Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Crafting

Nothing says "happy holidays" quite like glitter and pinecones! To thank everyone for their continued to support for And Topher Too I wanted to share a few Christmas craft projects that I did this year. Enjoy!

How to make
Snowy Pine Cone Ornaments
• Gather newly fallen pine cones. (Be sure they are not crushed or too fragile.)
• Spray with High Performance Enamel white spray paint. 
• Once dry screw in tiny hook eyes. Thread with a 7 inch length of .125" satin ribbon. Tie ribbon into loop.
• Paint the the bottom of the pinecone (around the hook eye) with opaque white gesso. While wet sprinkle gesso with glitter. (For this project I used a chunky glitter that I think resembles snowflakes.) Repeat this step for the tips/sides of the pinecone. Hang to dry (I balanced a chop stick on pint glasses and dangled the ornaments from there).
• Finish your snowy pinecone ornament with a bow (wait until the gesso is completely dry). I used a lot of different bows on mine: black satin, red grosgrain, green grosgrain. Some of the ornaments were personalized with "2013" or an initial; for that I used the Martha Stewart glitter glue. To permanently attach the bow in front of the hook eye use hot glue.

How to make
Retro Tinsel Stars
• Purchase paper mache stars. These are from Michaels Craft & Hobby store but you can also buy them online.
• Prime with opaque white gesso. 
• Once dry paint stars with metallic silver acrylic paint. Let dry overnight.
• Working in sections, coat the star in clear PVA glue then sprinkle your preferred glitter over glue. Using your finger tip lightly pat the glitter into the glue. PVA dries fast so don't make your sections too big! I used Martha Stewart "tinsel" glitter.
• To personalize each ornament I added a black velvet chipboard letter. The ones shown here are from the Anna Griffin Darcey collection. Hot gluing the letter to the center of the ornament was a little tricky; be sure to think through how the letter's individual shape will sit on the convex point of the star's belly. 
• Once the letter is securely in place add the ribbon. Tie an 8 inch length of 1" ribbon into a pretty knot. Tuck knot between letter and ornament and hot glue into place. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Atlanta Holiday Highlights

The holiday season is here and Atlanta's diverse creative community is ready to celebrate with an impressive variety of performances! With so much to choose from there really is something for everyone. Feeling traditional? Go see the Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater or the Nutcracker Ballet at the Fox. Looking to validate your holiday cynicism? Head to Little Five Points for Santaland Diaries and the John Waters Christmas (one night only, one man show). Prefer a little nostalgia during the holidays? Make plans to be at the Plaza theatre for a screening of It's a Wonderful Life. Comedy? Dad's Garage offers a fun twist on the Christmas Carol. Scary? Krampus Crawl cannot be missed. Excuse to dance the night away? Annual Merry Y'all Tide with Blair Crimmons and the Holiday Hootenanny at Terminal West. ( I don't think I can twist O's arm to join me for all of these so if someone wants to join me for a girls' night out just say the word!)

11/21-11/24 Urban Nutcracker at the Ferst Center. "Urban Nutcracker" takes place on Atlanta’s own Sweet Auburn Avenue in the 1940s. "Urban Nutcracker" is to "The Nutcracker" as what "The Wiz" is to "The Wizard of Oz." 

11/22-12/31 Santaland Diaries at Horizon Theater. The annual performance of beloved NPR satirist, David Sedaris's tale of working as an elf in Macy's Santaland. 

11/25-12/23 Invasion: Christmas Carol at Dad's Garage.  Every evening the audience will choose a new "invader" (who a is complete surprise to the cast and can be anything from a big purple monster to Paula Deen) to infiltrate the world of Scrooge. It's up to the cast to keep the story on track, but because this year will be bursting with even more improv flavor than last year, things are guaranteed to get even nuttier than a Cornish game hen!

11/29-12/29 Christmas Carol at the Alliance Theater.

