Wednesday, August 31, 2011

I'm Bored Mom! Ideas to save your day

I don’t know about you, but am really feeling exhausted after coming up with an entire summer of activities for the kids. With only a few days left until school, I needed some quick options to get me through the week, and few remaining nice weekends.

So here are a few ideas to share with you. They don’t cost much, if anything, and beats hearing “I’m bored.” Enjoy!
  1. Call a friend and meet at a park. Babies in strollers and teens with attitudes are fine.  Try and leave the ear buds at home and talk during the walk over.

  2. Bake cookies, or take the fast and easy way out and add frosting and sprinkles to purchased ones. Take some to the neighbor lady who lives alone down the street.

  3. You can also have the kids decide what’s for dinner and let them help cook.

  4. Go rollerblading or strollerblading. You can go around the Twin Cities lakes, or try out the Metrodome or a local roller-rink (remember those?  They're still open!)  for an indoor option.

  5. Go to the State Fair and check out the animal barn.

  6. Go to an indoor playground. Invite the other parent, have coffee and TALK! The Eagles Nest in New Brighton, Maple Grove Community Center and Edinborough Park in Edina are all great Twin Cities Metro options.

  7. Explore your local wildlife park. In the northern Minneapolis suburbs Springbrook Nature Center and Silverwood are great options.

  8. Try bumper bowling. There are coupons online and in the Happenings/Entertainment books that make this a cheap fun option for ages five and up. I love the bumpers, because then even I can look like a pro!

  9. Go to the zoo. The Como and Minnesota zoo have indoor and outdoor choices. 

  10. Organize a Kid-Swap with friends. They take your kids for a morning and you take theirs for an afternoon. 

  11. Visit a farm and see all the farm animals, you maybe be able to feed and pat some of the tamer ones. Emma Krumbees in Belle Plain has a nice one that is perfect for smaller kids.

  12. Go to a local museum. The Minnesota History Center or Gibbs Museum is a great to show the kids how things use to be. The Minneapolis Art Institute is free and is next to the Children’s Theatre. Rush tickets are half price and if the kids aren’t too tired after the museum, it’s a perfect add-on. Get in line a half an hour before the show!

  13. Grab your bike helmets and go for a bike ride.

  14. You can also give them the video camera, and have your own Oscar-winning production. 

  15. Stop down at the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market. They are open until Christmas and even have healthy snacks and coffee for the adults.

  16. Have a movie afternoon. Rent a couple of good kid’s shows on NetFlix, make some popcorn and snuggle up with blankets and enjoy.

  17. Try family camping at Baker Park. They also have fun family classes and year round campfires.  You can even try a tent and campfire in your own back yard!

  18. Weed the garden and check out the progress of the tomato plants!

  19. Try Horseback riding or a wagon ride. For an easy short option, try the Forepaugh’s area in St. Paul or down by the Mississippi River in Minneapolis.

  20. Take a day trip to a historic town. Red Wing, Afton and Stillwater are fun year round!

  21. Have an indoor/outdoor picnic lunch. Let the kids help pack their own, break out the picnic basket and spread out a blanket. 

  22. Play a game of Hearts or Uno.

  23. Smile! Get out the digital camera, let the kids take some pictures, download them and create a slide show, or go online and make a book or poster.  

So give these ideas a try, and know you can make it until school starts!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Five is the New Forty

I have a theory that answers all of life's relationship questions.  Not discovered by Freud, Jung or even Dr. Phil, all our interpersonal issues boil down to a simple fact; No matter our job, our social status, our fame  or our chronological age, we're really all just five years old.  

No really!  It's true.

Okay, give me a second to prove my point.

That angry check out clerk?  A vinyl nap mat and a snack would do wonders.  Very Kindergarten. Very five.  

Great-Aunt Minnie arguing at the family reunion with her 87 year old brother, Milt over an ear of corn?  She needs a five minute time-out and a reassuring hug.  She's still five.  

The President of the United States and Congressional Leaders arguing about the National Debt Ceiling?  Definitely a group of  I'm-taking-my ball-and going-home five year olds. Gentle limits and defined consequences could have made all the difference, and may have prevented the US credit rating from taking a dip in the world's financial potty chair.  They were all just five, and we forgot.

Think about it in your own life.  When things aren't going quite your way, inside don't we really just want to stomp up and down and cry giant crocodile tears?  Sometimes, I'm tired of pretending that I don't want to have an all out hissy fit about having to be the grown-up, when I just really want a hug and a graham cracker.

