Should you find yourself in Charleston


Driving down to Charleston from Virginia last weekend we laughed about our "getaway." I mean...getaway from what, exactly? It was the first anniversary weekend away in 24 years when we weren't getting away from the demands of parenting, busy Saturday mornings filled with birthday parties, sports practices and games, youth activities and the like. This time we weren't escaping those things. We were getting away from one place where we could spend all our time together to pay to go to another place to spend all our time together, ha! But no matter what your circumstances, a change of scenery, a road trip, a break from the chores and responsibilities of home is a good thing for a marriage.

Charleston was a dream. We stayed in a delightful VRBO spot (linked below) right downtown on North Market Street across from the famous Charleston Market. (Fun fact: it was an apartment directly above the Ben & Jerry's!) If I summed up our few days there it would be this: walk, walk, eat, walk, walk, eat, read, walk, eat, sleep. Repeat three days. Charleston's the perfect walkaround town--every street is charming and there are so many cafes, museums, shops to pop into when the mood strikes. 

On Sunday (at our friendly waiter's suggestion) we drove over to Sullivans Island--historic for both Fort Moultrie, which guarded the harbor from 1776-1945 in the Revolution, Civil, and World Wars. It was also, soberingly, the site of slavery's version of Ellis Island.  According to National Parks Traveler "About 40 percent of African-Americans alive today can trace their ancestral roots to West Africa through the Sullivan’s Island/Charleston gateway. This is, oddly enough, about the same percentage of white Americans whose ancestors were processed through Ellis Island."  

After taking in the history of Fort Moultrie we walked along the Sullivan Island beach and spent the afternoon sitting in the warm sun, talking and enjoying the ocean breeze and view. Two dolphins came close to the shore and cavorted for a good 20 minutes or so in front of us. We decided it was an anniversary blessing from them--hey isn't 28 years the dolphin anniversary?


  • We loved the location and amenities in our VRBO rental apartment. (And the sheets were to die for!) Terri and Carl were welcoming and fantastic to work with. Honestly there are many great listings through VRBO and small boutique hotels that looked divine, too. The main suggestion we would make is that you book something near all the charm of Old Charleston: French Quarter, South of Broad, neighborhoods near Meeting Street and Market Streets.


  • Magnolias: the book of Pat Conroy essays I was reading mentioned that Magnolias was his favorite Charleston restaurant. The guest book in our apartment also raved about it so we booked a reservation (even though the only one we could get was at 4:45!). It definitely lived up to its reputation: exceptionally delicious Southern fare and great service. We caved in to the swan song of the pecan pie to cap off the meal and did not regret it a bit.
  • Henriettas at the Dewberry; we had our official "anniversary dinner" here and it was very good. 
  • 1 Broad: we went here twice! Really great breakfast fare and bakery items. Plus live music.
  • Another Broken Egg Cafe: Good, filling Southern breakfast. I had the lobster omelet, G had shrimp and grits. Both were rich and satisfying--and we didn't want to eat again for 8 hours!




We're all friends here, right?


Last Saturday I tried something new. My sister and I went door-to-door, clutching our clipboards, approaching our unsuspecting neighbors about the 2018 Senatorial campaign. (It was sort of scary.) At one door we met a lovely woman who had emigrated from Bosnia. Unlike most of the people we met, who didn't want to talk politics with us, she seemed desperate for change. She told us that she'd come to this country for freedom, but what she found "wasn't freedom." 

She also said, "I usually don't like to talk about politics."

And that line has been running through my head ever since.

I definitely avoid talking about politics at work.

Most of my friends don't want to discuss politics.

Annie and I have discussed the perils inherent in going political on this blog.

But what I think we all really mean is, "We don't want to fight." 

What I wish, more than anything, is that we could talk about the political currents that are tugging (fiercely) at the undercurrent of our lives and seek for understanding and compromise. I still believe that's possible. I still believe that we can be smart, and kind, and passionate and COMpassionate. 

In order to have these civil discourses and in order to understand the multiple points of view that comprise our political landscape, I think first and foremost, we have to pay attention. We need to have a decent grasp of the issues. We need to understand what's happening in Washington. We need to follow how our representatives are voting. 

Thanks to ye olde Internet, staying informed is easy (and super interesting). Here are a few places to get started (chime in if you have something to add):

  • Twitter - I know that a lot of folks my age don't use Twitter. I use it almost exclusively as a news feed, and boy howdy does it get me up-to-date in a hurry. Follow reputable news sources, political figures, activists, historical scholars and people you think speak well on the issues. With a 5-10 minute scan every morning, I know what issues are on the forefront.
  • Subscribe to some online newspapers.  I enjoy the daily briefing they offer via email. Again, this is a quick snapshot of what is going on. Plus, I'm in the know on lots of cool cultural and human interest stories. I'm a sucker for human interest stories.
  • Countable -- This app notifies you when your representatives vote. It does a great job of explaining the bill at hand AND why someone might vote for or against the measure. (I have to admit this one is not super fun for me because my reps NEVER vote the way I want them to.)
  • Talk to activists in your area. I wasn't surprised when folks didn't want to talk to me while I was out canvassing. But I do think they missed out on an easy way to get some good information. I was ready to tell them what my guy stood for -- no ugly talk, no judgment. It's always a good idea to see what the other side is up to. They can have good ideas too! 

