Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Your True Colors

This weekend marked a gi-normous milestone for my mother and me…we convinced my Grandma Jane to repaint her white-walled rooms in her home.

Since she and my late Grandpa S moved into the house, over 10 years ago, they had never painted the inside of the house. When they moved in, all of the walls were white and the kitchen and bathrooms featured a splash of pastels in the form of wallpaper. Grandma Jane would argue that the walls are not really white but more off-white. C’mon, Grandma Jane…off-white is NOT a color!!! Grandma Jane and Grandpa S liked their home awash in white. “It looks so clean!”

But my mother and I, fans of COLOR, worked with Grandma Jane, who had determined that it was time to spruce up the place, to introduce some color – albeit light colors - into the home. After a few trips to home centers, and my absolute refusal to not paint any color with the word “beige” in it (see my blog entry from August 29, 2008 “Never Be Vanilla”), we settled on light blues, rosey-tans, yellows, and lavenders. WOW! This is a big step for Grandma Jane.

This weekend, we proudly began to turn her institution-like rooms into a warm and inviting atmosphere. I think Grandma Jane realizes that maybe a little color in her life is good for her. Before we know it, she will want her front porch painted turquoise, like mine! Okay, that is a stretch but it supports my theory that everyone needs a little more color in their life.

And, speaking of putting more color in your life, never listen to your Avon lady (a.k.a. my pregnant, hormonal sister) when she tells you that sunny yellow is a good summer color for your toenails. Perhaps a little too much color….even for me. Maybe if I were more “hip” or 20 years younger….meanwhile…..off to the nail place for a pedicure.

Until next time, I remain…1SweetMama

Friday, June 26, 2009

Fly On Proud Birds

(Photo by Rusty Russ)

Yesterday, two prominent figures from my youth passed from this world and I just wanted to pay a small tribute in The Sweet Life to these people.

Despite their talents and trials, joys and controversies, these two figures: Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson were individuals who contributed to the culture of my youth - Fawcett for her strength and beauty, Jackson for his contribution to the bridging of the gap between soul and pop music. I know it seems odd that the death of these two icons of the 70s and 80s should impact me so much, but as I reflect on it and as I talk to so many others from “my generation”, the stark realization that these seemingly immortal figures can – and do! – die is almost too difficult for us to swallow. It sort of makes me step back and realize my own mortality and that life is, indeed, a big old circle. Babies are born, the young get old, the old die and babies are born to carry on in our footsteps. Thus the Great Circle of Life begins anew.

To not acknowledge their deaths would seem inappropriate.

I am not sure where I first heard this quote but I remembered a piece that Charlie Daniels, country and southern rock musician, wrote for his friend who had died in a plane crash. I remember that I felt this might be fitting for today’s blog entry and thought I would look it up and print it here.

“A brief candle;
both ends burning An endless mile;
a bus wheel turning
A friend to share the lonesome times
A handshake and a sip of wine
So say it loud and let it ring
We are all a part of everything
future, present and the past
Fly on proud bird You're free at last.”

-written by Charlie Daniels en route to the funeral for his friend, Ronnie Van Zant of the band, Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Fly on, Farrah and Michael, you are finally free at last.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ice Cream Days!

It is that glorious time of year when the 9,500 residents of “The Ice Cream Capital of the World®” come together to spread the ice cream joy at our community’s flagship event, “Ice Cream Days”.

Father’s Day weekend is the time when we roll out the red carpet and invite ice cream lovers and anyone who appreciates a good community festival to the city of Le Mars, Iowa, to take in the sights, sounds, and tastes of Americana. Three days of ice cream socials, a parade, a concert in the gazebo in the park, arts festival, rib-grilling contests, competitive run….so much to do!

But this year’s highlight, for me, was playing the coveted role of Blue Bunny® Bomb Pop®.

Now, I don’t know if you understand what this means. You see, the Bomb Pop is an iconic frozen treat that has been popular for over 50 years!! This appointment to don the familiar red, white, and blue packaging is not to be taken lightly. Years of working for a company that makes the Bomb Pop got me to thinking….how does one properly represent the personality of the Bomb Pop?? This led me to perform a character analysis based on the Bomb Pop history….

Having just celebrated its 50th anniversary, the original six-finned Bomb Pop has become iconic with summer. It is rumored that two candy-makers, James S. Merritt and D.S. “Doc” Abernathy found that sales of their chocolate confections declined in the summers’ heat. Sweet-toothed patrons wanted something that was refreshing when the temperatures soared. After several attempts, the two landed (no pun intended) upon the idea of a frozen pop. Since its invention by Merritt and Abernathy in 1955 on Independence Avenue in Kansas City, Missouri, the Bomb Pop® has gone down in the American history books as one of the most popular frozen confections ever created. It is adored by generations past, present, and will continue to be part of the American experience well into the future.

