42 Songs for the Summer Playlist

As I’m writing this, the long 4th of July weekend is in full swing. The traffic is a little heavier mid-day and there are definite lines at the grocery store for the anticipated holiday barbeques. You may be like me, prepping to go out of town. Regardless of what you are doing, there’s probably some music involved. Here’s a list of some summer tunes to get you to (or even from!) the beach and barbeques. (Note: I listen to a lot of genres of music so I tried to include a little of everything!)

  1. Can’t Stop the Feeling!-Justin Timberlake
  2. Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay-Otis Redding
  3. Happy-Pharrell
  4. Dynamite- Taio Cruz
  5. DNCE-Cake by the Ocean
  6. Summertime-Kenny Chesney
  7. Summertime-DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince
  8. Stir it Up-Bob Marley
  9. Celebration-Kool and the Gang
  10. Summer of 69-Bryan Adams
  11. It’s 5’Oclock Somewhere-Alan Jackson (featuring Jimmy Buffett)
  12. Walkin’ on Sunshine-Katrina and the Waves
  13. Centerfield-John Fogerty
  14. Born in the USA-Bruce Springsteen
  15. Loveshack-B52’s
  16. Knee Deep-Zac Brown Band
  17. Margaritaville-Jimmy Buffett (there are a plethora of songs here!)
  18. La Bamba-Los Lobos
  19. Life is a Highway-Tom Cochran (or Rascal Flatts)
  20. Hot in Herre-Nelly
  21. I Gotta a Feeling-The Black Eyed Peas
  22. Hot Hot Hot-Alponsus Cassell
  23. California Gurls-Katy Perry
  24. Call Me Maybe-Carly Rae Jepsen
  25. Cruise-Florida/Georgia Line
  26. Great Balls of Fire-Jerry Lee Lewis
  27. Summer-Calvin Harris
  28. This Summer-Maroon 5
  29. Kokomo-The Beach Boys (the ultimate summer band J)
  30. Boys of Summer-Don Henley
  31. Cruel Summer-Bananarama
  32. Island in the Sun-Weezer
  33. Steal My Summer-Len
  34. Summer Breeze-Seals and Crofts
  35. Summer in the City-Lovin’ Spoonful
  36. Beachin’-Jake Owen
  37. Wild World-Cat Stevens
  38. Cool for the Summer-Demi Levato
  39. Drift Away-Dobie Gray
  40. Say Hey (I Love You)-Michael Franti & Spearhead
  41. Beat This Summer-Brad Paisley
  42. All Summer Long-Kid Rock

Many of these artists have other songs that would fit the bill for the summer season. Please feel free to add your favorites!

 

 

 

 

Planning a Beach Vacation with Kids

One of the things my kids look forward to at the end of the school year is a summer vacation. They know that they have to rest after whirlwind schedules filled with after-school sports, homework assignments, and studying for exams. While most of our beach trips are during the peak summer season, our schedule doesn’t always allow it. We started our family trips back in 2005, when my youngest was just 1. My husband and I felt that not only can these trips be educational, but it was great bonding time for us as a family. Here are our tips for a really awesome beach trip:

  1. Plan early. I am planner. I love seeing new areas in the country or out! While we haven’t quite got to the latter yet, the sooner you know that a vacation is going to happen, start planning. Determine what you like to do as a family (which beaches do you want to see? What other activities are there away from beach time?). If we take a spring vacation, we book early fall-December. If it’s summertime, we usually book by February or March. If the location is popular (say, Florida), you don’t want to book any later than March. This includes any activities you want to indulge in during your vacation too!

 

  1. Choose a budget. This is a probably the most important step for families. The budget often determines how long your family may stay and how far you travel. According to the website howmuchisit.org, people will travel anywhere from 2-5 days.

 

  1. Go in the off-season. If your time schedule allows, go during off-season (this varies by destination).  Not only are rates cheaper, but certain lodging can be more doable than in the summer. April and May have been great times for us to go on an early summer vacation in the past. Be aware that February and March are usually Spring Break months for college students in the U.S.

 

  1. Choose the extra space. As our kids have gotten older (they’re 12 and 15), it has been beneficial to pay a little extra for a condo. Not only is it nice to be across the condo (or even upstairs!), no one wants to step on each other. Besides, the extra bathroom is a Godsend when multiple people have to get ready to go to dinner. In 30 minutes. (Note: If your family chooses the condo route, you may be able to combine steps 3 & 4 for the best deal. Condo owners usually will let you take a 5-day vacation in April, but are often firm on 7 days after Memorial Day ends).

