Friday, June 29, 2012

9 cheap ways to enjoy the summer, part 2

Here you go, part 2 of "9 cheap ways to enjoy the summer, a list in 3 parts."

In case you missed part 1, I'll wait while you check it out. (humming Jeopardy music in my head)

Now that you're back from reading (or rereading) part 1, here's part 2:

4. Catch lightening bugs (or oooohhhh and ahhhh when a sweet, precious child does it)

5. Go to the library. It's air conditioned (It's going to be over 100 degrees here at the beachhouse for the next few days. I'm melting already), has really nice people who work there (some of my best friends are librarians, literally, hi, Lesley), and has great books. A wonderful way to spend a hot afternoon.

6. Sit on the porch after dark (it's too freaking hot to sit out there in the day) and tell stories. Ghost stories, family stories, made-up stories, funny stories--all are even better when told to people you love--and accompanied by homemade ice cream.

So, get away from your computers, get out there and have some good cheap fun this summer!

Okay, not quite the "just the facts, ma'am" list I thought I'd make, but really, everything's better with a little homemade ice cream. Even a list.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Win a free book! FREE!!!

I love contests--and if the prize is a good book, even better!

The very funny Joshilyn Jackson is giving away a book she loves on her blog. And since I love her books, I'm figuring I'll love "A Good Hard Look" by Ann Napolitano.

Click over to Joshilyn's blog and enter--or just wait for me to win and I'll tell you all about how fabulous the book is!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Best Book Club EVER!

You probably couldn't guess from the list below what our theme for last year's books was--or even that we had a theme in the BEST BOOK CLUB EVER. It's not really a fair question, because the first book on the list, Year of Wonders, didn't fit the theme. But we wanted to read it anyway. And that's how we do it in the Austen/Trollops: Will Read for Wine book club.

Technically, our theme was books set in countries where they don't speak English (at least as a first language). We snuck in Year of Wonders, which is about the plague, figuring we might not recognize the English spoken way back when as English anyway.

I know, some of you are probably thinking you don't recognize the English spoken in the South (where I'm from) as English, either. But, you'd be wrong. We'uns speak a colorful version of the mother tongue. It's one that makes y'all want to sit up and take notice and read the books that come out of here. Or at least laugh, but that's okay too.

So, back to some of the best books read by the best book club ever:

Year of Wonders, by Geraldine Brooks
The Black Tower, by Louis Bayard
The Lost Books of the Odyssey, by Zachary Mason
Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
State of Wonder, by Ann Patchett

Year before last, our first year with a theme, our theme was books that had been made into movies. Another good theme--lots of variety and many good books that I hadn't read.

My choice was The Princess Bride, a movie I've loved for years, but had NO IDEA was written by famous, major author William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay and the screenplay for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (another movie favorite).

We also read:
The African Queen, by C.S. Forester
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (one of those Southerners who manages to write pretty good English!)
The Talented Mr. Ripley, by Patricia Highsmith
The Shining, by Stephen King

But next year's theme might be the funnest yet. It offers endless variety, the opportunity to read not just books, but entire genres, that I would never read--and at least as important to those of us who don't cook, boundless food and drink possibilities.

At our planning meeting next month, we're going to put different book categories into a hat. Each person will draw one out and have to pick a book that fits that category.

Our categories are: mystery, romance, historical fiction, biography, sci-fi, thriller, humor, fantasy, erotica, non-fiction and a bunch more that I can't remember.

Since I mostly read mysteries, I'm looking forward to this opportunity to really branch out. Let me know if you have a favorite in some of those categories. I don't know which category I'll get, but I'd love to have some books in mind when it's my turn to pick.

Friday, June 22, 2012

9 cheap ways to enjoy the summer, part 1

I planned to post this list of cheap things to do over the summer on the first day of summer, but life got in the way. So, consider it a list of possibilities for summer weekends, in honor of the first one of the season.

Because, despite not having any money or a whole lot of time off this summer (job's in flux, but that's a long, sad, silly story for another day), it's summer, that time of year when I want everything to change (which it's doing, what with the fluxy job), but really, it should be slowing down and being more fun and changing in a good way, not like it seems to be changing this summer!

I want time off and a trip to the beach and lots of good books to read and friends and family to visit and good food and, well, you get the picture. I want a summer vacation, just like I used to have as a kid--only with wine.

So, how do you get that, when you have no money and not much time off? Here are my first three suggestions, some kid-friendly, some not-so-much, for fun on a shoe-string--although that particular cliche never made much sense to me. I don't care how broke I get, it's impossible to have fun while trying to balance on a shoestring!

1. Pick blackberries or your favorite fruit or vegetable. Or if you don't have access to picking, plant your own. Container gardens are great if you don't have room for a real garden. Even just one tomato plant can ramp up the flavor of summer salads, sandwiches--I live for BLTs in the summertime--and fresh pasta sauces.

