Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Weeknight dinner.

So the school year is officially underway. If you have school-aged children you realize this means the hours from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm are an absolute blur of homework, carpooling to and from activities, and the inevitable rush to get dinner on the table.

Of course, I have from 7:30 am until 3:00 pm to prepare for this mad dash. 

In theory that is plenty of time to exercise, do the laundry, make the beds, clean the kitchen, pay the bills, walk the dogs, coordinate home repairs, plan and shop for the meals, organize school parties for two classrooms, chair the school's silent auction, volunteer in the classroom, manage our travel schedule, volunteer for various community organizations, participate in a bible study, maintain my little blog and, if time permits, end world hunger. 

Plenty of time. 

I always get a laugh when my law school friends and legal colleagues {who stayed with their careers} ask what I do all day. I like to respond with a glib: "Shop on the internet, exercise and nap." 

They don't think I'm kidding. 

I wish I weren't. 

I am not complaining, but suffice to say: It can be quite hectic getting a decent meal on the table. And for those who also have to manage a career and the demands of a job, well, I have no idea how they find time to sleep, much less, eat. 

Which is the point:  weeknight dinners must be quick and easy. 

For everyone.  

This is the newest addition to my arsenal:  

Orzo with Sausage and Roasted Peppers.  


1 red bell pepper
1 orange bell pepper
1 pound orzo pasta*
3 cups chicken stock
3 cups water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces (2 links) mild Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 clove garlic, minced
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup ricotta salata cheese {feta also works}, crumbled

image and recipe via FoodNetwork.com

Using tongs, place the bell peppers over a gas flame. Cook, turning occasionally, until the skins are charred on all sides, about 5 to 6 minutes. {Alternatively - and more efficiently in my opinion - place the peppers on a baking sheet and broil for 5 to 8 minutes, until charred.} Place the charred peppers in a medium bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the peppers to steam for 20 minutes. Under running water, peel away the charred skin from the peppers. Pat the peppers dry with paper towels. Remove the stem and seeds from the peppers and cut into 1/4-inch thick slices. Set aside.
{Amy note: Knock this out early in the day so you aren't stuck at 6:30 waiting 20 minutes for your peppers to steam. Or, do do a slew of peppers on Sunday and repurpose them in meals throughout the week.}
In a medium saucepan, bring the chicken stock, water, and kosher salt to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.

While the pasta is cooking: In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the turkey sausage and saute until cooked through, about 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add the bell peppers, tomatoes, and red pepper flakes, if using, and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid, and transfer to a large serving bowl. Add the sausage mixture, 1 tablespoon of the parsley, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss well to combine all ingredients, adding reserved cooking liquid, if needed, to loosen the pasta. Top with the ricotta salata and sprinkle with the remaining parsley. Serve.
* If you cook a full pound of orzo the ratio of orzo to sausage and peppers will be nothing like that pictured. A pound of cooked orzo is a mound of orzo. If you want more veggies and less pasta, adjust accordingly. Next time I will likely use 1/2 pound of orzo and double up on the peppers. My kids, however, appreciated that it was pasta heavy!  

Monday, August 29, 2011

I'm married to a rich man.

Last week the hubs flew out one morning 5am and returned at midnight so he could be with his mom at a doctors appointment. He spent the entire day on Thursday with me celebrating 10 years of marital bliss. And then took off Friday to play golf with his Dad who traveled six hours to spend the weekend with us. 

In between all of that is somehow manages to make it home in time for family dinners. To pick Boy Genius up from golf lessons {so I can make said family dinner}. To take Little Miss Thang to violin {while I attend a birthday party with Boy Genius}. And somewhere in the midst of all that he manages to squeeze in enough work to support our family. 

So when I saw this last night on Pinterest, I thought of him. 

He is truly rich. 

And I am truly lucky.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Shrimp Scampi

I made this simple, delicious dish last night for dinner. It took less than 30 minutes to prep and cook, was light but tasty, and our guests swooned.  Win-win!

See the full recipe here.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Another weepy mom post.

It's that time of year again. 

The time of year when moms all across America post pictures of their darling off-spring with sappy-sweet sentiments about how time flies so fast. 

I'd prefer to sit here and lovingly joke about those moms whose cannot let go of their {most likely} ill-mannered children and enjoy the freedom that comes with dropping them at school for 7 straight hours!  

