Another Reason I Love Living in SC

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

I’m proud to be a native South Carolinian. There are many, many reasons to love it here. But today, I’m thankful for one my favorites: South Carolina produce. To escape the heat, I rode up to Spartanburg the other day with my daughter, and my mom and dad. My dad is from Spartanburg and considers it to be the peach capitol of the world. You know, South Carolina really is the peach state. For us, it’s not just a slogan, it’s a fact. While Lexington County produces a huge share of South Carolina peaches, we’re just partial to the Spartanburg area ones.

South Carolina Peaches

Check out this photo. The peach on the right is a “grocery store” peach. The other one just came off the tree a few days ago. Which one would you want?

peach comparison

I employed this little miracle machine earlier. I actually got two of these as wedding gifts. It’s awesomely fast, there’s no salt involved and there’s no ice melting all over the floor! My homemade peach ice cream is nestled in the freezer, firming up for our decadent special dessert later tonight.

ice cream maker

Just a little further up the road in Inman, we have our favorite farm for blueberries. Nearby is another great produce shed run by a family. The blueberries aren’t huge this year because of the lack of rain and the surface-of-the-sun-heat that we’ve had this summer, but they are still beautiful and packed with flavor. Mom and I got a gallon to share. I’ve already used some for a coffee cake. This weekend I’m putting together an overnight blueberry French toast recipe to take to church. Look at all these…and this is just my half. Much better deal than the grocery store.


One of the reasons I turned the corner on raw tomatoes was because the gorgeous color of summer tomatoes was always so enticing to me. I was handed a shrimp salad croissant at Kiawah a few summers ago. It was dressed with the most perfectly red slice to tomato. I was preparing to take it off, as usual, when I decided to act like a grown-up and try it. I’ve been hooked ever since. How did I go so long without “getting” it and enjoying these summertime jewels? Well, I’ve been trying to make up for lost time. These tomatoes from Inman are just luscious. They are sweet like the fruit that they are. So far, we’ve made a picture-perfect Caprese salad, fresh tomato and bacon sandwiches, and have also enjoyed simple sliced tomatoes with olive oil, salt & pepper.

antipasto caprese

SC tomatoes

I’m sure you all have many other reasons you love living here too. The Congaree swamp, our beaches, Lake Murray, the Stumphouse tunnel, fresh seafood, The Beacon, steeplechases…the lists are miles and miles long. But, make sure you have our plethora of fresh produce on those lists. We are so lucky to have so much goodness available to us year ‘round. Support our farmers, buy local and eat well!

Making Work-Life Balance Work

By: Katie Austin

“If you don’t design your life, then someone else may just design it for you, and you may not like their idea of balance” – Nigel Marsh.

I love this quote because it gets to the heart of why I chose this topic! I struggle with balancing work and my personal life and I believe many others do, too.

I watched a TED Talk by Nigel Marsh called, “How to make work-life balance work.” Marsh stated, “With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life. Moreover, it can transform society.” He believes that we need to change society’s definition of success, moving away from the “person with the most money wins to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.” I agree!


What does work-life balance mean? It is the concept of properly prioritizing between “work” (career and ambition) and “lifestyle” (health, pleasure, leisure, family and spiritual development/meditation).

What happens to us when work and life are out of balance? A Mayo Clinic article, “Work-life Balance: Tips to Reclaim Control,” describes the following consequences of a poor balance:

  • Fatigue – when you’re tired, your ability to work productively and think clearly suffers.
  • Poor health – stress is associated with adverse effects on the immune system and can put you at risk of substance abuse.
  • Lost time with friends and loved ones – if you’re working too much, you will miss important family events and milestones. This will leave you feeling left out and can harm relationships.
  • Increased expectations – If you regularly work extra hours, you may be given more responsibility. This can lead to additional concerns and challenges.

Now let’s talk about how you can achieve balance in your life.

