Marfa: From Dawn to Dusk.

​It’s been several days since I’ve returned from Marfa, Texas – a place they say is “Tough to get to. Tougher to explain. But once you get here, you get it.”

I’m not quite sure I get it, but I’ll explain as much as I can.

On Saturday morning, I set out west in the morning, and planned to drive through Marfa to get to Valentine, Texas – home of the Prada Marfa installation. And that’s exactly what I did.

For the most part, the drive wasn’t near as rural as I expected. There really was no stretch of land without gas stations, food, or rest areas (maybe one-hour stretches) as I had read online. There was, however, lots of cattle to see along with mountains and desert scenery – it was beautiful.

About 30 minutes outside Marfa is a town called Alpine. It’s small, but loaded with stuff! There was the Big Bend Brewery and a visitor’s center, and it’s home to a super nice-looking University, where I later learned that most people in the area attend.

Between Alpine and Marfa proper is the Marfa Lights Viewing Area, which is in the middle of NOTHING.

Anyway, I drove through Marfa (it takes about 3 minutes to get from one side of town to the other), and made it the 30 miles further west to Valentine (population 217). I was seriously SO excited to see the Prada Marfa, and when I pulled up, there were several cars parked across from it with the same intentions.

It looks a little smaller than I imagined, but still just as cool. It’s not too risky to run across the highway, because there’s not many people passing through Valentine. Up close, I’ll admit, things look a tad creepy. The shoes and bags inside have been there for 13 years, and they are dusty and weathered. Surrounding the installation is a chain-link fence where people have placed locks, because we just have to put locks on every possible fence, right?

When I’d seen what I needed to see, I headed back east to Marfa to check in to my trailer at El Cosmico.

El Cosmico is off the main drag in Marfa, and is just as cute as promised. The lobby serves as a provisions store, too, and they’ve got some cool stuff, and it looks like an expensive camp, which I suppose it sort of is.

I got my key, and hauled all of my bags via a little wagon that embarrassingly rattled down the rocky path all the way to my trailer.

My trailer, “Amigo”, was pink and silver, and cute! It was a little smaller than I imagine, but definitely big enough for me and probably another person. There was a booth, a kitchenette, and a full-size bed.

They had towels, robes, shampoo, and kitchen utensils, which was a nice surprise. My toilet was outside, shared with one other trailer, along with a shower.

After I got settled, it started storming, and I was suddenly so thankful for my trailer and felt sorry for all the campers in the teepees. I decided to order a pizza and pick it up, so I called into Pizza Foundation, where there’s about 3 pizzas to choose from, and I guess they always have a 2-hour wait.

They didn’t tell me a time to come get it, so I decided to go check out “town”. I quickly realized that yeah, this place is tiiiiiiny. You’re lucky if the road is paved, and because of the rain, many of them were flooded.

The only big name store I saw was Dollar General, so I stopped there to kill time. When I made it to Pizza Foundation, there was still a wait on my pizza, but they had a stock of beer from Big Bend Brewery, so I grabbed a seat and started sipping.

Pizza Foundation is likely the only place to get a pizza in town, and despite its popularity, its in a big warehouse that has little decoration and uses card tables for dining. And yes, everyone that came in was told there was a 2-hour wait on pizza.

I got my pie (an 18-inch, because there’s only one size) and took it back to my trailer where I proceeded to drink an entire bottle of wine and eat half the pizza while it continued to storm. I nixed my plans to search for the Marfa Lights because I figured they wouldn’t appear in the rain.

I quickly slept in a fog of wine, and rain on a tin roof. I woke up feeling pretty rested, and I was ready to mark things off my list of sights to see.

My first adventure was making coffee in a percolator, which was in my kitchenette. It was too small to keep the induction heater on, so I took it outside to the outdoor shared kitchen and put it on a hot plate. This wasn’t really working, so I went back to my trailer and called maintenance.

The maintenance man came and probably thought I was an idiot, until he saw the problem, too, and I ended up rigging the induction heater long enough to make one cup of coffee, which was less-than-stellar.

I immediately went to Squeeze, where I got a cup of Big Bend coffee the size of my head and some scrambled eggs which I ate in about 2 minutes.

Then, I headed to the Chinati Foundation, where I was excited to see the famous works from Donald Judd. The cement blocks were free, but I paid $10 to see a few other things – his untitled mill aluminum boxes, and “Dawn to Dusk” by Robert Irwin.

Oddly, the Robert Irwin installation was a little bit of a drive from the Chinati Foundation and it was definitely at the end of a neighborhood road (many of these houses were run-down). When I walked up to the building, an employee reminded me not to touch anything inside, and no pictures.

Basically, the entire building was the art, and the inside goes from complete light to complete dark (or vis-versa depending on how you approach it). I realized then that I’ve never really seen modern art like this, and it was pretty trippy.

Next, I went back to Chinati to see the 15 Untitled Works in Cement. These are located in a patch of desert, and while there is a path around them, you’d have to walk in the desert brush to get anywhere near them.

So, I put on my boots and ventured as far as my fears would let me. There were deer, bunnies, cloudy skies, and I was fine until I saw several buzzards, and it took everything I had not to run in the other direction.

It is said that these concrete blocks were made to work with the environment, and they do – oddly. They serve sort of as frames to various parts of the desert, but they just stood so strong, that my feeling of eeriness was heightened even more.

Next, I moved on to his 100 Untitled Works in Mill Aluminum. These mill aluminum boxes are stored in two sheds that previously stored artillery. They are brick with steel curved roofs; there’s 48 boxes in the first building and 52 in the second.

And you could hear a pin drop in these buildings. So imagine how it sounds when someone opens the metal doors to get in and out? Yikes.

These mill aluminum boxes are all the same dimensions on the outside, but inside, there’s different shapes or formations of the aluminum, which eventually starts to play tricks on the eyes. I know they offer sunrise viewings of these, and since there’s so many windows in the building, I’ve heard the reflections are really cool.

It was neat overall, and I looked at every. Single. Box. But I honestly didn’t understand that a place like Marfa, known for its art, drawing people from all over, how is it that these boxes were dusty and had at least 1 dead bug inside each one?

Like… can we get a vacuum here? I mean that just seems disrespectful, and a horsefly or whatever it was is super obvious against a complete aluminum structure. Just saying.

Next, I went to Frama – a coffee shop inside the Tumbleweed Laundromat. I got a hazelnut latte with almond milk for $5 and it was awesome.

It was about this time that I started to wonder about Marfa. Yes, there were cute spots to go visit, but as I ventured from spot to spot, it was obvious that the roads needed work, the homes were old and run-down, and I wondered where all of the money from tourism was going? Was it really doing this town any good?

I had a few shops I wanted to visit, so I went to those next: Moon Gems and Freda. To my shock, Moon Gems had wooden crates of rocks scattered outside. I was so confused, especially since there were several hipsters drooling over the piles of $2 rocks.

Inside, there were finer gems on display, but I left empty-handed.

When I got to Freda, it was about the size of a walk-in closet, and there were a few candles for sale, bars of soap, and a tray of necklaces that were about $200. I was out of there.

I was hoping to have drinks and a lite lunch at The Capri Bar, but when I arrived, it looked completely empty and closed for good. So, I headed to Jett’s Grill at the Paisano Hotel – the set for several movies and home of the spiciest salsa in town.

I had a few margaritas, chips and salsa, and was literally the only person sitting there for hours. This is possibly where things turned even more for me – where WAS everyone? Was this what small town life was like?

I paid my tab and went to the shops inside the hotel where I found a few souvenirs, and then I headed back to my trailer.

Things were starting to get to me. I’d pretty much seen everything on my list, felt like everywhere I went I was alone, and I couldn’t quite understand what was so special about this place. It seemed almost sad to me.

I was also getting a little tired of the silence. Without wifi or a cell signal, I couldn’t listen to podcasts, so I turned on the radio in my trailer to the only station in town: Marfa Public Radio. I fell asleep in my bed and snoozed off the tequila.

When I woke up, I wanted to do something fun, and I had one place left on my list to go: Cochineal.

