Summing up SC.

Flag Map of South Carolina

Things to note before reading:

  1. This post is VERY long, but we’ve already established the fact that I’m unnecessarily wordy, and rather than emailing friends and family about our trip I figured I would just direct them to this post.
  2. This was our first trip with A and I learned a lot about traveling with a baby.  Since this post is already way too long and boring for the average reader, I’m going to do a separate follow up post with my tips and tricks for vacationing with a little one.

Wednesday, 5/23

Travel day.  After our very long stint in the “family line” at the PHL security checkpoint we grabbed breakfast and walked A around in her stroller since she missed naptime.  We brought our City Mini for the trip (which, by the way, I LOVE and intend to post about one of these days – seriously the best stroller for so many reasons), and it did not disappoint.  She finally fell asleep 10 minutes before boarding (go figure) and then again 10 minutes before landing (double go figure).

In Charleston, B went to get our rental car from Hertz…only to learn that he actually rented the car from the Charleston AIR FORCE base, not AIR PORT, and you need government clearance to even get to that Hertz location, which obviously he does not have.  Needless to say that’s the last time he’s in charge of rental cars.  National car rental saved the day though and we were in Kiawah less than an hour later.

Kiawah Island Beach

We checked into our “villa” (really just a one bedroom  condo next to the beach but they refer to them this way to sound fancy) and managed a quick trip out to see the beach and ocean before heading over to Freshfields Village to stock up on groceries for the week.  Our plan was to eat breakfast and lunch in the villa each day to save some time and money.

Freshfields Village - Courtesy of Charleston Real Estate

We finished off the day with some South Carolina BBQ and beers (Palmetto Brewing Company based in Charleston had an awesome Amber beer – highly recommend it), at the Cherrywood BBQ and Ale House, overlooking a pond with alligators mulling around.  We counted 6 visible ones but I’m sure more were lurking below…

The restaurant smoked its own meat and had 7 house-made sauces that they brought out along with this map below to give you a little tutorial of SC BBQ.  I thought it was pretty neat.  I did feel a little inadequate though since I am a tomato-based BBQ sauce gal.  Apparently that’s not hardcore enough in the Carolinas.

South Carolina BBQ Map

Thursday, 5/24

A’s first beach day! We had pre-rented 2 chairs and an umbrella (we flew and couldn’t bring beach chairs) so we sat in the same spot every day.  Luckily it was about 100 yards from our villa! We dangled A’s toes in the water to which she surprisingly didn’t have much of a reaction, so mostly she just played in the sand, in her baby blow up pool, and in her baby beach tent borrowed from her friend C.  She didn’t take her usual marathon naps, but we did get enough for us to each read half of the US Weekly we brought.

Kiawah Beach Set Up

That evening we headed out for really good seafood at a spot in Freshfields called Hege’s.  We still have no clue how to pronounce it though.  Anyone know?  Oh – and of course we hit up Marble Slab Creamery after dinner.

Friday, 5/25

B had an early morning tee time over at the Ocean Course.  They are playing the 2012 PGA Championship there in a few months so he was beyond excited to get to play it now.  A and I spent some QT together on the beach.  I played the role of Mom Sherpa.  It was quite the sight: I had A in the baby bjorn, her beach tent on my back (it folds into a backpack carrying case), the cooler bag on one shoulder and the beach bag on the other.  We had some play time with stacking cups and bath toys (these were all I brought in the toy department since they are small, portable, and versatile), and she took a long nap while I read a copy of Runner’s World that I’ve been trying to finish since April.

A took a late afternoon nap indoors so B held a solo happy hour on the porch while I went on a beach run and checked out some of the amazing homes further out on the island.  Each is bigger and grander than the next, and they all look like they’re ready to host the Pottery Barn summer catalog shoot.

Our villa was in this building, pretty enough right?

Windswept Villas @ Kiawah Island

But seriously, check out these beachfront pads (not photos I took – images courtesy of HGTV & Michael Driver Architecture)

Kiawah Home - Courtesy of HGTV

Kiawah Home - Courtesy of M Driver Architecture

Our Friday night ended with a frozen pizza for a quick, cheap and easy dinner in the villa.

Saturday, 5/26

We took a morning walk around Kiawah and the pool and park.  There is a lot to see and do down there; it’s a great family destination, especially if you have older kids.

