Wednesday, April 8, 2015

6 Places to Visit in Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston, South Carolina is a historic city that will likely win you over in just one visit!  It is truly a city that is full of Southern charm and was even voted America's friendliest city by Conde Nast Traveler. Go for the weather, architecture, food, and hospitality and you'll see firsthand why so many people rave about Charleston.

1) Waterfront Park- This is such a delightful place to visit in Charleston.  As the name suggests, it is right along the water so there are some nice views to be had. When you gaze out to the water, you can see Ft. Sumter, boats, and possibly even some dolphins.  There are plenty of benches and shaded areas as well as swings. The park is well-maintained and extremely clean. Within the park, there are two fountains--one that kids seem to enjoy running through and the Pineapple Fountain.

2) King Street- This is known as "the shopping street" in Charleston.  There are all kinds of big chain stores like Victoria's Secret, H&M, Francesca's Collections, Forever 21, and Banana Republic, but there are also plenty of locally owned shops.  If you're interested in buying local, check out this great guide from Charleston City Paper. 

3) Restaurants serving Southern cuisine- The last time I went to Charleston, I went with my Chinese co-teacher who heard about Hyman's Seafood from other teachers that work at our school. We went for the lunch and all three of us got the $19.95 combo deal which includes three items of your choice, plus a side dish.  I chose the fried oysters, fried shrimp, and Carolina style shrimp and grits with a side of sweet potato mash. Our waiter was really friendly and also brought out coleslaw, boiled peanuts, and some hush puppies while we were waiting for our meal.  Personally, I liked the shrimp and grits the most, but everything else was also great. There are little plaques on each table of which famous people ate there. Our table had some big names like Sarah Jessica Parker, James Brown, Earth, Wind, and Fire, and Sandra Bullock.

Of course, there plenty of other restaurants to try in Charleston if this one doesn't appeal to you. Here is a Top 10 list from USA Today.

4) Rainbow Row- Located from 83 to 107 East Bay Street, these colorful, pastel row houses are fun to admire and photograph. This is an iconic spot in Charleston and not to be missed on a walking tour. Many of the homes were built in the 1770's.

5) The Battery and White Point Garden- When I visited Charleston, I parked along the Battery (it's free and there were tons of spaces!!) and made my way into the city by walking towards White Point Garden.  The Battery is full of beautiful antebellum mansions, and the streets are lined with palmettos. White Point Garden has cannons from both the Revolutionary War and Civil War, a gazebo, and several historic monuments.

6) Charleston City Market- This is the place to go if you're looking for a souvenir to take home.  The most famous souvenirs are the Gullah sweet grass baskets and roses made out of palmetto leaves.   The City Market is four blocks long and has 300 plus vendors.

Other suggestions if you have more time are:  Folly Beach, Ft. Sumter, and South Carolina Aquarium.

Does Charleston interest you?  If you've gone before, what are your recommendations?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Revisiting Last Year's Goals

Last year I made some goals for myself, and since I didn't revisit them in January, I figured that now is as good a time as any.

Goal 1: Find a full time teaching position.  It was a struggle and I had to move states to do it, but I am currently employed as a full-time teacher in South Carolina. A lot of the people that went through my program with are still working as intervention specialists or long-term subs, and I feel like I would be doing the same thing if I hadn't moved (or gotten really lucky.) 

Goal 2: Start a new savings account.  I did start a savings account, and I'm sure glad that I did because I ended up using up a lot of the money for my move!  I ended up having to switch banks because there are no Key Banks by me here, and I made sure to open up another savings account. It is pretty pitiful right now because the cost of living is quite high where I live compared to what it was in Ohio, but I try.

Goal 3: Visit my sister in North Carolina.  Last year I was able to make this happen during my sis's spring break! I also stayed with her for a few days while I was moving from Ohio to Georgia.  Now that I'm much closer to her, a trip to NC is feasible on a long weekend.  I got to go to her baby shower and visited her in January and got to meet my new niece!

