Monday, July 30, 2012

The Ultimate Gift

I love that my Dad's family is so much fun, so generous, so full of smart, interesting people, who really seem to like each other. Or at least they fake it real well for the one weekend every couple of years that we have a family reunion.

Another reason the reunion is such fun is that it happens at his cousin's house, a circa 1780 plantation house that was used in the movie, The Ultimate Gift, several years ago. (It's a sappy, feel-good movie, you can feel comfortable watching with everyone from the kids to the grandmothers. But the scenery and setting are fabulous!)

The Big House

We've been going to these reunions for many years, but this year, for the first time, we got to stay at the Big House, as it's known. (Usually they run out of room in the Big House with members of my dad's generation, but a broken leg opened up a bedroom this year. Sorry, Joan! We'd have traded the plaid room to have you with us!)

So, here's what a 1780 Southern plantation house looks like in 2012. (Yes, it has indoor plumbing, electricity--even WiFi!)


The foyer stairs. I fell down the top section. No, I was stone-cold sober. It happened the morning we were leaving. I think I just didn't want to go.

Living room (or is it a Parlor?) fireplace. It's big enough to roast a goat.

Victorian settee filled to overflowing with a 21st century oversized teenager.

The Upstairs Hall, the door leads to the balcony you can see on the front of the house.

The plaid room. It was also in the movie, but I'm sure now they're planning on a plaque that reads: Chris and Karen slept here.

Plaid room wooden ceiling. I LOVE this!

Built-in shelves with old (though not 1780 old) toys

The view from the plaid room. So peaceful!

My favorite yard art!

I'm already looking forward to the next reunion. Hope we get to stay at the Big House again!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Freelance Fridays

Not only do I blog here at the beachhouse, but I also write for pay--gasp!

I've done freelance work for years, writing about things as varied as health care and home improvement products. Now that it looks like the interwebs will be around for a while, and I'm doing my best to populate them with interesting, educational, fun, helpful copy, I'll link to some of the things that I've enjoyed writing and researching. 'Cause sometimes the research is half the fun.

First up, "Why do people yell Freebird at concerts?", which I wrote for

As a Southerner, raised in Sweet Home Alabama, this was a very fun assignment.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Big Things

It's dangerous to give a woman who's having a mid-life crisis over an upcoming large birthday the idea that it's never too late to do BIG THINGS. But that's just what Chris Guillebeau, author of The $100 Startup, has done with his blog post How to Do Big Things.

He makes me want to live my life bigger and better every day.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

'Downton Abbey'

I can't believe we have to wait until January to see the sparks fly between Maggie Smith and Shirley MacLaine.  That is too long!!!

'Downton Abbey' sneak peek| accessAtlanta

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dream Job

I've been job hunting this spring and summer--long, stressful story about contracts not renewed. And the other night I dreamed some convoluted dream--you know how they can be--about a job involving pasta, the beach and blogging.

These are three of my favorite things, but I can't for the life of me figure out how to make a career out of them.

• Pasta: I love to eat it, but who's going to pay me to do that? And I'm not a cook--good or otherwise, so the chances of my making a fortune off some brilliant pasta recipe are slimmer than the skinny jeans hanging in my closet that I can't get into anymore.

• Beach: I can't afford to live on the beach, and that's where I'd want to be, right on the water, the sound of the waves soothing any other dreams I might have that aren't as good as this one. (And, besides, Chris doesn't like the beach enough to live there, so I'd have to go alone.)

• Blogging: If I sat around in my pjs all day blogging (Not that I really think that's what bloggers do. My favorite bloggers obviously get out--a lot. That's why I like to read them. But, it's what I was doing in one of the less convoluted parts of my dream, which was a LOT less convoluted than this sentence.) well, I wouldn't have to worry about affording the beach or whether or not Chris would move there, because I couldn't even afford the pasta and Chris would not put up with that for very long. And I wouldn't really blame him.

So, any ideas how to combine the above into a recipe for success? Please make the recipe easy to follow, 'cause, like I said, I don't cook.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Great Outdoors

I swear, this is the last post about our weekend trip to the NC mountains. You'd think from all the pictures I took that we traveled half way around the world or spent at least a week there. But it was so peaceful and green!

