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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Have I Mentioned He's A Little Frugal?

Conversation in the FriedOkra Manor master bathroom this morning.

Megan: Oh, by the way, Bean ratted you out the other day. She said, "Mama, Daddy said a naughty word that we don't say in our family yesserday."

Al: What, "Spend?"

Friday, March 28, 2008

Because I Don't Like Going Anywhere Without Y'all

Y'all come on over to Chic Critique with me today, where I'm singing the praises of my favorite drug-store body, face and hand moisturizer all in one.

Heaven knows we don't want unsightly dry patches anywhere while we're all parading around in our full-coverage bras and smock aprons!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Not Just Another Recipe Post

My Grandmama Friedokra could cook. Now y'all know me by now. I am prone to exaggeration at times, and I will take the liberty of overstating the facts when I feel it is necessary for comedic effect, but lemme tell you, when your Grandmama can cook like my Grandmama could cook, all the exaggeration and overstatement in the world still really can't stack up to the truth.

And the truth is, my Grandmama Friedokra? Could slam-up cook.

And she was SERIOUS about the cookin', too. There is hardly a time I can remember while she was alive that you could step into her kitchen and NOT see evidence of a Southern culinary masterpiece just past, in progress, or just up ahead. The woman kept that kitchen HUMMING. And as serious and productive as she was, and a woman in her 50s and 60s, too, she was stifling HOT. ALLATIME. So she devised herself a little kitchen (and sometimes the rest of the house and on occasion a folding chair down by the lakeshore, but shhhhh, don't tell the neighbors) "uniform" of a nice, full-coverage, full-support bra, a pair of pastel doubleknit slacks (from one of her 962 each-one-unique-as-the-one-before-it Hamrick's pantsuits, of course!) and a smock apron.

And may I gracefully add that my Grandmama Friedokra was also serious about her EATIN'. Many's the wee early morn my younger cousin (of the two girl cousins my sister and I grew up with) and I would sneak into the kitchen to pilfer a half dozen eggs and a package of bacon for one of our sunrise cookouts down by the shed (on buddy burners, OHMYGRANNY, the fire hazard), and catch Grandmama standing at the kitchen sink, snarfing down saltine crackers slathered with Duke's® Mayonnaise, or perhaps a glazed Krispy Kreme® or 5. So she was no small woman, this lovely lady with the given name of Edna (my Grandaddy and my Aunt Mae just called 'er Ed), and she cut quite a figure in her lovely bra and apron ensemble, on the reddish sandy shore of Lake Hartwell or in the faded aquamarine-countered kitchen I remember so fondly.

My Grandaddy, as I've mentioned before, was into growing things both professionally and recreationally (I mean LEGAL things), and he had a gigantically huge garden that covered their entire sloping back yard. Along with his prized roses and those grapes I loved so much, he grew every kind of vegetable known to man, and brought them up to Grandmama's kitchen where she would cook them into oblivion with a half a pound of bacon fat until there was not a milligram of nutritional value left in them but the flavors - oh those flavors - would lift you up out of your seat (a creaky wooden kitchen chair or a faded turquoise vinyl and cool chrome stool) for a minute every bite you took, like you were on your way to heaven but changed your mind about goin' because you didn't want to leave a plateful of Grandmama's beautiful summer squash just sittin' there on the table when you could go on and finish it up and perhaps get seconds.

She'd cook the hell (I'm sorry, I don't really love to swear but in this case that's the ONLY expression that does her abilities justice) out of some blackeyed peas, collard greens, crowder peas and even zucchini, and make it all taste so delicious that even us kids would sit and maw it all down with nary a complaint. And she could make a biscuit, people. So good that even now, I just won't go there myself. I will cook just about anything and do a fairly decent job, but when it comes to biscuits, none will ever compare to hers, so I just don't try. Too disappointing.

