Now, I’m one of the biggest Lowcountry Christmas fans in these parts. I’m decking the halls the minute the turkey carcass hit’s the skids. My tree is usually up on Thanksgiving night or at least wrestled out of the closet. I’m digging out my Elvis Christmas CD and walking around with specks of glitter for the next 6 weeks. But by January 3rd I’m over it. I don’t think I’m the lone reindeer here. So I thought I would share my holiday de-stressing tips with you.
Now if you don't think of your annual vacation the week after Christmas, then you didn't celebrate it right. But hold on to those miles, stick your chewing gum over that enter button on the Travelocity page if you have to. You don't need a banquet laden cruise, you just need a sick day, one little ole sick day and here’s how it goes;
Open your freezer and start pulling. No you are not going to use those giblets or that duck fat. Save them you say? For what? They’re going to be a frozen mystery baggy in 4 weeks. Jesus, just let it go.
Okay, now look at that pile on the table and start yanking. Put your yard slickers and go to the shed, get a shovel and go bury those God awful fruit cakes in the yard. Now go back inside and open a window, no it's not freezing outside, you are in Charleston. Gather up the half dozen half eaten jars of mixed nuts and toss them to the birds and squirrels. Let’s go back to that table again. Those Hillshire sausage rolls, they make great window and door draft stoppers.
On to the refrigerator, open it up. The door just about fell off didn't it? That's because it's weighed down with a plethora of partial jars of condiments. (One of my New Year’s resolutions is to find another word for plethora) I’m at least aware of the fact that I have overused it and that is the first step to recovery. Okay, back to the condiments — tell yourself, "I don't want another clove poked, pineapple laden, whiskey dripped, fudge topped, nothing." and toss them all. There, don't you feel lighter already? I do, I just want a piece of plain old avocado toast.
Okay scan the room. A bowl full of corks, seriously how many corks do you need for crafts? Toss them, I promise you will have enough for next year if you start in June.
Well, that was a good start wasn’t it? Don’t we feel 10 pounds lighter? Now go fill your diffuser with ANY essential oil that doesn’t smell like pine, apples or cinnamon and grab your car key's. Let's go to our Carolina de-stressing zone.
I don't think I've ever been so glad to be alone in Charleston traffic with the radio jamming. I can finally hit the scan button on the radio without landing on Christmas music, at least until next October. Yep, it’s just me and Box and Jessie B jamming down I-526 playing a mean ass drum solo to AC/DC, “You shook me all night long.”
So where are we headed? Far away from Santa Claus lane. Any place that we don't see red, green, silver, twinkling and blinking lights or glitter is a good start.
For me, it's usually a brisk walk alongside a pounding surf. We are so fortunate, we have so many places to choose from! Botany Bay, Morris Island lighthouse, Station 23 Sullivan's Island, or a jaunt through Old Village and then to the end of Pitt Bridge. The surf and the gulls bear no resemblance to a partridge in a pear tree. I’m one of those weirdo’s that think’s plough mud smells good and a walk near the beach always leave’s me hungry!! Fish sounds good for dinner, think I’ll pop into the Teeter. Oh look, they’ve clearanced the Christmas foil wrapped Hershey’s kisses! I'll just eat the green ones and save the red and silver for Valentines. I assuage my chocolate guilt by buying a bottle of Chardonnay (without a cork.)
Most of my favorite places to rejuvenate are located on the fringe of several lowcountry communities. These are just quiet enough for me to pound out the reverberating beat of Mannheim Steamroller and strains of badly sung Auld Lang Syne’s and — reflect on the Peace, Love and Joy we wished each other over the past month’s. Happy New Season’s!
Caw Caw Interpretive Center
Mepkin Abbey (check out their option for spiritual retreat.)
Charles Pinckney Historic Park
Donnelly Wildlife Mgmt Area
Audubon Swamp Garden
Pitt Street Bridge
Morris Island lighthouse road
Station #18, Sullivan’s Island
Thursday, January 11, 2018
Saturday, September 30, 2017
Then there was this week. We have this corner of our property that has a beautiful ancient Angel oak on it. I want this area cleared so bad and we keep inching our way too it but it is covered in poison ivy. I am so allergic to it that I can't even look at without having an anxiety attack. The yard is all clear of it, everything is, except that corner. I volunteered to do the weed eating on this cool 95 degree day and commandeered the whizzer from Don. After the normal trimming of the perimeter I inched my way into un-chartered territory. I knew better. The minute the weed eater wrapped and slung a vine at me, I laid it down, I knew I was in deep Calamine. After extreme wash, rinse and repeat cycles, I still broke out in hives and blisters. I painted my body Mary Kay pink and silently damned the world to laugh at me.
