Happy Trails!

By Stacy Thompson

If you’ve read my earlier posts, you know that I enjoy a good hike and, even better, a good challenge.  Although I’ve always loved the outdoors, hiking only recently became a favorite pastime, as I decided to follow in the footsteps of a pretty incredible mother (mine) who felt the pull of the peak.  Since her first climb six years ago, we’ve been on some incredible journeys together – but in finding joy in our journey, we have to prepare and prepare hard.  In truth, the hikes are amazing, but our prep time together is the greatest gift that leads to our ultimate goal.

So how do two land-locked, Lexington County natives living at 292 feet prepare for Machu Picchu (7,972 feet), base camp of Mt. Everest/Kala Patthar (18,514 feet) and Kilimanjaro (19,431 feet)??? One foot in front of the other, in stairwells, steps and trails anywhere and everywhere we can find them!  Maybe our fellow hikers with the benefit of high altitudes in the vicinity have an advantage, but we make the most of what we have available to us, and to date we have met every challenge.

Here are a few of our favorite spots to train and enjoy the outdoors in the Midlands (leaving out the parking garage, of course!)—

  • Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park – still a work in progress and still recovering from the Great Flood – the flattest path you’ll find and a great place to train for a 5k, 10k or ½ marathon – particularly nice on cooler days, as most of the paths are sun-filled!
  • Sesquicentennial State Park – probably better for the bikers, but these trails are accessible and have campsites available for overnights, if that’s your thing
  • Congaree National Park – I’ve only explored the shorter trails and the area by kayak, but plan to venture further into the area to see what this National Park has to offer
  • Cayce Riverwalk – accessible from the amphitheater off Gervais or the lot off Naples in the Avenues of Cayce – one of the easier boardwalks and trails for bikers, runners, hikers and dog-walkers – this trail is continuing to improve/expand and cannot be missed – and speaking of ‘don’t miss,’ be sure to check out the chainsaw artistry of Wade Geddings while you take in the beauty of the Congaree
  • Timmerman Trail – venture down the 12th Street Extension in Cayce toward SCANA to find this gem of a trail – eventually downtown Soda City will meet River Rat as the Timmerman Trail / Cayce Riverwalk will join with the Columbia Canal and Riverfront Park for miles and miles of enjoyment – until then, Timmerman Trail does not disappoint!
  • Harbison State Park – we’ve been hiking the park for a couple of years now, but still manage to find new areas, new parts to get (semi) lost in, and new trails that have us marveling that we are still within the county limits! Trails for bikes, hikes and pups – what could be better (nothing, based on the look on my boy Lincoln’s face!)  There are trails for newbies, those wanting a little challenge and those looking to take it to the next level!

 

Weather Rant

By Chaunte McClure

I was hoping this post would celebrate the one to two inches of snow forecasted for today. Instead, I’m whining because the flurries I had the privilege of seeing vanished as soon as they touched a surface.

The winter scene was beautiful while I sat in my car with the engine running, enjoying my chicken salad sandwich. Sadly, the snow lasted about 10 minutes before turning into a wintry mix, and back again to snow for another short span. All this while my sister, an elementary school teacher, is calling me from home sharing weather updates for the Midlands and bragging about her day off. Yes, I’m a little jealous, but I’ll get over it by Friday and I won’t be mad at her or the meteorologists who kept me on my times; however, I do have a heartfelt message for the weathermen.

Dear meteorologist,

My heart just can’t handle the disappointment anymore. When I see the snowflake in your weather graphic, I get uber excited and look forward to the ground being blanketed with snow. I mean, I dream up a day at home on the bed with my laptop and a throw, having snow conversations with my Facebook friends and peeping out the window watching it gracefully fall from the sky. Do you know the last time I took a picture of snow-covered Columbia? I think it was in 2010; two governors ago! Something has to change. I mean, you get me all worked up, then nothing happens. I know, it’s not your fault, right. The track changed and areas north of us got most of the white stuff. I guess that’s what happens when we live in a city that’s known to be Famously Hot.

Snow 2010 in Columbia

The glorious snow of 2010

With one more winter month ahead, I remain hopeful and I’ll still rely on you for an accurate forecast. Please, just don’t disappoint me again.

Sincerely,

A Southern girl who wants at least an inch of snow.

Shop Late, If You Must, But Don’t Forget to Shop Sustainable

By Mary Pat Baldauf

There are still a few days left for holiday gift shopping, and if you’re like me, you’ll be using every last hour. A shopper at heart, I love buying gifts for the special people in my life. As a “green girl,” I shop with sustainability in mind and wanted to share some tips so you, too, can be a more sustainable holiday shopper on the last few days of this holiday season.

Think local. Studies show that every dollar spent generates twice as much income for the local economy, and who doesn’t like that? Because locally produced products are created here – not shipped in from across the country or even across the world – the footprint of your gift will be smaller and result in a cleaner, healthier environment.  Working for the City of Columbia, I do a lot of shopping in the Main Street District. My favorites for local goods include Soda City, Columbia’s Main Street market, and Uptown on Main, who also wraps gifts for free.

