Front Porch and Kitchen Memories

By Chaunte McClure

By now, you know I love to reminisce about growing up with Grandma. I was scrolling Facebook on Sunday night and came across a meme with an image of peas in chipwood baskets, and of course, my mind traveled back to summer months sitting on the porch at Grandma’s.

On occasion, she’d shell peas or butter beans while we, the grandkids, frolicked in the yard. Some days I didn’t have that privilege or thought I was “too grown” to play with the others, but my time wouldn’t be idle because I’d have to get a bowl and help shell peas. Geez, if Grandma could’ve seen the eye roll I imagined upon her demand. Of course, she always knew whether or not I wanted to do what she asked. I’ve heard her say, “If you can eat ‘em, you can shell ‘em.” That meant get your fingernails ready to open the seams of 2,000 pods. (Clearly, I’m exaggerating.)

fresh-peas

It just seemed like it took forever to see the results of my labor, for I thought my bowl would never get full and the pile of unshelled beans always looked so large.

We snapped beans too. I’d much rather the snapping because it was much easier to break off the tips and snap the stems and that was easier on the fingernails, thumbs and index fingers.

Those are classic moments because today I don’t eat fresh vegetables often enough nor do I have a garden like many families did during my childhood. Food was better for you and oh, the memories we made just with food. Picking, peeling, cutting and bagging tomatoes. Canning peaches, apples, and beans. And making biscuits from scratch. I only watched Grandma knead biscuit dough and even at 42 years old, sadly, I’ve never made homemade biscuits nor have I canned fruits and vegetables. But some of my fondest memories were made on the porch and in the kitchen at Grandma’s House.

What are some of your fondest memories growing up in the South?

Are You Experiencing One Wild and Precious Summer?

By: Shannon Boatwright

Oprah has inspired me. There, I said it. And I know I’m not special with this ‘being inspired’ moment, as millions – probably more – are inspired by the woman on a daily basis. But I have to admit, I’ve been aching to write. I even told my husband the other day, “I want to write a book.” He responded with, “What about?”

My response, “I’m not sure.” I know I have something to share. In fact, I have a lot I could/can share. But where to start?

The other week, my Mama dropped off some magazines for me, which she occasionally will do. When she’s done scouring the pages, she’ll hand them over for me to enjoy. In this case, she left the June 2017 issue of Oprah’s O Magazine. After sitting on my kitchen island for almost two weeks, I finally had a day in which I felt relaxed enough to truly sit down and enjoy flipping through a magazine. This particular day was July 4th. My children were out of town with their father, and my husband and I had the day to enjoy together. No work, no commitments. At first we felt the pressure to go do something, go to the lake, party with friends, do something spectacular and cool on this holiday. But, we gleefully discovered we were on the same page and wanted nothing more than to just relax, do nothing, and enjoy being together. We avoided the South Carolina heat, did nothing spectacular, and loved every minute of it. As we basked in our uneventful day, I read through the pages of the magazine, consistently being pulled in by article after article. By the end of the day, I was in awe at the realization that I could not put the magazine down and had been inspired by not just one article, but so many that I had folded down more page corners than I think I ever have in any magazine. Each writer inspired me to think of things that I want to write about and share with the world in hopes that I could in turn inspire someone, fill their heart maybe, bring a smile to their face. It’s a wonderful, sometimes indescribable thing when that happens. It’s something us writers live for and absolutely love when these unexpected moments of inspiration capture our time and attention.

So what do I share now? Well, the cover of this particular O Magazine issue is all about summer and it wasn’t just the glorious beach picture with Oprah that caught my attention, but the headline that says, “Your One Wild and Precious Summer”. Something about this wording caught my eye and peeked my interest. It wasn’t until nighttime that I got to the article that belonged to this headline. Page 87 – the title page – contained a short paragraph that got me thinking. Then I noticed the asterisk – it’s an explanation, or tease if you will, about that intriguing headline…it said:

“*If you’ve never read Mary Oliver’s poem “The Summer Day,” please do. It inspired this headline, and it will surely inspire you.”

Oprah and your fabulous peeps – Mission Accomplished!

I immediately picked up my phone, Googled Oliver’s poem, and voila! Next thing you know I’m searching for an image of the poem and posting it on my Instagram.

Yep.  I was indeed inspired.

“The Summer Day” by Mary Oliver

Who made the world?

Who made the swan, and the black bear?

Who made the grasshopper?

This grasshopper, I mean-

the one who has flung herself out of the grass,

the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,

who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-

who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.

Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.

Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.

I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.

I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down

into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,

how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,

which is what I have been doing all day.

Tell me, what else should I have done?

Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?

