Thursday, October 30, 2008

Overview of Charleston's Food Scene

High Cotton
Great food, helpful staff, prompt service.
Prices are high, but menu selection and quality of the food reflects the price. Not really any reasonably priced bottles of wine, you'd be better off ordering by the glass. The mixed drinks were not worth the high price, except for the Caipirina (pronounced Cap-a-ree-na) which is a brazilian drink made with cachaca. The Caipirina may have been the best one I'd had in the States, and it is rare that bars stock cachaca. The Mojitos were not very good. The Espresso Martini was not tasty at all, yet they touted it as one of their favorite martinis. The deserts were delicious, small portions and high prices, though. High Cotton makes its own pickles, sausage, and sauces that are delicious! They also have coffee made exclusively for their restaurant that is available for purchase. Several of the food products are from local farms and ranches.
They serve several menu items that are different, like chile rubbed Texas venison, duck hash and stuffed rabbit dishes. The rabbit was very good, but my favorite was the Bourbon Glazed Eden Farms Pork Chops. I got the shrimp stuffed Carolna Trout, and it was very good, but dissapointing after I tried the rabbit and pork chop dishes.
We went to the Sunday brunch there also. They had several different flavors of mimosas which were great. The brunch was not a buffet, but they several different menu items. My favorite was the eggs Benedict atop crab cakes and fried green tomatoes. The prices were very, very reasonable. Once again the atmosphere and service were great.

Blossoms was advertised as a mid range restaurant, but the prices were only a little less than High Cotton. They did have some lower priced items like pizza. The food was of premium quality, but smaller portions. We all left feeling adequately full, too full for desserts. The wine was reasonable, but there were not that many choices. It was a very enjoyable experience. Great, prompt service and the staff was attentive. The decor was very cool! I ordered a salad and a pasta dish, and the goat cheese on the salad was very, very smooth. Both dishes were delicious. The pasta was homemade.

Fleet Landing Seafood Restaurant
Great service! I can't say enough about the excellent service! It is a casual restaurant on the waterfront, and the prices are a step below High Cotton and Magnolias. The food was great also. The pimento and cheese appetizer tasted almost like my mom's, so it tasted fresh and homemade, but it just wasn't quite as good. The crab brushetta appetizer was a little bland, but again, fresh tasting. The flounder was excellent, as was the she crab soup - best she crab soup we had in Charleston. Charleston is known for it's she crab soup, so you HAVE to get it while you are there, and I'd suggest getting it here. If you like fried fish, don't pass up the flounder! The fried oysters were good - I'd say excellent, but some oysters tasted better than others. The ones that were good, however, were very good. The shrimp and grits were awesome. The grilled swordfish over polenta was good, the fish was cooked just right and had a good flavor, but the polenta was bland. We had a great time at this restaurant, great casual atmosphere and best service at any restaurant.

Kamenskis is THE place for dessert and coffee. The coffee was excellent and the variety and quality of the desserts were great. I split the ice cream brownie with my twin sister, and we wolfed it down. I could have had another dessert if it weren't for the sugar high. They have a selection of mousses, and my mom, having an affinity for mousse said was a good, smooth and creamy mousse. My sister got one of their cakes that she said was moist and flavorful. Had we been in Charlston longer, we would have come here again!

Mediterranean Deli by Tristan's on S. Market - I do not know the name of this place. It is a great choice for a quick lunch. If you are shopping at the marketplace, you can take a quick break but not get tired of things taking too long. You order at the counter and they cook from scratch. The Mediterranean plate was very good and authentic. The hummus, however, could have stood a little more garlic, the baba ganoush had a spice in it that I am not used to, and the tabbouli could have used a little more twang with lemon juice. All that to say, I would definitely order it again given the opportunity! The chicken salad sandwich with cranberries and pecans was excellent! The chicken pesto sandwich was also a good choice. Chicken breasts sandwiches can be bland no matter where you go, but this one had enough variety in it to hold my attention. The service was great here, also. I highly recommend this place!

East Bay Crab ShackWe went to the East Bay Crab Shack right next to the hotel (Lodge Alley Inn) on East Bay and it was great for the price. After the high quality food we had been getting, you could tell the quality difference, but the amount of food and the price were great. Decent service, too. They have posted their recipes on their web site, and there are coupons there, also.

