Sunday, November 29, 2009

A low key Florida wedding

Nestled between the bougainvillea and palm trees, there's a little garden in Winter Park, Florida called English Gardens. Dave's cousin, Noah, and his bride Marisa chose this cozy spot for their intimate, low-key wedding. The weather cooperated for a chilly, but beautiful event with friends and family. The children provided the extra entertainment, as the flower girl made an extra lap around the garden, and the son and best man of the couple sat on the step and ate a Snickers during the ceremony. To cap off the ceremony, the benediction from the officiant was "and... Go Seminoles!" to reflect the crowd of FSU graduates present. Unfortunately, that didn't help the Garnet & Gold.

The wedding was followed up with a nice Italian-style reception. (I noticed in this part of Florida there are no local, mom & pop style restaurants. It's franchise city!) Since the bride's family had quite a bit of Italian heritage or at least an Italian last name, this seemed to fit very well. Fettucini, piccata, salad, and desserts like Italian cookies and spumoni were served up family style in heaping bowls passed around the table. It doesn't have to be a big wedding to be a nice, classy one, and this was proof of that.

The neatest aspect of this wedding was the Candy buffet, which went over very well with kids of all ages.

The bride & groom purchased classic candies like Reese's, Snickers, Gummi Bears, and Lemon Drops, and a few throwbacks, like pop rocks and some other button things I remember eating as a kid and displayed them at the reception. Guests were invited to put candy in clear plastic bags as a wedding favor, although I saw several people put a spoonful of Sour Patch kids beside the fried calamari that was served up as an appetizer. You can't really tell from the photos, but chocolate chips and shavings were spread around the bases of the containers for a nice display.

Congrats and best wishes go out to Noah & Marisa on a special day and a special family.

Meeting up with Kimberly

Dave and I are lucky to have friends practically all over the country. We couldn't make a stop in Central Florida without visiting one of our friends who lives there, Kimberly, who used to work with us in Shreveport. This is her hometown and she works at a local station here.

I highly recommend the restaurant she took us to, Seasons 52, which changes its menu frequently to reflect the season. It's health conscious too...all entrees are under a certain number of calories and the ones we had were absolutely delicious.

We didn't know it, but we happened to be near where a certain golfer had a run-in with a fire hydrant. We could've played paparazzi and didn't even know it!

A very Epcot Thanksgiving

Last year I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the family who visited from New York and Arkansas.

What did I do this year?

I went to Disney World.

Yep. Actually, we had a family wedding to attend that Saturday, so we took advantage of the holiday to spend extra time with family. The only Disney park we fit in was Epcot and we visited one afternoon to tour the countries, which were already ready for the holiday season.

Even though it was Thanksgiving, there was still quite a crowd at Disney and a surprising number of people sporting football jerseys. We saw several LSU fans and perhaps because of the day, several people were gnawing turkey legs.

We opted for a later dinner at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant in Downtown Disney. The food was fine, but the company made this Thanksgiving even better.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Baby, won't you drive my car?

I stole the title of this blog from a song, and also from a friend who titled an article once the same way. I liked it then, and I like it now.

After 10 years on the road, I sold the little red car. I bought a new car in September and this month I happened upon a buyer with zero advertising. He gave what I asked, so I figured it was time to sell.

But as I drove to hand her off, I got kinda emotional. It's almost like I was in a 10 year relationship that was coming to an end without the bad breakup that makes you glad to see it finished. I mean, I was never stranded on the side of the road with this car. I never got in a wreck. I only had one flat tire. It was simply time to upgrade before my good luck ran out.

I drove this car in college, and I packed it to the hilt while moving out of the dorm after four years. I drove this car around DC several times, lost before finding my way back. I drove this car 1000+ miles to graduate school in Syracuse, and on a few sight-seeing excursions to Maine and through New England. I drove this car to my first job and after I anchored my first newscast. I made many trips from Shreveport to Arkadelphia over 7 semesters teaching college. I drove this car to transport stuff for my wedding. I drove this car to see my family in Florida, and I drove this car packed down once again, away from my family to live in Minnesota, and packed again into my first home. And I kept it clean every step of the way. (that's for you Uncle Jim)

I started counting the moves that I made in this car:
*out of a dorm in Arkansas and to an apartment outside of DC
*out of a dorm in Arkansas and into a sorority house in New York
*out of a sorority house into a friend's house in New Hampshire
*out of the New Hampshire location to Louisiana
*in and out of 2 apartments and 2 houses in Shreveport
*from Shreveport to Minnesota.
*from an apartment to our first house, actual owned property, in Minnesota

Then I decided to count the speeding tickets that I've gotten in this car in 4 states in towns like Cotton Valley, Waskom, Bradley, Arkadelphia, New Orleans, Eden Prairie... My favorite was getting pulled over by a deputy named Opie in the speed trap of Bradley, Arkansas....but I quickly decided I've dwelled on that bit of past long enough. We can move on from that. And fast.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The mailman has been busy

Aside: Some of you will have to put up with a few baby bits from now on. These are for the family, but you are more than welcome to enjoy!

