I grew up in the Augusta area, living in Waynesboro for as long as I can remember. I went to college in Indianapolis, interned at the Chronicle over summer and Christmas breaks, and landed a job as sports clerk the summer after I graduated. Eventually, the sports job turned into writing for the business section and now I report on local business happenings as well as writing for the Shopgirl column/blog.
Posted June 15, 2011 11:46 am

Summer bags, Meetup.com and outdoor cooking


Between farmers market shopping, day trips to the beach and picnics with friends, everyone needs a good tote bag this time of year.

If you're shopping at a farmers market or somewhere you will be carrying loose produce or flowers, I suggest using a stiff, basket-style bag. The stiff sides make your tomatoes less likely to be smashed into ketchup, and also create a good place to stack cartons of berries or bottles of salsa.

A thicker straw works better, and I found a really cute one for only $28 from LorisShoes.com.

For towels and beach gear, it's a good idea to take a bag that zips or at least snaps shut so that keys and valuables stay safe.

Land's End and L.L. Bean have sold their canvas tote bags for years, and there's a reason you see so many of them poolside. The thick canvas material keeps water out, and the zip-top option makes sure sandwiches and sunscreen don't get scattered all over the place.

Land's End medium tote is $32.50, and comes in ten colors. A very similar bag sells on LLBean.com for a little under $30 and comes in nine colors.

Pier 1 Imports has a great selection of picnic baskets this season, starting at $45. The baskets are very sturdy and are lined with a cheery red gingham, sure to put anyone in the mood to eat outdoors. Their classic picnic basket even has a shoulder strap for easy carrying.

If your picnic is going to highlight less peanut butter and jelly and more pinot gris, take a look at Pier 1's wine picnic basket. The same construction and sturdiness as the classic picnic basket, this one also has straps for wine bottles and stands upright for easy use.

Also $45, the wine basket comes with mini wine glasses and a corkscrew.


Bored this weekend? Meetup.com is a social networking site that works as a bulletin board for local events and happenings, from a super casual volleyball game to a weekly book club.

Founded in 2001, Meetup.com was started to better coordinate community activities so that people were able to be fully aware of what was going on in their area.

It's very easy to use - just go to Meetup.com and type in your ZIP code or city and state, and activities will come up that fall within range. There aren't too many postings for the CSRA right now, but we still have some activity on the site that could rapidly grow if it becomes something people begin to see as a go-to place for local events.

Like Craigslist or any social networking site, Meetup.com becomes an even more valuable resource as more and more people use it. While it's a great place to find events, be sure to post things as well.

Don't think your events are too casual or too boring - if everyone thinks that, sites like Meetup.com would be useless.


Cooking can be tedious anytime, but summer makes turning on the oven even less of an appetizing idea.

When you get back from the farmer's market with delicious produce, try cooking it on the grill instead of heating up your kitchen. Grilling out is a fun way to put a little spin on a meal, and the guys at Fireside Outdoor Kitchens & Grills can help you become a pro at outdoor cooking.

Experts at cooking on Big Green Eggs and other interesting grills, they say their real specialty is helping everyone learn how to better use whatever grill they have.

Fireside has weekly cooking classes outside their Broad Street store, and they're free to whoever wants to come and sharpen their grilling skills.

Each week's class has a topic, and you can find that on their website www.idratherbefireside.com. Last week's class was on competition pulled pork, but the classes range from brick oven style pizza to seafood.

You'll find the class on the sidewalk in front of their 1242 Broad Street store, Tuesdays from 5:30 to 8 p.m.