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bikes on the beachbeach bike rideIMG_7233st. augustinest. augustinefreedom trail st. augustinetaco shopcastillo st. augustinefort st. augustineAh, vacation. Let’s all just take a deep breath and beam ourselves back there. Shall we?

Reflections:

This comic made me laugh, but I don’t agree. To my mind, there is no better place than a beach to read (about) Russian literature. More on that later.

The quality of light when the sun shines through Spanish moss is one of life’s small pleasures.

Augustine helped Luke realize he’s homesick for history. Even though he’d never been particularly interested in it back home, now that we live in a relatively new city, the monotony of concrete, steel, and cookie-cutter brick houses has him longing for the cross beams of a black and white Tutor. Go figure.

Drinks in the oldest drinking establishment in the US.

Wouldn’t you like to interview someone who lives in a year-round tourist town like St. Augustine? Or beach town? How do you end up there? Where do locals go when they don’t want to be surrounded by tourists? How does anyone ever get any work done? What are the skin cancer rates?

New life goal: Spend at least one day a year in a beach chair. Alternate as follows: read a little, nap a little, read a little, take a dip, read a little, nap a little. That is all.

Hope you’re vacationing well. Where are you off to?

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I’m wary of going home these days. Sorry, Mom. After three years of successfully feigning momentary deafness to her appeals to remove the boxes of my childhood keepsakes and books that languished under her guest room bed, somehow, on a recent visit, they ended up in our car. Books, my elementary report cards, boxes of disposable camera photos from summer camp, of friends in braces, school dances, a portrait gallery of all the pets we ever owned and adored — bonfire anyone? — it was all there. I accepted these gifts under the delusional confidence that I would dump everything in the correct recycling bin as soon as we got home.

It will surprise no one, perhaps, that these boxes did not move from our living room floor for a month. We are the couple who hosts a standing monthly dinner party for the sole reason that if we didn’t have people over regularly, we would never tidy up. In frenzied preparation for one of these dinners, we moved the boxes to the office floor where they remained for another two months. Then a terrible thing happened. I steeled myself and tucked into the long days work of going through them. Finally my cluttered mind and apartment would benefit from the great purge of 2014. No one would be spared. Or so that was my intention. That is not what happened. The unsentimentalist got sentimental. After an entire day’s work, I only managed to carve out one box of throw-away.

“So what?” the sentimentalist says. “You’ve gotta keep that stuff, it’s personal history.” For the person with a mortgage and every intention of staying put for a while, yes, this is a fine solution. The kids you raise in your family home will one day derive hours of mirth and amusement from looking at your school year books and reading your 5 year-old stories about Frisky the cat.

That is not us. We have places to go still, many more years of suitcase living left. Stuff is our nemesis. Storage is a four-letter word. What are we going to do with all this stuff? Where will we put it? These are the questions that torment the nomad. And the most tormenting of all: What are we going to do with all these books? Because, you can’t talk about stuff without talking about books.

Herein lies the great dilemma. For two people who value our impermanence, our pick-up-and-goability, as highly as we do, we have a damn incompatible obsession with printed books. I’ve even changed my tune about eBooks in recent years, although it must be said, I still don’t gravitate to them. Theoretically, I can get down with eBooks, but in practice I know me. I will always buy and read and prefer the printed book. Done. End of story. So, what do we do?

As I ponder this emblematic first world problem (what to do with this stuff that we own because we have jobs and a place to live where we can keep it and money and health and… everything!), I am inspired by the rooted ones who are finding creative ways to live with their books. This family, featured on Cup of Jo today, are the latest. 

Which is all just to say we’re looking for storage solutions for renters. Got any suggestions?

In other news, this guy just wrote another book. I was, no exaggeration, just saying (to a friend at a recent clean apartment dinner party) that I wish he’d write another book because The Imperfectionist was just so perfect and timely and everything I wanted. And he did! Debating whether to pre-order or to wait and buy it as an eBook — :/.

(Photos from A Cup of Jo)

mommy&melibraryeslstudentlibraryI was six. I was in first grade, my sister was in third. We’d been tagging along with my Dad on some errands in Charlotte and, I guess, as a treat, were rewarded with a trip to the city’s glistening main public library. Here was the Emerald City of libraries. Outside was a fountain that stretched the length of the building, water toppling down the marble steps like a Slinky. Inside were four stories of open, light-flooded space, a cheerful children’s section complete with squishy bean bags and reading nooks. This was not our 1970s suburban library with the shag carpet and crumbling paint. I remember my trepidation penning my name on the back of my white and burgundy card, carving out the letters like initials in tree bark, afraid, perhaps, that someone would notice my first grader’s penmanship and bar me from this most adult of activities. No one ever did, thank God.

