Sunday, December 30, 2007
Mudbugs, cookbooks, and a pink baseball bat
We are back in Milledgeville, some 2300 miles the wiser, and our road-trip Christmas was really kinda cool. We didn't have too many incidents, the traffic was decent, and Santa found Jeffrey all the way in Plano, Texas.
Here are some of my favorite parts of the trip, and some pictures.
Christmas Dinner and presents with Papa and Mary:
We went to Atlanta first to spend time with my Dad and Mary. We had a wonderful dinner at Woodfire Grill (my favorite place) and opened lots of cool presents afterward. The time was wonderful, precious, and a great way to start the holidays.
Papa and Mary are in the second picture down there.
First stop: Dinner with Dave Dave and Angelicious:
Dave Davies is one of my closest friends, and his son Graham is one of Jeffrey's closest friends. We bonded when we were doctoral students in the 1990s and needed a lot of PPDs (poor poor dears). We stopped in Hattiesburg on the way to Houston and had dinner with Dave, Graham and Angela (Dave's wife and my new BFF). It was too short a visit, but we had a great time. Jeffrey got to spend the night with Graham, too. BONUS all around. I didn't take pictures, but I did see Dave in his running shorts.
The story of the Christmas cookies:
My sweet husband Randy planned a little surprise for me at our first stop in Houston. We were visiting his (now my) dear friends Paula and Bob Clemens, and their kids TIm and Katie for two night. While I'm crazy about Bob, this is mostly about Paula. She and I bonded at our wedding, and I was looking forward to seeing her again. Randy, though, had mentioned how sad it was that I wouldn't get any of her spectacular Christmas cookies. Paula has the baking gene, you know...
So a few weeks ago, Randy emailed Paula and asked her if she might consider trying to make me some GF Sugar Cookies. And Paula, being the love that she is, said sure. He sent the recipe and she went shopping for the GF ingredients. As she told me, "Randy knows me well enough to know he could ask, and he also knew I'd do it." So Paula went on a GF adventure -- she did everything she could do make her kitchen GF for me to eat it (including buying Pamela's Pancake Mix and letting me cook them -- she's a smart cook!) And dinner was totally GF too. AND we made Chocolate Chip Cookies with the leftover Pamela's mix, and they were delicious, too (I have some left). We had a great time with them. Too short.
But the Christmas cookies were the best. I almost cried when I saw them! Just for me. THAT is what I call a friend.
And they gave me Bette Hagman book for a Christmas present! One I didn't have!
The story of the pink baseball bat:
The award for the COOLEST Christmas present this year goes to my sweet husband, Randy, who gave me a pink baseball bat from a backup catcher with the Braves, no. 8, Bryan Pena. Now why a pink bat? On Mother's Day, MLB players use pink bats and sell them, and the money goes to breast cancer research. I made an offhand comment in WalMart in the summer that I wanted a REAL pink bat, not some fake WalMart bat, and viola, my husband bought me a bat. IN JULY. And shipped it in a box to Texas to surprise me.
Made up for the fact that I somehow got glutened on Christmas day.
A visit with the Smith Sisters and a trip to Snider Plaza and Penzeys:
All I really wanted for Christmas was a chance to shop at Penzeys and at my favorite store in Snider Plaza, Flavors from Afar is a great little food store, and I asked Randy for a shopping spree there. I bought a bag full of goodies, had a great lunch at The Half Shell, and mostly enjoyed the lovely company of Jess and Lindsey Smith. Jess is Ethel to my Lucy. We had a great time trying the hand cream in the health food store, but mostly, it was great to see her and hug her neck and sing "Down in Louisiana, we have a Cajun Christmas." Because it always comes back to the Steel Mags. (P.S. I only spent $51 in Penzeys.) Oh, and I got to meet Randy's high school friend Barry Bragg -- heard such good things over the years, happy now to know him.
Great Sushi with the family:
There was a cajun crawfish roll, made with CORNSTARCH not flour, and which was delicious. And we had a great time with Reagan, Chris, Nick and Emily. And Jeffrey had a beer.