East Bay Coffee Shop has a good atmosphere, and cool decor. They draw fun leaves on the foam on top of some of the coffees (Au Lait) so make sure you look for it! One day the coffee was much better than the other day, and the baked goods were not worth mentioning. I'd rather Kamenskis, but this was a few doors down from the hotel and the feel was much more modern.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Day 3, Charleston, SC

Today I slept in until 8 am WooHoo! I jumped out of bed quickly, because Kimberly had to get to the airport, and we were going to go to the slave market. It was called Ryan’s Mart and it was where slaves were traded in Charleston. It was very humbling to think of how we thought it acceptable to view people as property and had no regard to family except to use it in the lives of slaves to manipulate them. As I write this, I feel so inadequate by the statements I have mentioned. What do you have left, if you don’t have your freedom? Terrible, terrible, and a few of the quotes rang in my soul ,like, “Am I not your sister and your daughter?” It was deeply riveting.
We all dropped Kimberly off at the airport and went to Middleton Plantation. The grounds were quite remarkable, and my favorite part of the visit there, besides seeing the old, majestic oak trees, and how ancient they looked, was seeing how the southern economy, so strong pre-civil war era, was affected during the civil war and then was further affected at the abolition of slavery. The knowledge the slaves brought over from Africa shaped Charleston, especially pertaining to rice and indigo.
Our garden guide talked to us about formal gardens, symmetry, and depth of illusion. Amazing what you can do with plants and landscape architecture. The wood nymph statue was gorgeous, but the secret gardens were disappointing. Just a small grassy field covered in grass and surrounded by high bushes. Francis Hodges Burnett’s book of the Secret Garden, being my favorite book as a young girl, I wanted to see blooms pushing through the dirt, a high wall, rose bushes, ivy, and tall trees. What I saw was a grassy field planked by bushes. We saw so many things, though. The plantation was self supportive, including pottery, woodworking, and weaving.
We finished the vacation in Charleston at Magnolia restaurant, and it was all delicious food. We had a great time laughing and embarrassing dad with all the racket. Only one night and half a day left, then I get to fly back to my family. Charleston has truly been a charming, genteel, southern city, ripe with history.

Day Two Charleston, South Carolina

Crisp coolness awakens me as Karen and I go for a brisk morning walk. We head to the water and walk along the coast. Winding through streets, we make a keen find. Passing by an open courtyard, we notice that it is an artist gallery open early. The artist invites us to look around, and as I leave the courtyard and enter his gallery, there are three buckets of dirt and a gaping hole in his hardwood floor. He has peeled back the flooring and is digging out under his floor because it was filled in as they extended Charleston’s coastline out. We could see the brick wall of the building under the floor. We also turned the corner and found the painted row houses. It was a great walk. We got back in time to go to a Sunday brunch that was delicious. We walked it off looking at the houses in Charleston, and toured the Calhoun Mansion. A quick rest and a coffee break, then off to more shopping, and boy did we shop! We ended the evening at Fleet Landing Seafood Restaurant. Another great day in charming Charleston!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Our annual sister–mom vacation

Yay for Sisters! And Mom! And this year, Dad!
Every year my mom and sisters and I meet up for a weekend away. This year is Charleston,South Carolina. We are having a great time, fun, full of laughter, and relaxing! This year we invited our dad to join us and he footed the bill for the hotel. Go dad! When I arrived yesturday, I could see that the town was even more beautiful and quaint than I had imagined, even through the torrent of rain.

My morning yesterday started off with a nice breakfast out with Mark, and then he rushed me to Memphis when the first leg of my flight (to Memphis) was cancelled at the departure time. I seriously ran through the airport and everyone in the security line let me go to the very front. That was cool – good ole southern hospitality! One lady laughed when I told her what time my flight was departing. But I made it and my luggage did too!

Back to the trip – we went to High Cotton for dinner the first night and it was great. We stayed up laughing in our nice two bedroom condo. Today was full of shopping at the open air market and all the cute shops on the streets around it. we had our annual carriage ride which really gave us a good layout of the history of Charleston. Lunch was of Mediteranian flair and everything was homemade. Of course we had our afternoon coffee break and then enjoyed another great dinner at Blossoms. The ghost tour of choice was to the town jail. It was full of history, but we saw no apparitions. After the ghost tour we rode the rickshaws (bicycle-manned two-seater cart rides) back to the hotel for the finale of dessert at High Cotton. I liked my dessert best, which was a chocolate mousse pie with oreo crust and surrounded with a chocolate shell. Our waitress was originally from the town I live in and took ballet lessons from my business partner’s mom. How random is that?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pumpkin Patch

We had a great day! Hilights included the pumpkin patch, the playground, the hay bales, and playing in the corn kernel "sand box". We went with our homeschool group, and were accompanied by our good friends, Carmen and family.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Nutritional regimen a la Carrie

After trying to treat my ear naturally with colloidal silver and garlic and goldenseal drops, I caved and I'm on antibiotics. My good friend and neighbor, Carrie, came over yesterday to see how I was feeling. She raided my "medicine cabinet" and pulled out all the supplements she wanted me to take. Here is my regimen:
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar diluted in water twice a day
Chamomile tea by Tazo
Raw garlic pressed between two spoons and swallowed -not as bad as it seems -I promise! done every hour - not that I make it every hour!
Echinachea once a day
Probiotics taken every two hours
Omega 3 fatty acid twice a day
Lots of water

We'll see how it works!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blame it on Facebook!