 

  1. Buy your summer essentials during Labor Day or Christmas sales. Or while you’re still on vacation. This may sound funny to some of my readers, but we have had to do this. Just as with summer sales trying to get rid of the season’s merchandise, why not load up on that smaller suitcase or beach towels you’ve been needing too? (And socks. My kids never have enough socks. Yes, even in summer!)

 

  1. “There’s an app for that.” If I’m going to search for our next favorite beach spot, there’s always a website and its mobile equivalent. Two that I have been using for years are TripAdvisor and Yelp. Not only do I appreciate the reviews of both, but TripAdvisor also tells you how many miles it takes to get to your destination and also what’s around you. Others we use are Oyster.com, Booking.com (for hotel reviews and pictures), Gogobot (for travel locale ideas), and for condos-VRBO.com, VacationRentals.com, AirBnB.com, and Vacasa.com (limited; as there are not properties in all states).

 

  1. Purchase passports, if necessary. Depending on where your destination is, a passport may be a requirement. Most islands in the Caribbean need visitors to have one (16 and above), but not the U.S. Virgin Islands or Puerto Rico.

 

  1. Be a repeat visitor. Liked your trip to the Gulf Coast? Maybe you’re short on time and can’t stay as long on the next trip? See if the condo owner or manager offers future stay discounts. Most hotel chains (like Hilton) also have loyalty programs that can help you save a little too. Also, check into the kids’ programs if available!

 

Although planning a vacation can be time-consuming, it’s all worth it. Plan early, pick a budget and a location, and get ready to create memories. Don’t forget your camera!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring the Food Scene in Ocean Springs, Mississippi

While the Biloxi/Gulfport area is fairly well-known, I’m a fan of the little gems that few people outside the area know about. In this case, I’m talking about the artsy town of Ocean Springs, Mississippi. The town, east of Biloxi and connected by the Biloxi Bay Bridge, is great for a weekend stay. It’s a few hours drive from my home base, but very doable if “getting out of town” is on the agenda. My family and I recently made the trip one weekend in May. The first place we stopped was on the very busy Washington Avenue. This tree-lined street has many adorable little shops and my favorite place for dessert, French Kiss Pastries (714 Washington Avenue; 228-215-1160). The shop is small, but the desserts (we sampled eclairs and German Chocolate Cake), are rich and flavorful. Besides the cookies and cakes, there is also gelato and the infamous Louisiana-based Community coffee.

Ocean Springs’ beaches are a lot less crowded than Biloxi or Gulfport. We spent an afternoon at Fort Maurepas Park (at the end of Washington Avenue) before trying Leo’s Wood-fired Pizza (1107 Government St, 228-872-7283). This restaurant is a great place to have an early dinner. It’s deliciously Italian. Seating is indoors or out; most head outside to the courtyard. The courtyard has a small bar and televisions, and of course, over 20 beers beer on tap. The pizzas are thin-crusted and named after celebrities (my favorite is the Frank Sinatra). After dinner, we walked around downtown. The people of Ocean Springs are very friendly. Some shops may still be open to u, or do what we did and take the kids for a treat at the “Hot Light” (Krispy Kreme) afterwards. Unfortunately for us, we missed Ocean Springs’ favorite place for donuts, Tato-nut (1114 Government St, 228-872-2076). They are either closed or were renovating when we come through town. If anyone gets here, please let me know how your visit went!

Of course, you can’t spend some time on the coast and not have some delicious seafood. One of the first restaurants we ever tried was McElroy’s on the Bayou (705 Bienville Blvd. 228-818-4600). Literally right off the bridge, McElroy’s is a casual, family-friendly establishment with a great view. Everything from shrimp po-boys to flounder to soft-shell crab is here. If you can, save some room for the gumbo stew. 🙂 There is a kids’ menu available if needed. Other great seafood suggestions are Anthony’s Under the Oaks (1217 Washington Avenue, 228-872-4564) and BB’s Po-boys and Seafood (1300 Bienville Blvd, 228-875-2702). The restaurants have only dinner (5 pm-9 pm) or lunchtime hours (11am-3pm) respectively.

Wherever your trip along the Gulf Coast takes you, there is sure to be something you haven’t tried. Start with the food!

How to Have a Crawfish Boil

I have been to a few crawfish boils since moving to the Deep South over a decade ago. Crawfish boils are very popular in this area of the country, but particularly in Louisiana. Breaux Bridge, Louisiana was reigned “Crawfish Capital of the World” in 1959 for the farming done there. The state also  has designated the shellfish as its state crustacean (there are only 3 other states that also have one-Oregon, Maryland, and Maine). Generally, from February-June, crawfish is the guest of honor at every festival and backyard barbeque everywhere.

Crawfish 101

Crawfish, also known as mudbugs, were foreign to me when I first moved to the area. They are popular on the Gulf Coast and Texas because they live in the mud of the bayous. For the most part, crawfish are the smaller version of the lobster. Unlike my Maryland roots and learning to mallet to death a crab, crawfish are easier to get to. They snap in the middle and the fat is at the head and the (little bit) of meat is at the tail. A good crawfish boil depends on the amount of people you are entertaining, but the number to aim for is 40lbs of crawfish or 2-3 lbs a person (but preferably much) more.

Crawfish Cooking

Buy the crawfish in the morning from a reputable seafood company. As aforementioned, how much you buy is up to the number attending the party or festival. Make sure you’ve got a cooler with you. The first part to any crawfish boil (and crab-eating too) is beer. What else should you be doing while waiting for the meal to cook? Drinking (we like Abita’s Andygator, if you have it locally). I can only say from experience that it’s part of the party. It just is. Throw down plenty of newspaper on the tables and grab the propane to get started. In a very large stockpot, add water, sliced corn on the cob, red potatoes, some (Zatarain’s) crab boil, and a box of salt. (Don’t forget the stirring spoon!) I have heard of others putting in mushrooms and onions, but the barbecues I’ve attended have not.  Let the vegetables cook and then  add the crawfish and andouille sausage next. How spicy the one-pot meal will be is completely a personal preference with the spices used. In my neck of the woods, we use Old Bay for our seafood. In the South (and especially Louisiana), it’s Tony Chachere’s.  Let the crawfish and vegetables sit for 30 minutes or so in the broth.

That’s it! As with many things, there is a 1,001 ways to do something. Experiment with the recipe to find your liking and enjoy! And remember-don’t forget the beer! 🙂

 

Blog Changes Coming + a Poll

In the last month, I have been contemplating a change to the blog. In an effort to be more of service to my followers and those who are just curious, I have made the decision to focus more on various aspects of travel and food. The name of the blog will stay the same (and hopefully, the humor!) but my tagline will be changing with the content. In addition, some of you also liked April’s National Poetry Month. My poll today references that. Please take part! I will leave the poll open until next week’s blog post. As we all know, blogging is a learning process of trial and error. I want to thank my followers and anyone new along the way for the support! 🙂

The End of National Poetry Month

To celebrate the end of National Poetry Month, I am posting poems by others that I have enjoyed. Two are from classic poets that you may recognize. Oddly, the poetry follows the theme of life or death. The poem, Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep, was a poem I actually had to memorize for sophomore English in high school. Enjoy!

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If I’ve been around the block so many times,

how come I keep getting lost?

Then I stopped right where I was

And realized in that moment

That’s where I was supposed to be….

-Helen Cernigliaro

 

Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep

Do not stand there at my grave and weep I am not there. I do not sleep. I am a thousand winds that blow. I am the diamond glints on snow. I am the sunlight on ripened grain. I am the gentle autumn rain. When you awaken in the morning’s hush I am the swift uplifting rush Of quiet birds in circled flight. I am the soft stars that shine at night. Do not stand at my grave and cry; I am not there. I did not die.

-Mary Elizabeth Frye via Poemhunter.org

 

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I–

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost from The Poetry of Robert Frost via Poets.org

 

The Daffodils

I wandered lonely as a cloud    That floats on high o’er vales and hills, When all at once I saw a crowd,    A host, of golden daffodils; Beside the lake, beneath the trees, Fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Continuous as the stars that shine    And twinkle on the Milky Way, They stretched in never-ending line    Along the margin of a bay: Ten thousand saw I at a glance, Tossing their heads in sprightly dance. The waves beside them danced, but they    Out-did the sparkling waves in glee: A Poet could not but be gay,    In such a jocund company: I gazed—and gazed—but little thought What wealth the show to me had brought: For oft, when on my couch I lie    In vacant or in pensive mood, They flash upon that inward eye    Which is the bliss of solitude; And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils.

-William Wordsworth via Poets.org

 

 

 

 

 

Ode to School Shopping

Today’s poem focuses on the humor aspect. This is an “old” poem but also a tribute to other parents and that special time of year 🙂

 The time is here again

 Two weeks before the bell

 Every parent’s worst nightmare

 School shopping hell

 There’s the supply list

 Scattered throughout every discount store

 Who needs four glue sticks? Three packs of crayons

 And trying to find manilla paper is always a chore

 The best time to go is morning or almost closing time

 It’s easier to shop

 And there’s often a shorter wait line

 Unless the “no tax” holiday is your thing

 That happens every August or July

 The people will be plenty, the parking will be maddening

 Every parent will want to cry

 So off you go, moms and dads

 The early mornings are about to begin

 Keep those initial lists handy

 The kids will probably make you go again!

The Surprise

April is National Poetry month. As a poet, I am sharing some of my works and favorites of others on the blog. This poem is an example of the bespoke poetry that I’ve written since childhood. Enjoy 🙂

 She sped past him at the turnstile

As she tried to catch the Metro train

Her black briefcase in one hand

And a bright pink umbrella unraveled, from the morning’s rain

He could smell her Lancome perfume

And tried to catch up

But people were wall to wall

On their phones, while balancing Starbucks

He got flustered and wanted to scream

His heart beating faster

He took the stairs two at a time

There is something he wanted to ask her

On the platform, she stared impatiently at her gold watch

Wondering where he could be

And that’s when he walked up behind her

Smiling sheepishly

The lights started to flicker

The Metro train was near

He wished he had more time

Damn, an early train was his biggest fear

A concerned look crossed her face

“Are you okay?”

He just took her hand in his, replying “There’s something I’ve got to say.”

“Right here, on the orange line I asked you out on our first date

We had a burger at BGR

That was 2008

So many things have happened since then

We’ve finished school, and traveled some

He got down on one knee

As her mouth opened in surprise

He finally got to ask her “Will you be my forever one?”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking a Bite Out of the Big Easy in 36 Hours

 

If  I were to give one piece of advice to the first-time traveler to New Orleans, it’s that the city is a food mecca. There are well over 1,000 restaurants to choose from and undoubtedly, you wouldn’t have to eat the same meal twice. Po-boys (or poor-boy sandwich), fresh seafood, steak, even sushi can be sought out (and please, don’t forget the beignets!). I literally spent about three weeks before my birthday searching for the best restaurants because there is no shortage of a good meal in New Orleans. It just depends on the traveler’s budget and their preferred tastes.

On the blog today, I wanted to share with you our culinary travels during those 36 hours. Of course, we did other things but since most of my travels revolve around the activity of eating, I know that readers could probably relate. 🙂

New Orleans is about a 3.5 hour trip for us, so we arrived right around lunchtime. After we checked into our hotel (we picked one in the middle of the French Quarter so that we could go Uptown or to Bourbon Street if we wanted) my husband and I set out for lunch.

Day 1

We chose Oceana Grill because we really wanted a shrimp po-boy. Again, there are numerous places for this dish and we will probably try a completely new place when we return in July. I did not mind Oceana Grill based on the reviews. But the restaurant itself was small and the po-boys took us by surprise. My husband, being a native Louisianan, loves his po-boys “dressed” and with popcorn shrimp. The shrimp po-boys here had large shrimp (at least 6) with sliced onions and coleslaw added on the bread. For dessert, we shared a Bananas Foster cake. It was very yummy, but more a drink with said bananas foster and cake mixed in.

Later on in the afternoon, we went to Café Du Monde. “The” world-famous beignet stand is all over the metropolitan area not just the original location on Decatur Street.  We tried one in Metarie, about a fifteen-minute drive from the downtown area. The beignets are good regardless of location and always come in an order of three. There is never too much powdered sugar either.

To be perfectly honest, we still weren’t quite sure where we were going to dinner by the end of the night. Our trek started out going toward Jackson Square, but we walked a few blocks and decided with night falling fast, to stop into Mr. B’s Bistro. This upscale restaurant was one of the highlights of our trip. The lighting was dim and romantic and the staff was very attentive. During my research, Mr. B’s customers raved about the garlic truffle fries. They weren’t lying. The fries were just the right amount of crispy, topped with cheese and truffle oil. My husband also had their seafood gumbo which proved to be good in helping finish off the fries. 🙂

While we might have gone to the famous Pat O’s on our first visit back in 2001, this time we elected to go across the street to the elegant Hotel Monteleone’s Carousel Bar for drinks. The hotel itself is gorgeous (we spent some time after drinks reading up on the history of the hotel) and the bar was fun. The carousel seats revolved every 14 minutes. The French 007, one of their signature drinks was delicious and lemony. Their Vieux Carre had “quite the kick” according to my husband.

Day 2

Although the strawberry is the native fruit, I wondered why the banana couldn’t also share the prize. I am a fan of all things bananas foster. Breakfast at The Ruby Slipper (so-named as a tribute “to coming back home” after Hurricane Katrina) was no different. Their specialty, bananas foster pain, was a delicious French toast with the added bonus of raisins. My husband’s breakfast of choice? Cheesecake-filled French toast topped with mixed berry compote. It was a decent meal in a low-key environment.

Our plans changed after finally making it to Jackson Square. As I wanted to take a tour on one of the historic streetcars to the Garden District, we never made it to that section of the city. After heading out to City Park for most of the afternoon, our last stop in our culinary adventure was the piece de resistanceNola.

Nola is the less formal restaurant in Emeril Lagasse’s chain of restaurants. It is no less elegant, however. We were elevatored up to the second floor dining room, which had large windows overseeing the colored buildings next door. The meal and staff were wonderful from start to finish. Water glasses were always filled, the yeast rolls were some of the best either of us had ever eaten, and “Miss Hay’s chicken wings” with a side of hoisin sauce? They have been the only appetizer on the menu that hasn’t changed in the restaurant’s 24-year history. I wanted a second order just to take home with me! If you read my list from last week, you know that one of my favorite steak restaurants is in Florida. The steak I had at Nola could very well be tied for first. It was tender and had a very yummy sauce added to it that made the dish. While I’m still daydreaming about this wonderful meal, I also advise on trying Nola’s Banana Cream Pie. It was certainly one of my most memorable meals to date!

Do you have any favorite culinary adventures?

 

 

 

 

Captain Crunch Rocks as a Cereal

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In honor of my birthday this week, I wanted to do something fun for my followers. Here is a list of 36 other completely random things you might not know about me.

As a kid, I considered many professions: judge, lawyer, interior designer, writer, and pediatrician. My husband would have made a fantastic lawyer because he loves to argue. 🙂

In the 6th grade, my teacher wrote an end of the year script that included the entire class and our future aspirations. I was a news anchor.

I took journalism classes and worked on the newspaper staff for two years in high school.

Both my degrees are associated with Communication

I dislike most slang words-“vacay” and “bestie” are nails down a chalkboard to me

I’ve never owned a pair of high heels

I am a huge fan of farmer’s markets-peaches are my favorite

I have multiple pairs of sunglasses because I always lose them

I once “met” Cindy Crawford

I am #3 of 4 sisters. My husband is #3 of 4 brothers.

White is considered a boring color to me

I had a library card as kid and went regularly in the summer. Panda bears were my favorite subject to read about.

I don’t have an Instagram account

I am quiet and reserved until you get to know me.

My favorite restaurant is Maguire’s Irish Pub in Pensacola, Florida

I share my birthday with Lucy Lawless, Elle McPherson, and Sam Walton

I’m a southpaw.

Chris Pine and Hugh Jackman are a few of my favorite actors

I love Boston Cream donuts

I won an Honorable Mention in a poetry contest when I was 9

I rarely watch the news anymore

I grew up listening to all kinds of music, but prefer rock

My husband and I picked our wedding location based on a lighthouse he gave me (I used to collect them)

My favorite color is red

I am a beach girl at heart (palm trees are pretty cool)

I grew up in the country with a menagerie of animals

I am terrified of heights and roller coasters

I don’t know how to whistle

In 4th grade, I dressed up like a famous writer/actress and won second place. The prize was a book I already had.

I travel almost every year for my birthday. This year was New Orleans.

My addiction used to be coffee. I quit for a year and a half and now drink it once in a blue moon.

Anytime I make a PB&J, it has to be with strawberry jelly. And cut diagonally.

I used to be in a bowling league at 11

My favorite flower is a calla lily

I hate hot dogs and potato chips

I took four years of Spanish but still want to learn Italian

What are some of your favorite things?