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Of Grandmas and Poodles

In just a few short weeks, my grandmother will be turning 88!!!

Now, let me fill you in on birthdays and my grandmother. She is notoriously unhelpful when it comes to celebrating/recognizing/planning them. Year after year, our birthday conversations go something like this:

Me: What do you want for your birthday present?
Grandma: Nothing. I don’t want you to buy me a thing.

Me: What kind of cake do you want?
Grandma: I don’t want a cake. I’m on a diet.

Me: Where do you want to go out to eat for your birthday?

Grandma: No where. Let it be just another day.

There is, of course, a lot more back and forth that I am failing to include, but you get the gist.

Now, before you say that not everyone wants to celebrate their birthday, and she is obviously one of those people (she’s not, trust me), I will let you in on a little secret. . . The couple of times that I’ve done exactly as she asked (no special present, no cake, and no special meal), she was madder with me than a wet hen. And they get really mad. I was on her out list, basically. Needless to say, I’ve learned my lesson. 

So, this year – just to change it up a little – I’m not asking any of the above questions. At all. Instead, I came up with the perfect way to recognize her birthday. But to explain it a little better, I’m going to illustrate another conversation that we routinely have (Not anymore, though).

Grandma: I don’t guess I’ll ever get to see where my little brother is buried.

Me or Sometimes My Mother: Why not?

Grandma: No one will take me.

Guilt trip, much? 

So, this week, we gave her an early birthday present, and it was exactly what she wanted. Not my usual fare of a pretty new blouse or purse, but something I think she enjoyed even more because it was completely unexpected.

A trip all the way to Louisiana to visit Great Uncle Bobby’s grave. . .

Uncle Bobby Grave

And an overnight stay in nearby New Orleans. 

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Little Alfred (who isn’t so little anymore – 57 lbs at his last weigh-in) got to tag along with us. Luckily, we stayed at the Downtown LaQuinta Inn and they were very dog friendly. I mean, very dog friendly. I counted at least three other four-legged guests just on our trips out to potty. Btw, this is not a sponsored post. . . . I (and Alfred, of course) was just very impressed with the welcome we received and they deserve a shout out. 

Alfred felt like he’d landed in a plush doggy heaven. From his walks in nearby Lafayette Square (yep, named after that Lafayette – America’s favorite fighting Frenchman. . . . two points if you know what current hit musical that line is from!!) to lounging in the bed and catching some Zzzz’s with Grandma (he slept with her all night, kid you not) and then waiting on the valet (seriously, there was practically no free parking in downtown NOLA and every single hotel I looked at had valet service), Alfie really enjoyed his trip.Alfred NOLA  Of course, after riding in the car most of the morning, he and Grandma were ready for a nap. So, we left them to it and set off to do a little exploring. And ghost hunting.

New Orleans

If you’ve never gone on a ghost/history tour, what are you waiting for?!? Do it! I love a good tour because they’re a great way to learn a bit of interesting, sometimes obscure history about a city that you might not otherwise hear. Ever heard of the Axeman of New Orleans? I sure hadn’t. On a side note, I kind of wish it had stayed that way – yikes! But I digress. The tour we took was entertaining as all get out! Horror stories. Ghost stories. Stories about celebrities. History. Architecture. And a rainy afternoon spent meandering through a beautiful city. What could be better? 

But enough about that! After the ghost/history tour we stopped off for a to-go order of beignets from Café du Monde, which we promptly took back to the hotel just in time for Grandma and Alfred to wake up from their afternoon naps.  And Grandma fell in love (no pictures of that moment because, well, my hands were covered in powdered sugar), so much so, that she wouldn’t leave New Orleans without another helping of those sugary, fried treats. 

The next morning, we went for a little ride on one of the many streetcars down Canal Street and all the way to City Park before packing up and heading home. 

 

So, the big question. . . Did my grandmother enjoy her early birthday present? You bet! She loved it! In fact, she loved it so much that she has told everyone from the receptionist at her retina specialist (macular degeneration, you know), the nurse, the actual doctor, other patients, and every one she could all about it. 

