Archives for October 2014

On the Road: Charleston (Day Three)

Happy Halloween, all!

I should be posting an adorable pic of B in a cute costume, but I don’t have one. We put her in her bunny costume this weekend to attend the Halloween festivities at the zoo,and she wasn’t having any of it (although Tracy made an adorable carrot!). I’m thinking that I’ll spare her further distress, and share a bit more about our adventures in Charleston instead.

Sound good? Okay!

So, there are quite a few noteworthy pastry shops in Charleston. Of course, we had to made it a point to try a few…even if it meant having dessert for breakfast.

We headed to Sugar Bakeshop, a small-batch bakery that is kind of off the beaten path in a residential neighborhood. B and I kept it simple and went for mini vanilla and chocolate peanut butter cupcakes and Chester got the Lady Baltimore cupcake (a mini version of the classic cake, which is layered with chopped nuts and dried fruit and topped with Italian meringue). We grabbed gigantic chocolate chip and oatmeal raisin cookies to go, which made for excellent snacks later on.

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Cupcake face!

We wandered around the quaint streets of downtown Charleston for awhile, stopping by the City Market to pick up a few souvenirs, including sweetgrass baskets.

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Getting up close and personal with a horse named Earl.

After that, it was already time for lunch!

Husk appears on all of the “must-visit” restaurant lists that we consulted when planning our trip. We were excited to get a reservation for lunch, since late-night dinners were out of the question. We asked for a seat on the second floor porch—it felt like a very Southern thing to do!

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Checking out the menu

James Beard Award winning chef Sean Brock puts a new spin on traditional Southern dishes, through a creative use of locally sourced ingredients. For example, the pig ears are served in a lettuce wrap and feature a soy-flavored sauce, for a slightly Asian flair. I picked one of the more traditional things on the menu, the cornmeal dusted catfish. I loved being able to have one final taste of summer for the year, since it featured sweet corn and smoky-sweet tomatoes. For dessert, we shared the buttermilk chess pie. There were some delicious sounding chocolate items on the menu, but I have no doubt that this pie was the best choice. It was a simple and not to sweet way to end the meal, which was definitely our favorite of the trip.

After lunch, we drove back out to the plantation district for a visit to Middleton Place. Like Magnolia, the property has been in the hands of the same family for generations (fun fact: Arthur Middleton was one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence).

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The plantation house

We skipped a visit to the house, which was fine because there was so much to see outside. We started our visit in the plantation stable yards, where artisans recreate blacksmithing, carpentry and other crafts that were practiced when the plantation was in operation. And, of course, there are the animals.

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Also, like Magnolia, the gardens are the major attraction here. Middleton’s are much more impressive, in my opinion, with a  more sculpted/planned look, sort of like the show gardens we have visited on other trips (for example, Victoria’s Buchart Gardens). The vistas are spectacular and many of the elements, including the curved terraces, archways made out of hedges and hidden walkways evoked memories of The Secret Garden (which, incidentally, is one of my favorite books. I can’t wait to share it with B!).

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We wrapped up our day with a stroll along the Battery, so named because there was a defense artillery battery on the site during the Civil War. Now, it is just a popular area for a waterfront stroll and is also the neighborhood of stately antebellum homes.

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As we had done throughout the trip, we stopped for takeout on the way home, this time at Five Loaves Cafe. I can safely say that I had the best veggie burger of my life—even B liked it!

Alright, I’m off to see if I can find some already discounted Reese’s products. We usually get exactly zero trick-or-treaters at our house, so I’m stocking up on the good stuff for myself!

Read more about our Charleston trip here and here.

On the Road: Charleston (Day Two)

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As usual, B was riding in style on this trip. People were stopping us on the street to comment on this stroller/backpack. In case you are wondering, it’s by Kelty, but has been discontinued. I don’t know why because it is pretty much the perfect item for traveling with a small child. But, you might be able to score one on Ebay, like Chester did.

Our second day in Charleston, started with brunch at Hominy Grill. This homey little restaurant is like Sabrina’s, with a Southern flair. We indulged in boiled peanuts, shrimp and grits (Chester) and a fried green tomato BLT (me). Of course, since this was a vacation, I had to get dessert—a thick slice of caramel pecan layer cake. All delicious, but definitely made me feel like I needed a session on the elliptical machine.

Luckily, we burned some calories (literally. It was so freaking hot. And, I of course, had packed all of the wrong clothes since it felt like fall when we left Philly.) with a long walk from the center of town to Liberty Square. Once there, we caught the ferry out to Fort Sumter, where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. The trip takes about 30 minutes. B was with the whole experience of her first ferry ride.

