Monday Musings: On weddings, childhood reading and lips.

Happy Monday to you.

I went to a wedding this weekend in Greenville, S.C., a place I’d been through — maybe even slept in — but never really explored. It was a blast. Picture a bunch of north-of-30-year-olds who think they have the stamina (and livers) of 22-year-olds. That’s all I’ll say. But the town is a find. It’s cute and quaint and walkable, with a proper main street actually called “Main Street.” It’s also a foodie town — every restaurant, even the burger joint on the corner, was phenomenal. I don’t know why I haven’t been more often.

Last week, I read that one of my childhood idols, E.L. Konigsberg, passed away. I hadn’t thought of her in years, but the news still made me take pause. Her book “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler,” was one of my favorites growing up. I don’t remember much more than two kids running away and camping out in the Met Museum in NYC, but I know I loved it. Right up there with “Have You Seen Hyacinth Macaw?” and “The Westing Game.” I need to own and re-read all of those again, I think. Continue reading

Monday Musings: On productivity and defining our times.

Happy Monday to you.

For some reason, I was incredibly productive this weekend. That’s highly out of character. In two days, I wrote, at least partially, eight blog posts, cooked four new recipes to share with you on Culinary Cousins, caught up with family, socialized, finished reading the book before book club, bonded with Oliver. While I am usually a marathon weekend sleeper, my eyes popped open by 9:30 a.m. every morning, and I fidgeted if I sat down. It was weird, but I feel very accomplished. And like it’s been 17 years since Friday. That’s how a weekend should be, I suppose.

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I’ve been reading all the comments Mad Men has been getting this season. To sum it up, y’all are mad. I’ve always recognized that MM is a slow burn, building from the beginning of the season into some explosive, cathartic storylines near the end. So, I’m being patient. But the crux is that everyone’s tired of Don being his brooding, depressed, drunk, womanizing self. They want some character development. While I see their point, that got me thinking in another direction. Continue reading

Monday Musings: On pollen, tragedy and rubbernecking.

(I know it’s not Monday, but let’s just pretend it is.) And I won’t wish you a happy Monday, because it wasn’t.

But, first.

When I lived up north, I forgot about the dust cloud of pollen that envelops our southern cities for a couple of weeks in the spring. I’m lucky that I’m not much affected by it, but I can imagine the agony of those who are during this time. It’s just inescapable.

That fine, yellow powder is a blanket over every outdoor surface. Our cars turn yellow, our wipers work overtime and pollen crust clings to the sides of our windshields. The air hangs heavy with it until a soaking rainstorm comes along to wash it away. Then we’re left with the chalky remnants along street drains and sidewalks.

Even Oliver isn’t immune. During a walk last week, he was just rifling along, nose skimming the grass. Then I looked down and saw this. Pollen nose.

Oliver

As we all are, I’m just stricken by everything that happened in Boston yesterday. But, at the same time, not surprised. Is that just the world we live in now? One in which I’m desensitized to violent news or the prospect of terror events in America? That’s the shocking part. And it scares and saddens me.  Continue reading

Monday Musings: On childhood, book movies and gelato.

Happy Monday to you. I’m back with more random, wacky things on my mind.purple_flowers

Finally (finally!), spring weather seems to be breaking through. This weekend down south was only slightly cool but gloriously clear and sunny, which does loads for my mental and physical health. Don’t mind me while I go roll in the warm grass like Oliver does, reveling in spring. I just wish we didn’t go straight from freezing to sweating this year.

I finished reading Divergent, by Veronica Roth, this weekend. Have you had the pleasure? It’s great. Really creative and suspenseful, and I highly recommend it. It’s of the same genre and post-apocalyptic undertones as the Hunger Games series. And therein, I guess, lies the scary part. These books are for young adults — meaning pre-teens and teenagers, right?. Books about killing and war and sex, even. Hey, when I was 15 I was reading questionable things too. But more like romance smut from the vaults of Danielle Steele and Judith McNaught. Not dark, violent books about evil people who want to take over the world. I’m just sayin’.

Speaking of books, it’s starting to bother me when a popular book that everyone’s read becomes a movie. Think Gone Girl or Fifty Shades of Grey. It seems a waste to recreate a story that everyone already knows. To me, it destroys the magic, replacing all of the imaginative visions I created with Hollywood’s interpretation. And it becomes so much more about who’s going to be cast than about the words or the work. I prefer when an obscure book becomes a movie — think Perks of Being a Wallflower and Silver Linings Playbook. Then I can read the book to fill in details. But I suppose my definitions of “popular” or “obscure” are relative.

Mad Men season 6 premiered last night. I’ll tell you how it’s gone for me by the time you’re reading this. I watched it live, but also recorded on my DVR. I will spend all day today reading through the TV writers’ and fellow viewers’ analyses. Then I will watch the whole thing again tonight or later this week with fresh eyes. Because it’s visual literature, remember? I know, obsessed.

