Friday, May 30, 2014

Friday Fave: Iced Tea (with Sweet Tea Recipe)

Happy Friday!

It is already hot and feels very much like Summer in Atlanta.  In this weather, I especially love iced tea.  I'm from the south, and tea is my drink of choice.  In all but the coldest weather, I have a pitcher of iced tea in the fridge.

My "everyday" iced tea is Lipton Cold Brew.  It is light and tastes great unsweetened.  I make it by the gallon.  It's easy to make:  brew tea 5 minutes in cold water, and then refrigerate.  It reminds me a lot of sun tea.

 
Every month or so, though, I want the real thing -- old fashioned southern sweet tea.  It's so easy to make:

3 regular tea bags (not family size!)
1/2 cup sugar
boiling water
2 quart pitcher

Just put the tea bags in boiling water in a 2 quarter pitcher.  Let it brew for 5 minutes.  Immediately stir in the 1/2 cup sugar.  Let it cool in the fridge.

This makes perfect, not-too-strong, sweet tea that is not syrupy sweet.  This is how we made it when I was growing up, and I still love it best this way.

Wishing you a great weekend -- with time for a good book and a glass of iced tea!
 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

So You Think You Can Dance - New Orleans and Chicago Auditions

So You Think You Can Dance kicked off its 11th season with auditions in New Orleans and Chicago.  It's great to see the show again;  I look forward to it every summer!

We were joined by host Cat Deeley and regular judges Nigel Lythgoe and Mary Murphy.  Wayne Brady was a guest judge in New Orleans, and Jenna Elfman joined as a guest judge in Chicago.  I don't know what Wayne Brady's dance background is, but he is charming and entertaining as a judge.  Jenna Elfman offered constructive comments and did a fine job as well.

The auditions work as they have before:  dancers perform before the judges, where they either get a ticket to Hollywood, are sent home, or are sent to choreography to show their partnering skills.

Since the auditions are a parade of dancers, I'll comment on some highlights of the show.

One of my favorites from last year's auditions, Caleb Brauner (pictured above) returned to try out again.  He looks a lot like Chris Colfer from Glee, and I think he is adorable.  Since last year, his father, who appeared with him onstage last year, passed away suddenly.  Caleb brought his quirky, endearing dance style again this season.  In New Orleans his performance was light and he was sent to choreography.  He did not do well, and was very upset.  He returned in Chicago and tried out with a more personal dance, inspired by his last voicemail from his father.  He went back to choreography, showed improvement, and won a coveted ticket to Hollywood.

Tanisha Belnap auditioned in New Orleans on her own, although she is a ballroom dancer.  She is from a family of 12 children, and works odd jobs to support her dance studies.  She was sassy and fun, and got a ticket to Hollywood.

Trevor Bryce did a clever and witty ballet number with some hip hop moves, and also got a ticket to Hollywood.

We met Courtney Barnes, who had a big, fun personality, and who did a killer Wendy Williams (!) impersonation.  He did not make it through, although Nigel commented that he would be great in a sitcom. (I agree!)

We also met Jacoby Jimmerson, a heavy guy who still has good dance moves, and who teaches Zumba.  He did a "dance off" with Wayne Brady that was fun to watch.  He did not make it through.

Marcquet Hill and Brooklyn Fullmer were two of my favorites.  They are friends (not dating, as she mentioned several times) and ballroom dancers.  We've seen Marcquet before, when he was just 16 and partnering Witney Carson for her ballroom audition.  They went through, and I think they will both be forces to reckon with this season.

Two friends from Miami, Nick Garcia and Rudy Abreu, both traveled to Chicago for the auditions.  Nick performed a solo ballroom routine (and it was terrific!).  Rudy performed a "dance warrior" number that was showy but didn't wow me as much.  They both got tickets to Hollywood.

A group of four dancers who were almost male strippers performed onstage with Mary Murphy and Jenna Elfman.  Not surprisingly, they did not make it through.

A few random thoughts:

"Blurred Lines" seems to be the go-to song this year.  I lost count how many times it was played.

Justin Bieber introduced a dance crew competition.  I did my best to ignore his brief segment on the show.

Next week's auditions are in Chicago and Los Angeles.  Looking forward to them!

