You know all those magazine and online quizzes that help you identify what your personality is? Well, rather than defining yourself through your favorite color or by which “Sex and the City” character you most resemble, what about your choice of pumpkins? For example, are you a Cinderella or a Red Warty Thing? Baby Boo or Fairytale? Or perhaps you’re a Prizewinner or maybe a One Too Many. See for yourself where your pumpkin tendencies lie at Jack O’Lantern Farms, on Garage Road on the TVA reservation in Muscle Shoals, Ala. Hydroponic farmers Steve and Connie Carpenter have the most extensive selection of pumpkins around, including some weird and wonderful ones you won’t see anywhere else. They’re open 4-7 p.m. Thursdays and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays. Check them out at www.jackolanternfarm.com
Have you tried Numbrix yet? Marilyn vos Savant, who authors the “Ask Marilyn” column in the Sunday magazine Parade, invented this fun number game recently. New puzzles are in her Parade “Ask Marilyn” column and daily at http://www.parade.com/askmarilyn/numbrix. Here’s how it works: You fill in a partially complete grid with the missing numbers 1-81 so that the numbers are in numerical order without diagonals — only horizontally and vertically. It’s one of the rare puzzles that’s challenging yet simple at the same time. If you need to warm up for a five-star Sudoku or the Sunday New York Times crossword or you just need to rest your brain while giving it a gentle nudge, try Numbrix. A word of warning, though: It’s much easier to do online so you don’t have massive erasing. Unlike Sudoku, where a quick check can show you where you’re going wrong, you can work yourself into a Numbrix hole without realizing it until the very last square — much better to hit the “reset” button than rub holes in the Sunday parade with your eraser. If a puzzle can be elegant, then this one is. When you’re — literally — on the right path, you get into a satisfying rhythm and everything falls into place. Good luck!
So many choices! So options! So many decisions! This is why fall is my favorite season. In summer’s heat and humidity, things sort of slow down and we (and by “we” I actually mean “me”) get lazy and bored and boring. But once September’s here and October’s only a calendar-page-flip away, we get re-energized. And we do need energy, because after weeks of not having anything to do, we suddenly have too much to do. Of course, by “anything,” I mean things that are fun and I want to do versus things that are not fun and I don’t want to do — think eating chocolate chip cookies versus cleaning out closets. Anyway, fall weekends mean choosing. Do I go to the concert or the football game? Do I visit the arts and crafts show or watch the homecoming parade? Do I hang out at the street festival or go hunt for the perfect pumpkin? Of course, money, time and gas availability are factors, but it’s still fun to have choices.
Friday night, I had to decide whether to be part of the debate crowd in Oxford, Miss., or watch on TV – and the uncertainty of whether the debate would go on or not didn’t help. Anyway, I dilly-dallied around until it was too late — which is my usual way of making a decision — and so traded the excitement of downtown Oxford for the comfort of an indoor screen. Naturally, in my typical contrary way, I immediately wished I had made the effort to go! Oh, well. Anyway, you can feel as if you were there by reading the blogs at http://www.djournal.com – the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal newspaper in Tupelo, Miss. I’m not sure who “won” the debate, but I am sure it seemed more of the same big talk, vague promises and it’s-not-my-fault excuses. Oh, yeah, and the classic I-predicted-this-years-ago-if-you-all-would-have-only-listened. The closer we get to November, the surer I am that I’m choosing to take a pencil with me to the polls. I’m just saying.
Ah, it’s fall, and that means one thing: “Survivor” is back! I love this show! Thursday night was the opening of its 17th season, filmed in Africa’s Gabon, which is billed as “Earth’s last Eden.” The first episodes are always fun as we viewers try to identify the good, the bad and the clueless. And it’s our chance to get to know what the contestants normally look like while they still have clean hair and somewhat intact clothes. And then, of course, there’s my man, Jeff Probst — now, after his recent Emmy win, officially proclaimed best reality-show host ever (OK, I added in the “ever” part. But still.) I’ve always thought Jeff is the perfect candidate for vice president. I mean, he’s kind but tough, smart but accessible, believes in hard work and trying your best and, most importantly, takes no nonsense from anybody. Isn’t this exactly what we need??? I think so. Plus, he’s so cute and looks great in both a tux and a baseball cap. I’m telling you, if we’d all just listen to Jeff, we’d be in much better shape. I’m just saying. So here are my predictions for this season: Ace and Bob will get the boot after the merge, Jacquie and Kelly will remain under the radar and Charlie will see his carefully constructed alliance disintegrate before his eyes — or rather, he won’t see it because he’ll be completely blindsided. Jeff has said that this season degenerates into the most intense “good versus evil” competition he’s ever seen. Now, that will be interesting! Cannot wait.
One of my favorite fall traditions has started: Betty Sims’ Scrumptious Culinary School in Decatur, Ala. A former restaurant-owner and caterer and the author of two cookbooks, Betty teaches eight classes or so in her home every fall. The classes, which focus on simple yet elegant menus for parties and entertaining, are so popular they sell out almost immediately. And no wonder! Betty is a delight — so warm and gracious and the very epitome of Southern hospitality. In each class, about 40 people gather in the basement of her elegant home, which she’s converted into a teaching kitchen. While we sample appetizers and sip wine, Betty demonstrates the recipes, answers questions and shares from her extensive cooking experience. Then the best part happens: We get to eat! This is such a fun evening that’s good for groups of girlfriends together or for going by yourself. A couple classes — a Spanish menu and cooking with wild game – still have openings, so check out the schedule at http://scrumptiousinc.com/
Elvis lives! Well, sort of. Fiber artist Martha Beadle, of Florence, Ala., created this whimsical and absolutely wonderful collage of our favorite Tupelo, Miss., native. Martha uses fabric snippets, embroidery and embellishments such as beads and buttons to tell stories that may be inspired by a favorite line of poetry, a family memory or just something that catches her eye. And, of course, Elvis caught mine. I saw him at a local arts and crafts show, and when Martha said she had taken him to a show in Tupelo but nobody bought him — in Tupelo! — I knew he was meant to come live with us. Photos do not do him — or any of Martha’s works — justice. Every time you look at one of her collages, you can find something different. I am especially in love with Elvis’s red satin pants here and his jewelry. Fabulous! Take a close-up look at her works at her Web site, http://www.marthasneedleeccentricities.com/home.html.
Carole King, Joni Mitchell and Carly Simon were among the women singers/songwriters whose music defined a generation: the hippie baby-boomers coming of age in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Sheila Weller’s book, “Girls Like Us,” explores the trio’s intertwining lives and how their successes changed the music industry. It’s a fascinating look at these women’s beginnings, their personal and professional struggles and the men who inspired them (although not always for the good). It’s also an homage to the rise of feminism and the fast-track advances in women’s rights from one decade to the next. Sounds like a must-read, right? Well, maybe. It’s long — more than 500 pages — detailed and peppered with references and observations that do nothing to move the story along. Also, Weller writes with interminably long sentences, relies on distracting hyphens and parentheses and can’t disguise an annoying sort of exclusionary elitist attitude that’s prejudicial and unattractive. For example, she believes that the only smart and progressive women found in America in the early1960s were at the elite Northeastern women’s colleges. Really? Hmmm … That’s just one instance of Weller’s biased and insider approach. But, that being said, I’m glad I read this book. If you’ve ever belted out Simon’s “You’re So Vain,” if King’s “Tapestry” is on your best-album-ever list or if a mellow mood sends you to Mitchell’s “Clouds,” this is the book for you. But if you like quick reads and straightforward writing, it’s not.