Growing up, we took a lot of family road trips. My parents pulled the seats out of the family minivan, filled the back with blankets and piled the four of us girls in. We would leave at 10:00pm so that we would sleep the whole way, which in hindsight was genius! When I became a parent, I romanticized these trips and envisioned all of us driving merrily to our various, fabulous destinations (in the light of day) singing songs and counting cows. Love and joy just radiating from the family car. Well, that didn’t happen. Family road trips, at least for our little family, are more like cage fighting in a Volvo. I do not know how in the world parents maintained sanity before the portable DVD player was invented or without pharmaceuticals. It’s all I have on these trips. Literally. All. I. Have.
These trips are not unlike childbirth. You forget how painful they are after it’s over and somehow you want to do it all again! This spring, my husband and I decided to load up the chickens and head to Asheville, Charleston and Savannah. Here is how that went…
We began the week of too much togetherness with Asheville. I hadn’t been there since I was a young teen and thought it would be great for the kids. I looked into both airbnb – as well as hotels – and decided we would go ahead and spend way more than we wanted and stay at The Grove Park Inn. The hotel is gorgeous. It’s huge and the grounds are beautiful but the rooms… not so much. We rarely stay in large hotels, instead opting for boutique hotels, but this time we decided to go big or go home. This was BIG. And dated. And expensive. We stayed one night and it was fine but I would absolutely stay somewhere else next time.
I have heard so many wonderful things about Asheville and had we had more time, we would have branched out and explored all the fair city had to offer. Instead, we were shameless tourists and went to the Biltmore Estate. It’s enormous and gorgeous and the grounds are just phenomenal.
The highlight for the girls was this. Bouncing Andy Bear in my scarf. So while it was a total waste of money as far as they were concerned, I got to see all the Downton Abbey costumes on display and obsess over how freaking tiny Lady Mary’s waist is. I mean…. it’s actually criminal!
After the Biltmore, we headed to Charleston. I told my husband it was a mere 2 hour drive when in fact it was 4. I am no longer allowed to navigate on family trips. But the drive there was beautiful and it was so gorgeous getting there just as the sun set on the harbor!
We had never been to the beaches of South Carolina and decided to rent a house on Folly Beach instead of staying in Charleston proper. Through airbnb, we rented an adorable cottage on Folly Beach that was a few blocks from the ocean. I am not much of a planner and prone to making decisions based on whether I think its pretty or not, which is very telling, I know. So I basically planned the trip around the fact that I thought this beach cottage was so cute.
Al fresco breakfasts in the morning on the surf board bar. Lost Dog Cafe is also such a great breakfast spot!
Folly Beach is a very eclectic community that reminded me of some of the funkier beach towns of Southern California. Shacks and million dollar homes on the same block. Surfers and retirees bellied up to the bar together. We loved it. The beach was lovely and still a bit chilly, so we virtually had the whole thing to ourselves.
…with the exception of the 5 Amish women who made me their new BFF and personal paparazzi. This is me juggling 5 iPhones (I thought the whole internet/ smart phone thing was kind of an Amish no-no. No?) for their group photo op.
Every morning, we would come down to hundreds of starfish. I am a total sissy and will only touch a dog and maybe once a year a cat, so I did not handle these sea creatures but rather made my child do it so I could get a good photograph.
My little beach dancer.
The first night we got to Folly, it was late and we needed supplies — and by supplies, I mean wine and cereal. Staples. We were directed to the one local market on the island and it was one of the best places I have ever been! There was a guy being arrested outside as we walked up (for being drunk, which we explained to two curious little girls was a terrible thing to do to your body, while buying a bottle of wine) and the kid working the register was definitely high and not wearing shoes. And the sweetest guy ever! They never close, coffee is free and on the shelves you are likely to find organic, ancient grains and carob cookies displayed beside Cheetos and pig skins. I feel like Bert’s perfectly personifies the quirkiness that is Folly Beach.
