No big deal. Just a homegrown beet.

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Actually, yeah. It’s a big deal. One whole beet. No matter that it’s only just barely golf ball sized.

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How is your garden growing?

 

 

Fourth of July in the NC mountains

posted in: Personal, Travel | 1

lukeanderindoughtonpark

doughton park trail

All of our summer adventures so far have been largely unplanned. Knowing that we weren’t going on any major trips this summer (we’re saving up to visit family in South East Asia this Christmas!!), we just kind of decided to take each weekend as it came and be open to taking a long weekend here and there if it presented itself. We had visions of camping trips around North Georgia and the Great Smokey Mountains, visits family, a long weekend out to Savannah, maybe even some spontaneous road trips somewhere new to us. But otherwise, we decided to treat our activities around Atlanta like mini-adventures. Being spontaneous and flexible has had some rewards. Like Fernandina Beach; we didn’t know we were going there until a week before, thanks to the generosity of dear friends. Perhaps inspired by this laid-back approach to holidays, this Fourth of July weekend we did something kind of spontaneous, which ended up being really memorable.doughtonparktree
doughton park view

The semi-planned part of the trip was that we agreed kind of mid-week last week to meet my mom at our family’s cabin in Sparta, NC, near the border of Virginia. Luckily for us, my mom is also game to travel on short notice. The spontaneous part of the trip, for us anyways, was that we decided to take the long but scenic route, stopping in Asheville first for lunch and then taking the scenic roads along the spine of the mountain up to Alleghany county. Normally, Luke and I are pretty car-averse, so this decision — to add essentially 2 hours to an already lengthy trip — surprised us both. But boy, were we glad we did it. Without realizing it, the route took us straight through some of the special places I grew up going to with my family and to one place in particular that is special to us both: the place where we got married. Starting with Camp Grier in Old Fort, NC, where we had our outdoor wedding back in 2010, we then drove past Linville Falls and Linville Caverns whose glistening stalactites had been a marvel to me as a child, Grandfather Mountain, which I climbed a couple times growing up but not in over a decade (if not more), the old house next to the New River where our whole family used to gather in the summers — cousins, uncles, grandparents — for a week of gem-mining, dam-building, and watermelon seed spitting contests. Eventually the road snaked through Boone and Ashe County, with its famous cheese store that supplied our family with squeaky curds and bizarrely shaped waxed cheeses every Christmas for all of my eighteen years at least. For much of the drive we followed the bends and wiggles of the New River, which I hadn’t seen in several years, although my memories of swimming and tubing in its icy waters are as vivid as if they happened yesterday. Finally, we arrived in Sparta just as the summer sun was folding into the lush Christmas tree dotted hills, the air smelling of freshly cut alfalfa grass. Obviously, we drove with the windows down the whole way.doughton park view

doughton park treestumpOnce we arrived at the cabin, after that long drive down memory lane, we were fully in relaxation mode. The weather was unseasonably cold even though the sun shone in the blue sky both days we were there. Mom and I didn’t mind one bit that we had to get resourceful with our attire as we hadn’t counted on sub-50 degree temperatures when we’d packed our overnight bags (hence the overalls I’m wearing in these pictures). On Friday, after sleeping in late and drinking coffee on the porch, we hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway and followed it south to Doughton Park. We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day to walk the trail there.

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Or to climb a tree.

doughton park walk

blueridgemountainview

Or to reminisce about walks in England. This is one walk in the Appalachian’s that always reminds me of walks in the English and Scottish countryside — it’s the nearly bare hills and the rolling farmland below that takes me back. It’s also one of the best walks for views of the Blue Ridge, I reckon.

butterfliesorangebutterflies

Or to take pictures of butterflies that almost perfectly matched their surroundings.

watermelon

Or, of course, to eat watermelon. It is the thing to do on the 4th of July, after all.

doughtonparklukewalkingIt was so nice to be in the mountains again. As much as we love Decatur, it’s so necessary to get away from the humid city in the summer. More long weekends like this, please.

I hope you had a relaxing 4th of July, too. What did you get up to?

