Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Charleston: Folly Beach + Kayaking

Let me tell you a little bit about Folly Beach! Folly was our home base for our week in Charleston. It's about 20-25 minutes from downtown, and definitely has a laid back, surfer vibe. There's a very small downtown, but for the most part, it's beaches and houses. Here's the house we rented:

Cute, no? It was lovely, and right on the beach -- about a one minute walk from our door to the ocean's edge. We took advantage of the proximity, swimming almost every day, and some days, multiple times a day! (We even swam once at night, and once in the rain!)

This is what the beach looked like:

And here's what it looked like at dawn:

Thanks, John, for the photo! This was the view out our back door, toward the marsh. We didn't spend much time in that direction, because the bugs were pretty vicious.

At the tip of Folly Beach is Morris Island Lighthouse, which some of the more industrious members of our party (i.e. not me) ran to mornings.

John and I did drive/walk to it once, and we saw these pretty flowers:

The most fun thing we did in Folly Beach was a kayak tour with Charleston Outdoor Adventures. All of the Folly Beach kayak companies advertise dolphin sitings, but we were pretty skeptical. Well, we shouldn't have been, because we saw about nine dolphins in the two hours we were out on the water! We even saw an adorable Mom and baby, and we were so close we could hear the baby chattering!!

Anyone else ever stayed in Folly Beach? What did you think? I highly recommend it!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Charleston: Angel Oak + Middleton Plantation

I have a whole week of Charleston posts planned for y'all! First up I thought we'd talk about two sights we saw, Angel Oak and Middleton Plantation. Later in the week I'll give you a tour around Folly Beach (where we stayed), share my thoughts on the food we ate, and do some intense gushing over downtown. And on Friday, I'll share the video John and I made!

First, though, Angel Oak. Angel Oak is a live oak tree that is believed to be more than 1,500 years old -- making it the oldest living organism east of the Mississippi River.

It was quite massive and impressive in person. I liked that you could walk right up to it, though they discouraged visitors from touching the trunk and limbs.

Angel Oak is so old and shaded, there are ferns growing on some of its branches!

My verdict? Definitely worth a see. Angel Oak is located on Johns Island, and was about a 25-minute drive from our house in Folly Beach. It's easy to find and just a short walk from the parking lot to the tree, and admission is free. You can find more information before your visit here and here.

Later in the week we visited Middleton Place.

The Charleston area is FILLED with plantations, including Middleton, Boone Hall, Magnolia, and Drayton Hall. We did our research, and chose Middleton because of its varied landscape and formal gardens. Though we had nothing to compare it with (since we only visited one plantation), I would say we were all happy with our choice.

We chose to talk the self-guided tour, and followed the route outlined in the packet almost to the letter, stopping and reading the descriptions and historical background at each marked point. I'm really glad we did that, because on top of giving us interesting information, it caused us to slow down and see everything with minimal back-tracking.

There was gorgeous Spanish moss everywhere. We visited in August, but we all agreed that it would be amazing to come back in the spring when the camellia allees would be in bloom. Can you imagine the smell??

One of the most interesting things I learned from the tour is the almost perfect symmetry on which the grounds were laid out. There are a few aerial photos on the Middleton Place website that really help you see it from above, but it was evident on the ground, too.

Another thing I liked about Middleton was how varied the grounds were. There was farmland, formal gardens, rice fields, and even a swamp! The swamp was actually really beautiful.

Last but not least, Middleton Place was full of wildlife! We saw alligators, peacocks, egrets, and many other water birds.

My verdict? Highly recommended, but try to get a break on the ticket price. Tickets normally go for $22 per adult, but we were able to go for free because John's parents sat through a (unrelated) condo seminar earlier in the day (funny, but true!). I'm not sure it would have been worth it if we had paid the full fare for all six of us.

Middleton Place is on the outskirts of Charleston, about 40 minutes from where we were staying in Folly Beach. You can read more information about it here.

Thanks to John and other family members for most of these photos!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Back Porch Music at the American Tobacco Campus

Before summer's over I wanted to make sure and post this little note for Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill locals. If you've never been to the Back Porch Music concerts at the American Tobacco Campus in Durham, you must go! The music is great (so far we've heard bluegrass, blues, old time, and a crazy brass + banjo mash-up), the concerts are FREE, and the American Tobacco Campus is such a neat space. The concerts are generally VERY well attended, so I would recommend arriving at 5:30 or earlier if you want to spread out your blanket on the grass (the music begins at 6pm). We like to order a pizza from nearby Mellow Mushroom, but you're welcome to bring your own food or purchase from one of the other food stalls (including Locopops!). A few iPhone snaps from the last two years...