Cashiers has a walking trail around the town. It goes in and out of the woods, through a park and around the shops. We walked it Saturday morning, enjoying the easy path and cooler weather. (It had been 104 in Atlanta that week.)

trail sign
The trail is well marked and an easy walk.

It goes through a park with a yoga statue. I couldn't help myself.

It meanders past a lovely pavilion. Tin roof ... RUSTED! (with thanks to the B52s)

deck rail
I loved the deck rail around the pavilion.

Cashiers Sign
They had banners all around the park, just right for handsome men to pose under.

I don't know who the woman was who inspired this bench, but it was lovely and fun, with poetry and pictures of dogs and flowers in the top.

This building was in downtown Cashiers. It looks like a storybook house to me. And I want a turret!

We spent the afternoon picnicking and napping at Lake Glenville, a beautiful, shady spot.

lake 2
Chris contemplated going in. But the water was deep right at the edge, so he chose to stay dry.

falls big
On the drive back to our house, along Highway 64, we saw lots of waterfalls. And a BEAR! (We saw the bear near here.)

Bridal Veil Falls, also right on the highway. Fun to stand behind it and watch the water fall in the hole right by the road.

Chair by creek
A peaceful spot beside the road. The chair looks over a creek.


And the end of our visit the mountains. I'm already ready to go back! Check out the window shopping and place we stayed in other posts.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Weird and wonderful vacation shopping

I'm not much of a shopper. (Shhh! Don't tell. I work in retail) But I love, love, love looking in unusual shops when I'm on vacation, which is about the only time I have to browse.

Here are some pics taken in and around various retail establishments on our mountain getaway last weekend.

First stop: An antique shop in Dillard, GA. Where they had this sign:
Happy Hour
I wanna party with her!

Or her--or is it him?

The funnest shop in Cashiers, NC
Cashiers shop
Who can resist a taxidermy shop?

and Free Wildlife Exhibit, all in the same place.

wine holder
Taxidermy or wildlife. You decide. Either way, it's for the wine drinker who has everything!

I wanted to bring this guy home just 'cause he looked so embarrassed.

Finally, here's the wildlife. Two very friendly goats.

metal goats
From live goats to really cute metal ones--and their equally adorable dog friends.

The world's most rustic Wendy's. It looked just the same as a regular Wendy's inside.

Best use of a tractor EVER!
tractor ice cream
It's churning homemade ice cream!!!

Fake bears were everywhere
Then we actually saw a real live BEAR, in the wild on our way back to our house.

Very, very cute tiny little artists shops in Cashiers
art shops

We stopped here for lunch--YUM!
Because it's not a trip to North Carolina if you don't have Bar-B-Q!

Visit Cashiers, NC. It's the cutest little mountain town. And for a great place to stay, check out my last post, with pictures of the house we found through airbnb.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My new online best friend, Airbnb

We decided at what was maybe not the very last minute, but at least the last hour, that we wanted to go somewhere for the weekend after the 4th of July when everyone else in America also wants to go somewhere.

Fortunately, someone at a party had just told me about, where you can rent homes/cabins/rooms/apartments from total strangers, who you have to hope aren't axe murderers, but, since they're hoping the same thing about you, you gotta figure it's safe.

And it was! Our place and the people who owned it in the North Carolina mountains were lovely! It was easy and inexpensive and seemed like our very own mountain cabin for two whole days. Here are some pictures.

We stayed in the basement apartment. It was great! Cozy, cool and very comfortable.

It had this fabulous whirlpool tub built for two!

fuzzy sheets
And these practically furry sheets that I can't imagine using at the beach house in July, but were purrfectly cozy in the mountains in July.

view with fire
Our first night they built us a fire in the firepit. And this was the view! The sun set in that direction, so we stayed out until well after dark.

Chris wine
Chris enjoyed a couple of glasses of wine by the fire that night! (ok, that other glass is really mine)

I love ferns!

dr suess plant
This Dr. Suessy-looking plant is a leek, according to Randy, our homeowner. The stalks were about three feet tall and the balls about the size of a tennis ball. I want one!