I'd like to write that post. 

It would be funny. 

And you would laugh. 

And I do love making you laugh.

But, alas, I can't write that post. 

I do not yet have enough distance between me and precisely those sappy-sad thoughts. In fact, I am that mom. 

You see . . . 

{wait for it}  

they are just growing so fast! 

I simply cannot believe I have kids in 3rd grade

Wasn't it just yesterday they were holding onto my apron strings yoga pants and asking me to "hold you?" {They always said "hold you?" instead of "hold me" because, I suppose, it was what I'd ask them with outstretched arms. Isn't that crazy-cute?}

And we had such an amazing summer. I enjoyed wonderful, quality time with both of them. One-on-one. It was utterly bewildering to see how their little personalities morph into lovely little people when alone with me. They are both so well-spoken, and thoughtful, and all-together darling {when not piercing the other's skin with . . . oh, you name the item du jour}.

"But, it's just third grade" you say, "aren't you over it and ready for a break?"

"Well apparently not." I'm forced to admit. 

You see I've spent the better part of my first two days of new-found "freedom" wondering how we could possibly go from here . . . 

First day of school 2006
to here . . . 
First day of school 2011
in the blink of an eye.

And how to make it all stop happening so fast.

Any suggestions?

Or maybe just a funny sad-mom joke to cheer me up a bit?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Party animals.

Ok these make me smile. 

And quite frankly, I laughed. Out loud. 

Though you know I don't ever LOL because 
I think it's embarrassing for people over forty to LOL. 

Though I'm not officially "over" forty. 

Which is all besides the point. 

Oh, did you expect a point?!

Sorry to disappoint.  

I'm not sure there is a point. 

I simply wanted to share these delightful little animal wine stoppers

via bltd

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Ten years ago.

Later this week the hubs and I will celebrate a decade of marriage! 

A decade!   

And of course, it is only the the beginning of our happily ever after. 

This is by far my favorite photo from our wedding day. 

We are wind-blown, sun-kissed and giddy to take on all that life will inevitably throw our way. 

Palmilla, Los Cabos, Mexico

Happy Anniversary week, hubs!

You make me
better than I was
more than I am
and all of this happened
just by taking your hand. 

I remain,

Forever yours.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Growing Pains.

Things have changed around here this summer.

Big things.

I don't know exactly when it changed.

Maybe it was gradual or maybe it happened all at once.

It seems shockingly fast.

But I'm really not even sure.

Here's the thing: my kids are growing up.

Quite suddenly it seems.

This may not sound like big news to you. But it is to me. See, they've been small since we've met. They have needed me quite intensely our entire relationship. I have provided for them. I have entertained them. I have comforted them. Every single day. For over 3,000 days. 

And I've come to expect this dynamic. I expect to be included in their games. If they are hungry for a snack I'm used to hearing about it. When they wake up in the morning they visit snuggle with me in bed. When something is on their mind or heart, I hear about it. When they draw a picture, they show it to me. This is the way of our world. It is a symbiotic relationship. 

But I feel the winds of change blowing. 

I see a new independence blooming. 

They play independently. Often with their doors closed. 

They find their own snacks and sometimes clean up after themselves. 

They wake up and occupy themselves without so much as a peep. 

But the kicker was this: elevator buttons. We've always had arguments over who pushed elevator buttons. We had our system -- one pushed the button to call the elevator and the other pushed the floor button. This seems fair, but for some unknown reason the floor buttons on the inside are coveted far more than the simple up and down arrows. Much more. So we have to keep track of who pushed up or down last time and who pushed the floor button. And then we switch. And so on and so forth. 

So last weekend when we were in New Orleans we had not one, but two elevators to deal with -- one for the parking garage and one for the hotel proper. Adding another set of buttons with which to keep up with only adds to the complexity and inevitable break-down of the system, and accordingly, the two little people who then scream "that's not fair." 

But alas, there were no fights or score keeping. 

About half way through our short trip Little Miss Thang looks at me and says: "Have you noticed I haven't hit any of the elevator buttons." 

I'm not sure I had. I think I was too distracted by drunk middle-aged women swaying and cursing in front of my children to notice.

"It's only a button." She declares. 

Get out of town. I've been saying that for YEARS! 

Seriously, if they start acting civilized and all grown-up on a regular basis I'm simply not sure what I'm to do with myself!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

New Orleans in 36 hours.

