Listen Up: It’s Audiobook Month!

The long Memorial Day weekend kicks off the month of June. And you know what that means! It’s National Drive Safe Month, National Fresh Fruits and Veggies Month, National Tennis Month, National Iced Tea Month, and yes, the long-awaited National Potty Training Awareness Month. Wonder if there’s a greeting card for that? But most importantly, June is Audiobooks Month!

My long love affair with audiobooks started when our two children were young and we were facing a long car trip from Atlanta to St. Pete, Florida for a week at the beach. My husband had, to my secret relief, already banned listening to even another minute of the kids’ favorite Raffi tunes, including the still maligned “Apples and Bananas.”
In my search for another diversion, I discovered the shelf of audibooks at our public library—back then they were cassette tapes. I selected a classic I’d never actually read myself, Robert Louis Stephenson’s Treasure Island, reasoning that since we were headed to the beach, the tale of a boy being shanghaied into service on a pirate ship would appeal to all of us—especially our then six-year-old son Andrew. By happy accident, it turned out that the version I checked out was the unabridged BBC production, with a marvelous narrator who kept us all enthralled for the entire 16-hour round trip down Interstate 75.
Based on that success, on the next car trip we listened to another unabridged classic, Jack London’s Call of the Wild. After that, nearly every visit to St. Pete or Savannah, our two most frequent destinations, was done to the accompaniment of an audiobook. After the classics, we branched out to mysteries and thrillers. I still have fond memories of all of us laughing at the antics of the inept crooks in Donald Westlake’s Bank Shot. And Andrew, all these years later, still does a keen imitation of a kidnapped child portrayed in one of Dick Francis’s mysteries. We listened to a lot of Dick Francis, back in the day, mostly because his stories were reliably free of alarming amounts of gratuitious sex—although not violence—our blood-thirsty son was never fazed by the frequent beatings endured by Francis’s hapless protagonists.
These days, the kids are no longer trapped in our back seat. So I pick and choose audios based on our own interests. Thrillers, if my husband is along, and all kinds of books if I’m travelling solo. I used to rely mostly on the audios sent me by my generous publishers, or on the narrow range of bestsellers carried at Cracker Barrel. But recently I discovered Audible.com, and now my choices are all over the map. I love to download books to my iPhone and listen on my earbuds, either in the car on long trips, or just on my daily two-mile walks. Non-fiction? I loved listening to Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. Thriller? Robert Crais’s Taken made me quicken my pace on long walks around my neighborhood. Regency Romance? I adore Eloisa James and Lisa Kleypas’s novels.


I always enjoy hearing from fans that they enjoy the audiobooks of my novels. This summer, they’re in for a real treat. We have a new narrator, Kathleen McInerney, who I think brings wonderful energy and imagination to my new novel Spring Fever.
Knowing I’ll be clocking a lot of miles while on book tour for SPRING FEVER this summer, I’ve already downloaded my next few reads. As a longtime Carole King fan, I can’t wait to listen to her narrating her own memoir, A Natural Woman. And my pal Lisa Scottoline has a brand new thriller out too—Come Home, that I know will make the miles pass like a blur. And if my husband happens to join me on one of those trips, I’ll even share Michael Palmer’s Oath of Office, if he’ll let me stop at the outlet mall!

How about you? Do you have a favorite audiobook, or narrator, or audiobook experience? Leave me a comment by midnight, Friday, June 8th, and to celebrate this glorious occasion we’ll pick some random winners to receive an assortment of great audiobooks by some of my favorite authors.

 

 

It’s a Mother’s Day Mama-rama!

Hey y’al!. Because I know you love your mamas (and grandmas, and sisters and aunts and grandmas, and daughters and sisters-in-law and mothers-in-law) and your best buddies…well, you get the picture, I’ve got a little Mother’s Day prezzie for you.

 Because they were such a big hit last year, we made up three brand new nifty recipe cards featuring three more of my all-time favorite recipes. Did I mention they’re free? Here’s what you gotta do to get yours.
Just go here by Monday 4/30 at 5PM and fill out the form:
We will send you two sets of cards: one to keep, one to gift. And we will throw in a couple of signed bookplates to boot so you–and all the girls in your life–can turn an ordinary MKA book into an autographed MKA book.
We’ll ship this gift out to arrive in time for Mother’s Day on May 13th. And if you get really inspired, you could actually fix one of the recipes for that lucky lady. Or yourself. Here’s a sneak peek at the Cherry-Licious Glazed Ribs fabulousity. (Warning: drool is not good for your computer keyboard.)
Want to thank me? It’s simple. Just pre-order a copy of SPRING FEVER!
Hugs,
MKA

Some junk from my trunk

Spring, and the official start to estate and yard sale season is here. Here in Atlanta, you can usually find a halfway decent estate or yard sale almost every weekend year-round. But no doubt about it, spring is when the most sales start to pop up. Last weekend, I scored an embarrassment of riches at three different estate sales. My favorite find, hands down, was this fabulous vintage ice cream sign.

