Destination Unknown

By Marianna Boyce

For Memorial Day, a moment to acknowledge the men and women who died while serving in our military for the United States of America is definitely in order. Our fallen soldiers secured freedoms we enjoy today by making the ultimate sacrifice for our country. I’m forever grateful for their selfless acts of valor.american flag

For many people, Memorial Day also serves as the unofficial start of summer. I am not what you’d consider a world traveler, so when it comes to vacations, my preference is sticking close to home.

As you’re reading this post, I’m heading back from Folly Beach in Charleston, South Carolina. I love the more mature vibe Folly has to offer, and it’s only 125 miles away. Gerry loves playing his guitar on the beach or poolside while I relax in the chair next to him. The bright sound of that Martin guitar is incredibly soothing while listening to the ocean waves rolling onto shore. It’s absolutely divine!guitar

Some of my travels have also lured me further from home, but always for good reasons. The first flight I ever boarded was in 2002 for an all expense paid trip to St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. This tropical paradise at the exotic Marriott’s Frenchman’s Cove is situated 1,475 miles from home. It is filled with indescribable splendor and beauty, but be wary of the island’s “voodoo juice” and shenanigans on the beach after dark. I’m thankful Gerry always had the presence of mind to remove us from questionable situations. With that being said, the white sand, crystal clear blue water, CoCo Joe’s, and steel drums playing nearby, are four things everyone should experience personally. Did I mention the crystal clear blue ocean water? Wowza!

The following year, we traveled by air to New Orleans, and boarded a cruise ship to Cozumel, Mexico. This was another all expense paid trip by my employer 2,765 miles from home. Gerry said I was the luckiest woman he knew. I thought he meant because I was married to him, but maybe it was for the great trips I won instead. Being whisked away from my comfort zone made me mindful of how small we really are on this terrestrial ball. My feelings on venturing further from home slowly began to change. With that being said, I truly pushed the envelope with my next adventure.

The best vacation I’ve ever taken was a 4,614 mile round trip, nine day, adventure filled trek across the United States of America. This trip to Arizona wasn’t won by any contest; however, it was indeed a gift. I’m sure you’re bewildered, so I invite you to “ride along” with me this summer as I write about reasons this adventure is my favorite one of all time.

What better way to kick off the unofficial start of summer than with a purely unadulterated, top down, wind in your hair road trip series? With our course charted, and several interesting stops planned along the way, we headed west on I-20.route 66

This vacation perfectly divides my normal life with what I often refer to as my alternate universe. It was the day we returned home that my new voyage began. Unfortunately, I had to navigate uncharted territory with my destination completely unknown. Within fourteen days, intense chronic pain had overtaken my entire body. I was neither physically or mentally prepared, but God saw fit that my incredible journey beforehand was completely unhindered.

Be on the lookout for my Summer Road Trip Series. This will be fun y’all. Where are your travels taking you this summer? Until next time…

Memorial Day: Much More Than a Reason to Cookout

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

If you’re like me, you’ve been counting down the days until the long Memorial Day weekend. Now that it’s here, you probably have some great plans for this three-day weekend: a cookout with family and friends, a trip to the lake or the beach, or perhaps just a little extra rest and relaxation. But before we slather on the sunscreen or fire up the grill, let’s take a few minutes to learn more about Memorial Day, a day of remembering those who paid the ultimate price in the service of our country.

Vintage Memorial DayThe holiday was first widely observed on May 30, 1868 when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. It is thought the date was chosen because by that time of the year flowers would be in bloom all over the country.

In 1873 New York became the first state to officially recognize the holiday. While approximately 25 cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, in 1966 President Lyndon Johnson bestowed that honor to Waterloo, New York because they had been conducting an annual community service regularly since May 5, 1866.

Memorial Day continued to be Civil War-focused until WWI when observances expanded to honor all those who had died in America’s wars. It is different from Veteran’s Day, which honors all veterans living or dead.

In 1971 Memorial Day was declared a national holiday to be celebrated the last Monday in May, thus beginning the tradition of federal three-day holiday weekends.

Memorial Day etiquette is to fly the flag at half-staff until noon, then fully raise it until sunset.

To ensure Americans do not lose sight of the sacrifices soldiers have made, “The National Moment of Remembrance Act” was signed into law in December 2000. On Memorial Day at 3 p.m. local time, Americans are encouraged to pause wherever they are for a minute of silence to remember those who have died in service to the nation.

Many people wear red poppies on Memorial Day to honor the dead. This tradition originates from the 1915 poem “In Flanders Fields” by John McCrae.

Some of the biggest Memorial Day parades are in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C.

How are you celebrating Memorial Day? What are you doing to remember those who have lost their lives defending our country?

Swimsuit Fit Guide + 5 Figure Flattering Swimsuits

By: Staci Rutherford

Memorial Day marks the official start of summer in my book, which means that it’s time for a new swimsuit!  How many times have you set out to buy a swimsuit and ended up frustrated, overwhelmed or disappointed?  I usually avoid shopping for swimsuits but this year, I decided to do a little research before venturing out so I know exactly what style to get for my figure.  Yes, I research almost everything because knowledge is power.  If I can identify my body type and understand which swimsuits are the most appropriate and flattering, shopping will become less stressful and more fun, as it should be.

Nordstrom has a fantastic swimsuit guide that I want to share with you.  You are not limited to only the swimsuits outlined below, however, I thought this was a great starting point for anyone who wants a little more direction before hitting the stores.