We had only 36 hours. 

And 2 kids. 

We'd never done New Orleans with kids. 

Or together for that matter. 

New Orleans is a bit like Vegas in that way - everyone has their own way of doing it and their own favorite haunts. 

This time, however, was New Orleans Family style. 

We started with the infamous Café du Monde. For those of you, like my hubs, who never strayed far enough from Pat O'Briens to visit this venerable New Orleans institution, it is, in it's simplest terms, a coffee shop on Decatur Street. My family was amazed they only served their coffee two ways -- black or au lait -- and had only one other item on the menu -- beignets.  After sampling the beignets, however, everyone understood the simple beauty of Café du Monde. Yum. 

It being only 9:30 am when we completed our pilgrimage to Café du Monde, we decided it was a safe hour to peruse a bit of the French Quarter with the kids. We walked around Jackson Square and admired the amazing street artists. We ventured a bit further into the Quarter and found a store with great carnival masks. Little Miss Thang was immediately taken by the aqua feathered number. Mais bien sûr.  

We even happened upon Zoltar the fortune teller. My kids have never seen the movie Big, but the hubs and I giggled and handed each of them a dollar. Zoltar did not make either of them "big", but he did dispense valuable philosophical advice which went completely over their heads.

Later we ducked into the Audubon Nature Institute to cool off and watch Deep Sea IMAX 3D. It was narrated by Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet and was absolutely amazing. It featured some of the strangest and most exotic creatures on the planet and explained their symbiotic relationships and the delicate balance required to maintain their environment. It left me utterly in awe of God's creation!

And speaking of exotic creatures, we had only one thing on the mind for lunch: oysters. And we don't mess around when it comes to oysters. On the half shell and served with a Bloody Mary. It's the only way to go. And while Acme, is the name most {tourists} know when talking oysters in New Orleans, I had it on good authority {my brother} that Felix's Oyster Bar is the way to go. I'm not certain how the kids felt about their chicken strips, but the oysters were fantastic!

We rewarded the kids' putting up with our oysters jaunt {I do actually know how the kids' felt about their chicken strips and it wasn't favorable} with a post-lunch Pinkberry treat. I loved my chocolate with rasberries and blueberries. The kids toppings may not have been quite as healthy, but don't tell them it wasn't ice cream.

As we walked around New Orleans throughout the day we were initially surprised by, and later completely desensitized to, the sight of grown men wearing red dresses. And not just one or two men. Entire groups of men. And women too, to be fair, but that is hardly a shocking sight. Apparently Saturday morning was the annual Red Dress Run, a charitable event.

That, of course, explains the morning sightings. The fact that we continued to see men in red dresses walking home from dinner is well . . . just part of what makes New Orleans, New Orleans!

Kids or not, New Orleans is a city unlike any other. And besides the obvious -- actually enjoying the company of my children -- the plus side to having kids with me meant I awoke on Sunday without even the slightest twinge of a headache {or was the obvious part?!}.

And, honestly, I had just as much fun!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Reading Test.

Tell me I'm not alone -- I find this utterly amazing!!!  

I tohuhgt it wluod be hrad to raed but it ins't at all. 


Monday, August 15, 2011

Home sweet home.

16 days.

7 states.

Over 3,100 miles. 

Memories to last a lifetime. 

We are home safe and sound.

And while we enjoyed every single bit of our time away, it's really good to be home. 

Thank you for all your sweet tweets and traveling well-wishes!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Meal planning made easy!

As the lazy, unstructured days of summer come to an end I am reminded of the frantic pace of the school year ahead. It is a merry-go-round of enormous proportions. Between homework, and violin, and piano, and gymnastics, and tennis, and golf, and oh, I don't know, any life of my own, our afternoons and evenings are quite full.

That said, I honestly and whole-heartedly believe in sitting down together as a family and eating dinner. I grew up in a family which sat down together every night and ate together. We talked about our days. We were forced to put our napkins on our lap and keep our elbows off the table. Fast food was not served {ok, maybe an occasional fried chicken night}. Suffice to say, I believe in the family dinner and work hard to provide fresh, healthy meals for my family on a very regular basis. We are clearly not perfect. The hubs travels quite a bit. And some days I just do not have it all together. But when the hubs is home we make every effort to come and share a meal.