12/5-12/29 Nutcracker Ballet at the Fabulous Fox Theater

12/6 It's a Wonderful Life at the Plaza 

12/7 Krampus Crawl in Little Five Points.  Krampus is the rarely mentioned counterpart to Santa. While Santa is bringing treats to good boys and girls, Krampus is punishing the bad ones. The horned beastly creature is pretty scary and the costumes that accompany his pub crawl are well done. This event is not for the young or conservative! 

12/7 5th Annual Merry Y'all Tide with Whiskey Gentry and Blair Crimmons & the Hookers.  (Same night as Krampus Crawl - really interested in seeing how these two subcultures interact on the streets of L5P!)

12/12 John Waters Christmas at Variety Playhouse.  An unforgettable one man show! John Waters pokes fun at the holiday season with adult-appropriate humor, effectively “putting the X in Xmas”.

12/14 Gremlins at the Center for Puppetry Arts. (Asking yourself how Gremlins relates to Christmas? Gizmo was a Christmas gift! Aw, poor little mogwi.)

12/21 Kingsized Christmas with the Big Mike Gier and the Dames Aflame. The all-ages 90-minute show features Holiday favorites by the likes of Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, Andy Williams, Heat Miser, The Grinch and more!

12/22 3rd Annual Atlanta Holiday Hootenanny at Terminal West. Featuring:  Randall Bramblett, John Cowan, Col. Bruce Hampton, The Mosier Brothers, Grant Green Jr., Caroline Aiken, Count M'Butu, Donna Hopkins, Jeff Sipe Trio, Yonrico Scott, Mark Van Allen, Bobby Miller, Jeff Autry, Diane Durrett, Gaurav Malhotra, Leah Calvert, Ralph Roddenbery. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A short history of baseball and mass transit in Atlanta

The recent announcement that Atlanta's Braves plan to leave the city center in favor of a new suburban stadium has caught the entire nation by surprise. While I am not in favor of the move, the decision reminds me of the various roles transit has played in Atlanta baseball. In my mind, the two have always been intertwined: Atlanta's earliest organized baseball team, the Cracker's, played in a stadium accessible by streetcar. Ivan Allen chose the location for Atlanta Fulton County's Stadium based on it's proximity to "the Georgia State Capitol, downtown businesses and major highways". (Turner Field was built beside the original Braves stadium - but I don't know enough about the Olympic plans to say if consideration had been given to building elsewhere.) 

With all of that in mind, a brief (unofficial) history of baseball and mass transit in Atlanta:

• 1866 - Georgia’s General Assembly charters the Atlanta Street Railway Company.
• September 8, 1871 - The first horse drawn trolley line begins operation. Tracks extend from the city’s center to Peters Street near the present location of Spellman College. The “West End” line goes along Mitchell and Forsyth to the Fort McPherson Barracks.

