All the pics I took at Vicksburg can be found here at my Flickr set.
We've visited Vicksburg National Cemetery a few times before, but since this was Memorial Day Weekend, we thought it would be really nice (and appropriate) to go.
These pics are from Canton, Mississippi. Canton's so pretty, and has been featured in several films - so that it has its own Film Commission.
Our room at the Jackson Marriott
Room: This was our first stay at the Jackson Marriott Downtown. Compared to some other Marriotts we've stayed at, I think this one is above average. The room wasn't very large, but the beds were *very* comfortable.
Lobby: Nice lobby, including a nice seating area.
Service: Front desk was friendly and efficient.
Food: We didn't order room service or dine in the hotel's on-site restaurant during our (two-night) stay.
Extra: Location, location, location. This hotel is in the heart of downtown, very near the capitol.
Our experience is this: We would stay here again. I've seen the rooms at this hotel go well above $100, but I was able to reserve this room in the low-$80's - at that price-point, a good value.
Little Dooey (Columbus, MS), Bob Sykes (Bessemer, AL), Sweet Daddy's Smokehouse at the Exxon Filling Station (Jackson, MS), and Bon Ami (Jackson, MS)
Earlier this week, we went to The Little Dooey in Columbus (MS)...the original is in Starkville (MS) at 100 Fellowship Street, 662.323.6094.
Av had the catfish plate, which was really good - and I had the catfish sandwich, was was also really good. The only disappointing thing was that the potato salad tasted like it was probably that icky Sysco brand.
Film from when Turner South's show, 'Blue Ribbon', was in Starkville at The Little Dooey there can be viewed here.
Going through Bessemer, we stopped at Bob Sykes BarB-Q (1724 9th Ave N, Bessemer, 205.426.1400) for a couple of sandwiches with fries, onion rings, and potato salad. We weren't able to finish everything, but it's always so good! Bob Sykes has been in business since 1957 and has a wonderful reputation - they've been mentioned in Southern Belly and Southern Food: At Home, on the Road, in History.
We had lunch at Bon Ami in Jackson (1220 E Northside Drive off I-55, 601.982.0405), a place I've heard several people mention. Av had a fish dish that was nice, and I had a chicken spinach panini. It was good, but not great. We probably won't go back.
Each issue, New York magazine has this really fun feature called 'Economy of One'. They always have an interesting person to ask the question of how that person would spend a certain amount of money. The May 16th issue asks Amerie, who sings "1 Thing": how would you spend $66136.95? Two of her things are also on my list - Creme de la Mer (which I use, and swear by), and the Chanel J12 (which I really like). Here's my list this week. :)
I have been watching and watching the Prada Vitello Daino bag....I have a wonderful Louis Vuitton that I've worn non-stop for about two years now - but I really need a Summer-y bag. It's on sale right now for $553 at Saks. Hmmm....
The J12 white ceramic watch is just *such* a neat watch by Chanel. Unadorned, I believe it retails for about $8000. Also, very Summer-y......
The 'Love Explosion' ring is $60 from Swatch, and it can be ordered online here.
The last part of the feature is called 'Reality Check: What I really spent today', which usually shows that the person they interviewed spends a normal amount. Today, I spent.....$0! Yay!
From the May/June 2004 issue of 'Deep Magazine', they put a quote in that's attributed to Mrs. S.R. (Henrietta) Dull.
"It is a fetish in the South that the sun shines just a little brighter, the moon rays are just a little softer, the breezes blow just a little gentler, the birds sing just a little sweeter, the flowers are just a little prettier, and its climate just a little more salubrious. When going from one section to another, all of us have an idea that we know by instinct just when we cross the line out of the South or into it..."
I have to admit - I had to look up what 'salubrious' means (conducive or favorable to health or well-being).
Update 05.14.2007 - I was just emailed by a reader who has an early version of Mrs. Dull's cookbook and says that the quote should actually be attributed to Hal M. Stanley. Thanks Michael!
Henrietta Dull was the Home Economics Editor for the Atlanta Journal, and wrote 'Southern Cooking', a recipe book, in 1928 - it's still being published today.
The weather outside is just so nice for my little outdoor projects right now, and it makes me extra happy that there is the sweetest mourning dove mama who sits patiently atop her nest right outside the library window here, in the crepe myrtle. Happy. Happy to be right here, where everything *does* seem just a little bit better. Ah.
