Some people are get-things-for-their-birthday people and others are do-things-for-their-birthday-people.  We fall in the do-things category.  For his birthday, Shugie got a fun trip to Atlanta and Camp Ramah Darom in the north Georgia mountains!  We just got back.

We walked to supper at Buckhead Pizza (which was really good)!
Shug and Shugie at Buckhead Pizza

...and stayed at the Grand Hyatt Buckhead in Atlanta:
Grand Hyatt Atlanta, Buckhead

The common areas were lovely, and...

Grand Hyatt Atlanta, Buckhead

Grand Hyatt Atlanta, Buckhead

Grand Hyatt Atlanta, Buckhead

...they even have their own Japanese garden!  Love these boys:
Grand Hyatt Atlanta, Buckhead

(Shugie thinks turning six is extra-cool!)
Grand Hyatt Atlanta, Buckhead

We had breakfast from Henri's Bakery (birthday boy and all, Shugie got to decide on breakfast) and we surprised him with one of the neatest places to ever have a birthday, LEGOLand:
LEGO Land, Atlanta

The rest of his birthday was spent at Camp Ramah Darom in the north Georgia mountains.  They have regular-style hotel rooms:
Camp Ramah Darom, Georgia

...and Mimi had even arranged for all of us who were there (I think 25-30 families) for a special PJ Library camp weekend to have birthday cake at Shabbat supper!  Everyone sang 'happy birthday' to Shugie in English and Hebrew.  Both boys had a great time all weekend:
Camp Ramah Darom, Georgia

Camp Ramah Darom, Georgia

Camp Ramah Darom, Georgia

Camp Ramah Darom, Georgia

Sukkah Party

Posted by ginger On Tuesday, October 14, 2014

We had 18-20 or so our little friends over for sukkot!  Here's everything pre-party:
Our Sukkah 2014 5775

Our Sukkah 2014 5775

They snacked and had their picture taken with the scarecrow (I literally painted his face fifteen minutes before they arrived, and as careful as I was putting the mums in, I still smudged his left eye a bit when I placed it on the top bale of hay! haha!):
Our Sukkah 2014 5775

Our Sukkah 2014 5775

We played with chenille pipe cleaners and made leaf and pumpkin decorations...blew bubbles...it was fun and here's some of the aftermath!
Our Sukkah 2014 5775

Ft. Walton Goodness

Posted by ginger On Monday, October 13, 2014

Black Belt Art House - Pottery Station

Posted by ginger On Wednesday, October 08, 2014

As my friends in Camden put it simply:
Let’s build a Pottery Station for under-served youth and adults in Alabama's rural Black Belt.

Please consider supporting their campaign on Indiegogo:

Yes Colton Court

Posted by ginger On Tuesday, October 07, 2014

It was rainy and dark which somehow made these pics from our drive through Cherokee, North Carolina earlier this year even more...

You decide.

Cherokee, North Carolina Signs

Cherokee, North Carolina Signs

Cherokee, North Carolina Signs

If this sign hasn't made it onto an album cover somewhere, it's overdue.
Cherokee, North Carolina Signs

La Storia: Birmingham's Italian Community

Posted by ginger On Monday, October 06, 2014

There's this weird part of me that loved having a couple of bare spots on walls for a few months because we had art on loan to a museum.  Which I know, ridiculous.  The fun part is that our Picassos, Cezannes, and Renoirs -- I mean, oh wait.  You know us.  When the Vulcan Park and Museum in Birmingham put a call out for people who have any kind of Vulcan memorabilia and art to bring it in for possible inclusion for their 'Vulcan Keepsakes: Iron Man Memorabilia from the Birmingham Community' -- well, we answered.  They displayed the painting I commissioned with Melissa Gay, of Vulcan holding a menorah (a gift for Av a few years ago):

Vulcan Exhibit, Vulcan Museum in Bham AL

The commemorative Vulcan figure that was created for the first LEGO store grand opening in B'ham (Av and I had to stand in line with our double stroller the first day to get it, as it was only available for the first 300 customers, and we knew we had a couple of block-loving boys on our hands):
Vulcan Exhibit, Vulcan Museum in Bham AL

