When Pumpkins Lead to Social Angst

I love these pumpkins I spied on a morning walk around the neighborhood today. I mean, somebody just took  ribbon and paint or markers and created something different and eye-catching. Actually, these look like they were originally party decorations — maybe for a dance or a dinner or something involving a school with black and gold colors (Vanderbilt?) — and got re-purposed. And now I’m wondering what sort of party it was and where it was and what I would have worn IF I had been invited and would my husband have been able to come and who was was there and why was I NOT invited? No matter that I have no idea who lives here or if they’re the sort of folks who throw good parties and so maybe I wouldn’t even have WANTED to go to their silly little party anyway, so there. But they do know their way around pumpkins. And I obviously have way too much time on my hands.

Responsible Concern for the Environment v. Grandparenting

Hmmm ... “Toy Story,” “Cars” and Angry Birds. Must have been 4-year-old grandson Nolan’s birthday — with presents from Kacky and John wrapped in all his favorite things. And even though I believe in minimizing consumerism (except for shoes, of course, and the eternal quest for the Perfect Pair of Jeans), ignoring commercialism (but I really want to try the Cover Girl makeup that both Ellen and Sofia Vergara like), reducing waste and refusing to buy into the must-buy mentality (although I’m on the lookout for a simple yet flattering khaki skirt so please let me know if you stumble across one), none of that matters when my grandson wants the latest Cars play set. Grandparenthood triumphs — trumps green living. On the other hand ... it did feel pretty good when Older Daughter and I decorated a plain and basic bakery cake with Angry Bird toys Nolan ALREADY HAD to create his asked-for Angry Birds birthday cake. Recycling does have its place.

Things I’ve Learned This Past Weekend

Random thoughts, as a former co-worker used to say, from a cluttered mind:

1) I have fearless and perhaps slightly insane friends, such as my Alabama friend who did not let a little thing like a hurricane stop her from driving up to Baltimore and helping her daughter and future son-in-law move there from Atlanta.  “There sure are a lot of cars driving the opposite way,” she said from the road on Friday night.

2) I have fearless and determined children, such as Younger Daughter, who is not letting university dysfunction and red-tape deter her from taking the classes she wants to take — and who, in the process, gained some appreciation for parental efforts. “When I was in school, I just showed up to class and didn’t realize all it took to get there,” she said.

3) I have fearless and smart grandchildren, such as 3-year-old grandson Capt. Adorable (also currently my only grandchild) who  put up with a noisy family party just long enough to be polite and then grabbed his aunt’s hand for a quick getaway, knowing she was as ready to slip outside as he was. The Captain also was apprehensive about a tree-cutting project that involved a loud chainsaw and a great deal of shouting but did not want to miss out on the action — he knew he could hang with his daddy and be assured of staying safe and secure.

4) I have fearless yet generous parents, who said, “Sure. Of course. How can we help?” when I volunteered their nursery/tree farm for a gathering of my high-school class. Couldn’t have done it without them.

5) I have fearless and fun classmates, who don’t worry about wrinkles and bad knees and expanding waistlines but simply want to reconnect and share. And eat wonderfully yummy food and drink local hometown wine.

One-Stop Shopping …

... for your Fourth of July celebration, because what's more convenient than being able to buy your fireworks and your liquour at the same time and in the same place? (Special thanks to favorite nephew Sam for help with the secret journalism photography.)

Baby Showers

When our friend couldn’t wait to tell us that she was going to be a grandma for the first time, the three of us couldn’t wait to start planning a surprise shower for her. We sneakily scheduled the party for our regular book-club night and pulled off the surprise with style — she truly never saw it coming. Other than her face when she realized what was happening — priceless! — the best thing about our shower was the decor. My friend who volunteered her home for the book-club meeting/surprise baby shower created a baby-boy-blue wonderland that we all oohed and ahhed over and didn’t want to leave. (And now I really should drop the pretense that we talked about the book that night, although we did spend a couple of minutes on it, I think.) She’s a master at using things she already has — mixing vintage with contemporary — to set the mood and then adding her own special touches. Her blue-frosted cupcakes were don’t-let-a-single-crumb-go-to-waste good. And when she kicked off the evening with a pitcher full of yummy icy-blue goodness to sip before we sat down to a cool and refreshing chicken-salad supper, we knew we were in good hands as we welcomed our friend into the Sisterhood of Really Cool Grandmas. And you can join, too, as long as you have Really Cute Grandchildren. And don’t we all? Plus, we’ll even waive the iniation rite of having to sing all verses of the “Thomas the Tank Engine” song.


Every year I imagine I’ll throw a fabulous Oscar-watching party. I imagine everyone — me, included — wearing Caifornia-chic casual style. I imagine a creative bounty of innovative finger food. I imagine intelligent movie-savvy conversation. But of course what happens instead is that I forget it’s Oscar night until three minutes before and I end up watching in my ratty pajamas and eating out of a Cheetos bag and saying things to the cats such as “‘An Education’? I’ve never heard of that movie before.” The cats are not impressed. However, if you imagine a glittering and successful Oscar-watching party and you have faith that you will actually do it, then take a look at this AP article about Oscar-inspired cocktails: http://www.heraldnews.com/lifestyle/x655498432/Oscar-inspired-cocktails-toast-the-movies It might have shown up in your local newspaper but in case it didn’t, you’ll want to take a look. Raise a glass for me, and I’ll in turn toast you with a Cheeto.

