This n’ That

Wow–ten days since I’ve blogged. So, here’s what I’ve been doing.
1. Junking. A lot of junking. More on that later.
2. Kitchen retrofit. The good news is that the new cabinets are in, and the cabinet boxes have been painted and glazed. The bad news is that Mr. Mary Kay hates the glaze. Sigh. So, they’ve got to be re-painted.
The new stove has been semi-installed, and the buyers of the old stove and microwave happily carted them off last week, so I no longer have a stove sitting on my side porch. Here’s a photo of Bob the Builder at work.

The junking has been excellent lately. In fact, I’m embarrassed to admit that I junked four days in a row this week. On Wednesday, Jinxie and I went to a charity tag sale to benefit Atlanta Pet Rescue. Wowsers! We totally rocked that sale. Jinx got a beautiful antique cherry–or maybe pine? three-drawer chest that would have cost $400 or more at the Scott Antique Market, for $175. I got a great antique round pine drop-leaf table for $85. Plus three mulberry transfer-ware plates for $5, an antique round oak-frame mirror for $25, a partial bolt of designer red and white check fabric (think kitchen curtains) for $15, and an amazing vintage leather armchair with oak frame for $25. The seat cushion on the chair has to be replaced.

I’m thinking a great tapestry fabric will work for that. Also four or five roles of Thibaut black and cream toile wallpaper for two bucks apiece. Two of the rolls are triple rolls, and I think this stuff sells for about $75 a single roll, so major score there. My friend Susie is the recipient of the wallpaper. Thursday we went to an estate sale where I picked up six vintage “undersea” prints for $20. An Ebay search revealed that the prints were ’50s or ’60s era menu covers for an Italian cruise ship line. The owner of the house where the sale was held had been an artist. I bought two of her pastel drawings for $20 apiece. Re-matted and framed they’ll go in my master bath. Friday was an estate sale in Marietta, run by Vicki. Vicki always has great sales, and her prices are usually pretty fair. I picked up an oil painting of daffodils for $18, a wooden tole-painted tray for $5, and some other stuff.

Saturday was the neighborhood-wide yard sale extravaganza in Druid Hills. This is the neighborhood where Driving Miss Daisy was filmed. Also the site of the memorable oriental rug-on-the-curb coup from a couple months ago. Got a great oil painting of zinnias for $5, and four wonderful rusty scrolly iron chairs for $25. Not to mention a pair of ’50s crewel-work parrot pictures for $6 and a great black-painted oak piano stool for $8. Score! I also actually got some real writing/research work done this week. Fill you in later on that.

Kitchen bitchin’

There is a lot to love about our new old house–but the kitchen isn’t one of my favorites. The previous owners turned a former bedroom at the front of the house into a kitchen, because the existing kitchen was a tiny space at the back of the house. So the window placement is a little wonky. And it opens directly into the dining room, which I don’t love because we’re messy cooks around here, and we entertain a lot. And the previous owners were in the restaurant business, so I don’t think they did a lot of home cooking. All of which means–remodel. But not a big remodel. No. More like a retrofit. I must have been doing something right when we moved into the house, because I found Bob the Builder. Bob is heaven-sent. He works alone. He does everything–carpentry, plumbing, wiring, tiling. He’s sweet and neat, and reliable. Totally husband material, except he’s already married, and so am I. Anyway, here’s the deal. We’ve removed the existing upper cabinets, which did not go all the way to the ceiling–meaning I had a serious storage situation. Bob has built lovely sturdy, roomy new upper cabinets, and Roz the painter–also amazing–she and Bob work together all the time, is painting the new cabinets, and the old lower cabinets, a shade called Timid White, and they will have an umber glaze. Then, next week, if the Gods are with us, the new stove will arrive. Mr. Mary Kay demanded a stove with bigger burners, and who was I to keep him from stove destiny? So the new Dacor should be in next week. And if I’m still living right, Mark the Marble Guy will come back and install black granite countertops. And then Bob the Builder will return to install a tile backsplash. And hopefully build us a cabinet around the huge shelving unit which exposes my sloppy cookbooks, glassware, ect. We’re hoping for a cupboard which looks antique and slightly Welsh cupboard-ish. In the meantime, we’ll be living on rotisserie chicken and bag-o’salad off paper plates. But it will all be worth it–right? I’ll keep you posted with pics of our progress.

