Springtime!

Spring has sprung suddenly, and I’ve been busy but having such a good time!

Last weekend, GG and I attended the Philly Farm and Food Fest – we had gone once before, a couple years ago, but every year it gets a little bigger. We took the train in to the Philly Convention Center, and got in right when they opened, so we could sign up for the speakers we wanted to see. Between presentations, we spent the entire day wandering around the aisles of vendors. This year’s show also featured a “curd convention,” where they put the cheese producers all together in one area. Unfortunately, GG and I are not the only cheese lovers in Philadelphia, and the area was quite crowded. (Meanwhile, the “Local Libations Lounge” required an additional ticket, was sold out, and remained mostly empty the whole time – we would have paid extra for the cheese section if that’s how it was going to be!) We did get to see two Curd Convention speakers, though (which came with samples!): David Katz of Honeygrow; and Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills (makers of one of one of the most approachable blue cheeses, Birchrun Blue, which I’ve been a fan of since I discovered it at the Phoenixville Farmer’s Market a million years ago) with Aimee Olexy of Talula’s Garden/Daily/Table (who I was kind of prejudiced against because of our bad experience when we tried Talula’s Garden). Despite all the amazing samples, we still managed to keep LCHF for the day! (Mostly – we may have cheated on a bite here or there…)

The next day, we met up with our friend C at Seven Stones Cafe in Media to catch up. That place is so cute! We got there at a little bit of a busy time, but then it cleared out and we got to sit and have a nice talk. Since it was so nice out, we walked up and down State St. for a little while before heading home.

Yesterday we went to one of our favorite spots, Tria, to use my Christmas gift, a very generous gift card from GG (and we only used half of it, so we’ll have to back again)! It was perfect we got a meter parking spot right across the street, we got there at just the right time to have the restaurant to ourselves, and we were able to keep LCHF (I did have beets on my salad – don’t tell anyone!). The highlight, of course, was the amazing cheese board! My favorite was the Brillat Savarin, an amazing, runny, creamy cheese… I mostly linked it here so I know where to buy more ;)

For Easter yesterday, GG was invited to play guitar with his cousin’s church band, while I went to brunch with my family, and then we spent some time together back at my grandmom’s place. (Meanwhile, GG had been invited to his Greek friend’s house, where they were roasting a lamb on a spit!) Finally, we got back together at his parents’ house for Easter dinner – and some impromptu magic tricks from my brother-in-law!

In other news… I ordered a camera … but it was the wrong one … so I returned it, and then got the one I wanted used on eBay for half the price (but it’s in excellent shape). And now I’m trying my hand at vlogging :O

March

Highlights of the month:

  • Officially started shutting down my side business! Nothing negative happened, but it takes a lot of time that I just don’t have to dedicate to doing it right. Maybe someday I’ll write some more about my experience, since this seems to be in the news a lot lately…
  • I finished doing our taxes… Officially the very latest I’ve ever gotten them done ever.
  • Was really busy at work with a number of projects, including finishing building a tool and then training users on it… I’m really excited that my new boss is trying to put me in positions where I can get more experience and facetime with management.
  • Tried a few new keto recipes and, after a week of not really having time to cook, decided to try prepping meals on the weekends when I have time so there is always something around for GG (or me) to eat. After 3 full months on LCHF, we’re both almost to our goal weights! I don’t know about GG’s plans, but I have a second goal after this if all goes well. I’ll have to write more later about some of the tips things we’ve learned.
  • My JA program is close to wrapping up for the year and once again the kids can be infuriating but in the end make me proud. We had an event in the office that a couple of them came to and they did really well. Next month we have a couple big events for them and then their regional competition, and I think they’re really going to pull it together at the end!

LCHF Costco Picks

Doing the LCHF lifestyle, you’ll probably end up cooking from scratch more and eating out less, which is great – but it also means you’ll be shopping more for fresh groceries! We have a Costco membership but used to only go a couple times a year. Now I’m going every week or two, because with the quantities we’re using certain ingredients, it just makes sense to be able to buy them in bulk there. The prices are great, and they have lots of organic options too! Here’s some of the items I always pick up there:

  • Eggs: I used to buy the 6-packs of eggs because we would rarely go through a dozen before they expired. Now we can easily go through a couple dozen a week, so I love the Costco 24 packs. I usually just get the regular ones, but they also have cage-free, brown eggs, etc.
  • Ground Beef: People swear by their grass-fed ground beef, which is about $5/lb at our store.
  • Chicken: I am very weird about chicken. I always worry it’s not cooked enough, and so I usually end up cutting it into small pieces to cook. I hate cooking chicken breasts, which is why I love the large packs of chicken tenders. There are 6 individual packs all connected together, so I usually keep 1-2 in the fridge and freeze the rest.
  • Cheeses: You know I love cheese. If you’re going to go through a lot of it, why not stock up? The big double-packs of feta last a long time, and it’s a great salad topping or good to bake with chicken. I can blow through one of the 3-packs of Boursin cheese in a week (also great inside stuffed mushrooms). And the deli sliced provalone is great to bake into cheese crisps.
  • Heavy Whipping Cream: HWC, as the kids call it, is great for a million things LCHF, but we mostly add it to our tea for a satisfying drink that can really fill you up!
  • Produce: I don’t know why I used to always be wary of Costco produce. I guess because I didn’t think we’d go through the larger package quick enough. Everything I’ve gotten there has been great quality!
    • Avocados – Usually a great bargain here. I don’t want to jinx myself, but I think every one I’ve gotten has been perfect. If you keep them in the fridge they last longer, so I usually store them there and just keep 1-2 sitting out to use.
    • Mushrooms – The packs are slightly larger than how they sell them at the supermarket, so not an overwhelming amount.
    • Romaine Lettuce – They have 3-packs of romaine hearts like you can find in the supermarket, but they also have 5-packs of smaller, denser romaine hearts that actually work out to be a better deal.
  • Chia Seeds: These are a great source of fiber, and you can use them for a million things – we love chia seed pudding for breakfast, and I also make chia seed crackers to eat with my cheese (just make a paste of seeds and water, spread into a thin layer on a pan, and bake until crispy).
  • Almond Flour: A great buy at Costco! If you like experimenting keto baked goods, you can go through this pretty quickly.
  • Snacks: Whisps are one of my favorite LCHF-friendly snacks, and you can stock up on a big bag at Costco. The Kirkland brand beef jerky is also decently low in carbs and actually has a really good taste and texture (though weirdly it says to refrigerate after opening, which kind of seems like the opposite of how jerky should work..?). All sorts of nuts are plentiful at Costco (the macadamias are an especially good deal). There’s lots of keto snacks, if you know where to look ;)

February

Highlights of this busy, busy month:

  • Went with my friend C for a Sephora makeover/makeup lesson. We had so much fun and I really learned a lot!
  • GG and I went to see Artie Lange do stand-up. The opening act was really good. Artie, not so impressive. Also, we saw him do literally all the same jokes later on a TV interview.
  • Watched the Superbowl with GG’s family at my BIL’s house – lots of food was had, and we stuck to our way of eating (I made buffalo chicken dip and there was also veggies and guacamole and some other things we could enjoy). So far no problems sticking to the plan!
  • We went to The Farmer’s Daughter for our Valentine’s dinner (and used a gift card GG had gotten for his birthday). We just had to make a couple substitutions to accommodate our new WOE :)
  • GG and I saw Split – we’re big M. Night Shyamalan fans so of course we loved it, but the end was awesomeeeeeee!! (No spoilers!) Also, we love trying to guess where in Philadelphia things are taking place. And the funniest part was that we were watching it in a town that was mentioned in the film! When they said it, everyone in the theater was like, “That’s where we are!”
  • On our day off for Presidents’ Day, my friends L, J, J’s sons, and I went to New York for the day. We visited the 9/11 memorial and museum (and I didn’t cry! Almost, but kept it together), then went to Brooklyn to eat at a Harry Potter themed pasta restaurant, then tried going to that restaurant that serves cookie dough in ice cream cones but they were closed, then went to the Nintendo store (child’s request), and then took the train back home. Oh also, L had come out the night before and spent the night, which is fun :)
  • GG and I went to see a live taping of Ask Me Another, which was fun and really interesting! I’d never been to a live taping of an NPR (or any other) show before. GG had been to a Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me taping a couple years ago, so he had already seen them do things like record pick-ups after the show.
  • We also went to see a high school production of Rent that one of my JA kids was in. Besides some technical issues with microphones and a couple tone-deaf singers, it was surprisingly good!
  • We went to a friend’s birthday party and stuck to our WOE! The friend who hosted it is a baker and made a beautiful peanut butter chocolate cake, which I knew would be amazing. So GG and I each tried exactly one bite and… meh. I mean, I’m sure it was an amazing cake. But we didn’t feel tempted to eat a whole slice! We stuck to veggies, the buffalo chicken dip I’d brought (that’s been my go-to party food), and hot dogs (without buns).