And these super-fun pieces by Peyton Glanton, that I got here:
Vulcan Exhibit, Vulcan Museum in Bham AL

When the Vulcan memorabilia exhibit ended and we went by the museum to get our pieces, we got to see the new exhibit, 'La Storia: Birmingham's Italian Community':
Birmingham Italian Exhibit, Vulcan Museum, Birmingham

In the exhibit was this item, and I think this was the first time I've seen one of these -- a ballot box with the black and white rounds, from which the term 'blackballed' came about.  I have this terrific friend who's a Mason and explained this back when I was in college when I used to ask him a thousand different Mason questions, some of which he wouldn't/couldn't answer (which I totally respect and find fascinating).  How many hopes and dreams were made or dashed via this box?  
Italians of Birmingham Exhibit at Vulcan Museum, Birmingham

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Excited about these upcoming exhibits:
Conor O'Brien's Studio at Lowe Mill in Huntsville AL
The Red Clay Survey at the Huntsville Museum of Art, through October 26 (the pic above is the studio at Lowe's Mill in H'ville of my friend Conor O'Brien, who is included in this show)

Leaving Mississippi: Reflections on Heroes and Folklore at the Columbus Museum, through January 4, 2015

Mi Casa, Your Casa at the High, through November 2

WELL SUITED: The Costumes of Alonzo V. Wilson for HBO’s® Treme at the Mobile Museum of Art, beginning November 8

Accalia and the Swamp Monster: Works by Kelli Scott Kelley at the LSU Museum of Art

American Ballads: the Photography of Marty Stuart at the Frist, through November 2

William Edmondson and Friends: Breaking the Mold at Cheekwood, through January 4, 2015

Prospect.3 all over New Orleans beginning late this month


'

Drive-Thru Prayer

Posted by ginger On Wednesday, October 01, 2014

There was an article this week about a church in Houston that offers drive-thru prayer.  From Christianity Today:
The prayer drive-thru is especially ideal for busy people and those who many never step inside a church or pray on their own.

"It's so unique in this fast world that we live in today," El Alfarero Pastor John Lopez told ABC13. "Look at your drive-through restaurants. Their windows are packed every day."

Drivers and their passengers simply wind down their windows to receive prayer about their given topic from church volunteers.

"If you need prayer, no matter what background you are, we all need a prayer, we all need someone to pray with us, and that's what it's for," said co-pastor Danny Quintanilla.


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I'm the lone Jew in a group that meets each week, which is at its core, a church group.  I think it started non-denominational at a private school (and I was invited by a good friend who is a mom at that school) but now affiliates with a local church.  The girls who make up the group are so terrific and we enjoy each other's company while we do crazy-fun things like hiking, horseback riding, stand-up paddleboarding...  I pray for them in my (Jewish) way, and they pray for me and everyone else in their way.  I pray all the time: at my kitchen sink, in the shower, in the car, at my synagogue, in little spaces between thoughts fifty times a day.  It is immensely fulfilling to pray for and be prayed for.

Now, this is the place in my hometown where I get dressed up to pray with a group:
Temple Beth-El, Birmingham AL

But would I do a drive-thru prayer?  Oh Yes.

Here's one I found three years ago in Decatur, at what looked like a tire shop:
Drive-Thru Prayer, Decatur AL

Peace be with us all, friends.

5775: Round, Ladder, And Those Gorgeous Challah Pomegranates

Posted by ginger On Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Now that we've had Rosh Hashanah, here are some pics of this year's experiments:

Honey cake in the star-shaped pan:
Honey Cake

Here, a traditional round challah for RH (not going to post recipe here because this year I used a honey challah recipe which looks good but didn't turn out as wonderfully as I would have liked. Still, really happy with the shapes).  Rather than braided, long challah, the round shape for Rosh Hashanah is used for a myriad of reasons, among them, round for the circle of life:

Round Challah

Round Challah

Ladder Challah (ascending to do good works):
Jacob's Ladder Challah

Pomegranate Challah -- this was inspired by the super-pretty image on Pinterest. There weren't step-by-step instructions, so following is how I did it. Also, I wanted the pomegranates to make a round crown shape (a reminder of G-d's kingship), which is also traditional for Rosh Hashanah.