She was the stuff of legends. I miss her, especially in the summer. But sometimes when I get to laughing HARD and loud, I can hear her laughter in mine. I don't look like her at all, and we don't have all that much in common, probably, beyond our love for food and our families, but I think at times I inherited her huge laugh, a laugh that rivaled the little laughing machine, as we called it, she had stowed in a drawer in the twin bedroom we girls used to play and sleep in when we visited. In fact, sometimes I get her laughter and my laughter and the sound of that wacky laughing machine all jumbled up in my mind and wonder whose is which. I guess we're (or were) all three slightly crazy and uncontrollable when amused.

Y'all put on your full-coverage bras and aprons, because I'm about to lay upon you the darling of my Grandmama Friedokra's recipe repertoire, her famous Hamburger Casserole. It is in no way complicated nor healthy. What it is is comfort food at its finest, the absolute sure-fire way to soothe away a grumpy man's bad day or satisfy the appetites of a passel of hungry grand kids. Serve it with a pan of yeast rolls and a big old salad, and you have yourself a meal that'll go down in family history.

Grandmama Friedokra's Hamburger Casserole

1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1 onion, diced
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce
1/2 pint sour cream
3 oz. softened cream cheese
1 can cream of mushroom soup
grated cheddar cheese
1/2 lb. shell noodles (small or big, your preference)

Cook noodles in salted boiling water about 2/3rds of the time on the package directions. Saute and drain the onion and beef. Stir in the tomato sauce and a little salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, mix together the cream cheese, soup, and sour cream. Drain noodles and place them in a small casserole dish, followed by the meat and sauce mixture, then the creamy cheese mixture, and top with a hearty layer of grated cheddar. Bake at 350° for 30 minutes or until bubbly and a little brown on top.

(Y'all take this to the grave with you now, okay?)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Oh Yeah! It's A ...

Okay, people.

I'ma level with you. I didn't really forget. Let's just say I needed a little personal time to absorb the Big News. I came home from the ultra-sound, put Bean down for her nap, wrote my quick blog posts and fell headlong into an exhausted 2 hour sleep myself, waking up only to make dinner set some leftovers out on the counter and help Al tuck Bean back in before I collapsed into bed all over again. I'd been a complete nervous wreck for 48 hours in anticipation of the appointment, and I'm pretty sure I didn't exhale during the entire procedure.

I think my body was so convinced by this crazy over-active imagination of mine that we were in some kindof IMMINENT DANGER, it actually spat out a huge dose of adrenaline, which later drained from my system and left me useless as a broke watchband for the rest of the day.

But OH! I'm so thankful this baby is healthy and fine.

And he looks just like his Daddy, in profile. (In the picture of him from straight on, his face looks exactly like a cute little slice of raw tomato.)

Yes, HE, I said. He's a BOY!

What, people, what on EARTH am I going to do?

With a BOY?

My poor little pea-brain STILL can't even begin to process the news, lo these nearly 24 hours later.

A BOY, God?

I think I need another nap.

Monday, March 24, 2008

OHMYGRANNY, People, It's a ...

So, we had our 20 week level II ultra-sound today.

There's a real-live 13 oz. little baby in there. A healthy, growing, active (I coulda told you that part before the scan, though! This one's nickname should be Boom-boom!) itty-bitty person-let with all ten fingers and all ten toes and a beautiful little heart and a perfect little spine.

Al and Bean sat quietly and stared at the screen with me and are absolutely thrilled with what they saw.

Everything's lookin' very good in there with our little Peanut, and we couldn't be happier. Unless, you know, it'd held up a sign that said, "Yeah, all this cuteness, and I'm already potty-trained, too!" But it didn't.

Well, I guess that's all I have to report this afternoon. Seems like there was one other thing I meant to tell y'all, but I just can't put my finger on what, so I'll just let you get on back to your day.

Thanks for stoppin' by, y'all!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Oopsie, Now I Really Have Egg On My Face!

I DO! I DO have the picture of the final outcome of the cake hoopla afterall!