I feel awful. Achy. I should have known to take better care of myself. But it had been a week since I had been on facebook or even visited my own blog! So I stayed up late last night. With an earache. Now I feel terrible today. I hardly got any sleep at the conference. It was way too much fun to worry with sleep. And I stayed awake in all the conference talks. Without coffee. Now that means something, doesn't it? Back to today. I got up and worked out. That was for me. Hanging out on facebook, that was for me. Cleaning the kitchen instead of starting school with the kids - that was definitely for me. Sometimes I just can't think straight if the house is messy. I needed to control one area of the house. Why was the kitchen dirty? Oh yeah, facebook. I was going to hang out at Barnes and Noble while the kids were in Co-op classes. I was too achy to walk in the store, so I laid the seat back and slept in the car. For two hours. Sleeping in the car over a latte. Now you know how bad I feel.

About the messy house. Last night I was walking around and looking at the soccer cleats all over the floor. Instead of getting angry that the kids just threw them down, I thought about how small they were and how one day I would miss seeing little shoes all over the house. Good attitude, but ya know what? Fast forward 20 years and I'll probably still be picking up their shoes- or their kids' shoes! I must be feeling bad....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

A Great Compliment

The first night of the conference was a great party hosted by one of the equipment vendors. A club owner at the table next to ours came over and told me that I was an inspiration to her. She has our picture up in her club and looks at it every day. What do you say to a compliment like that? I felt like I was walking on clouds. I don't do things as well as I want to and I have bad habits I am working on overcoming. I can see my shortcomings only too well. Last year God gave us a platform and it is nice to be reminded that the hard work is worth it on many levels, especially being able to help others and being a role model, and you know, I'm not doing such a bad job.

Awesome Conference!

Mark and I just returned from the Anytime Fitness Annual Conference at Osthoff Resort in Wisconsin. We knew we would have a great time, and well, I would say it was too short, but I can only stay up till the wee hours of the morning only so many days in a row! It was a blast!
Unforgettable Moments in any random order:
Seeing good friends,
Watching the Mississippi gals (Susan, Monya, Coy, Sheila) get the party going,
Hearing how great AF is doing in the national and international scene of fitness (WE ROCK)!
Watching Mark Walker dance on the table,
Eyewitness to the streaker (no, I don't have a picture!),
The beautiful foliage (yes, I have a TON of pictures!)
Talking about God at 5:30 am even though we stayed up all night (I almost fell out of the chair asleep),
The Yoga Class at 6:30 am - getting up early was worth it!
Colin and John Riley's hilarious video - we missed you guys!!!!
Meeting some club owners that I now admire after hearing their stories
Hanging out with Corporate Staff - you guys are great!
Mike Runyon's drinks
Bringing staff I didn't have to babysit - you guys are great, too!
Watching Rocky win the laptop!
And how could I leave off-
Turning into Expressa! for all you guys who missed the after parties, too bad...

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The things you can learn from kid movies...

I was watching part of Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium with the kids today and I found one scene very profound. It's what Magorium said about dying. Shakespeare announced King Lear's death with "He died." You would think Shakespeare, the master of weaving words, would be wrought with wisdom and wonder in bringing us into the event of the King's death.
As Magorium expressed, the eloquence in that is everyone dies. Simple in the sense that we always know it is going to happen to everyone one day. It's not the death we are sad about, it's what happens before the death that makes the death so sad. It's the way the life was lived.
Then the page is turned and a new story is begun. Everyone involved has new beginnings. It gave me comfort as I think of my cousin's wife, Tina, and their children. They are sad, but they have a new beginning and their story can be a good one. The pages are blank, waiting to be filled, and there can be grand stories to fill them. Tina is a great lady and she will write great things on those pages. I'm sure they will be tainted with sorrow, but perhaps the sorrow will make the good parts sweeter.
I really liked the movie. It was filled with imagination and great for children's minds. Perhaps one day I will be able to watch the whole thing!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Egyptian Finale and 3 course meal

