Monday, June 29, 2009

It's a Long Way to Topiary

Today's Wonder of the World is...the Topiary!

Flickr photo by Gordy St
Recognize this famous garden? Yes, those are topiaries at Versailles, which I saw a lot of since they don't allow strollers inside the château. No problem! One day I'll see inside the gilt interiors. Touring the gardens was fine with me.

I spent much of my life in France like this:

See Sammy run?
That particular chase was through the gardens of Château de Cordès, about a half hour from our village. Isn't it pretty?

Flickr photo by Denis Trente- Huittessan
Note the topiaries!

This weekend we enjoyed some topiaries South Carolina style. (That means with sweat dripping down our faces.) But it was still fun.
The little town of Greenwood had their flower festival on Saturday, so we waited until Sunday and got in our car...

Wait, that's not our car!
Anyway, we waited for the crowds to vamoose and went to take a look at the leftover topiaries.
We saw dinosaurs,


and elephants!

And look, a dog! He's hanging out by the fire hydrant, of course!

Now Todd wants to grow his own leafy version of Tanner the Slobber Dog!
At least it wouldn't steal the sausage off the kitchen counter, wrapper and all.
I won't go into that story.

We had a great time seeing the topiaries, but the trip just fed my mad desire to stop by Pearl Fryar's house in Bishopville on our next trip to the beach. Have you heard of A Man Named Pearl?
He's the one with the wonderfully wacky topiary yard. See?

Flickr photo by ksf2c
Some local bigots didn't want an African American man and his family in their neighborhood and complained that they wouldn't keep up his yard. He made it his goal to win Yard of the Month and began his topiary work. He ended up becoming a local hero.
Sounds like a movie, right? It is!
The trailer is fabulous. I'm dying to see the film!

Have a wonder full Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky

Friday, June 26, 2009

Have You Gone Bananas?

Today's Wonder of the World is...the Banana!

Flickr photo by bocavermelha-l.b.
Do you go ape over bananas? Or do they just not have any a-peel to you?
Sorry. I've been cleaning like crazy and the fumes are getting to me.
(Fear not. Aliens have not stolen my soul, turning me into a neatnik. I clean only to distract myself from the foolishness that's been going on in my sweet South Carolina lately.)
Back to bananas...

I've been thinking about bananas ever since this obnoxious banana won this race with a peach and a broccoli spear at the Greenville Drive baseball game last week.

Don't let that hopeful smile fool you. He's a very obnoxious fruit.

But I LOVE most bananas. Except the squishy brownish kind. They make me want to gag.
These, however, look delicious! Let's tally them, shall we?

Flickr photo by rizalgeo
Give a hand to rizalgeo for that gorgeous banana photo, won't you? Bravo rizalgeo!
Speaking of hands, did you know that those tiers of bananas are also called hands? And the individual fruits are called fingers! Don't you love that? I'm going to call them fingers for the rest of my life. Or at least until I forget to anymore.

Whether you like bananas or loathe them, you must admit that the plant is AMAZING!
Yes, the banana is the world's largest herbaceous flowering plant. But that's not what I'm talking about.

First look at the flower, the male part of the plant.
No need to blush. Pretend we're botanists.

Flickr photo by Sandra Whiteway
Strange, huh? It's also called the banana heart, and each plant has just one. It's eaten as a vegetable in southeast Asia.
But that's not even what I find so wacky wacky weird.
It's the whole plant.

Flickr photo by ban roseyhadlow (Wimbledon w...)
I KNOW! That thing is so bizarre that it just makes you want to call someone!

Flickr photo by alphalim

The leaf is pretty interesting too.

Flickr photo by Daniel Schwabe
I bet the folks at Project Runway could make dresses out of those.
Or at least a skirt.

Flickr photo by blakta2
But of course the best thing about bananas, at least for me, is banana pudding!
What else would you eat for dessert after a pork barbecue dinner?
Or after meatloaf, which we had last night.
Are you familiar with the ecstasy that is banana pudding?

