Who Wants A Jetpack for Christmas?

Who wants a jetpack for Christmas?

Yes, it’s a little early to be thinking about Christmas. However, I remember how I would start making my Christmas list for the next year as soon as it was over. I don’t do that now, but there are some things I’ve always wanted that were far out of reach. I’d love to hear other people’s wish lists.

-Jetpack. On the news recently, there was a story about two airline pilots reporting someone flying near them with a jetpack on their approach for landing at Los Angeles International Airport. I was intrigued. I have always wanted a jetpack…since seeing one in the opening credits of the short-lived 1970s Saturday morning live-action show called Ark II as a child. If you don’t remember the show, I’m not surprised. I have mentioned it to various people over the years, and not one other person has ever remembered it. It’s a Mad Max-type show that was aimed at kids during the CBS Saturday morning lineup, and I must have been the only kid who enjoyed it. (You can watch an episode on YouTube here.) But like I said, in the opening credits, there is a guy flying with a jetpack. In fact, the lead actor, who is the captain of the ark, is the guy who portrayed the original Jack Abbott on The Young and The Restless. His name was Terry Lester. Unfortunately, he died in 2003 from a heart attack at the age of 53. But back to Ark II. Yes, people can fly in jetpacks, but there aren’t that many of them out there, and according to a company in Australia, you can purchase them for $250,000. As unbelievable as it seems for people to be flying around today, imagine how unbelievable it was in 1976! I wanted one then (I was nine years old), and I still want one now. How incredible would it be to just put on a jetpack and go where you want to go? I could get errands done a lot faster! Or I could just fly over the city. I have regular dreams about that, but we won’t get into the Freudian meaning there. Years ago, my friend, Mary Ann, called me telling me her young son was trying to tell her what he wanted for Christmas, but she couldn’t understand him. He had endured lots of ear infections, so he didn’t always pronounce words clearly. I asked, “What is he saying?” She was standing beside him and asked him to tell me what he wanted. He said, “Et pat.” She put the phone back to her ear, and I said, “He wants a jet pack.” She turned to him and asked, “Are you saying you want a jet pack?” He got excited, because finally she got it! He is a teenager now and speaks as clearly as anyone else, but at the time, Mary Ann couldn’t believe I knew what he had said. “How did you get ‘jet pack’ from ‘et pat’?” I said, “Because I always wanted a jet pack when I was a kid too.” In fact, I still want one.

-Flying Car. You’re likely beginning to see a theme here, but my flying car is not like what you see on The Jetsons. Mine is more of a short-distance, low-flying car that can get over traffic. I’ve thought it all out when I’ve been behind a slow car in the passing lane (that’s the left lane, for those who don’t know it), wishing I could pull back on my steering wheel like an airplane throttle. I have actually thought this through. The flying cars wouldn’t be long distance flyers. The flying ability would be for only short distances, enabling the car to get over slower cars. In my mind, these flying cars would require operators to obtain a special license issued by the FAA. Part of the license testing, aside from normal operations, would include safety…knowing how to look for overpasses and power lines ahead. So, if you ever see me stuck behind a slow car in the left lane, you can know that, at that very moment, I am dreaming of my flying car. I don’t think Santa can help me with this.

Vaccine. Of course, I want a safe vaccine for this stupid coronavirus! I want us all to be able to resume life as we know it. I want to be able to hang out with friends. I want my daughter to be able to play sports. I want college students to be able to enjoy the college experience…going to classes instead of remote learning, going to football games, socializing. I’m thinking I should move “vaccine” to the top of my wish list. I actually created a meme about this a while back showing Cindy Brady from The Brady Bunch on Santa’s lap. Remember the episode? Carol Brady had laryngitis, but she was supposed to sing a solo at church on Christmas. Cindy was brokenhearted that her mother might now be able to sing and told Santa all she wanted for Christmas was for her mother to get her voice back. Long story short…it was a Christmas miracle! OK, so it wasn’t a miracle, but Carol’s voice returned in time for the solo, and Santa got all the credit. Maybe we should all take the time to go sit on Santa’s lap and ask for a vaccine?

Obviously, I’d love to have cures for lots of diseases. I’d love to have world peace. Those are obvious. I’m sure there are more things I’ve thought about over the years, but for today, they’ve slipped my mind. Maybe you have some of your own “interesting” things on your wish list?

If you’d like to see a cool “flying people” video, click here.

A New Obsession

A new obsession…

I have a new obsession. I have always liked mid-century modern architecture and noted it in passing. But recently, after learning some types of mid-century modern architecture are called Googie architecture, I have become obsessed.

Think Mad Men or even The Jetsons. If you ever watched Mad Men, you remember some of the cool building designs of the era. I’ve seen examples of them throughout my life, but I never had a name for them until now…Googie, which is defined on Wikipedia (not a great source, but fine for this use) as “a type of futurist architecture influenced by car culture, jets, the Space Age, and the Atomic Age.” It started in Southern California in the 1930s and spread throughout the nation through the 1970s. I have always been fascinated by Googie architecture, but I just didn’t know what it was called! Now that I know, I’m searching for Googie influences everywhere!

