Friday, June 22, 2012

Capitalism, Fish, and Sports

For some months plans have been in the works for the Beilmans, the Brannings and Spike and me to meet up in Atlanta for a weekend of fun or family bondage as one of us calls it. If you're planning such, let me recommend the Hampton Inn in Alpharetta/Roswell. It's a block from 400 which will zip you downtown or to Buckhead in a minute, is adjacent to the North Point Mall and lots of restaurants. Even more important, for some reason it's half the price of most other hotels in the area. $69 a night will get you a king or double queen, both with a sofa bed as well. Not to mention complimentary breakfast which is another story.





These two enjoyed a happy cousin reunion and if at all possible always sat in the chair together.


First up was the Georgia Aquarium. As I ordered our tickets online and pressed the credit card confirmation I wondered how it could cost so much to look at a bunch of fish.
Even when we like fish as much as we do.
Believe me, it was worth every penny and more.


We couldn't believe our eyes.
Or tear them away from the gigantic wall of water.
Benjamin quickly settled in.
I'm thankful I'm not in charge of window cleaning.


Made me wonder what it must have been like for the Israelites to walk through the parted sea.
It must have been the like this only much more mind boggling.
And noisy, I would think.


Then on to The Varsity for lunch.


This is capitalism at its best.
Hundreds of people lined up for America's favorite food.
The hot dog.
I had a BLT.
Hot dogs and I had a parting of the ways moments after I toured the hot dog factory as a child.
It's not nice to terrorize impressionable children by forcing them to watch the hot dog making process.
But here, the crowds, the aroma, trays of dogs, chili dogs, o-rings, fried pies.
It was a piece of cholesterol heaven!


Spike eats enough hot dogs for the two of us combined.
This prompted a family discussion on forbidden foods.
We are a family divided.
Mayonnaise is either a highly savored or scorned food item.

If you ever wondered what Bunny and Mary Kelly looked like, or acted like, or thought like as children, well, here you are.
It's true. History repeats itself. I love history.
Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.


That evening we gathered up a picnic supper and took it to Wills Park in Alpharetta.
It's a great place with a huge playground, picnic tables, space for running and frisbee throwing.

And the first family kickball game on the baseball diamond.
There are no photos in order to protect me the innocent.
I insisted (Grammy's prerogative) that the youngest serve as team captains.
That was the only way to ensure that the teams were not loaded.
And the only way to ensure that I would get to be on a team.
It took only about three minutes of watching the finals of the trials for Women's Olympic Hammer Throw to remove any shadow of doubt that this writer has absolutely no athletic ability or strength.
But I am a Calvinist athlete.
I was chosen simply because of the love of my Captain.
The lack of confidence in my athletic prowess was reinforced by my favorite local son-in-law who announced, "Grammy's up! Everyone move in."
I did not disappoint.
We laughed and cried and laughed and ran and kicked and laughed and tagged and laughed until we didn't even notice the spectators who had gathered in the stands.
 For all the wrong reasons.
We have decided to hold an annual family kickball tournament.
Young Jack is in charge of the logo design for our t-shirts.
The next morning the guys headed to Legoland at Phipps and we girls headed to the American Girl store right near the hotel.
Talk about capitalism.
Whoever invented this racket is a genius.
Everything is tantalizingly displayed behind glass or in boxes.
Meg chose the mini cupcake display for her doll Julie.
Sorry, Julie.
If you want the cupcakes you have to also buy the $80 tea table.
Brilliant.
You never saw so many grandmothers toting a bow-headed little girl in one hand and several credit cards in the other.
The least expensive item for sale was a minute plastic dollie wrist watch with a stick-on clock face for those who have absolutely no concern about time.
BTW, there were no dollie cell phones if any of you want to get on the stick with that.


Before heading home Sunday we stopped by to visit my parents, Gramma and Grampa Spehr. The children were all dolled up, sweet and well behaved chatting with their great grandparents.


My brother Jack brought Max and Bailey over, too. I'm grateful that these cousins all were there together and that my mom and dad enjoyed a visit with my kids and grandchildren.


We came home happy and thankful for such a fun weekend with no worries about what to cook or cleaning a house.
I love family bondage.

