Friday, July 29, 2011

Getting in touch with my inner Scarlett

I love Gone with the Wind. Love, love, love, love, LOVE it. I've read the 1,000+ page book three times and seen the movie countless other times. I own the 70th anniversary collectors edition DVD. A few years ago, I was given what has to be one of the greatest Christmas presents of all time: a first edition copy of the book published in 1937. Major score for Mama and Daddy. If you absolutely forced me to choose which one I liked best, the book or the movie, my vote goes to the book. The book includes so many more details that had to be cut from the movie for time's sake. The book and movie are just so intertwined in my mind that I really do think they're both incredible.

If you're bored out of your ever-lovin' mind right now, it won't hurt my feelings if you run away screaming. I don't blame you.

Yesterday, Mimi took me, my cousin Sarah, and Sarah's boyfriend Chas on a little Southern adventure. We went to Arlington House in Birmingham to eat lunch and tour the house. It's the only antebellum home in Birmingham (fun fact: Bham didn't really exist before the war), and it. is. FABULOUS. This was completely up my alley. I love old homes, Southern antebellum homes in particular.

{I took this shot with one from the movie in mind...}

{Kinda, sorta similar, right?}

The lighting in most of my indoor pictures is pretty horrific...I know. Midday summertime sunshine is no friend of mine.

{Mimi thought this chaperone couch, with room for a courting couple and a chaperone in between, was a fabulous idea.}

{The quilt on this bed, called a crazy quilt, was phenomenal. Somebody please teach me how to do that.}

{close-up of the pretty wedding dress and shoes displayed in the master bedroom}

{ these girls to utter pieces}

There were even girls in hoop skirts, hats, and gloves there to do the tours. (I was a bit bummed that they were rocking hoop skirts and I wasn't. I think I could totally rock a hoop skirt.) The Arlington House is a really incredible step back in time. If you're ever in the area, you should absolutely add this to your to-do list. Get in touch with your inner Scarlett!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Absolutely nothing

My apologies to you if you're expecting to read a thought-provoking post that makes your spirit soar and your heart sing. This ain't it. It's Monday, and although I have plenty to say, none of my thoughts are cohesive. I blame it on Monday.

1. I have 15 more days of summer break. The end of summer/beginning of the school year always bring such a weird mix of emotions for me. I've got all sorts of exciting "teacher" ideas swimming around in my head, but I certainly wouldn't turn down an extra week (or six) of summer break.

2. We're supposed to get some rain today, and that makes me happy. We need it in a large way. I like rainy days, unless it results in inside recess. Then the students start pouting, and their teacher pouts right along with them. I'm outside recess's #1 fan. Those babies need to run!

3. So far, I've read 15 books this summer. And yes, I've kept a list. Nerd.

4. Last fall, I started working on my masters degree. I haven't taken a class since. I just may not want to get my masters, at least right now. There are too many other things I want to do with my life these days. Does this make me unambitious?

5. I've said before that I think I have trouble remembering important, pertinent information because I have so much random junk floating around in my brain. I learned this week that my darling brother has the same issue. He couldn't remember something vital he was trying to tell me (I've already forgotten what it surprise), but he remembered that our family flew on a Southwest Airlines plane when we went on our cruise 12 years ago. We're two peas in a weirdo pod.

6. I have these itty bitty, totally obnoxious, nearly impossible to kill little flying bugs in my kitchen. Gnats? Fruit flies? I have done everything imaginable to get rid of them. I've stopped keeping fruits and veggies on the counter. I've scrubbed my counters, sink, and floor. About 13 times, I've thought they were gone but then they show their nasty little bug faces again. Yesterday, in a moment of total desperation, I turned on the vacuum and ran around with the wand, sucking up as many as I could. And you know what they did? They flew back out of the hose when I turned the vacuum off. They are the current bane of my existence, and I want them dead. Any advice?

7. The Bachelorette comes on tonight, and as much as I don't want to like this show, I look forward to Monday nights. Tonight is the Fantasy Suite dates. I've always had mixed feelings about this stage of the show, and I've wondered before what I would do if I made it to the Fantasy Suite portion of the show. I think I would turn down the doubt. Would you "forgo your individual room"?

8. I love Wickles. Love, love, love them. They've kind of ruined other storebought pickles for me. I especially love that they're made here in Alabama, in the hometown of my darling friends Kira and Oliver. I once saw a jar of Wickled okra and passed it up, and I've regretted it ever since. I couldn't find it anywhere after that! I discovered a jar at Publix last week and nearly caused a scene. I've been eating Wickled okra like that's my true calling. Who knows? Maybe that is my true calling. (I found, upon further research, that the website calls it "Wicked Okra" and not "Wickled Okra". You know what? I like "Wickled Okra" better, so that's what it shall remain.)