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View of the fort, from the ferry

Once at the fort, we had one hour for a self-guided tour. The site also includes a small museum with various artifacts from the war, but we stuck to the outside. I am not a big Civil War buff, but it was nevertheless humbling and somewhat eerie to be standing in a place where so many people lost their lives.

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On the way back to the hotel, we stopped by Caviar and Bananas, a gourmet market and cafe, to grab dinner to bring back to the hotel. There were so many options to choose from—including sushi, salads, soups, pasta and sandwiches—that I had a hard time deciding what to get. The East Coast salad (with honey glazed chicken, goat cheese, fresh strawberries, dried cranberries, toasted hazelnuts, and arugula) did not disappoint. This place needs to branch out to Philly!

I still have two days worth of photos to go through. More soon (read about our first day here)!

On the Road: Charleston (Day One)

We had a few criteria on our list when we were considering fall vacation options. For example, we wanted a relatively short flight, activities that B would enjoy and the ability to keep a somewhat relaxed schedule (i.e. enough things to do to keep us busy, but not so much that we would attempt to pack too much in to a few days).

We had always wanted to visit Charleston, SC and it fortunately ticked off all of these bullets. So, we packed up B and off we went!

As is typical, I took a billon pictures and I’m just getting around to looking through them So far, I’ve sorted through the shots from our first day in town, and I am excited to share some of the highlights from that part of our trip.

Our flight arrived in the early afternoon. B surprised us by sleeping nearly the entire two hour flight, so she was ready to go exploring after we dropped our bags off at the hotel.

One of the main attractions in Charleston are the plantations and gardens, which are about a 30 minute drive from the center of the city. There are nearly a dozen to see, but we narrowed it down to just two on this trip, starting with Magnolia.

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The plantation dates to 1676 and has been in the hands of the same family for nearly 15 generations. It originally functioned as a rice plantation, but in the aftermath of the Civil War, the family opened the grounds to the public in an attempt to recoup some of their losses. It quickly became a popular tourist destination (it bills itself as the most visited plantation in Charleston) due to its immaculately kept gardens.

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This is the third version of the plantation house. Two other structures were destroyed by fire at various points in history.

The house is only accessible to the public through a guided tour, and B didn’t really want to participate in that. So, we spent most of our visit outside and practically had the place to ourselves. It was so peaceful to wander around the grounds, pretending that we stepped back in time. Perhaps due to the time of year, there weren’t too many flowers in bloom (the plantation is best known for azaleas, which bloom in the spring and camellias, which bloom later in the fall), but towering oak trees and canopies of spanish moss made for an impressive–and dreamy–effect.

 

27Long Bridge over Cypress Lake–one of the most photographed bridges in the country.

29Loved the reflections of the trees in the water

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34Along the Ashley River

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B’s favorite part was the petting zoo, where she didn’t get to touch anything because…germs. But, her reaction to the animals was absolutely priceless. She called all of them “dog” or “Eddy” (the name of my mom’s dog, for those who have forgotten) and giggled and pointed at them like a crazy person.

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The other thing that drew us to Charleston was the promise of good food. The restaurant scene there has been getting a lot of buzz in the last couple of years, for its combination of traditional Lowcountry cuisine as well as innovative restaurants serving up eclectic dishes with locally sourced ingredients.

On our first day, we stopped for a quick lunch at Two Boroughs Larder, a combination grocery store and cafe. The menu included an assortment of entrees and small plates, breakfast sandwiches served all day, and a “bowl of noodles” (the description was similar to Pho).

Although there were a lot of options to choose from, nothing on the menu really jumped out at me. Maybe it was the fact that some of the dishes that sounded good at first glance had an odd combination of ingredients when I read the description further (smoked yogurt with beets, ham and pumpkin seeds?). Or, perhaps it was because we had been traveling all day and I gotten to the point where I was starving but didn’t know what I wanted to eat. I ended up with the chicken boudin blanc (a sausage made from chicken, pork and cream) sandwich and Chester got the bratwurst. Both were delicious, but not particularly memorable.

We stopped at Fiery Ron’s Home Team BBQ to pick up take-out to eat at the hotel after B went to bed (this was after we stopped at the best Target ever (so well organized, well stocked and attached to a mall) to stock up on supplies for B. Times have changed!). I’m not a barbecue connoisseur, and I definitely prefer the sweet style that you can get around here to the traditional Southern style that is heavy on the vinegar. Still, my pulled chicken sandwich and mac-and-cheese hit the spot, but Chester really made the best choice with his combination plate of brisket, ribs and pork.