It's the southern way to show your love often not with words, but with gifts and actions. My family tends not to get overly emotional and say mushy things to each other. Instead, they do things like cook and give gifts. We aren't close enough to get food, unfortunately, but only days after the baby news broke, we started getting gifts.

The first care package came, fittingly, from the baby's only surviving set of great-grandparents. My grandmother always sends the best care packages. My first winter in Minnesota she sent me a box of grits with my birthday gift. Not just any grits. Microwave grits. Instant grits. Old fashioned grits. Flavored grits. She wasn't sure what kind I would like, so she just cleaned out the aisle. And 3 years later, I'm still eating on them. Grandmother and Pop sent the baby a package containing sleepers (with a sports theme for Dave, of course), bottle washers, socks, and picture frames. All that mail comes as it always does, addressed to "Mrs. Dave Schwartz" (top picture)

The baby's grandmother in Florida sent sleepers, baby blankets, diapers, and a toy. That has come addressed to "Baby Schwartz" (yellow sleeper picture)

One of my moms, my best friend's mother, made a quilt and called to inform me on the phone yesterday that she had a birthday present for me and she wanted to tell me what it was BEFORE I got it. An ABC quilt, and she's piecing another one too. (below)

My other best friend has texted me saying a package is on the way she just couldn't get in the mail because she kept putting stuff in it.

And my future sister-in-law and brother sent me a maternity package that included among other things "chocolate for baby."

There's already a discussion brewing over who gets to give the shower and just where it will be held in the big D. Apparently there is much noise over how I can get the stuff to Minnesota and how in the world is it proper manners to put 'bring money' or 'buy off a registry online' on a shower invitation? Kudos to my cousin for thinking of these things. I am just tickled the shower committee will have heck deciding what color the punch must be. That's very important, you know.

With stuff coming from Arkansas, Florida, and New York... pretty obvious this baby is already loved.

Friday, November 20, 2009

60 years and counting...

As I've said before.... when it comes to grandparents, I truly hit the grandparent lotttery.

My grandparents celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary last week on November 12. I am very lucky to see them reach this milestone, and they are lucky to have reached it as well.

But Grandmother and Pop wouldn't tell you that. They grew up in an era when people just got married and stayed married. It's what people did.

My grandmother had four children in about five years time, and if that wasn't trial enough, she raised them all less than a football field away from her in-laws. She's the kind of housewife who could make clothes out of flower sacks, put up any type of fruit or vegetable, and work a part time job to bring in extra income to boot. My grandfather worked long and hard in soybean fields, hay meadows, and the log woods. They would escape periodically for a Razorback game or a road trip, but the road always led them back to the house on the hill... the one they literally built themselves and have lived in for 50 plus years.
I asked them what was the secret to being married for 60 years. They laughed and skirted around the issue, but they never really came out with any one piece of sage advice. I think that says alot about the two of them. Marriage is something you do everyday. There's not a golden revelation or a lofty reason why things work out. Marriage works because you work at it. Both of you. Everyday.

Of course, I had to chase them down on the cell phone to find this out and wish them a Happy Anniversary....they were off celebrating on a road trip to northern Arkansas and Branson... so maybe there is a key to being married for 60 years.... taking time to get away from everyone else!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Why Minnesota is awesome

Minnesota is one of the toughest states to recruit people, but it's also the toughest state to get people to leave.

A researcher from Georgia told me that last week while I was doing a story on Minnesota coming out on top in a national survey studying civic involvement. According to the survey, Minnesotans vote often, show up at town hall events, attend church, volunteer outside of the home, and contribute to charities more than people in any other state. While Minnesota came out on top, Florida, Nevada, and New York came in dead last.