There is no perfect, one-size-fits-all balance you should strive for. Take small steps like these for long-term changes:

1. It’s not about doing more, it’s about doing things differently.

Put simply – there is no room in your life to do anything more than you are already doing. Rather than making room for your new actions, make choices.

2. Free time doesn’t have to be available time. Make sure to schedule down time.

An example that I can easily relate to is when a friend asks you to attend an event. You check your calendar, see that the date is open and you say “yes,” marking it in your calendar. It isn’t until later that you realize that was the only block of time during the week that wasn’t filled. The only time you would have been able to take time to yourself, run errands, or simply watch your favorite TV show. If you’re like me and you need time to recharge, it’s important to remember that you can turn invitations down for no other reason than you want that time to yourself. Your free time can be just that – free.

3. Focus on thriving, not surviving.

This is key – you won’t thrive if your focus is on simply surviving the day or trying to make it to the end of the week.

4. Treat yourself like a dog.

I have to admit that I have never heard this before, but it is so true! Think of it this way – remember the last time you played with your dog (or maybe a friend’s dog)? What would you do if that dog did something for you like fetched a ball? You would praise them (good girl/boy), pat them on the head or maybe give them a treat. Why don’t you do that for yourself? We treat our dogs better than we treat ourselves. Anytime you do something that creates better work-life balance, reward yourself with a treat.

Not sure where you are in the work life balance? Take a look at these questions. For me, the greatest impact of this exercise was not just answering the questions, but the fact that I took the time to slow down long enough to go through the exercise, to focus on real questions about how I was spending my time. I do believe that if we make small changes over time, we can find balance.

“Balance is not better time management, but better boundary management. Balance means making choices and enjoying those choices.” – Betsy Jacobson

Bittersweet Summer

By: Leah Prescott

A few weeks ago, I said goodbye to a place that held some of the happiest memories of my childhood. Decades ago, my grandfather built a house on Lake Marion as a respite from his work as an ENT specialist and surgeon. He chose a simple layout with practicality in mind and my grandma decorated it in a casual, welcoming style. It was a weekend getaway and a summer oasis. At this house, my mother spent her teen years water-skiing, fishing, running barefoot, and swimming. My parents even started their life together there as honeymooners.

Lake Marion

I have visited this spot hundreds of times over the years and always felt it held some kinds of particular magic. Maybe because my grandfather refused to ever install a telephone and all the TV could ever conjure up were grainy golf tournaments or Lawrence Welk re-runs. Or maybe it was because my grandfather was the most patient, kind, and peaceful person I ever knew and his character was woven into the very house itself. Somehow nothing bad could ever happen there. My worst memories are of my brother running through leftover ashes of a bonfire and burning his feet. I also had a terrible case of chicken pox when I was twelve. And once I got a fishhook caught in my hand. But Granddaddy was a doctor, so no need to worry.

picking blueberries

We fished and ate fried fish, rocked in a hammock for hours with my grandfather, and spent lazy afternoons paddling around old stumps that we pretended were alligators. We picked blueberries and put together jigsaw puzzles and made huge pitchers of Sun Tea with mint. When my siblings and I were older, it was a place to re-connect away from the distractions and friends from home. Even as a teen obsessed with a social life and music, I could always slow down to watch a magnificent lightning storm through the huge wall of windows, catch lightning bugs with my little sister, or use binoculars to sight a crane.

Lake Marion

This was a place for birthday celebrations, sleepovers, and reunions with cousins. My mother, brothers, sister and I even lived there for months on end as we were re-locating for my dad’s job. When I first arrived, I always ran next door to play with my dear friend Bevin. We made playhouses in the lush, lake watered trees, ate scuppernongs right off the vine and picked figs from the biggest fig tree I have ever seen. We rode old Schwinn cruisers down the gravel paths to the graveyard, learned to water ski and watched fireworks from a pontoon on the Fourth of July. It’s a place I learned to swim, discovered how much I loved to write, and, on the dock in front of brilliant sunsets, I spoke aloud to God about all my fears. In the sweetest sense of the word, I grew up on Lake Marion.