For three dollars! At The Breeze Inn, our vacation home on Tybee Island, I have several old soft drink signs.

But I reaaalllly wanted an old ice cream sign. Can’t wait til we head down there in a couple weeks to hang my new treasure. Last weekend was also Scott’s Antique Market weekend, so I was a busy bee, buzzing around there and all those estate sales. Here’s a great antique painting from a New England estate I scored there. Don’t you just love the pink sails?

I also found a great old iron crib at Scott’s. It was painted safety yellow, so I took it home and painted it a soft, neutral gray. These cribs aren’t safe to use for babies, but I think it would look great used as a daybed, piled with gorgeous pillows. My other favorite Scott’s find was a fun metal sign saying NO DIVING! LIFEGUARDS NOT ON DUTY.This is headed for my booth at Seaside Sisters on Tybee.  I love it, but not as much as I love the worn old “No Swimming, Fishing or Crabbing” sign I found in an antique shop on the Jersey Shore the day my grandbaby Molly was born three years ago. It has pride of place at The Breeze Inn. At a moving sale last weekend, I bought a shabby little brown dresser, intending to paint it. And while I was at Scott’s, I met a dealer selling a new kind of paint I’d been reading about, CeCe Caldwell’s. It’s a lot like the Annie Sloan chalk paint that’s been the rage for the past year or so, but this paint is made in South Carolina, instead of England, so it’s less expensive. I bought a can of a color called Destin Gulf Green, and gave it a test run on my homely little dresser. After distressing and waxing it, and lining the drawers with some fun gift wrap, it’s ready for a new home.

Those aqua matte pottery vases on top were a score from the Winona Park neighborhood yard sale on Saturday. The kitschy shell art lamp came from the same house. As did a stack of six vintage Homer Laughlin diner plates. Love the horse design.

Speaking of horses, I scored this pair of horse paint-by-numbers at a scary sale in another in-town neighborhood. Pencilled on the back was the original 15 cent pricetag. I paid lots more than that, but I do love PBNs.

On Friday, when I should have been working on the new book, I hit an estate sale in a warehouse and found this fabulous folk art windmill, which was obviously the work of somebody’s granddad.

At that same sale, was this funky popsicle stick lamp. Probably a summer camp or vacation bible school project.

But undoubtedly, the big kahuna score of the weekend was the vintage Wedgewood 1950s gas stove I found on Craigslist. What will I do with it? Stay tuned. It is in excellent condition, and the owner swears it was working in her last home. I have had a soft spot in my heart (Mr. MKA would say it’s my head that’s soft) for vintage stoves since I inherited my late Aunt Julia’s 1950s gas Roper stove. We designed our kitchen in our former house around that stove, and it worked great. I had a repair-man examine the Roper before we hooked it up, and he explained that there is very little that can go wrong with stoves of that era. I didn’t take a photo of my new old stove, but here’s a picture of the exact same stove. The antique appliance store in Clayton, Georgia has a similar, restored stove listed at $9,200! Mine needs some polishing on the chrome, but otherwise I think this is my stove.

Love! And now that I’ve had my junk fix, it looks like I have no choice but to get busy on the NEW TFB. For those of you who are new here, that means The Friggin’ Book. Which is how I actually make a living. But my publisher is pretty funny. They won’t actually pay me unless I write the damn thing. Sigh.

Get Your Spring Fever Giveaway!

Fun Pre-Order Giveaway!
To make sure you get your copy of SPRING FEVER in time for your summer vacation–or just to read while lounging around the neighborhood pool, I’d urge you to pre-order a copy from your favorite bookseller.And here’s the fun part….if you send us proof of your pre-order, we’ll send you a gift–a free packet of perky zinnia seeds specially branded with the SPRING FEVER book cover graphics to remind you that spring fever is catching. Sow the seeds now and enjoy fresh flowers just as SPRING FEVER pops up everywhere in June.

All the info about ordering the seed packet and showing proof of purchase can be found here:
While you wait for the new book, remember that the trade paperback of SUMMER RENTAL will be available May 8th, just in time for treating yourself, or for Mother’s Day, end-of-year teacher, graduation or just-because gifting.Speaking of Mother’s Day, we’ll have a fun promotion to announce in the coming weeks–more signed bookplates and recipe cards like last year. So stay tuned for details on that.

Happy Spring!
–MKA

Take a Trip to Tybee

Although I’ve been visiting Tybee Island for over thirty years, and we’ve owned a vacation home there for four years, I’m really not an expert on this funky, junky little barrier island off the coast of Savannah. But I do get emails all the time from folks looking for travel tips. So. Here goes my Tybee travelogue, all based on my own personal opinions and experiences.