I’ve seen examples in the Los Angeles area, where the style can be seen in lots of places, most notably at Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). One of the most iconic examples of Googie is well-known, the Theme Building, that futuristic building at the airport that looks a bit like a space ship. (See featured photo at top.) I remember seeing it the first time I visited LA in 1989, and every time I go now, I take a picture of it as soon as I see it. If you’ve ever flown into LA, you’ve likely seen it. If not, you’ve probably seen it in movies and TV shows like California Suite and Mad Men. When you see it in a show or movie, you know the location is LA.

There are lots of other easy-to-find examples in the LA area: the Union 76 station at the corner of South Santa Monica Boulevard and North Crescent Drive (another favorite); Pann’s Restaurant on La Tijera Boulevard; Norm’s Restaurant on La Cienega; and Mel’s Drive-In in West Hollywood. And another favorite in the area is the Avalon Hotel in Beverly Hills. Originally, it was the Beverly Carlton, but was rebranded as the Avalon a few years ago. See photos:

When I was a little girl and lived on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Alabama, there was a place nearby that was an interesting example of Googie. It was called Pineda Island Recreation Center, and by the time I came along, it was defunct, but the Googie “ruins” are still standing. It was a recreation area built around two pools, an Olympic pool and a diving pool. The pools were encircled by Googie covered areas that created shade for guests. It opened in 1960 but closed soon thereafter, due to financial issues, from what I understand. When I lived near there in the 1970s, I found the area fascinating, because of its futuristic look. In fact, I still find it fascinating. The slideshow below (from arctic.edu) shows the rendering by the architect, Bertrand Goldberg. It also shows shots from the center of the structure, one when it was open and another current one of the “ruins.” You can also see a current shot from above the area from Google Earth.

Also, in the 1970s in downtown Mobile on Government Street, there was the Admiral Semmes Motor Hotel, another building I admired. It has long since been demolished to make way for progress, but back in the day, it was a cool building. Of course, motor hotels are now a thing of the past. Chances are, if you can remember the old Howard Johnson’s motels and restaurants, you saw an example of Googie-style architecture there too.

Fast food restaurants had a Googie thing going on back in the the day too. Remember the McDonald’s fast food restaurants that had the golden arches in the facade of the building? And maybe you remember Burger Chef? See photos below.

Yes, I’m completely obsessed now. Everywhere I drive, I’m looking for examples of Googie. Feel free to share your photos with me and tell me where I might see some interesting Googie architecture.

Weird (or Disgusting?) Canned Foods

Weird (or disgusting?) canned foods.

Recently, a friend invited me to join a Facebook group dedicated to weird foods and recipes. Honestly, I am totally addicted to it…the page, not the weird foods…because there are so many crazy posts. Every day…heck, several times a day…I see something posted there that just blows my mind. So many times, I’ve thought, “Who would eat that?!?!”

Yesterday, I shared a picture of Sweet Sue Canned Whole Chicken on my personal Facebook page, and it got quite a reaction. Here’s the photo:

Most of the comments were right in line with my own thinking. “What the heck?!?!” “How disgusting!” “Why????” Seriously, I can’t understand why someone would want to purchase a whole cooked chicken in a can, but to each his own. If you’ve ever used one for a recipe or just eaten it straight out of the can, please let me know…blech!!!

And that made me start thinking about other canned foods. I’ve eaten some pretty disgusting canned foods…Vienna sausages would be at the top of the list. When I was little, I loved Vienna sausages. Back then, lots of southerners called them “Vi-een-a” sausages, but even with a fancy name, they’re nothing short of disgusting. Spam? You betcha. I ate it when I was a little girl. I didn’t love it then, and I can’t even imagine eating it now.

I’ve made tuna salad with canned tuna and chicken salad with canned chicken (not the whole one, mind you), but for whatever reason, I don’t think those are disgusting…maybe because I know other people use them for salads too? As a child, I ate salmon patties made by my mother from canned salmon. Yuck. My brother ate canned sardines any time he went fishing with my uncle or grandfather. I don’t know why that seemed like a good idea, but they did it. Personally, I would have just taken a peanut butter sandwich with me if I needed protein…but they took sardines.

A year or two ago, I watched a video of a man eating a can of seal meat. I don’t remember exactly what the circumstances were…either he lost a bet or he was going to win a lot of money if he ate it without vomiting. He did it, but not without gagging. Ugh. It was disgusting and funny at the same time. Fortunately, since it was just a video, I couldn’t get the aroma from the canned seal meat, but it was clearly a bad odor.

For a less disgusting canned food option, this summer I tried canned bread. Apparently, it’s pretty common in New England, but I had never heard of it till May or June of this year. I don’t even know where I read about it, but as soon as I did, I ordered some on Amazon. The brand? B&M. Honestly, when I first saw what brand it was, I was a little taken aback. Why would anyone put a giant B with a giant M on a can? My mind went straight to “bowel movement,” but I was able to get past it. When the cans arrived, I packed them in my luggage to take to the beach, where we were meeting friends. I thought it would be a fun treat. And it was actually pretty darn good! Ours was raisin bread, and we toasted it and buttered it…if I’d had a little cinnamon sugar, I would have topped it with that too, but it wasn’t bad without it. If I were stuck somewhere and needed food, I could definitely survive on canned bread.