9. On my flight to Texas, we flew through lots of rain and a few thunderstorms. We teach our 5th graders about the types of clouds and what they can tell us about weather, so I snapped some shots out the window to use in my lessons this year. Check out this thunderstorm:

 {I hope my new schoolbabies are as impressed by this one as I was.}

If you read all the way through this, you deserve a cash prize. Be checking your mailbox. Happy Monday, yall!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Thankful Thursday, 'cuz it's Friday and all

I thought about my Thankful Thursday post all day yesterday and kept saying, "Self, go post it." You can see that "self" never got on it. Thus, I present Thankful Thursday on a Friday.

Today I am thankful for...
  • the never-ending patience, love, and guidance of the good Lord
  • my family and friends
  • the health and safety of my family and friends
  • my health
  • the fact that I have a job to return to when this glorious summer break comes to an end
  • getting to meet some of my new students and their parents at registration this week...I seem to have a pretty great class, and I'm very much looking forward to this new school year!
  • such a lovely, enjoyable trip to Texas last weekend
  • air conditioning
  • the fact that this nasty, hard-to-breathe-in humidity will be gone in, oh, about 3 months or so
  • the library and the fact that I'm literate
  • clean, running water whenever I want it, a roof over my head, clothes to wear, shoes on my feet, a car that gets me where I need to go
  • enough money to take care of my needs and, occasionally, my wants
  • my birthday coming up...another year down is always a good thing!
  • a great technology workshop yesterday, and I'm glad Renita and Laura were there, as well
  • Suzy's recipes this week...Chocolate Crinkles (sounds perfect for a party or shower) and Kool-Aid Grapes (fun treat that left me wondering, "Why haven't I ever thought of that?!")
  • Tortellini Primavera, which I've shared here before and made again last night...I used mushrooms, spinach, red bell pepper, and a package of frozen peas (thawed) this time...make this and be ready to fall in love with it!
  • my blog friends...yall are pretty wonderful and I love ya :)

Be sure to tell someone you love them this weekend.

If you're a praying person, please keep the family and friends of Rachel Donaldson Robbins in your prayers. She went on to glory very unexpectedly Wednesday, leaving behind a sweet baby boy, a husband, and lots of family and friends. I know they would all appreciate your prayers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Why Texas is my new favorite state

Okay, that's kind of a lie. Alabama is and always will be my favorite state. But in terms of new favorite states, ones I've just discovered, Texas is at the top of the list. In fact, if Alabama closed and kicked everybody out, I'm almost certain I'd make Texas my new home. I made the trip to Texas last weekend to visit my longtime friend Neeley who moved there in May. I had never been to Texas before, and I certainly hope that this trip won't be my last. Loved. It.

Texas is my current favorite new state because...

1) It's hot. I mean really, really hot. Like open your oven up and stand in front of it hot. Not that I love heat. In fact, just the opposite...heat ain't my thing. I just think that everyone should have the opportunity to experience walking around outside in the blistering sunshine with temperatures pushing 110. It builds character. I'm glad I got to experience it once, and I'm thinking my next trip to Texas won't have anything to do with summertime.

2) Texas men dance...willingly. This is not something that happens with great regularity in Alabama, unless said men are a bit inebriated. Then it's a whole different ballgame. Neeley and her friend took me to a bar/dance hall where the Texas two-step was the name of the game. A nice gentleman asked me to dance and wasn't fazed when I expressed my utter lack of two-stepping experience. He was a good teacher and twirled me around and around (and around and around) until I felt sick. I'm told this is all part of the experience. A bit of nausea isn't a bad trade-off for a man who would be happy to take me dancing. Oh, and the place we visited had a sequin-covered saddle twirling from the ceiling like a disco ball. To say I'm kicking myself for not taking pictures is the understatement of the decade.

3) Cowboy hats, boots, cowboys, and cows are commonplace. Texas stars can be found on nearly every surface imaginable.

I'm a big fan of cowboy hats, boots, cowboys, cows, and stars. I fit right in...except for the two-stepping thing.

4) It's full of history and people are proud of it.