First: try to plan your trip around the weather. We love Tybee year-round, but if you’re not used to extreme heat, humidity and yes, bugs, skip the summertime. But if you’re from the South, you’re used to the reality, so plan ahead. Just remember to take some sun-block and some insect repellent. Spring and fall are our favorite times on the island. The temperatures are usually mild. And if you love the beach in the winter, try Tybee then. Temps generally hover in the 50s and 60s, and the island is quiet and uncrowded. We love festivals and parades on Tybee, from The Beach Bum Parade, which happens the last weekend before the official start of tourist season on Memorial Day weekend, to the Fourth of July festivities to Pirate Fest in early October, to Mardi Gras, followed by Tybee’s version of St. Patrick’s Day.

Accomodations? To be honest, I’ve never stayed in the motels on the island. Until we bought our place, we always rented houses, and nearly always from our friend Diane at Mermaid Cottages, who now manages our own cottage, The Breeze Inn. Unless you’re staying only overnight, a cottage is just a way better deal, especially if you’re travelling with family. You can usually find a two bedroom cottage for under $200 a night–way better than crowding four people into a cramped motel room, plus with a house you get a fully stocked kitchen, a living room, and a place for meals. You save money even if you only fix cereal in the mornings and pack lunches to take to the beach. And most of the cottages have their own washer-dryer. Many also have screened porches and or decks, and fenced yards. Lots of the Mermaid Cottages accept pets too! (Although pets are NOT allowed on the beach.) If you rent a cottage, you’ll pay an extra cleaning fee, plus a refundable security deposit, but these cottages are spotlessly clean, with lovely, high quality sheets and towels. I know this, because I’ve personally stayed in more than a dozen different Mermaid Cottages over the years. Plus you get the amazing service of Diane and her staff to help you have a fabulous time on the island. If a condo or a larger beach house suitable for big groups is more your speed, give Tybee Island Vacation Rentals a call. There are at least three small inns on the island, and the newest one is the elegant Beachview Bed and Breakfast. I toured the guest rooms recently and this place looks divine!

Dining. Believe me when I say Tybee is extremely casual. There is no place on the island (including most churches) you can’t go in shorts and flip-flops. Our favorite restaurant, hands-down, is Sundae Cafe. This unprepossessing spot is located in a strip shopping center between a Chu’s convenience store and a liquor store, but don’t let appearances fool you. Day times you get an excellent lunch at great prices–which is why you’ll always find local cops and firemen and fishermen filling every table, plus the bar. Go early so you can get the specials which can run out fast with items like the crispy-scored flounder or the fried-oyster po-boy. Evenings are dressier, which means maybe you put on a collared shirt, or switch the bathing suit cover-up for a tee and some capris. Families with children are welcome at Sundae, which is good, because we always take our kids and grand-kids. Weekends and holidays, and all summer, you’ll want to call ahead for a reservation. But here’s a tip: you can always check the menu on-line and order your dinner to-go, which is what we do if Mr. MKA gets back late from a fishing trip, or the little ones are just too cranky to take out in public. Also? Portions are HUGE! I nearly always save half my dinner to have for lunch the next day.

Sundae Cafe’s desserts are awesome, but if you want something a little lighter, in warm weather months, take a stroll down Tybrisa Avenue to Jimmy’s Seaside Sweets for some delicious of their delicious custom-made gelato. My favorite is the chocolate Marsh Mud, or the Almond Joy–mmm, mmm, good. Their fun old-fashioned candy counter is also popular with kids.

Some of our other favorite dining options include Tybee Island Social Club, or Social as the locals call it. Very laid-back, with their version of a taco which is actually sort of a pita, with fillings ranging from barbecue duck to shrimp to fish. Prices are dirt cheap, and the house-made cocktails are fun and inventive. There’s a front porch open to the breezes, and often live entertainment. Right across the street is another fun option, Sting-Rays, with open-air seating, seafood and more live entertainment. At least once during your trip to Tybee you’ll want to watch a sunset over the Back River. That’s when you plan a trip to A.J’s. Sit on the deck, sip a cocktail, order some seafood and bust a chill, as our son, Boomerang Boy would say.

If you’re dining a little late, or you want to experience dinner looking out at the ocean, try Fanny’s On The Beach. Fare is what you’d expect, pizzas, sandwiches, some seafood entrees, but they have two rooftop decks for that all-important view. Can get noisy during the season.