We usually go to the beach pretty well prepared. This trip I was apparently in some sort of a packing black out and didn’t bring a bathing suit, a hat or any sort of beach paraphernalia. I assumed I would pick up some amazing little suit and a few Turkish towels to lounge upon in one of the many beachside boutiques Folly was sure to offer. As it turns out, Folly Beach is NOT the place for that, though I will say I was impressed with the vast array of fringed bikinis and straw cowboy hats. Ultimately I decided to forgo the confederate flag bikini (yep, there were many), though I did pick up this one drinking vessel as a token of my undying love and affection for my husband.
We spent two days on the beach and due to bad weather, two days wandering around the city with the girls. If I were to have to create a new resume for myself, in the skill section it would read something like: “Professional shopper. Expert cocktail drinker. Eater of all things fried.” As it turned out, the only one of these skills that I was able to showcase on this trip was the eating of fried foods. In fact, children are terrible, impatient shoppers and after the second cocktail, people start judging. Within 10 minutes, we turned to each other and agreed we were coming back as soon as possible sans children so we could do all the fun grown up stuff. So we followed our fellow tourists to a spot where you are herded on to a horse drawn carriage and are pulled about the city for 2 hours. And while we became all too aware that what ever cool we once possessed was most certainly in the past, it was perfect for the kids and we actually loved it.
Adeline’s cemetery strolls
On the carriage tour, we passed the Civil War era city jail which our children subsequently became OBSESSED with. They later insisted on taking a night time ghost tour. I am a pretty lax mom but I was convinced I was about to traumatize my children for the rest of their lives and if therapy hadn’t already been a definite, this was going to seal the deal. But the girls loved it. At one point the tour guide asked if anyone had any questions and our seven year old’s hand shot up. “I do. Have any children ever died in this jail?” The guide proceeded to tell her that indeed there had been many children and that when they were hung their heads just popped right off. That’s when I sent my husband that parent eye contact signal that says “I have failed as a mother. You have to raise the children now as I am clearly unfit and my participation in their life will not even be an option once I kill this tour guide and I am spending the rest of my life behind bars in an orange jumpsuit which, by the way, is a terribly unflattering color for me.” He took all of this in, and I believe was prepared to continue on without me. But she just nodded her head with a very reflective and quizzical look and just kept walking. It was about 3 weeks before she stopped telling strangers about how children’s heads are much more prone to pop off on the gallows than, say, on their own.
This is the prison in the light of day…
Apparently I was very fond of taking pictures of the tops of buildings.
Rainbow Row was so amazing I almost cried. Yes, because it was so pretty, but also because I begged my husband to let me paint our house this shade of Haint Blue and he denied me. I told him I would never be able to achieve optimum happiness unless this color surrounded me day in and day out. Over time, when he asks me what’s wrong with me, I can now refer him back to this image (and then of course later tell him the 75 other reasons on my short list).
The food in Charleston was amazing! Everyone told us to go to The Ordinary and we ended up having to cancel two separate reservations due to either exhausted children or meltdowns, both the child and adult varieties. In any event, The Ordinary is definitely top of the list when we go back, sans children. We had a great lunch at Brasserie GiGi one day and an even better lunch the next at Cru Cafe. We also made a stop at Sugar Bakeshop for cupcakes because I was not quite satisfied with my vacation weight gain and felt certain I could do better.
Our last night on Folly Beach was pretttttttttyyyyy heavy. My husband took this picture of our seven year old pondering the end of life as she stands before a fallen tree. I am not making that up…. it got real.
I, on the other hand, was more interested in getting the perfect selfie with my husband.
On our way to Savannah, we stopped at the Angel Oak Tree. 1500 years old and 65 feet tall, it was so beautiful. Tons of tourists, but definitely worth seeing. The best part was there was a couple getting married. Just the two of them and a preacher on a Friday morning. I wanted to run to them and congratulate them on the simplicity of their wedding as it’s the love between two people that matters and anyhow 50% of marriages don’t last and you just regret having spent all that time and money and who cares about place settings you never even wanted to invite that bitch Aunt Marie anyhow! But I kept it all inside.