Have you tried Talenti gelato? You can probably find it in your supermarket. All I have to say is this. Salted Caramel gelato with chocolate-caramel truffles mixed in. I have no other words.

Have a good week, all.

Monday Musings: On chia, grammar and globalization.

Good Monday to you. I’m back on schedule with some of the random, wacky things on my mind this week. Even though it’s April Fool’s Day (Happy Birthday, Prink!), this is not a joke, promise.

I do have some levity for you, though. About seven months ago, my cousin posted this picture on Pinterest. It’s supposed to be just a picture of a creepy house. But then. I have it saved in my Joy board, because every single time I see it I laugh uncontrollably for at least 10 minutes. Yes, 10 minutes. Even after seven months.

I have found a new obsession. It’s been awhile, but the familiar grip has taken over. I just can’t get enough of … chia seeds. Say what, now? But stay tuned over at Culinary Cousins, since I’ll be waxing philosophic about those soon. Like, maybe tomorrow.

I could write a whole book on my grammar pet peeves, but inappropriate use of apostrophes tops the list. You don’t make something plural by adding an apostrophe! I see it everywhere — like 1980’s instead of 1980s — but the one in the NY Times this week was the last straw. Apparently we “don’t have a history of dynasty’s in the U.S.” That sound you hear is my skin crawling.

I was eating a mango last week when something occurred to me. It’s sort of a miracle that I can drive to my local grocery store, buy a (pretty cheap) mango — a fruit native to South Asia —  and eat it at home in North Carolina. It felt so special and exotic. Score one for globalization, I guess.

Have a good week, all.

Monday Musings: On Anglophilia and Fashion Week.

Good Monday to you. I’m getting this Monday Musings in at the eleventh hour, but here are some of the random, wacky things on my mind this week:

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I just watched a terrific movie, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. When my mom raved about it a couple of months ago, I’d never heard of it. No idea why, since it is excellent. Even though it takes place in India, it fulfilled my every Anglophilic craving — primarily because it is chock full of the British greats from all your favorite movies. Think Judi Dench. Bill Nighy. Tom Wilkinson. Maggie Smith. In the same movie.

This weekend I went to Charleston with friends to send one of us off into the bonds of matrimony, and also to attend Charleston Fashion Week. I don’t consider myself especially fashionable, choosing comfort over suffering for the sake of art or beauty or whatever anytime. But it was a blast. As you know, Charleston’s a food city and we ate amazingly at 39 Rue de Jean and Poogan’s Porch. The show was flashy and glamorous and exciting. Plus, we met the Moonshine boys, who are young and cute and enthusiastic and smell like earthy, woodsy, clean gentlemen. Delicious. I hope they make a great success.

Someone might need to take away my New Yorker card. I subscribed this week to a magazine called Garden & Gun. I think that means my re-acclimation to the South is complete. Oh, and if you’re interested in picking favorites for a totally different kind of March Madness, go vote in their Southern Food Bracket. I don’t know what I’m going to do when Coke goes up against Cheerwine. Dilemma!

Have a good week, all.

Monday Musings: On Springing forward, Nutellagate and Gatsby.

Good Monday to you. Here are some of the random, wacky things on my mind this week:

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Whew. I missed last week’s Monday Musings, something I swore to myself I wouldn’t do. But I was getting our new blog, Culinary Cousins, off the ground. If you haven’t, come visit us over there. I’d love to know what you think.

The time change last weekend wasn’t as painful as others I remember, though I dread any moment that wrests precious sleep from my cold, tired, weary hands. But with added sunlight comes the prospect of warmer weather — it was even in the upper 70s this weekend in North Carolina! Nothing like turning on both your heat and your air conditioning in the same week.

Did you hear about Nutellagate at Columbia University? Those student hoarders are after my own heart. Nutella is just about the best thing ever invented, so I don’t blame them one bit.

When I was in high school, I hated English class. That may be surprising given my love of words and reading. Mostly I hated the way we had to analyze and dissect everything to death. It totally took the fun out of it. One book to fall victim to that was The Great Gatsby. How I hated that book, with a passion. I thought the characters were annoying, and I couldn’t relate at all. Plus, my teacher insisted everything had to mean something — those eyeglasses on the billboard were looking down on everyone, or whatever. Can’t they just be eyeglasses on a billboard? Can’t I just read it to enjoy the story? Sheesh. Well, I read Gatsby again for one of my book clubs in anticipation of the movie’s release in May. This time, I couldn’t put it down and was captivated, especially since I didn’t remember what happened. My, what changes with age and experience.

You know, I often stare at my rasceta. And sometimes I use a zarf. I try to avoid snollygosters whenever possible. I bet you do too

Have a good week, all.

Monday Musings: On burgers, hotel beds and backlash.