Wisteria has some wonderful seashells with stands, from $59-$79. They look like, if you wanted to make them at home, it would just take a candlestick with a dowel on the top to secure the shell - or maybe rather than the dowel, some strong and bendable wire for the smaller ones. Pretty!
Friendship Cemetery in Columbus (4th St S And 13th Ave) is where Memorial Day began.
On April 25, 1866, the women of Columbus decorated both the Confederate and the Union gravesites. Columbus is called the "city where flowers healed a nation".
While we were there, a couple of gentlemen were there power washing and bleaching the headstones; they had a Sons of Confederate Veterans logo on the side of their truck.
Our room at the Holiday Inn, Columbus
Room: The room looked overall to be in good condition, and the furnishings were a little nicer than average for Holiday Inn hotels we've stayed at in the past. The hotel's website states that the hotel has been renovated in 2005, which would explain how the rooms seemed nicer than we remembered from our last stay a couple of years ago. The bathroom did have a couple of issues, one being that the sheetrock was cut much larger than necessary for the light/plug switchplate beside the sink, so there was a pretty big gap where you could see the wiring, and another was that commode had a crack in the bowl that went from the outside to the inside (but I guess it was sealed, because there was no problem). Odd.
Lobby: The hotel itself is one that was built when H.I. atriums were in style. The lobby seems to be very loud, with a bar/lounge area very close to the check-in desk, and a restaurant at the far end. Also: there is only one elevator, which means you could be waiting a while.
Service: Average service. There is no Lodgenet or other service, so check-out is done at the front desk rather than by remote.
Food: We didn't eat here; I think there is a charge for the breakfast.
Our experience is this: We might stay here again, after exploring other options thoroughly.
Not too many people in the world live in a place where they can eat this good.
Miss Myra's (205.967.6004, 3278 Cahaba Heights Road, B'ham) is a barbecue restaurant that I've seen lauded from Chowhound to Dixie Dining. It may very well be the only place in Birmingham that you can get white sauce to put on your chicken or bbq.
Av and I went this week - he had the chicken with fries and I had the beef plate with potato salad and deviled eggs. For dessert, I had 'nana puddin, and Av had the peanut butter pie.
I thought the barbecue was good but not the greatest....I was just sooooo happy to be somewhere that actually had white sauce, which made everything okay. The potato salad was really, really good - as were the desserts.....and.....how could you not love a place with framed poems about Bear Bryant??
There is an article in the April 4th New York magazine (okay, I am a little late on reading some of my magazines) called 'Great Toddle Forward' by Alexandra Wolfe. The article discusses a Manhattan couple who hired a Chinese nanny to teach their toddler Mandarin.
According to the article, the idea is: 'how do we prepare them (children) to be citizens in a global economy?'
In first grade, I attended the Episcopal Day School in Gadsden (I truly loved that school), and our class learned a little French. Even though that's the only French I've ever learned, I can still count to fifteen and do a few other words in that language. What if I'd been learning that or another language all through school? It would have been a huge asset if I'd chosen to go into some sort of international business career (or any of a number of other careers). In high school, I took German for two years, but that's really only served me to understand a smidgen of Yiddish. Besides future career benefits, I can imagine that, if nothing else, learning another language - perhaps especially Chinese - is a very nice something to have in your repertoire.
BTW, the title of this post, 'Shi Bai De Ren.....' was listed in the article's sample primer of Mandarin as 'French is for losers'......with apologies to my husband, who knows worlds more French than I, and got us successfully and happily around France when we were there.....
Anthropologie, my favorite catalog, is selling replicas of quilts from Gee's Bend.
Gee's Bend is a little town here on a peninsula in the Black Belt of Alabama. It's surrounded on three sides by the Alabama River, and some of the women that live there started a quilt-making collective - the Freedom Quilting Bee.
About three years ago when I first heard about it, Av and I drove down to Gee's Bend (it's really called 'Boykin' now) to see if we could find the Bee and perhaps buy a quilt.
We did find the building, but noone was there. Later that year, we went to the Mobile Museum of Art and saw the Gee's Bend quilt exhibit they were showing. What surprised me was that I expected tiny, uniform stitches - but the ones I saw really weren't constructed that way at all.