Sadly, I only booked one night in Savannah and would have loved to have stayed longer. Within 10 minutes of arriving, my husband had convinced our 9 year old to attend SCAD and had selected the square where we will be purchasing our retirement home. Another 10 minutes went by and he simply told us to go on him without him, he would be staying in Savannah. It’s just that gorgeous! Or he just really wants to get away from us. I’m not entirely sure.
One might think a carriage ride and jail tour in Charleston would be sufficient, but nope! We took it to the Trolleys in Savannah. If you ever need to know where Forrest Gump sat with his box of chocolates or where Kevin Spacey stayed while filming Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I’m your gal.
SCAD’s involvement in the city is pretty remarkable. Over the years they have been buying up historic buildings throughout the city and and using them for housing, classrooms etc. Playing a big role in the preservation of the city.
We stayed at the CottonSail Hotel which was great for a family (though they did not have room service which did spawn a bit of a diva melt down on my part and some serious eye rolling on my husband’s). When we go back without the kids, we’ll stay at The Brice. We also had a wonderful lunch at The Collins Quarter where the owners are beyond gracious and the avocado toast is the best ever.
On our last morning we played in Forsyth Park and strolled through the farmer’s market. We also found the sweetest little book shop, E. Shaver Booksellers, where we picked up Alice in Wonderland and Mathilda.
The most important part of this trip for me was going to Back in the Day Bakery while in Savannah. I have a borderline obsession with the owners of said bakery. Some ladies Google image Channing Tatum shirtless, I Google search “Cheryl and Griff Day.” I have cooked my way through their cook book and did a blog posts on their best ever chocolate cake. So you can imagine the absolute delight mixed with crippling anxiety I experienced when we pulled up to the bakery to discover they were having a book signing. That’s when it all went dark. I remember having a serious come to Jesus talk with my children about the wrath that would befall them if they acted out and then rushing the signing table to tell them 75 times how much I love them. I think it’s safe to say that I am no longer allowed within 100 feet of the bakery. Before they fled into their safe room, we bought cupcakes and cookies and brownies and they were all absolutely delicious.
You know a family vacation was successful when no body parts are broken, the college funds have not been drained, you have avoided the ER and no one has added a divorce attorney to speed dial. So I declare this trip a success. And now that we have given our children this lovely experience, I can not wait to do it all over again without them!
All a girl needs. A night-night, a stale bag of pretzels and a blanket wall built to keep her sister on her own damn side of the car! Just like the old days.
I really don’t care what anyone says, October, November and December are the jolliest, happiest, most festive months and nothing can get me down (it doesn’t hurt that my birthday is right in the mix there). Of course then the January blues set in and all is lost and my husband has to give me gentle shoulder pats and remind me that Easter isn’t too far away (it doesn’t help). But now that we are right in the thick of these magical months, let’s celebrate by buying presents for our near and dear (and those we are obligated to buy gifts for because of social norms)!
Hannah and I take shopping pretty seriously and we find this years’ list to be a no-nonsense, perfect gift-giving-guide – be it for yourself or others. As consumer-conscious shoppers, most items are locally made or found at our favorite mom and pop shops. Also, as a Gender Studies major I would like to apologize for categorizing these gifts into the confines of gender norms but sometimes The Man wins a round; we just have to keep fighting the good fight.
GIFTS FOR HER
I give these as gifts constantly. I saw a display of them at White’s Mercantile in Nashville and fell in love. A celebrated chef or food-person curates a small cookbook on only one food – i.e. grits, apples, honey, and so on. Mociun Double Triangle Ring
This is such a sweet little trinket for the one you love or the one you want to love you back. I obsess over Mociun’s pieces so much that half the photos on my iPhone are screen-shots of their Instagram account.
Board & Bread cutting/serving board
Such a lovely cutting board – always a thoughtful gift for a hostess or those who love to curate a beautiful cheese spread and then panic whenever someone sullies your work by enjoying the food you’ve provided.