And here it is!

This one's 'specially for my Aunt Joy. It's not as good as hers were, back when she used to make them for us EVERY Easter. And those BUNNY CAKES were the highlight of the day for us kids, I will tell you that RIGHT NOW, ohyestheyWERE!

But he's cute enough to eat, is he not? Oh, and that little blob of green under his nose? The one which makes him look as if he needs a Bunny Tissue? Yeah, I have no idea where that came from. I walked the cake a couple doors down before we took this picture. Some settlin' must've occured during transport!

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Happy Easter, again.

How to Dye Eggs, By Bean

I still don't have a picture for y'all of the final outcome of all the cake hoopla, but it'll be along soon. I'm hoping Bean's little tutorial on Easter egg dyeing will make y'all smile. We sure did a lot of smiling while we were making it. And we're still smiling. As we bleach the pink splotches out of the sink. And wonder how long we're going to have green and orange fingers.

(And dream lusty dreams of all the egg salad and horseradish deviled eggs we're gonna be eatin' starting tomorrow!)

(OHMYGRANNY! YUM.)

In case you can't follow the pictorial, here's a quick run-down of the steps for dyeing eggs, according to The Bean.

1) Put some water and binegar and dese little colored pills into some cups on plates on newspaper on the table.

2) CAREFULLY place de eggs into de cups with de colored H2O.

3) Wait and wait and wait and wait. Sigh. Pose for Mama as she dances around you with her camera like she thinks she's Annie Leibovitz.

4) Gently take de eggs outta de colored H2O an' put dem on some plates dat Mama covered with paper tyels.

5) Look at all dose pretty colors! Look at Mama, still with the camera. Roll eyes dramatically. Refuse to roll eyes again so Mama can take picture of that. (Hee hee.)

6) Den look at all dose pretty colors UP CLOSE. And talk a blue streak about dem. And tell Mama whass inside de pretty colored eggs. (Scrammled eggs, of course.)

7) Relinquish de eggs fer a minute so Mama can attempt to take some artsy-fartsy pitchers. Be quietly relieved Mama is not pointing the camera at YOU anymore. Oh waitaminute, here she comes again. Make goofy face, fast!

8) And dat's it.

Happy Easter, Y'all, from FriedOkra Manor.

9) Okay, Mama. Whass next?

(The Slideshow)

Friday, March 21, 2008

Now GIT!

Y'all don't forget I'm posting over at Chic Critique today! Head on over and take a look, okay? Pretty please?

And hopefully I'll be back later today with a little picture especially for my Aunt Joy - of what we FINALLY did with the cake mix and green frosting. Can y'all guess? Bet she can!

Enjoy your Good Friday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Put Down that Bucket of Dippity-Do™ and Move Away from the Vaseline®, Gertie, I Have Modern Solutions for You

Y'all may have noticed a new little button down there on my sidebar, the one that says I moonlight at Chic Critique. Well, this coming Friday's the day I put my money where my mouth is and offer up my first post over there. I'm really looking forward to working with Jo-Lynne, or dcrmom, who created this clever, vital new blog back at the beginning of the year and with her side-kick June has been delivering a nearly daily dose of helpful beauty product reviews for the modern woman ever since.

(But at least in my case, they won't necessarily be BY the modern woman, because who am I kidding? I'm about as modern as as a Toni® home perm on pink plastic rods.)

Still, I believe I'm at least moderately qualified for the particular genre of beauty products I'll be examining each Friday. Those of the less expensive drug-store variety.