A friend says she grew up eating Dromedary Canned Date Nut Bread and loved it with cream cheese. I looked online to see if I could buy it, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. I found several recipes, and on Vermont Country Store, I found a loaf of date nut bread. I remember the Drapers on Mad Men having it on special occasions…I definitely need to try it. I’ll be ordering from Vermont Country Store here.

There are lots of other canned foods I haven’t tried. I’ve seen canned macaroni & cheese and canned potato salad in my local grocery store. I’ll be buying them soon, just to see what it’s like. As a kid, I ate Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti and canned ravioli…both of which sound absolutely disgusting to me now. I remember seeing jars (does that count as canned?) of pickled pigs’ feet in gas stations, and I’ve heard you can buy canned bacon and canned hot dogs. Not sure I need to try either of those, but maybe I should just so I can say I’ve had the experience? I’ll be scouring the shelves of my local grocery store…and after I’ve tried them, I’ll post about them.

Till then, I’ll be trying to recover from the stomach ache I have from thinking of these various canned items. Ick.

Canned Cocktails

Canned cocktails.

This past weekend, I had cocktails with a friend and her husband. My friend’s husband asked me what I was drinking, and when I told him I was having Tito’s and soda with lime, he asked me if I had tried High Noon..

High Noon? When I told him I had no idea what he was talking about, he explained, “It’s vodka and soda in a can.” He then went on to tell me that it’s so popular that stores have trouble keeping it in stock. Wow! It must be good! And now that I know it’s hard to find, I have a mission! I’m one of those people who loves a good challenge…and now my challenge is to find High Noon somewhere in the Charlotte area.

And that conversation made me think about other canned cocktails I’ve heard about recently. The whole “cocktails in a can” thing is a new to me. I know people have been drinking “hard seltzer” for a while, and maybe there have been others out there for a while. I’ve tried “hard seltzer,” and it’s definitely not for me. Lots of folks love them, I know, but Im not one of those people. So now I’m looking for different canned cocktails to try, and here are some I have found:

Jim Beam Cola. This is one I’ve actually tried. When I was at the beach at the end of July, my friend purchased some of these. We chilled them and decided to try them before dinner. As soon as I took my first sip, I said to her, “Holy smokes! It tastes like a college football game!” She laughed and agreed. We went to college together in the 80s, and back in the day, we would sneak bottles or flasks of bourbon into the stadium to mix with sodas purchased at the game. Often we mixed it with Coca Cola, because that’s what was being sold by vendors walking through the stands. I could drink all that sweetness when I was in college, but no more. If you’re into sugary cocktails, this one might be for you. Or maybe if you just want to think about football games. See the website here.

Spa Girl Vodka Cocktails. This is one I want to try soon. Spa Girl offers flavored vodka canned cocktails with only 48 calories per serving! Honestly, though, I can’t tell exactly what these are. Do you drink them straight from the can? It just says “flavored vodka,” but I’m guessing there is club soda in there too (maybe?), because it’s only 33 proof. No self-respecting vodka would be just 16.5 percent alcohol, so I’m guessing it’s mixed with soda in the can. They offer three flavors: cucumber, pear, and peach. I really want to try the peach flavor. The website offers some great-looking recipes too…you can see that here.

Bartles and Jaymes Premium Wine Coolers. OK, this one takes me back…straight to the 80s. When I was young, I enjoyed Bartles and Jaymes Wine Coolers. It was an easy way to have a lighter drink. I haven’t had them in years, but now that I know they are making them, I’m excited to try them again. Back in “the day,” they only came in bottles, but now that they come in cans, you can drink them at more places. No one wants to take bottles anywhere, and often, they aren’t allowed around pools or beaches. Sure, we will be moving into fall soon, but I live in the south, so we likely can keep sitting by the pool through September…and maybe into October. I hope to get some of these and share them with my neighbor by the pool this week. See the website here.

And there are more! Bluemarble offers a Bloody Mary in a can! Who knew? Conniption American Dry offers a canned Gin & Tonic…I have a friend who will be happy to hear that! And Malibu (the rum company) is now offering Malibu Smash canned cocktails…doesn’t a passion fruit and coconut rum cocktail sound fabulous??? Sign me up!

While some things about life seem to get more and more difficult (wearing masks everywhere we go, social distancing, more traffic everywhere we go), at least our cocktails are becoming easier! We don’t even have to mix them anymore!

BYOB and meet me by the pool!

Earthquake?!? In North Carolina?

Earthquake?!? In North Carolina?

We awoke with a jolt this morning. Literally…a jolt.

