Saturday, July 29, 2017

Greenville-Area Favorites

As an active, semifoodie, people-watching enthusiast that likes to get more for my money, here are my favorite things from my time in the Greenville area over the last eight years. Thanks for all of the sweet memories, #yeahTHATGreenville!

Buy your baby shower, birthday and Christmas presents and give a lovely gift that everyone else won't have
Bring along water, snacks, a camera and some motivated hiking buddies
Enjoy with a picnic or while walking around the lake, thanks to the concert being projected over the belltower speakers

A cozy, popular nook—the most charming basement you’ll ever visit
A sweet opportunity to try out a variety of Greenville's excellent restaurants in March—coming back in 2018
Tapas with eclectic flavors and the site of some of my favorite dinners
  • Outdoor yoga at NOMA Square, Soul and at the Courtyard by Marriott Greenville (Yoga in the Courtyard) 
Free, relaxing and the best way to start your Saturday morning or spend a Wednesday or Thursday evening
  • Honey lavender lattes at Tandem
One of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted

Great tables, free cornbread, delicious barbecue, and amazing happy hour specials
Hard to snag, but entirely enjoyable
Wander along the art exhibits and observe glass-blowing, metal-working, and ceramics
Always efficient, classy and delicious
Always worth it, even though you have to get up really early. Crucial tip: do not plug Pretty Place into your GPS—you won't get there (speaking from experience). Bonus: take some coffee and add a Caesars Head hike afterwards.
I can vouch for both the half-marathon and marathon being excellent challenges
Gathering wardrobe inspiration, channeling your inner child, and perusing a little bit of everything else
Repeat every few years
  • Wild blackberry picking across the county 
So many berries, so little time

A beautiful chance to taste and rank different apples, people-watch, and enjoy live music in Hendersonville, NC
Really fun lessons and wonderful people-watching: free for ladies and cheap for men

Enjoy making your own adventures!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Running Bits of the World (Originally for

I love nothing more than combining multiple good things. Perhaps it’s a product of being born into the millennial cohort or perhaps it’s the fact that I want too strongly to “do it all” within the confines of a “standard American adult schedule”, but when possible, combining things has become my default setting. A luncheon speaker from the national triathlon team recently referred to this as “maximizing” rather than the negatively associated “multitasking”: the main difference is that maximizing involves combining complimentary activities while multitasking involves conflicting activities. This concept of maximization now defines my primary approach to life. Writing thank you notes while waiting in line, listening to podcasts while running, carpooling in order to hang out with others while in transit (plus diminish environmental impact) or cooking while watching my favorite shows are just some of the ways that I enjoy finding more time in a day.

My favorite maximization activity of all is running around the various places that I get to visit: combining exercising with the pleasure of observing different places. The intro sign in my cubicle reveals that I am “perpetually plotting my next adventure.” As an Army brat and third generation vagabond, I crave travel. After moving every few years for the first half of my life, I very much appreciate the ability to live in one place as long as I choose to while adding in travels to visit family/friends, work events, attend conferences or weddings, or just go somewhere to take a break from my routine.

As a sociologist, I love seeing different social environments and being a part of people doing what they do. As a health-minded individual, regular exercise is a big part of my life and I try to keep it as fun as possible. As a runner, I find a special joy in exploring new spots to break up the routine and help me lose myself in the excursion while logging the miles. This also makes my Type-A brain very happy—yes, I still feel the desire to be productive even during time off during a work trip or while on vacation.

Once I am dressed and have my shoes laced up, all I usually take is my phone (on airplane mode if I’m in a foreign country), a key (as needed) and a backup source of money. I let those that I’m with (if any) know a range of when I expect to be back: a planned time and a later “start-getting-concerned-if-you-haven’t-seen-or-heard-from-me-by-now-time”—things are always a little less predictable in a new place. I am sure to have the address where I am staying logged on my phone, and then I decide which way to run first. While friends, family, and other helpful locals can often recommend routes, if I have the time and energy, it is usually even more fun for me to embrace the break from routine and decide which way to turn as I jog along.