My affinity for all things drug-store bath-body-and-beauty aisle began back when my Grandmama FriedOkra used to cart my big sister, our two girl cousins and me down to Lynch's Drug Store in the Big Blue Bonneville blasting "Spinnin' Wheel" by Blood Sweat & Tears, and let us spend up all her money on Sally Hansen's opalescent purple nail polish and Rose Milk™ Skin Care Cream. All four of us girls also used to have a fairly good time mixing up batches of a concoction we called "The Cure" in Grandmama's big green bathroom out of Noxema®, Johnson's® Baby Powder and Scope™, with a little AquaVelva™ thrown in for good measure. This activity was actually sanctioned and yes, in retrospect, I do recognize that my Grandmama was a saint. Or maybe she just got tired of putting pincurl after pincurl into our naturally stick-straight hair and needed a foolproof way to divert us so she could watch Hee-Haw in peace.

Later in life while other kids were outside playing kick-the-can and building tree-forts, I busied myself designing and creating bottles and labels for my own line of shampoos and conditioners under the brand name Mother Earth's Delights and coercing my BFFs to be the glamorous hair models in carefully-scripted, meticulously-directed television advertisements shot on color slides for my 6th grade photography project.

Sadly, the entire M.E.D product line went the way of Body on Tap, Gee Your Hair Smells Terrific and Short-n-Sassy. But my own early failures in this arena haven't put a damper on my constant obsession with trying out new, inexpensive products that promise to take off the years, impart body and shine, or give me a dazzling white smile. You've heard that a sucker's born every day? Well, I've got September 20, nineteen-sixty-sump'm covered.

But after 30-something years of spraying, slathering, smoothing and sudsing, I've actually found some winners, and on Fridays at Chic Critique it'll be my mission to help you navigate your drug-store's (and grocery store's and all-in-one store's) bath, body and beauty aisles and come home with a few great, relatively inexpensive products that actually work.

I hope to see ya'll there Friday for my grand debut (although you COULD go now and read up on some other products while subscribing in your reader of choice)! I'm going to review a very good and very inexpensive all-natural facial cleanser that I found at a most expected place.

And you wouldn't want to miss THAT, now would you?

Monday, March 17, 2008

New Heartbreaking Discovery: Shamrocks Really Not That Lucky Afterall

Well, we didn't get to make the cupcakes. I DID dutifully dye that frosting a bright tree-frog green while all the nappin' was goin' on, but then the nappin' kept goin' on and goin' on until the potential cupcake-baking time started encroaching on urgent dinner-making time and I made the executive decision to table our bakefest until the weekend. I naively figured when Bean finally awoke, I'd tell her quickly and honestly about the plan change and fix her up with some easy tasks she could do to help me get dinner ready.

Ready ... Set ... Divert Meltdown! Simple, right?

OHMYGRANNY. It was about as simple as kissing the backs of my own knees, people! There was crying. And gnashing of teeth, pulling of hair, wailing, snorting, snot-flinging, tear-staining and more. Followed by a full 45 minutes of forlorn hiccuping combined with perfectly (manipulatively) spaced muffled, broken sob-lets.

Tuh-ragic!

Eventually Daddy came in and with him came a rainbow of hope wrapped around the assurance we WOULD MAKE THE CUPCAKES on Saturday, and all was well except we had zero tissues left in the house thanks to the dramatic woe-is-me mopping up of all those tears.

And then it hit. The flu. Or whatever it was. I'd say it was definitely the flu except I don't think I had much of a fever. I can't be sure about the fever because my last treasured plain old (hideously unsafe yadda yadda) glass and mercury thermometer bit the dust a few months ago and so now the only way to check temperatures around here is with Bean's The Other End Thermometer and well? Yeah, um...NO.

So we still haven't made the shamrock cakes.

But maybe now I can skip the rolling up of the 36 little dadburn balls of foil and just make plain old round cupcakes, frost 'em up with my brilliantly-green goo, slap some jelly beans or Peeps™ on top and call 'em Easter cupcakes.

But as God is my witness, people, I ain't breathin' a WORD of this scheme to Madame D. Smearyfingers Lickabowl until we've both got our aprons tied and our whisks in hand.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Little Debbie® Probably Makes Cuter Ones, But I am A Glutton for Punishment, You See.