Monday, June 4, 2012

39 Squares Large Print Edition


Eight squares completed, 32 squares to go.
When Amy Powers posted her 39 Squares stitch-along in honor of her 40th birthday her instructions were to make 40 squares, each one inch square.
Hers is beautiful, tiny, and petite.

Her eyes are twenty years younger than mine, so I've devised the 39 Squares Large Print Edition for stitchers like me who require two inch square squares in order to see anything they're doing.
Which makes me realize I should be stitching 59 Squares since I'm about to turn the big 60.
But I'd be 80 before I could get 59 squares finished and that's too long to wait.
And I would require far too much caffeine to keep me going.


Of course you know where I'm going next.
I wish I were going here. Friends from church left yesterday afternoon for two weeks.
It was a good thing I was at church when I heard that.
I needed help with my problem with envy.
Like Sabrina says, "Paris is always a good idea."


The black-eyed Susan was fun and quick to stitch.
And now I'm on to the Mississippi River in French knots.
Really.
This may take a while.
But like Ol' Man River, I'll just keep rollin' along.



Thursday, May 31, 2012

Grandparenting: It's the Little Things

New grandmothers would do well to practice this mantra: I will maintain self-control. I will maintain self-control. Where did all this new-fangled baby stuff come from and why didn't I think of inventing baby wipes? Or a wipes warmer? Or the dishwasher basket? Or the baby monitor? My baby monitor was my two little feet sleep walking down the hall, cracking the door, and hoping that my little night owl didn't see her mama peeking in on her. Shopping for a new grand baby especially the first, is quite a lesson in all things new and needful. It's easy to see how some dear soul steps to the counter at the Gazillions of Baby Things store and says, "I'll have one of everything, please." With all of the gizmos, toys, clothes, and matching accessories out there I have instead found that the best grand baby things at our house are the little, unexpected pleasures. Like the little books. Little hands love tiny books. And little boxes. We received a corporate gift in a lovely little wooden box that has become a grandchild treasure. That little box with the sliding lid holds a treasured collection. Mardi Gras beads. A matching box contains another highly valued grandmother tool. Plastic lizards.
A 99 cent sack of plastic lizards provides enormous entertainment, especially when you can get Daddy or Pop to play along. One of my grandboys who is known for a particular level of anxiety over suspenseful or awkward situations was talked into placing one of said plastic lizards on his father's dinner plate. The yellow lizard blended in well with the saffron rice and once the suspense button was pushed there was no turning back. His daddy played it to the hilt taking that lizard in with one bite and allowing the tail to hang out the side of his mouth. Grandson nearly came unglued and never was such a good laugh experienced with one little yellow lizard.

Little cups, saucers and plates are such fun for pouring from the little bottles of juice that are kept at toddler height in the cabinet. The messes that grandchildren can make with a bottle of juice or a little box of raisins are not half the mess that children made with the same weapons of mass destruction. So stock that cabinet with single serving size plastic bottles and let those young'uns fiddle with the cap themselves.
While you're out and around you may come across unusual or just plain ol' fun things like this little colored spoon. I think I  found it at Bed Bath and Beyond. It's just out of the ordinary and one of the little boys likes to eat Lucky Charms with it. Yes, the bowl of the spoon is way too large for his little mouth, but that's why it's such fun. BTW, make sure you've have a supply of some of those food stuffs that are contraband at your grandchild's home. I'm a firm believer in honoring my children's parenting choices and they've been really lenient with my grand mothering principles. What's a little bit more sugar?
Speaking of sugar. Three of my favorite little peeps and their parents gave me this turtle for Mother's Day. See, after a while the kids all start picking out items that just look like fun in a box at Grammy's house. Did you notice this turtle's cute little tail?
It's actually a spoon which I figured was going to be an excellent powdered sugar serving piece. Everyone needs turtle sugar on their French toast. And be sure to let Junior do the sprinkling.
Speaking of sprinkling. Salt and pepper are much more fun to sprinkle from beehive shakers. Just be on the lookout. Pottery Barn usually has lots of fun little things for little people.
Who said they have to know just yet that these are salt cellars and not sprinkle dishes?  Snow flakes and colored sugar sprinkles with a little salt spoon add pizazz to pancakes, ice cream (in little containers), and buttered toast. My pantry is sprinkle heaven.
Be prepared for unlikely affections and attachments to develop. Somehow we all fell in love with little jointed animals. I found these at World Market on the Easter clearance for $1.25. You don't have to spend much money to have a fun time. Remember, maintain self-control. It's the little things that are fun and memorable. Create at-home memories that are not dependent on big ticket items and exotic destinations.
We love little things. Like these seven little things.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