The best meals of the trip were still to come, but it was a great first day.

 

Pumpkinland!

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She should be in a Gymboree catalog, right?!

Even though she was around this time last year, B wasn’t really “with it” enough to do any fun fall activities. As she gets older, I am excited to start some family traditions with her. The first thing on our list was a trip to Pumpkinland at Linvilla Orchards. Fortunately, last weekend provided the perfect weather for our excursion. Our first order of business was a visit to the farm market for some treats. 7

We skipped picking our own this year, but did bring home some delicious honey crisps from the market

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Enjoying apple cider–in drink and doughnut form!

We checked out the barnyard and then B pretended to be a few of the animals. 17e When B sees one or two pumpkins on doorsteps or in windows around South Philly, she gets pretty excited. So, her eyes nearly popped out of her head when she saw thousands of them, in all colors and sizes, in Linvilla’s pumpkin yard. We took a ridiculous  number of pictures of her sitting in piles of pumpkins, but here are a few of my favorites. Her expressions are just so darn cute! 20 40 53a 35 I thought she would be more excited about the hayride, but she looked pretty bored the entire time. I think the combination of the warm sunshine, tractor exhaust and sugar coma nearly lulled her to sleep. Or, maybe it was just a little too country for our city girl. 56 If you plan to go to Linvilla, be warned it is INSANE on the weekends. So, pack your patience or maybe try to get there on a weekday when things are slower. Either way, there are tons of activities, including pick-your-own apples, a corn maze, playground and occasional live music to keep kids of all ages entertained for the better part of the day. We had a great day and look forward to going back next year!

Little B: 13 Months

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I’m excited to kick off the second year of B’s monthly updates. Let’s not dwell on the fact that she turned 13 months old almost two weeks ago and I am just getting around to posting this—life has been busy!

Although B changed so quickly during her first year, the transition between 12 and 13 months was the most dramatic, in my opinion. It seemed like she went from baby to toddler overnight. She says and does so much and her personality is really shining through.

Here are a few of this month’s highlights:

Doing

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From the photo shoot blooper reel. This kid cannot sit still!

As I have been saying for a couple of months, she is this close to walking. Seriously, though. I mean it this time! She is still cruising around like a champ, but she can stand and balance on her own for a good ten seconds without holding on to anything. It’s only a matter of time!

Saying

I love hearing her sweet little voice and am surprised by how many words she can clearly enunciate. New ones this month include “up,” “apple,” and “Elmo,” “all done” and a pretty good approximation of her name.

She makes an effort to sound out new words and understands even more things than she can actually say. For example, if we say “where are B’s toes/fingers” she proudly holds them up. She has learned how to click her tongue and the sound seems to thrill her. She has also developed a cute little habit in which she will point back and forth from herself to any object that she is interested in, as if to say “Will you give that to me?”

Personality

She is still our “Bipolar Express.” When she is happy, she can’t stop laughing When she is angry, she will punch you in the face (it’s happened to me!). She can also be super playful. She loves chasing us around the house, laughing insanely the entire time. Sometimes, she will play jokes on us by pretending to offer us food, a toy or a kiss before changing her mind.

Milestones

Four teeth (all on top) came in during a two week span. That makes a grand total of 6!

She is down to one nap a day, in the morning. The length of time is still completely unpredictable, sometimes sleeping for 30 minutes, other times for 2 hours.

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Favorite napping place: Mom and Dad’s bed

She got measured for her first pair of real shoes (she is a 4.5…for now). She was none too pleased when they were first on her feet, but started strutting around and showing them off in no time.

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Showing off her new kicks.

Shortly after getting them, she started training for a career as a tap dancer.

Favorite Books

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 A typical morning. 

Books seem to capture her attention more than toys, but she particularly loves Goodnight Moon (she knows exactly where it is on the bookshelf and points to it until we take it out to read at bedtime); Five Little Pumpkins; anything with a mirror in it, so that she can give the baby in the mirror a kiss (at the moment, I Love You Little Pumpkin  and Guess Who? are in heavy rotation)anything in the Curious George series.