Junk Queens Extravaganza

Ever since we moved into our new old house last November and filled up the entire ginormous basement with stuff,Mr. Mary Kay has been issuing dire threats–like no new junk unless the old junk goes away. So today, we did it. The Junk Queens’ First Ever yard sale extravaganza.

In otherwords, my big fat sell-off–conducted with a few choice friends/accomplices. For weeks now, we’ve been sorting and pricing the stuff down in the basement. The good news was that I was able to empty lots of boxes that never got unpacked from our first move four years ago. I found stuff I’ve been hunting for all these years. Like the cookbook Katie and I made together when she was in high school. We put it in a looseleaf notebook and called it TASTES LIKE CHICKEN, because when she was a picky toddler,we’d always promise her that anything new tasted just like chicken. I also found Andy’s baby book–which was so fitting, since today was his 21st birthday. Yes–boomerang boy is 21! He and his buddies have had a day-long boy fling–golf all day, then tonight it’s off to a brewery and yes, gawd forbid, strip clubs. I do NOT approve of titty bars.

Andy and his two oldest buddies

But it’s apparently some stupid rite of passage. Fortunately, they are being driven around by an older–non-drinking cousin.
But, back to the yard sale preparations. It was back-breaking work. I brought in the big guns to make it happen–namely Katie, who is the queen of organization. She walked around all day clapping her hands and making pronouncements. “We are moving product!” she’d say, slashing my prices. And we did. Not enough product, of course. The old dining room rug went back to the basement. The dining room furniture, including the dining table that would not die–the movers dropped it five feet off the back of the truck and it still didn’t break–finally went to The Salvation Army.
Altogether, I cleared about $600. The Junk Queens and I had lots of laughs, and now the basement is mostly cleared out–and ready for new treasures.

The Junk Queens

The Big Sale
Can I tell you about the most annoying people in the FREE WORLD? A family of smug vegans, who stomped around amongst our stuff for over an hour, picking out a few books, allowing their super-smart super-smug kids to romp amongst my priceless junk. How did we know they were vegans? Because they had a long boring conversation about veganism with another troll-like couple of granola-heads who wandered in.By the time they finally parted with their paltry five bucks worth of stuff we were ready to pelt them with bacon and organ meats.
Another hateful couple spent an agonizing amount of time debating their purchases. Then, when they’d finally made up their pea-like minds, after insulting all of us in one way or another they wanted to NEGOTIATE one price for the treasures of five queens. The woman went so far as to comment that we’d come up with a “shrewd marketing ploy.” Shrewd? SHREWD?? We’d all been up since 5 a.m. We were hot and tired and cranky and in serious chocolate deficit. And she’s suggesting that we’re some kind of cabal of robber-baron masterminds? She’s lucky we’d already sold all the sharp implements.
Sorry for the rant, but really people. Here are the basics of junk etiquette.
1. Hire a freaking sitter. Or if you must take your children along for the hunt, keep them under control. Do not allow your darling three year old to take a vintage hat and stomp it into the mud, and then try to bargain the price down.
2. No returns! Today some goof-ball bought Queen Nancy’s vintage cherry drop-leaf table, carted it off, and then returned it an hour later, saying he’d changed his mind. NO NO NO! Nancy could have sold the table twice during that hour.
3. This ain’t Haverty’s. Yes, the table has scratches. That’s why you’re getting a 70-year-old solid mahogany piece for $200.
4. If I tell you I’d prefer cash, and suggest that you visit the ATM half a mile away, this is a strong indication that I don’t know you from Jack, and am not in a mood to cut you some slack.
5. Play nice. You’ll get along a lot better with me, and the rest of the junking world.

My Sister Susie

Many of you know that my big sister Susie was killed in an automobile accident on July 2. I blogged about her in July, and of course, can’t seem to stop thinking about her. On Labor Day weekend, when my daughter and son-in-law and Mr. Mary Kay were doing some home improvement type projects, I was telling Katie that for years we always used the long holiday to get some project done. And then I remembered Labor Day weekend 21 years ago. I was hugely pregnant with Andy, and was in a nesting frenzy to get his nursery completed. So we took ourselves over to Hancock Fabrics, bought a bunch of blue-and-white gingham, and whipped up cafe curtains, crib bumpers and a whoppy-jawed quilt. We painted the room and added a stencilled border of baseball-playing teddy bears. And then I beached myself on a sofa like a large, sweaty whale. Did I mention we didn’t have any air conditioning? Susie, as always, was enlisted to help out. Afterwards, she swore her curtain-making days were over. Little did she know! Part of my grieving process, I guess, has been writing about her. An essay I wrote about our shared cake plate will run in the November issue of Atlanta magazine. And another essay, which I called, If You Knew Susie Like I Knew Susie, ran in our hometown newspaper, the St. Petersburg Times, a couple weeks ago. It’s going to run again sometime soon, in The Savannah News-Press too. I also read the essay on Georgia Public Broadcasting, last Friday. You can listen to a clip below. Warning–get out your hankies.

