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.