So you can see why I wanted to properly portray the personality of the pop.

So I, along with my fellow packages – The Blue Bunny Champ!® Cone and the Blue Bunny Aspen™ Frozen Yogurt Granola Bar (who, I am certain also did detailed character background studies) danced and pranced, twirled, and whirled our way down the 2 miles parade route properly communicating our excitement to the parade spectators for being invited to participate in the ice Cream Days festivities….

Make sure to take a look at Blue Bunny's Flickr page to see all the “cool” fun we had on Saturday.

Coincidentally, Thursday, June 25, is National Bomb Pop Day. Be sure to celebrate by enjoying one of these super-cool and refreshing red, white, and blue treats. YUM!

Until next time, I remain....1SweetMama (a.k.a Blue Bunny Bomb Pop Extraordinairre)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Sweet Endings

This blog entry will mark the last of the “Summer Vacation” series and I hope you have enjoyed my musings and insights into a really wonderful adventure with my boys, Bud and Peanut.

Our final leg of the tour was a stop in St. Louis to do What St. Louisans Do. We attended a St. Louis Cardinal game (yes, 1SweetMama bleeds Cardinal red!!) and enjoyed frozen custard at Ted Drewes, a local tradition for decades.

Ted Drewes started when Ted Sr. opened his first ice cream store in Florida in 1929, followed by two locations on the north side of St. Louis in 1931. In 1941 the family opened stands on the south side. The current Chippewa location, where we ate, is on the famed old Route 66.

The above photo is the one I took of the stand. Bear in mind, it looks like this pretty much every hour of operation. Frozen custard-hungry patrons patiently stand in line, sometimes 6-8 people deep, for their favorite flavor concoctions. Some like it straight up in vanilla or chocolate, or you can order a Concrete (similar to a Dairy Queen Blizzard) in several varieties. My Concrete of choice is the “Frisco”. Having grown up in St. Louis, I ordered this absolutely yummy flavor a million times. Finally, I asked them why it was called a “Frisco”….they said it was because it is full of fruits and nuts. Their words…not mine.

By the way, the ballgame was great because it was my first time in the new Busch Stadium and I got to see Albert Pujols’ derriere (we were very close behind – no pun intended - the first base line) for 8 glorious innings. The photo is of Bud and Peanut at the ONLY moment the sun shone after we entered the ballpark. Very soon after this photo was taken, storm clouds blanketed the city and we cheered on the Red Birds in a thunderstorm….they never pulled the tarp out and the boys and I finally gave it up at the top of the 8th inning after we realized that the Cardinals could never rebound from a heartbreaking score of 8 to 2. Yes, the Colorado Rockies handed the Cardinals’ butts to them. Oh, well…..at least we knew that our day, and thus our vacationing fun, would end sweetly at Ted Drewes.
And so, on a sweet note, we ended our vacation and returned home the following morning. But we also knew that, at the end of our journey, we would arrive at another destination where life is sweet…..home in the “Ice Cream Capital of the World®”.

And as a sidebar, make sure you come back and read my blog next Tuesday….I will tell you about my experiences this weekend as our community hosts “Ice Cream Days”. If you find you are in the area, you really should come out to Le Mars, Iowa, and take in all the fun and festivities of this flagship ice cream event for our town. And if you happen to read this in time for the parade, you will recognize me….I will be dressed like a package of Blue Bunny® Bomb Pops®. Check out all the Ice Cream Days details by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pirates and Pastries

Our week in St. Augustine, Florida, with my aunt and uncle was such an adventure! I learned a lot from my boys. One of those things I learned was that they are “destination people”. Much like their mother, they don’t mind getting up early in order to beat the heat and the traffic and simply get to the next destination.

So it was on Sunday morning. Saturday marked the longest day of driving – 12 hours in the car from Kansas City, Missouri, to Dalton, Georgia (The Carpet Capital of the World!). With heavy traffic in Nashville and a stop for dinner, the day ended up being a very long one. After our arrival in Dalton, the boys and I took a walk around the outside of the darkened (it was after hours) outlet mall and a quick game of invisible basketball (the hotel desk wouldn’t check out a basketball to us to play on the basketball court because it was after 10 p.m.), the boys and I made the decision to leave on Sunday morning at 3 a.m. – which meant that Mom awoke at 2:15 a.m. to shower and dress. I rolled the boys out of bed at 3 a.m. and we were on the road by 3:15 a.m. This got us to the beaches of At. Augustine by 1 p.m. on Sunday. What a glorious day!