Every visitor to Tybee should experience The Breakfast Club at least once. This local institution looks like a greasy spoon, but don’t be deceived by appearances. Owner/chef Jodee offers fabulous fare, always fresh, house-made sausages and sauces, and local specialties like shrimp and grits are on the menu. I love the Solidarity omelet. Portions are large, and prices are fair, but not cheap. Now, if only they’d switch their fountain drinks from Pepsi to Coke, I’d be a happy camper. Expect to run into a line of hungry folks unless you go before 8am, especially in the summer. If the line is too long, or you’ve got little ones in tow, maybe cross the street to Sunrise, which has a steam-table breakfast buffet, or you can order off the menu. Service is quick, prices are cheap, and unless you hit it Sunday morning right after mass gets out at St. Michael’s up the street, you probably won’t have to wait for your eggs and grits.

Dining in? Or picnicking? The IGA/Tybee Market right on Butler Avenue has a full line of groceries and sells wine and beer. The in-house bakery and deli is amazingly good. I’m talking homemade biscuits and cinnamon rolls in the morning, and excellent Southern fried chicken in the deli, not to mention hefty, made to order sandwiches for very reasonable prices. For a great day at the beach, call ahead and order sandwiches, side salads and/or fried chicken to pack in your cooler for a picnic. The Tybee Market’s homemade pimento cheese is the authentic, Southern real deal. Seafood there is usually fresh in season, and reasonably priced. Unfortunately, produce here can be sketchy. We like to stop at Davis Produce Stand on the way out to the beach for fresh fruits and vegetables and boiled peanuts.Note: Davis is not actually on Tybee. If you cross the Lazaretto Creek Bridge, you’ve gone too far! Or for a “big grocery shop” we stop at Publix on Wilmington Island. But if we’re cooking for a crowd, and Mr. MKA comes back from his boat empty-handed, we head down to Bowie’s Seafood, the bright blue former filling station located on “the bend” where U.S. 80 meets Butler Avenue. You’ll find very fresh local-caught shrimp, crab, fish and oysters, depending on the season. They’ll even pack you a cooler with ice and seafood to take home. Be aware though, their hours can be a little “quirky.” Which means they sometimes operate on what we like to call “Tybee Time.” Same goes for Davis Produce!

Sight-seeing. If you need a little more excitement than the waves lapping on the beach, here are some ideas courtesy of the island tourism office. . For one thing, park the car and walk or bike! Our guests at The Breeze Inn rent bikes from Tim’s Bikes and Beach Gear. (Also baby equipment, including cribs and bike-trailers) He’ll deliver right to your door, and pick up your bike again when you’re ready to head home. Tybee is perfectly flat and perfectly easy to bike–the whole island is only about 2.6 miles long. A fun stop is the Tybee Island History Center on the North end of the beach. Walk up the 178 steps of the old Tybee lighthouse and get a grand view of the ocean and the surrounding marsh. A little farther back up Highway 80 you’ll see old Fort Pulaski. A modest entry fee gets you into the old fort, which is a great spot for self-guided hikes. Since this is a barrier island, there are lots of watery activities to try, including kayaking or canoeing, charter fishing and dolphin and eco-tours.

Night-life. If you read my novel, Savannah Breeze, you know about Doc’s Bar, which is a Tybee landmark. Located on Tybrisa, Doc’s is a great spot to kick back at night with a drink, or to dance to some live beach music with the locals. It’s even cool if you’re on a chick trip, since nobody cares if you’re dancing with your besties! You might even catch local singer-songwriters performing several nights a week. You could also do karaoke at Bennie’s, or go over to Huc-a-Poo’s for pizza and some corn-hole. If you’re drinking, plan to walk back to your cottage–or take the Crab Cab. If it’s a night of dressed-up glamour you’re after, you’d best head into Savannah. For a special night have dinner at Ye Olde Pink House, or Vic’s, and go to the rooftop bar at The Bohemian on River Street, a glam spot for appetizers and stunning views of the Savannah skyline and the Savannah River.

Shopping. Of course, I’m biased, but most folks would agree with me that the best shopping on the island is at Seaside Sisters on Highway 80. Owner Susan Kelleher brings a unique mix of coastal, cottagey charm to this combination gift/home goods/art/antiques shop. Here’s where you’ll find just the right touch of Tybee to take home, whether it’s jewelry, cute bathing suit cover-ups, scented candles, funny greeting cards, or yes–vintage treasures like the ones I stock in my booth there. This is also the best spot to pick up a fun beach read–especially since Susan always stocks all the latest MKA novels, as well as Paula Deen cookbooks and food gifts. Did you know Paula has a house on Tybee? You can rent it through Mermaid Cottages. Otherwise, there are plenty of shops all over the island to buy typical tacky touristy stuff. I do like the nice bathing suits, beach gear, shoes, and sunglasses offered at The Surf Shop, and it’s fun to shop the eccentric offerings at Fish Art, which is right before Seaside Sisters on Highway 80.

So…that’s my little Tybee travelogue. Relax, kick off your flips and stay a while. And tell ’em MKA sent you!