Today, you can buy an original quilt directly from them here - they begin at $800. I noticed today that the quilts Anthropologie is selling - the replicas - are on sale - marked down from about $300 to $145.
The restaurants at the Faena Hotel + Universe in Beunos Aires are just amazingly beautiful - space that was designed by Philippe Starck. Just beautiful!
I really like the idea from a company called "Broken China Jewelry", based in Texas. They take dishes that have been broken and make them into pins, earrings, necklace charms, and bracelets. If you have your own broken china, you can send it to them to make into a piece of jewelry for you and others in your family!
Joe Patti's (South A Street & Main, 850.432.3315) is a really neat fish market - in fact, it's called Pensacola's #2 tourist attraction! After the hurricane (Ivan), they were closed for about two months, but we were so happy when they reopened. From this trip, we brought home some salmon and pompano. Yay!
A few days ago when we were in Gulf Shores, we drove over to Biloxi to see 'Ezuru', a show that runs at the Beau Rivage thru June 12th.
This is how the Beau Rivage website describes it:
EZURU comes to Beau Rivage! This "must see" extravaganza is from the creators of Balagan and Taganai. Casting traveled throughout the world to find these multi-talented performers. Most of these artists including Chinese acrobats, aerialists and comedians have never been to the United States. This is a show that the whole family will love.
It’s original music score makes for a breathtaking production. EZURU can be described as having a futuristic style with an industrial flare.
Ezuru, which was done by a completely different company, was supposed to have a story, but I couldn't even tell that it had anything at all to do with what the performers were actually doing. The performers, though, were really good, and there were several performances that I had never seen before. I especially liked the girls who played the diabolo (it's....I guess....in the yo-yo family). They were great!
The Dew Drop Inn (1808 Old Shell Road 251.473.7872), a Mobile institution, has been open since 1924 (it's the oldest restaurant in Mobile) and was Jimmy Buffett's inspiration for "Cheeseburger in Paradise".
We've been there a couple of times before, and it is always the same - great! The cheeseburgers come with chili on top....delish. Besides hamburgers and hotdogs, they also serve po boys, and vegetables (turnips are good). Onion rings are the *best*!
Renovated room sample
We parked in the deck beside the Riverview Hotel (formerly Adam's Mark) to attend the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Exploreum, and walked through the hotel lobby.
Above is a pic of the sample room furnishings on display for the upcoming hotel renovation, starting soon. If I ever stay here again, it will be *after* the renovations are complete (my last entry about the hotel is here). What they showed as a sample looked really nice, and L-rd knows that the RSA (Retirement Systems of Alabama) has the money to do it right.
The RSA is also building in Mobile the Battle House Tower, which will be the tallest building in Alabama, as well as (rebuilding) the Battle House Hotel, which I believe will open later in 2006. Since Carnival Cruise Lines is including Mobile now as a landing for the Holiday ship, Mobile needs more hotel capacity (and more nice hotels).
The RSA funds a group called PCH Hotels and Resorts, which oversees these two Mobile properties plus Grand Hotel Marriott Point Clear Resort and Spa; The Montgomery Marriott Prattville Hotel and Conference Center at Capitol Hill; The Marriott Auburn Opelika Hotel and Conference Center at Grand National; The Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort and Spa (opening May 2005); The Marriott Shoals Hotel and Spa in Florence (opening this Summer). The RSA also has investments in the Robert Trent Jones Trail, US Airways, Raycom Media, 55 Water Street in NYC, and others.
Everytime Av and I go to Gulf Shores, we stop at Lambert's Cafe in Foley for either lunch or supper. During the summertime, Lambert's can get super-busy...because so many people go through Foley either on their way in or out from the beach, and just about everybody knows how great it is!
I had the chicken livers, which were *really* good, and Av had the chicken and dumplings, which he really liked too. Besides the vegetables you can get with your meal, they also serve 'pass arounds' - things like fried okra, stewed tomatoes with macaroni, and fried potatoes with onions - that everyone has the opportunity to choose, no matter what they ordered off the menu. Every so often, someone will come out with pans of hot rolls and throw them to anyone that wants one, which is fun to watch (and do!).
This was our second stay at the Beach Club in Gulf Shores. We absolutely loved the first condo we stayed in, which was in building A. This condo was in building D (Doral).