After another beautiful day on the beach we ventured out to the King Street Grille for burgers.  Another good meal out with A, who was happy as could be in her high chair eating puffs and pieces of French fries.

We came home to watch the Sixers lose to the Celtics in Game 7, but I’m not a big NBA person so that didn’t put too much of a damper on my day.  Actually it didn’t even make me blink.  That’s how much I dislike NBA basketball.  Did I just say that??

Sunday, 5/27

Tropical storm Beryl started to make her way toward Jacksonville’s coastline, which brought some big wind gusts to the beach in Kiawah.  So we decided it was a day better suited for being tourists in Charleston.  We walked around Marion Square for a bit where there was an art festival in progress, and had lunch at Virginia’s On King.  We had the BEST fried pickles I’ve ever had.  They were so good.  My mouth is watering just copying this pic in:

Virginia's Fried Pickles

The pickles were followed by a Fried Oyster Po’boy for me:

Fried Oyster Po Boy

And a BBQ sandwich for B.  Remember South Carolina is Mustard-based sauce, hence the yellowy hue:

Virginia's BBQ Sandwich

Both sandwiches were served with sweet potato fries (that A enjoyed sampling), and a bacon and blue cheese coleslaw which was delicious.  I loved the twist on this traditional summer side.  This would be a great addition to our usual shore lineup.  I’m hoping my fellow blog comrade SH over at Eventfully Simple is reading this!  She has a knack for finding good summer sides/salads and I’ve had the privilege of tasting many of them at the shore over the years.

We took an hour or two after lunch to explore Charleston, and then made our way back to Kiawah to pack for our trip home.  Boo.

A sampling of our Charleston shots is below.  I was amazed at the size, style, and color of the homes right in the heart of the city.  Unlike anything up here in the Northeastern Corridor.

Charleston Homes 1

Charleston Alley

Charleston Homes 2

Charleston Homes 3

Charleston Homes 4

Monday, 5/28

Time to head home.  We had a pretty uneventful travel day, except for the small fact that B accidentally set the clock ahead an hour when he set our alarm for 5am.  So we were dressed, fed, and ready to leave when we looked at our phones and realized it was 4:30.  Not 5:30.  Needless to say B is no longer in charge of alarm setting on vacation either.  But at least he didn’t set the clock the other way.  Phew.

So that’s it for our Memorial Day weekend in South Carolina, and our first “family” vacation.  It was a pretty successful first trip with baby, and we even managed to squeeze in a few moments of relaxation which was an added bonus.  Bummed to be back of course.  But we’re counting down the days until we can plan Kiawah 2013!

I Never Promised You an Herb Garden.

Outdoor Patio Herb Garden

This is correct.  I did not promise you one.  But, surprise!  Here you go!  As you can see, I did some planting this weekend, along with some serious straightening up out back.  I’d love to say that I was “working out in the yard”, but I’m not sure a giant brick and concrete box qualifies as such.

I’ll post about my big outside clean up soon, since it’s a pretty good before and after.  Basically we had a legit concrete jungle on our hands that needed serious taming.  And I mean that quite literally.  Check out this sneak peak “before” picture; the Ivy was about one week shy of grazing the floor.  Gross.Yard Before

I’ve been wanting to plant a small herb garden behind our house for some time, and even bought a big tin planter at Ikea a few months ago with big dreams of little herbs.  But I didn’t really know where to start, nor was I confident in my planting skills.  (As B would gladly tell you, I have the blackest thumb this side of Broad street.)

But as luck would have it, an herb planting genie fell into my lap this Saturday!  Well, fell onto my couch more accurately describes how it happened.  MKY & CW paid us a visit while in town to see some of the Phillies/Sox series this weekend, and it was while relaxing on our couches during A’s afternoon nap that I learned of CW’s ninja warrior herb planting skills.  Side note, I’m not sure why I’m describing him like this.  I think it’s because B has that new show “American Ninja Warrior” on in the background and it has me slightly amped up.  But CW knows what he’s talking about and gave me the low down on how best to grow an herb-an garden.  And the motivation to finally get on it!  A few of his tips:

  • Need to use large pots with holes on the bottom so water will be able to drain out
  • Most herbs require full to part sun, so be sure you have a spot to put them that will get sun
  • Basil takes up a lot of space – plant it on it’s own and make sure it has lots of room to grow
  • Likewise with mint
  • Most other herbs can be grouped together in a big planter
  • Be sure to water the herbs regularly

So armed with this information I headed over to Home Depot on Sunday morning and picked up the remaining supplies that I would need for my garden:

  • Herbs (HD had a great selection!  I would have liked more locally grown items, but this is my first attempt at this and these were pretty budget friendly).  I went with: Tarragon, Cilantro, Parsley, Greek Oregano, 2 Peppermint plants, 2 Sweet Basil plants, and Thai Basil.  Total cost for 9 plants: $30
  • 2 10″ Terra Cota pots @ $5 each: $10
  • Large bag of garden and vegetable planting soil (we had some very old soil from planting window boxes last summer, but I wanted something that was made for vegetables/herbs – I need all the help I can get!): $7
One thing I had to do before I started planting was to make holes in the metal planter from Ikea, since it did not have any.  To do this I just hammered a nail into the bottom of the pail a few times and wriggled it around in each hole to widen the openings.
Then, as CW instructed me, I planted the Sweet Basil plants in one pot together:

Outdoor Patio Herb Garden - Sweet Basil

And the Peppermint plants in another:

Outdoor Patio Herb Garden - Peppermint

And lastly, here are (clockwise from top) my Cilantro, Parsley, Tarragon, and Greek Oregano plants:

Outdoor Patio Herb Garden - Multi Herbs

I’m really happy with how everything turned out and am enjoying the new greenery in our urban scenery.  And the herbs are subtly fragrant when you’re out there too, which is nice and refreshing.  KP has been sniffing away at them.  I don’t think she’s ever seem herbs before now that I think of it.

So that’s the story of my weekend herb garden.  In total it was less than two hours of planning, shopping, planting, and it cost about $47.  Not the cheapest “quick little upgrade”, but the bulk of that expense was for the actual herbs, which came out to about $3 a pop.  Considering I won’t have to buy $1.99 bunches of basil, parsley, mint, etc. all summer when I want to make a Caprese salad or spruce up grilled fish or chicken, I think I’ll be able to save some money in the long run.

The one last thing I’d like to do is DIY some chalkboard signs for the herbs.  I have the tacky plastic ones in there now so I don’t forget which plant is which, but I’m thinking something like the signs below that I’ve found online would complete the look.  The last two are actually for sale on Etsy, and I recall Pottery Barn carrying some a few years back, but I’m sure those were ridiculously overpriced.  These are definitely something I’d rather make than buy.  So I’m going to design and create my own sometime soon.  Not for at least a week though – because don’t forget – we’re on VACATION starting Wednesday!

Chalkboard Garden Stakes - Lisa Holtzman Calligraphy

Source: Lisa Holtzman Calligraphy

Chives Chalkboard Sign - Sierra Metal Design via Etsy

Source: Sierra Metal Design Via Etsy

Mint Chalkboard Sign - Sierra Metal Design via Etsy

Source: Sierra Metal Design Via Etsy

Everywhere, like, such as…

We’re heading down to South Carolina next week to spend 5 days (hopefully!) on the beach at Kiawah Island, and to check out nearby Charleston, which I’ve heard is a neat town and happens to be quite high on my list of “Must Visit” US cities.  It will be our first “family vacation” and A’s first plane ride.  You can’t even imagine the list making that has already begun around here to prepare for the adventure.  But rest assured I’ll share it all here after the trip, along with a recap of what we learn about traveling with a baby.  Wish us luck!

Getting ready for SC reminded me of this gem (for no other reason than the state, I assure you).  So I give you this clip to brighten up your (almost!) Friday.  If you’ve never seen this one before you will probably need to watch it at least twice to reassure yourself that your brain is indeed functioning normally; it’s not you, it’s…it’s actually completely inexplicable.  Just watch it, you’ll see what I mean.

Disclaimer: I’m sure Miss SC ’07 is a lovely person and I am by no means passing judgement on her or her intelligence.  But her reply to this question is amazeballs.

Stalling.

