured on the left. And you thought that was a photo of me on my daily walk through the forest! You should know that I never would pair red devil horns with a red handbag AND red shoes — too matchy-match. No, this actually is “The Devil Wears Prada”‘s Miranda Priestly on the Huntsville Botanical Garden‘s annual Scarecrow Trail. Created by the Women’s Business Center of North Alabama,  Ms. Scarecrow Priestly accessories her Halloween look with a zebra-print blazer — and until only a year or so ago I owned an almost identical blazer. You know you need a closet redo when your outfits show up on a devil scarecrow — albeit a stylish one. Fall also is the time when autumnal art work shows up on refrigerators. It’s been a long dry spell between our now 20-something-year-old daughters bringing home their falling-leaves pictures and our 3 1/2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable adding to the collection. The Captain stayed with Husband JP and I a few days ago, and I went through his backpack a couple of his papers from Spanish class fell out of his backpack, so I claimed them.  To finish off the refrigerator decor, Capt. Adorable arranged the alphabet magnets into a train, which I thought was very creative and brilliant of him. Genius baby!

These Are Not Your Mother’s Maternity Clothes — But If They Are, Ask If You Can Borrow Them

Have you seen maternity clothes lately? If you didn’t know these photos were taken in a baby/maternity boutique, would you have guessed? These are from Older Daughter’s current favorite shopping destination — Posh Mommy, in Madison, Ala. At  close to seven months pregnant with 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable’s younger brother, she  ends up here anytime she’s got a few spare minutes. Her favorite part of the store is the baby and children’s sections – more on that later — but she’ll still wander through the maternity aisles and point out her favorites. However, always the practical one, she won’t let me buy her one of these pretty dresses since, as she says, “I don’t go to an office anymore and I just wear yoga pants and t-shirts all the time so you should save your money.” But she looks beautiful and glowing in whatever she wears, and since she generally has better financial sense than I do, I keep nagging her to try something on until she gets irritated and goes to look at receiving blankets graciously give in and do what she wants.  Back to my original questions, though. Did you realize  maternity clothes now are practically indistinguishable from regular clothes? I first noticed this trend four years ago during our first round of maternity shopping, but this time it’s even more pronounced. And I think I know why: Maternity clothes have become much more stylishly mainstream in the past 30 years or so (combining runway details with hidden expanding-tummy tricks) and, at the same time, regular clothes have become much more maternity-like (with empire waists, soft fabrics and flowing lines). It’s as if the two met in the middle and created a love-child of chic and sexy yet comfortably wearable non-maternity maternity wear. And yoga pants.

Gardens

When you walk up to my friend Sharon’s house in Madison, Alabama, you can tell a gardener lives there by the gorgeous landscaping and flowers in her front yard. But it’s the backyard that shines. This is a gardening paradise and I could move right in and live there — and Sharon’s an easygoing and generous sort of friend so she probably wouldn’t mind. Much, that is. This is the kind of backyard where details delight everywhere you look. I’m not a gardener so all I know about her plantings are that they’re beautiful. I was more drawn to such treasures as benches tucked away in quiet little corners, paths angling off into green adventure and a chandelier hanging from a tree lighting the table. “We wanted it to be a series of outdoor rooms,” Sharon said, “like an extension of our house.” And the thing is that she and her husband did this all themselves over the past 15 years, working on one project in one spot at a time. The result? A backyard paradise that anybody can duplicate. In face, Sharon’s garden is on the Huntsville (Alabama) Botanical Garden’s Spring Garden Tour, 1-6 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, June 5-6. Her goal is to convince folks that you don’t need money and a team of landscapers and gardeners to create something wonderful. I think she’s succeeding. Call 256-830-4447 or visit www.hsvbg.org for details about the garden tour.

Children

My dear husband always cautions me against overloading you all with photos of 2-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable, but I can’t help it. I mean, he is so adorable, right? And it’s the weekend and I only have about 10 minutes before Dr. Who starts and I haven’t blogged for a couple of days so I really want to get something up here and I was browsing through my photos and saw this and I knew — I KNEW — you would want to see it, too. I mean, look at those curls! That determined look in his eyes. Those precious little baby knees. Adorable!!! This is at the opening this past week of the new Earth Fare — now officially my most favorite grocery ever, although I still cannot pass by a Whole Foods or Fresh Market without stopping — in Huntsville, Alabama. All sorts of vendors were outside passing out samples and free stuff — Party Time! Anyway, we were lured over to the kettle-corn guys by the irresistible kettle-corn smell and Capt. Adorable immediately was taken with their cart shaped like an old-fashioned car — or maybe it really was some kind of old car or something. The kettle-corn guys told us all about it but I was too busy drinking in the Captain’s adorability to listen closely. It’s a grandma thing.