December

Highlights of the last month of the year:

  • Had a very successful holiday party and this year’s entertainment was a ventriloquist! It was really funny when I called to hire him and got to explain that no, there would be no children, he can tell all the dirty jokes he wants ;)
  • Had a bunch of events for my side business.
  • Played a bunch of holiday concerts.
  • Got to celebrate Christmas on two separate days, instead of rushing to cram two Christmasses into one day, which was much more pleasant.
  • Interviewed house cleaners as my Christmas gift to my grandmom (she picked one to start in January!)
  • GG and I took our usual day off to do Christmassy stuff in Philly – this year included the Comcast Holiday Spectacular, followed by the Temple of Awesomeness and Delight at DiBruno Bottle Shop.
  • Celebrated A’s birthday with dinner in NJ followed by a very bad escape room :( When we were done, we didn’t even stay to take funny pictures with their signs or anything (and actually, nobody from the place encouraged us to), we just left.

I was trying to get a few people over for a small New Year’s Eve dinner, but nobody was really available and then I got a really bad cold and decided I probably shouldn’t be handling people’s food, so now our plans include sitting on the couch in our PJs, and making s’mores with my new s’mores machine :)

November

How can I describe November? Disappointing? I fell asleep for a couple hours on election night and woke up to a crazy dystopia. We took 2 kitties to the vet and guess what, there is nothing physically wrong with the crazy one, he’s just crazy – so now he gets drugs :/ I did a big vendor event for my side business that had the most horrible load-in – luckily GG was able to meet me afterward and help me take things back out! Thanksgiving was nice and we had lots of family together, but meanwhile in GG’s family there was a medical emergency (everyone’s ok) and his dad and brother were in charge of making dinner, which actually turned out surprisingly well (we said they’re in charge of stuffing from now on). We went to MB & A’s annual Friendsgiving the week after, which is a little different now that everyone going has tons of kids running around. And I did my Christmas decorating early, since we’re having our holiday party earlier this year.

October

Highlights of this month!

  • I had a booth at our community Fall Fest which was great for meeting local customers, and I got to spend the day with my newest teammate!
  • GG and I joined the new Community Center and committed to working out regularly at the gym.
  • We made our annual trip to the Ren Faire! Got to spend the day with some of my favorite ladies (and GG). I made a flowered headband for my favorite little lady!


  • Did some other events for my side biz, including training in NYC! GG came with me and we went up the night before and spent the night. Then he entertained himself at a photo convention and explored some restaurants in the pouring rain while I was at my training. Afterward, we had a fabulous dinner at Parker and Quinn before driving home.
  • The day after this overnight NYC trip was MU Homecoming! We had another official PSP reunion this year, but it didn’t have the magic of the last one … My friends and I were pretty much the only alumni there. We did get ourselves invited to the Housing reunion so we could go on a tour of one of the new dorms – we’d toured it a couple years ago when it was brand new, and I wanted to see how things were holding up now that kids had been living there for a while (and were responsible for cleaning their own bathrooms, etc.). One story they kept telling us involved a guy who was storing jars of pee in his room…
  • Our Fall Concert for band took place a week early, in October instead of November, so we ended up doing a semi Halloween theme and everyone wore all black (with orange accessories) instead of our traditional black pants and white tops. I accented my outfit with a black cat ear headband.
  • We once again offered full size candy bars to kids on Halloween, and cups of hot apple cider to parents. Our porch was really hopping last year, but this year it felt like there were a lot fewer trick-or-treaters.

Charleston 2016!

Remember when GG and I went to Charleston, SC? We had such a great time, we’ve basically been talking about it for the last 4 years. It was really a perfect vacation. So with our 10th wedding anniversary (!!!) coming up, we decided to go back! We booked our time well in advance, because we knew it would be a tough week for GG to get off work. Hotel rates seemed much higher than when we were there before, probably because it was more in the midst of the Spoleto Festival. I ended up booking us an Airbnb a couple months in advance, and then one morning I woke up to a message saying the reservation had been cancelled by the owner! Turns out, hotels in Charleston are suing Airbnb, so until everything was worked out, property owners were advised to cancel any pending reservations. GG and I started looking for other options, and found that in the meantime the rate at the Elliott House, where we stayed in 2012, was back down to where it had been before, so we booked it! And thus concluded our pre-vacation drama.

Wednesday, June 1: The week before we left, a tropical storm hit the area hard enough to cause flooding that closed down areas of I-95 for a while. Luckily, everything had cleared up just in time for us to leave. We didn’t stop anywhere on the way to South Carolina this time (except a creepy gas station in Virginia where I made the mistake of using the ladies’ room!). We left early in the morning and GG drove until we were past DC, then I took over for a long stretch (only listened to “Hamilton” once!), and then we switched back shortly before our destination. We had planned to take one day while we were there and drive over to Savannah, GA, but as we pulled into town, I was so sick of driving that I said to GG, “I know this sounds crazy [because we already have a detailed written agenda], but I would be ok with scrapping Savannah and doing something else around here that day instead.” So we did! (Read on to see what that was!)

