Coffee, Love and Power

By: Leah Prescott

imageEveryone in my neck of the woods has been talking about Loveland Coffee. It’s a cute little stand in Murraywood Shopping Center in Irmo. As temptingly adorable as it is, with an equally adorable name, I haven’t sampled Loveland yet. I have to admit that I don’t really like to buy my coffee out. Strange, right? I love coffee, and I admit there are lots of restaurants that make better coffee than I do at home. So why not buy coffee out? It’s not just that I am incredibly cheap (although I am).

Upon reflection, I realized that it’s about my coffee philosophy. You see, somehow I believe that coffee is power. Heaven help us if the electricity goes out and disturbs my pre-programmed percolator that begins its magic at 5:52 AM.  I wake up each morning without the strength to face the day until….coffee. If I am out of coffee, I am powerless. If my coffee maker is broken (I’ve gone through many), I fall into despair.

image copyIf coffee is power, how can I relinquish this power to some unknown barista? I have to keep the power for myself. I have to retain the strength in my own territory. So there it is, the reason why I make my own coffee without fail every single day. And, the reason why my sweet husband, who strangely enough does not drink coffee, knows me so well that he gave me a new French Press for Valentine’s Day. There may be 5 Love Languages, but my love language is coffee. Maybe after my third cup of the morning, I will head over to Loveland and relinquish a little of my power in exchange for a spiced latte.

Don’t Miss the Midlands’ Largest Drive Through Light Show!

By: Mary Pat Baldauf

For me, it just isn’t Christmas until I’ve seen Holiday Lights on the River at Saluda Shoals Park at least once. This year, I’ve already been twice, and I may end up there again. It’s
that delightful!

Holiday Lights On The River

With a million lights sparkling through more than 400 themes, there are a variety of displays, including the Dazzling Dancing Forest, the Twelve Days of Christmas, a Victorian Village, Old Man Winter and much more. My personal favorite is the holiday train, featuring a special car for naughty kids like me.

You can customize your Holiday Lights experience – stroll through the Winter Wonderland Walking Trail, enjoy the lights in the warmth of your car or bundle up and take a Winter Wonder Ride. This year, I did the November 23rd Sleigh Bell Stroll through the Park, which provided an up-close-and-personal look at each display, as well as fabulous photo ops!

Each evening features a variety of family-friendly activities, including a Red-Nose Express Hayride, the Saluda Shoals Choo-Choo Ride, and of course, visits with Santa!

Holiday Lights is open every evening from 6-10 p.m. now through December 31. If you haven’t been, make plans to visit this year. Or, if you’ve been in the past, it’s time to make Holiday Lights an annual tradition. You’ll love it!

Main Street Revitalization is Happening!

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

The phrase “it’s a small world” isn’t just a cliché.  At least, not if you live in the South.  It’s a FACT. This phenomenon is probably true in all areas of the world, but I can attest to its omnipresence here in the southern United States. It would not be an exaggeration to say that at least once daily I meet someone that I have a connection to, in one way or another.

A good example: Today I overhead a man mention a “swing dancers club” and then it hit me that I’d met this guy before.  Sure enough, he was one of the organizers of a swing dance celebration a few years ago during which Neil’s grandmother was honored.  Why, you ask?  Betty Wood, or “Nana” as we called her, was one of the original Big Apple kids.  She WAS swing dancing.  And sure enough, this was the guy who arranged a weekend-long celebration during which Nana taught Lindy, Big Apple and Jitterbug classes and received the key to the City from former “Mayor Bob” Coble.

Michael'sAnother example of the small-worlded-ness to which I refer?  Michael Fusco.  Mike Fusco was (is) the older brother of my high school buddy Dave Fusco.  When we were in college, the Fuscos’ opened Irmo’s first gourmet, upscale restaurant called Restaurant 1-2-3. To this day I believe it was truly the only high caliber restaurant Irmo has ever enjoyed.  Later, the Fusco family moved on to open yet another high quality restaurant, this time in Lexington…Cinnamon Hill.  And then they hit the Vista with the Rhino Room. All of these ventures were successful, top quality, something-to-talk-about restaurants that we Columbians were fortunate to experience. Now, Mike has hit Main Street and true to form, we are all going to benefit from his experience and his talents.