So, I changed clothes, and put on lipstick and ventured out. It was early for dinner, but I knew this was usually a busy place. When I walked in however, most of the tables were empty.

“Do you have a reservation?” the hostess asked.

I didn’t, and I still got a table, because NO ONE IS IN THIS CITY, I thought.

I was delighted to see all of the yummy-looking things on the menu, and my waitress was really nice. I ordered a glass of rose and got the ceviche.

Upon finishing said ceviche, I ordered a piece of fish, and proceeded to have an anxiety attack. I have dealt with anxiety for years, and as of late, it has combined with grief, and in general I am still a mess.

I felt hot, shaky, and sick, and I needed to leave, immediately. I tried to keep my cool and got my food boxed and paid my check – sadly leaving a majority of my wine in its glass. And I went to my trailer to try and cope.

The thing is, anxiety attacks can creep up at any point, sometimes they happen when you’re feeling great! But, I knew I was suppressing feelings of Father’s Day, and general feelings of being alone out in the middle of nowhere.

I was also tired of the cloudy skies, the desolate roads, and the silence. At home, in Austin, I’ve managed to create a plan for myself when I’m feeling low: I seek comfort in my kitty Blanche, watch a funny show on TV, or listen to Johnjay and Rich.

I’d left all of those things 7 hours east.

I was also a little tired of having every little thing seem different: I was tired of using an outdoor toilet, tired of jiggling the lock on my trailer door to get inside, tired of everyone knowing I was a tourist, and tired of not understanding anything about this town.

After talking with a few friends via phone, I felt a little better, or at least, better enough to head out of town and see these famous mystery Marfa Lights.

I heard mixed things about the perfect time to see these lights that supposedly only appear 15-30 times a year. I decided to go in time to see the sunset, and then I’d see how long I wanted to stay out there.

I went out around 8:30, and the sunset was gorgeous. It seemed unreal.

There were a lot of people at this viewing center, which was slightly raised and had a few built in sets of binoculars.

I was standing there just looking into the distance, when an older woman came up beside me.

“So, do you think we’re going to get to see the lights?” she asked.

“I hope so,” I said. “It seems clear, right?”

She introduced herself. Her name was Connie and she lived in Pennsylvania. She’d ridden to Marfa on a motorcycle, along with her husband and their friends, who shortly joined us on the platform.

They started telling me stories of all the places they’d biked, and we swapped information about the lights – times to see them, what we were supposed to be looking for, etc.

After about 30 minutes, Connie and her friends were convinced tonight was not the night for the lights.

“You probably came out here to enjoy some peace and quiet,” her husband said.

“No, I’m thankful for your company,” I said.

“Well, enjoy your vacation, or whatever it is you’re hoping to find out here,” her friend said.

I smiled. What exactly was I hoping to find out here?

With any trip I take, I’m always looking for a bit of an escape a change of pace, a chance to see how other people live, try new food, see what’s out there… and in a way, I suppose you always end up learning a lot about yourself when you’re out of your element.

By the time Connie and her friends left, it was beyond dark. The sky was dark, the desert even darker. But the stars were so clear, it looked like someone tossed a fistful of glitter into the sky and it stuck.

In the distance, there were lights, but conversations started to buzz about what lights were accounted for – a cell phone tower had a red light on it, and a distant highway was home to moving headlights.

But around 10pm, a staggering line of three small lights twinkled near the cell phone tower. They moved up and down, and sometimes disappeared entirely.

A woman next to me was quiet, but I pointed toward the lights, “What are those?”

“The lights!” she said.

Her son was a Marfa resident, and he said he’d never seen them so bright. Looking through a telescope, he explained his theory on what the lights were: a reflection of some sort from the moon. He said that even when researchers went to the spot directly under these lights, they couldn’t be seen.

The lights weren’t how I imagined – but they had been described many different ways. To me, they looked like little white twinkle lights – but appeared together like they were connected somehow.

After a terrible night of barely sleeping, I left Marfa right after sunrise. I was ready to get home. Looking back on my trip, I’m glad I went and saw what I’ve heard so much about. But the best way I can describe it now is from Robert Irwin, “Dawn to Dusk”.

It went from exciting and vibrant to dark and creepy, physically and mentally. But that’s the risk you take going on your own – everything relies on you, and sometimes that depends on what’s happening inside your head at the time.

West Texas was simply a backdrop for another adventure, but the Mystery Lights were certainly a bright spot in a desert of darkness.

Advertisements

BBC: ‘Leave Me’.

Hey, hey! It’s been a little while since I was here – it has been a crazy few weeks at work, and I didn’t really do any of the reading or writing I thought I was going to do on my trip to west Texas (more on that in a later post).

But, yesterday I finished reading another book from Blanche’s Book Club: “Leave Me” by Gayle Forman. Here is the description from Amazon:

Every woman who has ever fantasized about driving past her exit on the highway instead of going home to make dinner, and every woman who has ever dreamed of boarding a train to a place where no one needs constant attention–meet Maribeth Klein. A harried working mother who’s so busy taking care of her husband and twins, she doesn’t even realize she’s had a heart attack.

Surprised to discover that her recuperation seems to be an imposition on those who rely on her, Maribeth does the unthinkable: she packs a bag and leaves. But, as is often the case, once we get where we’re going we see our lives from a different perspective. Far from the demands of family and career and with the help of liberating new friendships, Maribeth is able to own up to secrets she has been keeping from herself and those she loves.

With bighearted characters–husbands, wives, friends, and lovers–who stumble and trip, grow and forgive, Leave Me is about facing the fears we’re all running from. Gayle Forman is a dazzling observer of human nature. She has written an irresistible novel that confronts the ambivalence of modern motherhood head on and asks, what happens when a grown woman runs away from home?

Funny part about this particular book is that the only copy the library had was the large print version. I really wanted to read it, so I got it anyway, and it was shockingly (and kinda embarrassingly) nice on the eyes, and I also felt like a speed reader. Ha!

Anyway… I loved the idea of this book, but it wasn’t perfect. From the start, it’s pretty obvious that our main character has a family that just seems awful. They are demanding, a little spoiled, and even when she suffers from a heart attack, they don’t understand her need to recover.

So, when she leaves them without notice, it’s nearly impossible to feel bad for them, or hope that she ever returns. I know this is probably something I harp on a lot in my book reviews, but a vital part of a great story is caring about the characters; there has to be push and pull in the book, or else what’s the point?

However, it was pretty cool to “watch” as Maribeth creates a new life for herself, and see what she tries to accomplish on her own. Because of this, I’m recommending this book to anyone who feels like they’ve lost sight of their life.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes.

I’m hoping to have my thoughts/recap on my Marfa trip up tomorrow – or very soon!

BBC: ‘The Missing Hours’.

Today is the day! I’m heading west to Marfa, Texas after years of dreaming about it, and a few weeks of preparing for it!

But, I didn’t want to get behind on Blanche’s Book Club, so I’m sharing our latest read: “The Missing Hours” by Emma Kavanagh. Here’s the description from Amazon:

One moment, Selena Cole is at the playground with her children . . . the next, she has vanished without a trace.

The body of Dominic Newell, a well-respected lawyer, is found on a remote mountain road, blood oozing from the stab wound in his neck.

In the sleepy borderland between England and Wales, sheep outnumber people and serious crimes are rare. Which makes this Tuesday morning, with two calls coming in to the local police station, even more remarkable. Detective Constable Leah Mackay and her brother, Detective Sergeant Finn Hale, begin their respective investigations, but soon find them inextricably linked. And when Selena is found alive and unhurt twenty hours later, the mystery deepens. 

Selena’s work consulting on kidnap and ransom cases has brought her into close contact with ruthless criminals and international drug lords. But now, as Selena walks back into her life wearing a blood-spattered sweater, claiming no memory of the preceding hours, Leah can’t be sure if she is a victim, a liar, or a murder suspect. 

Leah and Finn delve into each case, untangling the secrets and betrayals—large and small—that can lie just beneath the surface of a life, yet unprepared for where both trails will lead.  