A little after 8:00 this morning, we experienced an earthquake in North Carolina. While it was centered about 100 miles from where I live in Charlotte, we felt it. My husband and I were lazing in bed when suddenly, the windows started rattling, the bed started shaking from side to side, and we heard a rumbling sound. My husband asked, with an alarmed look on his face, “What was that?!?!” I responded, “I think that was an earthquake.” He didn’t believe me, of course, but I stood firm…”I think it was an earthquake.” Then I took to Facebook, posting, “Anybody else in Charlotte feel a shake just now?” And the comments started coming, starting with a friend who lives a few miles from me, “Um yep! That was insane!” Another friend who lives in a different direction said, “Yes!!! What the heck!?” I turned to my husband and said, “I was right. It was an earthquake. People all over the place felt it too.”

I started checking the United States Geological Survey website (see it here), but for the first few minutes, I didn’t see any report of an earthquake. Finally, a few minutes later…there it was…a 5.1 earthquake in the area of Sparta, NC, which is about 100 miles north of us. Apparently, there was an earlier quake…a 2.5 at 2:00 this morning. We slept through that one.

There was an earthquake in Charlotte several years ago. I don’t remember the year, but I had just dropped off our daughter with some friends at their club pool. I was driving and talking on the phone when it occurred, so when I heard about it later, I was surprised…didn’t feel a thing. My daughter, on the other hand, said she was sitting on the edge of the pool at the time and felt it.

I have never lived in California, but I have been there countless times. I visited San Francisco in 1989, just days after the World Series earthquake, and there were aftershocks while I was there, but they were all in the middle of the night…I was sleeping and didn’t feel a thing. I don’t want anyone to ever get hurt or killed, but I wish I had been awake when the tremors occurred. I returned to San Francisco soon thereafter, and the same thing happened.

Then, in 2014, I was getting ready to go to Los Angeles with a friend and our daughters. I have been there countless times, but for some reason, I had a different feeling about this upcoming trip. My mother was alive at the time, and knowing what a worrier she could be, I called her and said, “Mother, I just want to tell you…if there is an earthquake while we are in the LA area, you should always assume we are OK unless you hear otherwise.” I went on to explain to her that when lots of people are using their cellphones, it can be difficult to get calls to go through. “We’re tough chicks,” I told her. Later, I laughed and told my friend, Mary Ann, about the call to my mother.

The LA event was held at Barker Hangar, an event venue in Santa Monica. It was a family-friendly event, so we all went. We decided to leave at about 9pm. We had hired a car to take us to and from the event. We had been in the car, on the way back to the hotel, for about ten minutes, when I got a phone call from Mary Ann, asking if we were OK. She went on to explain that she had just heard there had been a 5.6 earthquake in the LA area. I said, “We’re fine. We are in the car, so we had no idea. Of course, I missed it.” When we arrived back at the hotel, everyone there was talking about it. I called my mother and told her, “If you’ve heard there was an earthquake, don’t worry. We are fine.”

So yes, I’ve been in several earthquakes, but I’ve never felt one…till today. I guess I can mark that off my bucket list. I don’t need to do that again.

If only we had been looking at the pool when it happened…that would have been cool, for sure.

My Favorite Dogs of Instagram

My favorite dogs of instagram…

Bear with me here. I know you might be thinking dog Instagrams are silly. And I’m the first one to say, “yes, they are silly.” I haven’t always liked them, but right now, I’m all about some dogs of Instagram. Here’s why: COVID. I have always loved scrolling through Insta and seeing travel pics of my friends in different parts of the country…and different parts of the world. But with COVID, I’m seeing the same things over and over…beach, lake, mountains, beach, lake, mountains…it’s all the same things I’m posting, and frankly, it’s getting tired. The beach is OK, but I need more mental stimulation. The beach is a little like fireworks to me…after a little while…meh. I prefer seeing pictures of friends and their families in cities! I like seeing funny/fun gatherings and sporting events! I like seeing concerts! But none of that is likely to happen for a while, so Insta needs a boost. I don’t even like my own Insta right now!

And that brings us to the dogs of Instagram. It’s different! These dogs are funny and heartwarming! They make me smile. They spread joy…and can’t we all use a little joy right now?!?!

So here they are…my favorite dogs of Instagram:

mocha.dale  This one is my very favorite pooch of Insta. Mocha is an Airedale Terrier who lives in Miami. Honestly, I don’t even remember how I came across Mocha’s Insta, but I’m so glad I did! She is a beautiful 7-yr-old Airedale Terrier. She has been dealing with some health issues as of late, but she is an energetic Airedale through and through. We had an Airedale named Annie. She was truly my favorite dog of all time, and we lost her in November of 2013. But this beautiful Mocha reminds me of our Annie. She “talks” to her human, and she is just an all-around happy, beautiful dog. She swims. She does tricks for treats. And her “human” manages the posts really well. Plus, you get to see scenes of sunny Miami! Did I mention she wears hats sometimes? She’s my fave…hats off to Mocha! *Another Airedale I love on Insta is juan_theairedale.

dougthepug Doug the Pug doesn’t need me to boost his Instagram presence. This adorable little man has over four million followers! Yes! Four Million! But he works hard for his “money.” Doug the Pug has posted over 3,000 times, and he always has a gimmick. Just last week, he was wrestling with the waterhose in his yard…very amusing. He wears clothes! He eats ice cream and hamburgers! He goes boating! And he is very expressive! Everyone falls in love with Doug the Pug…including me.

