Weekend Walks and Traveling Bookstores

If you're in the Atlanta area this weekend please, please treat yourself to Chihuly in the Garden at Atlanta Botanical Gardens. I went for the third time yesterday with my now 17-year-old daughter (whatttt?!) and it was sublime. The weather is perfect, the gardens are beautiful with the leaves just starting to turn, and then Chihuly. Ah, Chihuly. If you aren't familiar with Dale Chihuly's fine art in the form of glass, please brush up here. You'll be glad you did. My first Chihuly exhibit was his permanent one in Seattle, right in the shadow of the Space Needle. Ever since, I've been in awe. I mean, how do you make glass do that?! It's breathtaking. Hurry, hurry if you're going in Atlanta because the exhibit ends this Sunday!

If you're in the Nashville area this weekend, stop in at Parnassus Books. It's a fantastic independent bookstore co-owned by novelist Ann Patchett that is so nifty it has become its own little destination. As y'all know, I love to read and therefore love anything and everything that encourages people of all ages to grab a book and get a little lost in its pages. So the fact that Parnassus now has a traveling bookstore — with dogs in tow— tickles me pink.

Speaking of Ann Patchett, if you're looking for something to read this weekend grab a copy of her newest novel, Commonwealth (you can grab a signed copy here.) It starts with what I think may be the best opening line of a novel ever: "The christening party took a turn when Albert Cousins arrived with gin." I mean how could you not want to know more about a fellow showing up with a bottle of liquor to a religious celebration?

What's going on wherever you are this fine autumn weekend?

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Netflix, No Chill

The above shows are all in my Netflix queue. They are all worth a look-see if you haven't already. Also, The Office is on a very strong repeat loop but I'm assuming you've already watched and re-watched that one?!

Y'all, I have been aggressively watching The West Wing on Netflix. I love rediscovering shows and watching them back-to-back at an alarming clip. (I'm pretty sure this new habit will give me some difficulties when the fall TV season starts and I have to wait an entire week for the next episode, but whateves.) For the last few weeks my husband has really had a difficult time understanding why I "would watch 10-year-old shows when the Olympics are on." To which I reply "um, I already know what happens ... you know the Olympics aren't live, right?"

I'm pleased to say with the exception of boxy pant suits for the ladies, some hysterically out-of-date technology in the form of very chunky cell phones, and the prolific use of the phrase "I'll have my pager," the show stands the test of time quite well. Almost as well as Rob Lowe, who hasn't changed since he was Soda Pop in The Outsiders circa 1983.

                    1983                                                    2016

All the actors are great, but Martin Sheen nails the role of President Bartlett. And Aaron Sorkin's writing and storytelling is a masterpiece in every episode. Political inclinations aside, I wonder if they could work together to be the next president? I think it could be a viable alternative to the current situation. No? Maybe?

I'm always looking for something fun to watch, so tell me ... what are your favorite shows?
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Super Yummy Appetizer (or, Frankly, A Light Dinner): Steak and Caramelized Onion Crostini

You know that moment of desperation when you realize you have to bring an appetizer to a party that starts in about an hour, thus negating your ability to go to the store, so you're going to have to work with what you have? (No? You do NOT know that feeling? Hmm. You better go to a different blog. This one may give you palpitations.) I had that moment not so long ago when I was going to a Shrimp and Crawfish soiree. Unfortunate fact: my husband is allergic to shellfish and seafood isn't my thing. So, I needed something with a little heft to round out what was looking to be an "all corn" type of dinner. Here's what I came up with ... and not to pat myself on the back, but — yum. These are filling and tasty, and I'm sure they are also calorie, fat and carb free so ... enjoy!!!

Steak and Caramelized Onion Crostini:


2 ounces cream cheese, softened
4 ounces sour cream
1/2 cup crumbled Gorgonzola cheese
1 large white onion, caramelized (my favorite recipe here)
1 loaf of cuban or baguette bread sliced into 1/8 - 1/4 inch slices
Olive oil to drizzle
2-3 ounces steak, marinated, grilled and chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle bread with olive oil and bake on top rack until lightly toasted (around 3-4 minutes). Remove bread from oven, leaving oven at 450 deg. Stir together cream cheese, sour cream, 1/4 cup of the Gorgonzola and half the onion. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spread atop toasted bread, top with steak and remaining Gorgonzola and caramelized onions. Pop back into oven for 4-5 minutes or until cheese has melted.

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Hot Reads

I recently took a design class and y'all will likely fall victim to my practice handiwork (see above).

If you are reading this post from the continental United States, my understanding is each and every one of us is in for hot, hot temps in the coming weeks. In fact, the words "heat dome" have been used. Not entirely sure what this is, but it sounds horrible and like it might have something to do with Stephen King. So my recommendation is to find yourself a shade tree or a cool spot indoors and try to move around as little as possible. Forego all temptation to be active by having a good book in hand.

Try one of these I recently read:

The Summer Before the War, Helen Simonson

Eligible, Curtis Sittenfeld

Journey to Munich, Jacqueline Winspear (this is from the terrific Maisie Dobbs series. It's a great stand-alone book, but even better to treat yourself to the whole series starting with book one!)