Do you know, though, I had to think for a minute before that story came back to me? I almost didn’t remember getting my first library card. I remember the ones that came later. In high school, feeling very unbalanced about the fact that I’d lost my card some years before and driving myself to the nearest library to renew it. In a new city, walking into town, filling out an application, getting a cup of coffee afterwards. There’re all really mundane memories. It’s actually a pretty mundane activity, when you think of it. At least for those of us who grew up with public libraries and parents who valued them.

mommy&melibrarianeslstudentslibraryrefugeestudentlibrarycardrefugeestudentslibrarycardsThese days I teach English to a group of refugee women at an intergenerational family literacy school. The women I teach live in a town where over 60 languages are spoken in the 1.2 mile radius that forms the city center. They live in crowded apartment complexes with neighbors from Africa, the Middle East and Asia. They decorate their walls with posters of tropical paradises. This particular class — almost all of them Burmese from the Chin province, though there are others from South Sudan, Eritrea, Iraq, Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo — are all adventurous gardeners. They grow pumpkins, burmese eggplants, green beans, and chillies in the medians and along chain link fences in their apartment complexes. They eat chillies like potato chips and laugh at me when I explain that most Americans only cook with a few cloves of garlic at a time — they cook with them by the bulb. They walk to school two days a week, pushing their children in second-hand strollers or carrying them in slings on their backs. They sing Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes with their children at the end of the school day and mispronounce the words “kitchen” and “chicken” with regularity. They crack themselves up every time. They swirl thanaka on their children’s cheeks and smile mischievously when I ask them what it is, why they do it. When they are not at school, they spend their days perpetually in waiting rooms, at the doctor’s office, at the Georgia Department of Human Services, at the DMV, at the chicken plant. What are they waiting for? Interpreters, mostly. A lull. Someone with time. Back home they were weavers, teachers, and farmers. Many of them lived most of their lives in refugee camps in countries not their own. The ones who remember, talk about the forest, the river, the roses.
IMG_5651 IMG_5653 IMG_5652 mommy&mereadingThe other day we went to the library for the first time as a class. These are not provincials — they’ve been to a library before (we have a small one at our school that they use every week). And they’re not completely newly arrived to the United States, either — they’ve been here for fewer than five years. So they know about libraries. Do they use them? No, probably not. Possibly because, well, where do you begin? Having lived in the States we know librarians as a whole don’t bite, that they love to help you find things. Burmese refugees don’t know that.

I’m wondering: do librarians ever phase out of that stage where they seem to genuinely enjoy talking about awesome kid’s books? Does that excitement ever die? It’s actually adorable to watch.

I won’t say adorable, but do you know what else is spectacular to see? An adult getting her first library card. Also, seeing a group of ESL learners demolish an entire shelf of the coveted Picture Dictionaries. Picture Dictionaries that don’t cost $25 like teacher keeps telling them. This time they’re Free.

Mind. Blown.

We need a new way of storing our books. Luke is all for contributing them to these, but… eh… I dunno. Would they be loved?

In any case, they’re piling up.

If I’m completely honest, the fireplace method would suit my organization style best — just shove it in and go. But alas, I haven’t a fireplace.

(Found these on Pinterest, along with so many more good ideas.)

Unlike books or food, I am less carefree about buying new clothes. There, I hesitate. In my book? They’re a luxury. I do try to shop at second hand stores most of the time and generally feel less bad about spending money on clothes then (though I still only do it rarely), but sometimes you just really want that pretty new thing. Of course, this time of year I find myself thinking like my school and college-aged self: a new outfit for a new school year — wouldn’t that look nice? Tax free weekend doesn’t help the situation. Neither do cute, Frenchy frocks. Add to the equation that this August I am starting a new job, and it would be so very nice to add some color to my wardrobe that is currently black and white attire as per the dress code of past jobs. You can hear the internal monologue I’ve been having here of late.