butter_roux Y’all remember the 1989 movie starring Tom Hanks called Turner and Hooch? You might not even remember Tom Hanks was the star, but it’s likely you remember what Hooch, the dog, looked like. Well, Butter Roux and Creme Brûlée, the mastiffs featured in this Instagram account will remind you of Hooch, slobber and all. They live in Pittsburgh, and their “parents” take them on lots of adventures and post lots of photos. These two pups love each other, and because we don’t see a lot of this breed, it’s fun to look at their soulful eyes and frowning faces…gives new meaning to the term “resting bitch face.” But they’re sweet dogs! Need a smile? Check out Butter Roux and Creme Brûlée!

desi_loves_elmo Elmo, the Greyhound featured in this Instagram account is a funny-looking dog with great expressions. Aren’t Greyhounds just interesting dogs anyway? They’re so lean and expressive! Well, Elmo doesn’t disappoint, and his “parents” love to dress him up for the camera. Elmo posts regularly, and I think lots of his photos should be memes. Through this account, I also found some Italian Greyhounds named Mateo and Ernesto. You can see their Insta account at mateo.y.ernesto.

tunameltsmyheart This little chiweenie (chihuahua/dachshund mix) will quickly find a spot in your heart. I had never seen a dog like Tuna before; he is one of a kind. With a massive overbite and “jacked up” teeth, Tuna has an unusual look, to say the least. Some folks would likely say, “He’s so ugly, he’s cute.” Does that make sense? And did I mention he has an attitude that’s bigger than that overbite? But he’s loving to his people and will even do a video via Cameo if the price is right! Yep, you guessed it…Tuna is immensely popular on Instagram with over two million followers. I didn’t discover Tuna. He was already crazy popular before I found him. Serious….ugly cute. And I love this dog!

Here are a couple more I love but they don’t post very often, so I didn’t include them in my list above:

reallylolly OK, y’all. Lolly is the “daughter” of Hungry Girl Lisa Lillien. If you aren’t familiar with the Hungry Girl brand, you’re missing out. You can see the website for Hungry Girl here. But back to the girl of the hour…Lolly. I wish I could tell you what kind of dog she is. I’m sure I’ve heard Lisa say it before, but

frankiemoney Holy moly! Frankie Money took me by surprise! I was visiting Los Angeles with my daughter on New Year’s Day of this year, and while she and a friend were shopping at The Grove (not my favorite place in LA), I decided to sit down on a bench for a few minutes. I had been sitting there alone for about three minutes when suddenly, a woman sat down next to me. She appeared to have some sort of baby carrier attached to her torso, but instead of a baby, there was a small dog. The woman was turned in such a way that it was a little difficult for me to see the dog; his rear was toward me.  People were approaching, asking to take photos of the dog, so I knew there was something interesting about the pooch. And then, the “mom” stood up with the dog to take a photo with a passerby, and I saw what was going on. The dog was dressed in a white biker jacket, sunglasses, and gold chains holding not one, but two rhinestone-studded dollar signs. He was cute! And he was calm and friendly at the same time. And his name? Frankie Money. The mom introduced me to him. I took a photo of them, and I started following the adventures of Frankie Money on Insta…the rest is history. Frankie doesn’t post often…hasn’t posted since February…but when he does, it’s funny. I hope he’s OK?

#squishypaws If you have kids who ever watched Nicky, Ricky, Dicky, and Dawn on Nickelodeon, it’s likely you have heard of Squishy Paws, the family dog on the show. Squishy Paws is actually portrayed by a dog named Carson the Dog, but I’ve never found an Insta account for Carson the Dog. I included Squishy Paws in my list, though, because I recognized him when I did a tour of Paramount Studios with my daughter and her friend a few years ago. The kids didn’t believe me when I said it was Squishy Paws, so I asked the lady who was with him! That’s Squishy Paws in the photo of my daughter and her friend at the top of this piece!

 

An Accidental Reunion

An accidental reunion.

Earlier this week, I told my teenage daughter to pack a bag, because we were making an impromptu trip to a college in another state for an “unofficial” visit. She’s a rising high school junior, so it’s time to start getting an idea about where she might like to continue her education. Most admissions offices at colleges are not open now because of COVID, so “official” visits aren’t happening, but what was to stop us from going to a campus and checking things out on our own? Since it seems all we have done is go to the beach this summer, I was ready to roll to almost anywhere that wasn’t the beach. So we quickly packed our bags with a single change of clothes and the essentials, and we hit the road.

When I say we packed “essentials,” I mean we absolutely packed bare bones. I took a change of clothes, something to sleep in, any medications we might need, and toiletries…hairbrush, toothbrush, toothpaste, deodorant. That’s it. I didn’t take makeup, because we were just going to be staying for one night and weren’t going to spend any time socializing. On the way out of town, we did a swing through the ChickFilA drive-thru for some lunch, and my daughter made a hotel reservation for us while I drove.