{Old Red Courthouse building as seen from Dealey Plaza}

{Old Red Courthouse}

{Neeley and me positively baking in the sun on the "Grassy Knoll"}

{the old Schoolbook Depository from which Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President Kennedy...I believe THE window is the top right one}

5. It's absolutely enormous. Huge! I know there is so much more to Texas than what I saw in Dallas, and it made me want to see it all. I love the history, the friendliness of the people, the wide open spaces...I'll be accepting donations for my Texas travel fund :)

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where I've been

I hopped on a plane Thursday and jetted off to the great state of inaugural visit, I might add. Dallas was home base, and I had a ball. I saw the sites, ate some brisket, and sweated more than I ever have in all of my days on Earth combined. I also may or may not have tried my hand at the Texas two-step, and I may or may not have stepped on the toes of my unfortunate partner no fewer than 2,114 times.

I'll catch up on all my blogging soon. I'm off in search of some IV fluids to replace all that I sweated over the weekend.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for...
  • the tremendous grace of God
  • my family and friends
  • the health of my family and friends
  • my health
  • the fact that I have a job to return to when summer break is over
  • being able to find out next week who my new schoolbabies are...summer is going by way too quickly, but it's always fun to see your new class list
  • summer break
  • air conditioning, particularly during this mind-melting heat wave
  • my plants (so far) surviving the heat
  • clean, running water available whenever I want it
  • leftovers that make a grocery run unnecessary
  • getting to visit with my parents and eat supper with them Tuesday
  • a nice long visit with Mimi on Tuesday, power outage and her
  • some glorious, ground-soaking rain this week...I just love rainy days, especially in the summertime
  • the smell of summer rain
  • plans for the weekend that have left me deliriously excited...can't wait to blog about it
  • a good chat with Kate the other night...she's fabulous and I'm glad she's my friend
  • my Bubba's growing culinary skills...I think he's kinda wonderful
  • a nice early start this morning
  • new old ones are nearly six years old and look like this:
{We've had many, many, MANY good times together. So long, old friends.}
  • my simple little life
  • sunscreen
  • free time to spend cutting up a mess of fabric...well on my way to building up a stockpile
  • Anna Claire ordering some burp cloths this week...she's such a sweetie and her email made me smile (If you want to read a true testimony of faith and trusting the Lord, click here and follow the link she listed. Anna Claire and Jeff's story is amazing and I admire them so much. I'm glad to know them.)

Take some time this weekend to tell someone how much you love and appreciate them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Watermelon lemonade

I found this recipe in my complimentary USA Today (thank you, DaysInn of Robinsonville, MS) on Wednesday. I love lemonade in all of its forms...plain, strawberry, raspberry, even limeade. I don't love, however, the giant quantities of lemons and sugar it requires to make good lemonade. When I read this recipe, I was intrigued because I'd never heard of such. Watermelon lemonade? I decided to give it a whirl because I stole some watermelon from Mama and Daddy's house. I don't feel bad about taking it because their watermelon weighed 26 dadgum pounds! I don't think they'll miss the hunk I took.

This turned out to be so refreshing and is laughably easy. Here ya go:

Watermelon Lemonade
*4 cups of seedless watermelon (I just dug through and took out all the black seeds. I reckon you could also remove the white seeds if they bother you. You could always buy seedless if you don't want to do all that picking.)

*juice from 3 lemons

Throw everything in a food processor (or blender) and puree until very smooth. Chill in the fridge for a while or pour over ice. That's it! No extra sugar required, and it's a great way to use up some of that fresh summer watermelon.

This lemonade is perfect for those weeks when your weather forecast looks like this:

I know many of you out there are feelin' my pain. Drink up, friends!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Help

I finished The Help yesterday (after posting about it earlier) and feel compelled to recommend it to anyone I can get my hands on. Holy moly, this book is so good and just feels so...important. I'm glad to say I've read it. It's set in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s, in the infancy of the civil rights movement. The main character, Skeeter (who is white and dreams of being a writer), becomes disillusioned with the "Old South" way of life that persists in Jackson and decides to interview some of the black maids about their experiences working for white families. This quickly becomes a covert operation that Skeeter never anticipated. She meets with much resistance and has her eyes opened to the ways of the world while writing her story. I loved reading about the new friends Skeeter made and the changes that occur in so many lives because of her book.

I really can't say enough good things about this book. I often told myself, "Self, just one more chapter and then go to bed," only to find myself still awake reading three hours later. I just couldn't wait to figure out some of the more mysterious characters and see what unfolded next. Incredible story.

Look into The Help sometime soon; you'll be glad you did. Oh, and the movie comes out August 12th, so you now have one month to read the book first, if you're a "read the book before the movie" kind of person. Get on it!