39 Squares

Blogs have opened up a whole new sphere of inspiration for sewing, crafts, and art. The possibilities are endless and endlessly tempting.  39 Squares by Amy Powers from inspire co really caught my eye. She's a creative, fun idea machine.
Go to the Flicker group from the 39 Squares blog to see all of her followers' contributions. Amazing. Joann's had the linen I needed for mine and a half yard did the trick. Why don't you run buy some and we can do a 39 squares, too?


I began thinking of things I'd like to stitch on my 39 squares. There's a big difference in some of the things I'd like to stitch and what I know I can actually stitch.
 Maybe my embroidery skills will improve.

Skeins of thread, bolts of fabric, and cards of buttons are like sweets in a candy store.


Draw off a grid of 40 squares on the linen with a fabric marking pen.


Then take the plunge and begin stitching.
 I think the idea was to make each square simple enough to finish in a day.

I don't catch on very easily. There was no way to finish in a day unless I learned speed knotting and did absolutely nothing else but sew.
That would be a dream come true.
 Nothing else but sew.

All of these little knots are snuggled in mighty tight.


Every few days I may post another square or two.


Until the time comes when I have finished 39 squares.
Isn't it time to get started?
Send me your pictures!
Uh oh. I forgot the bird.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ground Zero-Clarksdale

Mary James and I were smack dab on the dot on time at the doctor's office in Cleveland. There was just one minor detail. The doctor wasn't in Cleveland on Friday. He was in Clarksdale 36 miles away. Never one to be discouraged, Mary James "got him on the horn" and told them we were on the way to Clarksdale straight up Hiway 61 along field after field of corn. Used to be cotton, but now it's corn. Never mind that we had driven the exact same route just the afternoon before to see another Clarksdale doctor. We discussed rather or not to deduct mileage from her bill. She's nicer than I am.
This was yet another Romans 8:28 event in that she needed to see Clarksdale doctor #3 which saved us a return trip, half a day and a bit of gasoline.
Once we finished our official business Mary James asked for lunch suggestions. Anytime you drive MJ somewhere you can be assured of a good meal in the deal. The good doctors made a few suggestions and off we went to points unknown (for us). Of course they had suggested Ground Zero and we just happened up on it.

One look and I thought, "Good heavens. What have we gotten ourselves into." That's because Mary James and I get into a lot of trouble together. "I don't know, James. That looks kind of iffy to me." Iffy is not part of Mary James' vocabulary. "Come on, Shirl. When are we going to get back here again?" If history is any teacher there was a distinct possibility we'd be back in town the next day. I parked my granny car, took a deep breath, and helped Mary James from the vehicle, checking over my shoulder and wishing we could walk a little faster. In case you don't know, the Ground Zero Blues Club is Mecca for blues lovers around the world. I like pipe organ music.

Here's a close-up of the front porch. Notice the lovely furnishings. It's just part of the ambiance. I'm not sure if you can see it or not, but spray painted on the back of that blue sofa are the words, "Don't make your momma cry." If my mama saw me here she wouldn't be crying, she'd be gasping for breath. "James," I said, "if Mark saw where we are he'd have a stroke." My next challenge occurred as we attempted to enter said establishment. Just look at the photo. Where would you enter? There are three sets of doors. It's kind of like "Let's Make a Deal." "Monte, I'll take door number two and I have no idea what I'll find behind it." And I was right.



It was dark as pitch in there and it took us a minute or two to be able to determine just how much trouble we were in. Whew. The place was full of business people and I was relieved to think Mary James' son wouldn't kill me for losing his mama at the blues club in Clarksdale.

