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.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Will the Real Statue of Liberty Please Stand Up

It wasn't until my youngest child was in high school that I saw NYC for the first time and the Statue of Liberty from a distance.  Somewhere along the line every American student learns about the magnificent lady that has welcomed millions of immigrants to their adopted homeland.

Fast forward several years when Cindy and I are looking out over the Seine from the second level of the Eiffel Tower and lo and behold (actually very low and behold) is another Statue of Liberty. There she is on the Ile des Cygnes just below the Pont de Grenelle. You've probably seen her, too, in the movie "National Treasure: Book of Secrets." What's going on here? What's with all of the Statues of Liberty? Oh, we've barely gotten started.
Before we make a trip to France we study like maniacs. Like it's a make or break final exam we're preparing for. Like we may never pass this way again so we'd better find out everything there is to know, where did this come from, who painted this, who lived in this house, why does this street bend so funny?

What's this rocky old wall?
Oh, nothing. It's just left over from 1209.

 Where's the Roman arena in Paris? Three blocks from our hotel? Really?!

Yes. Just a few blocks past ANOTHER Statue of Liberty.
Statue number three in Paris in the Luxembourg Gardens.

She's a bronze model used by Bartholdi the sculptor as part of his preparatory work for the real girl.
He offered it to the Luxembourg Garden Museum in 1900.
Oh, you'd like to see another model?
There just happens to be one more Statue of Liberty in Paris outside the Musee des Arts et Metiers which is their museum of arts and industry. She's the original plaster model.
As in plaster of Paris.
See? All this fits together.
Plaster of Paris is another post.
Bartholdi's widow donated this model in 1907.

Just when we thought we'd seen them all here she came again. This time in Florence, Italy at the Santa Croce church. Right there next to the tombs of Michelangelo, Galileo and Dante (who actually is entombed elsewhere) is someone who looked mighty familiar.
Wait, doesn't she look like the Statue of Liberty?
 Sculpted by Pio Fedi and entitled Liberty of Poetry there is some discussion as to whether these are twins separated at birth or who took the idea from whom?

Wouldn't you have loved to look out your window one morning and see this girl greeting you and welcoming you to the dawn of another day?
 Bartholdi built Lady Liberty in the street next to his house in Paris.

A face only a mother could love.
He made model after model, each one larger and larger, using the simplest of line and form knowing that fussy details on a sculpture of such magnitude  would take away from the grandeur he desired.

And grandeur he got. Many times over.
In Birmingham, Alabama.

In Brazil

In Ukraine
There are well over 200 replicas of Liberty Enlightening the World from one corner of the globe to the other.
Austria, Germany, Kosovo, Norway, Spain, U.K., Ireland,
Mexico, the Philippines, Viet Nam, and Australia.
But the best one of all?
The original American Girl.
P.S. And in case you're too young to remember this, the title question refers to the line from an old TV show called "To Tell the Truth." Three contestants were questioned by panelists about their unusual occupation, hobby, etc. Two were imposters and one was telling the truth. The celebrity panelists then had to guess who was telling the truth. The imposters earned money if either one of them was voted to be the truth teller. The last line was always, "Will the real ...............please stand up."

Monday, May 7, 2012

An Exercise in Mother's Day

This morning was my first time back to Jazzercise in months. While I'm teaching bible study I just can't do the exercise class, too. By the time I go to the class at 9, get back home and cleaned up, it's 11 a.m. and most of my day is gone. Or so it seems. But MOMs is over for the semester and I'm lamenting what five months away from "jazzin'" has done to me. If you know me well you know that one of my mottos is to do nothing that makes me hurt, sweat or smell bad so Jazzercise puts me way out of my comfort zone. So much so that one day when I stopped to get gas on the way home from jazzin' someone at the pump looked at me kind of funny and asked, "Are you okay?" Sure I am. I'm just enjoying a near death experience so that I can be in shape which I guess means I'm not quite there yet.

Well, I get in there today and reintroduce myself to all of my exercise friends, find out what's happening with them and their children, write my check and get on to class with Brandi who really knows how to run the show. So much so that I call it "Killercise" or in the case today, "Jazzerthighs." I probably won't be walking again any time soon. I hope my dog Sam doesn't need to go out today. It's not happening.

We exercise to  all kinds of music which has actually broadened  my current music horizons and while we were getting our heart rate up there somewhere over Mach 2 Brandi mentioned Mother's Day and that we might need to stick up a post it note for the benefit of those who will be wracked with guilt come Sunday morning if they've forgotten. Oh no! Brandi and Mother's Day. I'm thinking how I hope she won't play that song...what's it called..."In My Daughter's Eyes" by Martina McBride. Please, please, please, Brandi don't play that. Play "Mamas Don't Let Your Babies Grow Up to Be Cowboys" or "Mama told Me (Not to Come)" but not that daughter's eyes song.

I'm not usually prone to respond to songs with spontaneous combustion type sobbing in public. Well, unless you don't count church...For All the Saints, Like a River Glorious, How Sweet and Awesome is the Place, The Power of the Cross. Or at a performance of Les Mis...I Dreamed a Dream. I'm a gonner. I keep boxes of tissues neatly folded in Ezekiel. It's just that I have a really hard time stretching my  traps listening to Martina sing "I see who I want to be in my daughter's eyes." No, I'm really fine, Brandi, I just have a cramp in my EYELID...."A reflection of who I am and what will be, And though she'll grow and someday leave, Maybe raise a family, When I'm gone I hope you see, How happy she made me, For I'll be there, In my daughter's eyes..." Brandi says these lyrics are tender.  I call them gut-wrenching. Reminds me of the little grandmother book one of the girls gave me for Christmas one year. I "just happened" to open to the page that reads, "Being a grandmother is like being given a second chance." Waaaaa.

Back to jazzin'. While I'm hoping my hamstrings don't pop and that I'll have two Achilles tendons in place when I try to walk toward the door, I devise the solution to my "Cry Me a River" daughter's eyes stretching-while-sobbing session. I'll just sing Onward Christian Soldiers. I can't sing very loud anyway since I'm already mostly dead and if I can just make it through two more lines...

"And the world is at peace, This miracle God gave to me, Gives me strength when I am weak, I find reason to believe, In my daughter's eyes"...I certainly do. But if I try to write just now about what they have done to bless me I'll sob some more and I have to go get some gas in my car and that person at the pump will ask, "Are you okay?" and he wouldn't believe me when I'd answer, "Never been better. Yes, sir. Never been better."