Favorite Foods

Anything the adults are eating; Cheerios (always and forever); roasted sweet potatoes; ricotta fritters; ditalini pasta (yes, only this particular shape); yogurt; peas; eggs; toast with cream cheese and fruit; prunes. She has fully transitioned to whole milk, and for the most part it agrees with her (on the days that it doesn’t we are glad that she likes those prunes!). Her appetite varies throughout the day. Sometimes, she eats everything we put in front of her and other times everything ends up on the floor. She usually eats best at breakfast and lunch and it’s hit or miss at dinner time.

Favorite songs

She is still a huge fan of music and dancing. If Your’re Happy and You Know It; The Wheels on the Bus never fail to get her moving. Alarmingly, she also seems to be a fan of songs/rhymes that involve violence and injuries, such as Three Blind Mice, Humpty Dumpty, Jack and Jill.

Favorite Things

Musical instruments, especially the piano and ride-on zebra she got for her birthday; The stuffed panda that Auntie B brought home from China; pumpkins; all animals, even though she still thinks every creature she sees is a dog; getting her nails filed (I can’t wait to have a new salon buddy in a couple of years).

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Cuddling after story time with panda

Least Favorite Things

Getting a bath; having her clothes/diaper changed; having her teeth brushed; headbands/hats–basically anything on her head, which is a shame because she look so stinking cute with accessories.

Fun Experiences

We took her on her first trip to Philly’s Magic Gardens. She loves colors and mirrors, so I figured she would enjoy it. And, she did! She loved breaking in her new shoes on all the cool tiles.

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We also took her on a little vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, where we spent a few days exploring the city and surrounding plantations and eating delicious food. She was the perfect travel buddy and I have more to say about our trip in a separate post!

What I Read: September

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It might surprise you to learn that I am a total introvert. Sure, I have a job that requires me to interact with lots of people on a daily basis, frequently at large events. While I enjoy my work and the people I get to meet, I definitely find the business of talking with people all the time draining rather than energizing. I can fake my way through, but often need to hide in the bathroom in the middle of an event, just so that I can have a few minutes to recharge.

For the most part, I embrace my introversion. I used to wish I was the kind of person who didn’t hesitate to speak up in meetings and I forced myself to go to parties in college or to happy hours with co-workers, because that’s what I felt like I should do, even though these gatherings made me feel like I wanted to jump out of my skin. Eventually, I realized that there were other things I could do to make an impact on work/school projects without being the loudest person in the room. And, I decided that it made me happier to spend my free time grabbing a cup of coffee and having a good conversation with a friend, instead of counting the minutes until I could stop making small talk and slip out the door. If other people think that’s weird, well then, too bad!

Embracing introversion is the premise of Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. I first started reading the book way back when it came out in 2012, but never finished it before it was due back at the library. But, I picked it up again because I have been feeling my introverted tendencies quite a bit lately. I think it has to do with the fact that between work and life at home with a tiny human, I’m “on” most of the time and moments to recharge are few and far between (yes, even the bathroom at home is not a safe place anymore!).

Cain begins the book with a few stories of the difficulties that her introverted nature posed for her in her former corporate law career. The personal context makes her relatable, but is balanced with a historical discussion of the “extrovert ideal” in Western culture (including stories of notable leaders and creative thinkers, like Ghandi and Dr. Seuss, who were introverts)  and findings from biology, psychology, neuroscience and evolution that illustrate why introversion isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

I chuckled at portions of the book that described me to T, such as her discussion of “pseudo-extroverts” (i.e. those that can appear extroverted when needed, for the sake of people/work that they love or other things that they value highly, as long as they are also able to carve out “restorative niches” for themselves). This time around, I was also particularly interested in the section on child development, in which Cain described how parents can relate to and support their children, no matter where they fall on the introversion/extroversion spectrum.

While Cain does spend most of the book talking about why it is perfectly okay to be an introvert, she actually does a good job of advocating for those on both sides of the spectrum. For example, she talks at length about the differences between introverts and extroverts in the workplace, citing examples of the strengths that each personality type can bring to managing teams. Overall, she effectively illustrates that there are positives and negatives to each type of temperament, provides good advice for how introverts can more effectively communicate with their extroverted counterparts in a variety of settings, and how we can choose environments and situations that make the most of our characteristics.

Cain’s book is an interesting read for anyone looking for an exploration of what it actually means to be an introvert and for people like me who just need a little reassurance that it’s okay to be, well, quiet.

Speaking of taking time to recharge, we are doing exactly that this week with a little family vacation in Charleston, SC. B is an awesome travel buddy, and I can’t wait to share some photos when I get back!