With engrossing characters, devilish twists, and evocative prose, The Missing Hours is that rare page-turner—as satisfying and complex as it is unpredictable.

I have always been honest in my book reviews, so it may not come as a shock to know that this book was too complex for a pool read. There were so many characters, and while the description only lists two missing persons – there’s several.

I hate to do it, but I’m not going to recommend this one – I almost didn’t blog about it at all, but I did read it, and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. I miiiight have felt differently had I read it curled up on the couch instead of at the pool drinking spritzers, but it just didn’t hook me in like I’d hoped.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “Leave Me” by Gayle Forman.

Follow me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 for Marfa updates this weekend!

The Road to Marfa: Reasoning.

Beautiful!

I leave for Marfa, Texas early tomorrow morning – my bags are packed, my rental car is ready for pickup, and I’m reflecting on why I wanted to make this unique trip in the first place.

I heard about Marfa for the first time on an episode of “Courtney Loves Dallas” (on Bravo), when her friends join her for a road trip across Texas to see Prada Marfa. I honestly can’t remember if they did much else, but she later went on to make a Marfa t-shirt for her blog followers, and continues to shoot promotional items for her blog within Marfa:

I thought the Prada Marfa was cool enough to see one day, and when I moved to Austin almost 3 years ago (!), I knew I had to visit one day.

Truthfully, I’ve always enjoyed camping experiences. As a kid, my babysitter had a pop-up camper and I thought it was such an adventure. I loved walking around the campground to see how other people set up their temporary homes – with lights and patches of plastic grass.

I also loved it when the local mall had their camper and RV show – I loved looking through all of them, and thought they all looked so fancy.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted an adventure in some sort of desert (or deserted) environment. I have long romanticized life out west – perhaps that’s why I love Texas so much. The cacti, tumbleweeds, dust clouds, and horses have always appealed to me.

Like my dad, I’ve got a bit of a fascination with small towns – how people inhabit them and never leave; how they create lives off-the-grid; and how it all contributes to some semblance of meaning for us city folk.

Like anyone about to hit the road, I’m looking for clarity, a bit of a challenge, and a new perspective. I have always believed that in order to create, we must constantly work our creative muscles; always looking for new things to discover and digest.

But of course, I’m looking to unplug a bit, too. Work has been incredibly stressful, and lately, the weekends just aren’t enough time for me to recharge. I also randomly picked this weekend to travel, and as the days have crept closer, I see I’ll be well west on Father’s Day – I’m really thankful that I won’t be able to see anymore online chatter about the holiday I’m missing this year.

Grief has been so hard on my heart, my mind, my body, and my social life. I know one weekend won’t solve it for me, but I hope that with each adventure I take on my own, I grow stronger and more confident in the daily challenges I face.

I’m really looking forward to actual quiet, the quiet I’ve only experienced in the Tennessee mountains at night. That same darkness, too – it brings rest.

And of course, I’m hoping to have fun, meet people, share stories, eat local food, and take pictures; spend some time in a hammock with a book, or sit outside with my journal.

Whatever happens out there, I look forward to telling you all about it.

Travel is about the gorgeous feeling of teetering in the unknown.

-Anthony Bourdain

The Road to Marfa: Packing Notes.

I’m not quite packing this lite…

Since I’m staying in a trailer with AC, I am really lucky that I don’t have to pack bedding, a tent, or any super serious camping supplies. However, the things I’ve packed for this trip are definitely a little different than what I’ve packed for other trips in the past.

I thought I’d share some of the more unique items I’m bringing in case you’re planning a similar trip!

Road Needs

As I mentioned, I got a rental car for this trip (can’t trust my Jeep). On the on hand, I have peace of mind that I’ll actually make it to Marfa, but on the other hand, I’m missing out on the comforts of my own car – specifically, XM radio. And while, yes, I could have paid extra to get XM in the rental, I took it as an opportunity to load up on audio books and CDs from the library. I’m bringing:

  • “Anthem” – Hanson
  • “Backwoods Barbie” – Dolly Parton
  • “Collateral” – Phillip Phillips
  • “Jekyll + Hyde” – Zac Brown Band
  • “Memories: Do Not Open” – The Chainsmokers
  • “Music of my Mind” – Stevie Wonder
  • “Unorthodox Jukebox” – Bruno Mars
  • “The Very Best of Prince” – Prince
  • “Wilson Phillips” – Wilson Phillips
  • “First Women” by Kate Anderson Brower
  • “One Plus One” by Jojo Moyes

I also downloaded an app called Stop by Stop that helps you plan your stops for food and gas. There is a 4-hour stretch of nothing, so I am really thankful I can easily see when to fuel up! I am also going old-school and printing all of my directions just in case I lose service.

Food + Drink

I am packing snacks and drinks for the road, but am bringing plenty just in case all the restaurants are closed and I find myself in need! Here’s what I’ve got in my cooler:

  • Pretzels
  • Sour gummies
  • Trail mix
  • Thunderbird Bars
  • Popcorn
  • Homemade cookie bars
  • Melon chunks
  • Apples + peanut butter
  • Water
  • Canned green tea
  • Bottled coffee
  • La croix
  • Wine
  • Tequila
  • Lime wedges
  • Plastic cups, flask, reusable water bottle

Electronics

I am very much planning to unplug, but I am bringing my cell phone, a wifi hotspot (for directions only), and a flashlight.

Books + Writing

I’m not necessarily planning on sitting around reading, but El Cosmico (the campground where I’m staying) does have hammocks and fire pits, plus I might want to read before bed or if I’m hanging out in a coffee shop. So, I am packing a few books (listed below) along with my journal – I have been writing in it every day lately, and I know I’ll have lots of thoughts running through my mind this weekend.

  • “Blood, Bones, & Butter” by Gabrielle Hamilton: I was being SO picky about books I wanted to bring along, but I picked this memoir off my shelf because it’s about a chef’s journey in finding purpose and meaning in her life.
  • “Loop Group” by Larry McMurtry: This is also from my collection, and I chose it because it’s about two friends who set off on an adventure out west.
  • “The Vanishing Year” by Kate Moretti: This one was a reserve I picked up about a woman living a glam life and she has all these secrets coming back to haunt her. It’s basically a suspense novel that has no relevance to this trip and I’ll likely keep it at the bottom of my stack.

Clothing

I didn’t give clothes much of a thought other than for utility, and I packed a mix of things because I do think it will be cooler at night and I’m planning to hit up some bonfires, and will be outside searching for the Marfa Lights. So, I packed a baseball hat, a sweatshirt, a rain jacket, and oversized pajama pants in case I need to use the outhouse in the middle of the night. I also packed shower shoes along with slippers for wearing inside the trailer.

Linens

El Cosmico provides linens, but I did pack my own towel, and washcloth just in case. I also packed a blanket to bring with me to bonfires and for catching the lights.

Toiletries

This isn’t a trip where I’m stressing over makeup and hair, but instead I packed a First Aid kit, antibacterial gel, sunscreen, aloe gel, bug spray, baby wipes, toilet paper, kleenex, lip balm, and… I couldn’t consider this a getaway without packing a few clay face masks and a travel tube of sunless tanner.

So yeah, I think that about sums it up! I have been packing all week and just sort of tossing things in a pile as I think of them, but I feel prepared. Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about WHY I’m taking this trip and what I’m hoping to gain from it.

The Road to Marfa: Famous Road Trips.

Photo from Super 169.

Road trips have been a part of American history since they were possible – “Every American hungers to move,” wrote John Steinbeck. Whether it’s a trip mostly for the destination, or a trek just for the sake of it, road trips do something to the soul.

I have been very lucky in my life to take many road trips – some alone, some with great friends, and some with a meowing cat in the backseat (or hissing over my shoulder at the oncoming traffic).

I’m very familiar with the roads from Indiana to Louisiana, many routes through Florida, and have ridden in the car countless times through Kentucky and into every corner of Tennessee. I have reveled at otherwise boring sights – passing through Birmingham, Alabama (the only highlight of a 15 hour trip), the faded T-Rex in Tennessee alerting passersby of Dinosaur world, and the coming and going of familiar restaurants and pit stops that so quickly become comforts of the road.