During our visit to the oldest city in the U.S., we, along with our aunt and uncle – both retired librarians and avid history and entertainment buffs – booked passage upon the Pirate Ship “Black Raven” and sailed the inlets of St. Augustine – or St. Arrrgh-ustine, as the pirate crew called it.
I also learned that my boys, who would never admit it to me outright, thoroughly enjoyed the piratical antics aboard the Black Raven. We met Captain Blackbeard, William Mayhem (pictured), Red (the pirate wench) and William Scott. This surly, yet hospitable and merry-making band of buccaneers took us on a 90 minute cruise upon their beautiful ship where we sang pirate chanteys (songs), my uncle was emblazoned with a facial scar, and we watched dolphins leap and play in the waters alongside the ship. We even learned the Black Raven rally cry, which we shouted to the surprise of passing boaters: “Smoke and Steel! Aye!!!” If you ever find yourself in St. Arrrgh-ustine, a voyage aboard The Black Raven is a must!

Also – make sure you end your day at LuLi’s cupcake shop. As 1SweetMama, I can never resist the opportunity to include sugar in my day, so a stop at this local favorite was almost a requirement.

Although I understand it is better when you go earlier in the day because selection is at its best, we stopped in after our pirate cruise and still found a nice selection of the most decadent cupcakes I have ever had. The boys enjoyed a chocolate/peanut butter cupcake and I thoroughly enjoyed my vanilla-vanilla one. Our aunt and uncle ate, respectively, the peach cobbler and carrot cake cupcakes. Three words: oh…my…goodness.

While enjoying these wonderful sweets in a fairly feminine confectionary shop, I also learned that my boys weren’t too “macho” to appreciate the finer things like indulgent delicacies in a pastry shop in the middle of the afternoon….in fact….in the picture, it would appear that Bud was enjoying himself a little too much, perhaps.

Just kidding.

All in a day’s vacationing for 1SweetMama! Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, June 12, 2009

Superman Eats Blue Bunny Ice Cream!

Well….it is an unofficial observation, anyway, but I do have photographic evidence that Blue Bunny® ice cream is available in Metropolis….Metropolis, Illinois!

My boys and I were about 6 or 7 hours into our road trip and just about to cross over into the Bluegrass State of Kentucky when we happened upon Metropolis! Now, everyone who follows the heroics of Superman MUST know that he lives in Metropolis where his crime-fighting ways keep the streets free of Lex Luthor’s evil schemes.

While unable to really spend little more time in this southern Illinois community than to take a “bio break” and gas up, we were very fascinated by this little city on the Ohio River. Peppered with superhero cut-outs (see photo), Metropolis is also home to the Super Museum, and a large Kryptonite meteorite, located on the southwest corner of Third and Ferry Streets.

Check out some of the sites here!

I love towns like this. The boys and I surveyed the superhero collection of souvenirs and I explained to them that, if we had flown to Florida, we never would have seen this part of the world – Superman’s town!! Not sure they were totally convinced....
Of course, we enthusiastically noted that Blue Bunny ice cream carried a prominent presence in the convenience store in which we stopped. Bud – my oldest son – posed by the Blue Bunny hard-dip ice cream and novelty bunkers located within the store. We explained to the staff that we were from “The Ice Cream Capital of the World®” and that we brought greetings from Blue Bunny to Superman’s constituency in the southern-most area of Illinois. To which, they responded that Blue Bunny ice cream was their favorite ice cream. I asked them if they knew what Superman’s favorite flavor was…..a question that was met with a blank stare from the staff. I took that as meaning that it must have been Scooper Hero ® ice cream – a vanilla ice cream that is colored bright red, yellow, and blue – the traditional colors of crime-fighters, I think.

AND, as an FYI… Wonder Woman, arguably the most popular and iconic female superhero in comics (and also wears the popular crime-fighter team colors of red, blue, and yellow), is considered a feminist icon and is informally grouped with Superman and Batman as one of a "Trinity" of DC characters, regarded as especially important, which is why she is also welcomed in the great city of Metropolis, Illinois.

We stopped for a quick photo (Peanut was a good sport about being Wonder Woman) of my own two superheroes….and then we were on our way.