Because of taking this approach, I know downtown Washington, D.C. better than people who’ve lived nearby for the majority of their lives. I once encountered quite the assortment of cows on a rural road in Switzerland and then I relished the opportunity to run along the Eiffel Tower on an extremely wonderful layover on the way back to the U.S.. I have run quite the assortment of fatiguing inclines near my relatives’ Knoxville, Tennessee suburb home. I semiseriously feared encountering something dangerous running near Denali in Alaska on a graduation trip. I celebrated when a crew of friends and I found our way back to the correct complex outside Johannesburg, South Africa on study abroad. I admitted to myself that I hadn’t understood the geography of the Midwest while enjoying a chilly November run along the Chicago banks of Lake Michigan on a work trip.

I encourage you to try this simultaneously tiring and energizing endeavor on your next trip. I continue to treasure the memories, photos and the ability to fuel up after a workout with some delicious out-of-the-ordinary food. If running or travel are not for you, consider if integrating maximization into your life could be beneficial to help you do more. If you do choose to run, observe the people, homes, and businesses around you. Take the various alleyways and see where you end up. Stop at the farmer’s market along the way (full disclosure: this option led to me carrying two irresistible bags of sun-dried tomatoes for the last 45 minutes of my 2015 run around Venice). Jog up the big hill and see what you can see. Run along the water and perhaps take a photo of the starfish that you might find. Make the most of your trip and your workout.

Friday, April 7, 2017

Memorable New and Classic Wedding Ideas

Now that the annual engagement season is over, wedding planning is surely full steam ahead for many couples. I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to attend, be in, and coordinate quite the variety of weddings over the past four years. While each wedding that I’ve been a part of has been wonderful in its own way, here are some sweet ideas that I have particularly enjoyed.

  1. Throw lavender at the bride and groom as they exit the church: there’s no smell like it, plus it’s ecofriendly.
  2. Do a yoga class the morning of the wedding with any interested wedding party members, friends or family members.
  3. For a summer wedding, design a classy and useful combination program and fan.
  4. Incorporate the phrase “Eat, drink and be married.”
  5. Share different spice mixes as favors: love is the spice of life. The wedding I attended gave out a choice of barbecue mix, Italian herbs, or chai spice. I’m still enjoying mine!
  6. Incorporate eucalyptus into your wedding flowers—it's hardy, beautiful and it smells great. As with lavender, you also get some nice aromatherapy.
  7. Have the parents of the groom pray over the bride and the parents of the bride pray over the groom during the ceremony.
  8. If you have musical skill or perhaps a hidden talent, surprise the class by sharing it on this once-in-a-lifetime day! I’m thinking of a particularly great evening where we got the groom to do an encore of Bennie and the Jets after serenading his new bride with a love song.
  9. Play the couple's dance game to see which couple has been married the longest. I was truly impressed by the married-for-75-years grandparents at the most recent wedding.
  10. Place infused water dispensers around the ceremony and reception to keep everybody hydrated and happy throughout the celebration. Try cucumber, lemon, mint, raspberry, grapefruit or almost any fruit combination.
  11. Green tea cupcakes. I’m not going to offer any explanation.
  12. As you’d like, incorporate groomswomen/a best woman and bridesmen/a man of honor: if the bride has a best friend that's a guy and the groom has a beloved sister, put them in the same clothes as the groomsmen and bridesmaids, but let them stand on the most appropriate side.
  13. Start a train, ideally one led by a grandparent or an elementary-aged cousin—you won't regret it.
Happy 2017 wedding season to all!

