Jen’s Summer Must-Haves

With a sweltering Southern summer fully underway, I thought it would be fun to share some of my must-haves for the season.
Between road trips, day trips, company receptions with the hubs & chilling at home I’m always looking for ways to enjoy the summer, attempt to look good, and even make things a little more relaxing and fun.
So, in no particular order here are my summer must-haves:
1)  A good book!  High on my list for the summer is Mary Kay Andrew’s latest novel, “Ladies Night”.  I love my Southern authors and after meeting Mrs. Andrews a couple of years ago at  blogger’s dinner I love her work even more!
from my Instagram account
“Ladies Night” has a touch of mystery, a little romance, a great storyline and since the story is about a lifestyle blogger, many of us can relate!
2) New tunes on the iPod.  I have very eclectic taste in music.  Audley refers to it as schizophrenic musical taste.  My summer playlist has a little country and a little top 40, mixed with a little easy listening.
My favorite album at the moment is The Great Gatsby soundtrack.  It’s my “go to” music for working out.
Other songs high on my playlist include:
Brad Paisley’s Beat This Summer
Darius Rucker’s Wagon Wheel
Kenny Chesney’s Summertime
Florida-Georgia Line (featuring Nelly) Cruise
Jake Owen’s Barefoot Bluejean Night
Mumford & Sons I Will Wait
Rihanna’s Shine Bright Like a Diamond
The Script’s Hall of Fame
Barbra Streisand
a little Harry Connick Jr.
I told you I had eclectic taste in music.

3) A cute insulated cup for keeping hydrated while working in the yard, sitting at the ballpark, working out, or chilling on the beach.

This colorful one is from TJ Maxx and was under $10.

FYI: You need to be drinking at the very least half your body weight in ounces of water everyday!  If you drink sodas, work out, or are outside a lot you need to drink even more!
4) Summer color.  I love, love, love makeup and summertime is the perfect time to change up those winter browns & neutrals and add a little color!
If you prefer a more subtle look, go with the Two Faced summer palette.  Light but colorful it just makes me happy!
$36.00 at
If you are bold and daring, pick up Estee Lauder’s limited edition summer palette!  Bold and daring, it’s perfect for a summer night out, dining on the patio of your favorite restaurant.
$48.00 at Belk or any other department store that carries Estee lauder cosmetics
I have both of these and absolutely adore them!

5)  A good neutral nail polish.  I love Essie’s “Penny Talk”.  Whether I wear pink or orange or green, this neutral color is just perfect and the shimmer makes me happy.

It’s perfect for the gym, the beach, church and going out with your significant other.

6) A pumice stone.  Why pay a fortune for a subpar mani/pedi with who knows what chemicals are used on you, when you can spend less than $8 on a pumice stone to rub those heels smooth.
You can find this at any Walgreens, Rite Aid or CVS as well as Target, WalMart or Sally Beauty Supply.
Your feet will be sandal & flip flop ready in a matter of minutes!
I do most all of my own mani/pedis because I do not like the strong lotions & scrubs that a nail spa is prone to use.

Just give me a little Olay body lotion and I
am all set!
I have a great homemade scrub I’ll share next week that is perfect for smoothing your hands, elbows, ankles and feet.
{Think coconut.}
7)  Cute hair accessories.  From a floppy beach hat to a cute hair clip keeping the sun off of your face and sweat from your neck requires pulling it back or putting it up.
Have fun picking out great hair accessories.
Use a colorful sheer scarf to tie back you hair from your face or check out your local Walgreens for cute clips and ponytail holders.
Or you can do like me and cut all of your hair off.
{Yep, I sure did!}

8) A comfy beach chair.  Whether you are chilling in the back yard or lounging on the beach these great chairs by Tommy Bahama are perfect.


Straps allow you to carry it like a backpack for easy transportation when it is folded up.  It also boasts a cooler pouch for a couple of bottles of water, a small pillow for neck support, a pouch to keep you cup out of the sand, and a space for your keys or cell phone.
We found these at Costco for only $28.00 and they come in assorted colors and patterns to brighten up your space.

9)  A colorful beach umbrella.  Large umbrellas like this are perfect for evenings at the ballpark watching little league baseball, sheltering a picnic and of course a little shade on the hot beach.

You can order this exact stye online from World Market for only $3.74 right now!!


World Market had a great selection of sturdy and playful umbrellas this season and they range from $10-30.  Not too bad!

10) Outdoor games.  Right now our family favorite is Bocce Ball.