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Shocking.

So, last week, my favorite travel companion (she just loves it when I call her that!) – aka my mom – and I left Alabama bright and early (well, not so bright, but very, very early – it was 5:30 in the morning, after all) bound for Tennessee. 

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A little side trip through Mississippi and then Memphis, TN to pick up the newest member of our farm poodle gang (meet Alfie, here), and then it was on to Nashville for something that I couldn’t wait to experience. Even 11 hours of driving couldn’t take away the excitement!

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Was it the Ryman Auditorium? Maybe Bluebird Cafe? Or Music Row? Nope, it was a hockey game.

That’s right. I’m letting you in on a secret that is so unbelievable and just plain weird that you may not even believe me. I am an Alabama girl who would rather watch hockey than football. Any day of the week. Shocking, right? 

I mean, there are certainly no frozen over ponds in south Alabama (well, except the Icepocalypse that time) and ice rinks are very few and far between. And I can’t skate to save my life anyways, but it doesn’t matter. I love hockey. 

By the way, according to this video, I may not be from the South . . . .

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Over the pedestrian bridge and through the woods we went to grandmother’s house. . .  oh, wait, wrong story. 

I will say that my poor, ever-suffering mother was a really good sport – she only asked if we were there yet like 30 times. And it only took us 15 minutes to walk from the car to the arena, with me saying every few minutes, “We’re almost there. Just a couple more minutes.” 

Which she should’ve learned by name is totally and completely not true.

Nashville Preds Pedestrian Bridge

By the way, I think I’ve converted her. My mother, who has never been interested in any type of sports in her life (other than the Iron Bowl, but even then, it’s only a nominal interest in the outcome) said, as we were leaving the arena, “I get why you like watching them hit that ball around.” 

Then, it was time to come back home to Sweet Home Alabama. . . . 

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National Cancer Prevention Month

February is National Cancer Prevention Month, which strikes a strong chord in my heart.

Cancer is, sadly, very common in my family. . . . it’s the genetic curse that just keeps showing up uninvited. Ruining health. Bringing sadness and grief. And stealing loved ones away. 

From skin to liver to prostate to breast cancer, it seems like almost everyone in my family develops at least one form of cancer.  Just in my immediate family: My mother has had oral and cervical cancers and melanoma. My grandmother has had multiple melanomas removed in the last few years. My grandfather did, as well.

Then, about a year before he died, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer. His health had deteriorated too much, by then, and there was nothing that could be done. Time went by, his condition worsened even further, until he was confined to a wheelchair and couldn’t walk. A few weeks before he died, his doctor started mentioning the possibility of mesothelioma as being the cause of his health issues, but we never found out if he actually had it.

Grandad

My grandparents’ oldest child, my Uncle Jerry, died in his early twenties from stomach cancer. . . . Uncle Jerry and GrandadI know that I’m already at a very increased risk for developing cancer just based on genetics alone and believe me, I’ve tried to limit exposure to anything cancer causing. I’ve never smoked. I’ve traded tanning beds for the lovely and pale look – and an occasional spray tan. I’ve cut back on bacon, sausage, and red meat consumption. I’m scheduled to have a suspicious mole checked. And I’ve seriously considered genetic testing, although that bullet hasn’t been bitten, yet. But for now, I’m more than willing to do everything else I can to try to keep the disease at bay, and the more knowledge that we share about the evil “C Word” and the small steps that we can take to prevent it, always helps a little. Hopefully, one day soon, there will be a cure.

The Mesothelioma + Asbestos Awareness Center shared a few tips for preventing cancer during all times of the year, which I am to elaborate on. They aim to raise awareness of the rare but preventable cancer mesothelioma, which is caused by asbestos exposure, a toxic material that many do not know is still legal and widely used.

Cancer Prevention Month Checklist

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My Kitchen Essentials.

