Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Cupcakes


I have a new obsession: cupcakes. It all started a few weeks ago when S & I bought a dozen cupcakes at a little shop in Calabash, NC for my sister's birthday. Then last week, I visited my local cupcakery, and that was all she wrote. I'm especially fond of anything with coconut, although I'm not sure why because normally I don't care for coconut too much. I'm afraid now that my diet is going to go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Oh, well. At least it's just one little cupcake (at a time) and not a whole cake or anything.

Time lapse

Mom & Dad's backyard, Sunday afternoon. It was still snowing.

Monday morning at sunrise.
Monday morning, around 9AM.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow update



No idea what time the snow started, but when I woke up at 6:30AM, the ground was covered. By 8:30AM (approx. when this photo was taken), we had 3-4 inches, and by noon we were up to 6 inches. Now, at 2PM, it's still snowing. One of my Facebook friends who lives nearby reported "8 inches and counting" just a few minutes ago. This is definitely some sort of record.

There was no traffic on the road this morning, so things were eerily quiet until my cousins Sandra and Anna came over on their four wheeler. Sandra was driving, and Anna was riding on a large empty horse feed sack that was tethered to the four wheeler. We heard that the electricity is out in some areas. Our lights flickered several times, but so far, we're good. The question now becomes . . . when will I get back to Charlotte?!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas?

Merry Christmas from southeastern North Carolina, where we're under a winter storm warning. This is something that hardly ever happens here, yet according to the most recent report, we're expecting anywhere from 4 to 6 inches of snow overnight and tomorrow! I grew up here and never remember having more than 1-2 inches of snow at a time. In fact, most years it doesn't snow at all here, so that should tell you just how unusual this event is. Of course, everyone's excited. I'm told that grocery stores emptied out yesterday as people prepared "just in case" (most stores were closed today for Christmas) and today my Dad suggested for me take my car to town to fill up with gas "just in case." (I hope I'm not sorry later that I didn't take his advice!) Anyway . . . the next 24 hours are sure to be interesting. I'll fill you in when I can.

Hope you had a great holiday! :-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Aw, shucks


Last weekend we celebrated my sister's 40th birthday (so hard to believe that my "little" sister is now 40!!!) and my brother-in-law's 41st in true Carolina style. We all drove to the coastal town of Calabash, North Carolina, which is known for its seafood restaurants (our favorite? Ella's. It's worth it to see Ella's photo gallery if you've never been to Calabash.) It's December, which means . . . IT'S OYSTER SEASON!!! Roasted (steamed) oysters is a Carolina favorite, and that's what my sister wanted. [I guess this is where I add the disclaimer that I'm not a big oyster fan, although I did partake, given that it was a birthday celebration and all. Let's just say I took one for the team. LOL!]

To give you an idea of how much of a Carolina tradition this is, my nephew learned how to properly use an oyster knife at the age of three. And my Mom can shuck her way through a bushel of oysters in about thirty seconds. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but not much.

S and I split a "full roast" of oysters. I have no idea what this means, except that it's twice as much as a half roast. They bring it to you in a big steamer pan with the lid on, and it's REALLY hot. You carefully open up the lid, carefully grab an oyster, carefully take your oyster knife and pop it open, and Voila!


Good times, baby. Good Carolina times. And guess who's becoming quite the pro at shucking (and eating) oysters? That's right, a certain gal who was born in New Jersey and raised in Europe!!! Bet if you'd ask, she'd even give you a tip or two. We might as well go ahead and get her that Carolina Girl hat and make it official. :-)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fear not the nail gun


I did some volunteer work with my local Habitat for Humanity yesterday. As you probably know, this international organization focuses on providing affordable housing for people who need it. The houses aren't free; the homeowner has to be able to make mortgage payments and they also contribute a significant number of hours to the construction. Our supervisor told us that 20% of the cost of a home is in the labor, so by using volunteers, that reduces the price of the home. Of course, there are other variables, such as interest-free loans and donated materials; that makes the home even more affordable.

About a dozen people showed up to lend a hand yesterday. At first, we thought we were going to be painting at a house on the north side (because that's what it said on the web site), but there was a logistical mix-up and we ended up doing trim work at another house, shown above. Being new to construction, I wasn't really sure what "trim work" meant, but I was willing to learn.  I was assigned to work with a team of two other people to measure the base of the walls for three bedrooms. We gave the measurements to a professional, who cut baseboards to our specifications. Then we installed them with a nail gun. At first, I didn't want to use the nail gun. I'd never used one previously. I considered it to be loud and scary. But the supervisor demonstrated how to use it and how to load it, and then encouraged me to give it a try. So I did. It was kind of cool and empowering. I'm not afraid of the nail gun anymore! :-)

After we nailed the baseboards to the studs (which were marked on the drywall), we caulked everything. My caulking gun was defective, so I ended up getting as much of the caulking material on my hands and apron as I did on the walls. Or so it seemed. Oh, well. You can't do construction and NOT get dirty, right?!!

By the time we shut down around 1PM, I was tired and hungry. I walked into the Qdoba on Woodlawn in my dirty construction clothes, not really caring what anyone thought about it. In fact, I kind of liked walking in there looking like that. As heads turned, the feeling of empowerment continued: I AM THE MASTER OF THE NAIL GUN!!! AND I HAVE BURNED ENOUGH CALORIES TODAY TO EAT WHATEVER I WANT!!! Bwhahahahahaha!!!

