Folly, Food & Fun...

While our friend, Deb, was at work, her husband, Nick took us to Folly Beach.

Beachcombing is one of my favorite pastimes. It's extra interesting here because the coastal waters of South Carolina are teeming with seashells. In fact, more than 700 species live in these waters. Common local shells include whelks, angel wings, arks, pen shells, augers, cockles, slipper shells, jingles, coquina, and olive shells. Starfish, sea urchins, and sand dollars also can be found.
Nick and Steve eye spied this cool Lettered Olive.
Oliva sayana, was designated the official shell of the State by Act No. 360 in 1984. Dr. Edmund Ravenel of Charleston, an early pioneer in conchology, found and named the Lettered Olive shell which is quite prolific along the South Carolina Coast.
This is my first exposure to a  mollusk. All members of the Olividae family are carnivorous sand-burrowers and we delighted in watching it do just that.
Dinner was highly anticipated Chicken & Waffles from Page's Okra Grill. This was our third time eating this delish dish and we weren't disappointed.
At sunset, we drove over our favorite bridge, The Ravenel, to have dessert at a new restaurant.
Harold’s Cabin, co-owned by actor Bill Murray, is a reimagined corner store and cafe concept, housed in the same building on the corner of President and Congress Streets as the original Harold’s Cabin, which served the residents of Charleston’s Westside neighborhood from the 1920s to the 1950s. This historic neighborhood is full of quaint homes and has a really wonderful vibe.
You have to love a place that's closed on Tuesdays to "Roast Marshmallows".
The decor was beyond awesome. We came for the nectar & regale section of the menu: grilled carrot cake and beignets. There are no words to describe their yumminess. What a cool space Charleston now has and what incredible friends we have for sharing it with us.
"One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop
whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating.”
– Luciano Pavarotti

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The Big Fake Wedding: Charleston

Knowing that the chances of us ever attending a Charlestonian wedding in a historic home were pretty slim, I purchased tickets for The Big Fake Wedding®. This evening is billed as a bridal show alternative, complete with an emotional vow renewal ceremony, light bites and a dance-party reception. "Wedding guests" are brides- and grooms-to-be who get to truly experience the wedding vendors in action. And some of the guests (us) just came to have a unique evening in a truly unique place.

The party started before we even entered the venue with Chelsea's Lil White Box traveling photo booth- combining three of my favorite things: photography, props and a VW van... so cool.

While we waited for the ceremony to begin, we sipped Hall Wines (from Napa of all places) while listening to the amazing guitar playing of Thomas.
This looked like a 'real' wedding with spectacular floral arrangements provided by Lux & Union.
'Dinner' was sumptuous bites that were unbelievably unique. Monte Cristo Egg Rolls (pictured), Watermelon Gazpacho, Gnocci and Carpaccio were expertly created by Duvall Events. 
Dessert was a chocolate fountain with Sweet Belgium-Taste's heart waffles on a stick. So creative. The attention to every detail was quite evident.
And the location, oh my! The Gadsden House (1798) is a grand Federal style Charleston manor, listed on the National Historic Register and celebrated as one of the top 10 historic properties to save and restore in Charleston. Built by Christopher Gadsden, a revolutionary war hero and statesman, it was given to his son as a wedding gift. What a perfect place for weddings to occur.
I totally got emotional during the vow renewal ceremony for Christopher & Jessica. I don't know if it was because our son had just gotten married or that fact that we had just celebrated our 29th anniversary. It was surprisingly emotional and quite remarkable, even though they were total strangers to us. Their love and commitment was wonderful to witness.
The goals of The Big Fake Wedding team are to promote local businesses, inspire brides and grooms, and to encourage solid and committed marriages. For our one night in Charleston, I could think of no better place for us to be!

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A Day in Charleston: Part 1...

It was good to meander the familiar streets of this special City.

First thing we came upon was a large group of bikes and people. At the end of the school year, a phenomenon occurs here in Charleston. Most of the students depart for home or other destinations and leave their bikes locked up all over the town. It was one of the happenings that surprised us when we were here in May. We had never seen such a thing.
Well, we discovered today, that someone went around, cut off all the locks, then gathered and stored all those bikes for today's auction. There were hundreds of bikes, leading us to believe this is a huge fundraiser for the College of Charleston. It was hosted by a real auctioneer. Hearing the quick "Do I hear...?" and seeing the numbered paddles raise was pretty cool for me.
Today was also the beginning of Charleston’s ten day long MOJA Arts Festival: A Celebration of African-American and Caribbean Arts. Wanting to see something of the festival, we headed to the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art.
This solo exhibition features the work of Fahamu Pecou, an artist profoundly involved in exploring the state of Black existence – life and death – today. DO or DIE: Affect, Ritual, Resistance serves as one artist’s action in opposition to overwhelming societal forces, seeking instead to elevate and re-contextualize Black life and death. Through performance, painting, drawing and video Pecou reframes our view, incorporating references from Yoruba/ Ifa ritual to cultural retentions of hip-hop to the philosophy of NĂ©gritude, and through this shapes a story that seeks to affirm life via an understanding of the balance between life and death.
Artist Pecou states: “DO or DIE is a different type of spectacle, one that distances itself from the terror and violence typically associated with Black bodies. It affirms life and life beyond. It reclaims what was lost, turning our gaze inward and ultimately forward. Through ritual, performance and image, the exhibit challenges the perception of death’s dominion. Ultimately, DO or DIE is a reminder of an intimate balance that affirms life. It is art as affective resistance. It is a healing.” After viewing the varied artwork, we left with a great hopefulness about the current state of the world.
We also left with a little bit of art purchased for $5 at the Art-o-mat® . There are over 100 of these retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. I saw my first one several years ago and have loved the idea of them ever since. 