Click the “Play” button to hear the audio clip.
Requires Quicktime


Never mind the fact that the temps were hovering in the mid-90s here in Atlanta recently–the ladies of the Lazy Daisy book club in Alpharetta were celebrating a BLUE CHRISTMAS last week. And a good time was had by all. I met Kimberly and her cutest-ever-mom Karen on Daufuskie Island in July. They asked me to attend the fifth anniversary celebration of their book club–where they were reading BLUE CHRISTMAS, so how could I refuse?

Let me tell you, these ladies had their par-tay groove goin’ on! I knew we were in for a great evening as I approached Kimberly’s front door–which was swathed in blue tulle and twinkling white lights, which matched the row of snowy white Christmas trees leading up to the door. Did I mention that the all-blue tunes mentioned in BLUE CHRISTMAS were warbling from hidden speakers? I heard Bobby Vinton’s “Blue Velvet” as I walked up. At the front door Kimberly had set up a vignette right out of Weezie’s prize-winning shop window in the book–complete with an iron bed covered with a chenille spread, stuffed poodle, and vintage high school letter sweater. Beside the bed stood a table holding a silver-framed photo of Elvis, and a bottle of Coke with a straw.

The theme continued inside the house, with more aluminum trees than you could shake a candy cane at, blue fur stockings, and the dining table adorned with another aluminum tree trimmed with blue-iced Christmas cookies. Yum! Of course, Kimberly served Red Roosters from the recipe in the book, along with the corned beef dip also from the book, and that was just the starters. We also had fa-la-la flank steak, spinach salad with blueberries and blue cheese, and lots of other goodies. Oh–and don’t forget that sparkling punch fountain–which changed colors as it spewed a peach champagne punch she dubbed “hunch punch.” Our Kimberly loves to play games, so the ladies competed in a ’50s trivia challenge as well as a BLUE CHRISMAS trivia game. Later, while we sipped our adult beverages, I answered questions and visited with the Daisies. Of course, everybody got a door prize–a Lazy Daisy Blue Christmas t-shirt created specially by Kimberly.

I’m throwing it down to all you book club hostesses out there–top that! Or at least share the kinds of fun events your club has come up with. If you send me photos, I’ll try and post ’em. In fact, I’ll post pix of the daisies as soon as I get ’em.

The Not-So-Empty Nest

I was watching the TODAY show last week, while trudging along on my treadmill, and I saw a segment of “helpful tips” designed to assist parents in “transitioning” their nestlings into real live college kids. Most of the tips were just common sense: have the big good-bye before arriving on campus, discuss the big three: sex, alcohol, drugs. Let the kids know your expectations about grades and attendance. But I about spewed my Dasani when it came to the last–and it was stressed–very IMPORTANT–tip. Do not, the expert warned, touch your child’s bedroom.

Children need to be reassured that their home will not change, even as they grow and explore new horizons in the exciting world of college studies. Transition gently, the expert warned.

Hahahahahaha. This is another reason why you should never trust television experts. Back in the day, when I was a newspaper reporter, I called up all kinds of “experts” and asked them all kinds of questions as resarch for the helpful tip story du jour. Believe me, most reporters will accept whoever answers the phone as an expert. Probably two thirds of the people who pass themselves off as “experts” are, in reality, posers, frauds or wannabes.

But I digress. Was it only two years ago that we took our own son off to college? I remember it well. We loaded up Andy’s clothes and mini-fridge and new computer, and installed him in his dorm room, and then, tearfully, drove back home. How empty the house seemed. Ten minutes after we got back to the house, I unleashed the full fury of a mom on a mission in Andy’s room.