What about you...have you read The Help? Are you planning to see the movie? When books are made into movies, do you like to read the book first? If you've read this one, let me know what you thought! If you haven't read it, get on that ASAP and report back to me :)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Four states in 24 hours: an unexpected adventure

Earlier this week, Mom and I took a little 5 hour road trip to Tunica, Mississippi for a doctor's appointment. I didn't have high expectations for the journey. I figured we'd drive there, eat some drive-thru food, and drive back home. The trip ended up being one of the best trips in my recent memory. What a surprise!

The drive into Tunica was beautiful and pastoral, nothing but fields for miles and miles and miles. We even saw some rice Mississippi! I had never heard of such. There is nothing (literally, almost nothing) in Tunica except cotton fields and casinos. That's it. We learned that Tunica is the 3rd largest gaming center in the United States. I'd like to meet the person who looked at Tunica and said, "Yes. This is where I shall build my casinos. I can't think of a more ideal location!" Homeboy had some serious vision.

We stayed in nearby Robinsonville, which is where the casinos are actually located, and were struck by the total absence of people. It was a bit creepy. I began to wonder if the Rapture actually did occur back in May, hitting Robinsonville, MS especially hard. I did a little research when I got home and found out that Robinsonville (which has "officially" been renamed Tunica Resorts) has very few permanent residents. Most of the people who live there are casino employees. Ah. Makes sense now.

Mom and I decided to hit up the casinos, since neither of us had ever been to one. Harrah's was our first stop.

We figured out why there were nearly zero people in town...they were all at the casinos. The inside was smoky and loud, just like I'd expected. It was fun to visit a casino for the first time but much less lively than I expected. Many of the people were just plopped down in front of the slot machines, piddling away what little money they seemed to have. Kind of sad. Mom and I were going to play, but we figured we'd get laughed out of the joint by playing $0.50 each. We stopped to feed the fish in the "moat" on the way out.

{They were literally fighting over the food. I'm not convinced that they weren't piranhas.}

Next, we set out in search of the Mississippi River. Mom had never seen it and I never get tired of seeing it. We found it right behind Fitzgerald's casino.

{"I shall build a castle in Mississippi." Serious vision.}

There's something really spectacular about the Mississippi River. Knowing that the water we were seeing had flowed all the way from Minnesota, marvelling that people used to sail down it using's pretty amazing.

We had asked at the hotel what restaurants were nearby. I didn't have to worry about eating nothing but fast food; there were no fast food places to be seen for miles. We had only two choices: casino buffets or The Hollywood Cafe. Having already been to the casinos, we opted for The Hollywood. That ended up being the best decision we made on this trip. We pulled up and were the only ones there (in keeping with the Rapture theme and all). The inside is delightfully old and decorated very eclectically. Loved it. Since we had the place all to ourselves, we went into total tourist mode...roaming all over, exploring, taking obscene numbers of pictures. All we were missing was a pair of fanny packs.

{One lone sunflower growing by the side of the restaurant. Poor little guy...the Rapture must've left him behind, too.}

{We had to squeeze our pins into a very crowded Alabama.}

Mom was in the midst of exploring when I heard her squeal. She had stumbled upon this:

We were eating at THE Hollywood. It took me a second to make the connection, but then I remembered. "Muriel played piano every Friday at The Hollywood, and they brought me down to see her..."

Take a minute, listen, pretend like you're still at Auburn and it's Tim Tyler Tuesday at SkyBar and Tim bangs the first few notes of this on his piano and everybody goes absolutely nuts and you throw your head back and sway with your friends and screech along at the top of your lungs and all is right with the world. Sigh.

The Hollywood took on a whole new level of cool once we realized it was THE Hollywood. You  know, THE Hollywood from the song and where some of the music video was filmed. In fact, I may have squealed, too.

{Marc and Muriel}

{me playing THE was too dadgum hot to wear makeup that day}

{Mom on THE piano}

We settled down long enough to feast on fried green tomatoes, fried pickles, and hamburgers. Delicious.

 The next day, after the doctor visit, we decided to drive to Memphis, which is less than 20 miles away. We crossed over into Tennessee and drove straight to Graceland. We didn't want to go in; we just wanted to see what we could see. After realizing that parking was $10 (egads), we acknowledged that we'd seen the gate and that was close enough to Elvis for us, and drove on through downtown Memphis. We somewhat accidentally found the bridge over the Mississippi River and drove into Arkansas. As you drive over the bridge leaving Memphis, you're surrounded by buildings, city streets, and the hustle and bustle of downtown. Literally just yards away, in Arkansas, there are nothing but fields and tractors as far as the eye can see. Such a huge difference in such a short distance. We turned around, drove back across the bridge to Tennessee, on into Mississippi, and headed back to Alabama. All without a GPS...I was pretty proud. I wish I had pictures of all of this, but that's what happens when the photographer moonlights as the driver.