But a dress is not a book. Sure, it’s the cost of a few books and I’ll wear it for a few years. But I could also spend that money on other things. Books and breakfast, for example. And this time of year also has me thinking about new books, too. To put in my new backpack, naturally.

So it’s a conundrum, really. New books or a new frock? One is clearly a necessity and the other is, to me, a major luxury. Of course, every so often, if you’re frugal, I see no reason not to indulge. That’s what this series is all about, right?

Tell me. What is your feeling about splurging on a little luxury every so often? What are your splurges?

Speaking of books, would you like to win one? The giveaway for Gone Girl is going on until 5pm today. Make sure to enter and good luck!

gone girl hardback IMG_5228I’m pleased to announce that I’ll be doing my first ever book giveaway for one lucky For the Love of Bookshop reader. And the book is … Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn! If you haven’t already been swept away with Flynnvy, let me just tell you: Gone Girl is a sneaky, page-turner of a psychological thriller that some are calling the book of 2012. Flynn immerses the reader instantly into an intriguing missing person plot — Amy Dunne vanishes from her home on the morning of her fifth wedding anniversary and all fingers are pointing to husband, Nick. The only problem? Nick is one of our narrator’s and he swears he’s innocent. Told in two different voices — Nick’s in the present and Amy’s from seven years of past journal entries (all disturbingly sentimental despite the years of marital hardship they describe) — we piece together a picture of a young couple whose relationship goes awry when both lose their journalism jobs in New York and are forced to move back to North Carthidge, Missouri to take care of Nick’s ailing parents. Neither narrator is particularly trustworthy, both being adapt storytellers and, you soon discover, expert liars. So whose version of the story is correct? And in any case, where’s Amy?

Flynn is the master of trickery, throwing in new twists and turns just when you think you’ve figured out what’s going on. With unpredictable characters, the reader’s task isn’t just to guess whodunnit; that’s the easy part. The real task is understanding how and why, and unraveling the complex psychological case studies that make up the Dunne family. It’s a ride, y’all, and perfect for a summer read.

If you’d like a chance to own my hardback, good-as-new copy that I’ve owned for exactly one week (because it’s that good!) please leave a comment below with an email address and the name of your favorite indie bookstore. Since this is my first giveaway and I want to include as many readers as possible, I’m making it open to anyone in the US, Canada or Europe. I hope to continue these book giveaways as a way to show my appreciation to you, my wonderful readers, and because, selfishly, I’d love to talk to you about the books I’m reading.

IMG_5232I will choose a winner on Friday, August 9. Until then, Gone Girl will sit on my shelf looking at you all with big puppy dog eyes (“Someone wants to take me home?”). Good luck and happy reading!

labordaycalendarLooking ahead to a long labor day weekend camping trip. The plan is to catch the ferry over to Cumberland Islandoff the Georgia coast, and enjoy three days of sand, sun, water, and cloud-gazing. Cars are not allowed on the island and it’s only accessible by ferry. Doesn’t that just sound perfect? Also, apparently, Cumberland Island has some of “America’s most beautiful coastal walks.” I don’t know why I’m always surprised when Georgia pops up on the odd “Top 10 such and such” in travel magazines. It’s not a bad place to live, politics aside. 

However, I will be sad to miss this.

A few more things:

I have been that person at a party before. Heck, I’ve been that person when I meet another women’s college graduate. Social alienation ensues.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again. Iceland is breathtaking. Maybe for labor day weekend next year? I can dream. Make sure to watch the video in HD.

Mmmm, tempura squash blossoms. Whose garden will I be raiding?

After yesterday’s post, I was feeling guilty about going out for breakfast so much, so we made enough of these to last us through the weekend. Used Deb’s recipe (naturally). I must say, it gave all our favorite pancake pervaders a run for their money.

With the money we would have spent on breakfast this a.m., I bought a book last night. 

Heading to Sweetwater this afternoon. Not the brewery. I used to think our friends were serious boozers for going there what seemed like every weekend. Even so, it sounded like a magical place. Hiking, creek swimming and beer? Then we realized the brewery must have been named after something and turns out it was. That’s not to say we won’t be making a detour on our way home… jk?

 

Otherwise, just daydreaming about this jagged, beautiful mountain. A few pics I don’t think I’ve shared yet from France. mont sainte victoireIMG_4164 IMG_4163 montsaintevictoiremont sainte victoiremont sainte victoireHope you have a refreshing weekend!

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