 

 

A look back: Outwrite Books

Outwrite Books Atlanta

Nearly three years ago, I wrote about an Atlanta landmark, Outwrite Books & Coffeehouse:

It was the silence that drew me in. Toward the end of the interview, WABE‘s All Things Considered host Denis O’Hayer asked Outwrite Bookstore owner, Phillip Rafshoon, what he would do if the store closed. Up until now Rafshoon had been articulate, upbeat and eloquent talking about Atlanta’s premiere LGBT bookstore. The main focus of their conversation was how he planned to rescue it from closure. But now there was a pause. A long pause. As if, the thought was too grim to bear thinking about.

In the store on the first day of Atlanta Pride weekend, this thought seemed the farthest thing from everyone’s minds. And from where I browsed and weaved through the crowd of shoppers and coffee shop loungers, that this bustling store could close was unfathomable.

That day did come, and Outwrite closed its door in January 2012. There’s a restaurant now on the corner of 10th and Piedmont where the bookstore used to stand. I admit, I still look whenever I pass the corner, half expecting, half hoping to see the old Outwrite sign. At the time when it closed I wrote “I hope that Atlanta is not losing its one and only LGBT safe place; rather, that because of Outwrite’s trail-blazing leadership, the city has become more open and accepting, and that the community now has countless safe places.” In hindsight, I’m pretty sure that Outwrite’s closing had more to do with the economic pressures of running an independent bookstore when online bookstores dominated the industry than it did with this idea that Atlanta didn’t need an LGBTQ headquarters anymore. A lot of independent bookstores were closing in 2011/2012, not just the inclusive ones.

I loved this photo from the NYTimes of boy scouts joining the NY Pride Parade for the first time ever. Bravo!

Even so, I’m sorry that the Equality movement in Atlanta doesn’t have a symbolic headquarters on the corner of 10th and Piedmont. I’m sorry that Outwrite wasn’t around to serve (as it most certainly would have) as a hub of excitement between late 2012 and 2013 when the country watched national support for marriage equality rise from 51% to 57%. How great would it have been if Outwrite were around for that? Its sounds a little like I’m grieving a dead family member who wasn’t around for some of life’s most important milestones, but maybe that’s an apt comparison for an independent bookstore. When we acknowledge the real good independent bookstores do in a community, we’d be crazy not to regret the cancer that is killing them prematurely (did you like my dramatic yet subtle allusion to online bookstores?).

Thoughts?

The last feminist bookstores

charis books banner

Happy to see my local feminist bookstore included on Paste’s list of the Last 13 Feminist Bookstores in North America. Unhappy that there are only 13 left on the continent when they provide vital services to the communities that are lucky enough to have them. What services, you ask? Just off the top of my head, here are a few that come to mind:

  • Feminist bookstores tend to offer more diverse literature written by, about and for traditionally underrepresented groups than standard bookstores.
  • “Feminist” is a limited descriptor, as you’ll discover when you walk into one of these bookstores. Anti-racist, pro-family, pro-community, pro-multilingualism, pro-spirituality, pro-culture, and pro-just dang good literature is more apt.
  • One quarter of Charis Books (and probably other feminist bookstores) is devoted to multi-cultural children’s books. As such, they offer the widest selection of multi-cultural and bi-lingual children’s books in Atlanta, despite their small size. Don’t know about you, but I don’t know too many families anymore that are made up of just one cultural background. Charis is my go-to for birthday, holiday, graduation, adoption day… any occasion presents.
  • As one of only a few of their kind, feminist bookstores, despite their niche appeal, put on some of the best events in town. Attracting high profile authors because of their reputation for inclusion, feminist bookstores offer your best chance of listening to your favorite authors, learning about a new topic, and meeting inspiring leaders from your community.

A while back, I interviewed Sarah Look, co-owner of Charis Books & More as they were preparing for the 2011 Decatur Book Festival. I’m reposting an extract from our conversation. Her words bear repeating. You are welcome to read our chat in full, if you like.

charis books shop local

 

Who are your customers?

You know, we have a really good mix of folks. I think people hear feminist bookstore and they don’t know what that means, they don’t know if they’re welcome here, if it includes everyone. A quarter of our store is dedicated to multi-cultural children’s books. So, you know, it’s a lot of women, a lot of people of color, a lot of families, a lot of queer folks and GLBTQ-identified folks and a lot of pro-feminist men who stop here and have supported us for a long time.