The remaining concerts this summer are on September 2, September 9, September 16, and September 30. Check out the full schedule and more details here!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Wedding planning update: 12+ months out

It's been exactly two months since we got engaged, which means it's time for another update on what we've accomplished so far! For those of you who are engaged or married, I'd love to hear where we differ and where we're the same.

Photo by Stephen Pappas via Style Me Pretty

After two months (with 12+ months to go), we or I have:
-- Asked two people to join our bridal party (they both said yes -- whew!)
-- Tried on wedding dresses for the first time
-- Fell in love with a veil
-- Spoke on the phone with two florists
-- Chosen a florist (!!)
-- Confirmed and contracted with a photographer (!!!)
-- Begun to buy silver pieces for reception
-- Set up appointments with two caterers for next month's trip home
-- Set up another dress shopping appointment for next month

More details to come about all of these points soon... promise!

P.S. First planning update

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Minted business cards!

I wanted to take a minute to share one of my very favorite company's newest offerings: Minted now has business cards! I truly think everything Minted does is so high quality and stylish, and I will definitely be taking advantage of their 25 free offer! Now, to decide which design... a few favorites:

Even if you don't have your own business, you could so easily use these as a modern calling card. BUT, if you do have your own business, there's one more amazing feature of Minted's cards -- you can upload your logo for FREE to print on the back of your cards!! Amazing.

I'll be sure to share once mine come in, but in the meantime, hop over and get your own! If you do, tell me which design you're ordering! Opinions on which one I should order are welcome, too :)

P.S. I love Minted so much we're considering using them for our save the dates, but that's a post for another day!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Book baby shower

I finally had a minute to read the May issue of Martha Living, and my favorite story was the pink and gray book-themed baby shower. I love books, I love the color pink, and I love beautifully-styled parties, so this one was pretty much a no-brainer for me.

Gorgeous illustrated invitations by Rifle Paper Co -- AND they're available to download on Martha's site, too! I love that they included a book plate in the invitation.

A clever menu written on a stack of books.

Fun in food shapes and cute picks make everything tastier, right?

The hostesses suggested guests bring the gift of a favorite book from childhood, which I think is a lovely idea. In fact, I've been to a similar shower before (I wrote a little bit about it here), and it turned out wonderfully!

You can see more photos from this story here!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Flea market success!

I had some major success at the flea market this weekend! In fact, I had major success before I even got to the flea market this weekend. I was on my way back from the bank and headed to pick up my friend Megan for our Saturday morning trip when I spotted two chairs at the end of a driveway and a "moving sale" sign. I quickly did a U-turn and hopped out to inspect the chairs. They looked great to me, so $60 later (down from $75!), I loaded them into my car! We've been searching for living room chairs for awhile, since our current living room seating is only one loveseat (not so good for guests). These guys are perfect (or, they will be after some paint and new upholstery!). Here's a peek:

I love the caning on the back and the detail on the legs. Better yet, here's proof that they're comfortable:

She literally hopped up the minute we set the pair down and didn't wake up for a solid hour.

Then, once we actually got to the flea market, I cleaned up with silver pieces, which I've begun collecting for our reception. More on that later! For $18, here's what I brought home:

There was also a gorgeous silver champagne bucket which would have been perfect for a larger arrangement, but the seller wouldn't budget beneath $30 and that was a little more than I was ready to spend.

Also, a tip for those of you who are hesitant about bargaining: don't be! See those taller goblets in the back? They were marked $5 each, so I asked if I could have them for $15 total if I bought all 4. To my surprise, she said I could have them for $10! It never hurts to ask. The platter was $5, and the compote was $3, down from $5.

Add those to the pieces I already have, and I'd say we're well on our way!

Here's a close-up of the larger Revere bowl, which is actually an award from my senior year of college! If you look closely, you can see my name engraved on the bottom. I love that we'll be incorporating family heirlooms and pieces with personal significance into our reception decor.

Anyone else have a lucky flea market trip this weekend?