Swans of Fifth Avenue, Melanie Benjamin

Sum It Up, Pat Summitt

Why Not Me?, Mindy Kaling

Cure, Jo Marchant

AP Language and Composition Assigned Summer Reading
(I'm not even kidding ... several of my faves are on their reading list! Amazing, captivating books were never assigned when I was in school. I'm retroactively jealous.)

Into Thin Air, Jon Krakauer (this is on my top 10 favorite books)

Hellhound on His Trail, Hampton Sides (this is a gripping non-fiction novel about the stalking and assassination of MLK Jr. Also a top-ten personal favorite — and the book my daughter's reading for her assignment, much to my delight.)

The Power of Habit, Charles Duhigg

If You've Never Read These, the Time Has Come

Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell (and no, it's not okay to just watch the movie!)

To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

The Entire Harry Potter Series, J.K. Rowling

What's your plan to stay cool this weekend? Any books to recommend?

XO —
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When the Mice Are Away (this has nothing to do with pest control, FYI)

I love summer because FRESH FRUIT. 

When the girls were newly-minted two-and-four-year-olds, Jake took them to see their great grandmother while she was visiting family in South Carolina. Since this was an overnight visit taking place on Dec. 22, I stayed behind to get as much holiday prep done as possible while loosened from the inherent dangers of assembling Christmas gifts in the same house as Santa-believing preschoolers.

Can I please tell you how much I got done in 24 hours? Gifts were assembled and wrapped, the house was clean top-to-bottom, I knocked out a couple of projects that had been on hold for some time, and I don't remember what else — I probably ran a marathon or invented something or mastered a new skill like tightrope walking — or maybe not, but the point is I accomplished SO MUCH that to this day I remember that feeling of happy satisfaction all these years later.

Guess what? One of my kids is at the beach, the other is at the lake, the hubby is at work, and I have zero pressing work deadlines. This is unheard of. The realization that I can get tons done today without worrying about feeding anyone other than myself, driving anyone across town for a practice of some sort, explaining that being unable to attend a swimsuit sale does not constitute an international crisis, and being fairly confident I'll end the day with precisely as much cash as I started is exhilarating.

Now, before anyone gets the wrong idea — I'm actually one of those people who enjoy being with their kids. They are just the kind of funny, smart, helpful, easygoing people I love being around. And I know in just a few short years I'll be complaining I have TOO MUCH time where I'm not being interrupted for input of some sort while I'm mid-project. I'll be sad when I find my razor clean and sharp and actually in my shower. Or I don't have to worry about the horrors of accidentally trying to shimmy (unsuccessfully) into one of my teenage daughter's jeans. And I'm not nagging anyone to please clean their room/put their own dishes into the dishwasher/"turn out the lights for heaven's sake!"

But this one day that I have to enjoy the silence truly makes me appreciate those less silent ones more. I'm getting to blog (!!), knocking out a couple of projects that involve hammers and power tools, running errands and organizing closets. Will I be thrilled when they start rolling in tomorrow? Absolutely. Will I also be tickled with how much I got done today? Yup. So I'm off to get more done so tomorrow I can enjoy the family without any nagging distractions. Now I just need to decide what to do next ...

(FYI, the best time to cull teenagers closets is when they are away from home. But, shhh.)

What are you up to this fine summer's day?

XO —
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I Love Me A Screenshot

Y'all, how did I live life before the screenshot? So much can be accomplished by capturing a photo of whatever you're looking at on your phone. For example, here's a curiosity I found just this morning:
One would think having the red "explicit material" symbol would eliminate certain podcasts from being categorized under "Kids & Family Favorites," but apparently not!! Kudos to you Apple for thinking out of the box on this one. I suggest renaming this category "Where Kids Learn to Cuss, If You Like That Sort of Thing." Ya know, for flair.

Love these teaching moments!

Last week, I was served boobs for lunch. Not even kidding, this is precisely how my chicken salad/pimento cheese combo was served, olive placement and all. How could the kitchen staff have known this is exactly the sort of thing that will continue to amuse me for years to come? They couldn't have, so this was probably some sort of divine lunch delivery. Tell me God doesn't have a sense of humor, and I will show you a picture of my boob lunch.

This prize gal is my college BFF's daughter. During our recent visit to Nashville, without any sort of preamble or scene set-up, she hit the floor with this contraption attached, striking this position like a pint-size Liza Minnelli nailing her final pose in "All That Jazz." And to equal effect. Shortly after this photo was taken, this youngster also announced (with much jubilation) that her unicorn had arrived via UPS. This is a direct quote. And no, I'm sad to say, they won't rent her (the kid nor the unicorn) out for parties.

My teenage daughter has a car with a sunroof. Not a little sunroof, mind, one that pretty much takes away the entire top of the car. There was a monsoon here overnight Wednesday. The Google search prior to the one above was "shop vac." And just like Forrest Gump, "that's all I have to say about that."

Happy Weekend! XOXO—

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