For years I’d been trying to get the boy to give up his old mattress. To tell you how old that mattress was, I have to admit that we bought an antique bed at a store that was going out of business, and they threw in the display mattress that probably came with the mattress when the bed was manufactured. I’m talking older than dirt, people. But Andy didn’t want me mucking about in his room. Frankly, after taking a quick look at his room on any given day of the child’s life, I didn’t want me mucking around in there either. Those crack dens you see on COPS were cleaner than my son’s room. We are talking level four biohazard.

But I was bereft that day two years ago, and it seemed like a project would be a good idea. Job One was that mattress. It had to go. I stripped the linens off the bed and was confronted with a very unpleasant fact. My child had been sleeping on a mattress with giant holes in it. Poking out of those holes were giant springs. He’d been stuffing bath towels and socks and all kinds of stuff into those holes to keep the springs at bay. Shocking!

And yet–those holes were the least of the shocking finds lurking in the boy’s room. Mr. Mary Kay reluctantly agreed to assist in my detoxification of Andy’s room. He hauled the mattress and box spring off the bed, and I made shocking discovery number two. There, stashed between mattress and box springs was the devil’s handiwork. Porn! In my own home.

I got the barbecue tongs and picked up the shocking material to get a closer look. It was a DVD.
Something about cheerleaders in chains, I believe. Mr. Mary Kay sniggered disapprovingly while I took said DVD and melted it with a lighter, then whacked it with a hammer, and then finally, took it out to the growing trashpile on our curb, hoping desperately that the garbagemen wouldn’t let it get out that the guy at 2113 liked cheerleader smut.

We tied the offending mattress to the top of my spousal unit’s SUV, and sped off to the dump, where we deposited said mattress–still warm from our son’s body–in the landfill. Even the guard at the dump looked disgusted when he saw the state of that mattress. Then it was off to the mattress store for new bedding, and the paint store for new paint.

Back in the crack den, er, bedroom, I began clearing the room to paint. The antique oak dresser he’d been using for years basically fell to pieces when we went to move it. Determined to give the room a clean sweep, I attacked the closet. Bad move. Hidden at the back of the closet I found several empty bottles of beer, as well as, even more mystifying–several unopened cans of beer. After promises of parental immunity, Andy later admitted that he and his friends found his dad’s taste in beer severely lacking. He and his buddies much preferred beer pilfered from some other dad. He’d been saving the bad stuff for a beer emergency that apparently never manifested itself.

The next discovery found me weeping quietly on the floor of the closet. Not porn, not even beer made me cry. No. It was the stacks of old baseball jerseys that got me totally unglued. Andy started playing baseball as a five year old. For more than a dozen years, he played baseball. And not just in summer. Travel ball, all-stars, junior high, high school, American Legion, if somebody had a diamond and a bucket of balls and a bag of bats, we were there. Like his dad, Andy was a catcher. All those years, we were a baseball family. His dad helped out with the coaching, I made sure he had a clean jock and a cooler full of Gatorade. As a baseball mom, my favorite sign of spring was not the blooming of daffodils, or the budding out of the dogwoods. No. I lived for that first day in the bleachers. Feeling the sun on my shoulders, splinters in my butt, inhaling the intoxicating scent of fresh-mown grass. Was there ever a purer sound than the crack of a bat? Could there be a better kind of joy than jumping up, screaming at the top of your lungs–“That’s my boy!” as the ball went sailing over the outfield fence?

That day in August two years ago, I tenderly packed away the jerseys from the Red Wings–his travel team, the Golden Lions, his Atlanta high school team, and the Crusaders–his Raleigh team. I put them in a plastic bin, set his catcher’s mitt and chest protector on top, and sat down and cried like a baby. Not for Andy. He was excited about going off to college, and swore he didn’t mind the fact that his baseball career was probably over. Nope. I was crying for me. No more bleaching those hideous polyester baseball pants. No more fishing stinky sliding shorts and socks out of a filthy bat bag. No more road trips with the other baseball moms. No more opening day.

Eventually, I pulled myself together and got back on task. I washed down the walls and floors with Pine-Sol. Bagged up mountains of worn-out or outgrown shoes and clothes. It was when I was moving a pair of old work boots that I found another distasteful discovery. As I picked up a boot, an empty tin went rolling onto the floor. Snuff! My golden child had picked himself up a big league nasty habit. The boot was filled with empty snuff tins. As was its mate. My tears dried up in a hurry. A long distance phone call was made. Death threats were issued. Silence on the other end of the line. “I’m sorry,” came back the small voice of the former little leaguer. “I won’t do it any more.”