Goal 4: Learn how to cook five new meals well.  Hmmm...I guess I should have been more clear when I said "learn how to cook."  If you consider following a recipe and trying out a new crock pot meal as learning how to cook a new meal well, then I guess I accomplished this goal (barely.)  It's not like I memorized how to cook anything that involves more than 4 ingredients.  

Goal 5: Read ten new books.  I definitely did this, thanks to the free time I had last summer.  I read all three of Gillian Flynn's books, Game of Thrones, The Fault in Our Stars, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Book Thief, to name a few.  I even wrote my first book review on my blog for Someday My Prince Will Come by Jerramy Fine.  Jerramy Fine even found my review and tweeted at me, which I thought was the coolest thing ever.  Last week I finished The Girl on the Train, and I just started Eleanor and Park yesterday.  I feel like I can never keep up with what I would like to read, which I guess is a good thing because there are just so many interesting reads out there!

Goal 6: Go on a road trip. Nothing major in this category, but over Christmas break my friends and I went to Jekyll Island in Georgia.  We also stopped at Tallulah Falls one day on our trip back from Ohio.  I hope to be able to go to a few more places over the summer when I have some time off! Also, when I moved, I decided to go and visit my grandparents in Pennsylvania on my way down to Georgia.  I figured that if I was moving to the South that I should try to see them one last time before I moved even farther away.

Goal 7: Become more active.  I was doing a great job with this until I got my full-time teaching job and then surviving my week at work became my top priority.  Finally the craziness has died down a little, but about three weeks ago I got bronchitis and I'm still fighting it off.  I think I'll be able to find more time to exercise since I am getting faster at writing lesson plans and know more about the expectations for my job.

Goal 8: Make five DIY things from Pinterest. Um...this did not happen.  I did one, simple craft which was to make magnets out of coins from other countries.  This goal just was not one of my top priorities.

Goal 9: Plan and go on a trip to Costa Rica.  Since I wasn't working at all for over 3 months, I wasn't able to justify going on this trip due to my depleted savings account.  I'm not too sad since Rachael and I will be going to Iceland in July.  I'll try to get to Costa Rica one day when the timing feels right. As much as I love traveling, I don't think any trip is worth it if it's going to break the bank. 

Goal 10: Attend a local event.  In Savannah, I checked out Bacon Fest.  I also went to a local shrimp festival.  However, the best event I attended was to go to the St. Patrick's Day celebration in Savannah! I went there on the Saturday before St. Patrick's Day with Everett, Jared, and with two of their friends who were visiting from Atlanta.  As to be expected, people were engaging in all sorts of debauchery.  Savannah was packed because St. Patrick's Day is a big deal there.  It's the second largest St. Paddy's Day celebration in the States after NYC.  I was lucky enough to go back to Savannah on the actual day of St. Patrick's Day and see the parade.  

Goal 11: Try a new kind of ethnic food.  In my 2014 goals post, I said I wanted to try food from South America.  I didn't do that, but I have been indulging in all sorts of Southern foods!  I went to an oyster roast, got to try Low Country boil, had shrimp and grits, hush puppies, ate at Mrs. Wilkes, and had all kinds of traditional Southern food for Thanksgiving and Christmas since Ev's family was nice enough to invite me to their celebrations. Oh, and my Chinese co-teacher prepared some dumplings and nian-gao (a dessert made with red bean paste) for our class for our Chinese New Year celebration.  Of course she let me try some, too.  :)

Goal 12: Visit two states I've never been to.  I have not visited two new states, but have done a lot of exploring locally.  I will be going to Massachusetts this summer for a few days with Rachael. Technically I have been there before since I was there several times as a small child in order to visit my great-grandmother.  I don't count it since I can't really remember anything about those trips besides that my great-grandmother was really sweet and tried to give me all of her coins.  

Goal 13: Keep a gratitude journal.  I have a notebook that I've been jotting a few things down in, although I've been slacking lately.  So...I sort of accomplished this goal?

Goal 14: Start a new holiday tradition.  This year my friends and I went to The Westin in downtown Savannah to look at the decorations and gingerbread houses.  I'd like for this tradition to continue, but I'm not sure I'll be around here next year.  As long as I make an effort to do something "Christmassy" with my friends or family, I'll be good. :)

Goal 15: Do something adventurous that I've never done before. Well, I moved across the country all alone and got my first full-time teaching job in America, so that has to count for something!