Tell me, what is it you plan to do

with your one wild and precious life?

As I was letting the words, phrases and meaning of the poem sink in, I started falling into that typical human trap of thinking negatively…blah, blah, blah, wah, wah, wah, …

Then, I realize, oh my gosh…Mary, Oprah, I HAVE been living a fabulous summer. What!?

Like possibly one of the first summers in which it actually does feel wild and precious.  

Yes! Quite honestly, I don’t want it to end. I worked so incredibly hard this past school year. Always on the go, always exhausted, always looking forward to better things, better times.

But this summer has been different for me. Not just a regular teacher’s break from the insanely busy school year, but I was actually blessed with the chance of a lifetime.

I’m gonna admit here that I honestly don’t know the words to describe what I hope and pray will not end up being a once in MY lifetime experience… At this point, I still feel like it was all a dream. And I promise you I am not over-exaggerating.

I was graced with an all-expense paid trip to Europe. I traveled through the South of France, all along the French Riviera – shopping in Cannes, Hollywood dream-like dining in Saint Tropez, even a dreamlike visit to Monaco, staying in Sainte-Maxime, France in one of the most gorgeous homes I’ve ever set eyes on, much less visited. I consistently pinched myself in an attempt to remind myself that the whole experience was actually real. Closing out my 9-day journey was a visit to Switzerland – a magical place that totally captured my heart, so much so that I think I will forever fantasize about retiring there. And, the bonus was that I had the privilege of enjoying this adventure with my amazing, sweet Mama – my rock, my truly forever BFF – as we were hosted by most precious, dear friends of hers.

Whew…. deep breathes and overwhelming, heart-warming joy fills me at just the thought of these amazing friends of my mother’s…

Needless to say, I could write novels, even movie screenplays, based on the beautiful things, places and people that I saw and the incredible stories that were shared with me. My heart and mind get overwhelmed just thinking about the fabulousness and preciousness of it all and the true blessing of meeting these truly incredible people.

I’ll possibly, hopefully, eventually share more about this-out of-MY-world start to my “wild and precious summer”. But for now, I thank Oprah and Mary Oliver for reminding me that it’s solely up to me how I live out my all too-short-summer. I have the power to make it fabulous. And though my summer of 2017 certainly got off to an insanely fantastic start, I plan to do my best to “squeeze every last drop of bliss and awe, out of this, my untamed summer.”

As Mary Oliver hints in her lovely poem, life is short! The way I see it, we get one chance to rock it, be our best and truly live it up!  I have a feeling she and Oprah would agree with me.

So how do YOU plan to make the best of it? Let’s start with this season currently in our midst. Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious summer? 😉

4 Healthy Recipes to Try This Independence Day

By: Kristen Nida, Guest Contributor

Hosting a Fourth of July celebration this year? You’ll have to try these four quick and easy recipes for your holiday festivities. Not only do they take little time to prepare, leaving you more time to enjoy with your family and friends, but they are also healthy!

Barbecue Pulled Chicken: A Fourth of July cookout isn’t complete without barbecue.
This BBQ pulled chicken recipe is a unique reinterpretation of pulled pork that slow-cooks chicken in tangy tomato sauce. Whether served over mashed potatoes or served as a sandwich, it is sure to be a hit. Click here for the recipe.

Creamy Spinach Dip: This healthy, fresh take on classic spinach dip is irresistible.
The low-fat ingredients in this tasty recipe will save you over 80 calories in each serving. This versatile dip can be served with pita chips, fresh vegetables, or even spread over a sandwich. There is an option for everyone! Click here for the recipe.

Red, White & Blue Popsicles: This easy, 3-step recipe is as quick to prepare as it is tasty to eat.
Juicy raspberries and blueberries are in season and this recipe takes full advantage of that. The natural sweetness of these fruity popsicles is unbeatable and the colors scream Independence Day, perfect for the occasion. Click here for the recipe.

S’mores Banana Ice Cream: The lightest, quickest “ice cream” you will ever prepare!
S’mores, bananas, and ice cream are each so delicious on their own. The only way to make them better is to combine them into one tasty treat! The best thing about this recipe is it takes only four minutes to create this dessert for your family and friends to enjoy. Click here for the recipe.

Back to School

By: Lara Clark

I spent a lot of time this summer at my desk, at work, in front of a computer. Our summer trip was in early June and my feet will not hit the sand any time soon. I enjoyed ALL of your trapper keepervacation pictures streaming through my Facebook feed, really I did. But I had to find my joy in other things as we ease back in to the school year.

I have found a few things that are putting pep in my step and maybe they will yours too.

