Tuesday, December 21, 2010

An Ending and a Landing

I remember clearly praying once in the middle of a hectic, stressed out time in my life that when this news stint is up, I want a break and I want to be outside for it.

Be careful what you pray for.

When that news stint was up, I couldn't find another job in a newsroom immediately so I started work at a park district. At the time, I was really worried about money and pondering my purpose after focusing on being a news person for nearly 10 years.

I am easily adaptable, and I adapted quickly to working outdoors with history, nature, children, and the public. I loved that I could spot a bald eagle at work and take a walk in the middle of my workday. I didn't mind the variety of odd jobs, and influenced by the nature of the health conscientious people around me, I lost nearly 20 pounds over three months. I enjoyed the people I worked with, and still count them as my "Minnesota family."

But I remember too, when I realized I didn't want to do this forever. As the day's tour guide, I wore nice khakis and a pressed button down shirt for the day before learning that my schedule had been switched and I needed to go hoe corn. That day (combined with the inconsistent part-time paycheck) solidified my desire to return to my present career path. I'm glad I did, but I'm thankful for my down time and the opportunity to meet so many great people.
Through the following two summers and three winters, I've managed to still work Saturdays and holidays. I banked the now spare money to pay for my car and to pay down debt. I tried to keep up this pace after having the Jackboy, but it is not to be. Somewhere in the middle of the fun, it became no fun.

So...in an effort to cut back on my extracurriculars this year, I am making the move to volunteer status and I am very at peace with my decision. If anything, the move will cut back on my sewing...which I loathe with all of my being.

During December, Jack was a hit out at the site. I sewed Jack a double wool dress, which is proper attire for a 1800s little boy. Queen Pauline knitted him a wool hat, mittens, and booties. (I think she was appalled I had him out there in 3 pair of cotton socks!) One person told me a group of visitors came into her house and said "We've seen Santa and we've seen the reindeer. Now, where's the baby?"

My favorite moment had to be when an old lady stuck her face in Jack's and asked "Are you a little Angel?"To which he vehemently shook his head no.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Snow-nami 2010

"It's only the 5th worst snowstorm on Twin Cities record."

That's how the radio described this weekend's blizzard. It sounded like the guy was actually disappointed the snow didn't break a bigger record.

The snow was bad enough. It started flaking Friday afternoon.

Jack and I had to stop by the grocery store on our way home, and so did everyone else. When there's a snow event coming in the South, I completely expect everyone and their brother to be crammed in the grocery aisles picking up milk and bread. I haven't experienced that here.

Until now.

The place was a madhouse. When I couldn't find a parking space, I knew it would be bad. We could live without milk and bread during a snow event. We couldn't live without toilet paper. So, Jack and I trudged inside and bought much more than toilet paper. In my mind, I wanted to at least make the 25 minute+ check out line worthwhile.

People's fears were not unfounded. The snow started in earnest around midnight and kept falling until late Saturday. The weather crippled the state the way the meteorologists predicted. Shopping malls closed by noon. Events were canceled en masse. At one point, the county pulled all the snowplows off the road. Televisions and radios told people to stay home. One station said "we're not announcing events canceled anymore. If you had an event, it's canceled. Stay home." This was monumental because nothing is ever canceled here.

I had three events scheduled and all three were nixed. This self-proclaimed snow weekend was absolutely wonderful. I didn't leave my home until work Monday morning. Oh yeah, I would've enjoyed the busy holiday weekend with friends, but there's something comforting in basking the comfort of your messy home and working on Christmas crafts. I stayed in my pajamas all day Saturday and ordered stuff off the internet before moving the family to the kitchen to help with my cooking project for this holiday season.

By Sunday, the snow stopped, the sun came out, and the temperatures turned frigid. The high on Sunday was only a few degrees above zero. Dave bundled up for a multi-hour snow blowing and shoveling event. We cleaned the house and fixed dinner. Altogether, I thought the entire event was great...but I wasn't out in the cold. That happened Monday and Tuesday when my stories both made me spend ample time outside.

Thanksgiving with family

It's hard to get a baby to take a nap when you are home visiting family. Usually, we put Jack down for a nap and he might cry for 3-7 minutes, but then he's out. Families just can't let a baby cry for that long, and that's why Jack is staring out the window at the dog with Uncle. They stared until Jack and Uncle both fell asleep.

I flew home for Thanksgiving which was a birthday gift. It is truly amazing how much more often family wants to see you after you have a child.