Consider consumables. Having issues with clutter myself, I refuse to create more for the holidays, for me or for others. My standard gift is usually a recycled-content ornament, but this year I’m only buying gifts that can be eaten or experienced. The Cotton Mill Exchange at the SC State Museum has a great selection of Palmetto State gifts, including gourmet foods produced within our borders. Or select a gift card to a local restaurant, bakery or micro-brewery. Personally, I’ll be asking Santa for a gift certificate to Spotted Salamander, a downtown Columbia café featuring inventive Southern cuisine with fresh, high quality local ingredients. And don’t forget Blue Flour Bakery’s fat and fabulous sugar cookies; with locations in Columbia and Irmo, they’re always a convenient treat.

Another favorite consideration? Think experiential. In the Midlands, it’s easy to find Nickelodeon Marquissomething for everyone on your list to enjoy, like tickets to a play or attraction you know they like. A donation in the name of your recipient will go a long way, too. At the top of my list is a membership to The Nickelodeon, Columbia’s art house theatre on Main Street. Experience gifts are true memory makers, and they don’t take up space on a shelf or need wrapping, either.

 

When you buy gifts, do you consider its impact on the environment and/or local community? Where is your favorite place to buy sustainable holiday gifts? And what is it you recommend there?  

Hooked on Giving

By Chaunte McClure

The nightly news stories on deaths, threats, thefts, kidnappings and assaults lead some to wonder: are any good people left in the world?

Of course, there are and I learned of a group of them in Columbia who are hooked on giving and they are taking their craft to Main Street.

They are the Yarnbombers of Columbia and other generous knitters and crocheters in the area who are hanging handmade hats, and scarves for the homeless and less fortunate on the “giving tree.”

Earlier this month winter accessories adorned the giving tree, but last night when I drove by, the tree was bare.

You can change that because anyone can give and anyone in need can take a free, colorful, knitted find to keep warm.

Yarnbombers 1

The “giving tree” is in front of Mast General Store on Main Street. Hang a hat, wrap a scarf, warm a heart during this season of giving.

While you’re downtown, visit the State House Christmas tree. It’s a perfect spot to pose for a Christmas card photo. The official tree lighting ceremony is November 27.

The More Things Change…

By: Stacy Thompson

My law firm has undergone some huge changes recently – two of our partners are moving on to great professional ventures and as a business, we could not be happier for them. Personally, however, the transition will be anything but easy. As consumed as we’ve been in the pragmatic aspects of the change (complete overhaul of letterhead, business cards, website…and the list goes on and on and on) I personally can’t help but get the feeling we all have when faced with a ‘goodbye to the old and in with the new’ life event. I know our firm will continue to thrive, as will the careers of both our colleagues, but we will miss their friendship and personalities as much as we will miss their legal guidance.

In times like these, it’s natural to reflect back on the beginning as we face the change. Seventeen years ago, I was a baby-lawyer fresh out of law school, looking to do good and hopefully make a living. I had taken the South Carolina Bar Exam, a grueling three-day marathon that I hoped to pass, not because of my immense drive to succeed but mainly due to my inability to fathom having to study for and take that thing again. I was pursuing a potential career in the military, but in the interim, was working at my brother’s sandwich shop. Yes, the girl with a law degree was getting drink refills, chopping vegetables and bagging to-go orders. I was happy to have the distraction and interaction with customers and really enjoyed the time with my brother and mother, who worked the cash register. One of the ‘regulars’ came in for his usual lunch and my mom asked him how his new law practice was doing. He had recently gone into practice with another lawyer and starting the business was hectic, overwhelming, but certainly exciting. He happened to mention to her that they could use a little extra paralegal help to handle some of the day-to-day stuff, and my mother, in true momma-bear-mode, pointed to me, the one in the apron, baseball hat, and sneakers, and said, “My daughter has a paralegal degree, well, and a law degree, but she’s worked as a paralegal and has some time on her hands.” As I was getting said lawyer’s drink, we talked about his new practice and I explained that I had experience in drafting pleadings, answering interrogatories and writing demand letters. He brought his law partner back the next day, and I moved to the other side of the counter (still in my apron, baseball hat, and sneakers) for my first job interview post-law school. They asked me to come to their office the next day and were a little surprised to see me in a suit – I had changed after leaving my ‘other’ job and wasn’t going to miss an opportunity to show them that I was serious about the part-time job they were offering.

Two weeks into the job, the work continued to flow and I was asked to come on board full time. A few months later, my bosses (by that time friends) asked if I would join them as an associate. The decision was an easy one – although I had other thoughts as to my future, I found myself in an office with people I respected and liked, doing work that I was proud of – truly, this was where I was meant to be.

