Hot Reads 8/17/14

Another week has passed and another list of great reading to share with you. First up are three essays about New Orleans. Well, we can never get in enough reading about our city, now can we? One is about cocktails and culture, one has all the color and flair of the French Quarter and one of its legendary characters, and another features one woman’s unique way of coping after Katrina and how it changed her life. All three are wonderful in different ways.

Photo credit: Pableaux Johnson for The Bitter Southerner

Photo credit: Pableaux Johnson for The Bitter Southerner

First up, from The Bitter Southerner (an online journal I just love): “No.4” in their Cocktail Series featuring SoBou bartender Abigail Gullo.
Favorite quote: “Steen’s Cane Syrup is such an integral part of my own life that I’ve often worried that eventually I’ll be drowned in a great wave of the sticky-sweet cane juice, preserved forever like a gluttonous bug in amber.”
Note: True dat! If you grew up in Louisiana or Mississippi and didn’t have Steen’s in the house, what was wrong with your family?







From The Oxford American: “The Chess King of Decatur Street”
Favorite Quote: “Acers pushed his plastic chair back, stood, and made a grand bow, sweeping his arm from high above his head to down around his ankles. “Dear sir,” he cried, “we shall not speak of things that cannot come to pass.””

Image Credit: Dadu Shin for The New York Times

Image Credit: Dadu Shin for The New York Times

From The New York Times: “What the Sparrows Told Me”
Favorite Quote: ” My father had been told that he had terminal cancer 40 days after Katrina. He didn’t know a Mugimaki flycatcher from a Hudsonian godwit. But during his last days he loved to watch the birds come to his feeders. If watching birds could help my father die, maybe it could help me live and teach.”
Note: I remember well the eerie quiet after the storm, the absence of birdsong. It was a sweet moment when I realized I was hearing the tweets of the first returned birds.



From Unclutterer blog: Modified Principals of Sanitary Design
Favorite quote: “This list may seem restrictive, but we have found when items do pass the test, they last longer, we use them more often, and we have very little mess to clean up afterwards.”
Note: Despite the dry, textbook title of this piece, it has some good ideas about what to take into consideration when you’re about to make a purchase. This was a timely article for me because lately I find myself thinking, “I wouldn’t have bought this if I’d realized what a chore it would be to keep clean”!

Photo Credit: Antoine Bruy

Photo Credit: Antoine Bruy


From HuffPo: “Photographer Documents The Men And Women Who Choose To Live Off The Grid”
Favorite quote: “These are, in some ways, spontaneous responses to the societies these men and women have left behind. This documentary project is an attempt to make a kind of contemporary tale and to give back a little bit of magic to our modern civilization.”


From Women Writers, Women’s Books: “5 Life Lessons From Women Writers”
Favorite Quote: “And finally, Maya Angelou, Pam Houston, and Amy Tan taught me that laughter, and in particular the ability to laugh at yourself and life’s absurdities, is key to moving from merely surviving to thriving.”


MILLENNIALS_COMBO-master495From The New York Times: “The Millennials Are Generation Nice”
Favorite Quote: “Taken together, these habits and tastes look less like narcissism than communalism. And its highest value isn’t self-promotion, but its opposite, empathy — an open-minded and -hearted connection to others.”
Note: This piece made me look at Millennials in a deeper way, as more than social media addicts and narcissists.



Our book list of the week comes from Bitch Media:  “Hot Off the Small Press”, “As summer is quickly coming to a close, take some time to bask in the sun and soak in a good book. Here are some short, sweet, stellar reads for the rest of August, all works are recent releases from independent publishers.”

And, finally, our poem of the week is “Long Gone and Never Coming Back” by Michael Gillian Maxwell on Literary Orphans.
Favorite Quote (rather,stanza):

“a soldier in fatigues, just back from deployment
tattoos on his knuckles, his face a mask
of sorrows and regrets”

Have a great reading week, y’all. Don’t forget to check in with our Hot Reads From Pinterest board.

Good Times/Bad Times: May 25 – 31

Today I have for you (channeling the chefs on “Chopped” which I just finished watching!) a little list of some of the good things and bad things that I read on the internet in the past week. Most of them are from other blogs, some from NOLA, some not. It’s just a hodge-podge of articles that I liked or …… didn’t, but all are decidedly shareable.

Good Times

Road trip! Follow Ian McNulty on a trip down the bayou to Terrebone Parish in Bayou Country journey offers glimpse of small-town life at the end of the line.

Local blogger Blathering shares her recent outing to City Park’s Botanical Gardens with a walk through Enrique Alferez’s sculptures in her weekly feature “Arty Tuesday”.

“Blackberries Everywhere” , via Bouillie blog, takes us along to pick wild blackberries in rural Louisiana and adds a bonus of a recipe for Blackberry Cornmeal Cake that sounds scrumptious. The photos of the finished cake made my mouth water and put it on my list of recipes to try this summer.

I’m always complaining to myself that I don’t have the kind of time I’d like to read. This is really not exactly true since I often  end up surfing the internet when my intention was to read my ebook.  I even tweeted about it. So I was happy to find this post, 7 tips to help you read more (& love it).

 Bad Times

Local political journalist John McGinnis died last Sunday at the age of 66. Robert Mann penned a wonderful memoir and tribute to Mr. McGinnis here,  a worthy read about an exceptional journalist.

#YesAllWomen was a hashtag on fire on Twitter this past week. It apparently first popped up Friday 5/23 in the aftermath of the Elliot Rodger shooting spree in California in response to his misogynist rants on YouTube. When social media takes up a cause like this, I find it much more interesting and enlightening to read personal blogs written by everyday people to get a feel for how the issue affects or is affecting everyday people. Here are a few blog posts I read this week that touched me (to tears in some cases) and/or just made me think in a different way, breaking open the festering sore of misogyny.