Do you only sell feminist literature?

We have a very broad definition of feminism.

What is your definition?

It’s not static. We believe in liberation and equality for all people, in the broadest sense of the world. And that’s not just about women; it’s about people from all different ethnicities and nationalities, it includes families and children and folks from all different walks of life.

Have you seen that term change over the years in the store?

Yes. We have certain guidelines about what we look for when we order for the store and they kind of stretch and grow. We say we have multi-cultural children’s books and that’s also, to us, broadly defined, because we’re limited to what is available, but we want children and parents to reflect their lives no matter what they look like or what kind of family they have.


Do any of you live in one of the 13 remaining cities with feminist bookstores? I’d love to hear about it!

For Pride week, in addition to regular posting on For the Love of Bookshops, I will by reposting a few indie features from the archives that take a look at how indie bookstores have long supported Equality. I hope you enjoy. 

Indie Feature: Winder Binder Booksellers

WinderBinder

There’s an independent bookstore in Chattanooga sandwiched between art galleries, jewelry boutiques and a purveyor of organic dog bones. Visitors nearly run into it when they step off the pedestrian Walnut Street Bridge, or when they emerge from Good Dog hot dog deli with heavy bellies and contented sleepy smiles, perfect conditions for browsing the used and new and all creatively curated bookshelves at Winder Binder Gallery and Bookstore. Like Chattanooga and, specifically, like Frazier Ave, Winder Binder bookstore is an eclectic hub; part bookstore, part record store, part art gallery, it is an indie that has responded to the struggles in the book industry by diversifying into other similarly endangered markets. But in Chattanooga, a town that clearly values art, parks, nature and locally owned businesses, that combination seems to be working.

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Books to read before seeing the movie — clearly, these are people after my own hear.

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And while you’re at it, why not put a turquoise vespa in the middle of your shop?

winderbinderrecords

winderbinderrecordsRecords and books just feels like the perfect symbiotic relationship. Don’t you agree? Plus, the way the light came through the windows (captured poorly on my Android camera phone) and the way the records are displayed in crates reminded me of this Atlanta treasure.

winderbinderartbooks

winderbinderbooksart

There’s definitely a “support local” feel to Winder Binder. An entire bookshelf is devoted to Tennessee and Chattanooga authors, and the art is done by local artists.

winderbinderactionfigures

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Famous figures from history action figures. My dad was clearly ahead of this literary gift trend when he bought me a librarian action figure once as a gift.

classiclitchildrensbooksThis was the first time I’d seen these children’s books inspired by classic works of literature. Have you seen them? In some ways, I think they’re quite clever, but in other ways I have mixed feelings. On the one hand I quite like children developing an awareness of these books from a young age. They’re essentially just young reader picture books matching new vocabulary (glove, fan, tiger, jungle) to images and quotations taken from the original works. While some were quite good, I made the mistake of reading Anna Karenina first of all, which had been reduced to a mere fashion primer. “Quelle horreur!” said the Tolstoy fan-girl in me. All the pictures and quotes had to do with Anna’s wardrobe and jewelry … that was it. Really? Would having that as their first introduction to this great piece of literature ever endear a teenager to actually read the book? It wouldn’t me, and what a great shame that would be. Anyways. Maybe I read too much into it. Moving along…lukewinderbinderbookstore

In the end, I did buy a book. Knowing what you want to buy ahead of time is good in its own way, but to me, the proof of a successful bookstore is when you leave with a book that you possibly never considered before that day. I love browsing shelves that others have arranged according to a specific vision, and being led to books that otherwise I would not have thought to pick up. On this particular day, I read the first chapter of The Bridge of San Luis Rey and quite enjoyed the world I found in Peru in the year 1714. I bought this humble little 1927 edition, which is the perfect weight and size for a purse. (Any idea why hardback books today are so much heavier than back in the day?)

thebridgeofsanluisrey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you visited any great indie bookstores lately? Do tell! I’ll add them to my long “to visit” list.