Actually, Robert Fulghum had it right in his poem  All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten.  Sharing and playing fair are still some of the most important rules to live by.  What parent wouldn't love their teenager to put things back where they found them, and clean up their own mess?  (My teen is obviously one of the late birthday kids that should've been held back a year.  She hasn't yet reached the All I Really Need To Know Kindergarten clean-up level yet).  

However, as chronologically-aged adults we still struggle with the lessons we learned at five.  I have a hard time saying sorry when I hurt somebody I love. I don't always take the time to play, or sing or dance.  But inside, I still really would love to do just that, and top it all off by skipping down the street.  I miss finger paints and might still enjoy a side-order of paste with my Play-Dough sandwich.  

I think we'd all be so much happier if we let our inner-child free to have a warm cookie and a tall glass of milk, and forgot the double mocha with a low-carb something.

More importantly, remembering that everyone else is five, can help us forgive the little pouts of our spouse, the temper tantrum of the boss and give us the ability to smile at the angry waiter as he slams down a bowl of pasta in an attempt to provide customer service.

We all want to be liked for who we are, and sometimes would feel less alone if when we go out into the world, there was still someone there to hold our hand, and keep us safe.

So, I'll be there for my five year old family and friends, and take care to be kind to the rest of the Kindergarten class I interact with out in the big, bad world every day.

Are you convinced?  If not, have a nap and a couple of raisins on me.  Things will look better in a little bit.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

So What Do You Say to MIA?

I've gone missing.  Really and truly what-ever-happened-to, you'd-better-return-my-call. bad-PTA-parent MISSING.  Last December I was beginning to embark on a new position in my paying job.  The job involved some travel, some additional education and a bit more time.  I was really was excited to start, and have loved the sense of accomplishment and fulfillment I've gained from the endeavor.

What I didn't realize was that the job would cause me to disappear from my social life, my blogs and even the fun and interesting woman who cuts my hair every six weeks.  I am over scheduled.  My hair is a hot mess.  I am missing in action.  And I am not apologizing for it.

After a job, a house, a husband, four kids, three dogs, a cat, two fish and a frog, I am accepting that I am done, and its OK.  While in my twenties, I tried to be superwoman and made myself (and everyone around me) stressed out and miserable.  All I had to do was to look to Martha Stewart to realize that my options were divorce, jail or a fabulous line of personal crafting supplies.  She chose all three.  I chose to keep trying to have the parties, the exercise classes, the parent meeting and the fully balanced dinners.  Then one day, I grew up.

I realized, I didn't have to do it all.  I wasn't Martha, and in that light-bulb moment, I was relieved.  I suddenly understood that there would be moments where I couldn't take on one more thing.  Moments that I had to just say no, or perhaps not even pick up the phone or sign on to Facebook and say just that.  At those times I began to disappear.

I disappeared from the have-to social obligations.  Oh yeah, I missed a lot of great things too, but I realized that, unlike the song,  sometimes it was too hard to have too much fun.  I didn't sort through the 300+ emails that mysteriously would fill my box in a day and a half.  I gave myself permission to let the dishes sit in the sink, to use baby powder to fluff up my less than pristine hair and to acknowledge that I wasn't a bad parent if I let someone else volunteer for whatever school event was upcoming.  In disappearing, I had the energy to take care of myself, be with my family, focus on my job and be happy being less than perfect.

Disappearing was a good thing.  Being missing in action didn't diminish my tour of duty when it came to being a mother, a wife, a daughter and a friend.  It allowed me to have some perspective and realize that I wasn't all that vital in the scope of the world.  Things proceeded just fine without me.  My real friends understood that I just needed time to reflect and take care of me, my family and my new position.  The Facebook friends survived as others moved forward to fill their status with exciting events and insights.  I learned how large an email box can get without emptying it for 3 months.  A social experiment in living in the new world of instant social media gratification without interacting was invigorating.

So I am back now, somewhat.  I will probably never return to my previous level of connection, but am content with my decision to drop out for a bit and drop back into my life and the lives of those I love so closely and deeply.  I am here, not MIA, but I now will only do that which I can and wish to do.

Martha, take note.  I'm glad I did.

Sunday Supper: Best Darned Edition

Like I said earlier, I spent the majority of my summer doing exactly what I planned  on doing.  That NEVER happens.  Now, I had also planned on blogging regularly and finishing a novel, and neither of those tasks were completed, but at least I made a stab at it.