One of my most memorable road trips was from Austin, Texas to Oklahoma City – it was nothing but tall rock, cattle fields, and pickup trucks barreling down dusty farm roads – I felt like I was living in a Nicholas Sparks’ novel, aside from the occasional casino that would pop up every twenty miles or so.

Because road trips are such a part of being American, they’re a part of our literature, and our culture. And I wanted to share some of those more well-known road trips here.

On the Road

“On the Road” by Jack Kerouac is a classic literature piece that really captures the spirit of the American road trip. Published in 1957, the most famous road trip in American literary history features two friends: Sal Paradise (really Kerouac) and Dean Moriarty criss-crossing the country during the 1940s, including a trip south of the border. According to a map of their travels, they likely would have driven right through Marfa!

Traveller

In 2015, country artist Chris Stapleton released “Traveller”, an album he wrote after taking a soul-searching road trip. In 2013, Stapleton’s father died, and he’s told multiple news outlets that he needed to regroup. So, his wife bought a 1979 Jeep and they flew to Arizona and spent 10 days driving it back home. Stapleton has said that the album’s title track was inspired by seeing the sunrise over New Mexico.

National Lampoon’s Vacation

In 1983, we were introduced to the charming Griswold family when they pack up their station wagon and head across the country to the Walley World theme park and partake in many adventures. Today, this movie remains to be a classic, and an interesting reminder of what life on the road was like pre-smart phone.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

We were graced with “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter S. Thompson first as a 2-part series in “Rolling Stone” in 1971, and then it was released as a book in 1972. It became a movie in 1998. It is a story based on two road trips Thomson took to Las Vegas on journalism gigs. Aside from the road, there’s lots of drugs and hallucinations, and although it’s difficult to decipher the real from the imagination, it makes for a memorable tale.

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

While this 1997 hilarious film (it’s one of my favorites) doesn’t revolve around a road trip, it’s vital to the plot. Lifelong friends Romy and Michele decide to travel from Los Angeles to Tucson for their high school reunion where they plan on fooling their old classmates with a detailed story about their post-high school success, complete with fancy rental convertible and home-sewn outfits. Somewhere along the road, they concoct their story, and get in a pretty nasty fight. It’s funny, relatable, and their road trip puts them in a classic diner with memorable one-liners.

Paper Towns

In 2008, John Green graced us with “Paper Towns” in book form, which later became a movie (in 2015). Set in Orlando, Florida, “Paper Towns” is the story of Quentin Jacobsen — a less-than-popular high school senior, who has spent a majority of his life being obsessed with his next-door neighbor, Margo Roth Spiegelman (the legend).

“Margo Roth Spiegelman, whose six-syllable name was often spoken in its entirety with a kind of quiet reverence. Margo Roth Spiegelman, whose stories of epic adventures would blow through school like a summer storm…”

Quentin has only admired her from afar, until she steps into his room one night in need of his help with a revenge mission. He’s as close to her as he’s ever been, but before his ultimate dreams come to fruition, she’s off on one of her adventures, leaving the town wondering where she went.

But just like before, she leaves clues behind. Quentin and his friends go in search of her clues, heading on a man hunt (in a soccer mom van) across the country to find their six-syllable, legendary classmate.

Crossroads

I mean how can I even consider leaving out Miss Britney Jean Spears and her on-screen debut in 2002?? I cannot. It was not a great movie, possibly not even a good one, but it involves three teenage girls taking a road trip across the country (in a convertible) in search of themselves. Aw.

And there you have it! What are some of your favorite books, movies, or even songs that reference life on the road? I’d love to hear them! Tomorrow, I’m talking what to pack, or at least, what I’ve got piled up ready to go…

The Road to Marfa: The Sights.

Teepees at El Cosmico. Photo from Texas Lodging.

While I have never been to Marfa, Texas, I have been doing lots of research to figure out some things I want to do while I’m camping there this weekend. Yes, I said camp. I’ll get to that…

What I’ve found is that, while Marfa is sort of a town known for being small and weird and remote, there’s enough to entertain just about anyone for a few days. I’ve put together a list of possible activities:

Lodging: El Cosmico

I mentioned camping, but it’s more like glamping, as I’ve booked my stay at the most well-known place in town, El Cosmico campground. There are safari tents, yurts, teepees, and vintage trailers. I’ve got a reservation in a trailer, so I won’t quite be one with the elements, but I’ll still be using the outhouse and the shared shower. It’s going to be rough enough.

Must-see: Marfa Lights

During the 19th century, ranchers, Apaches, and meteorologists reported seeing strange lights along the horizon, with no source in sight. Today, the mysterious lights draw tourists from across the country. The real kick? They are only seen about 15 times a year, and are often described differently by anyone who sees them. Marfa has an open field where light-seekers gather each night hoping to see the ghostly orbs.

Art: Chinati Foundation

I guess you could say the Chinati Fountain was where it all began, since minimalist artist Donald Judd created his art installations that made Marfa an art mecca worth traveling for. His art philosophy was to be one with nature, and between his cement boxes and reflective sculptures, many have said his work is memorizing.

The draw: Prada Marfa

Many people are drawn to Marfa by its 2005 art installation of a Prada store front – but it’s not actually IN Marfa – it’s 40 minutes outside of the city. Don’t worry, I’ve got to see it – but it will add an extra 2 hours to my trip home. From what I’ve heard, it’s quite a sight, so I’m looking forward to it.

Dinner: Cochineal

I’ve heard mixed reviews about the food in Marfa – some people say it’s impressive, others say you’re so hungry that you’ll eat anything. But everything I’ve heard about Cochineal sounds great – the food, the drinks, the atmosphere – and apparently they have vegan items!

Drinks: The Capri

The Capri is located inside Thunderbird Hotel, known for the movies filmed there. I’ve heard great things about the food, and even if it’s subpar, it sounds like the scenery is worth a visit.

Shopping: Freda

While El Cosmico appears to have an impressive provisions shop, I’ve heard Freda is the place to get envious souvenirs, including unique jewelry. I’m there!

Coffee: Frama

This coffee shop is not only inside the Tumbleweed Laundromat, but it also has a menu made entirely of Scrabble tiles. Say no more.

And that’s my list! Am I going to do ALL of these things? Maybe. Here’s the thing about Marfa, and West Texas in general, the locals are on their own schedule. Many, if not all, businesses do not operate under regular business hours. Some tourists have said there are nights when no restaurants are open, so there’s that (I am packing plenty of food).

The other thing is (and I’ll get more into this in a later post), I’m really trying to go with the flow for this trip. I’m not going to have cell service, wifi, or TV – there is a single radio station – so I’m just going to sort of wander and do whatever. If that means resting in a hammock at El Cosmico all afternoon, then that’s where I’ll be.

Tomorrow, I’m talking about famous road trips!

The Road to Marfa: A History.

Photo of the Marfa Welcome sign from ‘The Local Palate’.

Early Saturday morning, I’m taking yet another trip that’s been on my bucket list for many years and am heading west to Marfa, Texas.

Marfa’s slogan is, “Tough to get to. Tougher to explain. But once you get here, you get it.” Before I take to the road, I’m going to attempt to share all of the reasons why I’m heading to this small town, what I’m going to do there, and what I’m hoping to get out of it, all this week on the blog in a series I’m calling, “The Road to Marfa”. I hope you’ll join me.

Today, I want to talk about how Marfa came to be.

Marfa was established in 1883, and served passesrsby as a water stop and was the freight headquarters for the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway. It has been said that the wife of a railway executive was reading “The Brothers Karamazov” by Fyoder Dostoyevsky, and named the town after one of its characters.

Another version of the story claims that the town was named for the character Marfa Strogoff in Jules Verne’s “Michael Strogoff”.

Marfa is at the junction of US Highway 90 and 67 in the northeastern part of Presidio county. To the north are the Davis Mountains, to the southeast the Chisos Mountains, and to the southwest the Chinati Mountains. Marfa lays semi-protected within these escarpments on a great highland plain known as the Marfa Plateau. It sits at an altitude of 4,830 feet above sea level in a semiarid region.

