On celebrating Italy

This week is Italian Fest week. In other words, one of my favorite, exhausting, spectacular family traditions. For as long as I can remember, my family–grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, parents, siblings–comes together as Rome(r), Italy (my mom’s maiden name is Romer). We set up shop in a couple of tents at Marquette Park and spend days spending time together and with friends who pass through.

On Friday, we will serve spaghetti to over 150 friends. We will have a few drinks and listen to music. For us, Friday is an accomplishment and a way to share our good fortune with the people we care about. Greg and I cooked up our quadruple batch of my grandmother’s recipe yesterday afternoon.

Of course, Saturday is the cooking competition. We take turns cooking for that so that no one needs to worry about it every year. We haven’t made the finals in over a decade, but that’s a bit beside the point. It would be fun to win, but it’s also fun to spend time together.

My relationship with the festival has changed over time, but for my entire life, the festival is what my family does the last weekend in May. We spend time together, cook, eat and laugh.

I love it.

And we aren’t even Italian.

On taking a 4.5 month old to NOLA…

This weekend we took our baby to NOLA to celebrate a close friend’s wedding. We were both great friends with Ryan in college, and there was no doubt that we would be at his special day. Even if that meant driving over six hours with a 4.5 month old.

To be fair, the baby is a remarkably good traveler. This was also his third road trip (we took him to Louisville at two months and Nashville at three months). He has roughly a three hour timer where he’s ok being in the car seat so we broke up our travel time as best we could. We drove to Jackson, MS on Friday night, had a great breakfast at a diner called Primo’s, and made it to NOLA by lunchtime. We ate a gargantuan muffuletta for lunch. Fantastic.


We got stuck in major traffic on the way to the church, but we made it just in time. It was really nice to introduce our baby to some of our CBU friends who live in other states. The baby was a champ, and we had a great time partying until the late hour of ten. What can I say? We’re just party animals.

The straight drive back today definitely tested the kid’s easygoingness and screwed up his hard won schedule. It was totally worth it. And we’ll do it again in July for Kristi’s wedding–it’s a nobrainer.

Garden: Week whatever this is

We went out to the garden Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights because we still had 2/3 of the plot left to plant and the weeds were creeping and the poor things we had planted needed some love and looser soil. Over those days, we managed to get two rows completely weeded, tilled and planted with black eyed peas, popcorn and green beans. I also planted some delicata squash seeds that I saved from last year’s volunteer plant that sprang up out of the compost.

Greg’s going out tonight to water and then we’re taking a hiatus until Monday. We still have a lot of garden to plant–purple hull peas (as far away from the black eyed variety as we can get), some regular potatoes, an [one, seriously, one] okra plant, some slicing cucumbers, luffa, the odd dried beans a coworker gave me that may or may not be viable, and probably something[s] else. If I can find tomatillo seeds or starts, I’d love to plant one of those too.

We’re insane.

2 Weeks at the Garden

Greg and I are doing pretty good on our resolution to spend more time at the garden this year. Well, except for this week because of the rain and the baptism/party/family in town this weekend. There’s a lot of getting ready that needs to happen at casa Carrico. Like recaulking the bathtub, and mopping, and baking cakes, and yard work, and all that. 

Last week, we tilled up a couple of rows and planted some zucchini, straight neck squash and eggplant starts. I had great intentions of starting them from seed, but life happened and I decided to spend time playing with our kid and forgot all about starting seeds. Maybe next year or next growing season. We also got 18 sweet potato slips in the ground and planted four hills of pickling cucumbers. For the past two years, I’ve been able to rely on the garden to produce all the cucs I needed for our small family’s large dill pickle consumption rate. Hopefully this year will be more of the same. As long as the weather cooperates, I’m planning on heading out there with the baby tomorrow morning. He seems pretty content to sit on an unplanted row and watch me hoe, which I’m going to capitalize on while it lasts. Soon enough we’ll be taking the play pen out there so that he can squirm while we work. 

On that note, we are experimenting with how much of our food we can reliably grow at the garden. More to the point, now that the kid is about to start a greater variety of solid food (as opposed to strictly rice cereal and milk), we want to see how much of the food we cook for him that we can grow ourselves. Mostly for cost, but also because it would be nice to know exactly where the food that we are feeding him comes from. I never expect that we’ll be able to feed ourselves all year, or even all summer, from the vegetables we grow. For one thing, the variety would be awfully limited. For another, I’m not willing to spend hours every day cultivating our crop. I also want to like gardening like I do now and not have it turn into a major chore. 

In other gardening news, the three of us [my mom–who keeps track of our garden progress at her blog–Greg, and me] decided where we are planting what on the different plots. My mom got the corn [peaches & cream] and a few rows of lady peas [a cowpea variety that is a long-standing family favorite] in last week. The goal is to get the purple hull peas [another cowpea variety] and blackeyed peas planted in the second plot early next week now that the ground has warmed up.


Read: Clarence Saunders and the Founding of Piggly Wiggly by Mike Freeman

Clarence Saunders and the Piggly Wiggly have ended up being oddly important to my professional career. I work at the museum housed in Saunders’ never-lived-in mansion that was funded by his creation of the self-service grocery chain. I wrote a graduate seminar paper on the city’s transformation of the mansion into a museum. Currently, I am doing research for the redesign of the mansion exhibits. Saunders was an odd man, but it did have a keen sense of the importance of advertising and a genuine interest in the city of Memphis.

I read Freeman’s master’s thesis a couple of years ago while I was working on a different exhibit, and I enjoyed this reworked version that focuses attention on the mechanics of how Saunders lost his two fortunes. Now onto another research tangent. 

[NB–I always mean “Read” in the title to read sounding like “red” not “feed.” Mostly because I am not deluded enough to think that anyone else shares my exact taste in books.]

Mothers’ Day

My first Mothers’ Day as a mom was awesome. I got to sleep mostly through the night and then play with my laughing baby while lounging in bed. I ate homemade pancakes with sorghum-strawberry syrup outside, went to mass with a very large chunk of my family, ate a BBQ lunch outside with my husband, parents, brothers and grandmother, took a nap in my hammock, ate a delicious homemade steak fajita for dinner [also outside] and went to bed early.

I got to spend the day outside, with people I love. Greg set the bar high, and my baby gifted me with smiles, laughs and bodily fluids. Basically, he gave me all he has to give. 

On nightless days…

There was no night last night. At least not for our sweet, lovable kid. [Adjectives employed to remind myself that despite the thoughts that run through my head at 3AM, he is always sweet and lovable.]

To be fair, we did it to him. We stayed “late” [8:30] at Garrett’s graduation party because we were having a great time, which meant he went down at my parents’ house. When we woke him up, that meant it was no longer night. Apparently.

Greg said, “I did the math. He woke me up at 10:30 and midnight…you up around 1, 3 and then was crying again around 5 and I had to rock him until…maybe fell asleep while doing it….that means I got 4.5 hours from 12:30 to 5, and you got got 3 hours from 10 to 1..then we took several short naps in a row….butt head.”


Back to the garden

We made a family trip out to the garden on Sunday. Together with my mom, we have two, eight row plots at the Shelby Farms community garden. This is our third year out there and our second year having two plots. However, this is the first year that both Greg and I are fully invested in it. Last year I was pregnant and the year before I was finishing up grad school. I went out sporadically, which put the brunt of the work on my momma. Tomorrow we are planting some squash and cucumbers–let the gardening commence!