This post is part of a running series I do called “Indie Feature.” If you like, you can read about other independent bookstores I’ve featured in this series here

 

 

Birthday in Chattanooga, TN

chattanooga header

Despite having a birthday on a somewhat festive day of the year (Summer Solstice, midsummer, first day of summer, June 21st — it goes by many names), my birthday fetes are traditionally low key. I leave the maypole dancing up to others and opt instead for small gatherings (if any) or a hike somewhere beautiful. More common, though, is the coinciding of my birthday with summer travels, resulting in “parties” with as few as two people — Luke et moi on a mountain somewhere in France — or as many as make up the eclectic group we find ourselves with in the moment: extended family, friends we haven’t seen in years and are visiting, fellow travelers we meet along the way. That’s all just to say, I associated June 21st with travel, summer, the outdoors, good food, memories of summers on my granny’s lake, but big, candles-on-cake parties? Not so much.

Which is why it felt natural to spend the day exploring a new city (and river) just a stone’s throw away from us in Atlanta. Chattanooga is a place we’d been meaning to check out and a birthday seemed as good a day as any.

I don’t think we were going with any particular expectations for the day — mainly, we just wanted to breath some fresh mountain (almost) air and escape the heat of the city. We did not escape the heat, but we were delighted to find that Chattanooga is quite the happening town. Did y’all know this? Just under 2 hours north-west of Atlanta, this scenic Tennessee town has so much to offer in the way of art galleries, eateries offering local fare, breweries, museums, water features, and, being as the city straddles the Tennessee river and is surrounded by hills, tons of outdoorsy activities. Really, our kind of town. Plus, the downtown area (both of them — there are two commercial centers, one on either side of the river) had this classic 1950s downtown feel, complete with old painted advertisements on buildings. It’s not overly crowded or car heavy, and, in fact, we were impressed by the city’s initiatives to pedestrianize the city. There are touring bikes you can rent (we didn’t), and of the four suspension bridges transversing the river, three have walking paths and one is pedestrian/bicycle only.

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I’d read good things about Good Dog, which I was happy to see offered veggie dogs. In my vegetarian days, veggie dogs were one of those meals that satisfied my nostalgic cravings for the childhood favorite (not to mention, they’re just so convenient), without the stomach aches and nightmares that usually followed a meal of the pink slim variety I ate as a child. Needless to say, even though I’m eating more ethically sourced meat these days, the standard mystery meat franks have yet to tempt me away from their veggie equivalents. In the end, though, we forgot to specify “veggie dog” and were served Good Dog’s handmade, all beef dogs instead. I was a little nervous, it must be said, but happily, Good Dog’s attention to details with regards to sourcing only quality beef paid off. I am happy to report that my first meat hot dog in 8 years was delicious and did not result in stomach cramps or nightmares. Whew! Even so, let’s be honest. A Chicago dog is never about the meat; it’s all about the toppings. I was loving the “neon green relish,” which lived up to its name, and the pickled jalapeño that was as long as the hot dog itself.WinderBinder

 

There was a independent bookstore… but that’s all I’ll say about it for now. Consider this a teaser for a full post on the subject later this week.

chattanoogatheaterview

 

chattanoogaunderbridge

Filled up on hot dogs and ice cream (which didn’t hang around long enough for a photo — sorry), we got back in the car and attempted to find a particular swimming hole recommended to us by the bookstore clerk. No surprise to anyone, there were detours and wrong turns, but even these led to some amazing views and even a few river walks.

chattahoochee river walk

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Tennessee river

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It seemed like everyone was on the river which means the locals had all laid claim to the best swimming holes. But no bother. We saw this as an opportunity to explore the bits in between the swimming holes. A great excuse to test out my new Saltwater Sandals. Have you heard of this brand before? I needed some cute sandals that I could wear around town and to work, but which would also be serviceable on walks along varied terrain. These Saltwater sandals supposedly last years (there’s a pattern in the reviews of people saying they wear them for 8 years and them by another pair just like them), they’re water proof in both fresh and saltwater, and they’re cute as all. Double bonus, they’re actually a really reasonable price. Birthday score!

saltwater sandals red

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We did eventually find the swimming hole recommended to us, though it ended up being closed for maintenance. We cheekily climbed over the gate anyway and were walking brazenly down the path when we ran three park rangers. They were as nice as could be and told us about another place to swim, even more beautiful than the one we were aiming for, about 40 minutes up the road. Weird connection: one of the rangers (a self-proclaimed Tennessee redneck) noticed Luke’s accent and within minutes they had made the most obscure and random connection I’ve ever witnessed. I won’t go into it, but it involved a fellow called Sir Titus Salt. So random.