We hadn’t really planned anything for our first evening in town, but GG had ideas for us. As soon as we checked into the hotel, we headed two doors down to Poogan’s Porch, where we sat at the bar and shared an order of the smoked gouda mac & cheese that just about put him in a coma four years earlier. We learned about two things there: a local beer called Pluff Mud (which GG enjoyed throughout the trip), and the existence of Poogan’s Smokehouse, which we immediately added to our agenda for later in the week. After that stop, we went next door to Husk, where we got a table in the carriage house bar and enjoyed a cheese platter and crazy burger with bacon in the burger meat. (Bacon is the main theme of Charleston.) Now here’s the sad part: after dinner, we went for an evening walk around town. I was wearing sandals that are usually extremely comfortable, but for some reason they gave me huge blisters that night! So for the rest of our trip, I had to wear the one pair of more sneaker-like enclosed shoes that I’d brought (which probably was better for my feet, but still!).



Poogan’s Porch mac & cheese

Cheese plate at the Husk bar

Not glamorous, but glad to be out of the car!

One other funny story about the hotel: the majority of the guest rooms are all along one side, which faces the alley next to Husk. Last time, our room was right above Husk’s dumpster, where they were constantly clanking glass bottles and trash. (It was the hottest dumpster in Charleston, though!) This time, as we checked in, GG said to me, “I hope our room isn’t on the first floor.” It was on the first floor (which was fine, we didn’t have to go up any steps and there was no problem). I jokingly said, maybe we’d be right by Husk’s kitchen entrance. Well, we walked into the room, opened the blinds, and the kitchen door was literally right outside the window! LOL! It really wasn’t any problem at all though. It wasn’t that noisy, there were wooden blinds that pretty much prevented anyone from seeing in, and we had a full blackout curtain for nighttime. Just thought it was funny :o)

Thursday, June 2: I know I said I was sick of driving, but, today was the day we planned to do a couple things just outside of downtown, so it was back in the car for a short ride. Our first stop was the Angel Oak Tree. The Angel Oak is often said to be the oldest tree in the country, and it really isn’t, though it is very old and very large. It’s impressive and beautiful, and you are free to just wander around it and admire up close or from afar. You can take pictures, although there are signs all around it that you can’t move. But don’t worry, because there is a gift shop!! We met an artist named Frank deLoach who was working on a really interesting painting of the tree. He said for years he did realistic tree paintings and couldn’t give them away. Then he started doing this technique and people are trying to buy them before he’s even finished, and he sells them for thousands of dollars. He mixes sand with paint to create the sketchy outline, then fills in the voids with color. Also, if you light the painting from just the right angle, the outlines cast shadows that give the piece a whole new look! Angel Oak pro tip: arrive early; we were there first thing in the morning and it was already getting crowded by the time we left.



Before we left, my mom warned me to stay on paved surfaces and not go under trees. Whoops.

This is the painting on an angle – here it is straight on

Our next stop was Magnolia Plantation. There are several plantations you can visit along the Ashley River and I was a little disappointed with the one we saw before because it turned out it was “preserved” (i.e. kept in the same dilapidated state it was when the last owner died), not restored. Magnolia is the one everyone talks about, because it’s a huge property you can explore, and in addition to the house there is a garden, zoo, swamp tour, etc. I really just wanted to see the house, so we bought admission to the garden (which you need to be able to do anything else) and a scheduled house tour. We had time before the tour to explore the garden, and then wandered down to the river, which was the site of a British attack that preceded the battle of Yorktown (“Hamilton” has really improved my knowledge of the American revolution!). It was very beautiful but also very hot, so I was glad to get inside and check out their little indoor museum as well. They had some connection to the Grimké family, which was fictionalized in The Invention of Wings. (We’ll refer to this book again later, too! I read it because of its Charleston and Philadelphia connections!) The house tour was good; the property has had a long history, and actually is currently owned by the same family – the gardens were created by an early owner to make his wife happy, since he took her away from her city home, and were later opened to the public to make some money by charging admission.