• January 1872 - Service added from Marietta Street (downtown) running northwest to North Avenue
• May 1872 - Service added from Decatur Street (downtown) running east to the north entrance of Oakland Cemetery (no longer an entrance)
• August 1872 - Service added from downtown running north along Peachtree Street to Pine Street.
• 1874 - Peachtree line is extended further north to the present intersection of Peachtree Street and Ponce de Leon Ave. "Since the Ponce de Leon Avenue did not exist at the time, the rail line traveled east on a private right-of-way to Ponce de Leon Springs, a popular seasonal recreation spot in the lands beyond the city" [1].
• February 11, 1885 - the south's first organized, professional baseball league is formed by Henry W. Grady. At the end of the 100 game season Atlanta narrowly defeats Augusta to win the first Southern League pennant [2].
• 1899 - Southern League officially disbands but is credited with making baseball popular in the south.
• 1901 - Southern Association is formed. Atlanta's team is the "Firemen"[3].
• 1903 - Atlanta's baseball team changes it's name to the "Crackers". The Crackers become one of professional baseball's most successful franchises, winning more titles than any other team except the Yankees [4]. They play at various parks around Atlanta. 
• May 23, 1907 - Ponce de Leon Ball Park opens; the Crackers finally have a home field. The wooden stadium is built in the amusement park at the end of the streetcar line. 
•  September 9, 1923 - The stadium burns down. Uniforms, trophies and records are lost. 
• 1924 - A new steel and concrete stadium is built by RJ Spiller, a wealthy concessionaire. "The new park debuted in time for the 1924 season, and was widely hailed as the finest minor league stadium in the nation." [5] The outfield is noted for having a pair of magnolia trees in center field; as of 2013 these trees are still standing along the access road behind Whole Foods. 
• 1940's - the proposal to build an interstate cutting through downtown Atlanta begins
• 1954 - Atlanta Cracker, Montag hits the longest home run in baseball history. "It landed in a coal car passing on the railroad tracks beyond the right field fence at the Ponce de Leon park. A few days later, after the train had gone to Nashville, Tennessee, and back, the conductor asked Montag to autograph the ball, which by that time had traveled more than 500 miles." [6]
• 1958 - Interstate development maps outline a path alongside current-day Turner Field.
• 1961 - As part of his campaign for mayor, Ivan Allen Jr promises to build a sports facility that will attract a Major League Baseball team. After winning office, Allen chose a 47-acre plot in the Washington-Rawson neighborhood for the building site, citing its proximity to the Georgia State Capitol, downtown businesses and major highways [7].
• April 15, 1964 - Groundbreaking ceremony for the future Atlanta Fulton County Stadium
• 1965 - MARTA is formed by the Georgia Legislature
• 1965 - Atlanta Crackers play their final season in the new Atlanta Fulton County Stadium.
• April 9, 1965 Milwaukee Braves play an exhibition game against the Detroit Tigers in the new stadium.
• 1966 - Both the Atlanta Falcons football team and the newly minted Atlanta Braves baseball team move into Fulton County Stadium. Both teams share this facility for the next 26 years. (In 1992 the Falcons move to the Georgia Dome).
• 1968 - Construction for MARTA fails city of Atlanta, Fulton County and DeKalb County referendum.
• 1969 - Construction on 285 begins.
• 1971 - Voters pass MARTA construction referendum 
• April 8, 1974 - Hank Aaron became baseball's all-time career home run leader by hitting his 715th home run
• 1975 - Marta ground breaking
• March 29, 1997 - First Braves game in the new Turner Field (formerly the Olympic Stadium)

Saturday, November 9, 2013

38th Annual Grant Park MothBall

MothBall was almost a month ago and I'm still struggling for words to describe the experience. For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about: MothBall is Grant Park's annual costume ball. The theme changes year to year; the 2013 theme was Hootenanny. How this all relates to me/And Topher Too? I was this year's Grant Park Neighborhood Association (GPNA) MothBall Committee Chair; as such I led a team of 10 Grant Park volunteers for three months. Together we brainstormed and built the entire party from the ground up. A task that sounded simple enough in the beginning but turned out to be extremely challenging. (You wouldn't believe the number of unpredictable complications that never stopped being hurtled in our direction. Even three hours before show time we were still confronting unexpected challenges).  

Fortunately, karma bestowed upon me a team of genuinely talented, hard working and supportive volunteers* that made the process fun, friendly and unforgettable. My sincerest thanks go out not only to the 2013 MothBall Core Committee but also to every single neighbor who showed their support. Three weeks after the event and we're still hearing rave reviews. If a picture is worth a thousand words then check out the photos below to see the looks of pure joy on everyones' faces.

(*Paul & Christy Simo, Jeff Rodgers, Lauren Rocereta & Rob Bernier - y'all are amazing. Thank you for your patience, brilliance and encouragement! You're the best neighbors ever.)


MothBall Core Committee marching in the EAV Strut Parade

And Topher Too - Proud 2013 MothBall sponsor


Monday, November 4, 2013

Spinach Salad with Soft Boiled Eggs

Still happily laying low. Tonight's dinner needed to be cheap, fast and healthy (read: first of the month so money is tight and I wanted to go to the gym not go grocery shopping). For nights like this spinach with 4-minute, soft boiled eggs and homemade dressing have become my go-to meal. Mix in a little bacon and even O is happy. 