You might not know this about me, but follow-through is not exactly my strong suit; I lose interest in things pretty quickly.  I have managed to stick with parenting for almost 15 years, which is a record for me and stick-with-it-ness.  I guess we can chalk that up to the fact that there's no real way not to follow through on that task without going to jail. 

So the parenting gig has been good for me.

The cooking gig has been good for me too.  Well, for my taste-buds, not so much for my hind-end.  I did a lot of cooking and canning and kitchen-related minutiae over the summer, and I managed to perfect some things.

And so, I'll start sharing. 

Best Darned Barbecue Sauce
You'll never buy another bottle of sauce as long as you live.  Not. Even. Kidding.

1 Tablespoon Canola Oil
1/4 whole Onion, Diced
2 cloves Garlic, Minced
1 cup Ketchup
1/4 cup Packed Brown Sugar
2 Tablespoons (additional) Brown Sugar
4 Tablespoons Distilled Vinegar (less To Taste)
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce
1/3 cup Molasses
1 Small Can of Chipotle Adobo Sauce (the adobo sauce chipotle peppers are packed in- just pull the peppers out, but for the love of all that is holy, do NOT lick your fingers. Trust me.)
Dash Of Salt

Heat canola oil in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook for five minutes, stirring, being careful not to burn them. Reduce heat to low. Add all remaining ingredients and stir. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Best Darned Cookie:  Lemon White Chocolate Chip
If you need a wedding/baby shower cookie, this is your girl.  If you just need a good cookie, this is still your girl.

2-½ cups All-purpose Flour
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
½ teaspoons Baking Powder
1 cup Butter-Flavored Crisco
1-½ cup Sugar
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
Zest of One Lemon
2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
3 Tablespoons Heavy Cream (up To 4 Tablespoons)
1 ½ cup White Chocolate Chips
Optional: Raw Sugar or Colored Sprinkles, For Sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, and baking powder. Set aside.

In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients. Add enough of the cream to moisten the dough and make it soft, not wet. Mix in chocolate chips. Roll rounded teaspoons of dough into balls and place on a ungreased cookie sheet and slightly flatten the top of each cookie. Sprinkle with raw sugar or colored sprinkles.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until slightly golden. Let stand for 2 minutes before removing to cool on a rack.

Best Darned Cookie #2:  Rolo Cookies
I found this one on Tasty Kitchen, and modified it a bit.  AC practiced her baking and her fractions by baking these babies.  You're welcome.

1 cup Sugar, Plus Extra To Roll Cookies In
1 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Butter Or Margarine
2 teaspoons Vanilla
2 whole Eggs
2-½ cups Flour
¾ cups Unsweetened Cocoa
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
36 Rolos- unwrapped of course

Beat sugars and butter together until fluffy. Add vanilla and eggs; beat well. Add flour, cocoa, and soda. Mix well. Refrigerate dough for at least 1 hour.

Shape 1 tablespoon of dough around 1 Rolo (unwrapped, of course), covering it completely. Roll each ball in white granulated sugar.

Place the balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375ºF for 8–10 minutes.

There's more where these came from, and I'll share over the next few weeks.  I'm in a jambalaya coma right now.  Coach's college roommate, a native of Louisiana, gave me a Creole recipe.  I'm a little green on the whole Creole/Cajun thing, but I'm fascinated.  Apparently there is a whole controversy over using sausage or not, using butter or not, and using tomatoes or not.  And since I do love a good food-related fuss, I do see a cook-off in our future.  Anyway, more on the jambalaya later. 

In the meantime, go barbecue some chicken legs and eat some cookies.  You'll thank me later. 

See Y'all!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Thus and Such

Because sometimes, the list is a God-send.

1.  I miss reading any old time I want to.  I did just finish a great read though.  I might have mentioned it a time or eighty.  Rules of Civility by Amor Towles.  It made me fall in love with New York all over again, and re-emphasize my desire to live their, briefly, some day.  He's a little less committed to my NYC dreams.  Anyway, Rules of Civility is a must-read.  I reviewed it on BlogHer, so you can check out my full review here

2.  Someone is turning 11 this weekend.  Stop for awe and wonder.  We've been celebrating since April.  She loves a thorough baptism of celebration.  She also loves Lay's Potato Chips- plain.  She put them on her birthday list.  Along with a Nook, Tom's shoes, frozen yogurt gift cards.  Her list reminds me of a desperate grocery store purchase over the summer which included an Us Magazine, Stri-Dex, Kraft Caramels, Hebrew National Hot Dogs, nail polish, and some pickled relish.  It's like I was stricken with  the palsy.