The front of the house actually faces the river, since that’s how guests would arrive; this is the back that faces toward the gardens

We went back to town and had lunch at Eli’s Table, which was one of GG’s picks, and happened to be right around the corner from our hotel. After we mentioned to the waiter that we were from Philly, he brought over a waitress who was originally from Pennsylvania. Would you believe she went to the same high school as me?! Small world! Anyway, the meal was amazing. Afterward, we went on a little quest to visit some of the new distilleries in town. We first headed to Charleston Distilling Company, producer of a sorghum whisky that GG picked up. They have a tasting room, but due to SC’s weird regulations, you can’t just visit that area. You have to pay for a full tour, and then at the end you get the tasting. GG just bought a bottle of what he wanted, and then they let him in and basically gave him a little tour anyway.



We were going to try to walk to another distillery after that, but realized how far away it was, and it was super hot out and we were getting cranky, so we got ice cream instead :o) They have Jeni’s ice cream in Charleston! In what became our usual schedule for the remainder of the trip, we went back to the hotel, took sponge baths, changed, and then went out to dinner. Our reservation was for SNOB (Slightly North Of Broad), a restaurant we missed on our last trip. It was very good, but I think we only went there because it’s one of those “must try” restaurants everyone talks about. Now we’ve tried it. After dinner, we went for a walk around Waterfront Park and caught our first glimpse of the pineapple fountain this trip.

Friday, June 3: On the schedule today was a trip to the South Carolina Aquarium, which we had skipped last time because it seemed like a lot of kid stuff, and we’ve been to aquariums before. However, this year I learned that the aquarium is home to a Sea Turtle Hospital, and you can schedule a tour of this facility in addition to your aquarium admission! The aquarium was nice, though we realized after we’d gone through everything that we’d kind of done it backwards – you’re supposed to start upstairs with the “mountain” environment, and then work your way though all of SC’s ecosystems until you get to the “coast.” We did it the other way around, and I guess that’s why sometimes it seemed like doors didn’t have signs on them, it was because we were going through from the wrong side, haha! At our scheduled time, we met up with our turtle hospital tour group (including a Charleston transplant who was originally from our area in PA, you see this is becoming a theme), and we headed outside to the hospital entrance. The “tour” isn’t so much a guided experience as it is learning about the hospital, and then they just let everyone inside to wander and ask questions of the staffers. I was worried it was going to be sad but it really wasn’t – most of the turtles there were greatly improved from when they came in, and were swimming happily around their tanks and getting ready to go home! Turtle hospital pro tip: Book your tour in advance, they will fill up! (Actually, the hospital is going to be moving to a more prominent spot later this fall, so I don’t know how it’s going to work going forward.)



This non-native species is taking over the Atlantic Ocean, hope you find them delicious!

This huge tank was pretty cool (human included for scale) – we also saw a dive show they did in here

Turtle Hospital was basically 15-20 tanks like this, filled with recovering sea turtles

After the aquarium we thought we’d hit up a couple of the historic homes, but we weren’t really in the right location to visit both, so we just did the Joseph Manigault House, which is right across from the Charleston Museum (we visited last time) where we bought the tickets. The house is beautiful, but the “tour” again was just a speech in the foyer, then we were split into two groups and half explored upstairs on their own while half explored downstairs, then we switched. We did hang behind after the tour and speak to the docents about stuff like how bad everyone must have smelled in the olden days :o) The most impressive thing about this house was that it had been used for many different things, including a period where it was a boarding house for lots of families with kids running all over, and temporary housing for war veterans, yet the beautiful wooden railing and chandelier in the center spiral staircase remained intact!



We stopped by Bull Street Gourmet for a little drink and snack on the way back to our hotel, then got cleaned up and changed and headed to one of the dinners I was most excited about, Minero! This is Sean Brock’s Mexican restaurant… and I love me some Mexican food ;) We started out with guacamole and a trio of salsas, served with fresh chips they kept warm inside an oven mitt. For our main course, I had two little tacos. GG ordered a burrito which, for the price, was ridiculously oversized! He was literally almost in tears by the end of the meal because he was just physically incapable of finishing the whole thing. (Another fun thing about Minero: napkins and silverware are in a little drawer under your table!) After dinner we walked around and did our usual, checking out houses by the Battery and along Rainbow Row.



