Author Archive

Once in a Blue Moon, the Stars Aligned & I am Writing Again…

Vaporatto Stop Venice Divina Marchesa PosterThe past few months have been filled with a plethora of projects, opportunity, traveling and some pretty fantastic events and adventures, but I’ve been glad to see to the start of the summer, with her incremental slowdown and the chance to finally take up some of my favorite activities again – including blogging.

Along with participating in Gala Darling’s #RadicalSelfLoveJuly Instagram Challenge and sharing a few current projects, I’ll try to catch up a little some on former promised posts and this is what you can expect to see covered in the next few weeks:

  • New to Camping Q&A and list of essential camping kit from two experienced Boy Scout Leaders, an overlander & Land Rover enthusiast and a former Army Ranger!
  • Photos and recollections from my trip to Venice – whittling down my shots to a reasonable number for posting!
  • A guide to America’s Coolest Small Town, Beaufort North Carolina and its (recently verified) infamous pirate history!
  • Catching up on some the reading I had a chance to tackle in the early spring – I’ll pass on some truly great recommendations from their well-read sources!
  • A few of my favorite blogs and authors – I must share the wealth!
  • Nearly a year later, what my experiences with the Blogcademy and B School have given me.
  • Ukelele fever with local lessons and meetup groups in the DC Metro Area, as well as coming concerts and events.
  • A new stilt-walking project and revisiting how amazing, challenging and rewarding it can be to do something ENTIRELY outside of your usual wheelhouse.
  • And a fabulous guest post from a talented classic movie enthusiast, tanguera, opera singer, cook and generally multifaceted Renaissance woman Lisette Atiyeh, as she looks at an early examination of the introvert/extrovert dichotomy with Bette Davis in A Stolen Life.

Fingers-crossed, I’ll be posting again this week and next – could this month’s Blue Moon  and Venus/Jupiter star alliance (aka the Star of Bethlehem) appearing for the first time in 2,000 years influence me to better blogging reliability? Absolutely. 😉


Best Blog Ever???: Messy Nessy Chic, Elvis and The Secret Tiki

Coconut Club Parrot DrinkWhen blogging, sometimes it seems like every topic ever imagined has already been covered in depth, thrice over, and I wonder if there is anything else I can really add that’s new and helpful.

So looking at Messy Nessy Chic never fails to both intimidate and inspire as adventuratrix extraordinaire Vanessa covers an incredible spectrum of topics, including the intense (vintage films of female judo experts!), the obscure (the cult of Swiss Elvis rebels!), the beautiful (floating basket homes of Iraq), the historic (oddly charming anti-suffragette posters), the hilarious (eye-searing Pucci stewardess uniforms of the 60s) and the just plain amazing (largest cave in the world has its own ecosystem).

Coconut Club Dinner - Messy Nessy ChicCoconut Club Parrot Drink

Vagabond's House

I immediately open every link listed in each edition of her Things I Found on the Internet Today series – which has become my immediate go-to for absolutely pitch-perfect curation.

Today’s Nessy article, The Underground Traveling Tiki Bar, set my heart a flutter with a feature on The Coconut Club, a covert pop-up dinning club operating in the Los Angeles area with this eminently estimable mission:

At The Coconut Club, we provide a luxurious escape into a forgotten world where everything may not be exactly as remembered, but stays true to the very essence of Tiki, paying homage to the glory of yesterday while sailing forward to a blazing, sun-drenched future of power and pleasure. We’re constantly dreaming up new ways to bring our patrons into this world, and hopefully, after an evening with us, their minds will expand and they will come to understand that the Revelation of Tiki is a living thing, a passion handed down through the ages that twists and turns and evolves into ever increasing new shapes, sights, sounds, tastes, and sensations.

The path to Tiki Paradise isn’t a single road–it’s a flowing river of molten magma, with a multitude of fiery tributaries all blazing their own distinctive and unique paths to exotic delights. Join us on this epic adventure and together we will rediscover and return Tiki to its rightful place.

Perfection. I mean, who doesn’t adore a secret tiki party (certainly not Elvis!)???

Coconut Club Cocktails - Messy Nessy ChicCoconut Club MC - Messy Nessy ChicCoconut Club Totem - Messy Nessy Chic

When the Snow Thaws, The Planning Begins…

Amanda Loft Blue Ridge Mountain VAHere on the east coast, the snows are beginning to melt and we’ve had our first two consecutive 60 degree highs in a row. We used the first day to begin figuring out what seeds we’d like to sprout for the garden and airing out our camping gear after a few months in storage.

The trick is to plan your next trips before the weather changes completely, otherwise (as we’ve learned from experience!), you’ll miss some of the best early weekends for camping when it’s just cool and wet enough to be pleasant hiking and sitting near a fire, but there are not yet crowds of people with the exact same idea!

While we prepared for a coming canoe trip, Christian and I made a list of essential knowledge, questions we hear often and random things I wish I’d known a few years ago starting out. More on that later in the week – including an interview with two Boy Scout leaders who always plan the best trips!