Photo from the ‘Dallas Morning News’.

By 1885 Marfa had one or two saloons, a hotel, and a general merchandise store—Humphris and Company. Poker bets in the saloons were often made with deeds to town lots. Traveling salesmen stayed at the St. George Hotel, who came by train, established their headquarters in the hotel, and from Marfa made stagecoach trips to Shafter, Fort Davis, Valentine, and Presidio to show their wares.

In 1886 Marfa was now home to churches, a school, and a newspaper. C. M. Jennings began publishing the “New Era”, the town’s first weekly newspaper. Over the years, it changed hands several times until the weekly finally merged with the “Big Bend Sentinel” under the management of T. E. Childers.

In 1900 the population of Marfa was 900. Eventually the town had literary clubs, fraternal organizations, telephone service, and a bank.

Marfa’s population reached 3,909 in the 1930s, and in the 1940s, the government housed the Chemical Warfare Brigades, and soon built a prisoner of war camp nearby. Marfa Army Air field was also created near town, and when all of these military camps closed, it hit Marfa economically.

In 2016, Marfa’s population was 1,747.

The Stardust Motel sign in Marfa, Texas.

Until the 1970’s, Marfa was best known for the ghost lights and the film location for James Dean’s final picture the “GIANT”, also starring Rock Hudson, Elizabeth Taylor, and Dennis Hopper. The classically beautiful Hotel Paisano, served as the center of activity during the making of the movie.

In 1971, Donald Judd, the renowned minimalist artist and sculptor, moved to Marfa from New York City with the intention of permanently installing his art. He purchased several acres in Marfa, including the buildings of Fort D. A. Russell, and established galleries for contemporary art.

Before Judd died in 1994, he’d acquired an army base and filled it with art, which is open for tourists.

These beginnings eventually led to Marfa’s growing reputation as an artists’ community, and support for the visual arts has been carried on by the Chinati Foundation and other groups. Various art museums and galleries attract creative spirits as well as tourists and have garnered international attention.

In 2009, The New York Times started publishing several features on Marfa – the art, and the food scene. At the start of 2013, the internet freaked when Beyonce visited Marfa and posted pictures on her social channels. Natalie Portman, Robert Pattenson, and Jake Gyllenhaal have also made the trek to Marfa.

Remember how Marfa claim it’s hard to get to? It’s about 3 hours from El Paso, Texas, near the Texas/Mexico border. It’s about 7.5 hours from Dallas to Marfa, in fact, the nearest city is 170 miles away, and it’s in Mexico.

Talk about remote!

Tomorrow, I’ll be talking about what there is to actually DO in Marfa.

Sources: Visit Marfa, Texas State Historical Association, NPR

BBC: ‘Dumplin”.

For the past couple of weekends, I’ve had this really weird feeling of not knowing what to do with myself. I don’t know if it’s because I usually have a lot of things planned, or what, but to avoid that, I made a “weekend to-do” list hoping to avoid that lost feeling.

I think it helped – I got a lot done yesterday (some errands and some things around the apartment) and to reward myself, today I’m going to the pool with a giant grapefruit margarita (and a book).

But, I’m thrilled to tell you about the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club, because it’s such a fun one; it’s “Dumplin’” by Julie Murphy.

A few months ago, I read “Ramona Blue” by Julie Murphy and I loved it so much, I looked up all of her other books and started following her on Instagram. The library had a copy of “Dumplin'”, so I immediately added it to my reserves list. Here’s the official description:

For fans of John Green and Rainbow Rowell comes this powerful novel with the most fearless heroine—self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson—from Julie Murphy, the acclaimed author of Side Effects May Vary.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom, Willowdean has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American-beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked . . .  until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.  

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Teen Blue Bonnet Pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does.

Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

Before I get into it, I’ll say that I kept referring to this book in my mind as “Puddin'”; sometimes even WHILE I was reading it! And then I would think, how would someone get a nickname “Puddin'”, out of “Willowdean”? And then I just thought about how crazy it was that I couldn’t get the title of this book right.

Until I sat down to write this blog post and I see that INDEED Julie Murphy has just released a book called “Puddin'”, that is the companion to “Dumplin'”. Weird, right?

But anyway, “Dumplin'” is all stereotypical things Texas: small town, big hair, beauty pageants, Dolly Parton impersonators, and lifelong locals. I pretty much love all of these things, and Willowdean, or Dumplin’, is just as lovable. Here’s a few quotes I took note of while reading:

  • We’re not off a highway or any major route, so it’s the type of place that can only be found by those who want to find it.
  • For a moment, the pageant makes sense, and I get why my mom devotes half of her life to it and why most of the girls in this city dream of gowns and spotlights when the sky is heavy with stars.
  • To my mom, powdered iced tea is almost as bad as the possibility of being left behind in the wake of the rapture.

I started this book thinking it would revolve around the pageant. And while it does a little, it’s more about Dumplin’ growing up, and balancing being a teenager in a small town, along with her friends and crush.

This book is laugh-out-loud funny, and I’m recommending it to anyone who loves all things Texas, or YA novels.

It’s sort of funny that I read the book now, as I’m preparing to take a road trip to Marfa on Saturday! In the book, the fictional Clover City is located close to Marfa and mentions one of its draws: the Marfa lights.

Anyway, I’ll be talking ALL about Marfa basically all week right here as I prepare for my travels. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “The Missing Hours” by Emma Kavanaugh.

Enjoy your Sunday!

Celebrating 20 years of ‘Sex and the City’!

Photo credit: HBO – one of my favorite scenes from the series.

This week, fans of “Sex and the City” have been celebrating its 20th anniversary – can you believe it?

HBO’s iconic series debuted in 1998, when I was in 8th grade. We didn’t have HBO at my house growing up, so I didn’t come across the series until I was a junior in high school, when I went on a college visit to Miami of Ohio.

It was 2001, and I saw an episode on DVD – I’m pretty sure I fell asleep before the episode was over. To be honest, I didn’t know a whole lot about dating when I was 17, and I certainly knew nothing about sex.

But by the time I went to college, I’d scrounged up all of the available seasons on DVDs and brought them to Louisiana. The episodes made me laugh, and I started to see why so many people loved the show so much – they spoke so honestly about dating, and in college, I really needed that.

My DVDs also came in handy when I applied to get a new roommate during my second semester of freshman year. The only open bed available was with someone who’d scored a room alone – she was probably REALLY disappointed when I showed up with my boxes of crap on a random weeknight.

Until I showed her my SATC collection and told her she was welcome to watch them anytime. We watched loads of episodes together.

It’s difficult to believe now, but SATC changed the dialogue about sex  and dating, and it was one of the first shows (aside from “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) that put single, career-driven women at the forefront.

It also carved a larger path for sex columnists, given that SATC’s main character has a weekly column titled, “Sex and the City”. I quickly became a fan of Natalie Krisnky’s writing, who was the sex columnist for Yale’s campus newspaper until 2004.

I also wrote the relationship column for the LSU paper, and while that was not the start of my publishing career, it gave me a place to vent about my dating troubles, and gave me confidence to start this blog, and eventually publish multiple books on the topic of love, sex, and relationships.

Based on the best-selling novel by Candace Bushnell, SATC gave us four women that were relatable, yet far enough out-of-reach that we could drool over their fashion, apartments, and exclusive access to New York City.

In the span of six seasons (from 1998-2004), Carrie, Miranda, Samantha, and Charlotte became our best friends, even if only digitally, we related to their love, loss, fun, and fights.

The best part? The writing is timeless. Over the years, SATC episodes covered first dates, baby showers, breakups, and marriage, and even dipped into more serious issues such as cancer, abortion, miscarriage, infidelity, interracial dating, and sexual identity.

No matter the topic, the tone of the show was always hopeful – that we can get through just about anything with the support of our friends and the relationship we ultimately have with ourself, and that’s a lesson that never comes too late.