A few good gems

Hello, friends! What are you up to this weekend? I've been looking longingly at these days on my calendar for a while now--it's been the light at the end of the midwinter tunnel! G and I are heading south to Charleston SC for the long weekend* (it's our anniversary today--28 years!). We've never been there and I'm excited to finally see it. I've been filling up on Pat Conroy books in preparation. Any recommendations for things to see/eat/do?

A few good gems for your long weekend:

  • Have you tried the Forest app? It helps you control your internet distraction and gives you rewards for time spent focused--you grow "trees" within the app according to how long you stay focused. Best of all, the company donates actual trees to the world as a result.
  • I loved this annual letter "10 Tough Questions We Get" from Bill and Melinda Gates. Their responses to these tough questions all fascinated me but the part that caught my eye was Melinda's description of what it's like to be work partners with your spouse and how she handled establishing her own credibility in the room when everyone in the room was looking to Bill. (Melinda seems so cool--would love to take her to lunch sometime.)
  • Are you interested in history, fashion, and/or sewing? Here are 83,500 vintage sewing patterns in an online database from Vogue, McCall's, Butterick, and Simplicity. 
  • Speaking of history and fashion, I've been enjoying Lydia Edwards's How to Read a Dress Instagram account. Very cool!
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  • Amy Adams reading a poem ("Why I Wake Early" by Mary Oliver) and telling a joke. (Another person who I think would be a phenomenal friend, don't you think?)
  • The key to raising a happy child? "Agency may be the one most important factor in human happiness and well-being." (LOVE this and the research this full article on NPR here cites. Great suggestions on how to become a consultant parent rather than a boss/micromanager.) Hat tip to my friend Jen who sent me this link.
  • Finally, a few words of poetry I loved reading this week:
    Driving west tonight, the city dissolves behind us.
    I keep feeling we’re going farther than we’re going,
    a journey that started in the deep inkwell
    out of which our days are written.
    Nothing is said to indicate a monument,
    yet I perch on the edge of some new light.
    -Naomi Shihab Nye, Lights from Other Windows

I love that: "yet I perch on the edge of some new light."
Wishing you all some new light of your own. Have a wonderful weekend.
x Annie

*I have to admit I'm even looking forward to the 6.5-hour road trip down. We've had some of our best talks and planning sessions sitting next to each other in the car, watching the horizon spread out in front of us. Here's hoping for many more years and miles ahead *knocks on wood*.

Dedicated to you: 6 songs for your long weekend

Remember Casey Kasem and his song dedications that went out over the airwaves every weekend?  Oh, man, I loved all the possibilities that involved. Would my name pop up in the local dedications? Should I phone one in? On top of that, I love the idea that a certain song, carefully selected, could be exactly suited to someone's sentiments and current mood. (I feel the same way about books, too, remember?)

Photo via

Photo via

In that spirit, here are a few songs that you might like to add to your playlist for this upcoming President's Day weekend. 

For all you cool, alternative, New-Wave-music-loving 80s kids, this reminds me of that vibe:

For road trips, harmonizing, and longing to learn to play the guitar:

For during a soulful solo walk (or for gazing out the window of a train/plane/car)

For if your weekend doesn't go as planned and you need to wallow:

For dancing in the kitchen with your darlin':

For while you make dinner, do the dishes, make the bed:

Do you have songs you love for certain situations? And did you ever call in a song dedication to your local radio?

All hail the cloth napkin


I've found that in this mid-stage life of mine there are plenty of opportunities to host a dinner party. Kids and their friends, extended family, church folks, missionaries . . . we've run the gamut of dinner guests. And since setting a nice table is one of my favorite things to do, I've learned a few tricks to keep the preparation simple. 

  1. Fresh flowers. Pick some up at the grocery store. I'm a sucker for hydrangeas but always buy alstroemeria because they will stay fresh for TWO WEEKS (if you change the water, ahem). Keep some squat containers on hand and master one or two arrangements. 
  2. Assortment of candles and seasonal deco for the table. I used to pour over Pinterest looking for great centerpieces, and honestly -- I rarely found one that I loved that wouldn't run me hundreds of dollars. Twenty dollars worth of flowers and candlelight can go a long, long way..
  3. Need a last minute runner? In the picture above I used a roll of craft paper and some Hearth and Hand wrapping paper leftover from the holidays. You can also pick up some yardage from Hobby Lobby and hem the edges . . . if you are feeling extremely motivated. But I'm getting old, so motivation is only coming in fits and spurts.
  4. Cloth napkins!!! This is my best piece of "dinner party" advice. Every dinner feels special with cloth napkins. We use them pretty regularly around here. I'd guess you could say that cloth napkins are my love language. Try them! You'll feel fancy, and cared for, and cozy. They are a dinner game changer!

Here are some great napkins to get your collection started:
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