Michael’s Café & Catering officially opened last Tuesday for breakfast and lunch.  They are located at 1620 Main Street.  Yes, that’s the “Mast General” block.  For those of you who work downtown, you might be interested to know that just around the corner is a 24/7 gym.  You can work out, pop into Michael’s for a coffee, juice or smoothie, and grab breakfast to eat or take with you to your office…granola, yogurt parfaits or a hot breakfast burrito.  There’s something for everyone.  And, as you’ve certainly surmised from the title, Michael’s provides catering services, including a full service, tech-outfitted conference center adjacent to the café for your big events.  And for those of us who attend downtown churches, Sunday brunch is on the near horizon!

Tuesday night, Michael was über generous and opened his café up to me and some of my friends from the food blogsphere.  We were able to tour the beautiful, shiny new kitchens, the sharp conference center, and the hip yet warm café. We also tasted some of Michael’s menu treats!  We tasted, photographed, tweeted, instagrammed and otherwise bragged to our friends about the experience.  Let me tell you this…if you are ever invited to a restaurant preview, dry run, soft opening, whatever you want to call it, GO!  They are so fun and you really feel a connection to the place when you’ve been included in something so special.

So, anyway…you want to know about the food, right?  We sampled lots of goodies.  Here goes:

  • Greek saladFrieda’s Special: this is a Greek salad, but it’s a killer Greek salad.  Know why?  Frieda is a wonderful Greek lady who is a mutual friend and the salad is reflective of her; high class all the way.  Quality lettuces, ample feta, pitted Kalamata olives, tender & spicy pepperoncini, outstanding dressing.  Not your typical iceberg lettuce salad, for sure!
  • White Russian sandwich: OMG! It’s not complicated.  Turkey, bacon, swiss and a homemade “not your typical” Russian dressing.  This is a fabulous sandwich, friends.
  • Pimento CheesePimento Cheese: We had this as a dip and also as a grilled cheese sandwich. Let’s face it…pimento cheese rocks as long as it’s homemade and made with really good quality cheese.
  • Philly Cheese Steak:  I’m super picky about Phillies.  This is it.  Lean, well cooked “grilly” tasting steak, spicy peppers and yummy onions and cheese.  Add a high quality hoagie roll and, well, I don’t need to say any more.
  • Pasta Salad:  We tried two.  The first was bow-tie pasta with pesto, artichoke hearts (I mean, can you go wrong with artichoke? NO!) and red wine vinegar/olive oil vinaigrette.  The other was a multi-color fusilli with a rice wine vinegar vinaigrette…my fave!
  • Shrimp Salad: Ok, see, we live in the South.  If anybody can work with shrimp, it’s those of us in coastal states.  This is a great example.  The shrimp are what my dad and I call “creek size” shrimp. They are just the right size for a salad on lettuce, in a cup, on a croissant.  Large, stuffable sized shrimp are not right for this job.  They are flavored with herbs and mayo, but lightly so.  It’s not heavy; it’s just what shrimp salad should be.
  • Breakfast Burrito:  Ok here’s the one place I have to insert something personal.  When I heard that Michael was opening a new place, I told my 7-year-old about it.  I’m proud to say that she is a very adventurous eater and loves to participate in the “grown up world.”  As soon as she heard about Michael’s, she said, it “must” have a breakfast burrito. So, I told Mike about it and Viola! he added it to the menu.  Viv is so proud.  If only it were titled the “Breakfast Vivverito” or something…Just kidding Michael!
  • Veggie Hummus Wrap: My girl April is a vegetarian.  If you have veggie friends, you know that there are varied types.  Some are vegan (NO animal products at all…this is a very hard, rigid lifestyle), ovo-lacto (ok with eggs, cheese, milk), pescetarians (fish, shellfish ok), you get the idea.  My friend April describes her vegetarianism very simply as “no flesh.”  That, I love.  I don’t have to think for 10 minutes about what she can or cannot eat.  So, Michael’s has several offerings for our veggie friends.
  • And last, but not least…SMOKED TOMATO RANCH. Holy mother of Krypton.  The mere description doesn’t sound like much, it’s true.  But after hearing a few others comment about this dressing, I had to make my way down the table to try it out for myself.  I don’t really know a better way to say wow, other than wowza, shazamm, holy something…  We all know that in many cases, a salad is only as good as its dressing.  This is fantastic.  You just have to trust me and try it for yourself.  I loved it so much, I asked Michael if he could think of using it as a base for a pasta salad. And, I think this would be the ideal dressing for any salad, even Frieda’s, if you want to deviate from the norm!