Leigh at Hines-Sight Blog is hosting a Meal Planning Made Easy linky to help us all infuse our dinner routines with a few new recipes or strategies. What a great idea!

Of course I want to participate, but given that I am away from my own kitchen it is a wee bit challenging for me to provide a meaningful new post. I will, however, cheat a bit and provide you with ten of my favorite food posts from the past year. 
As for strategies, I strive to always have a little money in the bank. Who doesn't!?

In terms of meal planning, "money in the bank" translates into "food in the freezer". But certainly not store-bought frozen food. I mean, make it once and eat it twice {or more}. This works exceptional well with most soups {freeze them flat in ziploc bags - they take up very little space, can be stacked, and will thaw quickly in a sink of warm water}. I am also a big fan of making a huge batch of meatballs and freezing a few dozen for future meals. It is easy to even pull out five or six if I'm just eating with just the kids {pasta is our universal food of choice}. Ditto my "Mommy's homemade marinara." I make a huge batch and freeze what we don't use that night into family-size servings for future use. Money in the bank!

I also like to make it once and repurpose it later in the week with fresh food. For example, I will make a roasted chicken on Sunday night {when I generally have more time} and then serve chicken tacos on a hectic Tuesday night when I do not have time to do any more than dice a tomato. If I serve spaghetti and meatballs on Monday night, I use the leftover spaghetti on Thursday night and make Pasta Carbonara {#4 above}.

I enjoy cooking. I really, really do. Unfortunately, I do not always enjoy cooking a meal with 30 minutes to spare, while helping with homework, after rushing in the door from 3 hours carpooling. Life is hectic with school-aged children. There is no way around it. But, planning a bit in advance and ensuring you always have a little "money in the bank" whether homemade meatballs or a chicken roasted over the weekend, will ensure that your family can sit down at least a few times a week and enjoy a warm, wholesome meal!

Click on over to Hines-Sight Blog and see what other meals and strategies are being offered! 

hines sight blog Mini Spaghetti Pie

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Heaven for little girls.

All lives will be filled with tears and trials, sickness and pain. Sometimes, however, we allow the "bad" to define us. We allow unkind words to guide our thoughts of ourselves. We allow an unfortunate incident to define our feelings. This is not God's plan for our lives. God wants us to rise above the "bad"  and define ourselves as he does: Fearfully and wonderfully made! Psalm 139.

After Little Miss Thang broke her arm in mid-July, I was concerned it would ruin her summer. I quite plainly assumed it would define the summer of 2011. After all, she certainly would not be able to enjoy camp with a broken arm. She, however, did not allow this small misfortune to define her or her summer plans. She did indeed rise above the "bad."

Ten days ago I dropped Little Miss Thang off at Camp Greystone. I've been anxiously flipping through literally thousands of pictures each and every day looking for a glimpse into her world. A clue as to how she is doing. And perchance, a smile to settle my heart. I've also been following the camp blog with  impressive diligence. I love hearing about the amazing special activities planned each day and what is being served at each meal {knowing full well my picky eater must be eating a lot of fruit and salad because there is no way she had a vegetable fritatta for breakfast this morning}. 

I've followed all this because it brings me a bit of peace - being in touch with her world, albeit only slightly, softens the blow. 

What I've discovered, though, in watching it all so closely is what an amazing gift the camp experience is for these girls. I wish my sweet little girl could spend her entire life living in the camp bubble. Living in a community that requires kindness. A community that prays together 6 times a day! A community centered on glorifying God by loving each other!  

What an amazing perspective must be gained by living in such a bubble. What an amazing sense of confidence must result. 

To me, it sounds like Heaven for little girls. 
And after visiting on opening day, I'd say it looks a bit like Heaven too. 

I have loved these little glimpses into the camp experience. But I can also quite honestly now say: I need to hold my little girl again. 

Need to. 

Only 40 more hours. 

But who's counting. 

Until then, these shots of her precious smiling face will have to do. 

Have you sent your child(ren) off to camp before? If so, how did it change him or her . . . and you?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Summer Fun Show-Off.

Once again, Shell at Things I Can't Say is hosting a fun linky -- Summer Fun Show-Off. Given that I'm still away on vacation, I am quite pleased for an opportunity to share a few pics and call it a post. 

Of course, I do not currently have access to my pics from the entire summer, but yesterday proved quite picturesque in and of itself.