Fast-forward to the present – I’m still in that same office with people I respect and truly like, doing work that I’m immensely proud of. I live close to my family and have the flexibility to balance my work life with travel, Gamecock games, and the occasional arts and crafts project.

Sometimes changes in our lives are intentional and other times changes drop into our laps or even blindside us. Regardless, change can be positive and may allow us the opportunity to reflect on how things were and how we want them to be. I’m grateful for the change that occurred seventeen years ago and look forward to the new change happening now. It may be that ‘the more things change the more they stay the same’ but sometimes it involves embracing a new ‘same’ and relishing the chance to create a new direction in life.

If You Can’t Win the Game, Win the Tailgate

By: Stacy Thompson

As football fans, we like to believe that we have control over the ultimate outcome of a game — gotta wear that lucky shirt, lucky hat or lucky socks; if watching on TV, gotta sit in the lucky seat. Obviously, the actions or inactions of the fans have little to do with the play on the field, but that knowledge doesn’t make losing a game any easier or tolerable. On the flip side, there are those that don’t really follow football or care whether the home team wins or loses but simply enjoy the great southern tradition of football tailgating. So whether you are an ardent fan or dedicated socializer, I hope you enjoy these quick and easy tailgate recipes to make your Saturday a blast. Just add burgers, dogs or BBQ and you’ll easily win the day regardless of the score of the game!

Southern Caviar

  • 2 cans black-eyed peas
  • 2 cans shoe peg corn
  • 2 cans Ro-tel tomatoes
  • 2 large bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 can black beans
  • 12 small green onions, chopped
  • 3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp garlic salt
  • 1 tsp parsley flakes
  • 16-ounce bottle Zesty Italian dressing

Mix all ingredients and chill overnight. Serve with Tostitos scoops.

 

Sweet Southern Slaw

  • 1 (16-ounce) bag coleslaw mix (finely shredded)
  • 2 tablespoons finely diced onion
  • 2/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon poppy seeds

Mix coleslaw and onion. Whisk remaining ingredients and toss well. Chill before serving.

 

Southern Deviled Eggs

  • 7 large eggs, hard-boiled and peeled
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sweet pickle relish
  • 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
  • 1 pinch each of salt and pepper

Cut eggs lengthwise. Place yolks in a small bowl, mash, and add remaining ingredients. Mix well. Fill egg whites with mixture and garnish with paprika or pimientos.

 

Krispy Kreme Casserole

  • 9 Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts, day old
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Cut donuts into 1/2 inch pieces. Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over donuts. Let sit for 2 hours. Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until middle is firm.

Playing the Numbers

By: Chaunte McClure

While some of you were trying to figure out the winning numbers for the $758.7 million Powerball jackpot last month, I dreamed of what I’d do with the money if I won. Oh, I’d pay off every bill we owe, invest in a new home and other real estate and, of course, save, save, save. I never dreamed of which numbers I’d choose because of greater importance to me the numbers are displaying on my brand-spanking new wrist blood pressure monitor.

I don’t even play the lottery and I decided not to gamble with my health after being diagnosed with hypertension in July.

I went to the doctor for unrelated symptoms and as soon as the doctor walked in he asked, “What’s going on with your blood pressure?”

I had no idea. I would normally blame my high numbers on the stress of seminary, but that was two months behind me and at the time, I didn’t have much work stress.

My doctor asked me to monitor my blood pressure for 10 days, then come back and he’d decide if I need a prescription.

I hate taking medicine. I mean, really hate it.

It was easy to start my on-again, off-again relationship with morning or evening walks. I was determined to do whatever it took to get my number down, but nothing worked – at least not immediately.

I borrowed a blood pressure monitor and every time I checked, my numbers were still too high.

I recorded these numbers: 162/ 99, 141/105, 135/95, 157/107. (The optimal numbers are 120/80 or less.)

Sure, anxiety contributed to some of that because I kept thinking about a first cousin who died of a stroke less than two years ago and he was only about 35 years old. Just a few months later, one of my aunts suffered a stroke. Then I remembered Granddaddy had at least three strokes. That’s enough to send anyone into a tizzy.

I decided not to wait the ten days and go to my family doctor before the worst happens. I got an appointment within a week of my previous doctor’s visit. I was expecting exactly what I was told. After sharing my family history, the doctor said, “I’m going to put you on a blood pressure medication.”

I had to ask, “How long do you think I’ll be on the medication?”

He said, “For the rest of your life.” (Insert eyes emoji here!)

That’s not what I wanted to hear and honestly, I thought, “That’s what you think, doc.” I was about to put my faith into overdrive when the truth of the matter is I need to listen to my doctor.

If you’ve been diagnosed with high blood pressure or if your doctor has asked you to monitor your numbers, please, listen to your doctor.

High blood pressure affects your health, leading to stroke, heart attack, or kidney disease.

Get into the habit of checking your BP at home or at a local pharmacy. Your life is worth it.