Good Monday to you. Here are some of the random, wacky things on my mind this week:

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I don’t know if you heard, but I’m trying to be a vegetarian. Except for the cheeseburger I ate this weekend in NYC at Shake Shack. Or the brisket and sausage at Hill Country. But now, back on the horse.

I love hotels. There’s something icky about them, especially if you really think about it: all those people in and out of the same rooms night after night, how quickly you can really sanitize a bathroom or “clean” a carpet. But I relish a nice, upscale hotel experience. For one, I sleep better. I find the orderliness and luxury of the room relaxing, the beds warm, soft and comforting, and when you have few personal effects to distract you, that’s all there is to do: watch TV, read a book, sleep. And then there’s room service. Bliss.

Have you all been following the flack about Anne Hathaway following the Oscars last week? I didn’t realize so many people are annoyed by her. However, she’s always been on my list of actresses I irrationally hate. None of them have ever done anything to me, and I actually think some been amazing and charismatic in certain roles. I loved Anne in Les Mis, Renee Zellweger in Cold Mountain AND Bridget Jones, January Jones in Mad Men. But then there’s Scarlett Johansson. Gwyneth Paltrow. Taylor Swift sort of counts, and Kate Hudson and Katie Holmes are dangerously close to being officially included. Who might be on your list?

Who designs most women’s pants? What’s with the weird placement of pockets that make our hips look bigger?

Speaking of Mad Men, I heard a rumor that it returns to us in April. You have no idea how happy that makes me. No idea.

Have a good week, all.

Monday Musings: On Oscars, beets and more Downton Abbey.

Good Monday to you. As we recover from our Oscars hangovers, here are some of the random, wacky things on my mind this week:

When the book “Life of Pi” came out several years ago, we tried to read it for a book club. But none of us made it past page 10, since I remember it being a little … abstract. With all the hoopla about the movie at the Oscars last night, I’m wondering if it needs a second chance. Have you read it? The whole thing, I mean. What do you recommend?

I went to dinner with six friends recently, and every single one of us loves beets. That’s odd, no? Surely not the statistical norm.

Have you all recovered from last week’s shock ending on Downton Abbey? ***BEWARE: Spoilers afoot.*** Luckily, I was able to watch it as it aired, though I already knew. When DA was airing in the U.K., The Daily Mail was not polite enough to bury their spoilery headlines, so I accidentally read about both Sybil and Matthew, but just not how it would go down. For the entire episode, I sat on pins and needles waiting for the figurative (or literal) axe to fall — and I was pretty convinced something was going to go terribly awry during the Scottish hunt. Alas, it’ll open up a new chapter. DA is filming Season 4 now so let’s hope we don’t have long to wait.

One thing to know about me: I almost always say the wrong thing, or at least it seems that way in my head. Call it social anxiety or whatever, but I can trip over my words or they can come out in totally the wrong tone or level of confidence I intended when I’m caught off guard or meeting new people or intimidated. Well, the other day my boss introduced me in a meeting as “Whitney Houston.” Thank the good Lord — other people do it too!

Isn’t it weird how you can stave off a cold with stress? How you don’t really start to feel unwell until you start relaxing? Well, my saving grace — given my recent travels and lack of sleep — is Zicam. The orange melty ones. That’s prevented me from getting sick about 17 times in the last 4 days. A miracle product.

Have a good week, all.

Monday Musings: On pets, peeves and Downton Abbey.

Some things on my mind this Monday:
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This week, I officially cut over to southandsundry.com, so be sure to update your bookmarks. If you want to receive my posts by email, just enter your email address in the field under “Email Subscription” (above on the right) and click “Follow.”

Speaking of blogs, the reader stats for this site tell me how all of you find me — what country you live in, what websites you come from, and even search terms you use to find me. This week, I got a good chuckle. One of you searched for “yellow fever vaccination if only stopping in dakar to refuel” and landed on my blog. Ha, I feel your pain. My advice: always get the vaccine! Better safe than very, very sorry.

For awhile now, I’ve felt that something’s off with Oliver. He’s seemed, only at times, uncomfortable and unnaturally sensitive about his back end. I’ll spare you the saga, but for nearly a year we’ve endured numerable vet visits, specialists (including a brush with a $1,000 colonoscopy), food trials and medicines and supplements of all sorts. I now give him more powder and crushed pills than food. Well, I exaggerate … but only a bit. Last weekend, I finally learned that his pelvis is out of alignment. He was likely born that way, but soon we’re off to the doggie chiropractor. Heck, I need one too.

Here’s Pet Peeve #87: Servers who clear plates before everyone at the table has finished eating. Is that rude, or am I old fashioned? (Or both?)

Did you watch the finale episode of “Downton Abbey” last night? (Shhh! I haven’t yet.) I’m proud that everyone’s gotten into the series, but I’m a little mad at all of you who just discovered it. Back when season 1 was airing, I could buy the DVDs for a steal at $19.99. Now that it’s a phenomenon, season 3 is $39.99. Curse you, economics!