As part of a week-long celebration, the E! Network has been playing all of the SATC episodes, and although I have the entire series on DVD (I was gifted an entirely new set after wearing out the first set), it’s fun to just turn on the TV and see all of the episodes I’ve watched countless times – I could probably recite most of them.

For this post, I was trying so hard to think of my all-time favorite episode, but it changes depending on what I’m going through at the time.

Right now, I can definitely relate to “A Woman’s Right to Shoes” (season 6, episode 9) when Carrie attends a baby shower and is asked to remove her Manolos – they get stolen, and she gets “shoe shamed” when she asks for a new pair from the hostess.

I have also always loved “Hot Child in the City” (season 3, episode 15) where all of the women face something from their childhood – whether it’s scooters and sunbathing or getting braces.

Just a few episodes later, in “Cock a Doodle Do”, Samantha goes to WAR with transsexuals on her block – it involves eggs and lots of yelling, but eventually they makeup and throw a rooftop party.

I never really did like any of Carrie’s boyfriends, not Berger or The Russian – I only like Mr. Big. One of my favorite episodes with him is “I Heart N.Y.” (Season 4, episode 18) when he’s getting ready to move to Napa. There’s pizza in an empty apartment, and several references to “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” and it’s perfect.

SATC also gave us some epic one-liners, including:

  • When real people fall down in life, they get right back up and keep on walking.
  • Being single used to mean that nobody wanted you. Now it means that you’re pretty sexy and you’re taking your time deciding how you want your life to be and who you want to spend it with.
  • They say nothing lasts forever; dreams change, trends come and go, but friendships never go out of style.
  • I am someone who is looking for love. Real love. Ridiculous, inconvenient, consuming, can’t-live-without-each-other love.
  • Maybe the best any of us can do is not to quit, play the hand we’ve been given, and accessorize the outfit we’ve got.

I will probably spend a large chunk of my weekend watching SATC without regret. But I’d love to know, what were some of your favorite moments of the show? Or, did it change your life in some way? Give you confidence for a career move? Help you meet new friends?

Let me know in the comments! Have a great weekend everyone!

BBC: ‘A French Wedding’.

Happy Humpday! It’s been such a weird week for me… Sunday night, Austin got a very unexpected storm – it was around midnight and my power kept going out and then coming back on… Probably not a big deal, but every time it would come back on, my stove would beep.

I didn’t fall asleep until at least 2am, so when I had to go to Dallas for work on Monday, I was exhausted. I am not lying when I say I was in bed asleep by 8:30 Tuesday night.

Yesterday, technology was completely against me. I was all ready to get loads of work done, when my laptop kept giving me the beach ball of death for more than two hours! I even restarted it several times and deleted lots of old files thinking that was the issue. I gave up and moved over to my iPad, and even IT was moving slow and some of my apps weren’t working. So, I worked from my phone… Ugh.

Anyway, let’s get into the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club (which I read entirely at the pool) which is “A French Wedding” by Hannah Tunnicliffe. Here is the description from Amazon:

Max is a washed-up rock star who’s about to turn forty and feeling nostalgic for his university days. All he says he wants for his birthday is to host his old friends at his house in the French countryside for a weekend of good food and reminiscing. But he has an ulterior motive: Finally ready to settle down, this is his chance to declare his undying love to his best friend, Helen.

Max’s private chef, Juliette, has just returned to her hometown after a nasty breakup and her parents’ failing health move her to sell her dream restaurant in Paris. Still reeling, Juliette throws herself into her job, hoping that the peace and quiet it offers will be the perfect cure for her broken heart.

But when Max’s friends arrive, the introverted, dreamy Juliette finds herself drawn out of her orderly kitchen and into their tumultuous relationships. A weekend thinking about the past spurs more than one emotional crisis, as the friends take stock of whether they’ve lived up to their ideals. Together for the first time in years, it’s not long before love triangles, abandoned dreams, and long-held resentments bubble over, culminating in a wedding none of them ever expected.

I’ve had this book on my list for awhile, and I finally picked it up because I needed a light break from the crime fiction I’ve been devouring. I also thought it would fulfill my craving for anything even close to the royal wedding.

This was the perfect pool book, and it offers some serious escapism in the form of beautiful scenes and very delicious-sounding food.

I will say that this book talks briefly about cancer, and if you’re anything like me, cancer is a trigger at the moment (I feel like it’s everywhere), so I’m just putting that out there, just in case.

Regardless, this was a fun summer read, and still has me craving fresh seafood dunked in clarified butter…yum!

I am recommending this book to anyone who loves romantic memories, or to anyone looking for a French escape!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Dumplin'” by Julie Murphy. Follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 to get up-to-date book reviews and reactions.

Watching: ‘The OC’, Season Two.

Blue like the sea… the o-sea…

You might recall that earlier this year, I’d never seen a single episode of “The OC”, but I watched season one, and after receiving a surprise copy of season two in the mail, I plowed right through season two.

Before I tell you anything else, here’s the description of season two from Amazon: Hook up with what’s coming down as the Core Four romances of Ryan-and-Marissa and Seth-and-Summer may (or may not) go from very over to very on, Sandy and Kirsten face choices that could trainwreck their 20-year marriage, felon (and Ryan’s brother) Trey gives Newport living a try, Julie’s lurid past comes back to haunt her, and other new hunks and hotties become part of the coastal scene. Live. Laugh. Lie. Cheat. Grow. Share. Connive. Love. In California’s beach paradise, they do everything under the sun.

…So… yeah. After watching season two, I can say it was WAY better than season one. Season one was a nice, sweet introduction to this group… and season two was basically a slap in the face, “Hello, welcome to crazy!” This is where stuff really starts to fall apart.

The season begins with Seth in Portland after he set sail… but arrived at his destination via Greyhound. It takes some convincing from Sandy and Ryan, but obviously Seth returns to the OC unscathed, and just in time for a new school year to begin.

We are also watching Ryan’s relationship, and his life in Chino, as he awaits the birth of his child… that is until his baby mama starts suspecting something is awry with Ryan, and she tells him she lost the baby.

I KNEW she wasn’t going to end up having the baby on the show, which is half-true, as we later see she does indeed have it, but Ryan doesn’t know. I have to applaud the show writers here for not just cutting off this plot line, and I’m curious to see if it ever comes back up in the later seasons.

Ryan comes back to the OC, as predicted – this show wouldn’t be a thing without him and his unrefined drama.

Sandy has someone from his past reappear, an old love, as her father is looking for her and she arrives in town under disguise from the FBI. He comes reeeeal close to cheating, and his wife has her own little crush, which results in a slew of heavy drinking, an alcohol-related car accident (which she somehow walks away from) and a trip to rehab.

THIS IS WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT.

Ryan briefly dates someone new, until he finds out she’s related to the Cohens, and this heads down the path of a DNA test, adoption, and then she’s virtually killed off the show when she buys a one-way ticket to Chicago.

Ryan’s brother also finds himself in the OC after he’s released from prison. Naturally, Sandy is there to pick him up and invites him to stay in the pool house. Nothing says trouble like this… drugs, theft, and guns? It gets bad.

But the Cohens are always around to solve everything with a basket full of bagels, and/or a ridiculous order of takeout Chinese.

Regardless, by the end of the season, two people are dead, and I’m not lying when I tell you I purchased the final two seasons within five minutes of the season ending. DAMN.

So, there’s that! I am halfway through the series, and I’m hoping my DVDs will be delivered this week – I can’t stand these cliffhangers!

BBC: ‘Almost Missed You’.

Rolling right on through my library reserves… If you follow me on SnapChat @OrangeJulius7 you know that I picked up two crime fiction novels two weeks ago, both about missing persons. That’s the risk you take with, what I like to call, the Russian Roulette of Reserves.

Of course, it’s like, way less risky… given that the worst thing that’s happened to me is two crime fiction novels in a row, but I’m dramatic. So, let’s get to it!

The latest read from Blanche’s Book Club is “Almost Missed You” by Jessica Strawser. Here is the official description:

Violet and Finn were “meant to be,” said everyone, always. They ended up together by the hands of fate aligning things just so. Three years into their marriage, they have a wonderful little boy, and as the three of them embark on their first vacation as a family, Violet can’t help thinking that she can’t believe her luck. Life is good.