We had 3 1/2 hours to talk while we were on our way there, and because we took the scenic route, we had lots of cute little towns to see and some beautiful scenery too!

We arrived on the college campus at about 4:30 in the afternoon and went straight to the campus bookstore. I learned a long time ago that the campus bookstore is a good place to start. It’s usually easy to find, and shopping is always fun! We purchased a few items before the store closed at 5pm, and we set out driving around, trying to get a feel for the university. We looked at dorms…all from the outside of course…and we also got a feel for the campus by looking for different areas…the science buildings, education buildings, athletic facilities, sorority and fraternity housing…and of course, the always important football stadium, which was impressive, for sure.

We then checked into our hotel and walked to dinner at a nearby restaurant to discuss everything we had seen. While we were at dinner, I posted a few pictures, and then…bam! Two of my friends from college who live nearby commented, reminding me that they live there! How had I forgotten they lived there?!?! I have seen one of them a few times over the last couple of years, when she visited Charlotte, and I last saw the other one nine years ago when we had a planned reunion at the Virginia Creeper bike trail. After hearing from them, we scheduled a lunch for the next day…an accidental reunion! What an amazing surprise in the middle of this road trip!

The next morning, my daughter and I checked out a few more things on the college campus before meeting my “old” friends for lunch! Here’s the great thing about being 53 and getting together with friends from college…it’s always comfortable! It’s always easy! There was absolutely no awkwardness about it as we reminisced about old times but laughed and talked about what’s going on in our lives now too. The three of us met when we were 18 and 19 years old, and here we are…more than 30 years later…still able to fall right back in where we left off…without missing a beat! We talked about funny memories…it was the 80s when we were in college, after all! And they weren’t appalled by and didn’t make fun of my makeup-free, t-shirt clad look!

We’re all 30+ years older and wiser. I’d be willing to bet we’re even 30 years more fun…which would be quite an accomplishment, since we were a lot of fun in college! Next time I’m there, we’ll make time for some fun! One friend has a grown daughter in her 20s, and the other has two boys…both college age. I’m behind the curve with a 16-yr-old, but I loved that my daughter was there to meet these lovely ladies I’ve known for more than half my life. She enjoyed meeting them, and afterward, she told me she had decided, after meeting them, that maybe I was cool when I was younger after all! I’m not sure what she thought I was like before, but apparently, she wasn’t sure I was “cool.”

Over lunch, we also talked about actually planning a reunion…maybe another trip to the Virginia Creeper Trail, since it’s fun, super easy, and in a cute town. Last time, we stayed at the lovely Martha Washington Inn in Abingdon (for info, click here) and took in a show at the Barter Theater, the State Theater of Virginia. The Barter is even staging shows during COVID at a local closed drive-in theater! (For info on The Barter Theater, click here.) Maybe next time, we can stay at the Martha Washington Inn again and look for some ghosts while we’re there. I’ve heard the place is haunted, but we didn’t encounter any spooky visitors while we were there. And the restaurant at the hotel, called Sisters, was fabulous.

Even more exciting to me is the possibility that I could see these ladies more often if my daughter opts to go to college in the town where they live! Wow! I could visit my daughter and hang out with my old friends too! Plus, she would have a couple of surrogate moms nearby.

I’m so glad we had our accidental reunion! It was a bright spot in the middle of all this COVID madness…a much needed visit with some dear friends.

 

Please Drop In

Please drop in.

Maybe I should phrase that differently. Maybe I should say “please drop out.” What I mean is that we would love to have friends and family visit anytime, but only in the backyard. With the COVID pandemic, things have changed, and I don’t just let lots of folks in my house. But outside? All bets are off. If you’re in the area…or bored…or just looking for some company…come on over!

When I was growing up in different places in Alabama, folks used to drop in all the time. This was well before the era of the cellphone. Back in the 70s and 80s, if we were driving down the road and decided to drop in on some friends, we couldn’t just pick up a cell phone and call. I guess we could have gone to a payphone, but often that would have taken us out of our way. Drop-ins were common. Wanna stop in and see your friend? Turn into the driveway, and walk right up and ring the doorbell!

I remember, when I was a little girl living in Brewton, Alabama, my mother had a good friend named Martha. We lived on the outskirts of town, but Martha lived right in the middle of town…on the main drag…in a big, beautiful, historic home. We visited often, because she had kids our age. One day, when I was probably five or six, I had a baby tooth that was ready to fall out. It was even starting to hurt…it needed to come out. We were driving down Belleville Avenue, the road where Martha’s house was, and Mother said, “Let’s stop and let Martha pull it. She’s really good at pulling teeth.” And without calling ahead, we drove into the driveway, right up to the porte-corchere on the side of the house, like we owned the place. Mama knocked on the door, and Martha let us into her kitchen, which I thought was beautiful, because it had yellow gingham wallpaper. Martha stood me on a chair in her kitchen and pulled that tooth right out. I can still see in my mind exactly where I was standing.