Lake Marion

Since my grandfather died, and my grandmother’s mental health has declined, the lake house has been neglected. The upkeep was overwhelming to my parents and Aunt and Uncle, and the property taxes were eating away at its worth. This summer, the house was sold. We visited one last time and took hundreds of pictures. To say our time was bittersweet doesn’t quite seem to cover it. It’s by far the place that is most full of happy memories of my life. As my brother Kyle described, walking through the doors always felt like coming home.

Lake Marion

Over the years, I’ve dreamed of this peaceful spot dozens of times. Even though I tend towards nightmares that distort even friendly faces, I never had a bad dream about the lake. Instead, my dreams were much like reality there: slow, lazy and overwhelmingly peaceful. That’s one of the reasons I remember distinctly as a child picturing heaven as the quiet shores of Lake Marion. But this morning I woke up from a dream with tears in my eyes. I dreamed that I was searching for my childhood on the lake, but I knew I could never return. One day, I’ll be reunited with my grandfather in heaven and see if it really looks like Lake Marion at sunrise. Until then, I’m happy that new owners will be living there and fervently hope that they can find as much joy and serenity there as my family always did.

Original Pancake House: Celebrating 25 Years of Delicious Food

In the pancakes of life, sisters are the syrup.

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

If you see me at the Original Pancake House, especially at night, chances are I’ll be with my roommate, BFF and sister Beth. We love breakfast for dinner and the Original Pancake OPH SistersHouse is the best place in town. So I was especially excited to find out that our favorite restaurant is owned by two sisters, Marguerite Carlisle and Cathy Wilson.

To say that this sister partnership has been successful is an understatement. In July, Original Pancake House is celebrating 25 years at its Columbia, S.C. location in Trenholm Plaza. First opened on July 26, 1990, and conveniently located in the Forest Acres neighborhood of Columbia, the restaurant has since been a local favorite for families, business breakfast meetings, military from Fort Jackson, and others, in an inviting, casual dining atmosphere.

Original Pancake House is known for its extensive breakfast menu – including made-from-scratch signature pancake dishes, classic breakfast plates, Belgian waffles, 49’er flapjacks, buckwheat pancakes, sweet and savory crepes, omelets and sides – but also offers lunch and dinner options like sandwiches, hamburgers and salads. Homemade syrups, fresh whipped cream, corned beef hash and fresh-squeezed orange juice are among the many items that are prepared from scratch daily.

Original Pancake House“We brought ‘different’ breakfast foods to Columbia,” says Carlisle. Popular signature items include the light and fluffy buttermilk pancakes – made from scratch with sourdough starter and a secret ingredient – and the Dutch Baby, an oven-baked pancake served with whipped butter, lemon, and powdered sugar.

My personal favorite? The crepes. After awakening from an aneurysm in March, it was the first thing I wanted. When asked their favorites, Cathy and Marguerite say it’s a difficult question.

“It is liking being asked which of your children is your favorite. I would say the thick-cut bacon with scrambled eggs,” says Carlisle. “Cathy would say the fresh strawberry pancakes and waffles. They are served with homemade whipped cream and strawberry syrup.”

Haven’t been to the Original Pancake House? Save the date. Starting on July 25, Marguerite and Cathy kick off the 25th anniversary of their gourmet breakfast restaurant with treats for customers such as 25-cent Dutch Baby pancakes, 25% off certain menu items and daily specials all week.

Besides great food, what is the secret to their success? Both credit clear communication.

“Put it all out on the table. Discuss all scenarios — good and bad — and agree on the plans. You have to be of the same mindset,” says Carlisle.

Original Pancake House is open Monday through Friday, 6:30 a.m. – 9:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday, 7:00 a.m. – 9:00 p.m. The restaurant is located in Trenholm Plaza at 4840 Forest Drive, Suite 14, Columbia, S.C., 29206.