Transition my ass.

Postscript. It is now two years later. We sold the house at 2113 and moved back to Atlanta, where, hopefully, the stigma of cheerleader porn will not follow. Andy finished his freshman year of college and decided to take what his parents like to call a “sabbatical” from school. He’s working as a surveyor. And yes–boomerang boy is back, living at home. You couldn’t get me to go into that room of his with a court order.

Random Monday Musings

Here is the gist of the telephone conversations I have with certain members of my family.
He: Hey. What’s goin on?
Me: Nothin’.
He: What are you up to?
Me: Writing fiction. (This is mostly a lie. He knows it and I know it. And I know he knows I know it. Usually I’m doing something vital, such as reading the newspaper, checking out Craigslist for upcoming estate sales, or taking a nap.)
Me: What are you doing?
He: I have a VERY IMPORTANT meeting. And then a VERY IMPORTANT CONFERENCE CALL about matters CRITICAL TO THE VERY SURVIVAL OF LIFE AS WE KNOW IT. In fact, I might have to hang up at any moment due to PRESSING BUSINESS DEMANDS.
Me: Oh. Okay.
He: What’s for dinner?
Me: It’s 10 a.m. I just finished my Special K with red berries. I have no friggin’ idea what we’re having for dinner.
He: Just as long as it’s not chicken. I’m tired of chicken.
Me: Right. No chicken. Got it.

Okay? Here’s the thing. I am sick of thinking about WHAT’S FOR DINNER? I have been wandering aimlessly around the aisles of various supermarkets thinking about what’s for dinner my entire adult life. Why can’t somebody else think about what’s for dinner? I don’t mind cooking. In fact, I love cooking. But it’s August, I’m hot, and I’m out of ideas.

Whew. Glad I got that off my chest. I went over to the Southern Living website and clicked around and found this recipe for cherry glazed pan-seared lamb chops. Then I went to the farmer’s market and wandered purposefully around. I bought the lamb chops, and when the butcher handed me the package, I looked at the price and nearly passed out. $28 for lamb chops. If my mother were alive she’d say her first car didn’t cost $28. She’d say I must be out of my mind to pay so much for six measly little lamb chops. Oh, she’d have a lot to say about $28 lamb chops. And as for the cherry-glazed pan-seared part, she’d die laughing at the very notion. But she’d eat ’em, all right.

And here’s part 2 of my Random Monday Musings. Reader Mail.
I get quite a lot of nice mail from readers. Usually they want to tell me they read my book and liked it, or ask me a question about an important detail I left out of the crab cake recipe in SAVANNAH BREEZE. But last week I got a positively irate email from a woman we’ll call Irate Irene. Irene was upset by my use of the word YANKEE in SAVANNAH BLUES. She was particularly incensed because a character (i.e. a fictional made-up figment of my imagination)
referred to another character (also a fictional made-up figment of my imagination) a “pushy yankee.” And later…”Yankee scum.” Since Irene is from a part of the United States sometimes referred to as “up nawth,” she took this remark very personally. In fact, Irene let me know that she is tired of me and other southerners who are “ill-mannered, ignorant and mean-spirited.”

Sadly, Irene is no longer reading my book that she was formerly reading. She has informed me that she will no longer be reading any Mary Kay Andrews books in the future, and will, in fact, spread the word to her friends “up north”–her phrase, not mine–about my use of the vernacular “regarding Americans who happen to live in the northern part of the United States of America.”

I crafted a very polite response to Irene. I told her that I hoped she wouldn’t judge me personally by what a fictional character says in a novel. I told her my own parents were from Ohio and Chicago, that I happen to love Yankees, and more importantly, since it is all about the $ with me–that I try never to offend any segment of society since I need all the readers I can get. I sent it off, and I sincerely hope Irene will get over hating me and all the other hick, redneck ignorant Southerners who obviously hate her.

But here’s the thing. It’s a NOVEL, people! I make this stuff up! Every word of it! None of the characters in my FICTION are real. In real life I don’t break into empty plantation homes, (SAVANNAH BLUES), bitch-slap the maid of honor at my wedding, (HISSY FIT) fake the death of my cheating husband in a boating accident in Mexico, (LITTLE BITTY LIES) or steal a multi-million dollar yacht belonging to a rock star. (SAVANNAH BREEZE).