Another time, Mother was going to drop in on Martha, but when she approached the driveway in her car, she didn’t see Martha’s car in the driveway. Instead of stopping, she kept driving. Later, when they were talking on the phone, Mother told her, “I was going to drop in to your house today, but when I got there, your car wasn’t there.” Martha replied, “Well, did you come to see me or my damn car?!? I was home! You should have stopped.” Mother laughed. In fact, that was a story Mother told for years afterward.

When we lived in Spanish Fort, Alabama, all the neighborhood kids dropped in all the time, and Mother’s friends would often show up on the doorstep. They would sit in the kitchen and drink coffee. And sometimes they talked for hours…solving all the world’s problems, I’m sure. Or maybe just talking about soap operas.

I vividly remember neighborhood moms standing around talking in the driveway. Back then, everybody didn’t have a garage with a garage door opener. We didn’t drive right into our garages when we got home from somewhere. We got out in the driveway, and if our neighbors were outside, everybody stood around and talked for a while. I think our garages/garage door openers put an end to that for a lot of people. Fortunately, in my neighborhood, we’ll see our neighbors out walking and pull our car over to chat. But that doesn’t happen everywhere.

When we were teenagers in the 80s, it was like we had a revolving door…neighborhood kids and teenagers in and out all the time.

Drop-ins used to be part of life. But no more. Now, everybody calls ahead, so we don’t have any pleasant surprises when friends show up unexpectedly.

I’m ready to change that. I’m telling my friends, “Drop in!”  Ring the doorbell when you get here, and if we’re home, I’ll motion for you to walk around the side of the house to the backyard, where we can sit by the pool and have a cocktail. If you want to bring lunch, that’s OK too! Chances are, I’ll be here, since I’ve become accustomed to spending more time at home with this pandemic happening. Of course, it’s hit or miss on whether I’ll still be in my pajamas, but if you don’t mind, I don’t mind! Maybe I’ll even share some cucumbers or tomatoes from my garden!

 

Driving Through Small Towns

Driving through small towns.

Last week, my 16-year-old daughter and I drove from Charlotte to the beach in the Florida Panhandle. It’s about a nine hour drive. I could have taken Interstate 85 and cut the time by about an hour, but I wanted the drive to be peaceful and scenic. Rarely is there anything peaceful or scenic about I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta, so I checked Waze and Google Maps, but I ended up designing my own route, and it worked out really well.

Our drive took us through four states: North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. And we passed through lots of small towns along the way…some more memorable than others. We were on Interstate 77 from Charlotte to Columbia, SC, and then on I-20 from Columbia to Augusta, GA, but that’s when we dropped off the interstate and started driving through some small towns.

The first one that got my attention was Wrens, Georgia, about 40 minutes southwest of Augusta. At first, there was nothing remarkable about the town, but soon I saw a woman in traditional Mennonite dress walking with three little girls in the same traditional clothing. I slowed down as the speed limit decreased and noticed more Mennonites. Because we had time restrictions, I didn’t stop anywhere, but I made a mental note of the community, and later, when we stopped, I looked online to see if there are any Mennonite restaurants or bakeries in the area. Indeed, there are, and they get great reviews. I might just have to grab a friend for a day trip to Wrens.

We drove through Macon and Albany (pronounced al-binny in Georgia) before passing through the very charming Colquitt, Georgia. On the way down to the beach, we were driving in torrential rains, because a tropical storm was coming through. I had never heard of Colquitt, but even in the rain, it was a beautiful little town. I didn’t think to ask my daughter to take photos, but when we stopped, I looked up the town online, and wow! When we were returning home, I planned ahead. It was a Sunday, so the town was basically closed (small towns in the south do that), but I had my daughter ready to take photos as we passed through. There are 17 beautiful murals throughout the town; my favorite is on a peanut silo and depicts a man picking peanuts and a cotton field with a crop-duster flying overhead. And the town even offers mural tours! You can get the info here. Colquitt is a long way from Charlotte, but next time I am driving down that way to Tallahassee or to the Florida beaches, I will plan ahead to spend a night in Colquitt at the historic Tarrer Hotel. And if it’s in May or October and the COVID restrictions have been lifted, maybe we will visit the Colquitt State Theater and catch a production of Swamp Gravy, the folk life story of Georgia.

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We spent the first night in Marianna, Florida, because I wanted to have dinner with my cousins who live there. We dined at a local restaurant in Sneads called Johnny Mac’s, where my cousins knew everyone who walked in and out of the restaurant. My 16-year-old daughter was amazed that they knew everyone, but she was also amazed at how friendly everyone was. If you ever find yourself in Jackson County, Florida, stop in at Johnny Mac’s. I had the bison burger, but everything looked delicious! See the website here. The next day, we met my cousin for breakfast at the Waffle House in Marianna, and again…my daughter couldn’t get over how friendly the servers were.