Here's a picture of my immediate family, sans a few family members. We had Thanksgiving a few days later so everyone be there. Thirty-three people came to dinner and most were related or practically so. There wasn't a spoonful of chicken & dressing left.

Jack spent quality time with his cousin, Camryn, especially after she lost the bow.Her big, red bow was way too distracting and Jack wanted to eat it.

It was a short visit, but one that we spent mainly at home with family in warmer temperatures surrounded by food. We're headed back for Christmas, and hoping for more of both.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Breakfast with Santa

Jack had his first Santa encounter this past weekend at where else? the Country Club. While we aren't generally the country club set, I had access to this breakfast and I couldn't resist some one on one time with the guy in red without the pesky mall lines and screaming babies. And it was rather endearing when Jack showed up with only one shoe on. Yes, we aren't the country club set.

Jack seemed rather intrigued and curious about the guy in red. He didn't cry and he really didn't smile, he just thoughtfully looked this old dude over. When we got in the picture, Jack decided to test out his beard to see if it was really accurate. This not taking anything at face value really made his parents proud!

Jack did seem most intrigued by the jingle bells. When Santa gathered the children around for a few carols, Jack really perked up and showed off to the crowd.

After breakfast and Santa, we made an ornament for the tree. Jack seemed intent on tasting the ornament. Then, he got down in the floor and rolled around in the glitter. This probably isn't acceptable for the country club set, but after all he was the shoeless boy.

And one spoiler--one of these might very well be a Christmas card. I've been rather delinquent, so you might get this, folks!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

First Hanukkah, revamped

Hanukkah lasts over a week and the one rule is the food must be fried. That's why it's a holiday after my own southern, skillet-lovin' heart.
But it was a special holiday for Dave because it was the first time he got to light candles with his son. If you've ever been around Jack, you know he's attracted to lights like a moth to a flame. If I was better rested, I'd come up with a better, more interesting metaphor there, but that's all I got folks.
Even though Dave and I were so exhausted on Saturday night, we still managed to put together a calorie-laden Hanukkah spread with a considerable amount of gusto. Hopefully we get out of this exhausted baby-induced stupor to host friends next time.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

First Hanukkah

Jack's first Hanukkah was a fairly mediocre one. Dave had to work, so we went to a restaurant and ordered latkes. Jack wiggled and wimpered, so we bounced and carried him around. He didn't quieten down any until Dave gave him a bite of latke, and then....he just wanted more!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Legendary Byrd

You have to be careful dubbing things 'legendary.' Sometimes it's a substitute for saying 'old.' Other times it's not accurate. Often, it's just plain overused.

But when someone started their broadcast career in 1948 and worked until her eighties, I think it's safe to call her a legend. I mean, the woman started working in broadcasting before my parents were even born. Before my grandparents were married. Back when there was black & white pictures, film, and 45 second soundbites.

Mrs. Jean Byrd started work at my old station in 1961, and is in the Louisiana Broadcaster's Hall of Fame today I've seen her mentioned in a few places as being the first female program manager west of the Mississippi. She knew the audience and scheduled shows like Jerry Springer and Maury because she knew they would work. And to the chagrin of the more educated, they definitely did.

But working with Mrs. Byrd was another matter entirely. She knew everything about everyone and always was threatening to write a book about the town. Most of us reporters were young enough to be her grandchildren and we acted as such by stealing her candy and asking about station or Shreveport gossip. And yes, we did call her Mrs. Byrd. Ever the Southern woman, she never had a hair out of place, never wore T-shirts or anything we'd deem workplace-casual, and told me more than once how appalled she was that the female reporters didn't wear hose and heels. "I don't feel properly dressed without my hose!"

Perhaps part of her enigma though happened on her lunch breaks. It was commonplace for Mrs Byrd to come in, saying she'd just won 50 bucks or more playing video poker. She was an avid racing fan too, so we swapped a few stories about the Downs and horses there. In the circus that is a news station, she was a character that I'm sure people remember with a smile and a chuckle. She passed away on my birthday.

Another thing that was classically Byrd was her contribution to the company Thanksgiving potluck. She always, always brought her Banana Pudding and it was always gone. Before I left the station, I put her recipe in a pseudo-cookbook that I made for the morning crew. Now, this is something I'll keep as a way to remember the sweet and saucy lady that was our news grandma.