Sunday morning I walked down in the valley on the beautiful paths and took this picture back up toward the house. Makes me feel peaceful all over again just to look at it!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It was sad ...

One of my fondest memories from childhood is standing around the piano at a friend's house singing the Titanic song, "It was Sad." (not the song that was used in the movie) We had lots of talented musicians among our friends, but somehow this folk song got a little hammier every time we sang it.

The song, though, fueled my interest in the Titanic, so when the exhibit came to Atlanta this year, the 100th anniversary of the tragedy, I wanted to go.


I found half-price tickets, rounded up a nephew and my husband, and off we went on our own voyage.

We were given boarding passes, with the name and some information about an actual passenger, at the beginning of the tour. Next we had our photo taken against a green screen that would show us on the grand staircase. (The picture was AWFUL. We would NEVER have been allowed on the Grand Staircase!)

Then we stepped through the door to the exhibit, which follows the ship from idea through construction to the salvage efforts that have brought the exhibit artifacts to the surface.

It opens with information and photos about the design and construction of the ship--how long it took, the materials used, the amount of labor involved. I loved the stories about the people: the shipbuilders and designers, many of whom ended up on the first voyage and didn't make it back.

Next the voyage itself, including stories about the rich folks in first class, including the "Unsinkable" Molly Brown and Isidor and Ida Straus from Georgia. Stories about the captain, it was to be his last voyage before retiring, crew members and ordinary people who ended up on this extraordinary ship because of a coal shortage (a strike) that shut down other ships.

The exhibit also showed a replica of a first class stateroom, which, while very nice, was not worth the $53,000 it would cost in today's dollars! The boiler room replica made it easy to imagine the heat the men in charge of fueling the ship would have endured. And the ice burg, made out of some kind of plastic, was FREEZING cold to the touch.

At the end, a list of passengers, divided into survivors and those who perished, allows you to see if the name on your boarding pass survived. All three of us, including my passenger, Mrs. Edward Ford, died.

Boarding pass

The exhibit is a combination of stories, jewels and other more ordinary items brought up from the wreck, videos, photos and information about the ship itself that will appeal to anyone who has any sort of interest in the Titanic.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Cheap Summer Fun Part 3

I'm running a little late on part 3 because I spent most of last week having cheap summer fun. So, here's a rundown of my week, which also happens to be part 3 of 9 cheap ways to have fun this summer!

7. Use one of the online discount sites to get cheap tickets to an event or exhibition or two-for-one dinners or whatever. We went to the Titanic exhibit at Atlantic Station in Atlanta using tickets from Goldstar. A post on the exhibit is coming.

8. Invite friends over for a pot luck. All it costs you is one dish, some paper products (unless you use real plates, flatware, etc., which I DO NOT do for 40 people) and time. What you get is some really good food (invite at least a few people who can cook), lots of good times and plenty of fun. Set up games inside and out--cards, board games, foursquare, croquet, a basketball goal, sing, tell stories, and eat, eat, eat!

We had a 4th of July/Anniversary party last week with fireworks, food, fun and flowers.


9. If you scrounge around and find a little money, check out We had our very first airbnb experience this past weekend at a lovely mountain house in North Carolina. It was inexpensive, beautiful, owned by really nice people, and had an incredible view.

This is the view looking up at the house:

Take a look at parts 1 and 2 of Cheap Summer Fun for other ideas. Then get out there make your own cheap fun!

Monday, July 02, 2012

Blue Bottle Tree

I've always heard blue bottle trees keep the haints (that's Southern speak for evil spirits) out of your house. They are drawn to the pretty bottles, get sucked in and can't get out. Following a serious infestation of haints, my husband decided it was time to take action.

He gave me a blue bottle tree kit (4 bottles of wine in blue bottles and a promise to construct a tree) for my birthday.

Here's a picture of the work in progress (I love wine and just keep adding bottles!). The green fairy is optional.


We added the party lights to keep the haints happy. Don't want 'em trying to escape!

Store bought trees, complete with bottles, can also be found. And I admit, love some of these at But there's something special about catching haints in your own bottles hung on a tree of your own design.

Show me your blue bottle trees in the comments. I'd love to see them.