3.  In honor of AC's birthday I am making a red velvet cake.  FROM A BOX.  I NEVER do that.  Really, I don't- it's a travesty.  It's like making Hamburger Helper and calling it dinner.  Hamburger Helper being scarfed down whilst standing in front of the fridge, however, is a totally different story.  Anyway, I had to make the hard decision between baking all day Saturday or floating in my float reading the books that are screaming to be opened from my Nook. So, box it is.  And honestly, it was really more a stress reliever because the amount of red food coloring that you have to put in a homemade cake just sends me over the edge.  And it reminds me of the bleeding armadillo groom's cake scene from Steel Magnolias.  So, box it is.

4.  We've been in school for 7 days.  That means 173 more to go before I am back on the beach on Hilton Head Island, and don't think for one minute that I am not keeping an up to the minute count down.

5.  And, speaking of countdowns, we are a mere 3 weeks away from this...

PRAISE GOD!  And I'm about to bust a stitch.  Marching bands, whistles, majorettes, Smokey, the smell of bourbon and body odor- well, I cannot wait.

6.  I love the song "Good Intentions" by Randy Travis.  It's exactly the right beat for my running speed.  Sad, but true.  AC/DC had to go off the old iPod a while ago after a sprained ankle, torn spandex, and a terribly bruised ego.  Anyway, I've been INTENDING to get a couple of posts up for a while.  This week I've jumped off the road to Hell and committed to it.  One on good anti-aging products.  And one I'm going to call "Best Darned" as in the best darned food in many categories that you've ever eaten.

Until then...

See y'all!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Little Piggies

This little piggie went to high school.

This little piggie stayed home.

This little piggie went to middle school.

And this little piggie went for a run.

And this little piggie?

She went "Waaaaah Waaaaaah Waaaaaah" all the way home.

I'm convalescing.  I'm mourning.  I'm staring at crow's feet and enlarged pores wondering where my toddlers went.  I might be over it tomorrow.  Hope for the best.

See y'all!

Monday, August 8, 2011

LEGO Parachute Craft

Remember parachute guys?  The strings always got all tangled, and the guys were always some weird color of plastic with an uncomfortable grimace on their face . . . but it was so fun to launch them off the balcony again and again and again. 

Make your own with just two simple components -- a LEGO minifig, and a plastic shopping bag.

1. On your plastic shopping bag, find the seam on the handles.  This marks the middle of the handles, so your minifig will be centered.  Punch or poke a small hole near the inside edge of each handle right on the seam.

2. Put your LEGO guy's arms through the holes you poked.  Tuck it right under his armpits. 

3. Drop from a high vantage point, and watch your minifig land safely!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Change is Contagious

In my efforts to improve myself, which I also posted about on my other blog, I've been working on a huge overhaul. I've been exercising every day, changing my eating habits, and taking steps to increase the happiness factor.

And? It's working.

Every little change I make is leading to new changes. I have more energy. I'm doing more. Procrastination is a dwindling issue.

This feels so good. But, what makes it feel really good is that I am so motivated to keep doing more.

And the best part?

The husband is now joining me.

I'm not really the nagging type. "Gee, Husband, I'd love for you to eat fruits and veggies with me and lower your cholesterol" and other such nonsense is not often spoken from my lips. I find pressure has the opposite effect of what is generally intended.

Besides, I know change is contagious.

And so, today, he went to the gym. He found a calorie counter app to use on his phone. He made a healthy dinner of chicken with sun-dried tomatoes. He's totally motivated. And whether it lasts as long as he intends it to, doesn't matter to me at this point. I'm just happy that in this moment, he's making a conscious effort to be a little bit healthier. I feel like my changes have given him a little more incentive to take some challenges on himself.