I don’t know about your house, but the flu has been making its rounds here. Major coughing/sneezing city. Which is why I’ve been a little absent around here lately. And completely putting a wrinkle in my resolution to make 2016 a healthier year. 

But I’m here now, and joining up with BlueStar to bring you My Kitchen Essentials.  BlueStar has an amazing line of ovens, ranges, salamanders, etc that make up my fantasy dream kitchen. Check them out at BlueStar (and try the Build Your Own BlueStar page to see all of the amazing color options) and also check out Big Chill

So, what are my kitchen essentials? The things that I absolutely could not do without. Basically, this is a kitchen version of the deserted island game. . . . 

My number one most essential item: My Kitchenaid.

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Look through recipe photos on here, and you’ll probably see my trusty Kitchenaid mixer. I had always fantasized about how much quicker and easier baking would be with one, but let’s face it – fancy stand mixers are not exactly cheap. Which is why it was a completely unexpected surprise Christmas present from my mother a few years ago. You have no idea how shocked I was to unwrap sparkling, brand new mixer.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: My mother is not good at surprise presents. Bless her heart, she tries. . . . But I always find out. Usually because I’m the one who has to wrap it or like this past Christmas, I happen to see the email saying, “Your DSLR camera bag has shipped!”. 

But she got me good with the mixer! And it’s been the best present ever, and something that has been well used (kinda obvious, right?). And guess what? All those daydreams about how much easier it would be to bake with a stand mixer were true. It really is.  Need fresh whipped cream? A little heavy cream and sugar, turn on the mixer, and let it do its job while you do yours. 

2. The new Phillippe Richard cookware. 

I’ll just put it nicely, but the old cookware had seen its last day several times over. Handles were missing or if present and accounted for, only hanging on by a thread. Or scarier, melted. You don’t even want to know how that happened.

The pots were dinted and dinged up and way past their prime. So, of course, my big goal on Black Friday was new cookware. I would say that I waited in line for hours in the freezing cold to score a good deal, but it was 70 something degrees, I was sweating in my boots, and the line was only 15 minutes long. Easy. And I got new cookware out of it, that I love. 

Cooking nostalgic, comfort food, like my Mother’s famous (well, famous to me) pizza burgers, is so much easier with an actual handle to grab on to now. And let’s face it, safer, too. 

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3. Measuring cups, spoons, and a digital scale. 

Because I like to bake, and as we all know, it helps to be as precise as possible. But that doesn’t mean you can’t do it in style. Like with my new measuring spoons. . . . . 

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Aren’t they cute? Even the dogs like them. Plus, digital scales make it so much easier to get even cake layers. Just weigh out how much batter you put in each pan before baking. 

4. Mini Ice Cream Scoop Thingies. 

I’m not really sure what to call these, other than, well. . . . mini ice cream scoop thingies. Cause that’s what they are. Basically. And you can use them for so many different things, which is probably why I have more than one set. 

Cookies.

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Meatballs. Truffle candy. Dog treats. Ice cream, of course. And diy bath and body products. Such as, bubble bath scoops: 

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And the finished product. Sort of. The one above is Wild Blackberry scented (which are still drying, and I haven’t gotten around to photographing it, yet, because. . .  .well, it’s been like 40 degrees) and the ones below are Frosted Cranberry (which I obviously have photographed).

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5. A chopper/blender/food processor.

I have this love/hate relationship with blenders, food processors, choppers, etc. Love? Because it’s so much easier dumping nuts or cookies in them to grind up than doing it by hand.

Hate? Because I always seem to lose at least one part for each one I’ve bought. And it’s always the most important part. The blade, the lid that has to be on and in the locked position for the darned thing to work, the actual container you put the ingredients in, etc. Basically, if I wanted to, I could create a Frankenstein chopper/blender/food processor thing from all the mismatched parts in the cabinets. 

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The latest blender/chopper pureeing fresh pumpkin. And surprisingly, none of the parts are currently missing. 

 

So, if I’m headed to a deserted island kitchen, apparently, I’ve got a lot of stuff to drag along with me. Now, what are your kitchen essentials?