It may not look like much, but it will make you glad to be alive.
I'm too lazy to write out the recipe, but I found it for you here. It's the first banana pudding recipe listed, the uncooked one. (Don't ask me why I had to find it on German yahoo.)
It's best very cold! Let it chill at least 3 hours. Plus it builds up the suspense.
I hope you enjoy it! Unfortunately I won't. I'm trying to watch my figure and banana pudding is like a drug to me. If I eat one spoonful, I'll attack the entire 9x13 pan!

So I'll enjoy bananas in my breakfast smoothie.

Flickr photo by flyingplanes
Yum! It's easy. Add to a blender: one banana, 1/2 cup plain or vanilla yogurt, 1 cup frozen strawberries, 1 T sugar, 2 T juice or milk. Blend until smooth. It makes 2 servings or one biggy.

So what do you think? Do you like yours ripe and mushy, green, or somewhere in between?
Baked in bread or au naturel?

Have a wonder-full Friday and watch out for peels, friends!
Love, Becky

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Pop-Up Magic

Today's Wonder of the World is...the Pop-Up Book!

Flickr photo by neridakirkley
Doesn't every child love a pop- up book? And almost every adult too? (Except the grouchy cynics. And the book snobs.)
Come on! They're fun, people!
Some books are so interesting I'd like to hang them on my walls!

Flickr photo by Please Sir
If I had to crown the kings of the Pop Up Book world, they would have to be Robert Sabuda and Matthew Reinhart. They've created some truly incredible books, both individually and in collaboration with each other.
I always find it inspiring to hear writers and artists talk about their work, so I really enjoyed this little interview with étapes. Don't let the French intro scare you. The discussion is all in English, beginning around the 20 second mark.

Cool, huh? Photos just don't do this topic justice.
Won't you take a couple more minutes to hop over HERE and watch the video? Pretty please? It adds one more creative form to the pop up story/art mix--a beautiful song by Lisa Hannigan!
Enjoy, my friends! Have a wonder-full Wednesday!

Before you skedaddle, tell me, do you have a favorite pop-up book? One for kids? Adults? The Pop-Up Book of Phobias? The one of nightmares?
Now that my kids are long past the pop-up destroying stage, I just might start a new collection!
Love, Becky

Monday, June 22, 2009

Listen to the Rhythm of the (Soft) Falling Rain

Today's Wonder of the World is...a Summer Rain!

Summer Rain Shower, how I love thee.
Before I count the ways, folks, let me be clear. I'm talking about the soft pitter- patter of raindrops on roses and on tomato plants and on muscadines.
Not the sort of shower that turns insane and tears up the huge Bradford Pears at the entrance to my neighborhood.

No. Not that kind.
I mean the kind that sounds like the rainstorm that this choir from Slovenia creates with just their hands, COMPLETELY BLOWING MY MIND!
Turn the sound up and give a listen. It will amaze you too. Guaranteed!

Aren't they incredible? They're called Perpetuum Jazzile and you can learn more about them here.

It's been raining cats and slobber dogs in these parts every day around 5pm. At least it's keeping the grass green and the tomatoes growing!

My only complaint has to do with the timing of a certain project in my backyard. One I like to call The Pit of Mud and Anguish and Pain.
See it?

Yes, about 24 hours before the daily rainstorms started coming, my sweet hubby decided we needed a few blueberry bushes and a couple more fig trees and hired my son to dig up a little patch near the fence.
If you know my husband or any of his relatives then you realize that a little patch doesn't mean a little patch. It means enough earth to grow a miniature blueberry farm. Enough berries to feed Sal, her extended family, her bear friends and all their relatives too.

The problem, of course is these.

Those are some big paws. And that is some clumpy wet South Carolina red clay.
Red clay that Tanner likes to prance in.
Red clay that Tanner tracks in all over my carpet.

No, I will not panic. I will walk around outside, turning my face to the fine mist falling from the heavens. I will enjoy the green of the grass, thankful that it hasn't dried up yet. I will breathe in the peace and tranquility.
Isn't it pretty?

Wait, what's that?