Goal 16: Invest in a designer purse.  I bought my second Kate Spade purse last year and still love it!

Goal 17: Host a party.  Nope--I never did this.  I don't even know enough people down here to host a party, so this won't work.  

Goal 18: Go on another blogger meet up.  I really, really wanted to go to the Columbus meet up organized by Shane, but the date of the meet up was the weekend I was moving.  I haven't heard of any meet ups in the Low Country, but I would be open to going!  

Goal 19: Surprise a friend or family member.  I surprised my sis by getting her the swing she wanted for my baby niece, but nothing major in this category.

Goal 20: Get my tattoo redesigned. Yes!! I took the plunge and went for it, and I'm so glad that I did...I'm proud of my new tattoo rather than ashamed as I once was.

Although I didn't accomplish everything, I'm okay with that.  At least I am not subbing anymore...The finding a full-time teaching position was my #1 goal for obvious reasons.  I haven't made a list like this for this year.  I'm going to keep it simple and straight forward and just say that I want to travel more and to save more money.  Don't you love how my two goals kind of contradict each other?'s to hoping!

What are your current goals? If you made a New Year's resolution, how are you doing with it?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace

One of the perks of living near Savannah is getting to walk by the beautiful, historic homes.  Ever since touring the Owens-Thomas House, I've been wanting to take a tour of another home.  Ev and I talked it over and decided to visit the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace.  In case you don't already know this, Juliette Gordon Low was the woman who founded the Girl Scouts.  (I only learned this because of my frequent visits to Savannah.)

The tour was $10.00 and our guide was very interesting and informative. Here is just some of what I learned:

**Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts in 1912, and her nickname was Ms. Daisy.
** She was a talented artist, but could not pursue it at the time since it was not a career that was considered "appropriate" for a woman to have.  When you tour the home, you are able to see her artwork on display.  There are paintings, portraits, sculptures, hand-painted plates, and she experimented with wood burning.
** There is a living relative that still stops by the house and makes the staff nervous because she is allowed to plop down on the furniture and touch anything she wants.
** One of the highlights is the bulls-eye stained glass window.
** Juliette Gordon Low had hearing problems and used silver nitrate to try to cure an ear infection she had.  Unfortunately, this damaged her hearing further.  Our guide told us a story of when one of Ms. Daisy's friends was giving a speech.  Juliette couldn't really hear what her friend was saying, but decided to encourage her by cheering loudly and by standing and clapping.  Everyone in the audience was staring at her, and later she came to find out that the speech her friend was giving was all in honor of her!
** There is an elevator on site, which is not that typical. The rooms are also very spacious.
** Ms. Daisy tried to get a divorce, years passed, and her husband died right before it was finalized.
** Juliette Gordon Low went on a trip to England and met Sir Robert Baden-Powell who started the boy scouts.  He told her of a problem he was having, which was that hundreds of English girls tried to join the boy scouts by using their brothers' names.
**Once she founded the Girl Scouts in Savannah, she started wearing the official Girl Scout uniform and wore it almost every day.  She was even buried in it!
** She was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012 (posthumously) by President Barack Obama.  It is on display in the home.
** We were shown vintage viewfinders, which which were quite popular among courting couples who were not permitted to touch.  By using the viewfinder together, they could "accidentally" brush hands.
** Juliette's mother, Eleanor Kinzie Gordon, was also a bit eccentric and was considered by many to be a "strong" woman. One of her hobbies was sliding down banisters, and she actually met her husband by crashing into him while sliding down a banister and knocking him over.
** The Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace is owned by the Girl Scouts.  In fact, the outside garden was done by Girl Scouts. 

Hopefully I got all of my facts straight.  I went home and wrote down what I remembered from the tour right away, but there are so many other wonderful things to see and learn about in the house.  I was never even a Girl Scout, but I truly enjoyed learning about this inspirational woman who was ahead of her time!

Were you a Girl Scout?  Would you be interested in touring the Juliette Gordon Low House?