What did you think of last night's show?  Do you have any favorites of the dancers you have seen so far?  I would love to read your comments, below.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5 Reasons Why You Should Watch So You Think You Can Dance

I'll admit it:  So You Think You Can Dance is my second favorite tv show, right after my beloved Downton Abbey.  A new season starts tonight, and I intend to blog about it weekly here.  This summer it will air Wednesday nights, 8:00 - 10:00 PM EST on Fox.  You'll find a site with more info here:  SYTYCD official site. SYTYCD is such a great show, so I want to give you 5 good reasons to check it out:

1. The variety of dancing is amazing!  In any given episode you may see Broadway, jazz, swing, jive, ballet, Bollywood, hip hop, ballroom, Latin, and more.  Here is a clip of one of my favorite numbers from the show.  This is from season 3, with Sara and Pasha dancing a West Coast Swing, as choreographed by Benjie Schwimmer.  (Benjie won season 2).  By the way, Pasha is my all time favorite dancer from the show!



2.  The music is also wonderful, varied, often surprising, and features recordings of original artists.  I love the way this show marries dance and music.  In a given evening, you may hear current pop music, the Beatles, Sinatra, old school R&B ... and it is all great.

3. Cat Deeley is the best host of any competitive talent show.  She is funny, warm, self deprecating, and has great rapport with both judges and dancers.

4. The judges are wonderful, and all have strong dance backgrounds.  They include showrunner and judge Nigel Lythgoe (tap), Mary Murphy (ballroom), and a rotating third (and sometimes fourth) chair for judges like Adam Shankman (Broadway) or Debbie Allen (yes, that Debbie Allen from Fame, and one of my favorites).

5. In a world where the nightly news is often somber and unsettling, there is something wonderful and uplifting about spending two hours watching dance, seeing dancers who love the art form and take it seriously, with great music, costuming, staging ... I really cannot recommend it highly enough.

Bonus (!) 6.  I would love to chat with YOU about SYTCYD here.

If you're a fan of the show or plan to try it for the first time, I hope you'll leave a comment here.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Review: Heroes of the City Baby App






I enjoyed reviewing the Heroes of the City toys, books, and app a couple of months ago (more information, click here!).  Heroes of the City has a new app, and this one is for babies and toddlers (ages 0 - 2+).  This app is available at iTunes, for iPad or iPhone, and it is also available via Google Play for Android phones and tablets.

The app is colorful, educational, and entertaining for the youngest children.  It is also free!   It features:

• 3 animated short movies (Languages: English and Swedish )
• Music Panel with two different themes
• Color and shape game
• Magic coloring game
• Balloon Game


You can find movies from the app on Youtube as well.   Here is one of the videos:

The Heroes of the City products are especially well designed and engaging for children.  I highly recommend this app!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Music Monday - "Nature Boy" by Nat King Cole

"Nature Boy" is one of my all time favorite songs.  It was recorded by Nat King Cole in 1948, and it has such a beautiful and haunting quality.  I love the lyrics, from the first lines:

"There was a boy
A very strange enchanted boy
They say he wandered very far
Very far, over land and sea ..."


I found a lovely video of Nat King Cole performing this jazz classic, below.  I hope you enjoy it too.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Fave: Almost Summer!

Happy Friday!

My Friday Fave this week is not a book or website or food or tv show.  It is a season:  Summer.

While I know that Summer technically begins on the Summer Solstice, it still feels like Summer for me from Memorial Day to Labor Day.  That was how Summer was defined in my childhood:  the break from school, the long leisurely days and weeks.

That sense of leisure is what I hope to enjoy this Summer.  This season will not be about travel or adventure, but about working hard (as always!) on weekdays and then unplugging and enjoying some leisure time in the evenings and weekends:  a good book, a long walk, a lazy afternoon, the pleasure of unplanned time.

How about you?  What do you plan this Summer?   I would love to hear from you in the comments section, below.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Music Monday - "It Ain't Me, Babe" by Johnny Cash & June Carter (1965)


I love Johnny Cash.  I love Bob Dylan.  And I especially love this Johnny Cash and June Carter cover of Dylan's "It Ain't Me, Babe" (1965). 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Friday Fave: Overdrive - The Library Comes To You

Happy Friday!

If you love books, I have a great app for you today.  It is available for: iPhone, iPad, Android phone or tablet, Windows computer, Mac,  Kindle, or Nook.   

This free app lets you access the digital collection from your library to download books in eBook format (i.e. Kindle) or audiobook.   

I have used this on my computer, Kindle, and iPad, and I really love it.  I often listen to audiobooks via Overdrive when I am working here.