The missing hummus! The hummus that cost $3.79, the hummus that I ranted about to my bottomless pit of a son! (As in Just because you ran 8 miles and dug up the back yard doesn't mean you can eat up all my hummus and then destroy the evidence!) Oops. Bad mommy.
That slobber dog dragged it into the backyard and licked it clean. And then tracked red clay all over my house.
Woe is me.

Sweet Dan Fogelberg, up in the heavens and over at youtube, please soothe me with the Rhythm of the Falling Rain!
A little chocolate might help too.

Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all! I wish you only soft rain and no red clay.
Love, Becky

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wanna Sweet Tea, Shug?

Today's Wonder of the World is...Sweet Tea!

Flickr photo by Ladybug1016
Or, as Truvy Jones (Miss Dolly) called it in Steel Magnolias...

The House Wine of the South!
Ooh Lordy, how I love a cold glass of sweet tea in the summertime!
Of course we just call it tea around here. The only folks who drink unsweet tea are the out-of -towners (I'm too polite to say Yankees) stopping off I-85 on their way down to Florida.

Don't tell anyone, but I grew up drinking... um...I'm almost too embarrassed to admit it...instant! I know! Blame it on my mama. (Hi Mom!) My parents are from Kentucky where everybody drinks instant. So even though I grew up in the South, I was woefully ignorant on my Iced Tea Fundamentals. It was a tad embarrassing.

Luckily I married into this family.

Ladies and Gentlemen, meet the Ramseys! Or a least a few of them.
These people are Sweet Tea Professionals. They KNOW HOW TO DRINK SWEET TEA.
At every meal except breakfast. And for snacks.
Notice the tea on the table? See how dark the tea is? Proper Sweet Tea is STRONG!
That photo was taken when my hubby was eight. We weren't even engaged then. Ha ha.
The lady in a pinkish dress is my Official Iced Tea Instructor/Mother in Law. She's pregnant with my sis-in-law at that moment. See the blond beside her? That's Todd's Aunt Edna, whom shall be hereafter known as the Queen of Sweet Tea! Aunt Edna's tea is so sweet that we have a special name for it: Edna Tea. Take one sip and feel the sugar begin to crystallize between your teeth. It's amazing.

Back to sweet tea...
I make only one change to the treasured recipe my Official Iced Tea Instructor/Mother-In-Law gave me. I occasionally like to sleep at night, so I use decaf teabags. I don't feel terribly blasphemous because my mother in law drinks decaf too these days.
Luzianne is the way to go. I'll give the recipe/Cardinal Rules at the end of the post.

As you can see by the container size, just about everybody around here likes their tea sweet.

Flickr photo by wreck99
Some people think it's funny to call plain tea unsweet. Obviously they're not from around here.
Though I do think this is funny...

Flickr photo by robisnonbrooks
UNSWEET (Cause you sweet enough.)

When we moved to France we were delighted to find that they like sweet tea too! And they even like it peach flavored! See, yet another thing Southerners have in common with the French!

You know what else is sweet?
My Sarah! A few years ago she and a team from her high school won the state finals for Destination Imagination. They had to design a pin to trade at the global competition, one that would represent our state. So what did they dream up?
Sweet T!

Out of ice cubes! Isn't that clever?
I bet these ladies would like one.

Photo by The Sweet Tea Queens
They're the Sweet Tea Queens, a group of Belles Gone Bad from just up the road in Spartanburg, South Carolina. They're a chapter of the Sweet Potato Queens and they spend their free time spreading Sweet Tea love in parades and events all over the Carolinas.
I'll have to tell Aunt Edna about them. She might enjoy the sisterhood!

Now go have a glass, before your ice melts!

Flickr photo by Rachael K E B
Have a wonder-full Friday and a super weekend, y'all!
Start it off with this favorite clip of mine from Steel Magnolias. Wait for the end--it'd be too sad without it!