On our only day off I went with hubby to Lowes. We decided to begin building a shed. I helped Don move the plywood, just a little. The next day I could not move, at all. When a blanket lying on your toe hurts your back, you are in trouble. For 4 days, my dear hubby moved me, lifted me, fed me and helped me dress.
We are supposed to be starting a new cabinet job and I still can't move. Don goes on without me. So it’s me and Snowy at home alone. I managed to get out of the bed, brush my teeth and take a shower but couldn't pull clothes up. Uh oh.
Snowy is a little upset with me because I am throwing her food at her. Then I picked up this tool, this awesome tool. I think people use it to pick up trash by the road but I use it to get cans down from top shelves, it has a grabber on the end of it. Let me tell you, there is not a whole lot that I haven't mastered this week with this thingamajiggy. I have pulled up drawers, opened drawers, pulled out pots and lifted a dog bowl with precision. Haven't mastered the corkscrew just yet.
In the midst of all this going on, roofers have arrived to replace our roof. I used the awesome grabber to push back items that were about to crash to the floor from the roof assault.
My plan for this day was to maneuver 4 steps down and a walk to the mailbox. I traversed the yard and talked to the one of the roofer’s who asked where the A/C plug in was. I figured it was for their power tools. Nope, he pulled a 3 foot long, 1980's boom box out of his truck and sat it on a stack of shingles.
Today is also spray day for the cabinet doors, so the yard is full of trucks; old trucks, new trucks, red trucks, blue trucks, political stickers, NFL team stickers, hats ,shirts, opinions. Alongside the roofing trucks sat a truck with a disabled veteran tag and conflicting view stickers. The driver served two terms in Iraq, was injured in a IUD that blew up their tank and later suffered shrapnel injuries from second stint. All were working side by side in the sweltering heat, swatting the same Avatar sized mosquitoes and swallowing gnats with their Mountain Dew and Gatorade on this 95 degree “fall” day.
I looked up on the roof, there wasn’t a single angry person up there, I looked on the ground and the cabinet spraying was going along just fine too. Chicken bones, soda can’s and Krispy Kreme donut boxes were strewn across the yard and roof trash was literally everywhere and I didn't have a care — I was getting a new roof.
I didn’t screen our roofers to see what color they were. I didn’t ask our veteran who they voted for. I trusted that everyone could perform their different jobs on the same turf, Earth. Facebook wars aren't the front lines of America, persevering people are.
Racist battles or trenches battles, I would have defended the RIGHTS of EITHER one of their views in my yard that day. But today, in my yard, in my America, there’s no need because there isn’t a co-exist, there is only exist.
I went inside, cracked a window for a few minutes and enjoyed a morning on the soul train. Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke, singing, roof ripping, spray generators and raucous laughter. All is well in the pines.
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Monday, August 21, 2017
I tried to talk about him on his birthday and a couple of days after, my throat wouldn't open and my eyes leaked.
But the memories were constant, consoling. My sweet sister who admittedly tells that she knows nothing about her childhood other than that she was born, quoted him word verbatim on the phone. I was telling her that we finally have our flooring put in
"Daddy would be so proud. Do you remember that night we got the new TV and he said "If I can't pay cash for it, it's not coming in the house?" she asked.
"I sure do sistah, I sure do." I told her.
Yes, Don and I could have easily had the flooring and anything else we wanted "The American Way" and put it on a Lowes card or any number of credit offerings — but we decided when we moved into the country to live smaller, to prioritize our purchases and never buy anything unless it was paid for with cash. You see, long before Dave Ramsey founded his debt free Financial Peace University, a common sense country man in Dorchester, SC did — my dad.