I enjoyed my experience so much that I can hardly wait to do it again. I just need the right tools and equipment. I already have a hard hat and an apron. After lunch, I visited my local hardware store and bought a hammer, safety goggles, a pair of work gloves, some carpenter pencils, and a bar of Lava soap. Now I just need a pair of steel-toed work boots and I'll be good to go. If I can master the nail gun, can a sander or router or jigsaw be far behind?

Friday night at the local coffeehouse


After dinner at Kabob Grill in Dilworth last Friday night, S & I decided to pop by the coffeehouse next door for lattés and beans. Turns out this is the "original" Dilworth Coffee, which according to our barista opened in 1989. OK, so I haven't yet been to every independent coffee shop in Charlotte, but I have to say that Dilworth Coffee - and in particular, this location - is my favorite so far. I could hang out here all day. Look closely in the photo, and you'll see a sort of self-portrait. :-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Southern gothic


We saw lots of Spanish moss on trees in Georgia. It especially likes Live Oaks, but we also saw it on Cypress and other trees. There was a flyer in our Bed & Breakfast that told of the legend of the Spanish moss. It goes sort of like this: back in the olden days, a bearded Spanish sailor "bought" a native woman, intending to make her his, um, wife. To get away from him, she climbed up a tree and from there, jumped into the river below. He climbed up after her, but his beard got caught in the tree. In the meantime, the woman swam away. Not sure what happened to the man, but 400 years later, pieces of his beard are still found in trees all across the Deep South.


While we were in Georgia, we stayed at the Brunswick Manor in the St. Simons Suite. Our gracious and knowledgeable host, Rusty, recommended a restaurant in downtown Brunswick called Cargo Portside Grill, where we had an amazing Saturday night dinner which included lots of Gorgonzola cheese (those who were there will reminisce this trivial statement with a smile). Brunswick also has an amazing wine shop called True Vine. I was rather impressed with their selection. They even had an Austrian Grüner Veltliner, which I rarely find in the States. And Spanish Cava, too!

Anyway, that's the last of the photos and stories from our recent trip to Georgia's Golden Isles. Come back again soon to see what else we've been up to!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deep fried delicacies


I'm a native Southerner who has come back home to the South after many years away. Not too long ago, I would have turned up my nose at deep fried food. But now that I'm back and exposed to it on a daily basis, I have to admit: I love the stuff. I took the photo above at a food vendor's booth at the Arts & Crafts Fair on St. Simons Island Saturday afternoon. Didn't buy anything (since I'd just eaten some local shrimp on Jekyll), but I was tempted. Deep fried, people. That's what it's all about.

P.S. Although it was a serious violation of my diet, I had lunch today at the very famous Price's Chicken Coop in Charlotte. It was the best fried chicken I've ever had. And so worth the dietary setback. :-)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Island time


After the barefoot beach walk on Saturday morning, we drove around Jekyll Island. It's a small island, so that only took a few minutes. Along the way, we saw a movie set and "trailer city" for the upcoming X-Men: First Class movie; we were told that filming would start today. In the center of the island, there are some cute little shops, beautiful old buildings formerly owned by rich folks with last names like Morgan (as in J.P.) and Rockefeller, and the lovely Jekyll Island Club Hotel (above). We had lunch (local shrimp!) at an open-air place called The "Rah" Bar, and then it was time to head over to the other island . . .

St. Simons Island is larger than Jekyll, and more crowded. It's not far, only about a 10-15 minute drive across three bridges and through the town of Brunswick (which I'll write more about in my next entry). St. Simons has a busy downtown and waterfront park, and a lighthouse. An arts and crafts fair was going on, and there was live music in the waterfront park. We walked on the pier, took some photos, and enjoyed the view.

More photos and stories coming soon!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Empty beach


We just returned from a nice weekend getaway with friends to Georgia's Golden Isles, which include Jekyll Island (above) and St. Simons Island. Over the next few entries, I'll be sharing some photos and stories from our trip. Here's the first: The beach on Jekyll Island was empty Saturday morning. We removed our shoes and took a long barefoot walk. Along the way, we saw all kinds of shells and stuff on the shore, like sand dollars (intact!) and horseshoe crabs (some intact, some not!) At one point, we spotted a dolphin swimming parallel to us along the shoreline! Awesome.

Unexpected Thanksgiving

  

A few weeks ago, on the Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, I found out that my Aunt Ruthie passed away. Aunt Ruthie (wife of Uncle Bob) had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer just a few short weeks after I saw her at the family reunion in August. I remember she made a rather enigmatic comment to me as she was leaving to drive back to their home in St. Augustine, Florida: "Well, I guess this'll be my last family reunion." At the time, she didn't know she had a terminal illness. She'd just been having a lot of back pain (which was probably a result of the undetected cancer) and was finding the long car trip to be uncomfortable.  Needless to say, the events of her illness and passing were very upsetting to me, and to others in my family. We all liked Aunt Ruthie a lot, and will miss her terribly. 

It was not a typical Thanksgiving for us. But some good things did happen. I was able to travel to St. Augustine to be with my family and help out during this time; I got to know one of my cousins whom I hadn't seen since I was six years old; and I spent more time with my sister that I have in I don't know when. We experienced good weather, and one afternoon, we were able to get out and see some of the historic district of St. Augustine (above) which is beautiful, especially this time of year with all the Christmas lights everywhere. This was an unexpected Thanksgiving, for sure, but it only magnified for me what I already know: that I have a lot to be thankful for.

And I am thankful.