Love, Becky
PS. Here's my recipe for a delicious pitcher of sweet tea:
1.Bring about 1 - 2 inches of water to boil in a small saucepan.
2.Add three family size tea bags to the boiling water and immediately lower the heat to medium.
(If you boil it too fast and furious, the tea will be bitter.)
3.Simmer the tea bags for 8 - 10 minutes or so.
4. Take off the heat. Remove the tea bags and immediately add 1/2 cup of sugar (Twice that for Edna Tea.) Stir until completely dissolved.
5. Add a couple handfuls of ice cubes to the hot tea and stir until all melted. This is to cool the tea quickly. (You don't want to have to sit around waiting for it to cool, do you?)
Put the tea into a 2 quart pitcher and fill to the top with cold water. Stir. Serve with lemon slices if you like.
Cardinal Rules:
1. Make a fresh pitcher for lunch and dinner.
2.Be sure to serve it with glasses FULL of ice, (all the way up to the top,) or else your in-laws will make fun of you and call you an Ice Miser.
3.Be sure to add the sugar WHILE THE TEA IS HOT, and before adding the extra water. Follow the directions, sweetie!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shhh...It's a Lullaby Game!

Today's Wonder of the World is...the Lullaby!

Flickr photo by Heart felt
You've got to love a song that helps put a tired baby to sleep.
Though my kids didn't need them very often.

French cafés used to have a similar effect on Sammy, and joy of joys, they gave me an excuse for a petit crème! Yum.
Still, I love a good lullaby. And I find the lyrics fascinating. Have you ever paid them much attention?
I know...let's play a lullaby game. I'll give you a hint with a photo, and you see if you can remember the lullaby. I bet you know more lullabies than you think!

Ready? Okay, remember, no sleeping allowed!
Okey doke.
Number One:

Flickr photo by Miko
Got it? No, it's not a lullaby for monkeys! Notice where they are.
Rock-a-bye baby, in the treetop,
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock,
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall,
And down will come baby, cradle and all.

What a weird song. Only a monkey would put a baby in a treetop.

Number Two:

Flickr photo by nell Gonzoid
Did you get it?

Don't you cry
Go to sleep my little ba-by;
When you wake,
you shall have,
all the pretty little horses.

We won't debate whether a baby really needs a horse, let alone all of them. Enjoy the other verses here.

Number Three:

Yes! Lavender Blue, or Lavender's Blue, depending on who's singing it.
Lavender's blue, dilly dilly, rosemary's green,
When I am king, dilly dilly, you shall be queen.
Who told you so, dilly dilly, who told you so?
'Twas my own heart, dilly dilly, that told me so.

Give it a listen here.

Number Four:
Warning: This may creep you out.

Flickr photo by redrickshaw
See what I mean? And that doll is nothing compared to the lyrics!
Bye, O baby bunting
Daddy's gone a hunting
To get a little rabbit skin
To wrap his baby bunting in

Yikes. No thanks, Daddy.
If you're dying to hear Bye O Baby Bunting, hop over here.

Number Five:
If you're a francophile, you might recognize this berçeuse. If not, I'll help you.
Here's the hint:

Flickr photo by misslaurenlee
Notice those are male hands making the hot chocolate.
It's Fais Do Do!
Here, listen first and then I'll translate. This lullaby is delicious! (It's French, after all!)

Pretty, non?
Allow me to translate the first verse.
Go Nighty-night (Ni)colas, my little brother,
Go nighty-night you will get Milk-y.
Mommy is upstairs making cakes
Papa is downstairs making hot chocolate
Go nighty-night (Ni)colas, my little brother
Go nighty-night you will get milk-y

Ah. That's so sweet. Except that song would get my kids get out of bed, begging for cake and hot chocolate!

Ready for the last one? Think Porgy and Bess.

Photo by The Library of Congress
You're right! Summertime!
I love this song, even though the music sounds so sad.

Summertime, and the living is easy
Fish are jumping, and the cotton is high
Your daddy's rich, and your ma is good looking
So hush little baby, don't you cry.

One of these mornings, you're gonna rise up singing
You're gonna spread your wings and take the sky
But till that morning, there is nothing can harm you
With your daddy and mommy standing by.

