But Grandbabies’ Parties are the Best!

Grandson Capt. Adorable turned 3 this past weekend, and his mom (my older daughter) wisely decided to celebrate by 1) a family trip to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga, where the Captain’s favorite thing was “I touched a sting ray!” and 2) a family — grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — party with all the essentials of cake, ice cream and munchies. (Of course, it was so cold that day that we forgot the ice cream. Oh well.) I thought she was smart in forgoing the fun but insane kid-frenzy type of party they’d had for the Captain’s second birthday. “After all,” she said, “his family are his most important people.” So props to her for keeping it simple. But that’s totally them — do-it-yourself to save money and because you’ll probably end up with something better anyway. For instance, the Captain requested a Dinosaur Train (he loves that TV show) cake, and since no such decor could be found anywhere, his artist-and-art-teacher daddy printed and cut out the cake decorations on his own. Brilliant! Add the cake and his favorite people to two other of the Captain’s favorite things — blueberries and tractor rides on Grandad’s farm — and it was a perfect third birthday!

Chattanooga, Wings and Coffee, Too

Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee, is a seriously awesome place. I fell in love with it when I was young and my dad would drive the hour it took to get us there so we could eat at the Chattanooga Choo-Choo and then wander around the top of Lookout Mountain. Luckily, my middle brother and his family live there, so we still get to visit lots. And it’s still one of my favorite places. Chattanooga has done a stellar job of downtown renaissance and making itself into A Must-See Destination. Such as this Broad Street block that’s just up the street  from the Tennessee River and the Tennessee Aquarium. This block is home to Sticky Fingers Smokehouse, the barbecue restaurant-chain that three friends who first met as seventh-graders in Chattanooga started in 1992 in Charleston, S.C. My brother and I were there to pick up wings, pulled chicken and pulled pork for my nephew’s 12-year-old birthday party, and I have to say that Sticky Fingers’ wings rate right up there — meaty, juicy and just-right-hot.  I can see why my nephew requested Sticky Fingers for his birthday. (I think I’ll do the same, even though that means moving my birthday to a city four hours away. Worth it.) Another treasure on this block is Greyfriar’s Coffee and Tea Co., one of my brother’s top choices for coffee — and he knows coffee. And of course there’s more to Chattanooga than wings and coffee. You’ve got history, hiking, rock climbing, kayaking, shopping, music, art, more eating and more good times. Go check it out, and tell my brother I sent you.