Tennessee river
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When we finally did make it to the bit of river our new park ranger friends had suggested, it was 5pm or so and Tennessee was doing what southern states do so well in the summer at that time of day: storming. A little rain wasn’t going to keep us away, though, so we parked up and headed toward the sodden path. At that moment, we rain into another park ranger who warned us not to be gone long. We assured him we probably wouldn’t swim since it had gotten chilly and we wouldn’t have the hot sun to dry us off. “It’s not the river I’m worried about,” he said. “It’s the path. I’ve seen flash floods come through in under 15 minutes. We had to rescue some hikers just a couple weeks ago.”

drayton tennessee river

Though our swimming plans never quite panned out, Chattanooga was the perfect place to spend an easy summer birthday.

My Independent Bookshop

MyIndieBookshophome

 

One thing I’ve come to terms with since starting this blog is that I probably won’t be opening my own independent bookshop anytime soon. Which I’m okay with. Writing For the Love of Bookshops, I get to share my love of books and support indie bookshops at the same time, without the stress of owning a precarious business. But even so, there’s the part of me that still fantasizes about creating my own physical shop space (evidence, here) and filling it with my own hand-picked recommendations.

So imagine my delight when I read about a collaboration between Penguin Random House and HIVE retail site that allows wannabe bookshop owners like me to open up our own (virtual) bookshops while supporting brick and mortar independent bookshops at the same time (and sticking it to Amazon). The idea behind My Independent Bookshop is pretty simple: you link your online bookshop to a physical bookshop in the UK of your choosing and start recommending your favorite books. Any time someone purchase one of your recommended books, a percentage of the sales goes to your partner brick and mortar. Genius right? There’s also a whole community of fellow bookshop owners on the site who you can connect with and ask for book recommendations. One cool feature is that several well-known authors have opened up shop on the site and actively recommend their favorite books.

MyIndieBookshopShelf

 

Best of all, it pairs the convenience of one-click online shopping with the neighborliness of supporting your local independent bookshop. After all, they are the ones who actually contribute taxes and economic opportunities to your community, and theirs are the windows in which you likely first laid eyes on the book you later went and bought on Amazon. Justsayin — I know how it is.

MyIndieBookshopBrowse

 

As a longtime supporter of independent bookstores, I’m thrilled at this new initiative and hope it really takes off. Beyond offering an alternative to shopping at Amazon, I’m excited about the community of bookshop “owners.” One feature I like a lot is the Find Some Inspiration button, that allows you to search other peoples recommendations based on a book you read and loved. You can also “like” other people’s bookshops and — how cool is the? — if you find a bookshop whose collection just speaks to you, you can request a personal recommendation from the owner. Pretty cool, huh?

I’ve linked my bookshop with Mr. B’s Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath, UK, because it is the shop that ticks all the boxes in my mind of what an independent bookstore should be. I don’t believe users are able to link up with shops outside of the UK yet, but I’m hoping it’s only a matter of time before they expand.

What do you think? Will you set up a shop? If you do, let me know — I’d love to connect!

(Just so you know, this is an unsponsored post. I’m writing about it because I love the idea and 100% behind supporting independent businesses.)

Americanah

posted in: Blogging, Books | 0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s not much that can be said about this book that hasn’t already been said. Many who have praised Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for her 2013 novel have called it “fearless,” “vivid,” “epic”– I read it back in February and thought it was all these things. Column McCann gave voice to my own feelings when he declared “Adichie’s great gift is that she has always brought us into the territory of the previously unexplored. She writes about that which others have kept silent.”

On its face, Americanah is a love story. Like every good love story, it features a couple that is separated for some length of time, faces challenges while apart, and then is reunited to find that, though they have grown personally and their love has evolved, their passion for one another remains unaltered. However, the love story in this novel is also a vehicle driving a much more ambitious discussion about issues extremely relevant to readers today: race, immigration, body image, relationship models, feminism, for a start. For me, it was the struggle that took place in between the lovers’ parting and reuniting that was so compelling.  