This journey turned out to be so much more fun than I expected. Have yourself a random little adventure sometime soon. It's good for the soul.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Thankful Thursday

Today I am thankful for...
  • the far-reaching, all-encompassing grace of God
  • my family and friends
  • my health, and the health of my family and friends
  • the fact that my body moves and works without pain or stiffness or limitations...been thinking about that a lot lately and how much I've taken that for granted in the past
  • the job that I have to go back to in August
  • summer break
  • a safe, fun, productive road trip (that turned out to be quite the unexpected adventure) with Mom earlier this week
  • my car, and the super duper gas mileage it gets
  • a trip to visit Neeley in her new town very, very soon!
  • time to read, and really enjoy reading, this summer
  • the fact that I am literate
  • a good workshop on writing today, and a free book for attending...can't beat that with a stick!
  • lunch with Laura was nice to catch up with her
  • some fun new sewing ideas
  • leftovers from our Independence Day feast
  • watermelon...holy moly, I love watermelon
  • sunscreen
  • crickets chirping outside my windows at night
  • Buddy the Dog's recovery from his tick-borne paralysis...PLEASE check your dogs (and yourself!) for ticks
  • my simple, quiet little life
  • Kristi's first Thankful Thursday post...welcome to the club, Kristi!
  • Suzy's recipes this week...Parmesan Crusted Chicken and Chocolate Chip Cookie Delight (this sounds so good it literally hurts that I don't have any right now)


Monday, July 4, 2011

Independence is a marvelous thing

Happy Independence Day to you and yours! What a blessing it is to live in a country where we enjoy so many freedoms. Thanks to the men and women (past, present, and future) who fight so hard to defend this great nation of ours. Thanks also to the family members who fight the good fight at home.

A very special thank you to my friend Julie E., and her husband Mark. Mark is spending this Independence Day in Afghanistan, serving with the Army. Sweet Julie is holding down the fort at home, raising their little one who is celebrating his first Independence Day today. I so admire her strength and bravery.

Enjoy your day, friends, and let freedom ring! I plan to exercise my right to eat obscene quantities of potato salad. What's on your agenda?

Friday, July 1, 2011

Confessions of a bookworm

My name is Julie, and I'm a total bookworm. I love, love, LOVE to read. Love it. I've always been a big reader. I have very fond memories of weekly summertime trips to the public library. My mom would take my brother and me while my dad was at work, and we'd leave with stacks and stacks of books. We had a family "reading time" fairly often, where we'd all pile onto my parents' big bed and read...something. Anything. I guess you could say I come by it honest.

I still visit the public library fairly often, weekly in the summertime. I have no interest in buying an e-reader, because I love holding a real book in my hands. I'm too frugal (read: cheap) to buy books very often, so the library it is. I'm a large fan of the library, and judging by the perpetually full parking lot, I'm not the only one.

This week, I've been reading Prep by Curtis Sittenfeld.

I'd seen this book brough up several times recently, so I decided to check it out. Honestly, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. I worried that, since the characters are teenagers, the book would be written for teenagers. Thankfully, that's not the case. The plot centers around a middle class, Midwestern girl beginning her freshman year on scholarship at a Northeastern boarding school. The story follows her through her painfully awkward first year, all the way to the end of her senior year. I didn't need to worry about not liking it; it only took a few chapters until I was riveted by the story. I literally couldn't wait to "follow" Lee through her years at Ault, to see if she was ever going to find a way to fit in.

I identified so much with Lee's feelings as she very first started at Ault. I spent most of my senior year of high school fantasizing about my new life at Auburn. I spent all of the summer after graduation preparing to move away and start college. I finally arrived in August and...instantly wanted to go home. I knew 5 people out of 20,000+. I missed my family. I didn't know my way around town. I didn't know yet what was "cool" and what wasn't. I assumed that all freshmen would be as green to the ways of college as I was, and I quickly learned that was not the case. It took a few weeks, but I found my place at Auburn and ended up having the time of my life. Reading Prep made me feel a bit wistful, but mostly it made me smile, glad that I was able to get things figured out with a lot less turmoil than Lee.

I started The Help by Kathryn Stockett this evening, and I've read 112 pages so far. I already don't want it to end.

It's incredible and I really don't want to stop, but my droopy eyelids are forcing me. I've heard oodles of great reviews, and I'm excited to be able to add mine when I finish it.

What about you? Are you a reader?

It's nearly midnight on a Friday night, and I stayed in reading a book. And I'm okay with that.