We ate our dinner while catching up on The Walking Dead. Did anyone else notice the unusually perfect post-apocalyptic vegetable garden? We ignore our tomatoes for two weeks in August and they're falling all over themselves. These TV tomatoes are not only perfectly pruned but there isn't a single sign of worms or rot! It seems zombies must know a thing or two about gardening.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Fall Back Steak Chili

Life is getting back to normal. MothBall has finally been wrapped up and there is nothing I'm expected  to do or plan until work tomorrow. I'm very happy to finally being relaxing and enjoying this gorgeous fall weather!  

I'll share more about the MothBall soon! 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Atlanta is pretty awesome

I'm swamped with MothBall details. We lost our venue with less then three weeks to go. We've found a new venue and now I'm revising contracts and following up with all the performers, vendors and sponsors (so they don't go to the previously planned, non-inspection passing old location). As soon as all these loose ends are tied up then it'll be time to get to crafting. If you haven't marked your calendars and bought your tickets - PLEASE DO SO NOW! Click here. 

Even though MothBall has taken over our lives, there were two events this weekend that O&I just couldn't miss. Oliver's favorite beerfest: Hotoberfest. My new favorite thing to do: the Great Bicycle Parade as part of Atlanta Streets Alive. 

If you haven't already noticed I'm slowly building a small contingency of Muppets. MUPPETS TAKE ATLANTA! I've decided that each time we do the bike parade I'll add one or two more muppets. This time I added a speaker with a Muppet play list to my bike and I made Fozzie's costume better (added ears). For next time I want to make Beaker and the Swedish Chef. Stay tuned for Spring 2014!

*Muppet photo credit to Erik Voss

Monday, September 30, 2013

Imbibing through Asheville, NC

Being married to a beer geek has some perks - destination travel is one of them: to celebrate O's birthday we planned a  long weekend in Asheville, North Carolina (Beer City USA), with a focus on breweries. We booked a really nice room in an AirBnB walking distance from downtown, made Friday night dinner reservations at the The Admiral and played the rest by ear. By Sunday morning I was impressed, this trip to Asheville definitely exceeded all my expectations. 

The Asheville breakdown:
Where to drink:
• Wicked Weed Brewing -  to our surprise, Cliff Williams (the bassist from AC/DC), showed up during our visit to tap the keg of a special beer (Dirty Weeds, a play on "Dirty Deeds") he'd brewed with this brewery. Be sure to spend time downstairs in the tasting room; great sunlight during the sunset + picnic tables + delicious sour beers = perfect place to spend a late afternoon. I was also very excited by the historical reference on the doors to the restrooms. Photos below: do you get it!? 
• Wedge Brewing - I'm in love with this place. Seriously - I want to move in. Everything about it made me feel like I was back at RISD. What's not to love: good beer, a food truck, corn hole, twinkling strung lights, cool metal marionettes/giant puppets/sculptures and laid back creative professionals. Go after sundown to best appreciate the atmosphere.

Where to eat:
• The Admiral - everything was worth writing home about: food, service & ambiance. Plan ahead because I hear they often have a wait. It's a great place to celebrate a birthday or anniversary; just let them know ahead of time.
• White Duck Taco Shop - around the corner from Wedge Brewery. Swing by for a late night snack.
• Over Easy - delicious breakfast in an intimate setting. Don't miss their perfect biscuits!

Where to spend time during the day:
Woolworth Walk Art Gallery
• Lexington Park Antiques
• Malaprops Book Store
• Ok fine, the Biltmore Estate - but only if you haven't been there before. I've been so many times I have to strain to find it interesting. 