First, here’s a link to a Vanity Fair article that includes a graphic showing how the hashtag spread worldwide.

Brandi writes a very personal account of her experience of being bullied by a boy (and, yes, it was bullying)  at age 11. I really identified with this post because I experienced the same thing at the same age and I remember the humiliation I felt.

Roxane Gay’s post, In Relief of Silence and Burden, is a heartbreaker written in the unmistakably honest voice that is Roxane Gay. Reading this made my stomach hurt.

Walking While Fat and Female – Or Why I Don’t Care Not All Men Are Like That was an eye-opener. I guess I’m naive but it never occurred to me that adult men acted this way.

And, from the men:

My Girl’s a Vegetable: A Father’s Response To Isla Vista Shootings  in Luna Luna Magazine shares how a dad’s eyes were opened to the every day misogyny directed to women via his daughter’s experience while walking home from school.

Local Blogger Ian McGibboney writes “A Letter To All the Nice Guys”and makes some really good points.

And, finally, Emily Shire says “#YesAllWomen Has Jumped the Shark” and wonders if it’s being diluted by people tweeting about such things as “complaints about women being told to smile”. What do you think?


New-To-Me Blog of the Week

To end on a lighter note, I want to share a blog each week (or so) that’s new to me and that I enjoyed reading  – you know, show a little link love.This week it’s  The Art of Simple, a blog that shares ways to live a simpler, more meaningful life as well as giving great organizational tips. Give it a click, I think you’ll like it!






2012 and the Minimalist Lifestyle

Minimalism and it’s growing social trend fascinates and appeals to me. I’m not talking art, I’m talking simple living. 2011 was a year of purging and decluttering for me and, in doing so, I became interested in reading about others who felt the need to purge and declutter and what about their life made them desire downsizing. I found out I’ve pretty much always been a minimalist  – I just didn’t know it – and here’s why:

  • I still live in the first house I bought in 1980. When my peers “traded up” from their first homes, I stayed in mine because I liked the neighborhood and I didn’t need or want a bigger home. I like the sense of place I feel by living in the same home for so long. My mortgage was paid off years ago which has given me peace of mind in knowing I will always have a roof over my head as long as I can pay the taxes.
  • Much of the furniture in my house is the same I bought initially.
  • I rarely eat out and never buy from fast food places – we (my husband and I) cook real food and look at it as fueling our bodies and souls as well as honing a skill. Eating out is for special occasions and the best restaurants.
  • I don’t have much in the way of tech gadgets. We don’t have a Wii or whatever the equivalent of video games are right now, we do have satellite TV but only the basic package.
  • We have dumb cell phones which we use sparingly. I tried a smartphone but sent it back after three weeks because I found it added no value to my life.
  • We don’t belong to gyms; we walk for exercise.
  • We really don’t spend a lot of money on entertainment because we really aren’t night people and prefer a picnic in the park over fighting the jostling crowds. That’s not to say we don’t go to events; we do.  We’re fortunate to live in New Orleans where there are so many free and low cost events and those are the ones we enjoy.
  • I buy clothes when I need them or if I need something for a special occasion. I don’t shop for pleasure or entertainment because I don’t usually find it pleasurable or entertaining.
  • We have two cars but could easily get along with one and we have in the past. The car I now have is only the fourth car I’ve owned in 31 years.
  • I use things (household items, electronics, handbags, etc,etc) until they wear out instead of robotically buying the “new thing”.

I realize our lifestyle isn’t for everyone but it’s perfect for us. We’ve always been this way, not just since we became older.  I just don’t need to be entertained by something or someone every minute of the day – I can entertain myself. I don’t need huge amounts of stuff in my house that only creates clutter and is a background stress plus has to be dusted and cleaned. I’d rather be doing something else than cleaning or paying someone else to clean my stuff. One of the greatest benefits of a simpler way of life is the decrease of overwhelm in your life.

I haven’t always been the perfect minimalist, I can’t lie. Over the span of a 30+ year marriage I’ve accumulated lots of stuff by not purging while accumulating and through shopping binges that I thought would make me happy but didn’t. Last year I began a quest to declutter my house which I’ve written a little bit about on my personal blog. This decluttering has dramatically decreased the background stress I was feeling and has made my  place a more tranquil refuge from the world.

Q: Why be a minimalist?

A: “It’s a way to escape the excesses of the world around us — the excesses of consumerism, material possessions, clutter, having too much to do, too much debt, too many distractions, too much noise. But too little meaning. Minimalism is a way of eschewing the non-essential in order to focus on what’s truly important, what gives our lives meaning, what gives us joy and value.” ~ Leo Babauta

As I said, in the past year I’ve discovered a growing movement toward minimalism and simple living. I can only imagine it’s the result of the economy, the rampant trend of foreclosure and the high unemployment rate among other things. Many appear to be scaling down their spending and making do with less. Some people look at “making do” as a negative instead of looking at it creatively and giving the minimalist lifestyle a chance. There are a few websites and newsletters I read by the pioneers (relatively speaking) of the new minimalist movement who mostly appear to be in their 20’s and 30’s. Although much of what they write about are ideas and habits I already use, I like communicating with others who think like I do and I do find that I’ve learned things I didn’t know by reading their work. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept and want to explore the minimalist lifestyle, read this and check out the websites of the minimalists that I follow below. (Be sure to peruse the archives for specific topics.)

Zen Habits
The Minimalists
Rowdy Kittens

Checking out these sites doesn’t mean you have to drink the kool-aid,  it just means you’re mind is open. And that’s a good thing.