Daddy moved us underneath a 300-400 year old Angel Oak in the early 70's. We didn't have a phone but we had ways to communicate (just short of smoke signals.) If my granny down the dirt road needed us, she went out onto her porch and shot the pistol in the air. Don has that pistol today. We didn't have a TV for a while either. And then — one afternoon a delivery truck stirred up the dust down our sandy dirt road. The sliding delivery truck door opened and a television so big I didn't think they would get it through the front door arrived. A Curtis Mathis, top of the line colored television. And —we had 3 channels!! That night we sat around the oak cabinet encased TV and watched either Ponderosa, Gentle Ben or Little House on the Prairie, one or the other.
One of us with a caffeine buzz from the rare bottle of Coke in hand exclaimed "We must be rich!"
Daddy shot the pride down quick. "No, we sure aren't, if I can't pay cash for something after bills, it doesn't come into the house." It stuck as a memory, I wish the concept had stuck longer. But we are back there now, Don and I. We love living simple, the American dream didn't have to be chased, we could have jogged to it easily.
So — as this coincidental (or not) world goes, a few days later my sister and I are together in an antique store that she couldn't (and maybe didn't) wait on me to peruse. We are almost through the place and there is a basket with marble eggs in it. A dozen or so, various colors. I pick up one and tell the story to a friend that is with us. I've told it before but appreciate that they didn't remind me, repeating it is therapeutical.
I could have purchased several of the eggs or the whole basket, for that matter I could easily go onto Ebay or Amazon and get a whole slew of them, but — I only buy one for memories sake as they present themselves
As I placed the egg in my stone fruit and egg basket at home I recalled it again, as Daddy told it.
"When I was a young-un, we collected eggs every morning and brought them in. The pickings were getting slim and my Daddy figured we had a snake problem. Well Mama had a basket on the kitchen table and it had these marble eggs in it, my Daddy looked at those eggs after he finished eating and took one out, later he went outside and put that marble egg in one of the hen's nest. Then one evening we came in from working the fields and there was this huge snake stretched across the dirt road, it just couldn't budge. Daddy got out of the truck, killed the snake and then slit it's swollen belly and got Granny's marble egg back. He took it inside, washed it off and put it back in that basket."
I was in North Carolina when Granny moved to the nursing home. I didn't get any of her marble eggs, don't know where they went, but I could very well have one of them in my bowl right now, I get them from thrift stores or yard sales or wherever they appear. My eggs could very well end up in a resale store one day too, but the story hopefully will live on if I tell it, like my Daddy told me. I guess the moral of the story would be "Don't put all your eggs in one basket, put some in the hen's nest."
I think of him this morning — the historical eclipse, a day that makes the rhyme "Hey diddle diddle the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon" seem logical. I think of the conversation we would have if he were here.
"Daddy, what are you going to do for the eclipse?" I'd ask.
"Well, it depends on what time it is. If it's nap time, I will be sleeping." And then he'd wink and wiggle his nose and tell me that he has built a contraption in his shed out of beer cans and scrap metal"
Don and I would laugh and tell him "No thank you, we bought some of those newfangled glasses that are going to protect us from going blind."
The sun rose this morning, bright and blazing on this day near Charleston, I'm about 30 minutes from where that hen house was, where Daddy was, where we were. We don't all get to choose where we are going to be on certain day's, like the object of Carly Simon's disaffection in her song lyrics, “You flew your Learjet up to Nova Scotia to see the total eclipse of the sun." but — we can choose who we are going to be with. Don and I will go outside on the tailgate of the truck, have a cocktail, in celebration of an earlier happy hour and watch the anomaly in the sky with our glasses. Remembering the card board boxes we had in the early 70's and then I'll toast to the creator of our unnatural and natural wonder's and to Daddy "What does it look like from your side Daddy?"
Sunday, June 25, 2017
Thursday, April 20, 2017
A few months ago, probably around the winter solstice, I curled up on the couch with my 2017 Burpee Seed catalog, over-wintering like the shriveled stalks of last year’s garden outside my window. I anticipated the extra tock of the clock each day that will eventually lead me to long, leisurely, southern summer evenings. I was anxious to wipe the slate clean and start anew—my yard a fresh palette.
Thursday, March 30, 2017
The cool evening air was heady with the wafting aroma of charred, broiled and baked everything from Charleston, SC’s mecca of culinary delights — an olfactory appetizer of sorts as my husband and I hobbled the cobblestones on our way to Hank’s Seafood Restaurant.