Here's how it works:  You go to the Overdrive link (just click here!).  On the right side of the page you can type in your zip code and see if Overdrive is available at your local library system.  If it is, you can download the app for your computer or device of choice.  Then you log into Overdrive with your library card and download audiobooks or eBooks to your heart's content!  The books have a lending period similar to what you will find at a traditional library (i.e. 2 - 3 weeks) and you check them out online and return them online as well.

I am a great fan of eBooks (Kindle) and also enjoy audiobooks when I am working.  I cannot recommend this app highly enough for book lovers.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Music Monday - "Cherry Pink And Apple Blossom White" by Perez Prado & His Orchestra (1955)


"Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White" by Perez Prado and His Orchestra always reminds me of Spring.  This mambo song was popular in 1955, and it is one of those songs that sounds so much like a different time and place.  (I can imagine this playing on a hi-fi player at party in the 1950's.)   I have a weakness for mid 1950's to mid 1960's instrumentals, and this is one of my favorites. 

Friday, May 9, 2014

Friday Fave: Sky City - Southern Retail Then and Now


Hi all!

I'm on the run today, but wanted to send a super quick Friday Fave.  Sky City: Southern Retail Then and Now is a really fun site.  If you lived in the south during retro years, you are sure to find some old shopping memories here - with lots and lots of photos!

For instance, there are links to a couple of malls I loved to visit growing up.  North DeKalb Mall was the little mall where we usually shopped.  There are even pictures of my beloved neighborhood Rich's store at this site.

Lenox Square was "the" mall in Atlanta during my childhood.  It was in Buckhead (across town for us) and going there was an event.  It was big and they had a great toy store, as well as Rich's and Davison's department stores.

I love to list old mall and store postcards in my shop when I can find them.  I have a little stack of them that I need to add soon.  You'll find a few at this link: vintage store postcards at Birdhouse Books.   The picture above is a postcard from Clearwater, Florida, featuring a Maas Brothers department store on the waterfront.

Would love to hear about your retro mall memories in the comments section, below.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Return to Rich's Exhibit at the Breman Museum, Atlanta - Rich's Department Store

I had a wonderful time yesterday at the Return to Rich's exhibit.  This exhibit at the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum in Atlanta celebrates the history of Rich's Department Store.   The exhibit closes May 27, 2014, and I would highly recommend it to anyone who is interested in Atlanta history.

One of my dear friends from high school and her mother hosted a private tour and luncheon.  I'll share a few photos with you, so you can enjoy the exhibit too.

Rich's department store was founded in the 1870's, and the downtown store was built in 1924.  It was an Atlanta institution until it closed in 1991.   There were also stores at malls all over the Atlanta area.  The mall stores were bought by the Federated department store chain.  They were renamed Rich's-Macy's, and eventually became Macy's stores.

When I was little, we used to go downtown to ride the Pink Pig (photos follow!) and see the Great Tree (giant Christmas tree).  The big downtown Rich's store had an amazing book department, and they had a restaurant called the Magnolia Room.

My Mom and I used to go to fashion shows at Rich's North DeKalb (a small local mall) and we would buy Polly Flinders dresses and Buffy dresses (inspired by Anissa Jones from the television show Family Affair) at that store.  I am pretty sure that all my Easter dresses came from Rich's.

I worked at Rich's North DeKalb in high school in the Juniors department.  At that point I was clothes crazy, so I loved that!   Later, in college, I became really interested in cooking and worked a couple of years at Christmas (seasonal employee) at the same small store in Housewares - Kitchenware.  

On to the exhibit! 
Here are a couple of postcards from Lenox Square mall, including Rich's.  I would love to find some of these!

 The Rich's clock is a famous Atlanta symbol ("meet you at the clock").

Another photo of Rich's at Lenox Square Mall.  I loved going to Lenox Square when I was a little girl.  It was an open air mall at that time, and they had giant, colorful balls in the parking lot to help you remember where you had parked.   The mall design was very Mid-Century Modern.
This vintage mural shows fashion through the years, with some photos of Rich's fashions.  I love that 1960's sleeveless dress with plaid skirt.  I would wear that today!
This is a 1960's photo from Rich's Fashionata.  This was an annual fashion show event held at the Fox Theatre downtown Atlanta.  Note that one of the models on the right is holding a cigarette.  Thankfully, times have changed!
These photos depict the Magnolia Room restaurant at Rich's downtown.
These items also are from the Magnolia Room.  I remember the children's menu.  I loved to go there to eat.  It felt like such an event!
Atlanta Journal-Constitution author Celestine Sibley wrote a wonderful book about Rich's called Dear Store.  It is hard to find, but worth a search.
 Another Rich's clock:
I loved Priscilla the Pink Pig!   This monorail ran through the toy department at Rich's downtown.  There was a reindeer petting zoo, Secret Santa shopping (where children could shop, supervised, for their parents), and photos with Santa.  The third photo down (with pink wire) shows a close-up of the Pink Pig interior.  The little seats inside the Pink Pig were tiny.