Womens Room Sign 1

I did something a little crazy.  Or, a lot crazy.  Depends on how you feel about making over the ladies room on your office floor.  Yep.  That’s just what I did.  But let me back up a bit first and explain myself…

I work in an amazingly spectacular skyscraper.  It is the 15th tallest building in the country and at one point was the tallest LEED-certified building as well (I believe that has changed since we moved there in 2008, but I could be wrong).  It’s totally sappy that I’m gushing about our building, but it’s really an amazing place to work.  It’s beautiful, it’s modern, it’s environmentally conscious, and it’s [usually] very clean.  It’s also often taken for granted since it is, after all, a place of work.  Nowhere is this more evident than the 36th floor ladies room.  To put it bluntly, it’s as if potty-training preschoolers use it.  I’m not kidding.  The room is consistently trashed.  And it’s a gorgeous bathroom!  We have granite countertops!  Over the past few months the hooks on the back of half the stall doors have also fallen off, so we’re forced to either put our things on the floor (ew), or on the counter by the sinks (wet).

At some point our facilities department decided to hang these generic signs on the doors asking us to keep the place a little neater and to alert them if anything funky is going on.  The signs were haphazardly slapped up on the stall doors with small pieces of tape, and are now curling up at the edges or ripping.  They just make the stalls look worse, and they seem to motivate more trashing.  It drives me nuts.

So last week I took matters into my own hands.  I emailed facilities and asked them to get on the hook re-install pronto.  (I actually said it significantly nicer…and there might have been a friendly emoticon).  And I made new signs for the stalls, laminated them, and hung them up neatly on the backs of each door.  Check out the before and after pics below.  Looks a lot better right?

Bathroom Sign Before-After

So yeah, I realize I’m borderline insane, but our nice clean building deserves the TLC.  And hopefully the mystery bathroom sprucer upper will inspire the ladies room bandits to clean up their act.  And after themselves.

Nada. Zilch.

Empty To Do ListI did something yesterday that I don’t do that often: nothing.  And it
was awesome.  It was my first Mother’s day so as a treat to myself I
decided I was going to completely relax and enjoy my family, my home,
and my city without worrying about any of my usual “prep for the week
ahead” Sunday chores.  I paid for it a little bit this morning rushing
around, but it was so well worth it to take the time completely “off”.
I know it sounds counterintuitive, but one of the main reasons that I
strive for neatness and efficiency in my life these days is so that I can
have more time to actually enjoy it.

Little Miss A kicked things off for us pretty early yesterday – 6:30am – but I guess she just couldn’t wait to get the party started!  B fed her while I attempted to sleep in with KP.  I didn’t really have much luck though; my internal clock is just set on early.  But she decided to go down for a 3 hour nap at 8am so literally everyone in the house went back to bed.  That time I slept until 10am and it was glorious. I took KP on a casual morning walk and when I got back there was a card and flowers for me, and a new orchid to replace the one B accidentally neutered last month.  I was very happy to put the new guy back in our “greenhouse” downstairs.

Once A was fed and dressed we ventured out for some lunch at a spot nearby with outside seating and good people watching.  After lunch and a walk around the neighborhood we headed home for A’s afternoon nap.  This one went on for about 2 hours, and guess who also fell fast asleep on the couch? You know it. It was a major luxury.  We grilled for dinner and I even watched a few episodes of Khloe & Lamar on E!.  I’m not even into the show but it just felt indulgent to sit back on the Kouch and Keep up with the Kardashians.

And that was about the extent of our whole day.

Like I said, they don’t happen often, but these “nothing” days are
sometimes just what the doctor ordered.  Everyone needs time to
re-boot and enjoy what is really important in life.  Some people are
better at doing it than others, and some need holidays or sick days
(or newborns) to force them to just chill the heck out.  When I had A
it was a major adjustment for me.  I was used to doing a million
things in a day, but life with a newborn was not designed for that
kind of lifestyle.  I had to learn how to only let myself tackle 1 or
2 things in a day (sometimes none!), and how to be OK with it.  I
caught on pretty quickly and it was one of the most valuable lessons
I’ve learned to date.  So while I do enjoy a clean home and a
well-organized to-do list, I’m very conscious of taking time to be
“off”.  I’ve even been known to assign “nothing” days in my personal
organizer so I don’t forget or try to commit myself to ten other
things.  Crazy?  Maybe.  But it works.  Try it.  You’ll thank me.