 

 

 

Hello Again

Been gone so long I almost forgot how to blog again! Sorry, readers for the long absence. What can I say? I’ve been on the road again. Taking a post-Christmas vacay, a two-week writing binge in beautiful Anna Maria Island, Florida, then a couple quick trips to Tybee Island, another trip to South Florida, and now home again. Back in the saddle, trying to balance writing the new new book (for Summer 2013) and working on plans for the June 5 release of SPRING FEVER. We are nailing down tour stops and event dates and lots of fun promotions, so keep watching this space (and my Facebook and Twitter posts) for updates and deets on how you can catch SPRING FEVER. In the meantime, here’s a rundown of what I’ve been up to.

 

Ahhh. Anna Maria

In January, right after New Year’s, I fled Atlanta for the sunny shores of Anna Maria Island, Florida, for some quiet writing time and a quick reunion of old friends from my hometown of St. Petersburg. Don’t want to give away too much, but the plot of my book for Summer 2013 will be set in this area, so the visit really was for research. Shh, don’t tell anybody, but I also managed to fit in a lil’ junking. Some days, it’s good to be me!

Me and my buddy Budweiser

My suitcase was barely unpacked from the Florida trip before I headed down to Tybee Island and Seaside Sisters for a fun fund-raiser put together by my friends at Mermaid Cottages for an organization that trains and provides assistance dogs for servicemen and women. Here I am pictured with six-week-old Buddy, a black lab puppy who is in training to become a service dog. Buddy was so chill I really wanted to sneak him home in my suitcase.Wouldn’t Wyatt and Weezie have loved having a new playmate?

Comfy new sofa for the Breeze Inn

Of course, while I was on Tybee, I couldn’t resist doing a little fluffing at The Breeze Inn. I found a queen-size sleeper sofa on Craigslist that seemed like the perfect addition to our living room, so I swapped the old sofa with Mermaid Diane, and got the new sofa installed. I also switched out the queen-size bed in the master bedroom for a king-size that I’d found at an estate sale in Atlanta. As soon as I have all the new linens gussied up for the room, I’ll show you pix of that. But in the meantime, I’m hoping our guests will love the new, bigger bed as much as I do. PS, if you’re thinking of booking a stay at the Breeze, you might want to check our calendar–we’re already starting to fill up for spring and summer. Hey–maybe I better book our next stay!

Just another day in paradise

.An invitation to give a talk at the Palm Beach County library branch in Delray Beach provided a great excuse to go back down to Florida–this time I invited Mr. MKA along. We hooked up with our dear friends Linda and Cliff (Linda and I have been friends since junior high–so she really does know where all the bodies are buried) for a lil’ jaunt down to the Florida Keys. We stayed at an adorable little mom-and-pop motel on Marathon called The Ranch House, and could not have had a better time. Owner Diana spoiled us rotten, serving us her home-made smoked fish dip and mango salsa and chips–she even baked the boys a Key Lime Pie with limes from her own trees! While the guys fished on Saturday, Linda and I did what we do best–we cruised down to Key West for a day of shopping and strolling. Scored some cute sandals at the Kino Factory, and generally enjoyed that gorgeous sunshine.

Library love in Palm Beach County

That Tuesday, it was time to sing for my supper with an appearance at the Delray Beach branch of the Palm Beach Public Library. That’s me, above, with librarian buddies Stacy and Nora, who I met nearly ten years earlier on another visit. Never forgot their hospitality, especially since they took me to their super-secret junking spots and afterwards sent me a gorgeous bracelet I admired in one of the shops. Since they knew I loved vintage, the PBPL folks made sure I stayed at what might be my favorite hotel ever, The Colony, a fabulous 1920s Spanish-style hotel smack in the middle of downtown Delray, Sitting on their porch, sipping a drink, I felt transported back to another time and place. Note to self: must go back!

See the USA in your Chevrolet

After the South Florida trip, I just HAD to get in a quick trip to the Scott’s Antique Market before I headed out of town again. But this trip came under the heading of research, as I was doing a scouting mission. Next month, junk goddess and Flea Market Style magazine guru Ki Nassauer is coming to Atlanta to shoot a junking story with me. My favorite find was one I couldn’t actually buy; this fully restored Chevy Bel-Air in my absolute fave two-tone turquoise and white combo. Talk about a sweet ride! Following that, we took another quick trip down to Tybee, where I fluffed my booth at Seaside Sisters while Mr. MKA did some honey-dos at The Breeze Inn. On Sunday, I hopped over to Hilton Head Island, where I participated in the Cooks n’ Books event, a wonderful annual fund-raiser for Low Country Literacy. Whew! So now you know where I’ve been. Please excuse me while I finally unpack my suitcase. Again.