File today under: Win.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Railrunner & Museum of Folk Art in Santa Fe

Waiting for the train
Yesterday we took the Railrunner up to Santa Fe, ostensibly to go to the Museum of International Folk Art, but actually just because everyone wanted to ride buses and trains.  We took the 10:47 train up, ate a nice lunch, used the train's bathroom (several times) and arrived at Santa Fe around noon.  It turns out that our Railrunner tickets also worked for the bus system, so we took the M bus to Museum Hill for free.  They had a free paint-your-own-ceramic-tile activity, which was pretty cool, and that also led to free admission at the museum.  Since my friend Lisa was with us taking pictures, you get a rare photo with me in it.  :-)

Now, if you've ever taken kids to an art museum, you know that it's pretty nerve-wracking.  You want them to enjoy the museum, but you want to make sure they DON'T TOUCH ANYTHING!!!  Well, luckily the museum had a few areas where kids could touch things, so we interspersed playing with looking and it went pretty well.  Everyone's favorite room was the Girard Wing, with dolls and toys and art from all over the world from the past two centuries or so.  They had a lot of them arranged into little villages or houses, so it was fun to peek inside and imagine living in a different world.  They also had an Andes Mountains exhibit that was pretty cool, though I think it would have been cooler if they had a dress-up area or a make-your-own mask area or something more hands-on. 

On the way back we played go fish on the train and thought about the difference between folk art and pop art and fine art, and their relative importance and impact on our lives today.  Well, the kids were more interested in going all the way to the back of the train and seeing how fast they could run without falling down the stairs (result: had to hold mom's hand back to our seat).

It was pretty tiring, and we didn't get back home until 6pm, but it was a good trip, and everyone loved the train.  The kids want to make this an annual summer thing, and I think that's a fine idea.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Summer Reading

I think I have said it before, this summer has been a summer of fun here. There's been a lot of swimming, eating, playing, laughing, cooking, and reading. LOTS of reading. From the time I was old enough to read I have devoured books.  I love all sorts of books:  biographies, memoirs, fiction, religion/theology, history - pretty much anything.

Anyway, the summer allows me time to read for fun.  I don't do a whole lot of heavy reading, because it's hard to really appreciate Camus when you're dodging Nerf balls and diving children playing  spirited games of Green River. 

So, if you're wanting to pick up a good read or eleven, check the list.  I've got more where these came from, but it's a good start.

1.  The Help - Kathryn Stockett

I read this one for a second time because the movie is coming out in a mere 9 days.  And y'all.  Y'ALL.  It was so much better the second time around.  The characters, the plot, the history, the language.  I can't even begin to tell you how much I love it all.  It may possibly be the best book I've read in decades. If you've never had the pleasure of reading a book that runs the gamut of emotions, then get yourself to a bookstore and buy this book.  You'll laugh, you'll get mad, you'll cry (I even ugly cried once or twice), and when it's over you'll be ready to flip back to page one and start all over again.

Whoa baby.  This book has sparked all sorts of controversy.  A hot mess of controversy.  So naturally, I had to read it.  I'll say this- it's a fascinating read.  It causes you to really think and question your spiritual beliefs.  I love that.  I don't agree with Bell on many points, but he raises some important questions and he challenges the Christian reader to address beliefs regarding the afterlife.

Again, whoa baby.  This is Chan's answer to Rob Bell's book.  Another thought provoking, but much more biblical discussion about Hell, it's existence, and what we believe about the afterlife.  It may not be your cup of tea, but it's absolutely worth the read.  Chan is a very accessible theologian, but not condescending or elitist.  I like that; I am not a fan of theological or academic snobbery.  That's a post for another day though, because I have some feelings there.  Mama just needs to brush off her soapbox.

4.  Long Drive Home: A Novel - Will Allison

And back to fiction we go.  I hate to tell you this, but I've been a little gender-biased in my reading lately.  I found I was only reading novels written by women.  I like women writers.  They get women.  So far, I haven't really found a man who gets women.  However, I have met many who have given it their best shot.  I guess that's the best we can hope for. 

Anyway, let's talk about Will Allison and his novel.  The story begins with a tragic car accident that involves road rage, a split decision, and the ramifications of some really bad decisions.  REALLY BAD.  The dilemma I had with this particular book is that the entire time I was reading I kept clucking my tongue and thinking to myself, "You idiot, you're going to wreck your marriage and your family if you don't come clean about this."  And then he does. I have to give it to Mr. Allison, he mastered the art of the disintegrating marriage.  Creeping separateness is his theme, and homeboy nailed it.  NAILED IT. 

5.  Gone with a Handsomer Man - Michael Lee West

I'll just let the Amazon review do the talking here, except to say- this one is doggone funny.  It's also the a perfect book to read in a pool in South Carolina with a big cup of sweet tea and a free afternoon. 