After living here coming up on three winters (I count my residency in winters, like all good Minnesotans), I have seen this civic involvement first hand. This place has tons of voter forums and town halls--and people actually show up. At one neighborhood meeting I went to this week, more than 100 people came out on a random Tuesday night. The library system here beats any place where I've resided hands down. Minnesotans love their green space, and invest millions into parks that are actually clean. When my grandparents came to visit this summer, even they kept remarking on how clean the state was. It sure puts Southern states to shame. The state also has an incredibly educated populace, which accounts for why so many big companies are headquartered here.

Why are Minnesotans winning this contest? One big reason is the state has always been a collaborative effort between different peoples. German and Scandinavian immigrants worked together to form unique school systems and civic programs. Harsh conditions in rural areas of the state pushed cooperative efforts for survival. If people were going to thrive, it was going to take people working together. New ideas with progressive politicans like Wellstone or Ventura frequently come from here. The state recently sent the first Muslim congressman to Washington. Sure, the state might elect a questionable character from time to time... but you can't say they aren't afraid to try new ideas and new people.

If we could only get them to try a spice besides salt and pepper...

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Bring a Vet to School Day

SIL Brianne shared these pictures of her niece Kyra who got to bring her very own Veteran to school today in Utica. He's Uncle Lukey to her, but to the crowd he was CPT Luke. Happy Veteran's Day!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

MIA at the MIA

Dave and I took advantage of a beautiful fall day by what else? Finding something to do the Minneapolis Institute of Art, called MIA by the locals. It's near downtown Minneapolis, and houses Rembrandt, Van Gogh, and several impressive pieces that seem vaguely familiar to me from art class. The museum is huge, and it's a testament to this city's love of art. The MIA is funded through donations, making it completely free to get in. Both times I've visited, I've seen large crowds taking advantage of this... and why not?

I've been before and only gone through one small wing of European exhibits, so Dave and I used great decision making skills when choosing to go in the first wing we found and check it out. After two hours, we'd journeyed through Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Indian, African, Southeast Asian exhibits, Pacific Islander, and some American and modern exhibits.

Since I've become more interested in tea and Victorian teas through my work out at the Landing, I found the Japanese tea rooms and tea ceremony exhibits very interesting. I think putting a Japanese tea room on the back of our house would be ideal to decompress from our stressful careers, but I seriously doubt the peace and serenity would flow freely in subzero temperatures. The heating element would probably detract from the simplistic decor. Plus, it would probably interfere with Dave's hockey rink plans.

Dave seemed intrigued by the early South American artwork and the masks... and of course, he couldn't resist sending his sister text pictures of the masks that reminded him of her. It's part of the teasing back-and-forth the two have.

Of course, one can only appreciate so much art at one dose.... but we did have to stop and admire someone's love with "Jaws" that was parked right outside:

My food crush

Since meeting my friend Libby there weeks ago, I've had a nice little food crush on a kitchen & bakery on the outskirts of Uptown called "yum!".
Even though the place is half a bakery and tempts everyone who walks through the door with very nicely decorated treats, I still haven't been hungry enough at the end of the meal to even try one. They have scones. They have muffins. They have cake by the slice. And they are into the hottest-desserts-of-the-moment, what else? cupcakes. When NYC re-marketed the cupcake, bakeries everywhere took notice. These definitely look like a work of art and several people took some home in Tiffany-blue boxes tied with red string--their signature look.

The kitchen is on the far side of the room and has a nice selection of sandwiches and salads. When I lived in a sorority house, I got hooked on the egg salad the caterer would bring for lunch two times a week. This place's dilled egg salad takes me back to those days. The grilled cheese on challah is also delicious. The homemade french fries or homemade potato chips with sea salt and rosemary seem somewhat out of place here, but are a must-have anyway. And, yum! is definitely the only place outside of my college cafeteria that serves cold milk in one of those old silver serving things.

Dave and I spent the afternoon in an art museum, and after a late lunch here, we realized we were staring at the cupcakes the same way we stared at Chinese ceramics and African head masks. If food is an art, then we could be considered aficionados here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween leftovers

We had 41 trick or treaters on Halloween night, and that just about exhausted our candy supply. Here's a photo of my favorite trick or treaters gathering up the goodies at my house.

The youngest one, the mouse, figured out what halloween was all about as she yelled "tandy! tandy!" and made the baby sign language sign for "more."
I noticed the pirate costume has come and gone. Lots of police officer costumes and vampires as well as the usual parade of cats, witches, fairies, and spidermen.