The Junk Year in Review

This is the time of year when knowledgeable sages prepare their reviews of the past year. You know, best movies, books, plays. The time when we re-cap all the momentuous stuff that happened in the world. Well, if that’s what you want, better look someplace else. I know I should be taking stock of the past year; its ups and downs, highlights and lowlifes. Maybe something spiritually and morally uplifting. Seriously, me? Morally uplifting? Not so much. However, I did think it might be fun to share my junky triumphs of the past year with my readers. And maybe a few tribulations. Like the basement full of snake tanks at an estate sale I stumbled into this past fall. Or the cheeky Buckhead Betty who tried to yoink the little antique oak barley-twist table I’d stashed behind the cash table at a sale earlier in December. Nearly had to pull out the pepper spray on the bee-yotch. Or maybe you’d like to hear about the truly creepy North Carolina country junk shop crawling with hundreds of cats–and the vaguely Deliverance-ish vibe the owner of the place gave off. Or maybe hear me admit I paid $15 for a repro Mercury glass candlestick with the Pottery Barn label plainly visible on the bottom, had I but looked. Nah, let’s forget that sutff. Instead, here are some of the highlights, and some of my favorite junk finds of 2011.

Savannah Estate Sale

Early January found me nesting at The Breeze Inn on Tybee Island, to get some writing done. We had a freezing start to the New Year, but on that first weekend, my friends Diane and Susan and I found a great estate sale in Ardsley Park, a historic Savannah neighborhood of gracious old homes. The pros running the sale even put out a propane heater to keep the customers warm while we waited for the doors to open.

Loads of exquisite china, silver and antiques in dining room.

The sale was great, but I skipped over the pricey stuff and picked up mostly fun, funky stuff for my booth at Seaside Sisters.

Couldn't resist this sweet vintage straw hat.

Wouldn't you like to have dined at Stewart's?At the February Scott’s Antique Market, I scored this adorable vintage wool child’s Little League shirt. Vintage children’s clothing in good condition are always scarce, probably because most of the time back in the day, clothes got handed down multiple times–until they were too worn out to save.

Old bench, new to me.

I spoke to an old friend’s book club last winter, and when it was over, she gave me this wonderful antique wooden bench that she’d inherited. Took it home, did a little wood-strip number on it, along with some very amateurish upholstery work, and now it has pride of place in our sun-room.

The Junk Posse Heads Out!

In March, members of my junk posse hit an estate sale in the far north suburbs, aimed only with our GPS and a willingness to hunt for treasures.

Vintage split-reed porch furniture

I nearly leapt from the moving car when I spotted this fabulous porch furniture. After some wheeling and dealing, it was mine. Had to get Mr. MKA to bring the truck to get it all home, and the peeling paint flakes left a tell-tale trail all the way down the interstate. But after some serious wire-brushing, power-washing and spray painting

How could I resist this vintage turquoise bowling shirt?

, it replaced the previous set of wicker furniture on the porch at The Breeze Inn. March found me back at the Scott’s Antique Market, and visiting various estate sales in and around Atlanta. I loved this bowling shirt, but since it was a size six, it got sold at Seaside Sisters.

Here's that old split-reed furniture, repainted and re-covered.

By April, we’d gotten the porch furniture ready to install at The Breeze Inn. The wicker furniture that had been there got sold within an hour of putting it out for sale at Seaside Sisters. It was a win-win swap.In May, I was cruising down my street in Atlanta when I spotted something sitting at the curb in front of a neighbor’s house. By the time I stopped the car and got out, two men were wrestling with the thing. Dejected, I asked them if they were taking the thing, but to my delight, they replied that they were actually putting it ON the curb. Then they offered to load it into my car! Ka-Ching! The thing turned out to be a vintage anesthesiology machine that had been in my late neighbor’s medical office. Despite Mr. MKA’s complete disbelief that anybody would want “that piece of crap,” I took it down to Seaside Sisters where it sold for about $125.

Also in May, we attended a fun golf outing in the North Georgia mountains, where my friend Jinxie and I shopped at a flea market where we spotted a first–headstones! We didn’t purchase one, but later in the day, at a shop in Cleveland, GA., I did buy this awesome (if cracked) vintage Nestea iced tea crock for $18.

In June? Well, June 6, my 18th book, SUMMER RENTAL came out, and I was off on book tour for most of the month, which remains a blur. I can remember being in Nag’s Head, when my editor called to tell me that we were Number 5 on the New York Times bestseller list. Not a lot of junking got done. But. . . wait. I was doing a signing at the fabulous Page & Palette Books a week or so later, when a fan told me about an estate sale going on in a nearby neighborhood. So I sweet-talked my book escort into doing a drive-by on the way back to my Mobile hotel room where I scored an excellent antique quilt top. See, linens are great for book tours, because you can just slide them into your luggage, not that being on book tour has ever deterred me from junking. In the summer of 2009, when I was on tour for THE FIXER-UPPER, I found the most amazing old wooden sign at a shop on the Jersey shore. I had to be back at my hotel and dressed for dinner with my agent within an hour, but I still managed to buy the sign and have it shipped home. Today, it has a place of honor at The Breeze Inn.