So no one is more surprised than she when Finn leaves her at the beach―just packs up the hotel room and disappears. And takes their son with him. Violet is suddenly in her own worst nightmare, and faced with the knowledge that the man she’s shared her life with, she never really knew at all.

Caitlin and Finn have been best friends since way back when, but when Finn shows up on Caitlin’s doorstep with the son he’s wanted for kidnapping, demands that she hide them from the authorities, and threatens to reveal a secret that could destroy her own family if she doesn’t, Caitlin faces an impossible choice.

As the suspenseful events unfold through alternating viewpoints of Violet, Finn and Caitlin, Jessica Strawser’s Almost Missed You is a page turning story of a mother’s love, a husband’s betrayal, connections that maybe should have been missed, secrets that perhaps shouldn’t have been kept, and spaces between what’s meant to be and what might have been.

Nothing like having a buzz on the beach and coming back to the hotel to see that your family is missing! As mentioned, this book flips between perspectives, which is sometimes confusing, but it works here.

Around the 100-page point (this has been my assessment mark lately), I started to wonder where this was going. I was into it, but I didn’t feel invested in the characters… until about 14 pages later, and my jaw was hanging. After that, I read it fairly quickly.

I’m recommending this to modern true crime lovers, and also anyone that has a fascination with Craiglist’s Missed Connections… weird, but you’ll understand why if you read it!

The next book Blanche’s Book Club is reading is “A French Wedding” by Hannah Tunnicliffe (I chose this one to read before reading my next crime fiction book) purely because I’m still on a high from the royal wedding.

This weekend, and pretty much until it gets too hot, I’m planning on being at the pool. And when it’s dark out? Parked in front of my TV – summer is here, y’all!

BBC: 2018 Summer Reading Guide!

Memorial Day has come and gone, and that means it’s officially summer! I went through the archives from Blanche’s Book Club and was SHOCKED to see that I’ve never offered a Summer Reading Guide! Shame on me!

I always offer a Fall Reading Guide and a Holiday Reading Guide, but if you’re anything like me, I read tons of books in the summer months because I’m out by the pool or heading on beach vacations. So, I’m really excited to share 9 NEW books that are perfect, light reads for days by the pool, afternoons on the beach, or even just an hour on the patio. Let’s get into it!

Sophia of Silicon Valley by Anna Yen

I’ll be honest, I saw the cover of this book on the shelf at the library and it caught my attention enough to stop and read the back of it. Here’s the description:

During the heady years of the tech boom, incorrigibly frank Sophia Young lucks into a job that puts her directly in the path of Scott Kraft, the eccentric CEO of Treehouse, a studio whose animated films are transforming movies forever. Overnight, Sophia becomes an unlikely nerd whisperer. Whether her success is due to dumb luck, savage assertiveness, insightful finesse (learned by dealing with her irrational Chinese immigrant mother), or a combination of all three, in her rarified position she finds she can truly shine.

As Scott Kraft’s right-hand woman, whip-smart Sophia is in the eye of the storm, sometimes floundering, sometimes nearly losing relationships and her health, but ultimately learning what it means to take charge of her own future the way the men around her do. But when engineer/inventor Andre Stark hires her to run his company’s investor relations, Sophia discovers that the big paycheck and high-status career she’s created for herself may not be worth living in the toxic environment of a boys-club gone bad. 

This book is already out (order it here) and is getting good reviews! I am always a fan of reading about women in tech – go figure.

When Life Gives You Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger

I am SO excited for this one! Author Lauren Weisberger brought us “The Devil Wears Prada”, along with other goodies, including a favorite, “Last Night at Chateau Marmont”. Here’s the description:

New York Times bestselling author Lauren Weisberger returns with a novel starring one of her favorite characters from The Devil Wears Prada–Emily Charlton, first assistant to Miranda Priestly, now a highly successful image consultant who’s just landed the client of a lifetime.

Welcome to Greenwich, CT, where the lawns and the women are perfectly manicured, the Tito’s and sodas are extra strong, and everyone has something to say about the infamous new neighbor.

Let’s be clear: Emily Charlton, Miranda Priestly’s ex-assistant, does not do the suburbs. She’s working in Hollywood as an image consultant to the stars, but recently, Emily’s lost a few clients. She’s hopeless with social media. The new guard is nipping at her heels. She needs a big opportunity, and she needs it now.

Karolina Hartwell is as A-list as they come. She’s the former face of L’Oreal. A mega-supermodel recognized the world over. And now, the gorgeous wife of the newly elected senator from New York, Graham, who also has his eye on the presidency. It’s all very Kennedy-esque, right down to the public philandering and Karolina’s arrest for a DUI–with a Suburban full of other people’s children.

Miriam is the link between them. Until recently she was a partner at one of Manhattan’s most prestigious law firms. But when Miriam moves to Greenwich and takes time off to spend with her children, she never could have predicted that being stay-at-home mom in an uber-wealthy town could have more pitfalls than a stressful legal career.

Emily, Karolina, and Miriam make an unlikely trio, but they desperately need each other. Together, they’ll navigate the social landmines of life in America’s favorite suburb on steroids, revealing the truths–and the lies–that simmer just below the glittering surface. With her signature biting style, Lauren Weisberger offers a dazzling look into another sexy, over-the-top world, where nothing is as it appears.

A continuation of “The Devil Wears Prada”? YES. PLEASE. THANK YOU. This book comes out June 5, and you can pre-order it here.

The Bucket List by Georgia Clark 

I read Georgia Clark’s debut novel, “The Regulars” last year and loved it – so I’m excited to see how the new book reads. Here is the description:

From the author of the critically acclaimed “lively and engrossing parable for women of all generations” (Harper’s Bazaar) The Regulars­ comes a deeply funny and thoughtful tale of a young woman who, after discovering she has the breast cancer gene, embarks on an unforgettable bucket list adventure.

Twenty-five-old Lacey Whitman is blindsided when she’s diagnosed with the BCRA1 gene mutation: the “breast cancer” gene. Her high hereditary risk forces a decision: increased surveillance or the more radical step of a preventative double mastectomy. Lacey doesn’t want to lose her breasts. For one, she’s juggling two career paths; her work with the prestigious New York trend forecaster Hoffman House, and her role on the founding team of a sustainable fashion app with friend/mentor, Vivian Chang. Secondly, small-town Lacey’s not so in touch with her sexuality: she doesn’t want to sacrifice her breasts before she’s had the chance to give them their hey-day. To help her make her choice, she (and her friends) creates a “boob bucket list”: everything she wants do with and for her boobs before a possible surgery.

This kicks off a year of sensual exploration and sexual entertainment for the quick-witted Lacey Whitman. The Bucket List cleverly and compassionately explores Lacey’s relationship to her body and her future. Both are things Lacey thought she could control through hard work and sacrifice. But the future, it turns out, is more complicated than she could ever imagine.

Featuring the pitch-perfect “compulsively delicious” (Redbook) prose of The Regulars, The Bucket List is perfect for fans of Amy Poeppel and Sophie Kinsella.

This book is already out and you can purchase it here.

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli 

After reading “Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda” and LOVING it, anything Becky Albertalli releases is going to be on my reading list. This book is a double win because it is the sequel to “Simon”. Here is the description:

In this sequel to the acclaimed Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda—now a major motion picture, Love, Simon—we follow Simon’s BFF Leah as she grapples with changing friendships, first love, and senior year angst.

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.

She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.

So Leah really doesn’t know what to do when her rock-solid friend group starts to fracture in unexpected ways. With prom and college on the horizon, tensions are running high.

It’s hard for Leah to strike the right note while the people she loves are fighting—especially when she realizes she might love one of them more than she ever intended.

This book is already on shelves and you can get it here.

The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

Elin Hilderbrand has written SO many books, and I’m behind the game having only read one (but it was really good); some book reviewers have even dubbed her the “Queen of Summer Novel” – what?! Her new book sounds vvvvery promising:

From New York Times bestselling author Elin Hilderbrand, comes a novel about the many ways family can fill our lives with love…if they don’t kill us first. 