Saturday, June 4: This was the day we had originally planned to go to Savannah, but as you’ll recall, we scrapped that plan as soon as we arrived in Charleston. Instead, we decided to go to the Charleston Tea Plantation. This was an excellent decision – the tea plantation was one of the most interesting places we visited on this trip! Now – we both love tea. But it was really fascinating! The Charleston Tea Plantation is the only tea plantation in the US – all other tea comes from overseas, much of it from Asia, Africa, and South America. This plantation was set up as kind of an experiment, since the soil and climate in Charleston are ideal for growing tea. You enter through a huge gift shop, selling every type of tea and tea accessory. There is also a sampling station of hot and iced teas, which you are encouraged to bring with you on the tour! We first did a little walking tour of the factory, which is free and runs every 15 minutes or so. You basically just walk along while looking at the factory equipment through a window, and videos play to explain what each piece does in the process. Then we went on a trolley tour of the plantation. Our tour guide was super knowledgeable and we got to learn how they grow and harvest all the tea there. Most tea around the world is harvested by hand, which takes hundreds of people. At the Charleston plantation, they have developed a piece of equipment that cuts down the bushes and separates out the leaves, allowing them to do the same work with just a handful of employees. The bushes are planted in rows designed for the harvester to fit between them. It takes about 27 weeks for the plants to re-grow to the height they need to harvest them, so they divided the plantation into 27 sections – by the time they reach the last one, it’s time to harvest the first one again! They also have a greenhouse for starting new tea plants that is naturally climate controlled and all automated.



The tea harvesting machine


This is Waddy the frog, named for Wadmalaw Island

When we got back to town, we went to Poogan’s Smokehouse for lunch, as had been recommended to us by the Poogan’s Porch bartender on our first night. It was a very cool and kind of industrial place, and the food was fabulous of course. We split their version of mac & cheese, just to try it, and then I had a burger. GG got a platter of three different types of BBQ meats and a couple sides. He was again just about in tears by the end of the meal because he couldn’t finish the roll that came with it! (They have six types of BBQ meats and the largest platter includes five – our waitress told us she had a customer who got the five meat platter and then ordered the sixth type as his appetizer, just so he could try them all!) Poogan’s Smokehouse pro tip: the bathrooms here are really nice!

After lunch we went to the other historic home we wanted to see, the Heyward-Washington house. While waiting for the next tour to start, they told us to go check out the outbuildings and garden. The cookhouse had some information about the families who’d lived there, and mentioned Judge Grimké. This was the house where The Invention of Wings took place?! So then I was extra excited about the tour. This was probably the best historic home tour we went on – it was informative and the group was just us and two other people. Like most of the other historic homes, this one had gone through some transformations (for example, at one point the downstairs was lowered and converted into a bakery storefront). There were a lot of paintings in the home that our guide kept pointing out because they were mostly done by the same artist, and he was really bad, but he was the only portrait painter in town at one point, so he got all the business! He gave everyone one of two face styles, he couldn’t do hands so they were usually covered up, and actually he was bad at painting skin, so that was usually covered too.



After the tour, we were walking back toward the hotel and saw this church with its courtyard gate open, inviting people in to their garden. Turns out it was a huge cemetery, and GG got some great creepy shots. I walked around for a little bit, but then hung out on a bench where I was eaten alive by bugs.



We went to Bull Street Gourmet for a full meal, finally, and had dinner there. Of course we had to get one of their beautiful cheese boards. Then I had a gorgeous salad, while GG ate some gazpacho. After dinner we went for a walk around Colonial Lake. I’d heard on the local news that they had recently completed a beautification project there, and yes, it was much nicer looking than the last time we’d visited, with nice new landscaping. It felt like it was about to rain any moment, but still not yet a drop the whole week, despite the daily forecast calling for scattered thunderstorms.



Sunday, June 5: We started off the day back at Eli’s Table for brunch so we could try the breakfast side of their menu (the hotel did provide breakfast every day, which is a great time and money saver, but we’d decided we did want to eat out at least once). Our Philly friend was our waitress, so we got to see her again! The highlight of the day was my special surprise gift to GG (and myself) – massages! I’d figured by this point in our trip we’d be pretty achy from all the walking around and whatnot, and we’d had a couples massage on our anniversary a couple years ago, so I knew GG would enjoy it. However, what I learned at our previous massage was that he does. not. shut. up. Making it very hard to relax. So the Massage For Two at Earthling Day Spa is perfect, because you actually get separate massages in separate rooms. Mine was excellent, exactly what I needed. I felt so much better and just more relaxed for the rest of the day!

We didn’t really have too much planned until dinner, so GG tried looking up some other homes in the city we might tour, and found the Calhoun Mansion. This Victorian mansion was inherited by a descendant of John C. Calhoun, hence the name, but is currently occupied by jet-setting lawyer with extremely eccentric taste. The home is filled with various art and artifacts that he’s collected since his college years, as well as several dogs and cats who are locked in the kitchen during tours so we didn’t get to meet them. They’ve used the mansion in several films and TV series, including “The Notebook.” It was weird and ornate and there was lots of historical “stuff,” but it wasn’t really a historical re-creation since it’s actually someone’s home. (Also, no photography inside, but you can see pictures on their web site or buy postcards in the gift shop.)