Tonight Raeley Robert and Jonathan welcomed my parents and Mark into the land of Ancient Egypt with art reliefs, pyramids, and authentic food. There were lots of questions and did you know statements throughout the evening. We forgot to do several items that we had planned on doing, but with only a little bit of prep time on Wednesday, I was very proud of how well the children did. I appreciated all the help my mom was in the kitchen and there was way too much food! The menu was taken from the curriculum we use, and it consisted of Lentil soup, barley cakes, fresh melons, figs, onions, leeks and cucumbers for the first course. The discussion consisted of the culture of Egypt, primarily the food they ate. There was a nice interlude of scripture quoting from the kids, and it was followed by barley casserole, lamb meatballs, asparagus, and potato hash. The course of discussion centered around the climate of Egypt and deserts. It was all followed up with Honey Cake which was not too sweet, so we broke from traditional Ancient Egypt and added icing. The course of discussion was the history and rule of the pharohs. It was a great evening. I must say, however, I am thrilled that our next unit it Ancient Greece. I'm going to start researching good greek restaurants in the area for our Greece finale!

Buffalo Park

Today we went to Buffalo Park with my parents. It was Mark's first time going there and he was impressed, as I was the first time I went. Hilights include seeing Oliver Jr. and hearing the lion roar loudly several times. Like last time we went, we also enjoyed the giraffe and his tongue.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Funeral of George Guerreri Jr.

Sad. Very Sad. Sad for the kids, wife Tina, brother Ron, and sister Judy. Sad for his father George Sr. Imagine burying a child. How lonely. He's buried his wife, and now his son. He's stuck in a wheelchair. He lives by himself. He watches the two young children and it tears at his heart. They have no idea and his hugs can't protect them. They don't even know that they need to rest in his arms. They just want to squirm and hug on their new bears and eat m&ms given by a thoughtful soul. Their mom Tina is thinking the same thing about the kids, knowing her hugs on them are more for her than them. She is also thinking - I have no idea what this means, no more husband, soul mate, best friend. The disbelief on her face reveals that she, like the kids, has not compreneded the situation. It is not real to her. And brother Ron realizes what has happened as much as one can and the stress and exhaustion has made the world whirl around him in a way that rival Tina's because he does realize the finality. George Jr's two oldest sons know but do not know. They know and can imagine, but they have no idea the depth and character shaping this experience will be for them.

So the funeral was today. Everyone held up well. Ron spoke briefly and made it through. Tina looked as if this were happening but not happening. She looked around like she wasn't really there. It was very sad. I am still sad. As Ron said when he walked into the room at the viewing - How can you make sense of this? It doesn't make any sense. It is so hard not to say Why God? and be distant because of the uncomprehensible situation.
God, please wrap your arms around them. Please be real to them. Please draw them to yourself. Give them comfort and peace.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Sad News

I found out today that my cousin, George Guererri Jr, aka Sonny, passed away last night. It was very unexpected in that he was not aware he had heart disease and he suffered a heart attack. He has 2 young children (around ages 4 and 6)and 2 older children. The pictures above were taken in '04. In the first one, he is standing next to his wife, Tina, and they are pregnant with thier little boy. Our Aunt Katheryn and Uncle Bubba are sitting next to her, and Uncle Bubba is hugging my son Robert. In the second picture, his little girl is in the green dress with his dad, my Uncle George (and his namesake). My mom is standing next to him holding my daughter Cameron. On the other side of the table is Uncle Bubba and Uncle Billy, my dad's two brothers.

I spent some time with his brother Ron in Atlanta a few months ago and we joked that I saw him more than Sonny, who lives within an hour of me. If only I'd taken the time. I almost called Sonny last week. His brother Ron was passing through town and called me, wanting to meet for a cup of coffee. Unfortunately I was not available but it made my day to talk to him.

So, this is in rememberance of Sonny and his friendly caring eyes, his laugh when he throws his head back, and his convictions about our great country, the christian heritage that runs deep in America, and his ferver for the great men who line our history.

I'm reading the book, Tuesdays with Morrie. It's one of those books I've been wanting to read for many years. I really like it. Morrie had a "service" while he was still alive, so all the great things you say about people aren't wasted on the dead, but rejoiced on the living. What a great principle to live by. I bet Ron would have spent the entire week last week differently when they were in Memphis, even knowing of a remote possibility that this could happen. I don't even know if he got to see his brother last week when he was in town. I sure hope so. It was just so unexpected.....