More next week! Until then, I remain…1SweetMama

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Gaining A New Perspective

(The St. Augustine Lighthouse, built in 1874)
Fresh from our travels, the boys and I are beginning to settle back into our usual routine following a wonderful and fulfilling vacation journey. For the last eleven days, we traversed nearly 4,000 miles and a total of eight states (Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida). We have seen mountains and valleys, rivers and oceans, rocks and sand, flora and fauna. But mostly, this journey allowed me to see something that I have been searching out for quite some time…..

A new perspective.
(a view of the 219 steps going to the top of the lighthouse)

Both literally and philosophically, this trip was a fantastic opportunity for me to escape with my children and take a journey with no physical limitations. Sure, we had destinations, but the trip was not so over programmed that we felt too much pressure to be at too many things at pre-determined times. We meandered. We explored. But most importantly, we found each other.

I gained a new insight into my boys who are growing up so fast that I just don’t see it when we are operating within our daily routines. Between school and work and all of our activities and obligations, there seems to be no real leftover time for us to sit with each other and talk. Nearly 50 hours in a closed car will provide you plenty of opportunity to interact.

I joked with my friends and family who we saw during our travels that my boys matured into men somewhere between Iowa and Florida. Sure – we had a few moments of “I’m not touching you….I’m not touching you” drama but overall, these guys made me so proud to be their mom.

We had a wonderful trip from start to finish and I can’t wait to tell you about some of the highlights over the next few blog entries.

But for today, my message to you is that in order to get closer to your children, maybe you need to get further away from your usual routine. You will gain a whole new perspective on the kind of people they are growing in to.

And, in case you were wondering, the photos from today’s entry are of the St. Augustine (Florida) Lighthouse. You can read more about this beautiful city landmark at http://www.staugustinelighthouse.com/history.php
It was 219 steps to the top.

It took a lot of effort to get there but with a few stops to catch our breath along the way, we made it to the top where the view was positively breathtaking. Hmmm….sounds a little bit like life.

Until Friday, I remain…..1SweetMama

Friday, June 5, 2009

What's This?? National Chocolate Ice Cream Day???

Oh, joy of joys! Oh rapture! This Sunday is National Chocolate Ice Cream Day!

The boys and I are on vacation and, no doubt, will celebrate this holiday and perhaps the eve of this holiday with scoops of Blue Bunny® Chocolate Champion Ice Cream. For those of you who have never been lucky enough to get your hands on this dreamy and creamy chocolate-lover’s paradise…..run to your favorite grocer and grab a container of this flavor ….go on….I’ll wait…..

…..ok…..back now? That didn’t take long!

An award-winning (trust me, I wouldn’t lie about this!) taste of velvety smooth, rich chocolate ice cream and nothing else. It truly is the best chocolate ice cream I have ever had.

Happy National Chocolate Ice Cream Day!

Tune in next Tuesday for the first blog entry of our vacation adventure.

Until then, I remain….1SweetMama

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The Filter Test

Since the boys and I are out on vacation, I cheated a bit and pre-posted this week’s blog posts. Hope you don’t mind my getting some much needed R & R. Enjoy this week’s posts and PLEASE tune in for stories about our vacation adventure during the week of June 8!

The following was in an email that I received some time ago and it is pasted in a prominent place in front of my computer desk. We all have either been on the giving or receiving end of gossip at one point in our life and keeping this parable where I see it daily is a very good reminder to not contribute to the grinding of the Rumor Mill. I read this last night and thought I should pass it along:

In ancient Greece (469 - 399 BC), Socrates was widely lauded for his wisdom.

One day the great philosopher came upon an acquaintance who ran up to him excitedly and said, "Socrates, do you know what I just heard about one of your students?"

Wait a moment," Socrates replied. "Before you tell me I'd like you to pass a little test. It's called the Triple Filter Test."

"Triple filter?"

"That's right," Socrates continued. "Before you talk to me about my student let's take a moment to filter what you're going to say. The first filter is Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?"

"No," the man said, "actually I just heard about it and..."

"All right," said Socrates. "So you don't really know if it's true or not. Now let's try the second filter, the filter of Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me about my student something good?"

"No, on the contrary..."

"So," Socrates continued, "you want to tell me something bad about him, even though you're not certain it's true?"

The man shrugged, a little embarrassed.

Socrates continued. "You may still pass the test though, because there is a third filter - the filter of Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me about my student going to be useful to me?"

"No, not really..."

"Well," concluded Socrates, "if what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?"

The man was defeated and ashamed.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama