Fiction Friday: Oil & Ink.

Truck stop tattoos, right off the exit.

Truck stop tattoos, right off the exit.

Back at the shop, Charlie sat in his black leather chair, the one with the holes worn in it, and waited for someone to mosey over to his corner.

Occasionally, he’d read part of a book from the wire racks up front, but mostly he’d study his art magazines. Charlie’s station was clean, except for the walls covered with pictures of the tattoos he’d finished. Unpaid bills and boxes of latex gloves were a majority of his clutter.

From his corner, Charlie could see the tall sign that attracted drivers into the shop. “Tucker’s Oil” was spelled out in grassy green letters with gas prices listed underneath. There was a smaller, wooden sign hanging from the bottom that said, “Tattoo” in black. Charlie drew the sign and his neighbor hung it the day after the shop’s last inspection. Charlie’s portion of Tucker’s only met the minimal requirements to stay open, but it was all he had.

The sign shadowed Exit 22 off I-90 going west toward Wyoming. Tucker’s shared the Exit with a Stuckey’s that caught most business; the vans and the SUVs piled with kids on their way to a state park or a campground. Tucker’s got everyone else: locals who needed the classifieds and a coffee, or travelers checking directions.

Charlie got the mix. He inked locals and their teenage daughters. He colored bikers and semi drivers. Sometimes, he even tattooed himself.

Charlie stood up and walked out from behind the short walls that separated him from the rest of the store; the rotating sausages, coffee, and Moon Pies. He stretched his thin legs and smoothed his red t-shirt over his belly.

There was rumbling from the interstate — approaching bikers.

Three Harleys slid into the gravel in front of Tucker’s. The riders, all men, stepped off their bikes and into the store; they looked stern. Sara, the cashier, greeted them without looking up from her magazine.

“Y’all serious about that ‘tattoo’ sign or are y’all some jokesters around here?”

“No, it’s serious,” Charlie said, eyes wide.

“Great. Gear up, we want ’em, kid.”

In South Dakota, Charlie was still a kid, even at 26. But in his heart, he felt old. He’d been at Tucker’s for two years, but on his own for seven. He got his first tattoo at 17 from a college student and, like most, became addicted. He studied tattoos in magazines and on other people; he wanted to be a top artist in the tattoo world. On a good month, Tucker’s barely paid the bills. Charlie felt trapped. He had little savings and no support from his family. What he had were people on I-90 wondering if the tattoo sign was a joke.

“Sure, you guys got somethin’ in mind?” he asked the bikers.

“We want this symbol from our jackets.”

The ma  with the long, triangle beard turned around and pointed to the back of his leather coat. The symbol was a medium-sized eagle made of geometric shapes. There was no feathers or facial detail. It was bright red and orange, like fire.

“Exactly like that?” Charlie asked. “Same size and all?”

“Yep. Can you do it?”

“Of course. Can I borrow your jacket to make a sketch?” The man stripped off his coat and tossed it at Charlie. “It will just take a second. You guys should get a soda over there.”

Charlie took the coat to his chair and sat down at his drafting table, a hollow, wooden wedge with a light inside and a sheet of glass on top. His eyes battled from the paper to the coat, paper to the coat. He drew quickly and concise, tapping his foot as he worked.

“Done guys,” he shouted. “Come on over.”

The bikers made their way to Charlie’s corner, behind the short walls. Charlie covered the tattoo chair in plastic and rolled a small stool close to it.

“Who’s first?” he asked.

The man with the hoop earrings stepped forward. “I’ll go.”

“Where do you want it?”

The man pointed to his right shoulder, where the eagle was on the jacket.

“Okay, shirt off and sit facing the chair.”

The biker removed his shirt, exposing what Charlie assumed to be a beer gut, and patches of hair on his chest. Charlie put on a clean pair of latex gloves and lathered soap on the shoulder. He reached for a disposable razor and shaved the fuzz from the skin. He pressed the stencil onto his canvas and peeled it back, revealing the eagle.

“Take a look in the mirror before it’s permanent”

Once the biker said okay, Charlie went into his zone. He leaned over the canvas and started his gun. The buzz vibrated his fingers and created a therapeutic hum in his blood. He outlined first, in black. Then he did the color by blocks, orange first and then red. He watched as the pigment bled into the layers of the skin. The bikers shared their story with Charlie, but he didn’t ask many questions. They were riding through the state on their way to Vegas, coming from Minnesota.

“You ever been to Vegas, kid?”

*     *     *

TO BE CONTINUED, FRIDAY, AUGUST 7

“Oil and Ink” is an original fiction piece written in 2007 by Holly A. Phillips. The story, characters, placement, and details mostly derived from a very vivid dream. 

The Goldfinch.

I see you, Goldfinch.

I see you, Goldfinch.

Let’s throw a party, because I FINALLY finished Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch.” I don’t mean it to sound bad — it was a good book, but it was also very long — and I’ll tell you this: I may have a fantasy about being able to curl up in bed with a good book, but lately? I read two pages and am out like a light.

Blame it on the old age.

Anywho, The Goldfinch. Wow. What a detailed story filled with emotion; it’s very intense! I can’t imagine the research and the time it took Tartt to create such a piece; and I wonder how much of it was just drummed up in her imagination.

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I’ll tell you that The Goldfinch is the story of Theo. He attends an art museum with his mother in New York City, when a terrorist attacks the museum, via bomb. Theo’s mom, doesn’t make it out alive, but her favorite painting — that of a famous goldfinch — does, tucked under Theo’s arm.

The entire book is the remainder of Theo’s story, as a motherless child, and as a theft. It is a tale with many, many twists and turns.

Some of my favorite excerpts:

  • I started off loving the bird, the way you’d love a pet or something, and ended up loving the way he was painted.
  • Despite what I’d seen — what I knew — somehow I’d still managed to nurture a childish hope that he’d pull through, miraculously, like a murder victim on TV who after the commercial break turns out to be alive and recovering quietly in the hospital.
  • Light climbed and burst through the wild desert clouds—never-ending sky, acid blue, like a computer game or a test pilot’s hallucination.
  • But when I think of you, it’s as if you’ve gone away to sea on a ship—out in a foreign brightness where there are no paths, only stars and sky.
  • A great sorrow, and one that I am only beginning to understand: we don’t get to choose our own hearts. We can’t make ourselves want what’s good for us or what’s good for other people. We don’t get to choose the people we are.

There were so many good lines in this book (many more than what I put here). I’ve been reading this book for so long, it felt a little weird when I finished it around midnight earlier this week. But, there’s a massive list of books I’ve been dying to read, so I’m ready to dive into something fresh.

To find out more on The Goldfinch or its author, Donna Tartt, check out my previous blog post here

Escape Room Parallels Relationships.

Escape Room challenges are a lot like dating, only easier.

Escape Room challenges are a lot like dating, only easier.

Over July 4th weekend, my friends suggested an interesting activity: going into the 13th Gate Escape room.

From what I gathered over our beer-induced conversation, an escape room involves participants placed in a room and the only way out is to complete a series of puzzles within 60 minutes.

At first, I was completely against this idea.

I am terrified of everything. I can’t even watch the previews for scary movies for fear of nightmares.

Needless to say, I’ve never been through 13th Gate’s signature haunted house, because I’m pretty sure I would literally shit myself.

But my friends said it wasn’t supposed to be scary, or at least not in the way that the 13th Gate is scary.

It would be just our friends in the room, no outsiders, no one to chase us, and if we didn’t solve the puzzle within the allotted 60 minutes, the doors would simply open.

So, I agreed.

About a week later, I got a text saying the room was booked. We would be entering the escape room known as “The Collector.”

According to the video on 13th Gate’s Escape website, the scenario is that we’d been dropped off at a killer’s house and were given one hour before he comes to “collect” us.

I was terrified.

But, it was too late. I’d already agreed to go, and I didn’t want to let my friends down.

When I told my coworkers what I was about to embark on, most of them thought I was crazy.

“Why would you sign up to be locked in a room?” they wondered.

I suppose on some level, it seems really weird. But to me, challenging yourself is what life is all about.

There are risks we take every single day, albeit some are more obvious than others.

It’s interesting to me that most people wouldn’t categorize a relationship, or falling in love, to be a risk.

But locking yourself in a room, controlled by a company, to play a game — that’s too crazy.

A trainer at my gym recently went through a rough breakup. I could tell he was rattled.

“Every single relationship I have… ends,” he said.

Well yes, me too. Because when it comes to relationships there are only two outcomes: endless love or heartbreak.

That’s the giant risk. Yet, people do it every day.

Nearly every relationship I’ve been in has ended in a way that, if I would’ve predicted it, I wouldn’t have opened the door in the first place.

But I did, and odds are likely that I’ll do it a few more times before I get it right.

Escape rooms are trending across the globe, so my friends and I aren’t the only ones looking to spice things up a little.

I won’t give away any spoilers, but I will tell you that we escaped within the 60-minutes (with about .5 seconds to spare), and only 10 percent of people can say that.

All of us worked together to solve several puzzles and win the game. And in the end, we celebrated together.

At the end of a relationship, your friends are usually the ones to catch you fall — or if you’re lucky, they stand in your wedding.

But the one advantage an escape room has that no relationship has? A clearly marked emergency exit.

Pic of the Week.

I put on my blue suede shoes and I boarded the plane...

I put on my blue suede shoes and I boarded the plane…

For the last few months, I’ve been making an attempt to clean out my (literal) closet. Not only is my closet way too small for my collection of clothes, shoes, and bags, but a majority of the things in my closet should not be worn.

I have a really bad habit of keeping clothes (and often wearing them) way past the time I should have tossed them. I’ve also bought my fair share of clothes that didn’t fit right, just because I needed something to wear.

But as I apply for all of these jobs, I’ve got two things on my mind when it comes to my closet: 1. I don’t want to pack up (assuming I’ll be moving) a bunch of clothes and shoes I never wear anyway, and 2. For my next 9-5 job, I want to look and feel great in clothes that flatter my body and show my *fun* personality!

At my old job, I never took the time to really look cute. I think it reflected in the way I felt every day, and in the end, it reflected poorly on me. So, I’ve spent a lot of time trying on clothes, making piles, and making trips to Goodwill and/or the dumpster. I even made a pile of shoes that need repair.

Of course, I don’t want my closet to end up empty. I’ve always wanted a closet full of great, classic staples that I can wear in a pinch and still feel confident. The catch is, as always, that I’m on a tight budget. This means that I’ve got to find bargains, and I can only buy items that are absolutely necessary.

If I get rid of a few pairs of jeans, then it’s okay for me to replace them with a great pair that looks fabulous (as long as it’s within my budget). Over the past few months, I’ve gotten some great deals at TJ Maxx, where I found a colorful Ivanka Trump dolman top, and a pair of Michael Kors dress slacks.

At a local thrift shop, I picked up a leopard cardigan from Ann Taylor and a flowing, button-down from Old Navy ($8 for both). And I hit up the outlet mall for some costume jewelry, pencil skirts, and shell tops.

Over the weekend, I came across such a great deal that I never saw coming: a pair of brand new, blue suede flats, normally retailing at $125. I got them for $20.

I bought mine during a secret sale at J.Crew (I think I got the last blue pair), but found a similar pair for purchase on Amazon, if you’re interested.

Not only are these going to look super cute with basically anything from skinny jeans and pencil skirts to corduroys and dresses, but I want to bust out in song every time I put them on. Enter: Marc Cohn.

According to Wiki, Cohn said: “It’s a pretty literal transcription of a visit I made there in 1986. I went to Graceland, I heard Al Green preach the gospel, I saw W. C. Handy’s statue. But the song is about more than just a place, it’s about a kind of spiritual awakening, one of those trips where you’re different when you leave.”

That’s something I can stand behind!

If you’re trying to clean out your closet, I found a great article on Elle.com on rules to follow in order to get the job done. Basically, I’ve just been trying things on whenever I have time (sometimes it’s just when I’m getting ready for work) and if it doesn’t look right or fit well, then I toss it in a pile. When the pile is big enough, I take it to Goodwill and jot down any items I might want to replace.

It’s a lot of work, but I’m certain it’s going to pay off, and hopefully soon!

Coping With the Split: Blake & Miranda.

THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER!

THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE TOGETHER FOREVER!

It’s only been a week since the news broke that our favorite country powerhouse couple, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton, divorced. I don’t know about you, but I’m still trying to figure out how to cope with all of this?!

For starters, they didn’t just file for divorce; they straight up finalized that crap and got the DEEVORCE (after Blake filed on July 6, 2015). The thing is where were the telltale signs??? Where was Perez Hilton?? We cannot just be ambushed by this news, people!

Since the announcement, I’ve been going through a wave of emotions: one day, I hear Miranda is the one who cheated (supposedly with fellow country singer Chris Young), and then the next day, Chris Young says he’s got nothing to do with it, and then Miranda’s camp says Blake is actually the one who cheated (let’s face it, Miranda was his mistress during his previous marriage), and then both parties are sad, then they’re “amicably Tweeting” and now? They’re just happy.

I can’t take it! What about us? They were the couple that made it seem perfect. They were whiskey and shotguns; dog rescuers and camo-wearin’ country singers. They were gritty and glamorous all at once. They were the Brad and Jen of country music; and the divorce was a damn bearskin rug pulled out from every single one of us that believed the curvy badass chick could get the guitar-slinging comedic crooner.

And it’s over.

According to Us Weekly, the couple already had a prenup, so their properties were already divided, with no financial questions. E! News has also reported that the cause for the split was not because anyone cheated on anyone, it was because of their busy schedules — as time went on, they grew further and further apart.

I will never be able to understand the inner-workings of celebrity relationships. I can’t imagine the constant scrutiny; the rumors, and the pressure. But to hear it was their careers that got in the way; that almost breaks my heart more than any cheating rumor.

These are two people who are wildly successful, and they can’t find time for each other? I know, it takes more than a redeye flight and album collaborations, but if anyone was going to make it work, couldn’t they?

Le sigh. But, the divorce isn’t changing, so let’s figure out how to cope, okay?

  1. Realize it’s okay… to have all sorts of different feelings. One day, you may feel sad about Blake and Miranda, the next day you may be mad, or even glad. With any of these reactions, I say solve it by blasting Miranda’s “Gunpowder & Lead.”
  2. Take a break… and give yourself time to heal. You should probably call in sick to work — after all, how can we be expected to get things done when all you ever knew of love is… OVER?!? You can’t. You just cannot. So instead, you should watch this: The Love Story of Blake & Miranda.
  3. Don’t do it alone… which means, have a drink. And if you’re going to drink, drink Blake’s favorite drink, a “Blake-arita,” which is Bacardi mixed with Sprite Zero.

About three years ago, I had the pleasure of interviewing Miranda for Dig magazine as she was heading to Baton Rouge on tour. I asked her about married life, as she was a newlywed to Blake at the time.

“It’s fantastic, especially since Blake is also an artist. We both understand what the other is dealing with when it comes to our jobs,” she said.

I digress. Whatever you do — don’t even attempt to analyze Miranda’s “White Liar” lyrics… it’s just not going to end pretty. Until next time, I wish you all luck in surviving the week amidst this tragic heartbreak.

Movies: Paper Towns.

Cara and Nat of 'Paper Towns'

Cara and Nat of ‘Paper Towns’

Whoop! It’s 11:37pm on Thursday, July 23, and I’ve just gotten home from the PREMIER of “Paper Towns” — the movie based on the bestselling book by fellow Hoosier, John Green (Yep, I read it).

Y’all don’t understand. I’ve been looking forward to this movie since the day I put down the book… which was like… more than a year ago. I even thought the movie came out JUNE 24, and I was frantically searching online for movie times, and when I didn’t see any local showtimes, I was totally prepped to plan a damn road trip to see a movie… ABOUT A ROAD TRIP.

Anyway, so, yeah, I just saw the movie and I’m still kind of spinning with all of these thoughts on it. Was it good? Yes. I won’t give any spoilers, but I’ll say right now, that the book was better. If you’ve read the book, like my friend Derek, we agreed, the book is much more introspective and that’s really hard to display on the big screen.

However… I’m going to say this, and coming from me, it will probably come as no surprise. This movie took me back. I don’t know what everyone’s experience was in high school. But I know what mine was, and I know that the few friends I had, we had some fantastic adventures when we least expected it. And I know that all we wanted was to be recognized by the cool group in school — and there were times when we were noticed; we actually dated people in THE cool group.

And I’ll tell you it was always a disappointment. There were nights I spent in the homes of kids I never thought even knew my name. And they did the same things my friends and I did — and that fact was a little validating.

And, that’s kind of the point of “Paper Towns.” We have a tendency to build up people or things we know nothing about (story of my life), and in return, we feel like less than. But perhaps, in discovering that truth, we learn a little something about ourselves.

I’m not sure where you’re at in your life. But if you’re at any variable close to me — a person who’s been looking at maps, calculating mileage, and applying to jobs nationwide — this was the exact movie I needed to see this weekend. I highly recommend it.

“It is so hard to leave—until you leave. And then it is the easiest goddamned thing in the world.”

—Paper Towns by John Green

Celeb Crush: Mick Fanning.

Kill me now.

Kill me now.

Okay, so you may not have heard the name Mick Fanning, but I KNOW you heard about the Australian surfer who nearly got CHOMPED by a shark during a pro-surfing competition last weekend — that’s him!

Any guy who gets chased down by a shark, punches it in the face, and gets away completely unharmed, can take me to dinner. But there’s good news and bad news when it comes to Mick: the bad news is, he’s married. The good news is, not every guy turns into a fat slob once they get married — some actually become professional athletes that beat up sharks!

Fanning is 34 years old, and has won the 2007, 2009, and 2013 ASP World Tour. He has more than a dozen other victories and has proven himself to be one of the best surfers in the world — which would explain why he is married to a model. Le sigh.

But hell, there’s nothing wrong with drooling from afar, right? It’ll be our little secret.

It seems like just last week I had another celeb crush… Oh wait, because I did. And you know what? He was kind of a little mean about it. ‘Round these parts, celeb crushes happen on the daily. They are not to be taken too seriously, so there’s no reason to go acting crazy, K?

So Mick, if you’re reading this, you don’t need to freak out. But if you do freak out, I’ll move right on my merry way — ’cause that is how The Bitter Lemon works. No time is wasted on those who don’t matter.

In other news, I had to take a decent drive late last week for a writing gig. Somehow, I ended up on the Sirius XM Love station (I think it’s channel 17) and I heard this:

…And wow did I get emotional! I didn’t cry, but I was really drumming up some memories. So basically, I need this on vinyl, and a bottle of wine, and don’t call me ’til Monday because I’ll be dancing alone in my kitchen.

“Oh, I’m leaving on that midnight train tomorrow, And I know just where I’m going. I’ve packed up my troubles, And I’ve thrown them all away.” 

— Lionel Richie, Stuck On You

The Ex Factor.

#Preach

#Preach

I saw him for the first time at Duvic’s. It was Valentine’s Day, he was bartending; pouring several tequila shots.

I was out with a friend, doing what single girls do on a couple-y holiday: drinking.

What I didn’t know then was that the bartender that night would become a part of my life — good and bad — for years to come.

For four years, we dated off and on. At first, he blamed his lack of commitment on his last girlfriend. He said she slept with his best friend… and recorded it.

But later, he would tell me he was just “too busy” to seriously date me.

Although he never met my family, he introduced me to his. They were welcoming and I spent Christmas with them one year; he bought me jewelry.

That year, it felt so right. He’d finally committed to me, I felt like a part of his family, and I was in love.

It was his humor that drew me to him right away. Of course, I thought he was super cute, if you’re into that fratastic thing that Baton Rouge has going for it.

I imagined a future together — one in vivid detail — of us getting married, having children, and growing old still madly in love with each other.

But a job change sent him to New Orleans, and it didn’t take long before he stopped coming in town to visit me.

One night, I called him before bed, and he told me he was about to send me an email.

I knew he was going to dump me, but I told him to respect me enough not to do it in an email.

So, he came to my house the next day and gave me my house key. It was over.

He got engaged three months later to a girl in New Orleans. They’d been dating for years.

Earlier this year, they had their first child. It was news I saw on Facebook, after searching his name, as we’re not “Friends.”

The baby didn’t shock me. It seems like everyone I know gets married and immediately has children.

What hurt was that I truly believed this was a guy who had no interest in marriage, or in having kids. But the truth was, he just didn’t want those things with me.

The morning after my 30th birthday earlier this month, he sent me a message on Google chat.

I hadn’t talked to him in years.

He wanted to know how I was, how was work, and if I was considering moving to New Orleans. According to him, I would “love it.”

I told him I had to get going, and he told me he always loved our chats. He mentioned meeting up, but failed to mention his wife or his son.

The more I thought about our brief conversation, the more I realized how disgusting it all was.

For years, I’d convinced myself that this was the guy for me. In my head, I knew he cheated on me, lied to me, and treated me terribly.

But my heart held onto the very few good moments we’d shared, and it shielded me from all the bad he did.

I can finally see he wasn’t “the one that got away,” he was the one that showed me exactly what I’m not missing.

Pic of the Week.

3/7 of us that ESCAPED!

3/7 of us that ESCAPED!

Over the weekend, I’m proud to say that my friends and I completed what’s known as an “Escape Room.”

I won’t give anything about our particular scenario away, but these escape rooms are all over the country (I even saw one in London, too!) and groups of people are setting out to conquer them. I’ve boycotted “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” franchise, but I heard there was an escape room on one of the episodes this season.

Basically, you and a group of people are placed into a fictional scenario and you have a certain amount of time to get out.

Our scenario was that we were kidnapped by a local serial killer, taken to his home, and given 60 minutes to get out before he returns to “consume” us.

The “room” was actually about four rooms, all full of puzzles and riddles that must be solved before continuing to the next part of the room.

I’m happy to say our group was added to the 10% of people that solve ALL of the riddles and make it out before the killer returns — we didn’t have a second to spare — and it was incredibly fun! I love mysteries and CSI, so it was cool to be a part of something similar.

I will openly admit to anyone that I’m scared shitless of everything. I hate Halloween, I cannot watch scary movies (can’t even watch the previews), and I’m terrified of several things that happen in every day life. So, this whole escape room thing took a little convincing.

My friends assured me that no one would be chasing us, no one would be hiding in the room to scare us, and we wouldn’t ever be left alone. It was more about problem solving. I do love a challenge, so I agreed, and I’m so glad I did.

Was I scared at first? Yes. The morning of our appointment, I paced my apartment; told my mom I loved her in case I didn’t make it out; and I fed my cat enough food for a week. Despite having one vodka drink before entering the escape room, my stomach was in knots. But once our time started counting down, I knew there was no time to be scared and I just wanted to help the group.

The cool thing about our group? We all contributed in some way. We didn’t fight, and we all celebrated together, with the 13th Gate Escape Room staff. Afterward, we recounted every single minute of our adventure over mango margaritas.

It was a glorious summer night.

If you live in the Baton Rouge area, check out the Escape Room at The 13th Gate. Live elsewhere? Visit the Escape Room Directory.

What’s in my Beach Bag?

All of my beach essentials!

All of my beach essentials!

I had the weekend off, and I don’t have to go into work until 4pm today… I’d be lying if I said my mind wasn’t wondering if I should take an impromptu beach trip, all on my own (it’s just a short, 4-hour drive to Pensacola).

But, I wussed out, stayed in-town, and attempted to be productive yesterday. However, that’s not to say that I won’t be packing the Jeep and partaking in a beach adventure before the summer is over! And when I do, I’ll be totally ready with all my essentials:

  1. Cute beach bag from Mud Pie — As a bag lady, it’s a no brainer that I’ve got some cute beach bags. This one was a gift from one of my best friends and I absolutely love it! It’s big enough for all of my goodies, and even has room for a big beach towel.
  2. #CatLady hat — While on the beach, it’s important to shade yourself from the sun (at least a little), and why not do it while representing your favorite blog?! I’ve worn this hat on Orange Beach, which got lots of photos, and I also wore it to Pensacola Beach, where it was mistaken for a Miranda Lambert “thing.”
  3. Adorable coin purse by Coach — I bought this lemon-poppy coin purse from Coach years ago, as I was packing for a trip to the Virgin Islands, and even before I created this blog. I love tossing it in my beach bag, as it has a keyring for a condo, and enough room for my ID, and cash for pina coladas!
  4. Easy breezy flip-flops — When I’m packing for the beach, I want a pair of shoes that are going to slip on and off very quickly; you know, for that switch from the boardwalk to the sand.
  5. Invisible Protect Sheer Spray by L’Oreal — What did we DO before spray on sunscreen? I love this stuff! I use SPF 50 on my body, and reapply as needed.
  6. Skinsations Insect Repellent by Cutter — If I get bitten by a mosquito, it swells up into a huge welt, and is often painful. Because of this, I’m ALWAYS equipped with proper insect repellent. This Ultra Light spray by Cutter has a pleasant scent and keeps the bugs away.
  7. Oribe Apres Beach Waves and Shine Spray — Is there such a thing as too much beach wave? I think not. This is why I bring my Oribe Spray to the beach to capture the natural, salty texture of my hair, while adding shine and… an amazing scent!
  8. Aveda Sun Care Protective Hair Veil — You may not know this about me, but I color my hair. The last thing I need is for my professionally colored locks to fade in the sun, weeks before my next appointment! This spray protects hair from the sun, including its color.
  9. Replenishing After Sun Hair & Body Wash — Davines has created a body and hair wash that adds moisture back into your skin and hair post-sun exposure. It also works to prolong your tan! I’ve already used it several times this summer, and the scent is addictive.
  10. Hawaiian Tropic Aloha Kiss lip gloss with SPF — You don’t want burned lips at the beach! I’ve never seen an actual gloss with SPF, so I was thrilled when a beach-going friend gave this to me as a gift. Absolutely perfect!
  11. Sun Bum lip balm, in Key Lime — Tastes like key lime pie, all while keeping your lips moisturized and protecting them from the sun with an SPF of 30.
  12. Supergoop! Anti-Aging City Sunscreen Serum — I don’t like using the spray sunscreen on my face, so this Supergoop! fights any signs of aging, while protecting my skin from the sun, any day of the week.

Fresh Friday: Juicy Couture.

The original Juicy Couture.

The original Juicy Couture.

Howdy! I’m so happy that it’s Friday, per usual, but there’s something actually interesting about this Friday in particular: I have the weekend off! WHAT!? I’m really happy that my retail job is giving me the weekend off, given that I’ve worked my little booty off this week.

So, once I get off work today, I’m running home and jumping for joy! I’ve got a fun weekend planned, and you know I’ll be sharing all the details with you right here.

Anyway, it’s probably a good time to let you know that my perfume stock is running rather low. So, I’m honestly not TOO sure how many more “Fresh Friday” posts I’ve got in store. But have no fear, I’ve got a new idea for Fridays, so be on the lookout for that coming shortly.

Today’s Fresh Friday is all about Juicy Couture — the original scent — by Juicy Couture. Dare I say it? But, Juicy Couture is the king of cohesive scents. I cannot think of any other brand that’s got as many fantastic smelling scents as Juicy!

However, the original is quite fantastic. It’s got no extras, no added flowers or musk, it’s just fabulous.

According to Sephora.com, “Never afraid to stand out in a crowd, Juicy Couture captures the cheeky boldness of a girl who marches to the beat of her own drum. Juicy Couture smells like Couture with a blend of water hyacinth, princess lily, and sweet caramel.

Pam and Gela wanted every girl to have her own Juicy Couture, so they made a fabulous line of fragrance essentials adorned as only Juicy Couture can—some with charms and trinkets, and all in the most beautiful bottles and jars you’ve ever seen.”

Some notes you can find in Juicy Couture are: Watermelon, Mandarin, Pink Passion Fruit, Marigold, Green Apple, Water Hyacinth, Crushed Leaves, Tuberose Absolute, Wild Rose, Princess Lily, Tuberose, Caramel Creme Brulee, Vanilla, Precious Woods, and Patchouli.

Yum! Definitely a scent to be worn all year, for every occasion! I hope y’all have a great weekend and I’ll see you back here Monday!

Second wedding etiquette.

Destination on fleek.

Destination on fleek.

Not to be an ass, but I read an article the other day that said the average marriage that’s ending in divorce lasts around 8 years. So for my peers who got married at 22, yikes. Truthfully, some of my friends are already divorced, and in fact, some are already facing marriage number two. Yay!

But second marriages can be tricky. We all know what traditionally happens before and during a first wedding, but what about the second one? Luckily, The Knot has some great tips and advice for the second go ’round.

Thankfully, it’s completely acceptable to have the wedding of your dreams, the second time. However, you can’t expect your parents to pay for it this time — you already got that once! You can still wear white, and have bridesmaids, but you may not be able to get married in your regular church (if they don’t recognize divorce or remarriage). Consider:

  • A destination wedding
  • Including your children in the ceremony
  • Throwing a surprise wedding

You can still set up a registry, but don’t expect gifts from most people, especially if they were in attendance for your first wedding. Use your registry for things you really don’t have and wouldn’t buy for yourself. Consider:

  • Charitable gifts
  • Season tickets
  • Weekend getaway
  • Family adventures

Truthfully, anything goes for a second wedding — it’s your chance to do whatever you didn’t get to do for your first wedding, or have something personal and telling of your current relationship. Whatever you decide, your friends and family will be happy to share the moment with you.

Cookin’ up a Crush.

If you can't take the heat, stop watching Food Network Star.

If you can’t take the heat, stop watching Food Network Star.

I blame Food Network for my recent crush on local chef Jay Ducote.

He’s currently starring on season 11 of Food Network Star, where contestants compete to have their own cooking show on Food Network.

My crush on Ducote started like any other “stranger crush” — one where you know basically nothing about the person — and it developed because on the show, Ducote has shown his personality to be joyful and loving.

It probably doesn’t hurt that, as of writing this, he’s kind of killing the competition.

Even though he’s local, there’s still that TV barrier. I get to see him at his best every Sunday night, without anyone knowing I’m in bed with a bottle of wine.

I swear I’m not a creeper.

When you consider it, the guy is a catch. This isn’t the first chef I’ve swooned over, because let’s face it, what’s hotter than a guy who knows how to whip up something delicious?

Or maybe, I like him because I’m a foodie, too; or because we’re both writers. And hey, we’re both drinkers.

He’s also a creative type, if I had to guess, only his form of expression literally feeds people.

But, I don’t really know him, so perhaps his presence online and on TV is just an act.

This is the problem I have with “celeb crushes” — the dream very well may explode once you meet them in person.

This is why I (on some level) hope I never meet John Mayer (can’t believe I just said that). I’m terrified that he really is a complete douche.

The truth is, I did meet Ducote about two years ago, at Mestizo for a book signing event. He signed my copy of “Meanwhile, Back at Café Du Monde…” and he thanked me for reading his blog.

From that short exchange, sure, he seemed nice. But at that point, I merely thought he was a cool food blogger, and chances are, I assumed he had a girlfriend (Because… Baton Rouge).

I haven’t told anyone about this little crush, until now, mainly because I find it comical to have a crush on anyone on Food Network.

But you can’t help who you like, right?

The other night, I was folding a stack of tank tops at my retail job, when I overheard someone talking about Food Network Star.

I whipped around as if it were Justin Bieber — another celeb crush of mine — and blurted out, “I’m obsessed!”

The guy, who had this amazing swoop-y hair, gave me a once-over and said, “My sister’s boss is on it.”

It was a little salty, but I rolled with it.

“Jay?” I asked.

He nodded.

I felt like he also wanted me to stop eavesdropping, so I said nothing and went back to the tank tops.

It was awkwardly snotty and, no offence to Mr. Ducote, but it was a conversation that seemed out-of-sorts surrounding a self-proclaimed hugger.

I’ll just chalk it up to fame and BBQ sauce; it does crazy things to people.

So, what will come of my Ducote crush? Who knows. Maybe he’s emotionally unavailable. Maybe I’ll actually attend a Food Network Star viewing party. Or maybe I’ll just stick to cheering him on via my Twitter handle @OrangeJulius7 — he usually replies.

Pic of the Week.

Easy like a Sunday mornin'.

Easy like a Sunday mornin’.

As I mentioned in my post yesterday, I am ATTEMPTING to make more time for myself; time to actually relax and/or do the things I love to do. In the last few days, yes, I’ve had to work several 8-9 hour shifts, but I also found plenty of time to do things for myself.

For starters, I spent my Sunday morning on the patio with a stack of magazines and a giant mug of coffee. It was nice and sunny, and very quiet. These were magazines I’d been waiting to read for probably two months.

I sat, I sipped, I read, and I stretched my legs out in hopes of getting some sun. In college, I always saved Sunday to do absolutely nothing. What I really would do is sleep in, make coffee and a giant breakfast (usually French toast), and read the New York Times in bed pretty much all day. It was heaven; and I’m always trying my best to bring Sundays like that back into my life. So, a few hours on the patio felt really nice.

Since I got my record player, I’ve spent more time just listening to music. It’s something I probably haven’t done in years. I got a great surprise in the mail last week — John Mayer’s Continuum on vinyl — and Saturday night, I’m not ashamed to say I poured myself a glass of wine and danced alone in my living room to “Gravity,” before watching “Sex With Brody” for the first time (if you haven’t watched this, you’ve got to!).

In the last year, I’ve accepted the fact that I’m getting older. I don’t look as thin as I once did, I’ve got more wrinkles (deservedly so), and looking decent takes a lot more work (you should see my makeup bag). But, I have always enjoyed doing things that make me feel good about myself, and trying new things that are going to help me feel confident.

For my birthday, I got a ton of new beauty products to try and in return, I think I’m looking super young and fresh (wink)! I got some Radiant Under Eye Treatments (containing diamond and collagen!) that are fantastic. I also got a set of three face masks by Peter Thomas Roth: the Pumpkin Enzyme Mask (for congested skin), the Rose Stem Cell gel mask (for anti-aging), and…. drumroll… the 24K Gold Mask (for lift, firmness, and glow)!

The 24K Gold Mask is the only one of the group I haven’t used yet, but keep an eye out on my Instagram (@OrangeJulius7) because it’s going to happen ASAP. Like tonight. This mask is infused with 24K gold, so it’s got a nice metallic look in the jar, and I’m assuming it will look the same on my face. I cannot wait.

And last, but not least, I finally got some time to hit up the tanning bed (told you my wrinkles were well-deserved) and then fit in a boxing class yesterday. I’m sore as hell, but I know it’s good for me, and it’s just another step in making me feel my best!

7 Unsexy things about me.

Blanche photobomb.

Blanche photobomb.

Happy Monday! I hope the weekend was fantastic for you — I had yesterday off, and was delighted to spend some time outdoors (working on my tan, as promised) and I met up with a friend to see a classic film: GREMLINS. All good things.