I might want to do some of these things. I might take some vicarious joy in figuring out how my FICTIONAL characters do these things. However, in real life, I am just not that smart, pissed off, brave or insane. In real life, I mostly read the newspaper, take naps and try to figure out what the hell I’m going to fix for supper tonight. I’ll let you know how the lamb chops go over.

On the Road Again

Last Saturday the old mister and I travelled to Franklin, NC, where I spoke at a benefit luncheon and book-signing for the local library.
The old mister went along on the premise that it would be much cooler in the mountains–and I might have lured him into driving with the promise of some hot hotel nookie. I’m not saying I did, I’m not saying I didn’t. The luncheon was held in the beautiful parish hall at the First United Methodist Church, and at left you see me and some of the lovely ladies of Franklin. The mountains of NC are full of Floridians this time of year, and Franklin is just about ‘et up with ’em.

The big thrill of the day for me was meeting the gracious lady in hot pink on the far left, Margarita, who came to meet me and tell me that she had gone to junior high and St. Pete High with my late mom, many years ago–class of ’51, to be specific. The ladies (and a few men) bought lots of books, and it was much cooler in Franklin. Afterwards, Mr. Mary Kay and I tooled on down the road to Highlands, where we were staying for the evening. We’d hoped to stay someplace swanky like the Old Edwards Inn, but to my dismay, it was full up, as it turned out that Bob and Elizabeth Dole and a whole passel of Republican types had taken over the inn for some kind of summit. Me being the suspicious type, I figure they were plotting which country to invade next. We managed to do a little shopping and strolling in Highlands, and I wandered into Cyrano’s Bookstore, a wonderful independent store I hadn’t ever been in before. I was struck by all the famous writers who’d had signings there recently, including Pat Conroy and Cassandra King (they’re married–to each other) just two weeks previously. Of course I immediately got my panties in a wad because I’d never been invited to sign at Cyrano’s. Once I introduced myself to owner Claire Simpson I learned that she’d been trying for six months to get me to have a signing at Cyrano’s. Turns out Claire is a Savannah gal, and a transplanted Floridian. She and husband Arthur are extra cool. So….come November, I will be signing BLUE CHRISTMAS at Cyrano’s, and hopefully by then Bob and Libby will have moved on.
P.S. We had an amazing dinner at a restaurant in Highlands called On The Verandah. I highly recommend it.

Don’t Know Jack About Jane

Emboldened by the confession of book website guru Carol Fitzgerald–she who runs and BookReporterCom, not to mention I don’t know how many other book related websites, I have a confession to make.

Here it is. I never read Jane Austen. YES! You heard right. Hiss, boo, throw shoes, denounce me as the poser I am. But somehow I have reached mature adulthood without ever embracing Janeism. I want to, I really want to read Jane. But I haven’t yet.

I sat all the way through a screening this morning of THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB with my movie critic friend Eleanor, hoping not to be found out. The movie, by the way, is utterly charming and lovely. And Hugh Dancy, the actor who plays Grigg, the sole male member of the book club, is a stone HOTTIE. I think I can say with some authority that if Grigg ever wanted to come to my book club, we would all be all over that like stink on a dog. Wooh! I am getting positively warm thinking about that. Oh, wait. Maybe it’s a hot flash. Or the fact that it’s ninety-leven degrees in my corner of Atlanta.

And at lunch afterwards, I managed to chat casually about the movie without giving away my hideous secret. Then, I go home and open my email, and what do I find–the Bookreporter email with Carol’s own public confession. I find it positively liberating to own up now.

That night, in a near frenzy of movie-watching, my friend Anne and I went to see BEING JANE AUSTEN. Another wonderful movie–made even more lovely by the fact that through the magic of cinema we were transported to cool, rainy 19th century England instead of sweaty, sweltering modern-day Atlanta. At dinner afterwards, I admitted my heresy to Anne.