Aren't those words terrific? Sing along here.

So what's your favorite lullaby? Were you sung to as a child? If you have kids, do you (or did you) sing to them?

Have a wonder-full Wednesday, y'all!
Love, Becky
PS. Enjoy this wacky lullaby from Virginia O'Brian in the Marx Brother's movie The Big Store.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Buy Me Some Peanuts and...

Today's Wonder of the World is...Hometown Baseball Games!

Flickr photo by Iscan
I should admit up front that I'm not really a baseball lover.
Maybe I should have titled this post All the Reasons I Love Baseball Even Though I'd Rather Sweep Up Dog Hair Than Watch the Game (Unless My Kids Are Playing.)
No, I think that's a little long.

So we went to see our hometown minor league team, The Greenville Drive, on Friday night.

Don't worry. I'm not going to try to tell you much about the game itself, except to say that we played the Asheville Tourists (who have a much better team name than we do) and we skunked them. That's Sam talk for saying we beat them by a large margin. I didn't really notice the score.

Allow me to share all the non-baseball things I LOVE about going to games.

1. The trolley ride!

Woo hoo! I know I sound like a country mouse, but it's not like I live in San Francisco and get to ride a trolley every day. This trolley takes you from the parking lot to the stadium. And that lovely boy with the sunglasses is a boy I'd be happy to adopt if his parents ever would let me. He's a friend of Sarah's and the rest of us as well. Hi Justin!

2. Polite baseball players on display who seem delighted that someone wants their autographs.

3. Baseball park food!

Flickr photo by gardenwife
Yum. I ate up my hot dog so fast that I didn't even think to take a picture of it, so I'm showing you gardenwife's hot dog. From the looks of the stadium, she probably paid more than $7 for her ticket to the game. As you can see below, the seats at Fluor Field are quite a bit closer to the action.

This pic reminds me of another thing I love about Greenville Drive games.
The free tee shirts they throw out to the crowds? No...

4. Reedy Rip'it!

Isn't he cute? And I heard that ever since he had that run in with police a few years ago, he's much better behaved.
Just pull out a camera and he'll ham it up with just about anyone!

4. The Kiss Cam!

Flickr photo by glowbird
Maybe it's France's fault for teaching me to love the kiss, but I'm just crazy about this custom. If they point the camera at you and your sweetie--or friend or date or stranger--you're supposed to kiss while everyone watches. It's hilarious and sweet and I just love it.
You may have noticed that that pic is a flickr photo too. I was too busy doing hopeful puckering to take a photo.

5. The field itself.

Oh yeah, that's right. There was a ballgame going on out there too. But even if there wasn't, it's a fine place to spend a Friday night. I mean look at it. It's lovely.
You can see that it's not a very big stadium. Fluor Field is modeled after Fenway Park, since our team is affiliated with the Boston Red Sox.
See, let me show you the rest of it.

Sam sits with us for part of the time, and runs back and forth to the lawn, hoping to catch a foul ball.

5. Shoeless Joe Jackson's house was moved across the street from the stadium and serves as a museum. Joe was a Greenville boy, getting his start on one of the textile teams in town.

Flickr photo by dbelcher5761
Plenty of folks wanted to name the team after him, calling it the The Greenville Joes, but they took a vote and The Drive won.
I like the Joes better, personally. But I shouldn't really get to vote, since I only go to the games to watch the racing banana.

6. The Vegetable/Fruit Races!

I'm not sure what the deal is about the racing fruit/veggie, but I do know that the banana won and was kind of obnoxious about it. I thought that the broccoli and peach handled the loss pretty well, much better than the manager of the Asheville Tourists, who got thrown out of the game for kicking dirt on the umpire.
Such drama. You just don't find that in the vegetable/fruit world.

6. Fireworks!

What a great way to end a nice evening!

So tell me, do you ever catch a game on the weekends? What parts do you like best? What's your favorite ballpark snack? Boiled peanuts, anyone?

Have a wonder-full Monday, y'all!
Love, Becky