Our dinner was a GG pick, Lowcountry Bistro. He’d added it to the list because they serve cioppino, which is a type of fish stew they have in California. However, once we got there, he saw they also had jambalaya and paella on the menu! He ended up getting the paella. I had an appetizer for dinner, fried chicken on sweet potato waffles. And we split an order of brussels sprouts with pancetta. GG made friends with our waiter (of course), who recommended Carmella’s Dessert Bar for dessert. We actually first tried to book a ghost tour, but we were like 10 minutes too late, they’d already cancelled that night’s tour due to lack of attendance. So we went over to Carmella’s and had some gelato, then hurried back to the hotel because it seemed like it was actually about to rain at this point.

Monday, June 6: Hey, remember how it was supposed to rain every day during our trip, but it never happened? Well, it finally rained … and it rained all day! Another hurricane was blowing in, bookending our trip. It wasn’t raining when we arrived at Waterfront Park for our Porgy and Bess walking tour, but as everyone gathered, umbrellas started popping open. This was the one Spoleto Festival activity we were doing, and I’d really been looking forward to it. I’d seen Porgy and Bess maybe once, but I am familiar with the story and music. The story was written and takes place in Charleston, and the tour was held in conjunction with performances of the opera during the festival. Our guide was super knowledgeable (I missed his intro in the beginning, but I think he’d written a book about Porgy and Bess?!), and we learned so much about the opera, its creators, and its Charleston connections. Of course, it was pouring rain the entire time, and it was kind of hard to hear or pay full attention when you are dodging puddles and being pelted with rain, trying to peek between everyone’s umbrellas. We stopped under roofs and shelter when we could, but it was kind of miserable.



This is the Heyward-Washington house again – DuBose Heyward was a relative and lived down the street from here for a period

GG found a flag to match his shirt (outside a liquor store run, ironically, by a pro-Brexit British expat

I’d worn shorts, and by the time the tour was finished, my legs were totally splashed with mud, plus my shoes were waterlogged and just wrecked. (Luckily, they were cheapies from Payless – the same pair was on sale online, so I tossed the ruined ones which had served me so well all week, and ordered replacements that arrived home shortly after we did.) We got cleaned up at the hotel and then went back to Poogan’s Porch for lunch (and to split another order of smoked gouda mac & cheese) – seemed fitting that they would be our first and (almost) last meal of the trip.

We went out to pick up some souvenirs while the rain had lightened up a little bit, then got cleaned up and changed, and went for our super fancy 10 year anniversary dinner at McCrady’s. (Well, first we had to get our traditional anniversary photo where we’re holding up fingers for the number of years we’ve been married.)



McCrady’s is super old, super historical, and super expensive. They serve very fancy, almost molecular gastronomy level dishes. For example, the man at the table next to us ordered a dessert that was basically blueberry foam overflowing out of a fish bowl :o) It was very very good though, and now we can say we’ve eaten at all of Sean Brock’s restaurants (well, at least the ones in Charleston). We tried going for a walk after dinner, but it was raining so much, and we had to get up early in the morning, so we just went to bed.

Tuesday, June 7: Watching the news the night before, we saw the effects of the next tropical storm blowing in, and GG suggested we pack up and drive home overnight. Actually, it’s a good thing we didn’t, because everything passed through during the night, and though there was some flooding in some areas of the city, by the time we left early in the morning, the rain had stopped and skies were clear. We had no issues getting home and the kitties were happy to see us :o) Although it was hot and humid (i.e. normal weather) compared to the last time we visited, I would still rank Charleston in my top five favorite places. We had a great trip, plus I can’t believe we’ve been married ten years!

Check out all my Charleston pics here.

May

Couple of cool things we did this month:

  • I had my band spring concert, and this time because we had a nautical theme, people were in encouraged to dress in costume! I was a pirate, I sat next to Left Shark (yes, she was wearing a full-on shark costume in which she’d cut slits for her hands so she could play clarinet), and we also had sea captains, SCUBA divers, beach goers, Cap’n Crunch, hula girls, and lots more..!
  • I went to the 50th anniversary of my middle school.. There were only a couple other people from my grade there, but we got to go on a tour of the school and it was neat to see what had changed and what was still the same. 8th grade was about the peak of my life’s greatness ;o)
  • GG and I went to a wedding at the Mütter Museum! It was very cool, they have some really neat spaces upstairs where I’m sure they have awesome weddings all the time. Plus we got to go through the museum, too! (Oh, and they had a guacamole bar during the cocktail hour?!)