The rain was coming down in buckets when we left breakfast, but I wanted to show my daughter a few things around Marianna. One place I wanted her to see was Blue Springs Recreational Area. Because it was raining so hard, it was difficult to see the swimming area, which is fed by a natural spring, but she got the idea. She still hasn’t visited Florida Caverns State Park in Marianna, but one day we’ll do it. Mother used to take us when we were kids. We also drove through downtown Marianna so she could see some of the beautiful historic homes and the charming downtown. I told her that when I was a little girl there was a radio station with Nipper, the RCA dog, on top of the building, but it had been gone a long time. I also remember going to see Chitty Chitty Bang Bang at the theater there and being terrified. What the heck? I think I was about four years old, but there’s no longer a theater in downtown Marianna. In fact, several of the historic downtown buildings were destroyed in Hurricane Michael two years ago. I looked around at the buildings and all the downed trees and thought how my daddy would have been heartbroken by the destruction.

After we left Marianna, we drove on I-10 toward the Defuniak Springs exit, but stopped in Chipley, Florida, to gas up. When I was a little girl, we often drove through Chipley on our way to Marianna, and I remember a sign on Highway 90 that said “Bunnies for Sale.” I wondered if the sign was still there, but before we drove farther in that direction, I checked online. Apparently, someone does still sell bunnies in Chipley, but the operation is no longer on Highway 90. I’m guessing the sign is gone too, so we got back on I-10 and continued driving west.

After taking the Defuniak Springs exit, I suggested we drive a few miles north to Highway 90, so I could see if the old Horne’s restaurant building is still standing. Horne’s was a chain restaurant with a circus theme that closed in Defuniak Springs in the 1970s, probably about the time I-10 opened. A lot of businesses along Hwy 90 closed when the interstate came through. Hwy 90 had been the main thoroughfare between Jacksonville, Florida, and West Texas, so there were lots of little roadside motels and mom-and-pop businesses that closed when the interstate opened. The world looked a lot different then. You can still get a glimpse of it by driving down Highway 90 and seeing some of the remnants. Even in Mobile, Alabama, there are still some of the old roadside motels on Hwy 90.

While we were in Defuniak Springs, I called my friend, Linda, in Charlotte. Her husband grew up in Defuniak Springs, and she had mentioned to me that his grandmother had a lovely home on the lake in town. She gave me the address, and my daughter and I set out to find it. It did not disappoint. The home is a lovely Queen Anne-style home facing the lake in the middle of the historic district in town. Yes, a beautiful lake in the middle of town! We took lots of photos of the home, the lake, and some other historic sites in the area. Defuniak Springs is a charming town, indeed…worth a visit when I have more time to spend there. To see more about the history of the area, click here. As we drove out of town, we stopped at a Whataburger, because we love the chain and don’t have one in Charlotte. Again, my daughter was amazed at how friendly the employees were. IMG_8292

From Defuniak Springs, we drove straight to the beach, but those stops in small towns made quite an impression on my teenage daughter. Small towns just have a different flavor. I should know…I’ve lived in several of them in Alabama. God bless small towns.

 

 

 

Ducklings in our Future!

Ducklings in our future!

The world is a crazy place. I don’t have to tell you that. But in the midst of all the craziness this world has to offer, my husband discovered a little gift on our front porch two days ago…two eggs in one of the planters on our front porch. They weren’t tiny, little speckled eggs. They were big white eggs. I decided they were duck eggs. And we discovered today that I was right.

After he found the eggs, we checked many times throughout Sunday and Monday to see if the mama was hanging around. Nothing. That also helped me feel sure they were duck eggs. I did a little research and found that ducks will lay an egg a day, till they have a clutch (usually 8-14 eggs), before they start “brooding,” or sitting on the eggs. Mama doesn’t hang around much till then. After the mama duck starts “brooding,” it’s usually 26-30 days before the eggs start to hatch. I am supposed to be out of town 28 days from today, but if she keeps laying eggs and doesn’t start brooding for another week, I’ll be back in time to see them! My husband will be here the whole time, and he can document it all, but it will be a lot more fun if I’m actually here to see the ducklings hatch!

I also hope I’m in town when they hatch for another reason. The eggs are in a planter that is tall. How is Mama going to get those babies out without breaking their necks? And then there are several steps! She’s going to need some help! Or maybe she’s smarter than I give her credit for, and she already has a plan. I just hope the plan doesn’t include taking the new babies for a swim in our pool, because aside from the mess they create, they will have lots of difficulty getting out. If you ever watched The Sopranos, you likely recall Tony Soprano building a ramp for visiting ducks to use to get out of his pool. My husband’s not going to do that, for sure. In the past, we have had to rescue ducklings from the pool with a net, creating great stress for the mom and for the ducklings. Heck, it was stressful for me. There are two lakes nearby, so we are hoping Mama Duck has those in mind as the places to introduce her babies to water.

A friend/neighbor had ducklings in her pool a few years ago, and we went over to help rescue them. There was a big, loud owl in a nearby tree just waiting to swoop in and carry away one of those babies. We got them out, and I don’t know what ultimately happened to them. I shudder when I think about it, so I try not to think about it.

I’d rather think happier thoughts.

It’s nice having something positive to look forward to every morning! We were so excited when we saw the mama duck this morning, and I’m even more excited thinking we get to watch the eggs add up over the next week or so!

We needed something happy right now. Make way for ducklings!