Also noteworthy:
• Green Man Brewing - when we stopped by at noon they hadn't yet opened for the day
• Barley's Tap Room - the birth place of Asheville's brewing scene
• Ben's Tune Up - cool atmosphere but weak beer list

Monday, September 23, 2013

A brief history of Grant Park

Atlanta has been my home for most of my life but it wasn't until I settled in historic Grant Park that I truly felt I'd found where I belonged. As a child growing up in Dunwoody (an Atlanta suburb) I was very aware of the lack of history around me. The most historic thing about my suburb was the old Spruill Farm House (and I was enamored by it). So it's no surprise that when I moved to Providence, Rhode Island for college I enthusiastically consumed as much local history as I could get my hands on. The campus tours I led for the RISD admissions office focused as much on the history of the city as it did the school. (And there was plenty to share: ranging from the building where George Washington renounced the colonies allegiance to King George III to tunnels used by the Underground Railroad). 

Thirteen years later, I'm back in Atlanta as a resident of a Grant Park, a nationally recognized historic district. This history of my neighborhood is accessible and interesting and I find myself pouring over it at every opportunity. Not everyone loves history as much as I do - but I do believe everyone loves a good story and some fun facts. To that end I complied a little timeline marking events I think Grant Parkers might find interesting:

• 1821 - Creek Indians give up territory that will eventually become modern day Atlanta
• 1836 - The Western and Atlantic Railroad plans a route to connect Savannah to the Midwest. The initial track runs from Chattanooga to a spot near the Chattahoochee - this spot is marked as "mile post zero". The community that grows up around it becomes known as "Terminus" aka "the end of the line". John Thrasher is hired by the Western and Atlantic Railroad to develop the area's first homes and a general store for railroad workers. The community takes on his name: Thrasherville. (Current day: Marietta Blvd across from Fairlie-Polar District).  
• 1842 - Terminus/Thrasherville is renamed "Marthasville" after Governor Wilson Lumpkin's daughter, Martha. When Martha Lumpkin dies in 1917 she is buried in the original 6 acres of Oakland Cemetery.
• 1843- Lemuel P. Grant, an engineer with the railroad who owns more the 600 acres around the area, donates some of his land to the city prompting the railroad to move the track's end to the donated land and away from Thrasher's general store. Thrasher is so upset that he moves to Griffin. (I question the validity of this story)
• 1845 - A chief engineer of the Georgia Rail Road suggests renaming the city "Atlantica-Pacifica" (presumably referencing: from the Atlantic to the Pacific).
• 1847 - "Atlanta" officially becomes Atlanta. 
• 1850 - Oakland Cemetery is founded
• 1856 - Lemuel P. Grant builds his home in Grant Park
• 1861 - the American Civil War begins
• 1864 - Battle of Atlanta. Battle lines follow current Moreland Avenue south from the Edgewood shopping center to I-20 where they make a 90 degree turn towards the west. Sherman burns an estimated 3,200 to 5,000 buildings - sparing about 400. Lemuel P. Grant's home is spared because of the Masonic paraphernalia found on the property.
• 1865 - Civil War ends, Atlanta begins rebuilding.
• 1880 - Atlanta's population hits 37,500. It is the largest city between Richmond, Virginia and New Orleans, Louisiana. (Note: Turner Field's current capacity is 50,000).
• 1882 - Lemuel P. Grant donates 100 acres of his land for the formation of Grant Park and the surrounding neighborhood. Today the neighborhood is home to most of Atlanta's original Victorian architecture. 
• 1889 - A traveling circus goes bankrupt and abandons it's animals in Grant Park. Zoo Atlanta is formed. 
• 1893 - Lemuel Grant dies in the overgrown Victorian home at the corner of Sydney and Hill St. 
• 1902 - Golf legend Bobby Jones is born in the master bedroom of Grant Lemuel's first home. 
• 1940s - Margaret Mitchell starts a campaign to save the Grant mansion but is cut short when killed by a taxi on Peachtree at 13th Street.
• 1960's and 1970's - Interstates 75/85/20 separate Grant Park from the rest of Atlanta

I'm interested in knowing more about the similarities and differences between the development of Grant Park and it's contemporary neighbor Inman Park. If anyone has information on how the two neighborhoods were viewed, relative to one another in the 1880s, I'd love to hear/read it!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Homegrown radishes

Six weeks ago we planted radish seeds in the front garden. And according to the packet I should've picked them three weeks ago - opps! I suppose that explains why you can see them BURSTING from the soil. These radishes are the MOST peppery radishes I have ever tasted. They taste more like horseradish then radish. To cut the intensity (and make them edible) I'm going to mix them with chick peas to create a hummus with an extra kick! 