Obscura-ditty – DIVAS EXOTICA Playlist of Amazing Sexy Lady Stars

Shirley BasseyLong before I was aware of wide-spread Wes Anderson ironic musical nostalgia, there was Katy and I driving around southern Maryland, listening to the Divas Exotica album and singing Teach Me Tiger at the top of our lungs.

Katy just had incredibly great taste at an early age (even for the 90s, an era of deep musical love and appreciation, she knew all the classics) and I was lucky enough to benefit from her knowledge.

My burned copies of Divas and the downloaded version I made a few years ago are still in frequent rotation in my playlists.

Sadly, Divas Exotica is out of print but I assembled its extreme excellence here for your end of week listening pleasure.

Let Me Entertain You – Ann-Margret

Don’t Touch My Tomatoes – Josephine Baker/Jo Bouillon

Near You – Marlene Dietrich

Teach Me Tiger – April Stevens

Je Me Donne A Qui Me Plait – Brigitte Bardot

Do Your Duty – Billie Holiday

Since Me Man Has Done Gone And Went – Maya Angelou

Go, Go, Calypso – Mamie Van Doren

Let’s Misbehave – Eartha Kitt

That Makes It – Jayne Mansfield

Jezebel – Edith Piaf

So Nice (Summer Samba) – Astrud Gilberto

Forbidden Fruit – Nina Simone

Heatwave – Marilyn Monroe

Goldfinger – Shirley Bassey

Mam Eu Quero (I Want My Mama) – Carmen Miranda

La Molina – Yma Sumac

Zoo Be Zoo Be Zoo – Sophia Loren

Feeling Good – Nina Simone

BONUS – Even More Nina!

NOIR: Or What Better for a Snow Day Than 5 Mysteries to Read Through the Night?

Cover to Area X Trilogy Vandermeer

On a snow day, what could be better than curling up with a beverage of your choice (wine, cocoa, hot tea, beer, coffee, hot cider), a blanket and a book to fall deeply into until the last page?

We’ve had a cultural crush on Gone Girl and The Girl Who series, but here are 5 more mysteries to keep your brain engaged until the wee hours of the morning…

Tana French - Into the Woods cover1. Tana French

With five phenomenal books all her own, I could have easily made a list of only Tana French’s Dublin Murder Squad series. Eerie, but not easily solved, French’s books feature a unique narrator for each mystery. Responsible for many a 3 or 4am bedtime, I sped through the first four and I’m waiting to savor her much lauded new novel, The Secret Place on the next snow day I know March has in store for us.

If you’re just starting out, begin with Into the Woods, French’s first novel and the introduction to the characters her readers have come to know so well. Skip this series entirely if you need Dickensonian endings with every loose end tied up in a bow…but dive in head-first if you love compelling but unreliable narrators with distinct voices.

Robert Gailbraith Novels2. Robert Galbraith

So we all know this is the vaguely incognito J.K. Rowlings’ new project, but if you love language, dialogue and symbolism, as well as lovable characters, snap up this series but start with the first mystery, The Cuckoo’s Calling. The Silk Worm is similarly addictive, but reads so much better if you know the characters and their earlier adventures. BBC is filming both novels as miniseries, so now if the perfect time to read the adventures of Cormoran Strike before you can no longer disentangle them from the tv series.

Night Film Marisha Pessl

3. Marisha Pessl

The Night Film stood in my top spot for anticipated new novels for years, until its release in 2013. Special Topics in Calamity Physics remains a favorite, but this mystery lived up to all my expectations and more. Just know that when you crack open the first page, you won’t be letting go until the very end. Plan your weekend accordingly.

Area X Trilogy Vandermeer

4. Jeff Vandermeer

I really did not expect to find this series occupying as much of my mind as it did – a perfect mix of The X-files, Lovecraft, Lost and Margaret Atwood, I dreamed about Area X more than once and highly anticipate finally reading the last section of this trilogy. If you like some science with your mystery and don’t mind lengthy description and scenes that crawl under your skin delicately and just won’t leave, Vandermeer’s Area X trilogy is the one for you.

Broken Monsters Lauren Beukes5. Lauren Beukes

And now the dark horse of the pack! With so much critical appreciation for Beukes’ The Shining Girls, I avoided her novels for no real reason other than general persnickety-ness on my part. I finally gave in and downloaded Broken Monsters after some glowing reviews highlighting the female relationships in this novel and I am so happy I did. Tonight, I fully anticipate keeping a light on until the darkest hours, unable to turn away from this one.

What novels keep your eyelids open until the small hours? Please share here – I’m always looking for something new to try!


How I Fell in Love with a Truck and Began Local Adventuring…

Series III 1972 LandRover Roof Tent

My adventures really began when I fell in love with a Land Rover – a 1972 Series III to be specific. There was a guy involved in there too (still is) but the real story is what started in my head when I sat on her bumper outside a friend’s friend’s apartment building on a cold Halloween night.

Series III 1972 LandRover Mason Neck Trail VA

The Landy was obviously a car that went on true journeys – she had dents and gouges in the paint but also looked lovingly maintained. When I mentioned my infatuation to my friend Lauren, she took one more sip of her cigarette, exhaled and said, Well, you better go back upstairs and talk to that guy in the dirty bunny mascot suit. It’s his car.” And we’ve been weekend adventurers together pretty much ever since.