Lunch was with our friend, Sharon, at our "usual" spot. Fun stuff!

We then joined some of the performers that would be participating in MOJA's opening street parade which featured festive Caribbean and African costumes, African drummers and more. This was just our day in Charleston. The night was even more exciting.

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Awendaw Green Barn Jam...

When we were here in May, a Barn Jam was always high on our list of "things we want to do" but for some reason it never happened. Well it happened tonight and it was so worth the wait.

The Awendaw Green Barn Jams are an outdoor, year-round Wednesday night original music showcase that get folks off their couch to enjoy and connect with others and support original music and the artist that make it. It is held in Awendaw, north of Charleston, under grand oaks by an old barn that evokes the Lowcountry in a uniquely hyper-local bohemian atmosphere on the grounds of the Sewee Outpost. It runs from 6-10pm every Wed night of the year and features a diverse assembly of music from around the globe. Try a wood fired pizza, the grill, or fresh local oysters in season and drink your own libations responsibly. $5 donation at door, all ages are welcome, BYOB, pets on a leash, and it is always a family friendly occasion.

As the evening got later, the audience grew. There were at least 200 music loving people there enjoying each of the unique musical acts that performed.

We dined on the wood-fired pizza and it was delicious.
We were completely blown away by the talent of everyone. This was just one of those nights that just has to be experienced to fully grasp its awesomeness.
And what was extra cool was that the owner, Eddie, let us camp in his neighboring eight-acre compound. It was us, a bunch of chickens and goats, and the musicians who had traveled to play. It was one of the most amazing and magical nights of music for us... a pinch me moment for certain.

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Old Santee Canal Park...

Steve discovered this very interesting 195-acre park, which commemorates the area's rich history and habitat. Among its attractions are the Stony Landing House, built in 1843, and four miles of boardwalks that meander through the quiet backwaters of Biggin Creek and its surrounding swamp, an interpretive center and a history museum.

A great history lesson was had at the Berkeley County Museum and Heritage Center which tells the 12,000-year story of the region. Exhibits and artifacts filled in some blanks we had in our South Carolina history and focused on Brig. Gen. Francis Marion (the Swamp Fox), American Indians, Colonial life, the Civil War, early medicine, rural electrification, early education and the Francis Marion National Forest. What made it even more intriguing is that it was so site specific. When there was a relic displayed, it was found right where we stood.
 In the early days of this nation, as settlers from South Carolina moved inland from the coast, it was essential that they get their agricultural products, principally cotton and indigo, to Charleston, S.C., for export, since there were no manufacturing plants in the young country. Roads were practically nonexistent, and the best method of transportation was by rivers in the Santee River system. However, boats small enough to navigate the tributaries and on the Santee River were often lost on the open sea voyage from the mouth of the Santee to Charleston. Of necessity, our forefathers determined that something had to be done to prevent the loss of cargoes and often the lives of those transporting the fruit of a year's hard earned labor via the Santee River to Charleston.
The park's centerpiece is its Interpretive Center that chronicles the area's history as far back as 4000 B.C., including the 1863 construction of the Little David, a semi-submersible Confederate torpedo boat used in the Civil War.
The Center also had indigenous animals, found in the creeks. Thankfully, this was the only alligator we came in contact with.
 After learning all we could indoors, we strolled the boardwalk.

We continue to delight in all we are seeing and learning on our Grand Tour of America.

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Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader

Every now and then, I come upon a book that surprises me and I have to share it. This slim publication by Anne Fadiman is one such book (1998).

First off, Ms. Fadiman is anything but a common reader and I am embarrassed to admit that I had to purchase a dictionary just to fully understand this book. That said, I still loved it and highly recommend it to my bibliophile friends.

I think one of the most important attributes of this book is that it made me look at writing, reading and books, in general, differently. This is the author's love story with books and language and her family's way of embracing both. It may not be for hoi polloi but it was certainly for me.
Writing with remarkable grace, she revives the tradition of the well-crafted personal essay, moving easily from anecdotes about Coleridge and Orwell to tales of her own pathologically literary family.

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Old Town Bluffton, SC...

We have been wanting to visit this quaint village since a girlfriend's daughter moved here a couple of years ago. We're so glad we detoured for a quick, local history lesson.

Bluffton’s coastal location along the May River with its adjacent forests, saltwater estuaries and wildlife provided a rich environment for the birth of this 19th century town. Its story is as authentic and chocked full of history as that of its home state, South Carolina and we were here to learn as much as we could during our brief visit.
I have a new bumper sticker on my car that says "I BRAKE for Little Free Libraries".
Breakfast was delicious and on the porch of the Carson Cottage (1890).

An intriguing stop for us was the Bluffton Oyster Co. (1899). Oystering was the business of Bluffton up until the 1930s, with five different oyster gathering operations. This building is as much a part of Bluffton’s history as much as any other building in town.
Located at the end of Wharf Street on the May River, it was built on a foundation of shells from previous shucking operations from the last two hundred years. It is the oldest cannery factory still in operation in the state. So interesting.
Our night will be spent at the Hilton Head Marina. "Home is where you park it!"

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