Story summary:

Ifemelu and Obinze are inseparable and in love throughout high school and their first year of university in Nigeria. When the country’s political struggles start to burden Nigerian universities, students are compelled to pursue educational opportunities abroad. Ifemelu leaves military-ruled Nigeria for the US, where she soon learns about the country’s complex race-based systems of oppression. With humor and an outsider’s insight, she grapples with what it means to be black in America. Best of all, she starts a blog. Meanwhile, 9/11 happens, the U.S. cracks down on immigration, and Obinze is unable to join Ifemelu in America as he hoped to do. With few opportunities available to him, the intelligent and dignified Obinze finds his way to the UK where he lives the dangerous and tenuous life of an undocumented worker.  A harrowing event that happens during Ifemelu’s penniless first year in America prompts her to end communication with Obinze, and, from the surface, they appear to move on in their careers and relationships. However, neither is ever far from the other’s mind, even as Ifemelu’s blog earns her international success and a fellowship to Princeton, and Obinze rises to become a wealthy, self-made man in Lagos. Fifteen years after emigrating, Ifemelu returns to a newly democratic Nigeria. Turning her keen eye and sharp tongue from America’s social and racial landscape, she begins to write about the social structures in her home country. Just as Ifemelu establishes herself in Lagos, Obinze reenters her life. 

Have you read this book yet? Like Mccann, in reading Americanah I felt like Adichie was giving me a great gift: insight into worlds I have little exposure to. The world of a black woman in racially defined America; the world of an undocumented immigrant; the world of elite businessmen in a burgeoning new economy. The roles are unfamiliar territory for some (me, a white woman with privilege), all too familiar for others (any person that doesn’t fit into America’s dominant culture). But the human experiences are universally attainable and so, so moving.

Personal Asides:

1) My one regret with this book is that Adichie created an incredible-sounding blog, “Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-­American Black,” and all I wanted to do when I finished reading Americanah was read this imaginary blog. So here’s my cry to the blogging community: what are some great blogs about navigating race lines in America and the world? Challenge me!

2) I like the book cover from Penguin Random House, Spain (pictured). Hair is a big theme in the book, and it really made me think differently about my cultural views about beauty and personal space.

 

Naturally Flavored Water

fruit and herb water

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

grapefruitthaibasilwater

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Miraculously, when I looked at the temperature just now, it says we’re only in the low 90s. “Miraculous” because it feels hot enough to boil water. That Georgia humidity is no joke, y’all. For two people who work from home a lot of the time and also try to conserve energy (it’s fans and windows here most of the time), we have been having to come up with alternatives to full-blast AC. Otherwise, we’re two sweaty and miserable curmudgeons. (Tip: please don’t come over to our apartment without calling first. Our work attire has been decidedly scandalous here of late. Consider yourself warned.) Another unfortunate side effect of this heat and our sitting in it all day, is we get to craving what we should not be craving: ice cream for Luke, beer for me. To curb our taste for cooling snacks and beverages, we’ve taken to keeping a jug full of naturally flavored water chilling in our fridge. Using fruit from the farmers’ market and herbs from our container garden, we’ve stumbled upon some deliciously cooling flavor combos. Our favorites are…

IMG_7497


naturally flavored water

Blackberry, Citrus & Thai Basil (pictured above)

1 lemon sliced in rounds

1/2 of a grapefruit, sliced in rounds and halved

4-5 thumb sized blackberries (fresh or frozen)

A few sprigs of fresh thai basil (flowers included are lovely)

 

Raspberry, Lime & Mint 

6-8 fresh (or frozen) raspberries

1 lime sliced in rounds

A few springs of fresh mint

 

Watermelon, Lime & Rosemary

1/2 cup fresh cubed watermelon

1 lime sliced in rounds

A couple sprigs of fresh rosemary

 

Pineapple, Mint and Coconut Water

1/2 cup of fresh cubed pineapple

A few sprigs of fresh mint

1-2 cups of fresh coconut water from a young coconut (here’s a video about how to open a young Thai coconut. It’s surprisingly easy! Ever since we learned how, we’ve been buying them at the farmers’ market and experimenting cooking with fresh coconut meat, milk and water. We highly recommend them.)