Walk on the Wild Side

By: Lara Winburn

Lately I have been thinking a lot about being rebellious – marching to the beat of a different drum, defying the powers that be. Maybe it is because I started watching the series Sons of Anarchy or maybe it is because I got my hair cut…you know, really pushing the limits. But here is the thing that I keep coming back to: I may sound old and I may be dating myself, but I am not sure how we will rebel in the years to come.

I love tattoos. I have almost gotten one on many occasions, and I am not saying that I never will get one. But I gotta tell you, getting a tattoo today does not really seem to be walking on the wild side. Years ago, my grandfather remarked on the fact that tattoos were only seen on military men. Well, just do a little people watching nowadays and you will see a tattoo on the CEO, the stay-at-home mom, the hipster, and the preacher’s daughter. Again, I love tattoos but I do not think a rebel that makes. Also, I really let loose in high school and had more than one piercing …in my ears. There was a time in college when I really wanted an eyebrow stud, but seriously now you can piece your nose like a bull and no one takes a second glance at you in the freezer section at Publix. You can even pierce the unmentionables, although I am not sure if that makes you a rebel or just crazy.

large_minivanThe older you get the harder it is to rebel. Pain, legal fees and just good adult sense can stop you in your tracks. My wild and crazy night now might mean I stay up until midnight without turning into a pumpkin or go ahead and splurge on that bag of chips at the grocery store – watch out! My biggest push back on the institution of mommyhood right now is NO mini-van. (Please do not tell me how great they are and how much easier they made your life – I am too busy rebelling to hear such rational thought.)

So what will a small act for rebellion be in the future? Who knows? The mom in me hopes it is ankle-length skirts and being super nice. When I was a kid I pinned a button on everything I wore that said “Why be normal?” I loved the button and the sentiment and still do. I love how unique we all are cruising around with our tattoos, piercings, and buttons on our book bags (even if a lot of you are cruising in mini-vans.) I hope embracing everyone’s drumbeat is always all the rage.

Use Your Noodles!

By: Shannon Shull

Who knew those good ole cheap pool noodles had so many uses? Upon using pool noodles as part of our Ghostbusters Proton Packs for my big 80s show this past school year, it came to my attention that these pool noodles can be used for TONS of things! Some uses are for pure fun, some are incredibly handy and some provide great safety pool noodlesmeasures. No need to go spend a fortune on anything fancy, check out the opportunities a 99-cent pool noodle can provide for you and your family! Below is just a quick list I pounded out to get ya brainstorming…

  • Tub toys
  • Pool throne
  • Toilet cushion
  • Hanger cushions, (no creases!)
  • Boot holder-uppers
  • Trampoline coil protectors
  • Quilt storage holders
  • Paint brush holders
  • Light sabers
  • Race car tracks
  • Pool serving dish
  • Pool cup holders
  • Cord holders
  • Jewelry holders
  • Garland
  • Rockets
  • Sword protectors
  • Wreaths
  • Child proofing

You can search Google for images of “pool noodle uses” and get a wealth of ideas. And don’t even get me started on the enormous possibilities provided on Pinterest! Below are just two links to some cool info on pool noodle usage. The possibilities are endless! So get creative, save money and enjoy the benefits of a good ole, cheap pool toy.

A New Way to Change Your Polish

By: Chaunte McClure

For most ladies, summertime means keeping your armpits and legs shaved and your toenails polished. I had a pedicure in May and had my polish changed at the spa visit during my Charleston getaway, and it’s finally time for a fresh coat of color. I’ve been waiting on the opportunity to remove the worn polish after discovering what I thought was a brilliant idea on an alternative way to remove polish from your toenails.