I never let a book tour get in the way of junking.

By July, I was back home (mostly) awaiting the birth of our first grandson, Griffin. But on the day he was due, I got so nervous waiting for him to be born, I took a quick trip down to Scott’s Antique Market before heading over to the hospital. Can’t remember what I bought that day, but the definite find of the day was our little man!

July 9, no junk, just a hunk o' love--John Griffin!

 

By August, I was off book tour and deep in the throes of trying to finish TFB (which stands for The Friggin’ Book). But somehow, this made me even more junk hungry.I ran away from home to write, all the way to the North Carolina mountain house of my friends Beth and Richard. Where I managed to use the carrot-and-stick rewards system. So many pages of writing in exchange for junking jaunts. Here’s the sweet child’s bentwood chair I found at a new honey hole. Also a tomato, because I ate lots of tomatoes bought from road-side stands.

On that trip, I found an honest-to-goodness treasure trove, The Depot at Gibson Mill, which is in Concord, N.C. Located in an old textile mill, the Depot is an antique mall of gargantuan proportions. Prices are good, and they have great stuff. Seriously great stuff.

Back home in September, I hit some really good estate sales, including the one where all the below treasures were discovered, including the vintage set of Pyrex mixing bowls with a book value of about $75–and I think I paid around $5.

Loads of goodies were unearthed at this Meemaw estate sale in Atlanta’s Virginia-Highlands neighborhood. I loved this old Black Flag atomizer, and put it in the Halloween display in my booth, where it sold pdq.

 

An excellent estate sale score!

October was an excellent month for junking. At my friend Clay’s moving sale, I scored a great vintage metal dental cabinet, and also a bunch of great plaid blankets, picnic baskets and thermoses which made a great display in my booth.

This vintage dental cabinet sold shortly after it went into my booth.
I went mad for plaid in October at Seaside Sisters.

November brought a yard sale at my neighbor’s house a few doors down. I bought a great patio set and a cool old general store cubbie, but I was delighted at what she gifted me with–a vintage turquoise toy Tonka truck, which she’d rescued from her neighbor’s trash pile. I posted a photo of it on facebook, and a fan emailed me that she had the matching trailer for my truck–which she promptly sent me. I think I have the nicest readers in the world.

Love this turquoise Tonka truck.

And the junking didn’t stop just because the weather got cold in Atlanta. I hit a Meemaw estate sale of a hoarder, and found three holidays worth of loot–vintage Halloween masks and candles, an Easter basket, and some Christmas collectibles too, including a set of vintage plaid Mahoganite dishes.

Christmas came in early December with this estate sale!

So, yes, it was the best of times for junking in 2011. Also for book sales. I was in such a junky mood as Christmas  neared that I determined to gift members of the junk posse with upcycled estate sale treasures. (I prefer this term to re-gifted–all my recipients were told that I’d gleaned their gifts at sales.) Junker Jinxie is a retired school-teacher who collects children’s chairs. She got a sweet little antique bentwood oak chair found at an estate sale earlier in the year. Junker Suze loves nature, so she got a vintage-looking birdhouse picked up at a moving sale. Friend Shay and her husband joined us on a magical trip to Tuscany in 2010, so she got a gorgeous Tuscany coffee table book scored at a Buckhead moving sale, and friend Ellen got an amaryllis I forced and planted in an estate sale silverplate bowl. All the giftees also got paperwhites we forced ourselves. I wrapped everything with wide cotton ribbon found on clearance at Ballard’s Backroom. It made me  happy just looking at the display I set up in front of my Welsh cupboard.

Just a lil' Christmas sumthin' for the junk posse.

So, that’s my year in review. No revolutions in Egypt, no boring Iowa caucuses. Just junk, every month of the year. And may 2012 be just as junky!

 

 

Heart-warming Christmas Catastrophes

Stuff Happens...Especially at Christmas

Ah, Christmas. A time of crashing Christmas trees, flaming hair extensions and faux fruitcakes. A joyous season of drunken, rampaging in-laws, in-church flatulence, and eggnog-induced dinner disasters. In the spirit of Blue Christmas, (still available as a bargain-priced $1.99 ebook until Dec. 23) we asked for your best/worst Christmas catastrophes, and like the intrepid troopers you are, nearly a hundred of you opened your hearts and your memory banks to come up with some of the most compelling, embarrassing, hilarious, heart-breaking stories ever.

Truly, reading your stories, my cup runneth over. In fact, my cup of Diet Coke speweth from my nostrils in a most un-Nativity like manner.