It’s Nantucket wedding season, also known as summer-the sight of a bride racing down Main Street is as common as the sun setting at Madaket Beach. The Otis-Winbury wedding promises to be an event to remember: the groom’s wealthy parents have spared no expense to host a lavish ceremony at their oceanfront estate.

But it’s going to be memorable for all the wrong reasons after tragedy strikes: a body is discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony-and everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect. As Chief of Police Ed Kapenash interviews the bride, the groom, the groom’s famous mystery-novelist mother, and even a member of his own family, he discovers that every wedding is a minefield-and no couple is perfect. Featuring beloved characters from The Castaways, Beautiful Day, and A Summer Affair, The Perfect Couple proves once again that Elin Hilderbrand is the queen of the summer beach read.
This book is released on June 19 and you can pre-order it here.

All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin

So, I feel embarrassed to say that I’m 99% sure I have never read a book by Emily Giffin. Argh! I have seen the covers in bookstores over the years and I just feel like they are usually about babies? I don’t know, BUT this one sounds so good! Here’s the description:

In the riveting new novel from the #1 bestselling author of Something Borrowed andFirst Comes Love, three very different people must choose between their families and their most deeply held values. . . .

“A gripping, thought-provoking journey.”—Jodi Picoult

Nina Browning is living the good life after marrying into Nashville’s elite. More recently, her husband made a fortune selling his tech business, and their adored son has been accepted to Princeton. 

Yet sometimes the middle-class small-town girl in Nina wonders if she’s strayed from the person she once was.

Tom Volpe is a single dad working multiple jobs while struggling to raise his headstrong daughter, Lyla. His road has been lonely, long, and hard, but he finally starts to relax after Lyla earns a scholarship to Windsor Academy, Nashville’s most prestigious private school.

Amid so much wealth and privilege, Lyla doesn’t always fit in—and her overprotective father doesn’t help—but in most ways, she’s a typical teenaged girl, happy and thriving.

Then, one photograph, snapped in a drunken moment at a party, changes everything. As the image spreads like wildfire, the Windsor community is instantly polarized, buzzing with controversy and assigning blame.

At the heart of the lies and scandal, Tom, Nina, and Lyla are forced together—all questioning their closest relationships, asking themselves who they really are, and searching for the courage to live a life of true meaning.

I also like the fact that it’s set in Nashville – so many of these types of books only take place in New York or Los Angeles. This book comes out June 26, but you can pre-order it here.

Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win by Jo Piazza

I haven’t read anything from Jo Piazza yet, although her books have been on my list! This one sounds fitting for the times…

From Jo Piazza, the bestselling author of The Knock Off, How to Be Married, and Fitness Junkie, comes an exciting, insightful novel about what happens when a woman wants it all—political power, a happy marriage, and happiness—but isn’t sure just how much she’s willing to sacrifice to get it.

Charlotte Walsh is running for Senate in the most important race in the country during a midterm election that will decide the balance of power in Congress. Still reeling from a presidential election that shocked and divided the country and inspired by the chance to make a difference, she’s left behind her high-powered job in Silicon Valley and returned, with her husband Max and their three young daughters, to her downtrodden Pennsylvania hometown to run in the Rust Belt state.

Once the campaign gets underway, Charlotte is blindsided by just how dirty her opponent is willing to fight, how harshly she is judged by the press and her peers, and how exhausting it becomes to navigate a marriage with an increasingly ambivalent and often resentful husband. When the opposition uncovers a secret that could threaten not just her campaign but everything Charlotte holds dear, she has to decide just how badly she wants to win and at what cost.

A searing, suspenseful story of political ambition, marriage, class, sexual politics, and infidelity, Charlotte Walsh Likes to Win is an insightful portrait of what it takes for a woman to run for national office in America today. In a dramatic political moment like no other with more women running for office than ever before, Jo Piazza’s novel is timely, engrossing, and perfect for readers on both sides of the aisle.

This book comes out on July 24, and you can pre-order it here.

Playing With Matches by Hannah Orenstein 

This book is about matchmaking… and it’s written by a matchmaker! It sounds fun (and funny) – here is the description:

In the tradition of Good in Bed and The Assistants comes a funny and smart comedy about a young matchmaker balancing her messy personal life and the demands of her eccentric clients.

Sasha Goldberg has a lot going for her: a recent journalism degree from NYU, an apartment with her best friend Caroline, and a relationship that would be amazing if her finance-bro boyfriend Jonathan would ever look up from his BlackBerry. But when her dream career falls through, she uses her family’s darkest secret to land a job as a matchmaker for New York City’s elite at the dating service Bliss.

Despite her inexperience, Sasha throws herself into her new career, trolling for catches on Tinder, coaching her clients through rejection, and dishing out dating advice to people twice her age. She sets up a TV exec who wanted kids five years ago, a forty-year-old baseball-loving virgin, and a consultant with a rigorous five-page checklist for her ideal match.

Sasha hopes to find her clients The One, like she did. But when Jonathan betrays her, she spirals out of control—and right into the arms of a writer with a charming Southern drawl, who she had previously set up with one of her clients. He’s strictly off-limits, but with her relationship on the rocks, all bets are off.

Fresh, sweet, and laugh-out-loud funny, Playing with Matches is the addictive story about dating in today’s swipe-heavy society, and a young woman trying to find her own place in the world.

This book will be released on June 26 and you can pre-order it here.

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

This title sold me alone because I have been ghosted soooo many times and it’s the worst thing ever, when it comes to dating. Finally, a book on it! Here’s the description:

Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart.

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.

This book comes out July 24, and you can pre-order it here.

There’s my round up of summer reads! I’d love to know what books you’re looking forward to, or what books you’ve recently read that I should add to my list. Happy reading!

BBC: ‘The Husband’s Secret’.

I hope everyone is enjoying the holiday weekend! I took a dance class yesterday, did some serious outlet shopping (I got so many beauty products – ahh!), and have been working on a few new items for my Etsy store (there is currently a big sale happening, check it out here). I am about to pack a cooler and head to the pool for the afternoon, but I wanted to share the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club with you!

I actually read most of it at the pool last weekend, so if you’ve got similar plans today, this may be the one for you – it’s “The Husband’s Secret” by Liane Moriarty. Here is the official book description from Amazon:

At the heart of The Husband’s Secret is a letter that’s not meant to be read…
 
My darling Cecilia,
If you’re reading this, then I’ve died…
 
Imagine your husband wrote you a letter, to be opened after his death. Imagine, too, that the letter contains his deepest, darkest secret—something with the potential to destroy not only the life you built together, but the lives of others as well. And then imagine that you stumble across that letter while your husband is still very much alive…
 
Cecilia Fitzpatrick has achieved it all—she’s an incredibly successful businesswoman, a pillar of her small community, and a devoted wife and mother. But that letter is about to change everything—and not just for her. There are other women who barely know Cecilia—or each other—but they, too, are about to feel the earth-shattering repercussions of her husband’s secret.

This is the 4th book by Moriarty that I’ve read, and she must have a successful formula, because all of them have been great reads (although “What Alice Forgot” remains to be my favorite).

I will admit this was a little slow to start – but once things got rolling, I read the book almost in one sitting. There are many twists and turns and my jaw was hanging!

My mom read this book and then gave it to me and once I read it, she asked if I stumbled across a letter that said “Read this when I die” but the person was still alive, would I read it? Um, heck yes I would rip it open right away, no questions asked.

What about you?

I would definitely recommend this book if you’ve read Moriarty’s other work and liked it, or if you are a fan of “suburban fiction” with a mystery twist.

The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Almost Missed You” by Jessica Strawser. Don’t forget to follow me on SnapChat for updates on books I’m reading (I have been doing 100-page updates and library hauls), Etsy shop creations, and general Blanche snaps 🙂 @OrangeJulius7

I hope you all have a great, fun and safe Memorial Day Weekend – be on the lookout for some summer reading recommendations right here later in the week! Cheers!