Mrs. Byrd's Famous Banana Pudding
2 small boxes Jello instant vanilla pudding
3 cups milk
1 can Eagle Brand milk
1 8oz tub Cool Whip
1 box vanilla wafers
6-9 bananas, depending on size

Mix Jello pudding and milk thoroughly; add Eagle Brand milk and stir until well blended. Then, fold in Cool Whip and stir until thoroughly blended. Layer cookies, sliced bananas, pudding, and repeat. Garnish top with wafer shavings, if desired.

Rest in Peace, Mrs. Byrd.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Schwartz Tour de Food

One of the top things I love about my in-laws, other than giving me their son and just being lovely people, is that they like food. Good food.

And family visits usually involve a lot of it. This time around, we really hit it out of the park. We dined at several locally owned, very fine establishments. And we weren't disappointed.

There was a bit of home cooking that is now packaged and stored in our freezer. Jack was content going shopping with Mema, and he was content eating out. As of yet, we haven't had one restaurant meltdown and I thank Jack after every meal for his excellent behavior.
Trips home are usually another story. He hates the car seat and just isn't happy being there.

Besides shopping with Mema, he had storytime with Pop pop. Only one book was destroyed in this endeavor.

Here's a quick recap:

Cuzzy's: Several restaurants headline downtown but also entertain the 'burbs. We like Cuzzy's, particularly the pepperoni soup. Yum.

Santorini: Excellent Greek fare. I had Shrimp wrapped in chicken. Yes, you heard that right. It was interesting and delicious. Next time though, I do have to try the flaming Brie cheese that they light at the table and yell 'opa!"

Stella's Fish Cafe: This is my new favorite place to eat. Fresh oysters, and you even get to pick what water they come out of before sampling. My grouper was just amazing. We also shared calamari. This uptown cafe' has a rooftop terrace that is a summer hot spot, as if this cute place needed any other reason to attract folks other than the tasty, fresh seafood. Plus, we topped the meal off with Red Velvet Cake. And they know how to make iced tea, which always gets extra points in my book.

Original Pancake House: We visited the OPH during the ice storm that blew in early. As a result, we didn't have to wait to get in this place for a change. In an ironic twist, the food wasn't nearly as good this time around either. The management and wait staff know us by name here and it's the time of year for Pumpkin pancakes....so we will be back soon.

Manny's: This was the spot where Dave spotted Alex Rodriguez and Jorge Posada a few weeks ago, but he didn't kick them in the shins. Dave and his dad had a father-son cocktail at the top of the W and then had a delicious dinner here while I dined with the Sheil and Jack at home. Both meals were good.

Salut Bar Americain: It's always a favorite spot, and this time did not disappoint. Plus, I got a sparkler on top of a red velvet cupcake, which Jack thought was really cool.

Who said Thanksgiving was the only time for overeating? We reserve that for when the Schwartz come to visit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Sweet treats

I work for a place that has some pretty sweet benefits. One of which is a creative set of people who work in the back offices, a place where you don't often see creativity emerge.

In my meager experience at different news stations, when management or the higher ups want to say thank you..they throw a pizza party or they throw a box of doughnuts your way. That is appreciated, well, any food is really appreciated when you are barely scraping by...but there comes a time when realize you aren't in fifth grade anymore and a pizza party just doesn't get you excited like it used to.

What about some BBQ? Sandwiches? Something?

I don't have to worry about that here, thanks to the creativity of a few certain ladies. Oh sure, we sometimes have pizza, but more often than not we have something that is within the means of the budget but is creative.

Like this one. It's a carnival lunch. There was concession stand food, which isn't much to crow about, but the presentation was enough to make it fun. There were some banners someone found somewhere, a few balloons, and a candy buffet so we all could take some candy back to our desks in a plastic bag.

Then, there were homemade cupcakes that were really yummy. Do you know you can't even take homemade cupcakes in daycares or schools anymore? They have to be from a bakery. But here, it's still okay.

So this was a treat. We've had pretty impressive displays since I've been here, and I've already heard some talk of what could be done for the station holiday lunch.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Jack's First Snow

The forecasters predicted it, but I didn't quite believe them. Late Friday night, a wet, slushy snow started to fall. By the time Jack woke us up for good at 6:30 am, snow had covered the yard and started to accumulate in the road. It wasn't windy, so it was that pretty snow that piles up on the trees and makes everything look beautiful. Our backyard definitely looks better covered in a pretty white blanket.

Jack's snowsuit was too big, but before I went to a work training, I put him in it to let him experience the snow. He was very blase' about it. He took it in, but seemed to care less. He thought me cleaning snow off the car was much more interesting.
Two things I found very ironic: When I started the car, I heard the song "Let it snow" on the radio. Then, I started driving...slowly...in the falling snow to a place that happened to be featured on a PBS Special, "Minnesota's Deadliest Blizzards" this week.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Snakes alive!