Steps:

For all the flavor combinations, just combine all the ingredients in a water jug or large mouth mason jar. Fill the jug about 3/4 of water (add water in addition to the coconut water if you’re using it). Pack the jar with ice. Let the water infuse in the fridge for at least an hour before enjoying. Hint: every time you drink some, just top the jug off with more water. It will continue to infuse the new water. We typically keep a single jug of flavorings going for about 24 hours before throwing out the spent fruit and herbs.

grapefruitblackberrywater

I’m sure flavored water is not new to you, so I’d love to hear what some of your favorite combos are.

 

My favorite blogs for travel inspiration

wanderlustThe travel bug has been bitting me hard in recent months. When will we have our next big adventure? Can we map it out right now? These are the questions I volley at Luke on a daily basis — as in, 6 to 8 times a day. (Above is a map + list of countries we scribbled out a couple nights ago (on a bar napkin) that we’d like to visit. We even prioritized them by environmental and political urgency and age appropriateness.)As anyone who suffers from the compulsion well knows, once the bug flares up, there’s nothing to do but….

Our travel plans, mapped out over beers -- our little treasure, anyways.
Our travel plans, mapped out over beers — our little treasure, anyways.

…obsessively read travel blogs. Oh? You thought I was going to say “travel?” Well, yes, ideally that would be the solution. But until that time when careers and finances can all sort themselves out to make room for a vagabond lifestyle, we do the next best thing: plan and dream. In the spirit of wanderlust, here are some of the travel blogs I’ve been particularly enjoying lately.

Nomadic-Habit is where Mirianna Jamadi’s documents more than a year of ’round the world travel that she began with a boyfriend and is finishing solo. While her reflections tell the impressive backstories, it’s her photography that drew me in Striking and deeply-felt, she captures the blink-and-they’re-gone moments of daily life. I’m not lying, I spent an entire afternoon in south east Asia with Mirianna one day. I couldn’t. pull. away.

DoubleTakes is possibly my favorite blog for getting notices about new posts through email. Each post is one mid-day toe dip into the world of design or …. the world. Whether they’re featuring a set of handmade, letterpress postcards that caught their eye, a round-up of their three favorite travel photographs from the week, or a one to five minute virtual getaway to some unfairly beautiful part of the world with their Video Captures series, each post is like that square of Lindt 75% Cacao that the chocolate addict reserves and relishes for a daily treat (do I sound like I know what I’m talking about?). I highly recommend subscribing by email. You’ll see what I mean.

Roads & Kingdoms is where I go when I don’t just want to look at pretty pictures of vacation destinations, but when I want to learn about somewhere off-the-beaten path. After all, curiosity is what makes the traveler tick, right? Read about the rising careers of rags-to-riches motivational speakers in Lagos, Nigeria, or the power of chickpeas and yoghurt to unite refugees and locals in a Turkish border town.

World of Wanderlust is escapism of a different sort — career escapism. Brooke is a down-to-Earth Australia native who travels the world (sometime to a different country every two days!), writing astute travel tips and recommending some of the most wanderlust-inducing luxury hotels along the way. But that’s not the most inspiring part. We’ll reserve that place of honor for her career, which she’s managed to carve out at the ripe old age of 22 (!!). Brooke has made a full-time job out of traveling. How? She gets asked that question a lot, as you can imagine. Her answer is one of the reasons I continue to check in with her every few days, despite the fact that I’m insanely jealous. She explains:

It’s not because of my photography skills (that still remain amateur), not because of my incredible wit (though somewhat better than my photographic skills), nor because I am a genius with world history pouring out of my brain (though I did study world history in university). No, it’s none of the above. It’s because I had the courage.

I appreciate Brooke’s humility and the reminder that, for all of us, the one thing that stands in the way of us and our dream is a step of courage.

Deep breath now…. and back to reality. But before you go, I’d love to hear: what are your favorite sites for fueling travel inspiration?

(Top photos are from For the Love of Bookshops. All others are by photographers from Nomad-Habitat, DoubleTakes, Roads & Kingdoms and World of Wanderlust respectively.

 

 

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