Hi chicks,

Early morning strolls through luscious flower gardens, having friends over for an impromptu BBQ, slipping into my prettiest sundress and strappy sandals for a night out, watching the fireworks at night, and lounging by the pool with a cool drink and a great book—I just love the lazy days of summer!

Speaking of books, be sure to add my book Chick Living: Frugal and Fabulous to your summer reading list. It’s a Real Life guide packed with thoughts and tips for any recession-wary (and weary) chick who wants to have it all without having to pay a lot. From clever wardrobe secrets to creative entertaining ideas to why-didn’t-I-think-of that home decorating ideas, this book offers guidelines for what should be in your kitchen pantry, bedroom closet, bank account, medicine cabinet, and toolbox. Check out the Hot off the Press link to find out more about the book, read excerpts, or order it.

Speaking of frugal and fabulous, here are some f&f (and fun!) things to do this summer:

Plant an herb garden. There is nothing more savory than using fresh herbs when cooking but they’re expensive if you buy them in the grocery store and they don’t last long. Whether you’ve got a windowsill, balcony, or backyard, as long as there’s some sunlight, you can do it. Buy cheap terracotta pots with accompanying saucers (be sure there’s a hole in the bottom of the pots for adequate drainage), decorate the pots if you’d like, and plant fresh herbs or seeds. Some suggested herbs and their uses are:

chives  Great for potatoes, in omelets, salads, and soups.
basil  Heavenly for pasta and a must to make pesto.
oregano  Fantastic in Italian dishes, especially lasagna.
parsley  Great in soups and stews, as garnish, or minced and tossed on top of garlic bread, salads, and grilled shrimp. (I like to mix a little with butter and spread on top of corn on the cob. Mmmmm!)
mint  Wonderful for tea and lamb and refreshing for cocktails and desserts. A staple for making my favorite summer cocktail: the Mojito.
cilantro  A must for gazpacho, ceviche, and salsa.
thyme  Gives great flavor to a variety of meats and clam chowder; it’s also delicious when mixed with cream cheese.

While you’re at it, plant a pot of pansies too: they’re pretty, edible, and look fantastic tossed on top of salads or dishes as garnish.

If you’re lucky enough to live near the beach (I’m jealous), collect beautiful seashells for decorating or buy a bag of them at a discount or craft store. Fill recycled jelly or pasta sauce jars or a pretty plate with white sand (or Morton salt—very inexpensive), set in a few small seashells, and nestle a white votif candle in the center. You can also add them to plants and potted flowers. Hotglue them to a picture frame and display a fav photo from a vacation or day at the beach. Line larger seashells along a window sill or mantle, or fill a wicker basket full of them and set on a table. You can also use seashells for place settings: set a large seashell on top of each plate, choose a fun font on the computer (I love Curlz MT), type guests’ names, print, cut into small placecards, and tack on top of seashells with doublesided tape.

sun bulletAdd seashells to your wardrobe too. Moolah may be too sparse to spring for new threads so instead buy a fabulous, fun shell, stone, or turquoise necklace from the jewelry section at a discount store like Wal Mart or Target or teen accessory shop like Claire’s. Whether you wear it with a crisp white shirtdress to work, a maxidress for an afternoon out-and-about, jeans and a cami for tossing back ice cold beers with your buds, or your favorite LBD for a night out on the town, you’ll be full of summer style.

sun bulletSpeaking of style, open-toed sandal season is here, so give yourself the perfect pedi. Use a large coarse emery board to remove rough dead skin on your heels and the balls of your feet and then soak them in warm water. Add a cup or two of Epsom salts which will reduce swelling in your feet and serve as a great exfoliator. Pat feet dry, slather Vaseline on them, and wrap them in plastic wrap. Then wrap a hot towel over each foot and kick back, or if you need to walk around, nuke a pair of thin cotton socks in the microwave for a few seconds and slip them on. Wear for an hour, rinse off, and apply your regular moisturizer. Using a toenail clipper, clip each nail once straight across and so that all are the same length. Round the edges of the two corners on top with the file. Wedge “spacers” in between your toes while you paint to keep them from smudging. Roll your favorite nail polish between your palms for a few minutes to blend the color (don’t shake—it can create bubbles). Apply a clear basecoat (this keeps polish from “yellowing” your nails) followed by one to two shades of your favorite polish followed by a topcoat. Pretty piggies for just pennies!

sun bulletIf you boast a great venue with a view for watching the holiday fireworks (again, jealous), why not host a Dessert and Fireworks party?  Make a Fourth of July flag cake. Bake a yellow cake from a mix using a 13” x 9” cake pan. Once cooled, spread an even layer of cool whip on top. Cut the tops off of strawberries and cut in half, and line along the cake lengthwise to create the flag’s stripes. Place blueberries in the top left corner for the stars (set the extra blueberries and strawberries out in small glass Pyrex dishes for a healthy snack). For a dramatic presentation, stick sparklers in the cake and light. Serve it with a Patriotic Punch: Freeze ice cube trays of red and blue Kool-Aid or Gatorade. Toss the cubes into chilled club soda, sparkling water, or Fresca (you can add a shot of Vodka to give it some kick), and watch the ice cubes fizzle while the fireworks sizzle.

sun bulletSummer’s the perfect time to slip onto a loungechair and slip on some shades (and sunscreen) and get lost in a good book, whether it’s a classic or light-hearted chick lit. When you’re done, host a book swap happy hour. Ask each member of your posse to bring a book that they enjoyed but can part with. Put all the books in a pile, draw numbers (or however you want to do it), and have each person select a new book to take home. To keep it easy and on-the-cheap, pour economy-sized bottles of ready-made margaritas into an inexpensive dispenser so guests can help themselves (freeze limes and toss them in to keep it cool) and set out a few bowls of salsa and chips. Skip those pricey, tacky-looking wine charms and wrap different colored pipe cleaners around the stems of glasses instead.

sun bulletSpeaking of cool drinks, whip up a batch of Lakewater cocktails (so named because it’s the official drink of the Lake of the Ozarks). Pour pineapple juice into an 8 oz. glass filled with ice and add one shot of Malibu Rum and one shot of Blue Curacao. I don’t know which is more refreshing—the drink itself or its gorgeous blue color.

Happy summer!