Balmy sea breezes whipped port side of 10 Hayne street as Hank’s Seafood Restaurant came into view. The faded brick facade of Hank’s is just timeless and tonight could have been any century Charleston. I could almost imagine fish hawkers shouting their catch at the City Market which is a hop skip and jump from Hank’s, making it a viable part of our evening if we choose to stroll after dinner.
Fresh, plentiful bounty in close proximity, that’s really what Hank’s is all about. According to Hank’s Restaurants’ overseer and first Executive Chef Frank McMahon, “From day one at Hank's Seafood Restaurant, our goal has been to use the best possible local seafood, and there are no suppliers more local than Dan Long from Crosby's Seafood, Tommy Edwards from Shem Creek for seasonal local white shrimp, and more recently, Mark Marhefka for fish, as well as David Belanger for caper blades oysters and clams and Kimberly Carroll for crab.”
Frank’s quest for quality is mirrored today by Executive Chef, Tim Richardson. Hank's Seafood Restaurant has been voted “Best Seafood in Charleston” by Charleston City paper for 16 consecutive years, coinciding with Chef Tim Richardson’s tenure.
I knew within minutes of entering Hank’s that this establishment was a well oiled machine. We were taken by the hostess to a perfectly set table in a comfortable surround booth and allowed to settle just long enough before a waiter took our drink order. The few minutes before they arrived, I took in my surroundings. The warehouse, though not nearly as old as it appears, was once a popular disco in the 70’s. Nothing vaguely reminiscent of that era remains. The disco balls have been replaced with masterfully designed décor by an award winning New York architectural firm along with designer Amelia Handegan. I felt as if I were simultaneously in antebellum Charleston, and oddly, in the galley of a fine old ship. Richly stained and polished wide pine plank floors met with the bones of the structure, huge mahogany frames. Light poured through hand blown leaded glass windows highlighting the beautiful bar.
Executive Chef, Tim Richardson came out to greet us. I patted the chair and asked him to sit for a second, not something that seemed to come natural to him but he obliged. I asked Chef Richardson to tell me of a constant, something that he never tires of and that he believes to be the key component to their success, he told me without blinking. “The bounty of our fresh local seafood, for both questions. Everything else revolves around the services of our local vendors and the appreciation of our patron’s.” Chef Tim made a few suggestions which we agreed heartily to and he sprinted off to prepare while we sipped our cocktails.
I tried the “New Old Fashioned” while my husband had “Hank’s Signature Oyster Shooter.” We love oysters, so keeping in the theme, tried several variations of them on Hank’s menu.
Our first was the ½ dozen oyster sampler, a beautifully presented collection of three distinctively different oysters on a bed of sea salt. Briny, less briny and mildly earthy, and finally a plump sweet. We loved them all. As French poet Léon-Paul Fargue (1876-1947) once wrote: "I love oysters. It's like kissing the sea on the lips."
We followed the half shell’s with a dish of “Oyster’s Casino” in Garlic Butter, Smoked Bacon, Asiago Cheese and bread crumbs.
Next and perhaps my favorite were the “Grilled Oysters” on the half shell with Red Wine Mignonette Gastrique, Crispy Andouille and Arugula.
Last but not least, we enjoyed “Hank’s Fried Oysters” served with Green Tomato, Sweet Corn and Blue Cheese Vinaigrette with Pickled Okra
Our entrée, “Seared Scallops with Red Rice and Collards” was exceptional. The scallops were hands down the best I have ever eaten.
All of our dishes were delivered perfectly by Hank’s efficient non-intrusive wait staff, they were amazing and were both there and not there in near perfection.
In our enjoyment of the evening I had not even noticed that the restaurant had filled to capacity. The community table, the first of it’s kind in Charleston was now full and lively as well. Towers of seafood dishes sashayed before us, glasses clinked and the low lively rumble of conversation over good food capped the best evening. Well, that was until our lovely waitress suggested dessert.
We finished our meal with a shared dessert of “Hank’s Creamy Peanut Butter Pie”, a delightfully rich end to our meal. Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Mousse, Chocolate Ganache, Graham Cracker Crust. I was so full that I had to leave a bit on the plate. My husband said I would miss that bite later, I have — every day since.