2. A cold glass of cheap wine (or lemonade or iced tea), a hot book (nothing you have to think too hard about) and a comfy chair on a porch, patio, deck, dock or, best of all, bit of sand at the beach. This should probably be my number one suggestion--although if I add the sand and the beach, it's no longer a cheap way to spend the afternoon.

3. Take a kid (or two or three) to a pool--and play with them there. Don't just sit and watch. You'll have fun reliving your own childhood with games like monkey in the middle, diving contests, catch, Marco Polo, races and more. And when you stop for milkshakes or Icees or cokes (I'm from the south, all fizzy drinks are called cokes here) on the way home, you won't have to feel guilty about the calories.

How about you? What's your favorite cheap thing to do in the summer?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Livermush--pork the way God intended!

Great story from the Charlotte Observer about Livermush, a breakfast food I grew up on and still love. Neese's (a brand mentioned in the story) is the one for me!

Forget BBQ, Michelle. Try our livermush | & The Charlotte Observer Newspaper

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Taste of Summer

Happy First Day of Summer, Y'all!

As a lifelong southerner, summer has always been a happy assault on my senses.

It smells like Coppertone sunscreen, chlorine pools, fresh-mown grass and honeysuckle. I wish I had a scratch-n-sniff app for this blog, so you could smell what I mean.

Summer feels like humidity, mosquito bites, poison ivy, the warmth of sun on my face and laziness.

It looks like green grass and kudzu, blue skies and sunburned skin sticking out of a bathing suit.

It sounds like frogs, lawn mowers, blenders making margaritas and squeals of happy children

Ahhh, but it tastes like blackberries--fresh, wild, sticker-protected goodness.


I love all the sights, smells, sounds and tastes of summer!

What sights, smells, sounds and tastes say summer to you? Go out and experience them today!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Father's Day Down South

No fathers were injured in the shooting of these pictures--or anything else!

Shootin' and drinkin'. It don't get no better than this!
Father's Day Down South

That's me in the pink. I even hit some stuff--even some stuff I was aiming at!
I even hit some stuff I was aiming at.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Father's Day Walk Down Memory Lane

This year for Father's Day, Dad, I'm giving you a walk down Memory Lane, which for at least today is a street in Thessaloniki, Greece.

Greek elections today are another reason our trip has been on my mind. While we were in Thessaloniki, I remember feeling overwhelmed at times about the history so visible before us. A history marked by centuries of invasions that have left their mark, but have not destroyed the country, the culture, the food, the courtesy that we experienced. I believe the survival skills developed over those centuries will help the people of Greece, whatever the outcome of today's elections. I look forward to visiting again.

Until then, Dad, this trip back to 2006 and the best vacation ever.

From the fresh-squeezed orange juice in the hotel to the anarchists across the road, from the ancient Roman ruins to the new restaurants with fresh, delicious food, from the sandals you bought on the first day to the good honey "for Americans" and everything in between, I loved being in such a wonderful and interesting place with you.

Thank you for being a great travel companion on that trip and for my whole life. Happy Father's Day!

Our hotel, the Hotel Olympia. Not so fabulous looking on the outside, but it was very nice on the inside.

Mosaic map of Thessaloniki on the wall in our hotel lobby. Lovely overview of the city.

Outdoor art we decided must represent tourists with maps. We looked like this every single day!

Daddy and the Greek flag on the roof of our hotel. A little tattered, but still hanging in there. (the flag, not Daddy!)

Ancient ruins, buildings and churches on every corner. Surrounded by high rises and other modern conveniences. I live in Atlanta, where old is only 100 years old. Completely different feel in Thessaloniki.

Roman Rotunda

Roman Amphitheater, just down the block from our hotel.

Lovely, modern government building with ancient ruins in front

Church dating from about 1000 a.d.

Byzantine Wall above the city

Colorful stall at the outdoor market

Inside the 4th (or 5th) century Church of Agios Dimitrios, said to be the largest in Greece. Agios means saint. Daddy's looking at the silver reliquary where the saint's remains are housed.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Mountain house in the 'burbs

Sometimes the beach house here in the burbs is more like a mountain cabin. Come summer, we are tucked away in the woods (really a jungle) without a neighbor in view.

This is the view of our backyard from the back porch.

It's like getting the best of both worlds (beach and mountains) without ever having to leave home.

This year we're trying a little gardening. No easy task when trees shade nearly every spot in the yard. But we've planted a couple of tomatoes, including this one with the first tomato of the season.


We've also planted some potatoes and a new Japanese maple tree. And, because it is a beach house, after all, we planted some pink flamingoes. They are coming in very nicely!