Your holidays make the Griswold’s Christmas Vacation seem like a Perry Como special. Your stories made me pause and take time to reflect and take stock, this blessed holiday season. IS IT JUST ME? Are all of my readers really this messed up? I was troubled, dear readers, that some of you might be troubled enough to come over to my place and take a baseball bat to my car, as did one of the characters in one of the stories I read. So I had to reach deep down and ask myself: Do my books attract a special variety of dysfunctional whack job?

Cousin Eddie: Everybody's got one...

But I decided, nah. Everybody’s life has its lousy, awful, disgusting moments. Everybody has a variation on the creepy ex brother-in-law who shows up Christmas morning to hit on an innocent niece. Lots of people have dogs who scarf up 30 yeast rolls and then barf them up on the rug just before company arrives. And really, who hasn’t, as a child, clambered atop her brother’s shoulders and ferreted out every last hidden Christmas toy at the top of the closet and handed them out to their younger Santa-believing siblings while their parents were picking up Granny at the airport?

Of course, not everybody is like Mary Calhoun, who defied her grumpy father in an effort to surprise her terminally ill mother with a live Christmas tree, and in the process inadvertently set a crazed squirrel loose in the house. For that, Mary Calhoun, you win first prize, a vintage Eisenberg Ice blue Christmas tree pin just like the one in Blue Christmas.

This vintage Eisenberg ice Christmas tree pin could be yours!

And not just anybody has a story like Amanda Totino, who unknowingly gifted her fruitcake-loving Aunt Berta with a mail-order confection which just happened to be made of foam rubber. For that moment of thoughtfulness, Amanda, you win the reproduction blue rhinestone Christmas tree pin.

Peggy Nesbit, you won an autographed copy of BLUE CHRISTMAS  for your tale of the ‘60s-era hairpiece that ended up snagged in your suitor’s dinner jacket at the big Christmas formal. And Pennie Chase, you won an autographed BLUE CHRISTMAS for the not-so-funny story about the year your hubby believed all the bagged-up Christmas gifts were trash and thoughtfully took them to the curb for pick-up. Bridget Loprieato,  you won for your re-telling of the time your cranky granddad mistook the doggie treats for cocoanut candy. Alison Storaasli, because we loved the tale of your sister’s hair extensions being set aflame at the candle-light Christmas service, you get a book too. And Yvonne Jefferson? How could we not give you an autographed book? Your story about the long-ago South Georgia white Christmas when  your husband and father-in-law decided to thaw the frozen water pipes by starting a bonfire beneath the house—thus filling the old board house with enough smoke to cure a country ham left us—literally, with tears in our eyes.

Avoid future cat-astrophes...

As for the rest of you, please believe me when I say how much I enjoyed reading all your meaningful (and disturbing) stories. If I had a hundred prizes, you would all win one for your willingness to share. In the meantime, what I wish for you is a safe, loving, blessed, Merry Christmas. And just remember—don’t let the cat near the Christmas tree, and don’t leave the dog home alone. Take the plastic wrapping off the ham and the bagged-up gizzards out of the turkey before baking. Make sure your oven actually works before inviting the free world over for a big Christmas dinner. And always, no matter what, remember to smile. Because who knows? Maybe this year’s catastrophe is next year’s contest winner.

Merry Christmas, y’all!

 

 

 

Vintage Pin Giveaway & Bargain-Priced Blue Christmas!

Happy holidays, y’all. Are you as crazed as I am? I have been decorating, shopping, and baking, oh my! Well, my holiday newsletter just went out this morning. If you are not yet signed up to receive it, you can read it here. And be sure to enter your e-mail address under “Newlsetter Signup” on the right side of my homepage so you can be sure to get all future issues.

I have two exciting announcements:

1. Win a Pin!: I have snagged a vintage Eisenberg ice blue rhinestone Christmas tree pin (just like the one that has a starring role in the plot of my novella Blue Christmas) and I want to give it away to one of you!

This vintage Eisenberg ice Christmas tree pin could be yours!

E-mail us at [email protected] with “MKA Holiday Mishap” in the subject field and tell me all about your favorite holiday catastrophe. Every family has at least one of these stories…you know, the out-and-out epic debacles that seem dreadful in the moment but become pee-your-pants funny over time and grow more legendary with each re-telling. I’ll pick my fave and that person will get the pin. The 2nd place winner will get an equally cute reproduction of this same pin. The top 5 entries will all get an autographed hardcover copy of Blue Christmas.

2. Cheap E-Books!: Because I know how you love a holiday bargain, the Blue Christmas e-book is marked down to $1.99 now thru December 23rd.

Regardless of what type of e-reading device you have, everywhere that e-books are sold, the Blue Christmas e-book should now be set to the promotional price. So go download it—and steal away some reading time for yourself in the midst of all the holiday hub-bub.

Good luck! Can’t wait to read your stories.

OK, enough blogging. These gajillion poundcakes are not going to bake themselves. And then there’s the wrapping. Oh, the wrapping!

Wishing you a holly jolly,
MKA