Shopping

What is it about North Carolina and super-cool grocery stores? First, our much-loved Fresh Market originated in Greensboro, and now the up-and-coming Earth Fare is starting to grow beyond its Asheville roots. Earth Fare emphasizes healthy, fresh, local, organic, non-toxic and earth-friendly — and affordable pricing. Besides all the usual grocery-store sections you’d expect, it also has a bakery, deli and salad bar  — you can take out or eat in — and a health-and-beauty section. Think Fresh Market’s seasonal variety along with Whole Food’s in-store options mixed with a local farmer’s market commitment to sustainability all supported by the pricing of a Publix or Kroger’s. I mean, any mainstream grocery store that sells rain barrels at its front door and locally made gluten-free bread in the deli has got my attention. Earth Fare says it does not sell anything with high-fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial colors, unnatural sweeteners and synthectic growth hormones in milk and meat, and I believe it. You just sort of feel healthier as soon as you walk in. I’d heard rumors about the Earth Fare store that’s opening on University in Huntsville, Alabama, in the building formerly occupied by Office Depot and Barnes and Noble across from Madison Square Mall, so when I was in Chattanooga recently and my sister-in-law said she needed to stop by Earth Fare for some groceries, I was delighted to get a sneak peak. You know I like browsing through a good grocery store almost as much as a good shoe sale. All I can say about Earth Fare is, “Y’all are gonna love this.” Go to http://www.earthfare.com to learn more.

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 http://www.kalousmarket.com/

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 http://www.mcguiresirishpub.com

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.

Food

Kalou's Corner MarketIn what may be a strange sort of obsession for someone The Villages of Providencewho doesn’t cook an awful lot, I love exploring grocery stores. And really, admit it — don’t you enjoy just browsing through the really cool ones? Surely I’m not the only person who does this! While Whole Foods and Fresh Markets top my list of big chain stores, I’m always on the Grocery shoppinglookout for the small and local, and I’ve found another in Huntsville, Alabama. It’s Kalou’s Corner Market in the Villages of Providence development on U.S. 72 west. Providence is one of those new “luxury” neighborhoods that also offers shopping, restaurants and offices. It has Mellow Mushroom, a great Thai place and the top-rated Grille 29 — and now add Kalou’s. You can get a freshly made sandwich at the deli along with dessert at the bakery and a do-it-yourself salad. Take your lunch, grab a bottle of beer from the cooler and eat out on the sidewalk for some prime people-watching. Or, if you insist on cooking, you’ve got plenty to choose from. Kalou’s is upscale and gourmet but prices are comparable with Fresh Market. I love wandering around looking at the olive oils, for instance, or the various balsamic vinegars or pestos and salsas. There’s a great beer selection, a ton of wine and gorgeous fresh produce, too. So much food! So many options! I really should cook more … or, at least, eat more.

Shopping

Bridge Street Towne CentreShopping in Huntsville, Alabama, has taken an upturn ever Shopping in Huntsville, Alabamasince Bridge Street Town Centre opened almost two years ago. Billed as an outdoor mall and lifestyle center with a stylish European flair, Bridge Street definitely is a fun place to stroll and window shop and see and be seen. It’s beautifully landscaped and maintained and has plenty of Huntsville, Alabamaeasy-access parking. The retailers here are the usual suspects — Gap, Banana Republic, Victoria’s Secret, Bridge Street Town CentreAnthropologie and J. Crew are my favorites — but there’s also a Kate Spade, where I usually wander in, shake my head in disbelief at $525 handbags and walk back out again. Luckily, more in line with my budget are the classics of DSW, Old Navy and Barnes and Noble. But really the best part about Bridge Street is the food. This is where you’ll find the always-popular P.F. Chang’s and Maggie Moo plus the L.A.-based Dolce and Ketchup and a Melting Pot, making Bridge Street a dining as well as a shopping destination. The Monaco theater and the accompanying lounge Scene are hot spots, too. I mean, who could say no to enjoying wine and sushi in a leather recliner while watching the latest flick? Not me.

P.S. I’m sure you’re asking yourself, “If Bridge Street is so popular, where are all the people in these photos, Miss SmartyPants Reporter Blogger Person?” And I say, “Good question.” And here’s the answer: I took these photos about a month ago on the day that news of swine-flu cases in Huntsville was just breaking and schools were closed and everybody was supposed to stay home and wash their hands. And so of course I thought, “This is the perfect time to go shopping.” Wouldn’t you???