 Series III 1972 LandRover Gas Cap
Landy Tail Lights

Which is not to say I didn’t bring plenty of my own to the table or the urge to adventure had not previously wove a scarlet stripe through my soul.


I studied Art History to be able to imagine riding the Silk Road and piloting lofted sailed junks in the Far East, ferrying the most beautiful items in the world safely from one horizon to the other. I read and dreamed and fought to give others the same knowledge and possibilities, but I didn’t realize you could actually DO these things, if in a more regional rather than global version.

  Series III 1972 LandRover Steering Wheel Landy Back Window Stickers

But this Landy, she was the one who made me want to stop researching and strategizing, dreaming and planning and instead go out and actually try.


With the Landy, my adventures became local – my rich imaginings of adventure became taking out a Flying Scot on the Potomac, hiking to the beach to climb the bones of an old Civil War ferry, off-roading down the mountainside of a colonial forge and camping on All Hallow’s Eve on a haunted mountain top in the snow, listening for the much folklored local yeti’s call.


My conception of what I was capable of doing just grew and grew – as well as a deep need to see the stars without cloud cover regularly.

Series III 1972 LandRover Back SeatSeries III 1972 LandRover Badge

Of course, I still love a perfectly balanced G&T in an art gallery or glossy-wooded bar or under the soft lights of a rooftop garden – it’s just now, I’ll also happy to take one in a campaign chair with Orion’s belt above me. I found a place for both parts – manicures and the freedom of not washing my hair for 4 days in a row (and now I know why Indiana Jones clung to his fedora – hats cover all sins!).

And I was absolutely scared at certain points – but when I came out on the other side I knew how much more I could do – like canoe for 5 days and drink mostly river water, camp outside in the late frigid winter, ride a Land Rover off road without a trail, drive a Kubota around a cliff-edged trail, or hike through the legendary snake rock mountain – the startling tale of snake rock mountain to come…

There were certainly some ups and downs or learning curve(s)…but like I always say when the Landy breaks down and we’re fixing her in the middle of nowhere – It wouldn’t be an adventure if we knew exactly how it would end.


So let me tell you about what I’ve loved, learned, bled and griped over and give you the best of what I love about adventuring on the East Coast. Next Wednesday, I’ll be back with the top 15 things new adventurers wonder and need to know about spending a few days in the out of doors.

1972 Series III LandRover MAR 2011

Blogger Muse: The Blonde at the Film & Sullivan’s Travels Re-Released

Sullivan's Travels Joel McCrea & Veronica Lake Hobos

Sullivan's Travels Joel McCrea & Veronica Lake HobosCriterion recently announced the April release of a gorgeous high-definition digital restoration of the legendary and much beloved (by me!) film Sullivan’s Travels. The Cohen brothers and I are in perfect agreement that Preston Sturges is a genius and Sullivan’s Travels is pretty much the best film ever and they’ve spent their careers trying to convince viewers to watch the Preston Sturges oeuvre by paying tribute to his pitch-perfect characters,dialogue and stories with their films. And I’ve already gone into detail about my love of mischievous and ethereal Veronica Lake.

But I can’t speak my love for the incomparable  director and a film that could never be improved upon as well as Cameron on her wonderful blog, A Blonde at the Film.

Her ode to Sullivan’s Travels has everything I could say and so much more – Cameron provides a detailed history of the making of the film, filled with warm personal notes from Joel McCrea’s unpublished biography (!!!).

I was lucky enough to come across her blog through a cinemaphile friend and I’m happy to share it here – with clean design, a depth of film history and an eye for detail and delight, The Blonde at the Film is the rare treat that appeals to both the new classic cinema fan and the hardened auteur, plenty for anyone to explore and enjoy.

The Blonde at the Film Blog

2015 – A New Look for a New Year of Adventures!

Amanda Shoemaker on the Ice Mountain Trail, WVThis past year provided so many incredible opportunities to meet amazing entrepreneurs, try a few things I never thought I’d have a chance to do and expand what I thought was possible for me to accomplish.

Among those experiences was creating this blog, meeting and learning from a diverse group of lady bloggers and spending some time rethinking what I wanted to say.

A little smarter and with so much more information on hand, I’m restarting writing here with a new more consistent, steady schedule and I’m so excited about what I have to share.

I hope you enjoy and find something useful within!

Halloween: Let the Horror Begin with a Bucket of Blood!

A Bucket Of Blood -VHS-fronta bucket of blood cat Bucket of Blood Spanish Poster

Things are about to get serious – only a mere two weeks until the big day! Let’s kick things off in earnest with the full film of Roger Corman‘s Bucket of Blood. What better way to celebrate the coming weekend than a Beatnik Busboy murderer who just wants to be appreciated for his art? Two snaps straight up, daddy-o!

If you have a chance, check out HorrorVintage’s other full-length films – I know I have my eye on Werewolf in a Girls’ Dormitory for later…

1 2