The evening was just fantastic and I know that the downtown community will love and support this new eatery. I want to thank Mike, Rebecca and Lisa for inviting all of us in and giving us the opportunity to try out the menu. Michael’s is focused on good quality, culinary talent and supporting other local culinary businesses along the way. Those of you who read my blog posts know my opinion of the importance of supporting local people and local businesses.  Try out Michael’s Cafe. For a few reasons: because you love and appreciate good food, you need an efficient space for parties/meetings, and need a fantastic caterer for your special events.

And, because I said so.  🙂  

Elizabeth writes Gastronomy (by a Wanna-be Chef) to record cooking thoughts, successes, failures and whatever crosses her mind. You can also find her on Facebook.

 

Getting to the Core

By: Katie Austin

Today was the day that life would take me on a detour.  I had been procrastinating for some time, waiting for the perfect “tomorrow” to start working out and eating right.  To think, almost two years ago I was battling breast cancer and struggled to keep food down as I battled nausea from my chemo treatments.  Now, I love the taste of food and my body is paying the price.  It was time to take action to become the healthier version of myself.

My intentions were good that Thursday afternoon as I took off across the Lake Murray Dam the stretches from Lexington to Irmo.  I parked my car, took a swig of water and told myself that today was the day.  I felt good as I walked and at times, I ran as far as I could, then walking fast to keep up a good pace.  I made it to the other side in Irmo (approximately 1.7 miles) and was motivated to travel the same distance back to Lexington.   I have to admit, a motivating factor was that my car was parked on the Lexington side of the dam so if I wanted to drive home, I would have to walk back 🙂

Lake Murray Dam sidewalk facing Lexington

I made it to my car and as I sat drinking the rest of my water, I was feeling pretty good about starting my exercise program.   I was already thinking about what I would do the next day to keep myself moving in this healthier direction, but when I woke up the next morning, things would change.  I would spend the next three weeks trying to figure out what was wrong with me.

I awoke the next day with pain in my upper-right back like I have never experienced before!  I had a lot on my plate that weekend and chalked things up to soreness coming from starting a new exercise routine.  I ignored my back pain and didn’t seek medical attention until the following Tuesday.  What would follow next was a series of doctor appointments, scans and tests to rule out whether or not my cancer was back.  Talk about stressed out as I felt like my life was spiraling out of control again!  They ended up ruling out a cancer recurrence (thank goodness!!) and determined that I had pulled or torn a muscle in my back.  I found myself extremely relieved that it wasn’t cancer, but at the same time frustrated, worried and one big ball of stress as I just wanted to know how I could make the pain go away.

I really pondered how a simple brisk walk with short sprints over a 3.4 mile stretch could cause the pain that I was in, but then it hit me – I didn’t take baby steps to get back into shape, but a full leap forward which stressed my body out.  Since completing my breast cancer fight, I haven’t really taken the time to get my strength back, ensuring that my “core” is where it should be to support my new workout.  Did I really think I could jump back into life, doing my normal routine and playing sports without taking the time to ensure that I was physically ready?  I have since relieved my back pain after seeing a physical therapist and reversing my bad habits that weakened my back to begin with.

Sometimes mind over body needs to be the reverse.  If I can give any advice to those beginning their workouts, take it slow, listen to your body and set reasonable goals.   My mistake was that I was trying to accomplish a lot in a little bit of time, which ended up setting me back several weeks.    Now, I have a new focus and direction which gives me hope that I will continue on my path to better health.

“He who has health, has hope; and he who has hope, has everything.”

I wanted to share this recent personal experience so that if there are readers going through something similar that it gives you hope that no matter what comes your way that, in time, things will get better.   I am feeling better, healthier with each passing day and I know that I will reach my goal in due time even if it takes many baby steps to get there.

If you have a suggestion for a health program that works best for you, post it here!   I hope to see some of you during my walks on the dam.  I wear pink in honor of my breast cancer sisters, so I am sure I will be easy to spot 🙂

Running for the Colon Cancer Challenge …

By: Summer Brons

On Saturday, March 24 I participated in Lexington Medical Center’s Colon Cancer Challenge.  Held at Dutch Fork High School in Irmo, the event offered 65-mile and 25-mile cycling races, as well as an 8k run and a one-mile fun run/walk. With the race practically in my backyard (and with a modest registration fee!), I signed up for the 8k, happy for an opportunity to run my favorite distance for a great cause.