I'm supposed to be napping right now, because y'all KNOW a Mama's going to need PUH-LENTY O' REST before attempting to make these with her 3 year old sous chef, Madame Destructo Smearyfinger Lickabowl.

Ahem.

I do believe I shall endeavor to dye my frosting green before she alights from her chambers, postnappytime.

Ya THINK?

How close to this picture will our finished product turn out, do you reckon?

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Y'all keep us in your thoughts, will you?

*Shudder.*

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Even So, I Did Finally Extricate Myself from the Lycra™ and Get What I Went in For

Right before I discovered those Pretzel Dogs, I popped into Motherhood™ Maternity for what was supposed to be lightening-fast drive-by to pick up some Preggie Pop Drops and a Bella™ Band.

Well.

There really is no such of a thing as a lightening-fast drive-by in Motherhood Maternity. Their definition of clever merchandising is "pack the precious pouchy-fronted fashions in that joint so tight and so maze-like that an 80 lb. female track star with a minor in ballet couldn't get through the racks quickly or gracefully, much less a clumsy, lumbering pregnant woman carrying an extra 45 pounds and a purse-full of Tums."

A-yep. That there's how they get you.

You can't rush by the racks with eyes averted - you have to actually look at all the cuteness in order not to become hopelessly entangled in the sweet little bow-tie tails on the back of all-things empire-waisted and poofy-sleeved.

And that's how I ended up in the dressing room trying on two armloads of gargantuan pink dresses, tops, and barrel-wasted capris, and one brown and turquoise (OHMYGRANNY I'M HYERVENTILATING JUST THINKING ABOUT IT AGAIN) two-piece maternity swimsuit, through the leg-holes of which you could easily drive a Vee-Dubbya Bug. NOT KIDDING, PEOPLE.

Actually this was my second couple of armloads full, this batch that included the ill-fated (foreshadowing!) swimsuit, and thus the husband and Bean had run themselves out of things to look at in the WHOLE MALL and had returned to my current location to pester the dickens out of me keep me company while I tubbily and humbly stuffed myself into one adorable-on-the-hanger-but-pathetic-on-my-actual-amorphous,-sausage-like-body springy garment after another, the whole while feeling less and less good about said body, and, coincidentally, imparting another 600 kilowatthours worth of static electricity to my hair with each lamentable clothing change.

How is it that one head of hair can simultaneously laminate itself to your head AND stand up to form a perfect geosphere?

I greeted the family and they found a chair to perch themselves upon while I tried on the remainder of the clothing and modeled the few of them that didn't make me look like Henrietta Hippo from The New Zoo Review. By the time I'd gotten to the bottom of those two armloads and was attempting to summon the courage it'd take me to stuff myself into the swimsuit, Bean was IN the dressing room with me, asking me the requisite 400 blue-billion questions in a row that began with What's Dat, Mama? and ended with And can I slide down the frog's tongue at the poo'(l) when I go dere fer my swimmin' lessons when it gets hot ousside TOOOOOOOOO? Puh-leeeeeeeeease?

And I answered and pulled and tugged. Tugged and pulled. Squoze, pinched, puckered and gasped my way into that swimsuit. Took one look at myself and quickly decided I'll be wearing SHORTS and a SHIRT to the poo' this year.

Or perhaps capris. And a refrigerator box.

And that's when it happened. I began wrestling myself back out of the swimsuit and had gotten a very great majority of it off of me when Bean decided DADDY needed to give his opinion. In slow motion (I see a lot of things in slow motion now that I have a three-year old. Why IS that?) I saw her little Beanie-hand reach out to grasp the flimsy dressing-room curtain and felt the cold breeze upon my vast expanses of pasty white nakedness as she WHISKED that curtain aside, announcing with glee, TAA DAAAAAAAAAAA! WOOK AT DISSSS! Whereupon I did my very best roly-poly impression, hunching over in a motion so quick it was nearly imperceptable, while retracting all four awkward limbs into my thorax and attempting to make everything but my buck-naked back disappear behind my legs.