The story of my cool brother-in-law Ron and his awesome presents:
I have married into a great family, and I had a great time with them all this Christmas -- they were great to Jeffrey and me, and we are lucky to have such a wonderful family.
But a big shoutout goes to my crazy brother-in-law Ron, who buys absolutely the most amazing Christmas presents. LAST year he bought the Ralph Gizburg Eros magazines that have sparked my research. THAT was just too cool. He also knows of my old cookbook collection, and he always sends me old cookbooks he finds at estate sales and bookstores. My collection has grown with some remarkable cookbooks. He also buys me stuff with Ginger in the title -- soap, a B movie poster that is framed in the Tampa house, a DVD this Christmas. Cool. When I had surgery, he sent me an antique cookbook (and a GF Bette Hagmann one) to read and relax with. He's that kind of thoughtful.
But this year, he outdid himself -- He got me FIVE Bette Hagman gluten free cookbooks, and another for good measure. I am in GF Cookbook heaven. He will never know how much I appreciate this -- Not only is this something I need, it's something I wanted and will use. He takes my situation very seriously, and I appreciate that. I am working on a great birthday present for him, but it will be tough to top his presents.
Another thing I absolutely love about him is he will go into a food store and wander. We spent about an hour in Central Market, and he bought an orange cauliflower. Why? Because he'd never had one. I like that kinda foodie thinking.
The story of 14 minutes with Carolyn and Kerry Moore:
Carolyn and Kerry Moore are two of the most wonderful people in the world, and they are friends I cherish from Monroe. Carolyn was there for me on day in Kiroli Park when doctoral studies had me about to crack. She is that kind of friend. I love her dearly, and her husband Kerry is a wonderful man.
We were lucky they were in Dallas on the way to Frisco, and we saw them for 14 minutes at the Half Price Books coffee house. I could have stood there and hugged Carolyn for all those 14 minutes. I hope they will come see us in Tampa. They loved meeting Randy. And they couldn't believe Jeffrey. I remember when Kerry tried to baptize Jeffrey in the coin fountain outside the Morrison's Cafeteria in Pecanland Mall.....
And that night, we got to meet up with two more of Randy's high school friends, Bret and Angie Carroll and Rocky and Joanne Willett. While it was a delight to meet Bret and Angie and see Rocky and Joanne again, I got glutened that night at the WORST Mexican restaurant I've ever been to in my life.
The story of my visit with my sister Betty:
I have mentioned before that I have four "adopted" sisters -- Susan Goggins (aka the author Raven Hart), Janet Richardson, Angelita Ellis in Belize, and Betty Swanson in Monroe, Louisiana. Betty is the associate pastor (The Rev. Betty Swanson, thank you) at Lea Joyner Memorial Methodist Church in Monroe,.
Her son Raymond is my son Jeffrey's best friend (he has two -- Raymond and Graham Davies, mentioned above -- and he saw both of them on this trip. Glorious reunions for Jeffrey).
Anyway, Betty and I share a special, special bond. We hugged and both screamed out at the same time, "I can't believe you're here!" Betty is undergoing treatment for breast cancer now, and I wish I could have been there for her -- I wish I could be there NOW for her. But she is never far from my thoughts, and always in my prayers. We visited all afternoon and evening, and ended up in Target shopping. Just like old times...may it not be so long til the next visit. And I got to see her wonderful daughter Amanda, and especially her husband Ray. He's pretty great! LOVE them all. It was like old times, only better :-)
Last but not least, MUDBUGS:
I had great boiled crawfish twice on this trip. The first five pounds was at the Boudin House in Breaux Bridge and the second was the Cypress Inn in Monroe (our former home. Also the first place I ate dinner in Monroe when I interviewed therein 1992). I don't miss much about Louisiana -- I miss Betty, I miss Carolyn, I miss my church Lea Joyner, and I MISS CRAWFISH. And I also miss a good local Mardi Gras celebration.... But I had my fill of the spicy red crawfish -- even if the second batch did have a bit too much MSG for my sensitive system. They were all yummy.
I know this was quite a travelogue, but it really was a trip for which to be thankful. I don't know if I have the energy to do it again any time soon....but it was a blast.
Much love, and Here's to the happy holidays!