The 8k didn’t start until 8:45am and it was probably after 8:15 by the time I arrived. I’d intended to show up earlier, but I found myself in a bit of a battle with my iPod Shuffle, having determined that the morning of a race was the perfect time to completely erase everything on the device and begin anew. Multiple syncing issues later, I gave up the fight and decided to run with my iPhone since it was already in my hand and I knew it had music. I can’t run without my tunes, I just can’t. Kudos to other runners who can pound out the mileage without a soundtrack…I am simply not one of them.

I’ve digressed.

I made my way over to Dutch Fork High and was pleased to find that the event was extremely well-organized.  I was parked within seconds and able to walk straight up to the registration tables and pick up my race packet with no wait, no hassle. All that was left to do was sit in my car and compile a suitable playlist. (Shameless plug time: A premium membership with Spotify is totally worth it.)

As the clock ticked closer to 8:45 am, I made my way to the starting line with the other runners. It was a small field and everyone seemed to be in good spirits as we listened to the speakers touting the importance of colon cancer awareness prior to the start of each race.  As the horn blew and we set off, I went out entirely too fast and found myself tired within the first half of a mile…oops. I don’t run with other people very often, so when I’m in a situation with other runners around me, the excitement tends to push me beyond my typically manageable pace and I’ll burn out quickly.

Luckily, I was able to settle into a reasonable clip and particularly enjoyed the downhill stretches throughout the five-mile route. The course was great; a nice mix of flat, downhill and uphill terrain as we looped back to Dutch Fork High.  My Garmin clocked me at just under 48 minutes for 5.03 miles. Solid! As long as I’m under a 10:00 min/mile pace, I’m happy.  9:40 or under is grounds for excitement in my book.  According to the results posted by Strictly Running, I came in at 47:52 for an average pace of 9:38 and finished 10th out of 24.

The race was a great way to kick off my weekend and I’d like to give a huge thanks to Lexington Medical Center, Strictly Running and all involved sponsors for pulling the event together!  Cancer awareness is so important; it’s great to see folks getting involved with the community to help spread the word and raise funds for continued research and treatment.

I Am So Sick of the “E” Word!

By: Elizabeth Webber Akre

America is in the economic doldrums.  Have you heard?  Of course you have.  We’re all living it.  We are living it to the point that we really don’t need to hear it anymore.  But, the media has trained us all so well to insert the “E” word into our vocabulary so much so that I think I hear it at least 5 times a day.  I am so sick of the word economy that I am consciously trying to eliminate it from my word repertoire. “E”nough already!

At one time, the word economy had a happier, more pleasant connotation.  It meant “Hey, I just got a great deal!”  or “Wow! This is a great price.”  Or “I managed to stretch my household budget because of my sense of economy.”  Now, it’s just a negative, ugly, worn-out description of this looming monster that is slowly trying to kill us all.  Well, I realized today that for me, the true meaning of the word does in fact still exist.  And, I’m not alone.  That’s right, I am one of those “coupon people” you’ve all been hearing about.

I won’t even attempt to teach the basics and certainly not the fine nuances I’ve learned over the last couple years here.  But, I will give total and complete recognition to a lady in Irmo named Jenny Martin.  She is the creator and owner of the most amazing website on Earth, http://www.SouthernSavers.com.  Since I discovered Southern Savers, I have learned the “tricks” of the trade.  It will blow your mind how elementary it all is and then smack yourself in the head like I did with an exclamation like “Why didn’t I figure that out?”  Since my coupon awakening, I’ve cut our household budget by at least 60%.  That’s pretty significant, if you ask me.  And, nothing beats the rush of walking out of a store with a receipt longer than your arm and having dropped a fraction of the cash than the person in line behind you!

So, today, I spent some time organizing and adding to my coupon notebook.  As the holidays approach, I will be stocking up on items needed for the parties, family get-togethers, special treats for the little one, etc.  But, it’s also a great time to build up reserves.  You know something?  It’s awesome to be in the middle of a recipe and realize you just used the last of the olive oil or soy sauce or Dijon mustard last week, but no biggie…you just open a cabinet and continue on.  That’s when you realize how truly valuable and cool couponing is.

If you haven’t joined the Coupon Nation, do yourself a favor.  Visit www.SouthernSavers.com, spend about 30 minutes educating yourself and then send Jenny a little message letting her know what a difference she’s making in the world.  Especially in the age of the “E” word.