This particular unit's furnishings weren't quite as nice, but it was still lovely and we had a wonderful time. Here are some pics:
Room: We stayed at the Hampton Inn & Suites in Jackson - the 320 Greymont Avenue location. The room's furnishings were, for a Hampton, well above average. This included the nicer desk chair, and the beds were very comfortable. Wireless internet is offered at no additional charge.
Lobby: Average; this one also had a guest reception from (I think) 5-7pm Mon-Thurs. The reception included cokes, chips, cookies, and a tap with Bud Light....we haven't seen this at a Hampton before, but then again we usually check in much later in the day.
Food: We didn't try the breakfast that comes with the hotel stay, but the snacks from the receiption area were okay.
Extra: This hotel is clearly going after more of a business clientele, which is great. When we checked in, there were several other business people milling around. Because of the location - so close to downtown, therefore the capitol, and right off I-55, it's a good place to stay location-wise.
Chris' Hot Dogs on Dexter Avenue in Montgomery
Av and I had lunch at a Montgomery institution: Chris' Hot Dogs. Everything was good...honestly, not great - but for what they food lacked, the atmosphere more than made up for.
When you walk in, you may think that you've walked into a newsstand - but walk on to the back, where there's a counter with stools, and to the right of that is a walled-off dining area with two- and four-person booths.
From a Huntsville Times article:
Hot dogs were a nickel for more than 10 years after Chris' opened. Katechis said curbside service was available during the early years, "back when there were fewer cars on the street," until city officials said traffic was getting delayed. Food prices have not changed much. Neither has the combination of brown paneled walls, art deco ceiling and opaque glass. Katechis is considering an update, though.
"I've thought about re-doing this," he said, motioning to a rear storage area. "People ask why I don't just gut the place and totally redo it. But I can't. I just can't. There's just something about it. People like it. We added the dining area before World War II, so there hasn't been much change in here in 60 years."
The hotdogs are special because of the 'secret' sauce they put on them. You can also spice them up with the Alaga hot sauce on each table (Alaga hot sauce is in its own category, because it sweetens regular hot sauce with cane syrup). Hotdogs are $1.70, special dogs are $2.20 (what makes them 'special' is that they use two doggies in the bun rather than one). A special hamburger is $2.20, and onion rings are $1.70. For $8, you can walk out with a quart of Chris' famous chili sauce.
Alabama Black Belt Catfish Pond
While we were on our way back from Jackson to be in Montgomery, we passed several dozen of these catfish ponds. There are hundreds of them in the Black Belt (around Demopolis and Selma, AL).
Also in the Black Belt is Greene Prairie Aquafarm. Greene Prairie raises shrimp, even though where they are - Forkland - is about three and a half hours from the Gulf. They do it by taking saltwater from an underground aquifer. An article about them is here.
When I was growing up, I loved going to Robert's Catfish Lodge in Hartselle. Robert's wasn't just a restaurant, either - you could also pay to fish at one of their ponds.
After supper, you would take the day-old bread they supplied (from a local bakery) and go out on the deck behind the restaurant and feed these huge catfish. The catfish were humungous and they seemed like they would practically walk right out of the water and take it from your hands! This was SO much fun....I used to beg to go back just to feed those giant catfish!
I *think* the restaurant closed for a while - maybe they had a fire, I can't really remember - but I remember going back and they had traded giving the customers bread to feed the fish for dog food in little brown paper sacks. I didn't really like that as much.
Still, though. It was neat, especially for little children!
Robert's closed again for a while, but I just did a Google search on them - and guess what!? They've reopened, now as David's Catfish Cabin. Yippee!
New things from Knit-Wits in Jackson
Knit Wits in Jackson ( 1491 Canton Mart Road, Jackson MS 601.957.9098) is so great! They have a huge selection, with lots of things I've never seen before - and they're so friendly and nice!
This is Ironstone Yarns "Hot Stuff" #1747
Trendsetter Yarns Dune #84
This looks much better in real life! I've misplaced the tag for this one, but it just screams "I'm a scarf for Fall!"
These are both Trendsetter Yarns Aura. The pink is #7502, the white is #3110. These have a tinsel quality. Fun!
On the left is Berroco Lazer FX in #6002 and on the right is Timo #1
Filatura Di Crosa Baby in Bambi #5.