1. The show Unreal. I may be late to this party, but there is a chance if your television watching time falls after the kids go down and before your eyelids go down then you may be late to this party too. UnReal is a fictional show about the making of a reality show. It feels like a behind the scenes look at the making of The Bachelor. And since I believe reality is stranger than fiction, I gotta think this show might be giving us an inside look into what makes those hot tub, smoochie girls cry buckets of tears when they do not get a rose. There is one season of this on Hulu and the second season is currently on Lifetime. If you have a Roku there is a free Lifetime app so you can catch up on any episodes you miss or fall asleep during.

2. Okay, so this one might be a stretch. These are things that are making my back to school days a bit brighter. This one is a little more literal. Last summer we renovated our kitchen and chose a porcelain white sink. Now, like everything white in my life, it does not have the same sparkle and shine it once had. A wise friend suggested I buy some Soft Scrub….in all my maidless days I have never used this thing called Soft Scrub. Well, let me know tell you- our sink is as white as the teeth of the model in a whitening strip commercial. I would say pearly white. Though this may not be a photograph of my feet propped up and a glass of wine on a porch overlooking the ocean, I might still put it on Instagram. #nofilter #lilywhite #cleansinkhappyheart

3. Saving money is not the easiest thing for me to do. Mostly because it seems like you have to have extra money to save and I am not in the business of extra money but a few months ago I signed up for Digit. Basically, you give Digit your banking information. (It is legit I did my research.) They study your account and develop an algorithm (don’t ask me?) and determine how much of your money they can shift into a savings account without you even really noticing. Sometimes it is 54 cents and sometimes it is 38 dollars all the while you don’t really miss it and the best part is when you want to withdraw your money for a little vacation you text them withdraw and ta-da it is in your account. My plan is to keep using Digit so I can afford more vacations next year and spend more time posting pics than drooling over yours.

So that’s it for me, looks like most of my back-to-school favorites are just my favorites, because let’s be honest, back-to-school hasn’t looked the same since there was a new outfit, a shiny Trapper Keeper and someone else paid the bills!

An Apology on the Plantation

By: Chaunte McClure

Kingsley Plantation

Whenever I decide to go on vacation, I usually don’t plan daily activities in advance. It was no different on my spring break to the Sunshine State. The one thing I was sure of is that I wanted to go to the beach. Down I-26 to I-95 we traveled for a weekend getaway. I wanted to stay in Jacksonville Beach, but it seemed impossible to find a vacancy in that area. We found a quieter spot in what must be one of Florida’s best kept secrets – Amelia Island. (Or maybe it’s that I don’t get out much.) It’s just off the coast of northeast Florida and we got to enjoy the crashing waves of Fernandina Beach. I just love the sound of the ocean! After arriving, we relaxed a while and took a walk on the beach before sitting a spell to continue enjoying the sights and sounds. Just before going up to the room, I asked a manager for restaurant recommendations. She gave us a few, but we went with the casual option – The Salty Pelican. No regrets at all. Good food, good service and a good filling.

The next morning I savored the sunrise, then gave some thought to things to do. After breakfast, our first stop was Kingsley Plantation. A class I was taking on African American Church History prompted this memorable visit.

While driving down the nearly two-mile dirt road, I wondered what life was like for slaves back then, as I did most of the time I was there. I think there were a couple dozens of visitors there, one group and a few families.

Once upon a time I would have never set foot on a plantation, but I’ve gotten past those reservations that once kept me away. While scrolling the grounds, walking from the barn towards a nearby interpretive sign, I noticed an older white lady taking a couple glances at us as we approached. She seemed a bit uncomfortable, but she said hello and asked, “Do you mind if I ask you something?” Two young girls, who I later learned were her grandchildren, seemed embarrassed that their grandmother had asked. Nervously, she proceeded, “As African Americans, how does it make you feel when you come here?” After explaining that I come with an open mind and I understand that it’s an awful part of history that can’t be erased, she apologized. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Well, I’m sorry for what my ancestors did. I apologize for them.” She mentioned how disturbing the photo she had just seen of a slave with countless lashes on his back after whipped for God knows what. After continuing our conversation for a few more minutes, she again apologized, but this time for interrupting our tour. No apologies were necessary because I appreciated the fact that she took the time to engage in conversation with us. Little did she know, that was an integral part of my experience on Kingsley Plantation, and it’s a great memory to hold onto.

But I can’t leave out the rest of the trip because that’s where I had the most fun that day. Jacksonville Landing was our next stop. The online reviews weren’t the best, but we thought we’d give it a try. There was a gumbo festival and live music going. While enjoying lunch on the waterfront, we did some people watching and perused the shopping center. That didn’t take long because many of the spaces are vacant and I wasn’t interested in most of the retailers there.