So here is just a snippet of our summer fun!

Resting about half way to our destination. 
And geesh, it must have been almost 85 degrees. 
I was nearly hot. 

What looked so small from the lake was breathtaking when approached at this height. 

I remain in awe of God's creation. 

Those I find when hiking in the mountains 
and those I get to see each and every day. 

Link up your Summer Fun for a chance to win prizes from Ubisoft.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hines-Sight Blog Guest Post!

Today I am pleased to introduce Leigh Powell Hines of Hines-Sight Blog. Leigh is a former TV Journalist / Communications Executive turned stay-at-home mom. She blogs "about the daily joys, chaos, and sometimes 'pull your hair out' experiences of having small children" in your early forties. She lives in the very state I am currently visiting --  North Carolina -- and often weaves traveling adventures  and Southern tales in with her SAHM experiences. Her self-proclaimed "obsession" with luxury hotels may even rival my own! 

She has a charming voice and a refined sense of style. I love reading Leigh's posts and hope you will enjoy this little bit she agreed to share with me. 

Without further adieu . . .

Frankly, My Dear, It’s Like Vivien Leigh

This may sound odd, but one of the things I loved most about being pregnant was picking out a baby name, especially a little girl’s name.  It’s no surprise, really, because I was that little girl at an early age, the one who actually owned a baby name book.  I was constantly writing stories, naming my characters and dolls.  It was my favorite book.

There are no more children in my future to name, but as a mom to a 20-month-old daughter, I will be sure to ask to help with her dolls’ names. I’ve already named two because, well, she doesn’t talk. Based on the latest name research, she might opt for Pippa, Asher, or Hadley in the future.  These names are moving on the fast track for becoming the hottest names for 2011. Ironically, Hadley is a family name in my husband’s family, so it’s not new to us, but it is gaining popular ground with the masses since the best-selling novel “The Paris Wife.” Having two people named Hadley is confusing enough; we’ll refrain from throwing a doll with the same name into the mix.

I grew up with an unpopular name. However, around the time I was born, Leigh had its best baby-name ranking ever, debuting as number 202 in 1969. Since 1996, it has not even made the top one thousand names.

I was named after my father, who spelled his name Lee. I rarely met another person named Leigh growing up. If I did, then it was her middle name. I always thought my friends had cooler names. I was a one-syllable gal. They were Michelle, Amy, Kimberly, Christy, and Jennifer. Fast-forward twenty years, and the names Kimberly and Jennifer are ranked as the top two names of all my Facebook friends, coming in at ten people each.

The other day at an ice cream social at a summer camp, I started chatting with a mom who has children the exact same age as mine.  We talked for a while, hitting it off, telling our children’s names, and finally I said, “I’m Leigh, by the way.”

Her eyes widened. “Me, too.”

She went on to say, “I’ve never met anyone with my name. I don’t think it’s very popular outside the South.”  She told me she lived on the West Coast awhile, and one co-worker even asked, “What’s that short for?”

“Just Leigh?” the woman asked.  “I bet you are mad at your mama for naming you that.”  We got a good laugh out of that one.

When I moved to the mountains of North Carolina, everyone pronounced Leigh like “lay” as in “sleigh.”  The other Leigh got that, too. Here in North Carolina, people are used to pronouncing our state capital, Raleigh. As a result, our correct pronunciation stats have now gone up, and Leigh is properly pronounced here so that it rhymes with flea and sea. Yes, I know the mountains of North Carolina are also in North Carolina, and they have the same capital, but it’s just different up there.

People used to look at me like I had two heads when I was a child in the ’70s and I said, “It’s Leigh, like the actress Vivien Leigh.” She wasn’t known as Vivien “Lay.” The Leigh I recently met said that some of her older patients would use that reference when she introduced her name, but very few people under the age of 50 know about movie actress Vivien Leigh, who played one of the greatest female characters of all time on the big screen.

Case in point: my husband. When I told him the story of meeting the “other” Leigh, he asked, “Who’s Vivien Leigh?”

“Frankly, my dear, we need to watch, ‘Gone With the Wind,’” I replied. “It’s a classic, just like my name.”

I thank Amy for allowing me the opportunity to fill in for her while she is enjoying some time with her family in the Tarheel State.  If you get the chance, please stop by the Hines-Sight Blog, and say hello. 