It's been a weird fall. We could very well get snow by the end of the week, but the past few weeks have been downright beautiful. People have been jogging in shorts and tanks. Our little family took in the beautiful weather this weekend at a nearby park. We spotted a garter snake while on our way to the prairie trail--seeing a snake up here in November is unusual. He (or she) was nice enough to pose for me.

Jack looks like a little animal with his ears perked up in the middle of the grasses.

We spotted a bald eagle, a hawk, and several other birds. This state really does have the best parks that are only a short drive (or walk) away.

Jack was in the middle of a rough weekend of teething and whenever he is in a bad mood, we usually head outside because that always perks him up. He wasn't particularly jolly on this jaunt, but he did tolerate us. Heaven help us in the winter when we can't go outside for that pick-me-up.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

election fatigue and silent baptists

Jack made a trip to the polls for the second time in what turned out to be a very big race for Minnesota. We're in a recount in the governor's race and the republicans captured the house for the first time since the early 1970s.

Jack is just ready for the nasty campaign ads to end.

I had a long election day, reporting early on voter turnout and later stepping in the control room in a semi-producing, semi-assistant, semi-do-whatever role. I could've gone home, but it seemed just wrong to desert the crew in their hour of need. We do elections here in a different way. We stake out city council chambers and invite local candidates (winners and losers, mind you) to come to us to say their piece. No cheering crowds. No jockeying for big interviews. Just come let us interview you and you can go home. We do some scheduling beforehand, so it's relatively low key.

From the control room, it was a bit more exciting and we wound up having some voting machine snafus and a recount.

Perhaps the most exciting race for me was the one that happened back at home. The county where my undergraduate college is located had the wet/dry county question once again on the ballot. This isn't unusual. Every few years a group of businesses get petitions and support together and push the measure to the ballot. It's usually somewhat of an eye rolling event. I mean, this county is home to Henderson State, which was formerly a Methodist college, and Ouachita Baptist, which continues to be staunchly conservative. I can say this with inside knowledge. I've gone to Baptist churches on and off my entire life.

But this time it passed. Alcohol will be sold in Clark County. The place where I waited tables will now be able to serve beer with their burgers. College students won't have to drive to Hot Springs to bring beer back for parties. People can have wine with dinner and wine at weddings. This is pretty surprising, um, shocking actually.

Most intriguing of all, I was chatting with an Arkadelphia resident about how in the world this got passed this time around. What key voting group came through? College students? Young people? Lushes? Nope.

"Silent Baptists," he said. Interesting. I didn't know those even existed.

A is for Apple

Minnesotans love their apples. Before I moved here, I was content with a gala or something from the apple section...not red delicious and not granny smith....but another apple that was reddish colored and sweet. Not here. Locals have their favorites and they anxiously await the turn of the season to get the first apples off the trees. A guy I work with can tell you which types of apples will be ready at what times....Fireside first...then Harrelson.....the long awaited honeycrisp...finally regent, etc. I have developed a taste for certain types of apples, but I'm nowhere near the level some of these apple connoisseurs.

It is the Thing To Do to go to an apple orchard and pick apples with your family. Several have nice side attractions too...a corn pit, ponies, hot dogs, a hay ride, and such. I figure we'll be ready for that possibly next year.

Jack and I spent what could be the last beautiful Saturday of the fall out in an orchard, picking apples for Second Harvest Heartland. It was a Junior League shift for me, and I wasn't exactly certain it would work out with a baby.

But Jack was excellent. He enjoyed being outside and playing with his toys in the October sunshine. I strapped on an apple bag and pushed him under a tree while I picked and dumped bags and bags of apples. Jack thought going through the apple trees was a very funny thing to do. I thoroughly enjoyed the outdoor exercise on a beautiful day.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hawg Halloween

I had a squash on my desk. I had to do something with it. I added ear muffs later.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

We've got a live one!

This past weekend we got in early on the Halloween fun by taking Jack trick or treating out at the Landing. He was a mudbug, and judging from the crowd feedback...he was a hit.

We pulled Jack in his new wagon down the site...I painted a sign for the side that said "Live Crawfish $1/a pound"

There were more than 400 people out there trick-or-treating. I saw a fair share of pumpkins, witches and cats....but only one crawfish!

By the end of the night, Jack was all halloween-ed out. We wound up pulling him back up the site in his wagon... while he slept.