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Favorite Podcasts

I'm writing this blog post in stealth during the monthly GPNA meeting (at Zoo Atlanta). MothBall planning and design continues to dominate my free time so I thought I'd share a few of the podcasts that I've been listening to while I work.

Favorite podcasts about Atlanta: Sidewalk Radio with Gene Kansas
- All Aboard, the Belt line! 11/1/10
- Alive at Oakland 1/17/11
- Sweet Auburn 2/27/12

Favorite podcasts about food:
- Freakonomics: You are what you eat 6/6/12
- Freakonomics: 100 Ways to fight obesity 3/27/13
- Table to Farm

Favorite overall podcasts:
- This American Life
- Radio lab
- 99% Invisible

Until I have a chance to get back to posting about Grant Park and heart healthy living, I hope you'll enjoy these great podcasts. I usually listen at work, Oliver listens while cooking, when do you listen?

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Time flies when you're....

If I manage to write this post in under an hour then I'll be able to say it's only been a month since I last checked in.  For the first time in three years I've been too busy too go to the gym regularly or make time for my weekly trip to Your DeKalb Farmers Market. Folks - if you know me, you know skipping those lifestyle commitments is a HUGE deal. So what gives? Festivals, party planning, costume making and print designs. Yet despite the hectic schedule, I haven't been this proud to be an Atlantan since 1996. 

Anyone who has lived in the city of Atlanta  (proper, not 'burbs)  knows that Atlantans LIVE for their spring and fall festivals. For me, fall festival season started 3 days after I planted the late summer garden. First there was the Decatur BBQ, Blues & Bluegrass Fest; a week later was Grant Park's Summer Shade Fest and the following weekend is what I'm officially declaring "the best weekend to be in Atlanta" - LABOR DAY WEEKEND! 

My Labor Day weekends in Atlanta are highlighted by my bicycle. Everything we do for three days is within biking distance:  Braves game Thursday or Friday night. Dragon*Con Parade Saturday morning always followed by lunch with friends at Elliot Street Tavern in Castleberry Hill before heading to the Georgia Dome to check out SEC Football kick-off weekend tailgates. Saturday night, Sunday and Monday are chocked full of unusually awesome party options. Our 2013 Labor Day weekend was so perfect that it was impossible to imagine the next weekend was going to be even better.

The following Saturday was both the Porter's 5th anniversary and the Beltline Lantern Parade. Sunday, Street's Alive and the NFL kick-off game between the Falcons and Saints. Saturday morning I woke up early to finish costumes for the the #GothMoths, then I put those costumes and my bike into our pick-up truck. I drove to Cabbagetown where I dropped off the costumes. Next I drove to Midtown, dropped off the truck, hopped onto my bike and took the Beltline to Little Five Points just in time for the Porter's 5th Anniversary. A few hours later: Little Five Points to Inman Park where we met up with the #GothMoths and participated in the jaw dropping Beltline Lantern Parade. At the end of the Beltline everyone hopped into the truck (which I'd purposely left in Midtown earlier in the day) and headed back to our side of the city. Sunday my Mom joined me for the Bicycle Parade along Peachtree Street. That night was the Grant Park Neighborhood Association monthly meeting - which leads me to the next part of being so busy.

I'm quite flattered and proud to say that I'm now the VP of Fundraising for Grant Park - my primary role being the subcommittee Chair of the annual MothBall celebration. When I accepted the nomination I anticipated party planning; I did not expect the world of contracts and licenses and meetings and notes that followed!! Regardless, this has been an invaluable learning experience and I look forward to sharing more of the details - when I have time!! If you don't already like gpMothBall on Facebook please do so now; it means a lot (read: too much) to me!

(More Dragon*Con parade photos on our FB page!)