Here are some Rich's Christmas themed items on display:
And there are more Pink Pig items as well.  I have a copy of the book I Rode the Pink Pig.  It is really cute and brings back lots of happy memories.
This is a tribute to the Great Tree, a giant Christmas tree displayed yearly at Rich's downtown.  The lighting of the Great Tree was an annual event.
After the tour, we had a luncheon with dishes inspired by the Magnolia Room menu.  My friend and her mother have an amazing collection of Rich's memorabilia, and they displayed it in the room where our luncheon was held.
I hope you enjoyed traveling back in time to Rich's with me. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Book Review and Giveaway: The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli



The Gondola Maker by Laura Morelli is a historical novel set in 1500's Venice.  It is about a young man named Luca who will inherit his family's gondola boatyard.  After an unexpected change, Luca becomes a gondoliere for a famous portrait painter, and falls in love with a beautiful young woman.  The story centers around his love for this woman and his restoration of one of his father's gondolas.

The historical detail in this book is dense and rich.   Artistry is lovingly described.   The descriptions are a joy to read, and they invoke another time and place in a fascinating way.

I would recommend this novel for fans of historical fiction as well as anyone interested in art, art history, Venice, or Italian history. 

Thanks to iRead Book Tours, I am giving away a copy of the book.  The giveaway will begin at 12:00 p.m. on May 6, and will run through 11:59 p.m. on May 13.   You can enter during this time period with the Rafflecopter entry method, below.  The winner will be randomly selected, and the book will be mailed to the winner by iRead Book Tours, the sponsor of this giveaway.
   a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 5, 2014

Music Monday: "It's Gonna Be Alright" by Gerry And The Pacemakers



"It's Gonna Be Alright" by Gerry and the Pacemakers is musical comfort food for me.  This is such a great oldies song!  It was popular in America in 1965.  Gerry and the Pacemakers were a British invasion band.  Like the Beatles, they were from Liverpool, managed by Brian Epstein and recorded by George Martin.  Here's this goodie - enjoy!  

Friday, May 2, 2014

Tucker, Georgia: Mayberry Lives

Last weekend I spent some time walking around Tucker, Georgia.  Although my family is from Savannah, we lived in Tucker most of my childhood, and I consider it my hometown.  Tucker is a small town on the outskirts of Atlanta.  It has always reminded me of Mayberry from The Andy Griffith Show (one of my all-time favorites).   I'll take you on a little tour here.

This is The Tucker Fountain, an old fashioned soda fountain:

The Masonic Hall is next door:
Matthews Cafeteria is an old fashioned "Meat and Three" Southern restaurant.  When I was little I always preferred the veggie plate (4 veggies with cornbread or a biscuit).  I haven't eaten there in years;  I'm not sure if the veggies are vegetarian friendly (cooked without meat).

Across the street, there is Cofer Brothers hardware.  They sponsored me when I was a contestant in Miss Georgia National Teenager.


Here is another view of Main Street, with Tucker High School at the end of the road.


There is an old fashioned train train depot by the railroad tracks.  It is still in use.
 Local 7 is a little pub that is very casual and comfortable.  They have some delicious vegetarian and vegan options!
If you're in the mood for a homemade cookie, Sweet Dee's bakery is just a couple of doors down:
 E&B Jewelry Repair has been around from my childhood.  It looks exactly the same.
 Carr's Drugs is an old fashioned compounding pharmacy.
 A couple of blocks away you'll find the old Tucker Library.  They've moved to a new location, and the library I grew up with is now owned by a local church.  I love the Mid-Century Modern design of the old library.  This is where I fell in love with reading, and first read the Betsy-Tacy books by Maud Hart Lovelace.  It makes me happy just to see this photo.
Thanks for joining me on a little mini-tour of Tucker.  Have you ever been there?  I would love to hear your Tucker memories in the comments section, below.