Button-fly Jeans and Beer are a Terrible Combo (and other things I learned in college)

There's a delightful tradition at my daughters' high school called "Silver Envelopes," where family, friends, former teachers and the like are asked to write a letter to a graduating senior, which are then gathered up and delivered to each soon-to-be-alum the day before they graduate (which hats off to whomever devised that timing, because talk about maximum emotional impact!!)  My daughter received letters from aunts, uncles, cousins, friends at U. of Miami and Georgia Tech, all the way to letters from my sorority sisters telling her to have fun at college but to know they'd be watching (in a loving yet lightly threatening tone). Anywho, I was asked to write a letter for one of my favorite kids (whom I've known for years but is not my blood relative), and —lacking any better ideas — I decided to offer up some information I wish someone had passed along to me at her age. Perhaps some other kid somewhere might find it useful, too:
  • It’s okay to want everything to be perfect. It’s also okay when things aren’t.
  • To that end, get comfortable with the phrase “good enough.” Saying that about projects of moderate importance allows you to perfect the ones that really, really count. And honestly, it’s the only way to get everything done and not lose your mind. This remains true for the rest of your life.
  • Walk everywhere on campus.
  • Having lots of lead time on a project can be a good thing, but you may find you do your best work under tight deadlines. Play to your strengths.
  • Never wear button-fly jeans or bodysuits that snap at the crotch out drinking. No one has the dexterity to handle those fashion choices after a cocktail.
  • Listen more. Really listen. Lean in, make eye contact, ask questions, and soak in people’s stories. It’s such a treat.
  • If you find yourself withering from a challenge, ask yourself “what am I so afraid of, and why?” then “what’s the very worst that can happen?” If that scenario ends with everyone still alive, try it. Never let being afraid you aren’t capable of a challenge stop you from moving forward in life. You’re more than capable.
  • You’re a leader. Lead.
  • You’re a problem solver, which is a great strength – but not all problems are yours to solve. It’s okay to push back and let others figure things out for themselves.
  • Routines and schedules are great, but don’t let sticking to them keep you from enjoying non-scheduled opportunities like road trips and impromptu gatherings.
  • A case of bronchitis was never cured in a bar. Stay home and rest.
  • College is the last time you and your friends will be in the exact same place at the same time (both personally and geographically). Appreciate the fact you all live within five square miles of each other, are in the academic trenches together, and there are (please God) zero small children in the mix. Top-secret military maneuvers will come together with more ease than trying to coordinate schedules with your friends from college after you’ve graduated.
  • “Input noted” is a perfectly fine response to unsolicited advice and to anyone who says you can’t do something. Unless it’s a cop. In that case, keep your hands where they can be seen and do what you’re told.
  • In the words of the great Kenny Rogers, know when to walk away, and know when to run. The instant someone doesn’t appreciate how amazing you are, be militant about getting rid of them. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
  • If anyone fails to recognize what a smart, accomplished, kind, gorgeous, hard-working sweetheart of a young lady you are, please send them to me so I can set them straight.
  • Always remember: no matter what, you got this.  


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Feeling Homicidal? Have Some Chicken Noodle Soup!

Hello friends,

Two things for your consideration: first, today I made chicken noodle soup for a friend who is ill. I wanted her to be able to see what ingredients are in the soup, so I made her this handy-dandy Chicken Noodle Soup Recipe Card and thought perhaps you need a yummy chicken noodle soup recipe on a cute card. Then I thought "but it's July, no one wants soup in July! I'll wait until October or January and post it then." Then I decided who was I kidding -- I'd totally forget I had even designed this little card at that point and then I would sorta remember I had indeed written down my recipe for chicken noodle soup somewhere, and WHERE WAS IT, and when all else fails I'll check to see if I posted it on my blog and BOOM. Here it will be. So, please tuck this recipe back for when you need to feed sick people soup or for when it's cold and you need to feed yourself soup. Or if you want to make it and bring it to me anytime, that will do too -- I'll eat piping hot soup any time of the year, especially if I don't have to make it.

Next, if I ever murder someone (which I won't, because not only am I aggressively non-violent, but also murder seems like it would be super messy. And icky. Also, jail seems less than ideal.) ... but if I ever DO murder someone, it will be a teenager who has just said "there is NOTHINGGGGG TO EAT IN THIS HOUSE" within 4 hours of someone restocking the pantry with a carload of groceries. Seriously.

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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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