How did it come to pass that I could reach mature adulthoo9d without reading Jane? In high school, I took all kinds of advanced, honors English classes, with titles like Analytical Writing, and British Poetry and Drama, and American Prose. I read most of the required stuff, including almost the entire D.H. Lawrence oeuvre, yes, including LADY CHATTERLY’S LOVER–which my friend Fletcher kindly swiped from his mom’s slip drawer for me. I swear, I don’t think Jane was on the syllabus. Of course, I did go to high school back in the dark days of polyester bell-bottoms love beads and mood rings, but I honestly don’t remember being asked to read many authors of the female persuasion. We read JANE EYRE, of course, but most of the other stuff we read, it seems to me, was the work of DEAD WHITE GUYS.

So. I’m putting it out here. If I’m going to read Jane, and I swear, I am, where should I start? Your suggestions are humbly solicited.

What I’m reading, what I’m loving

Don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but here in Atlanta, it is hotter than the hinges of hell. Perfect reading weather, to my way of thinking. So here’s what I’ve been digging into, and digging.

1. SUMMER AT TIFFANY by Marjorie Hart. 51k The Booklist review says it all: “Although the country is still at war, Manhattan during the summer of 1945 is an intoxicating place, especially for two fresh-faced young coeds who step off a train from Iowa armed with little more than their youthful exuberance and the name of a very influential contact. The combination is enough to land Marjorie and her best friend, Marty, jobs as pages at the prestigious Tiffany & Co., making them the first female employees ever to work the sales floor. From this groundbreaking vantage point, the girls see and do it all, from assisting notorious gangsters and international playboys at the jewelry counters, to rubbing elbows with celebrities at the city’s legendary nightclubs, to glimpsing General Eisenhower during his triumphant victory parade, to kissing soldiers in Times Square on V-J Day. Remarkably, this winsome memoir was written 60 years after that giddy summer spent pinching pennies and dreaming of diamonds, yet Hart’s infectious vivacity resonates with a madcap immediacy, delectably capturing the city’s heady vibrancy and a young girl’s guileless enchantment.” Carol HaggasCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved/

Such a charming book! I read this on vacation in Mexico, loaned it to the other posse members who also loved it, and even bought a copy to send to my Aunt Alice. Would love to see a movie adaptation.

2.SERVICE INCLUDED: Four Star Secrets of An Eavesdropping Waiter, by Phoebe Damrosch. In the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that this book was edited by my own editor at HarperCollins, the fabulous Carolyn Marino. At the risk of being accused of nepotism, let me just say that SERVICE INCLUDED is a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the workings of Per Se, the Manhattan restaurant owned by celebrichef Thomas Keller. Damrosch became the first female captain at Per Se, and decided to write about it while in grad school. The book pubs in October, so make sure you order it.

3.THE OVERLOOK by Michael Connelly. Anything Connelly writes is amazing. This is the book form of a serialized story that first ran last year in the New York Times Sunday magazine. It’s twisty, dark, and another satisfying outing for Connelly’s detective, Harry Bosch. This is one of the few mystery series I always read–in addition to Margaret Maron’s Deborah Knott series and Lisa Scottoline’s legal thrillers, and Jan Burke’s Irene series.

4. A HOUSE IN THE SOUTH: Old-Fashioned Graciousness for New-Fashioned Times by Frances Schultz and Paula S. Wallace.
I’m a sucker for interior design/shelter books, and this is a lovely one with gorgeous color photos of grand and simple homes around the South. I picked up my copy at E. Shaver Fine Books, one of my all-time favorite indy bookstores in Savannah. The girls at Shaver’s never steer me wrong.

Other things I’m digging: iced tea. I’m moderately famous for my iced tea–I always use Luzianne’s family-size teabags, three to a pot of boiling water to make a big pitcher of tea. ‘Mater sammiches. Home-grown tomatoes out of my neighbor’s garden, Pepperidge Farm hearty white bread, Duke’s Mayo, lots of salt. Here’s a great iced tea cocktail I pulled off the Luzianne website:

Bourbon Street Iced Tea
Preparation Time: Quick
2 cups boiling water 1 Cup orange juice concentrate 1.5 cups lemonade concentrate 2 quart size or 8 cup size Luzianne Tea Bags 1 Cup bourbon, (optional) 3 cups cold water.

Movie update: The old mister and I went to see THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM Friday. The perfect escape vehicle for a steamy summer night. Matt Damon’s Jason Bourne is the poster-boy for Post-Modern heroes: brooding, but not in a snivelling way, sensitive–he doesn’t even try to jump Julia Stiles, and buff–but not in a Matthew McConaughey look-at-my-abs-look-at-my-ass kinda way.