Jacksonville Beach, however, was the place to be! That’s where all the people were hanging out and having a good time. We joined in on the fun at the Springing the Blues Festival where there was live music, good food and vendors from across U.S. (We even met and supported a vendor from Columbia.) Of course I couldn’t pass up a walk on the beach and a stroll down the boulevard. I had a nostalgic moment, to the days when the boulevard in Myrtle Beach was THE place to be.

Now I’m ready for a vacation to the Caribbean! Any sponsors out there?  🙂

Inventors Wanted

By: Lara Winburn

hulahoopAs summer is upon us there are many things I celebrate. Time outside, time in the pool, time at the beach. I love lightening bugs and snow cones and lazy summer days but there are brief hiccups in these idyllic summer days when I wish I had some summer survival inventions. When we are not Instagramming our perfect S’mores or finding the most perfect seashell on the seashore, there is the occasional short fuse and too much togetherness. For those times, dear friends, please make me one of these.

First of all, I would like a personal space hula hoop – you know, like a parent perimeter or a baby barrier. I love hugs and kisses and snuggles but sometimes I need a little space, particularly in the summer when it is hot, sticky and humidity reaches 198 million percent. I could slip on my breezy hula hoop that would prevent anyone, particularly of the toddler variety, from making contact with me. Maybe a little something pleasing to look at like a hula skirt just with a larger more rigid rim – let’s say a hoop skirt meets impenetrable force field of personal space or a mote around this fortress called motherhood.

The other thing I would like as we hit some summer boredom or one rainy day too many is a recording of my own voice. My voice repeating the phrases that it seems I say over and over again. Maybe if it was a little like the Easy button from Staples except when you push it says things like, “Keep your hands to yourself.” OR “Put on your shoes.” OR “Wash your sticky hands.” You know sometimes it is physically exhausting to utter even another word especially when it is the same word you have said 9 million times. See a squabble between siblings – just hit the “hands-to-yourself”button. Finally ready to leave the house and realize someone is still bare footed? Just slam on the “shoes-now” button! Push it 100 times without ever raising your voice. There is a chance you could look at a magazine and regulate behavior at the same time….maybe.

The other thing I would like to own, while maybe not a new invention, is just not in my possession. I would like the darkest, thickest blackout curtains known to man. You know, nothing makes bedtime easy and breezy like daylight savings time. I need these curtains to provide the pitch-black trickery necessary to put small children to bed before everyone runs out of patience. (And before the go-to-bed-now button doesn’t work anymore.)

So happy summer to all of you out there! I hope your days are filled with smiling freckled faces, ice cream sundaes and daring dashes through the sprinklers, but when things get real – I’ll let you know when these prototypes are ready!

Confessions of a Famously-Hot Mom

By: Lara Winburn

Though there is a “cool front” coming through Columbia as I write this, we all know that a cool front in June, in Columbia, is a lie. It only means no triple digits on the heat index. And I must admit all of this hot weather and no vacation in sight can make me a little less of the mom, friend or human I hope to be. So, I have some famously hot confessions to make. I hope you will understand and even have a keep-cool suggestion or, at least, an invitation to your pool!

Famously Hot Confessions:

(Seven of them as we approach the seventh month of the year. Or, these could be affectionately referred to as “The Sweaty Seven.”)

  1. Famously HotI talk about the weather constantly, and when I say weather I mean heat. If you are trapped with me outside for more than 10 minutes I can promise you I will say some form of “wow, it’s hot” 9,478 times. I apologize for that but it is hot. I mean, I am even blogging about it.
  2. I do not care about artificial flavors, colors, or artificial ice. Sno-cones are good.
  3. I have run through our sprinkler more than once this summer….after work…in my work clothes.
  4. My favorite friends have a pool. Seriously, haven’t talked to you in 9 months – you have a pool? We should get together more often.
  5. I play hide and seek inside sometimes just to avoid: A) going outside and B) playing Candyland for the 400th time. (Did I mention I am a recovering competitive board game player? So even if my opponent is 4, I might play to win.)
  6. I consider shaving my head daily. I have a lot of crazy curly hair and it traps heat like a fleece blanket on my neck. But since my round face could never rock a pixie cut I keep some length on it so I can put it in a pony tail OFF MY NECK every single day. So if you see me with shears in hand, WATCH OUT!
  7. Sometimes the kids and I sit in my car, in my driveway, for what might be considered a long time – because my car has excellent air conditioning and it is so hot out there in the elements.

So there it is. I am open to suggestions, because did I mention it is hot? I need some new cool ideas!