Of course Al sprung into action, tossing aside some essential manual for accountants he was nerdily studiously poring over and flinging the curtain closed again, all the while both of us are yelling "BEEEEEEEE-EEEEEEEEEAN! NO, HONEY! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO!"

I heard some smart-aleck know-it-all WOMAN say "And THAT'S why I leave MINE at HOME when I go shopping," just as I was passing out cold from humiliation and perhaps a lack of circulation to my extremities, my cottage-cheese-coated haunches still tangled up in the bottoms of that swimsuit, and my hair framing my bleached-white-face like a shaggy cue-ball.

You know, I bet that lady doesn't even HAVE a blog.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Sole Reason I'm Going to Gain a Truckload More Weight this Pregnancy than Last

I give you: Auntie Anne's™ Pretzel Dog.

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Drooooool. As I just this very morning confided to Michelle at Scribbit, I have a particular weakness for all things dough-wrapped right now, and lemme tell you, this here doggy's the ultimate in dough-wrapped, mustard-dipped delights.

DO NOT TRY ONE. Trust me. I implore you.

And an endless supply of them are conveniently located right around the corner from Motherhood Maternity at my nearby mall, too. (Call me crazy, but I DO NOT BELIEVE FOR A MINUTE that's just some sortof happy coincidence.)

Sigh.

I'm done for, people. DONE FOR. I'm gonna be the best-dressed size XL Gestating Giantesse on the block.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Pot-Roasted Meatball Stew a la FriedOkra

Now, granted, this totally makes me a Johnny-come-lately, but I have just now discovered and fallen in love with a little good-and-natural foods market called Trader Joe's.

Y'all will recall that the past several months have seen me eating pretty much nothing but faux orange processed cheese-like product and "cherry" (wink-nudge) Jello®, so now that my taste buds seem to be loosening up their connoisseur-like preference for all things artificially-everything'd, I felt this might be a good time to introduce the little person growing inside me to, you know, actual, like, food. And several people have plugged Trader Joe's to me over the past year or so, recommending it as one place to get good, whole, natural, fresh foods at fairly non-throat-closing prices, So Bean and I took a stroll into our local store back in mid-February to have ourselves a little ol' look-see.

Upon our entry, we both found separate but adjacent items to squeal in delight about. Bean found little ittybitty shopping carts, just exactly like the real ones, only shrunk to fit her diminutive size. I, on the other hand, after whole-heartedly agreeing that the ittybitty shopping carts were, indeed, the cutest fings I have ever seed in my whole LIFE, found myself reveling in the vast and plentiful array of beautiful fresh cut, or better still, potted seasonal spring flowers, most notably beautiful pots and bouquets of the fresh, honey-fragrant, cheery tea-cup blossoms of my beloved daffodils.

We stopped a moment to mop away our respective tears of joy.

And then we moved on, Bean pushing her wee little buggy, and me with my full-scale model. I will not bore you with our entire tour through the market and the list of what we ended up loading into our carts, but I will say that the prices didn't make me wince, and we were able to find some very fresh and very healthy (even organic) baked goods, fruits, veggies, meats, soups, snacks, frozen foods and even some fish. The best thing I found was a bag of frozen meatballs. Which I could have bought anywhere, probably. But these meatballs were MINI meatballs, and they are, as Bean says, "'alicious!"

Now before you get skeered I'm gonna go all health-food nutty on you, what with the shopping at Trader Joe's and all, allow me to reassure you that I am an everything-in-moderation kinda gal (okay, ALMOST everything) and also my genetic make-up guarantees that I WILL cook at LEAST one dish weekly that finds its flavoure foundacione in a can of Campbell's® Cream of Sump'm Soup.