Pomegranates are traditional for RH because they are a 'new fruit', and we have a story that there are 613 seeds inside a pomegranate and 613 are the number of the mitzvot in the Torah.

I took enough dough for one regular challah. I divided the dough into two separate amounts: eight balls, knowing that as they rose, they would come together to make the pomegranate bodies, and a smaller amount as eight smaller balls to go atop the balls to make the 'crown' on top of each fruit.  A bundt pan was perfect for this, to keep the round shape:
Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

To make the 'crown' of each pomegranate, after sticking the smaller ball atop the larger one snugly, I took a pair of kitchen scissors and cut halfway through that top dough one direction, then the other (to make something of a plus sign):
Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

...then very gently with my fingers separated each of those points to as similarly as possible make the crown shape:
Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

I figured that pretty early on in the baking process, the crowns would brown earlier than everything else, and sure enough:
Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

So I cut pieces of aluminum foil to cover the crowns only:
Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

They were ready to come out of the oven after about 45 minutes, when I saw that the 'bodies' of the pomegranates were nice and brown:
Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

Yes! Ohmygosh I was so tickled that these turned out so well:
Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

I think it's a new tradition for Rosh Hashanah!
Pomegranate - Shaped Challah

Hard, And Easy To Like

Posted by ginger On Monday, September 29, 2014

Suzanne and I had supper one night at Vittoria at Pepper Place in Birmingham:

Vittoria, Birmingham AL

We started with one of the 'bar snacks' -- which really could have been shared by us as our entrees rather than an app -- hand-cut fries with serrano ham, pimenton aioli, Parmesan, and fried egg (is the egg atop ___ so overdone now? Probably, but this was good.).  Yummy. Welcome to the carb zone.  You can't eat just one of those fries.
Vittoria, Birmingham AL

I had one of the specials that evening, which was described as "raviolo with duck" (not meaning that the dish was garnished with duck meat, but rather it was made with a duck egg).
Vittoria, Birmingham AL

Av and I have been here once before, but the experience is as though there's something missing.  Know when you want to really like something but there's something keeping you from it?  It's almost like...oh good grief, I could think of a dozen things here but they'd all sound like lost verses from 'Ironic' (which turns out to be Kierkegaardian).  It's not especially clever or unique, and at this price point there needs to be some  differentiating piece.  There's an element here that's not met.  In any case, it's worth a try to see if it hits all the right notes for you -- but I'd go at lunch rather than supper next time so the experiment isn't quite as costly.

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What's incredibly likable is Carrigan's Public House, also in Birmingham.  We went here for lunch and the atmosphere is really enjoyable.  There's a bar made from a Land Rover shell, big RH-type leather couches for lounging (after we were done eating, we took our drinks and sat and talked for a while), the edge of the bar counter is made of railroad track, there's a freight elevator that's been made into a booth for eating -- there are many other tables spaced around plus a roof deck, and many more really great industrial touches.  Not overwrought, which can be distracting.  It's just clever enough to feel right without trying too hard.
Carrigan's Public House, Birmingham AL

Carrigan's Public House, Birmingham AL

Av remembered that their hamburger, a dish which he always orders in its simplest form so there's no way to hide behind an onion or kicky aioli, is on Garden and Gun's guide to best hamburgers.  It was really, really good although he still gives the #1 spot to Chez FonFon's burger. The fries were crazy-good.  What else was really terrific was my order, the Bibb lettuce cups: grilled chicken, avocado, bacon, tomato, cucumber, egg, and blue cheese.  *Wonderful*
Carrigan's Public House, Birmingham AL