As I continue on my journey of soul searching, I’ve come to face my flaws. Some of them are small; and some I can fix, some I can’t. But that’s just part of being human, right? We aren’t perfect, but life is all about embracing what we’re given. It’s not about where you’ve been, but where you’re going. So, I present to you, a few of my imperfections:

  1. I’m really unorganized. I’m weary putting this out there while I’m knee-deep in the job search. However, it’s not really the work part of my life where I’m unorganized. I have no choice, really, but to be organized in my work, given that I’ve got several clients and deadlines out-the-wazoo! However, as far as just being organized in general? No. My apartment is usually a mess, and I blame this on two factors: I need more storage and I choose to work and/or sleep over cleaning or organizing 6/7 days a week. If I’m expecting company, I do clean. My purse is also an endless nightmare of receipts, lipgloss, and random crap. And my car has a 50/50 chance of being a mess. I really do LOVE things being organized, but I also don’t want to spend my time off organizing all my shit. So, how am I going to combat this? I have been working the last few months on slowly getting rid of the things that are cluttering my apartment. I’ve taken two trips to Goodwill to donate bags of shoes and clothes to help clear up my closet — I still need to get rid of more. I also donated all of my old towels and blankets to a local animal shelter, and could probably make a second trip. If I end up moving far away in the next few months, I’ll be getting rid of A LOT MORE. So, if you’re in need of anything, I might be able to just give it to you.
  2. I barely talk to my family. I talk to my mom multiple times a day. Thanks to Facebook, I talk to some of my uncles and recently, two cousins. But I feel like I really never see my family, or talk to them much. As a kid, my parents took me to see my gandparents quite often, or at least for Christmas or Thanksgiving. But one set of my grandparents have passed, and it seemed like the other set was more into drama — I recall fights at the Thanksgiving table; jabs at who had gained weight; and one of my uncles even called me a bitch because of my political affiliation. So you can see why I’ve chosen not to communicate with my family as often as some people might. There were years I was ashamed of this! I meet so many people who are close to their entire families. They go to birthday parties and celebrations all throughout the year. I thought if I admitted I wasn’t close to my family, it would reflect on me. But the truth is, I’ve always wanted to be a part of a big family that’s close to one another. So, I do hope that if I’m ever lucky enough to find a guy to be with, that his family is welcoming to me, and treats me like one of their own.
  3. I definitely talk to Blanche. While I may not talk to much of my family, Blanche is like a sister to me. An annoying, bratty sister who takes my things without asking and owes me rent money (no, seriously, my complex added “pet rent” to my lease last year, and Blanche has YET to pay a single monthly payment. She currently owes me $90, but who’s counting?). Blanche stormed into my life two years ago, and I always tell her it’s a good thing she’s cute because she sure is a bitch. But nonetheless, I love her, and I tell her when I’m leaving and when I’ll be home. I always tell her good morning upon waking up, and at night when I close my eyes, I tell her good night and that I love her. Sometimes she meows back, but we communicate best when allergy season is upon us — every time I sneeze, Blanche meows at me. I assume she’s blessing me and that’s what our friendship is based upon. I realize this indeed makes me crazy and completely lame, but I’ll talk to Blanche until the day I die — pretty sure she’s actually going to kill me.
  4. I’m terrible at dating. I know, a relationship blogger and columnist who actually SUCKS at dating. This is just something I’ve come to notice over the last few years; you know what they say, “those who cannot do, teach.” I’ve learned a lot from the mistakes of my past, and I really hope all of my learning will do me some good at some point in my life. Let’s get this correct: I’m good at being a girlfriend, I’m just terrible at getting there. In the past, I’ve been quick to let people in, because I’ve always assumed the best in people. This has resulted in terrible relationships. I think my willingness also comes across as desperation, which is not really me, nor is it attractive. This is something I’ve been working on, and I’m proud to say I’ve been single for more than two years now, and I feel good about how far I’ve come.
  5. I can’t seem to “get it together.” This kind of goes with the unorganization aspect I mentioned, but also the fact that… there are people out there who live in homes where everything matches and they have no debt, and sometimes, they have no real problems — or at least that’s what it seems to be like. But I still have the pots and pans I got for college and I wish I had the ones you could put in the oven OR on top of the stove. I don’t, so I just try and do the best I can with what I’ve got. And, I’m hoping that, after I find my next career move, I’ll be in a financial situation to treat myself to some new dishes and some artwork around the apartment — but I’ll keep you posted.
  6. I talk more than I DO. Let’s be clear. This does not apply to my dating or sex life. This is more about my life, in general. I often think, or fantasize about things I want to do, and I never get to do them. I blame this on the fact that I have about ZERO work-life balance, so I’m working on changing that and actually scheduling time for myself, and the things I want to do, and making those a priority.
  7. I’ve still got emotional baggage. I’ve been through some rough times. Not only with romantic relationships, but also with my family, and it’s safe to say, my career instability has given me some stress as of late, too. But, I’ve been through counseling, and I’m really proud of how far I’ve come. I do feel like I’m finally ready to be in a relationship; that I have the tools to work through problems and stick with my self-confidence in order to make it work.
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