Don’t ask me to explain it because I can’t, but I do know whether teenagers or my crazy family is having a cookout this is a must-have for us!
Kids from our youth group playing Bocce in the front yard.

You can find Bocce Ball at Target.  They have sets starting at $35, although we did pay a little more for this one.

What are you summer must-haves?  It’s just getting started and I would love to know what you need for the season!

Pleasure Reading

Back in the fall, Vickie from “Life in My Empty Nest” posted about a wonderful book she was reading … “Mr. ChurchHill’s Secretary” by Susan Elia MacNeal.
It’s historical fiction which is my absolutely favorite when I sit down for pleasure reading, so I immediately headed off to our Barnes and Noble to find it and was delighted to realize a sequel was already out, “Princess Elizabeth’s Spy”.
Taking a chance, I picked up both books and headed to the house for several days of relaxing reading.  Set in WWII in London these two stories are full of mystery, a touch of romance, a few surprises and of course factual events of this horrible time in history.  The main character is Maggie Hope, a young American girl who is living in London.  Throughout the series she discovers herself as well as where she truly came from.  As a serious fan of history I thought the author really did her homework before writing these great stories to capture the emotion in WWII, London.
Both books were great reading and even fitting for my teenage daughter’s to enjoy, which you know, finding decent reading material for teenagers can really be a chore sometimes.

Now Mrs. Mac Neal has a third book in the series out, just released just days ago, “His Majesty’s Hope”.


Guess who has already made the trek to Barnes and Noble & stocked up on English tea to sip while reading?
I can set my school books aside for a couple of days…..  this is the type of series that you can’t put down once you start!
What have you been reading lately?

Decking the Mantle

Have you ever read the delightful Christmas tale of Eloise?


It is a favorite story of ours as Christmas approaches; a story, that while my children are growing up so fast, they never seem to outgrow.
{They always claim it is my autobiography.}
I have always loved the story of this precocious child who adores Christmas, maybe because I imagine I am this child.  As soon as Thanksgiving has ended I put on my “Christmas Jingle Bells and jingle around” as I decorate our home for Christmas.
“Then it’s zippity jingle and dash away ping
Hang holly and berries in the halls
Tie tassels on all the thermostats and 
Write Merry Christmas on all of the walls…”
(from Eloise)
So over the last week, between following the high school basketball team ….
#20 is my superstar!

entertaining twenty-seven young members of our church’s youth group ……


and making fudge and peanut butter cups and peppermint truffles and cream-filled meringue  (the recipes are coming!!)…..
I have “hauled out the holly” and “decked the halls“!

Our mantle is always one of my favorite places to decorate for Christmas.  I love our rock fireplace with it large oak mantle.  It is a lovely focal point in the living room which makes me want to take extra care with it’s adornment.

{I’m really going to miss this mantle when we move!}

I am a very traditional person, and carry themes throughout all of my Christmas decorating.  But, I am always careful to make sure my children are represented in the theme as well.
Aren’t they a charming group to please?!?!  
Santa, elves, candy, and traditional read and green flow through-out the house making each room a festive place to be.  And in true Southern style, I have probably gone a bit overboard, which my family would be severely disappointed if I didn’t!


For the mantle I included a Santa who has many miles (and several states) on him.  We bought him eight years ago and since then he has lived in Iowa, Alabama, and Georgia (& soon South Carolina!) for memorable Christmas celebrations.  I would love to hear his version of our silly holiday antics!


Every mantle should have a dash of whimsey, and “falala” just makes me smile.


I couldn’t forget the candy canes, a very traditional part of Christmas!


For my garland, I wound lights through a faux garland, then filled it out with fresh cut magnolia leaves, cedar tips, and nandina berries.  I love the look of a full garland.  This is an super easy and very economical (free) way to update your well-worn garlands!


After the evergreens are all tucked in, I added red beaded garland and glass ornaments to sparkle and dance in the lights.  At Christmas you can NEVER have too much sparkle!


The wreath continues to carry our theme through the house and glitters nicely in the mirror.

And lastly, we hung the stockings.  With care of course!

Pottery Barn after Christmas sales are a delight when you are looking for something specific like personalized stockings.


I am linking up with Rhoda at Southern Hospitality today for her Mantle Party.  It will be a wonderful party I am sure!
 In the words of Eloise,
“Ooooooooooooooooooooo! I absolutely love Christmas!”
And check out “Eloise at Christmastime” for your own family;  I am sure it will delight your inner child as well!