  • We went to see Mel Brooks live in Philly: it was a showing of Blazing Saddles (which I’d actually never seen in its entirety), followed by a sort of interview/storytelling by Mel Brooks about the making of the film, and then a little Q&A from the audience. He was really funny!



    But possibly cooler than that, GG took me out for a surprise dinner first! He had actually planned something else, but when I started guessing and he saw I got really excited about going to Sbraga, he switched the reservation and took me there instead! It was an amazing meal!
  • My first college roommate’s daughter was riding in the Devon Horse Show, so I met up with her and her family while they were in the area. I hadn’t been to the Horse Show in a while, so it was like Main Line overload! It was great to see them all, and her kids are so cute!


New Hope Afternoon

We just had such a beautiful weekend, and since the weather was so nice and it was our last free weekend for a long time, I suggested to GG that we go up to New Hope on Saturday. We haven’t taken an overnight trip there in a few years, but we do still like to go up a couple times a year for a day here and there. Unfortunately, everyone else had the same idea! There was almost nowhere to park in town, and the sidewalks were so crowded, people had to squeeze past, single file. But it wasn’t really unbearable, and it was such a lovely day, we had a great time!

We both had some things to take care of at home first, so we didn’t get on the road until about 11 AM. There’s a new highway bypass (well, I call it new, it’s been open for several years now), which shaves a bit of time off the trip and makes it quite a pleasant drive. We first stopped by Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, because GG wanted to go to Hewn Spirits and see if their Reclamation whisky was in stock (it was not). There also happened to be a spring fair going on, so there was this whole other area with vendors and tents set up nearby and throughout the village. One of the booths we stopped by was Offbeat Gourmet – let’s just say, he had the whole “handmade hipster” thing down so well, when he gave me change for my purchase, it was a $2 bill from a homemade cash box.

We continued over to New Hope. Unable to find a parking spot in our usual favorite lots, we ended up parking near the canal lock at the north end of town. We had thought maybe we’d get an early dinner before leaving. Last time we were there, someone recommended the Blue Moose Cafe, but they might have been closed or all booked for the day. We stopped by there first but they were serving brunch, and then would be closed until dinner at 5PM. So GG went in and made us a dinner reservation for 5.

Next order of business was to get a little snack to hold us over until then! We went to Nina’s Waffles for a little Belgian waffle and ice cream action. Then we just took a few hours walking through town, seeing what’s new and checking out our old favorites. We don’t usually walk east on Bridge St., but happened to go up that way and found The Creeper Gallery, which we’ve somehow missed for the couple years it’s been open! If you like weird taxidermied animals, Victorian baby photos, and general creepy artwork, check this place out! And of course no visit to New Hope would be complete without stopping in at Farley’s Bookshop to see Butter the cat (and, um, look at books)… We usually have to look for Butter, but this time he was sitting out right in the middle of the children’s department. On a nearby chair, there was a notebook titled, “Dear Butter,” which featured a couple pages of cat FAQs, followed by blank pages for people to leave notes. GG wrote a very nice message from us. I gave him lots of scratches and he purred a lot.



The Creeper Gallery


Signing the “Dear Butter” book

We were pretty beat after a while, so we sat down on a shady bench for some people watching/possibly a nap, but there were a lot of bees around! So we ended up going to Nektar for some drinks. It was across the street from where we were having dinner and we’ll definitely have to have a meal at this place soon! We went there several years ago when it was Wildflowers, but this is a totally new restaurant with new owners, and it looks pretty awesome!

Finally it was time to go over to the Blue Moose. I hadn’t been in there before, but the decor was pretty cute! Their door handle (and logo) is a whisk with moose antlers; pendant lights were made of box graters; there was a window box of flowers made from forks, knives, and spoons… It’s a BYOB restaurant and you can choose a two or three course prix fixe menu (some dishes do have an additional charge of a couple bucks), which is a neat way to do things. The third course is dessert, so we skipped that. For our first courses, GG and I shared the cheese plate and Sweet Potato Nachos (which were awesome and I will definitely try recreating at home!). Then for our entrees, he had the Seafood Jambalaya (the scallops were so perfectly golden, I thought they were breaded!); and I had the Oricchette with roasted brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and a lemon cream sauce. After that, we made our way back to the car (quick stop at the candy store!), drove home, and pretty much went straight to bed!

Sunday was a pretty productive day, and then GG’s brother invited us over for dinner because he was grilling some chicken, ribs, and veggies (not sure what he would have done if we hadn’t come over!). It was so nice out, I even voluntarily ate outside! We ended up watching/making fun of Terminator Genisys before heading home to bed.