And that's the beauty of the recipe I'm about to lay before you here, people. It's the perfect marriage of my new found lurv for Trader Joe's mini-meatballs AND my DNA-dictated dependence on can-shaped globs of Campbell's® vast line of versatile soup-like substances.

And you can eat it, too!

FriedOkra's Pot-Roasted Meatball Stew

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 2 lb. bag Trader Joe's frozen Mini-Meatballs, thawed
1 can Campbell's® Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 can water
1 envelop Lipton® Onion Soup Mix
1 packet Trader Joe's Reduced Sodium (yeah, I know) Savory Beef Broth concentrate
1 medium onion, cut in 3/4 inch chunks
2-3 potatoes, cut in 3/4 inch chunks
1 cup raw "baby" carrots
1/2 cup frozen green peas
Course ground black pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a dutch oven (or any larger stove-top safe pot with a lid). Brown meatballs on all sides over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients and stir together to combine and cover meatballs and veggies with sauce. Simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, 30-45 minutes or until veggies are tender. Serve in bowls over cooked rice.

What's that, Mari?

Yes, yes I DO think this recipe would translate well to a slow-cooker recipe, too! I'd probably do it the same as above, except I'd brown the meatballs on the stove-top and then combine all of the ingredients in my slow-cooker and cook it on low all day.

The husband has requested that I make this stuff at LEAST once a week. And Bean was very complimentary of them as well, declaring them de bess meatballs I ever had in my whole life. She even ate the CARROTS, people. Nuff said.

Moon Over Charlotte

On our trip down South last month, we had a three-hour-and-something layover at the Charlotte airport. I know it sounds awful, but it really was a pleasant and memorable experience. That airport has a beautiful, open atrium at its heart, full of shops and restaurants and a plentitude of beautiful Southern sunshine spilling in through its glass ceiling and wall to wall windows. Instead of the requisite steel and molded plastic seating you're used to parking it in while you wait, the Charlotte airport has rows of oak rocking chairs, painted a clean, fresh white, for its temporary visitors to enjoy. And enjoy we did.

There's also a beautiful balcony overlooking the atrium and all its offerings, stocked with more of the comfy, restful rockers - a great place to relax and take part in one of my favorite activities, people-watchin'. Of course, Bean took one look at the stairs that led up to that balcony and immediately began to climb them, her Daddy hot on her heels. I had already taken up residence in a rocker on the lower level, so I was happy to sit and look on as they climbed the 50 or so steps up and began exploring a newer and EVEN MORE exciting nook of this new and exciting locale. Through the clear glass balcony walls, I could see Bean scurrying back and forth across its expanse, her father in hasty pursuit, and hear her gleeful, chipmunk laughter and his Gonnagetcha gonnagetcha gonnagetchas from where I sat rocking on the floor below. Watching the two of them together's one of the biggest joys of my life.

Knowing Bean would get a kick out of peeking down at her Mama from her perch high above, Al waved her over to the glass wall and pointed to me as I looked up, waving and smiling. Bean's face lit up and I could hear her little voice sing out, "Look Daddeeeeeeeee! Iss Mamaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" As she began waving back at me and smacking her little hands on the glass for all she was worth, many other travelers looked up at the commotion and smiled, laughed and waved at my little sweetie. Then I saw Al gently remove her hands and show her the smudges she was making.

Bean looked at the smudges, her face scrunched into a perplexed expression and then paused, her little mental wheels turning. Slowly, she turned around, lifted the hem of her dress way up to expose her little behind clad in ribbed cotton tights, pressed her seat up against the windows, and proceeded to clean up that glass by smoodging her little Parker House rolls back and forth and back and forth across it.

The spectators laughed uproariously. Bean continued scrubbing those glass walls butt ooops, I mean BUT good.

I covered my face with my hands and attempted to compose myself.

Daddy collected himself, jerked Bean's dress down, and biting the insides of his cheeks, escorted our little exhibitionist back down the steps, her still grinning and waving, all the way to the, er, bottom.