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Goodbye Millwood.

Today is the day we leave our charming little cabin in the woods -- Millwood. It sits, unassumingly, on a steep mountainside completely hidden from the street by trees that tower over it and far into the sky. It is not a large cabin, but was perfect for this party of 3. 

We enjoyed every meal at the table on the screened in porch, where I sit now as I type this post. As you may imagine Millwood does not have air conditioning. Luckily the mountain breeze was sufficient during our stay despite the record-breaking heatwave sweeping the nation. 

The interior is charming but equally unfussy.

Comfortable without being slouchy. 

And refined but without a hint of pretention.

The porch was nearly as large as the house itself, with commanding views of the 
surrounding trees, but without another structure in sight.  

Our red Old Town canoe is perched on the side of the lake about a 1/10 of a mile down the hill. We enjoyed a few leisurely and picturesque canoe rides during our stay at Millwood. They were so leisurely, however, that no photographic evidence exists. 

This has been a lovely respite from the hustle and bustle of ordinary life. The pace of Highlands and our mountain home, Millwood, was just the salve I needed on wounds I didn't even know I had. 

But before I get too philosophical {the serenity of the mountains at work}, I should note: our vacation is far from over. We are simply moving locations within North Carolina today.

Stay tuned for more mountain musings . . . 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Having just one kid is easy.


I said. 

Having just one kid is easy. 

Easy peasy lemon squeezy.

And yes, this is a revelation to me. You see, I've never had just one kid. Mine arrived as a matched set. Two at a time is all I know. And I love two at a time. I do. But I'm crazy like that -- I also love having three dogs though it makes my house a complete circus. 

But back to kids. Just one kid requires so much less attention. Such much less energy. 

We hike to waterfalls with no complaint. There is no race to the top or the bottom. No screaming about who cut in front of who.

No one has to jockey for position next to mom. I'm all yours - take your pick of the left side or right!

We can enjoy our surroundings and simply marvel at God's creation. Boy Genius is happy to marvel too. And without that ever-present competitive edge involved, marveling can last more than 20 seconds before you hear "what's next."

We talk and I hear what he says. Ever word. And I am utterly amazed that he has so much to say. I suppose he's simply never before been given the opportunity to speak without interruption. Conversations with just one child can be quite enjoyable I've learned.

And, perhaps the best part, the hubs and I can enjoy a quiet hour or two on the porch talking, enjoying our wine and the amazing weather without interruption. You see, there are no fights to mediate with just one child. 

Said child can happily build a log cabin out of legos. 

He is happy to read a book while the hubs takes a mid-day siesta. 

He is simply happy at each and every moment of the day.

So is it really easy having just one child or is it just this one child?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Family Vacation.

I hate to make our family, or more particularly, our children, sound spoiled. They are not. But, we have not traveled much as a family by car. We have certainly never ventured out of Texas. {though, in our defense, it takes a very long time to travel through Texas. we have certainly made many long Texas treks.}

So this was our first family road trip. The first road trip that required hotels stays along the journey. The hubs and I were a bit skeptical {we both have such vivid and horrid family road trip memories from our youth}. 

The kids were downright flabbergasted: "why don't we just fly?"

"Because getting there is half the fun. You know that!" the hubs and I said in unison, quoting Clark from Family Vacation

Truth be told, we felt a bit like the Griswalds. The car was stuffed to the gills. The kids were rolling their eyes when we tried to play family car games. It was forced family fun at it's best. 

Before our departure I purchased maps for each kid so they could highlight our route and learn a little bit in the car. I didn't stop there. I also purchased a lovely set of state cards with maps and information about each state. I found them fascinating. The kids asked if we were done discussing "fast facts" and could they please go back to playing on their respective DSi?  

Given the kids' disinterest, I'll share some of my new found knowledge with you. I realize I may lose readers by sharing mundane facts, but I'm willing to take the risk to preserve these memories for posterity. Or so I can win the next game of Trivial Pursuit. 

Capital - Baton Rouge. 

Fast fact: You can drive 24 miles over the water on the world's longest highway bridge, the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway. We did not do this, but find it an interesting fact nonetheless. World's longest. You caught that right. World's longest highway bridge in Louisiana. I find that surprising.

Capital:  Jackson.