Just get a couple cotton balls and nail polish remover, right? Sure, you can use the traditional method, but what if you’ve recently had a manicure and you don’t want to ruin your fingernail polish while trying to freshen up the polish on your toenails? I guess you could put on rubber gloves to prevent acetone from making contact with your lovely nails. (Maybe not!) Or you could ask a friend to take the polish off your toes. Don’t tell my
friends, but I don’t think I want to touch any of their feet. Your friends are probably less of a germaphobic than me though. If no one is around, or no one wants to touch your feet, try using a tampon. Yes, a tampon! It’s like having cotton balls in an applicator. Well, not so much.

removing nail polish

From my post, A Knack for Hacks, you learned that there are multiple uses for various products and apparently that includes tampons. I learned about it on Facebook and looked forward to trying it. All you have to do is push the tampon out slightly, dip it into the polish remover and rub the tip of the tampon back and forth across your toe nail to remove the polish. I just made it sound easy, but I didn’t follow the directions quite like that. I think I pushed the tampon out too far. I’ll use that as my reason for giving this hack a thumbs down. I’ll stick to the cotton balls. I ended up using my fingers, which means if my nails were polished, they would have been ruined. It seemed like a good idea when I learned of it. Oh well, I guess for me, tampons will remain to have one use and one use only.

removing nail polish

removing nail polish

Give this hack a try and let me know how you like it.

10 Tips for Traveling With a Toddler

By: Brady Evans

Benjamin and I just completed our fourth flight – most of which I did with him solo. After doing this for awhile, I’ve come up with 10 tips to help moms deal with airports and such.

The beach at Grandma's!

The beach at Grandma’s!

10. You’ll never see these people again. Don’t stress out!

9. Remember that most of these people were babies themselves and had babies themselves. If your child is cranky give them a meek smile and make no excuses for yourself. Far more people understand your plight than you think.

8. Bring a change of clothes for the baby – and for you! I haven’t needed to use either, but with traveling comes a lot of close contact and a mess for the baby can easily turn into a mess for the both of you.

Benjamin playing in a somewhat empty airport gate area.

Benjamin playing in a somewhat empty airport gate area.

7. If you cloth diaper like I do – give it up and take disposables. Some things just aren’t worth it.

6. Dump out your child’s water cup before going through security. Doh! It is just water and I could have easily refilled it on the other side of security but having this cup means extra levels of screening with my baby and a carry-on.

5. Less is more. Don’t bother bringing reading material or your iPad. Baby isn’t going to be idle enough to let you read and won’t give a darn about your iPad. Ask me how I know.

4. Layovers are helpful. Direct flights are tempting but dealing with a squirmy baby with no breaks on a long flight is TOUGH. I chose flights with short-ish layovers to give myself a chance to change the diaper in the airport, stretch my legs, and give baby a change of scenery.



3. Snacks. Never underestimate the power of a pretzel even if you think the baby can’t possibly be hungry.

2. Standards. Lose them. Baby can have white flour for once. A Starbucks sugar-loaded frappucino isn’t so bad if it gives mom a pick-me-up.

Benjamin praying for an uneventful flight.

Benjamin praying for an uneventful flight.

1. Have fun!  Enjoy your getaway, laugh at your goofy kid, and let go.

Bonus tip: It doesn’t seem like a tip to me since it is such a big part of our life, but lose the stroller and wear your baby. You won’t have to take your baby off during security checks, you’ll have your hands free, and baby will be happy!

Coming Home

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

Mary PatAs most of you know, I’ve been in Atlanta since mid-April. First in-patient at Shepherd Center, then outpatient at Pathways, Shepherd Center’s rehab facility. I went home one weekend and was strangely relieved to be back to the studio apartment I share with Mom. All three locations have been like a safe cocoon, and as I prepare to “graduate” and come back to Columbia, I am getting a little anxious to leave my safe places.

I’ve made remarkable progress. I’m walking again – stairs even – and talking again. I’m shopping, cooking and even working a little. I have been through a lot of intensive rehab, and I should feel confident about coming home.

