Oh my goodness — the holidays really haven’t officially started yet but I bet you’re already feeling stressed. Let’s see if any of these things are on your list: Baking, cooking, cleaning, organizing, traveling, shopping, keeping everybody happy. Sound familiar? Yikes. Well, I’m going to help you out here. For just a minute, slip away to this wondrously quiet and peaceful little piece of Alabama. This past weekend some friends and I rented a house at Lake Smith — and did absolutely nothing. The only two rules were that we couldn’t move the cars once we got there (and really there’s no place to go) and that it was an official MUFW (Makeup-Free Weekend). We pretty much hung out in our baggy PJ pants and T-shirts, talked and ate all weekend. But, look — we saved a chair for you! So in the next few days, when things get hectic and you start to wonder why those Pilgrims were so thankful anyway, hang in there and remember: Christmas is only a month away.
To wrap up a fun but busy fall weekend of football, work, friends, family and work — the work and football parts are all my husband, you know — we celebrated with a home-cooked home-grilled steak dinner. Which turned out pretty well, if I do say so myself. Actually, I just sliced the bread and tossed the salad and chopped the ends off the asparagus and Dear Husband did the rest. Yes, well, OK, I did whip up a batch of my famous oven fries and a pan of yummy sautéed mushrooms, but that’s not really cooking — it’s just fixin’, you know. We patted ourselves on the back — after wiping off our hands, of course — for frugally and deliciously and sustainably eating at home and had to wait about three hours to work up an appetite for dessert: Pumpkin pie from my mom, who cooks supper almost every night and would never think about bragging about it to the blogosphere. Unlike her shameless daughter.
Okay — this is an admission of what a geeky nerd I truly am. In lieu of being with family and/or friends on a Saturday night, one of my favorite things to do is hunker down at home, turn on public television and enjoy Britcoms, those reruns of old BBC half-hour comedies. I love them! I’m a huge fan and they never get old. My favorite is “Are You Being Served?” (pictured) with Mr. Lucas and Mr. Grainger and the original young Mr. Grace — I could do without Mr. Spooner or young Mr. Grace’s brother. I also adore “Keeping Up Appearances” with astounding female comic Patricia Routledge playing off an endearing cast of frustrated neighbors and family plus “Vicar of Dibley” with the amazing timing of actresses Dawn French and Emma Chambers and some of the wittiest dialogue on TV. I also love the upper-class stylings of Penelope Keith in “To the Manor Born” and “The Good Life,” and then there’s Judi Dench slumming and having a blast in “As Time Goes By.” And whenever John Cleese’s “Fawlty Towers” comes on, it’s a gold-star Saturday night. Two stars if “The Office” and “Yes, (Prime) Minister” are on and three for “Absolutely Fabulous.” And if I’m ever lucky enough to find “Doctor Who,” well, I think I would run out of stars.
1) Go to Jack-O-Lantern Farms market on the TVA reservation in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, and buy some more fresh and delicious Honeycrisp Apples (the two less shiny-red apples in the photo). Honeycrisp apples are exactly as described — like taking a crisp and juicy bite of honey. They’re only available right now, so eat up. Check out the market at http://www.jackolanternfarm.com/. It’s open today from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
2) Watch the Alabama/LSU game on TV today. It makes me remember the night my husband and I accidentally stayed in the same hotel with the Tiger Pimp Nation. It was scary — literally. The Tiger Pimp Nation is made up of … well, intensely enthusiastic LSU fans who adopt these sort of characters, complete with clothes, jewelry, cars and women. The setup is so elaborate that they only travel to one away game a season. John and I encountered them in Memphis this past year after the Ole Miss/LSU game in Oxford. So, imagine rabid LSU fans combined with Beale Street. It was quite an experience. Not easily forgotten, although we have tried. Desperately. Check out the Pimp Nation at www.tigerpimpnation.com. And believe me, what you see there is real.
This past Friday, before everybody scattered to ballgames and festivals and weekend getaways, some friends and I got together and cruised up Pickwick Lake in Florence, Alabama. We were on the Pickwick Belle, a paddlewheel riverboat that tours the Tennessee River. It was a wet and cool day but we had a fantastic time, especially after the boat captain found a couple bottles of champagne to help us warm up. Most of the other passengers had cancelled, leaving the top deck to us. But that was probably a good thing! We giggled and talked and were entertained by those of us who had spent their childhoods climbing and jumping off the river bluffs we were passing. You know, come to think about it, the champagne was probaby a bribe for us to stay upstairs away from the more sane passengers who opted for the warm and cozy dining room — and it worked! I love these women. They look so sweet and pretty but actually are kick-butt, take-no-prisoners tough females who are taking risks and making hard decisions with grace and strength. I’m just honored they let me hang around.
We fell in love with the Pickwick Belle. What a cutie! She can take up to 149 passengers, and there are all sorts of cruises to choose from: dinner, lunch, mystery theatre and just sitting back and relaxing as we did. It’s also available for parties and weddings. During the summer at Pickwick Landing State Park in Tennessee, the captain holds a church service at 10 a.m. on Sundays. Learn more at www.pickwickbelle.com.
Come to the Alabama Renaissance Faire in Florence this weekend. You’ll love it! I promise there’s more than bellydancing there, but I can’t help bragging on my older daughter, who performs at the faire with her dance group from Huntsville. The Alabama Ren Faire is meant for families. It’s in the small downtown Wilson Park, renamed Fountain on the Green for the faire, and is very easy to get around. There’s no alcohol allowed, and everyone is friendly and helpful. And it’s free! You can come in costume or not. Everything has a Renaissance flair. Vendors selling jewelry, art work and crafts are in costume and all entertainment is Renaissance-style, with juggling, magic, singing and other music as well as bellydancing. The faire is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. on Sunday. Check out http://www.alarenfaire.org/ and http://www.myspace.com/alrenfaire for details and other photos.