Fast Fact: Kermit the Frog was "born" on Deer Creek, near creator Jim Henson's hometown of Leland, Mississippi. I love all things Muppets {no, I'm serious. I really do} so this too interests me. 

We were a bit perplexed by their tag line - "Birthplace of America's Music" - until we realized that B.B. King and Elvis Presley were both from Mississippi. Ok, we'll give them that. 

Capital: Montgomery. 

Fast fact: Montgomery became famous when a woman named Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on the bus. Yet another reminder that standing up for yourself and what you believe in may not be popular, but is always important.

We spent the night in Alabama after around 12 hours on the road. We enjoyed a lovely evening in Point Clear which is as charming a hamlet as they come. Our dinner overlooking the picturesque bay was wonderful and a relaxing end to a long day. 

Oh, and did I mention my blueberry mojito? Yum.

Capital: Atlanta

Fast Fact: Martin Luther King, Jr. was from Atlanta. His preaching for social justice and change eventually led to the Civil Rights Movement. You can {if you are not driving at a crazy pace and are willing to stop the car and get out for more than five minutes} tour his birth home at 501 Auburn Avenue.

Capital: Columbia

Fast fact: The youngest man to sign the Declaration of Independence, Edward Rutledge, was from South Carolina. He was 26 years old at the time. Doesn't this make you wonder a bit? So much is discussed about the intent of our "founding fathers". How much could sweet, young Edward really know about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Then again, at 26 I suppose I was fairly in tune with at least the pursuit of happiness! 

We spent our second night in Greenville, South Carolina. Also a charming town. We stayed right on Main Street in a historic hotel owned by Westin. It was darling and felt like home {read: lots of toile and antiques}. 

Capital: Raleigh

Fast Fact: Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first successful airplane flight in Kitty Hawk, North  Carolina in 1903. 

We dropped Little Miss Thang off at camp around 8am {an entire future post is swirling in my head} and headed to our mountain rental about 2 hours away. 

Then the three of us {the Hubs, Boy Genius and me) breathed a collective sigh of relief. 

We'd made it. 

The State of North Carolina was not closed when we arrived {more Family Vacation references for you who have not seen it 5,000 times}. There was no blond in a red Ferrari. And the kids did not have to share the backseat with a dead person. 

A successful family vacation. And we've only just begun! 

And I admit: I may have been a bit leery about spending 12 days in the smoky mountains. I'm more of a beach girl than a  mountain girl. 

Or so I thought. 

But this beach girl is getting to know and *love* the North Carolina mountains. 

Stay tuned . . .

Monday, August 1, 2011

Super Mamika!

French photographer Sacha Goldberger, in an attempt to cheer up his 91-year-old Hungarian grandmother Frederika, suggested that they shoot a series of preposterous photographs in unconventional costumes, poses, and locations. Frederika agreed and has been smiling ever since. 

As per My Modern Met
Frederika was born in Budapest 20 years before World War II. During the war, at the peril of her own life, she courageously saved the lives of ten people. When asked how, Goldberger told us "she hid the Jewish people she knew, moving them around to different places every day." As a survivor of Nazism and Communism, she then immigrated away from Hungary to France, forced by the Communist regime to leave her homeland illegally or face death. 
Aside from great strength, Frederika has an incredible sense of humor, one that defies time and misfortune. She is funny and cynical, always mocking the people that she loves.

With the unexpected success of this series, titled "Mamika" (or grandma in Hungarian), Goldberger created a MySpace page for her. She now has over 2,200 friends and receives messages like: "You're the grandmother that I have dreamed of, would you adopt me?" and "You made my day, I hope to be like you at your age."

Initially, she did not understand why all these people wrote to congratulate her. Then, little by little, she realized that her story conveyed a message of hope and joy. In all those pictures, she posed with the utmost enthusiasm. Now, after the set, Goldberger shares that his grandmother has never shown any signs of depression. Perhaps it's because her story serves some sort of purpose. That through the warm words of newfound friends, she's reminded of just how lucky she is to be alive.

In all those pictures, she posed with the utmost enthusiasm. Now, after the set, Goldberger shares that his grandmother has never shown any signs of depression. Perhaps it's because her story serves some sort of purpose. That through the warm words of newfound friends, she's reminded of just how lucky she is to be alive.
What an amazing story and amazing lady!! I cannot wait to see the next installment!

all photos via My Modern Met

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