The green/pink yarn is Lorna's Shepherd Bulky in a color combination they do custom for Knit Wits. I love this! The two to the left side are Knit One/Crochet Too in Sprinkles - lime is #531 and hot pink is #220
This is Colinette Isis in #Cardinal 47
McCarty's Pottery in Merigold
I have heard about McCarty's Pottery for so long, and finally got there last week (and brought home three windchimes and some other things).
The best thing to do is to get the directions from their website - the entrance is covered mostly with bamboo (which I love), so it's not something you would just see right off.
To shop at McCarty's, park your car in front of the water tower
The shop is actually like a small cottage. The rooms are filled top to bottom with the pottery, mostly in browns, blues, and greens.
Lee and Pup have come a long way since William Faulkner showed them a clay deposit in a ravine on his property and told them they could have it. In the early days, they insulated the Barn with cardboard, froze in the winter, sweated in the summer, and persevered. With their artistic vision and incredible work ethic, McCartys pottery has become known around the world.
Now, most Southerners have a special spot in their heart reserved for William Faulkner. McCarty's pottery is just one more reason to love him.
Last week, the Harrah's Tunica became "Resorts Tunica". Harrah's sold their casino, and now the same (new to Tunica) firm owns Bally's Tunica. My pics of those casinos can be found here.
We went to the new "Resorts Tunica" first, to see if they had changed the interior, which is Mardi Gras-themed (they haven't). We spent a little time at the Grand Casino, and finally the Horseshoe Casino. I was hoping there would be a show that we would want to go see, but there really wasn't much going on. There is a blues museum at the Horseshoe that was really pretty good. We did really well at the Horseshoe, and had supper there at the buffet (which is 500% better than any of the others). Thing is, everybody else knows that the Horseshoe is the best place to eat! They have a reservations system so that when you go up to the desk, they tell you what time to come back (even when you come back there is still a bit of a wait).
Supper at the casino was actually the second meal we ate in Tunica that day. The first was at the Blue and White, a Tunica institution.
The Blue and White in Tunica
We had really good intentions of having a nice lunch at a non-casino, local restaurant.
The Blue and White has both a menu and a steam table buffet option for lunch. We ordered from the menu: Av ordered the chicken fried steak and I ordered the fried chicken livers. Both entrees came with two side dishes, so I had the onion rings (huge and good) and potato salad (I love potato salad but this was icky). Av chose french fries (good) and fried bell peppers (they were great!!). I'm going to make them for Av next week sometime. He loves bell peppers.
Sadly, this was our last trip to the Blue and White.
There was a rather boisterous customer there who 'had a deal' with another waitress (other than the one he got) about being charged a lesser price for a special request meal. When the waitress (who didn't know about the 'deal') gave him the bill for the cost that's on the menu, he raised cain and virtually everybody on our side of the restaurant knew about it. He went on and on and on about it, to the waitress, and to the other people at his table. The difference (this guy was so loud, everybody knew the details whether they wanted to or not) was a big $2. He said over and over again to nobody in particular "I'm never coming here again". The waitress, who was really nice and apologetic, came back in tears, saying that the manager said that he got a good deal and that he wasn't going to change the check. The angry customer kept asking for the manager, and she kept going back to the kitchen to get him, but he wouldn't come out. This honestly went on for over thirty minutes. If it would have made things better, Av and I would have added the huge $2 difference to our bill, but we both knew that wouldn't solve this guy's problem. Finally - after thirty or forty minutes - the manager came out, and he essentially blamed the waitress for not knowing about the guy's 'deal', although saying that the restaurant was losing money everytime he got the 'deal'.
I really don't want to patronize any place that is managed by a person that lets servers take the brunt (for over 30 minutes) and even the blame for something that is beyond their control. It just irritates me that this manager wouldn't come out and face the problem (no matter how busy or crazy the kitchen might have been, who knows).
When I was in high school and college, I worked for a local fast-food place to save up for tuition and books, etc. and had a couple of occassions (and witnessed a few) where a customer would just come in on a bad day and take it out on whoever was behind the counter. Nobody deserves that. Sad.
We felt so bad for the waitress.
On the way out, even though she wasn't the one serving us, Av said "nobody should have to take that" and gave her $20. She smiled and thanked him. I hope that made her day.