Teeny Templeton believes that her life is finally on track. She’s getting married, she’s baking her own wedding cake, and she’s leaving her troubled past behind. And then? She finds her fiancé playing naked badminton with a couple of gorgeous, skanky chicks.
Needless to say, the wedding is off. Adding insult to injury, her fiancé slaps a restraining order on her. When he’s found dead a few days later, all fingers point to Teeny.
Her only hope is through an old boyfriend-turned-lawyer, the guy who broke her heart a decade ago. But dredging up the past brings more than skeletons out of the closet, and Teeny doesn’t know who she can trust. With evidence mounting and the heat turning up, Teeny must also figure out where to live, how to support herself, how to clear her name, and how to protect her heart.

6. The First Husband: A Novel - Laura Dave

Laura Dave is one of my favorite authors.  She's funny and she gets people. Have you ever read a book and watched the main character make a decision that you think you would never make in your real life, but you find yourself cheering for despite yourself?  Yeah.  That's this book.  The basics- Annie has a stable relationship that turns out to be not so stable.  So he leaves.  She meets a new guy- a guy you have to LOVE, and she marries him.  Then, you find yourself hoping she leaves perfect guy to return to the snake that left her, and well, you'll have to read the book to see what happens.  I was romantically exhausted after this one- this one is fraught with drama.

7. What Happened to Goodbye - Sarah Dessen

I read this one for BlogHer book reviews.  I liked it.  I loved it.  I want some more of it.  Dessen gets girls, and she writes about real girls.  Technically, it's a young adult novel, but I enjoyed it from beginning to end.  You can read my review here, but my biggest praise is this- I can give this one to my 11-year-old daughter who loves herself some romance novels and not worry about language, sexual situations, or other topics that may be a bit advanced for her.

8. Folly Beach: A Lowcountry Tale (Lowcountry Tales) - Dorothea Benton Frank

LOVE Dottie Frank.  I want to be her when I grow up.  Her love for the South Carolina Low Country is 100% to blame for the one disagreement Coach and I have in our marriage.  When our kids fly the coop this girl is heading straight for the Low Country.  Coach has other ideas.  Folly Beach is different from her other novels, there is some history about the Heywards and the writing of Porgy and Bess.  If you are a Dottie Frank fan, this one is a little slower than her others, and you can tell she struggled some with the writing- honestly, I think this is the book she has wanted to write for years, but it just hadn't percolated long enough.  It's good, don't get me wrong, but I'd be willing to bet Coach an RV that if we asked Mrs. Frank, she would tell us this one didn't take residence with her.  That being said, she still makes me long for the Low Country.

9. Summer Rental - Mary Kay Andrews

Hello summer.  Go now and get this book.  Mary Kay Andrews ranks right there with Dottie Frank, and they usually publish novels within a month of each other.  Andrews focuses more on the Georgia, and in this novel, the Outer Banks.  Where Frank stays in the South Carolina Low Country, Andrews isn't afraid to take you travelling all over the South.  Nothing wrong with that is there?   Again, if you want a good book to float around a pool and devour, this one gets the job done.

10. Then Came You: A Novel - Jennifer Weiner

Again, LOVE Jennifer Weiner.  I read Good In Bed years ago, and I have followed her ever since.  This novel jumps right in the middle of a hot fertility topic.  It goes without saying, women get testy when you start talking about ovaries and babies and such.  But oh my word, this one was so good.  SO very good.  She's not southern, but we can forgive her for that can't we girls?  Weiner can tell a story, and she's funny and smart and culturally relevant without being cliche.  That's a hard gig to pull off.

11. Twenties Girl: A Novel - Sophie Kinsella

Okay, I have to tell you I started this one and quit a few times.  It has a ghost.  I'm not a big fan of ghost characters.  But then I got desperate.  I was floating serenely in the pool with a cool beverage and all the kids were at the beach so it was quiet.  I had two choices:  get up and hook into the WiFi in the beach house and get a new book, or continue floating and start back with Kinsella's novel.  Laziness prevailed and I ended up loving the novel and the ghost character.  She's kicky and fun.  I want to be like her, except in a mortal sense.  This one is a thumbs up!

I have several more, but you need to get reading, and I'm in the middle of one of the prettiest books I've read in a while, Rules of Civility.  I am reviewing it for BlogHer this week.  I'll get back to you on this one, I think it released on July 26th, so it's available now.  I can't say a whole lot about it yet, but OH. MY. WORD.  It is so very worth the time.  I'll just say this- if Jay Gatsby and pals had lived to see The Depression, this would be his story.  Mmmmmm. Mmmmmmm. Mmmmmmmm.  Good stuff.  Really good stuff.