But today, I have noticed a lot of little things that worry me. I still get fatigued fairly easily. I haven’t been able to resume my workouts. Every so often words come out funny. When I get tired or sit too long, I walk like a zombie. I get winded easily. I still have my full-day neuropsych test and three-hour driving evaluation. There’s also the follow-up with the ENT doctor, the one who did my trach and vocal cord surgery. What if one of those indicates additional issues? What then?

What if they missed something? Or what if I get back and find there were more issues from the aneurysm than I thought? It’s nerve wracking. I’m trying to take it one day at a time, but it’s hard not to think ahead.

Here, I’m one of the more advanced patients. At home, I’m afraid I won’t be back on my “A-game.” I’ve gotten used to being here and have gotten comfortable in my rehab routine. In July, I’ll be staying with Mom the first couple of weeks because her house is all on one level. And she’ll taking me to various follow-up doctors appointments. Once I get to my house, I’ll be returning to animals underfoot, rooms without grab bars and getting around on my own. That both thrills me and terrifies me!

I still have a few days here in my cocoon, so I guess I need to enjoy them. And take them one day at a time.

Summer Fun Baskets

By: Leah Prescott

This year we are taking a true summer break, free from formal studies. I am sure this won’t always be the case as we sometimes have subjects to work on over the summer or some catch-up from days lost over the year. Still, while “book learning” is fun, nothing can take the place of carefree summer days filled with playing in the sprinkler and hunting worms. I’m looking forward to my kids wearing themselves out in the sunshine and teaching them some new board games when the South Carolina heat gets unbearable.

Summer fun basket

On the other hand, I want to do all I can to preserve the knowledge my 8-year-olds have gained over this school year and get those little thinking muscles primed for third grade. I’ve been thinking of ways to help encourage learning without major preparation or angst for any of the parties involved. Today I wanted to share one of these ideas with you. Whether you homeschool or not, this is a simple idea that is easily adapted to many ages. Perhaps it isn’t revolutionary, but it’s easy…and sometimes that’s better.

Summer fun basket

I was pretty proud of myself for cleaning out our entire library area by the end of the school year. I had to prepare for our annual book sale, so my arm was twisted into action. I took stock of our materials, filed away completed work for our records, sold some unneeded items, and tossed a lot. All the pencils found their way back to the pencil boxes and I discovered that we actually own one billion crayons, which surprised me since the perfect colors always seem to be eluding my little artists.

Summer fun basket

After the big cleanup, I set aside a large basket for each child and started filling them with “summer fun.” There are only two rules for the contents of the baskets: they must be fun and they must require little or no supervision. Here are some of the things I added to these baskets:

Summer fun basket

  1. Pencil box with basic supplies: glue stick, crayons, pencils, scissors, ruler
  2. Clipboard and legal pads (My children love clipboards. Any writing project is instantly twice as enticing if a clipboard can be utilized.)
  3. Flash master handheld game (electronic flash cards)
  4. Construction paper, stickers, and stencils
  5. “Fun” workbooks (We like the ones in the Target dollar spot.)
  6. Three Ring Binder with cardstock (My girls like to “scrap book” with magazine cuttings.)
  7. Play-Doh or silly putty

Those are the basics that I added to start out. It’s nice to continue to refresh the basket throughout the summer. A new paperback book, card game, or puzzle would be fun to add. Bead kits, rainbow looms or embroidery kits for older children are perfect. I’m looking for a paint-with-water coloring book for my preschooler.

Summer fun basket

This is also a nice place to stick those prizes from Chick-fil-a that would otherwise get lost at the bottom of your purse or the freebie stickers that come in the mail. Really, the options are endless and can be tailored to your child’s interests or needs.

The only “rule” I give the kids about these baskets is that they clean up after themselves. Summer is the time when I really try to crack down on housework and form better habits, and the whole family has to be on board. (If anyone has any tips for teaching my 3-year-old to clean up after himself, they will be humbly received.) Of course, if you have any ideas for easy summer learning, I’d love to hear them in the comments!