Straight – Little definition between bust, waist and hip measurements.

Prints, patterns, horizontal stripes and strategically placed seams can create the illusion of curves. Look for underwire styles and close-together, padded cups to enhance and lift a small bust. Or try thicker, textured fabric on top to add fullness without padding.

Pear – Fuller at the hips and bottom and smaller on top.

Suits with detailing on top or at the waist will draw the eye up. Straight and high necklines visually broaden the shoulders to balance out proportions. Wear a paler shade on top with a darker bottom. Sheaths and skirted suits also work to cover trouble spots.

Hourglass – Curvaceous, with full bust, defined waist and full hips.

Wide strap tops and underwire bras with soft cups offer best bust support. Many tankinis and sport bikinis also flatter curves and provide lots of lift. To minimize cleavage, opt for a straight or higher neckline that conceals while providing a pretty silhouette.

Apple – A rectangular shape without a well-defined waist.

Banding will give the appearance of a waist as will chevron or diagonal stripes. Look for tummy control and side panels, side seaming and shirring to create curves. Classic styles and solid colors are the most slimming. Sheer cut-outs offer a sexy peek of skin.

Full Bust – Bust measurement is fuller than hips and bottom.

High necklines help minimize the bust, while V-necklines draw the eye downward for a slimming effect. A keyhole back or sport style with an additional back closure will provide good support for a fuller bustline. Halters with bra cups provide more coverage. High-cut armholes can minimize side bust exposure.

Now that we have discovered some of the common body types, check out some of my favorite figure flattering swimsuits that I found online.  If it is more convenient for you to shop for a swimsuit online, make sure shipping (and returns) are free, and whether there is an option to return or exchange items at the store.  Try to avoid any “all sales are final” deals because there is always a chance that you won’t like what you buy online.

LOFT Floral Print One-Piece Swimsuit in summer plum, Price: $79.50 at www.loft.com

Swim Solutions Bandeau Floral Printed Ruched Tummy Control One Piece, Price: $94.00 at www.macys.com

Merona 1-piece swimsuit in pink/black floral print, Price: was $34.00 one sale now for $12.24 at www.target.com

Lane Bryant Pinpoint one piece swimsuit, by Miraclesuit Price: 156.00 on sale now for $109.20 at www.lanebryant.com Robin Piccone Ikat Swimsuit in emerald, Price: $122.00 at www.nordstrom.com

If you find a swimsuit that you love, please share the details in the comments section.  Next time, I will feature my favorite swimsuit cover-ups, which are perfect for lounging by the pool or strolling along the beach.

Memorial Day Fare

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

This is from my senior prom. No, really. I was smokin’ hot!

Raising a child is an everyday adventure, to say the least.  My daughter just finished Kindergarten and is at the age of constant questions, excitement for learning and unstoppable energy.  “Teachable moments” abound when you have a young child.  Being a born and bred Southerner, I want to make sure she learns the history, the stories and the traditions that define the South.  And, as we all know, a HUGE component of Southern culture is FOOD.

This Memorial Day holiday, our family stayed here at home.  In fact, we’re not crazy about going out of town on the big holidays because the Interstate traffic is bonkers, everything is ridiculously crowded and we just can’t stand it.  So the three of us spent the day relaxing and spending time with each other, which gave us the opportunity to talk to the little one about what this holiday means.  She’s already pretty versed (for a 6-year-old) in military knowledge.  We have a niece who is active duty Air Force and a nephew who already served in the Air Force. Her (now deceased) maternal and paternal grandfathers also served in the military.  Recently she saw a video that was shot at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier and was very intrigued.  Perfect timing too, as we have a Girl Scout trip coming up in June that will take us to D.C. and Arlington is on the itinerary.  She’s very excited about that!

So, as she was busy making “Happy Memorial Day” cards for Jordan and Dallas, I was busy putting together a traditional Southern meal.  If you think about it, most national holidays are celebrated here in the Southern states with some form of barbeque.  Think about it:  Memorial Day, July 4th, Labor Day.  The meal I came up with was BBQ chicken, corn on the cob and baked beans.  Generally speaking, I don’t make baked beans often.  Okay, almost never.  I always enjoy them, I just don’t think of them often.  The point?  I “whipped up” a batch in my crockpot, which of course means I didn’t have to do much at all.  I do love crockpots!  The result was quite good and I thought I’d share it with you all.  (Interestingly, the little one who seems to think sweets are the main dish and vegetables are a dessert rejected these sweet beans.  You never know.  Next time, she’ll probably think they’re the best in the world!)

Crockpot Baked Beans

Ingredients:

  • 3 slices thick sliced bacon; cut in pieces (I like to use my kitchen shears)
  • 1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 16-oz. cans of pinto beans, drained
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup molasses
  • 2 ½ Tbs yellow mustard
  • 1/3 cup ketchup
  • ½ medium bell pepper, chopped

 Directions:

Cook bacon in skillet until crispy, remove from skillet and drain on paper towels.  Reserve the dripping in the pan.  Saute the onion and garlic in the bacon drippings until tender.

Combine bacon, onion mixture and all other ingredients in the crockpot.  Cover and cook about 4/12 to 5 hours on LOW.  You can use HIGH if you like for 2/12 to 3 hours.

Go sit down, have a glass of wine, read a book, whatever, while these babies cook and make your house smell divine!  Unfortunately, most BBQ dinners tend to be pretty monochromatic, but that’s just the way it is.  Just embrace your Southern-ness and dig in!  I hope you enjoy.