Photo credits go to my wonderful former Furman University photography classmate, Hannah Woodard Lockaby of Hannah Woodard Photography. See more of this beautiful wedding day of my sweet friends here.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

A Coffee Shop Friday Morning

I've always loved getting to experience life from another's point of view and coming to understand them more fully in doing so. When it comes to strangers, visiting local grocery stores is one of my favorite touristy adventures. When it comes to friends and family, I treasure the chance to be a fly on the wall and watch them in their zone. In the last year and a half, I've eaten in the Senate cafeteria with a brilliant college friend who worked there, managed to pose as neither-a-student-nor-a-guest-lecturer in a middle school music class session taught by my best friend from college, ventured through the disco-ball and country music-filled upstairs bedrooms of my brother's fraternity house and now, I've witnessed my mom as a coffee shop lead barista.

While home visiting for Thanksgiving, I jumped at the chance to join Mom for an unusually short shift on Black Friday morning at Land of A Thousand Hills Coffee in Bradenton, Florida. We left the house earlier than usual (when in vacation mode) with her in a red t-shirt emblazoned with a beautifully bold and simple "DRINK COFFEE. DO GOOD." As we drove down the Palma Sola Causeway towards town at 7:13 am, we watched the sun rising higher in the sky. As both my mother and I are prone to do—for better or for worse—she shared her thoughts on the situation unsolicited: "It's not a consuming thing, I just love it when I'm there." I was excited to fully experience the place that had reenergized her over the last year.

Mom unlocked the doors, tied a funky wrap around her waist, turned on the designated Pandora station and got to work bustling around checking on and prepping things while I settled down at a wooden table and sat on chairs covered in wonderfully mismatched leftover Nigerian fabric donated from my grandmother's collection. I worked on analyzing the options for replacing my beloved digital camera and buying some gifts from Noonday, happy to enjoy Black Friday discounts from the pleasant, line-and-traffic-free coffee shop. When the neighbor with the day's opening shift at Wells Fargo entered as the first customer, Mom introduced herself and kindly walked out and said, "Let me give you a hug." Wary of his broken arm in a cast and fully aware of my mother's tendencies, I jokingly mentioned, "Watch out, she's an aggressive hugger." There were quite a few more welcome distractions throughout the day: I met the twenty-somethings that she worked with, the caterer who supplies all of the food, a guy who used to coach at my South Carolina university and one of my grandmother's AAUW friends out for breakfast with her granddaughter. I happily noticed the cute couple on a chatty coffee date, the mother and four-year-old who worked on the communal puzzle while waiting for their breakfast, the people stopping by on their way to their offices and the families and twosomes communally enjoying some post-Thanksgiving deliciousness. I chatted with my brother, Chris, and his friend Aaron as they ate turkey bacon sandwiches. I stole a taste of a mocha chill that Chris had gotten after Mom had unsuccessfully tried to sell both boys on Samoan chills, claiming that they were “just like the Girl Scout cookies” and making sure that they knew that whatever they got was her treat. I discussed Nashville tourist spots with Mom's coworker.

In between meeting people and making my ecommerce decisions, I admired the retail options (t-shirts, mugs, and coffee with extras) and made the not-so-difficult decisions to enjoy a rare green tea latte with a morning glory muffin, some pleasantly orange-infused water and later, a surprise curried-egg wrap with star fruit on the side and a round two of the hearty vegetable soup that I had both discovered and fallen in love with on Wednesday. As an avid listener of coffee-shop-approved music, there were only four songs that I didn't already know and love on the playlist in the four hours I stuck around. Colbie Caillat, Sarah Bareilles, John Mayer, Norah Jones, an acoustic duet cover of Cher Lloyd's "Want You Back", the Fray, Phillip Phillips, some of the calmer Bruno Mars and Jack Johnson were great company. I was very much unsurprised when it took an hour and 18 minutes after Mom's shift had ended to actually get her out of the coffee shop—she kept running into people that she loved or helping with just one more task. It was my favorite kind of morning: relatively productive, fun, and filled with opportunities for people-watching, chatting, and most importantly, tasting.