Valentine’s Day

Back when my two now-23-and-25-year-old daughters were in high school, our house was one of those where all the kids gathered for after-parties — after graduation, after prom, after band banquet, after whatever. I got pretty good at figuring out how to feed dozens of kids — little weiners and chocolate-chip cookies always were big hits — and enjoyed every minute of it. In fact, I sort of miss those days. But Younger Daughter brought them back this weekend when she hosted a party for the girls in the high-school percussion ensemble she’s working with this semester. She planned the menu and did a great job of combining healthy with Valentine’s indulgence: Carrot and celery sticks with no-fat vegetable dip, tortilla and pita chips with salsa and spinach-cheese dip, raspberry squares, Valentine’s fortune cookies, iced and decorated sugar cookies and No-Pudge Fudge cupcakes, vegetable and turkey rollups, pimento cheese (necessary for all Southern parties, you know), olives, Red Velvet cake balls and a chocolate fountain with pretzels, marshmallows and fresh pineapple and strawberries. And she used what we had around the house for decor — red candles, various heart-shaped items and the cards and boxes of candy that were the party favors. And all I had to do was help with food prep and then I got to go watch the Olympics opening ceremonies on TV while YD took care of everything else — she and the girls even cleaned up afterwards. And one of the best parts? Leftover sugar cookies for breakfast the next morning!

And check out my weekly newspaper column about everybody’s favorite love holiday at http://www.timesdaily.com/article/20100212/ARTICLES/2125000


Baby shower ideasBaby-shower ideasI think this is the best baby-shower idea ever: Hand-painting onesies. I helped co-host a baby shower with friends this past weekend and early in the planning stages a couple of the gals said, “We have something you’ve never seen before and everybody is going to love it” — and they were right. At the shower, we set Painting craftsup a couple tables and offered the guests plain newborn white Baby showeronesies with a variety of paints, markers, brushes and stencils. At first there was palpable art anxiety as women who declared they had no talent or skill whatsoever were a bit apprehensive about producing a work of art, but soon everybody was designing and creating like pros. It was a great icebreaker and mixer — and of course the mom-to-be ended up with some adorable clothes and great memories. You also could turn the onesies into a baby quilt or frame the painted sections for unique and personalized wall decor. It so reminded me of birthday parties when my now-20-something-daughters were young and we’d turn them loose outside with paints and T-shirts — remember making stamps out of sponges? The baby shower, however, was a little more restrained. But no less fun.

Baby Showers

Baby giftsI love getting baby-shower invitations, because who doesn’t Baby showersall adore all those sweet tiny baby things? And I would never express a preference for baby-girl things over baby-boy things because I’m having so much fun shopping for my precious 11-month-old grandson, but there’s just Baby giftssomething about little and pink and frilly that makes us grown women go sort of silly. We can’t help it. And guests got a delightful dose of that baby-girl femininity this past weekend at a shower for the daughter of a friend of mine. So much Baby shower decorationsfun! As much as I like to be sophisticated and grownup —  no, really, I do —  I cannot resist miniature pink baby buggys filled with candy. And one of the best things about baby showers in my Alabama town is shopping at the Baby’s Room, our local baby store. Expectant moms go there to pick out shower presents, parents-to-be shop there for nursery furniture and giddy grandmas go there to buy those gorgeous and impractical outfits only grandmas can get away with. Plus, I love the way the Baby’s Room folks do gift registries: You’re assigned a cubicle and you physically put what you’d like in your cubicle. Friends and family members shopping for you get to see and touch and feel your choices before deciding. (Coming in and perusing the cubicles is also a good way to keep up with who’s pregnant.) The best part of Baby’s Room shopping? The free and beautiful gift-wrapping. Actually the best part is that the Baby’s Room owners and staff make you feel special just for coming in. That’s the way shopping used to — and should —  be. Check it out at http://www.thebabysroomstore.com/.

Christmas Parties

249852310113_0_albI’ll admit that I usually spend December evenings curled up on thenew-kiss2 couch watching Bing Crosby movies in my pajamas and eating the best part of Chex Mix — the burned crunchy bits at the bottom of the pan, but the invitation to a Christmas party in Huntsville, Alabama, for this past Saturday night said dress to impress. Marlene, the hostess, wanted a glam cocktail party, so my husband and I tried our best. How do you think we did? My husband always looks so spiffy in a suit. For the party, he went with classic all black and since he couldn’t find his Christmas tie, he substituted his Beatles one for a festive touch. My dress was a two-year-old (three? four?)788272310113_0_alb black halter from the sadly now-defunct Parisian’s, with the added feature of not being tight or binding in any way — my only prerequisite for party clothes. All I can say is, new-marlene“Damn. We look good!” Marlene kept the festivities to proper cocktail hours so we could go out to eat or whatever afterwards, but before we did that, John and I stopped by my daughter and son-in-law’s apartment for a quick snuggle with almost 9-months-old grandson. Good company, good food and good baby time to top it off. Could it get any better?