Mary James asked me if I wanted to go to the ladies room. "Do I want to? No. But I'll go scope it out to see if I'll let you in there." It was really fine. And I learned some catchy new phrases in the process.



Back at our nice table adjacent to the huge bar we just sort of took in the place, lingered over the menu which was awfully tempting, and then noticed a dapper businessman in his starched pinpoint shirt and snappy tie. Mary James and I agreed that it was Bill Luckett, former candidate for Governor of Mississippi and restaurant entrepreneur. Sure enough, he headed straight for us. "Now who are you nice ladies and what are you doing in Clarksdale today? I'm Bill Luckett, part owner of Ground Zero. So nice to have you here.....what do you do in Jackson?" (Looking at all of the old wood in this building I knew I'd hit pay dirt.) "My husband owns a lumberyard specializing in cypress and old pattern boards. And we deliver." Shoot. He was selling lunch, not buying lumber. So, that was a nice little visit and back to his table he went. And back to our table he came. "I'd like you nice ladies to come meet the people at my table. Morgan Freeman is here in that black cap, a couple of photographers and Bernie Marsden, one of the ten best guitar players in the whole world."

What else could we do but wander over and say hi to Morgan and Bernie, both of whom were very cordial. Mary James is really with the program at 89 years of age. She said, "We'll have to google Bernie when we get in the car. I don't know who he is." I didn't figure he played the pipe organ. The men were working on a Mississippi Blues documentary. And before Mr. Luckett could introduce the lovely Mrs. Luckett, she and Mary James remembered that they had met years ago at a Rotary event. And only in Mississippi, what they both remembered were the flower arrangements. Now, we're talking in the late 70's or early 80's and what they remembered about that party was  it had been the first time they had seen large arrangements elevated on the table over the heads of the guests. Those men sat there with the most profound look of confusion/amazement. That's what they remember?The flowers?  I nearly suggested they forget the blues documentary and get after one on Grand Dames of the Delta. That would be really something. And Mary James could be their guide and Morgan Freeman could be the narrator.

Here she is with her fried catfish, slaw, turnip greens, cornbread and caramel cake which she said was very tasty. While we ate she told me about some of those parties and the pretty clothes she had found to wear when her late husband was Rotary District Governor. They must have had a wonderful time. We had a wonderful time, too.
Yum. Fried green tomato sandwich with remoulade sauce. I guess you could say it was to die for. Bacon and anything fried. Heaven on a bun. All of my anxieties were for naught and heaven will have to wait.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

Statue of Liberty Rabbit Trail

While composing the previous post I had to continue to edit, edit, edit, as the main idea was replicas of the Statue of Liberty. Today we get to the rabbit trails and how (as Erin says) everything and everyone you know are connected. This would seem to be the case.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I misspelled Bartholdi. I kept wanting to spell it Bertholdi because I was thinking about Berthillon, the famous ice cream parlor on the Ile St.-Louis. Did you know that as immigrants were greeted in New York Harbor by Lady Liberty they were often served ice cream as a comfort food at Ellis Island?
Do you recognize this gentleman?


He is Gustave Eiffel who designed the supporting skeleton for the Statue of Liberty.
Turns out he didn't build just towers.
Actually, he was a bridge builder.


This is most likely not a familiar face.
Gutzon Borglum.
My daddy taught me about him when I was just a little tapper.

In 1916 when the Statue of Liberty was needing her first little face lift, Borglum repaired the leaking torch by cutting away much of the copper and replacing it with glass.
He and the French sculptor Rodin were colleagues.
See, it's a small world.
Borglum also began work on a sculpture you may have seen.
The largest bas relief sculpture in the world at Stone Mountain, Georgia.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned Borglum to carve the likenesses of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis on their favorite horses.
Pretend you're on Jeopardy!
The final question of the day.
These are the names of the three horses.
Quickly! You're running out of time!
Little Sorrel, Traveller, and Blackjack.
Anyway, Borglum worked on the carving for a few years until he was called away (abandoned it) to another small job.

And you didn't think you knew how the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, Stone Mountain
 and Mount Rushmore are connected.
You have now reached the end of the rabbit trail.