John Patrick Organic Slip
My mother-in-law got me this as a surprise gift a few years ago and I live in it. I’ve got my eye on the long navy version currently. Surely an appreciated gift. Surely!
GIFTS FOR HIM Ursa Major Face Wash
Let’s get honest. My husband, Daniel, stayed at Hannah’s husband, James’, old house and sneakily used his (well-stocked) Ursa Major facewash and was then hooked. I do have to give a disclaimer here – this stuff is the real deal. If Dan takes a break from using it for more than a week and then starts up again, he breaks out like crazy – but that is because it is pulling out all the gunk he let rest in his face. Or maybe Ursa Major has figured out how to keep their customers loyal. Either way – we love it!
The Hill-Side tie at Hickorees
A Hill-Side tie will always be one of the greatest gifts (besides world peace, a puppy, or a military parent popping out of a box on Christmas morning).
Pocket Change Dish
Every night, Dan unloads his pockets on his bedside table and then restocks in the morning. Is this something men do? I don’t know. But anyway – I found a dish just like this at an antique store in Nashville and thought it was just about the perfect gift. I wish I had saved it for Christmas, actually.
Void Analogue Watch
Hannah’s husband James has this watch and she loved it so much he bought her one of her own last Christmas. A beauty of a watch that is actually affordable. And according to Hannah, unisex.
Tan Flap Wallet
I spent a festive October weekend in Nashville with the owner of Joinery, Angela. She is so pretty and has such great taste and I spent a lot of time staring at her that weekend. Her shop is one of the best in Brooklyn and this money clip is a delight.
Brass Bottle Opener
A beautiful, albeit illuminati-esque, bottle opener. May all your bottle-opening be bright and solid brass.
Hannah and James are a little bit insane and have one of these in every room in their house constantly tuned to NPR. But let us not judge this holiday season and instead purchase this one in bright yellow for a loved one and make one room in their home a little bit brighter.
Ridley’s Chess and Checker Set
Really a gift for the whole family. I am a firm believer that owning a chess set makes you smarter even if you don’t know how to play it. When I was young I would set up the whole board and then invent dramatic and romantic story lines between all the pieces – so clearly this is the gift that keeps on giving all year round.
Belle Meade Bourbon Not a gift for the whole family but a great one for a bourbon drinker. A four generation family-owned distillery in our beloved Nashville that makes a mighty good bourbon (I’ve been told). I gave James a bottle last year for his birthday and felt very proud of my choice in bourbon.
Hill-Side Socks from Hickorees
I can always be counted upon to give socks as holiday gifts – I am currently looking at three wrapped pairs under the tree. And if we’ve said it once we’ve said it 400 times – we love everything the Hill-Side makes including these perfect socks!
As Is Shop
Hannah’s husband, James, runs an amazing online men’s clothing and accessories shop. He was once named the 42nd most fashionable man in New York City so you know it’s good stuff. I would venture to say he is now the 2nd most fashionable man in Nashville (after our father, Rodney, who somehow manages to make Ugg boots look cool). Vivian and June readers get 20% off until Dec. 20th with the code CrowellGirls.
GIFTS FOR CHILDREN Fisher Price Record Player
Let your child discover the joy of laying on the floor and crying while listening to Blue by Joni Mitchell earlier than his/her peers.
I love sun printing so much that I had to stop for awhile because the whole living room was set up as one giant sun-print-studio. I fancied myself an expert – because it is so easy your children could do it. So let them!
Our dear friend, Day, is having a baby in February and Hannah and I have been given the task (albeit the best task ever) of designing her nursery! This mobile (also a Joinery find) would be so cute over little baby Lehning’s Oeuf crib, even though it might induce carcosa dreams.
Little House Books
These were my absolute favorite books growing up. I “learned” how to make maple candy out of snow, churn butter, use potatoes as hand warmers, and cope with my sister, Mary’s, impending blindness (it’s called method reading). I also had an intense crush on Almanzo Wilder (I was a delusional child). Give your children the gift of imagination (or delusion) with these amazing books.
It’s a big sister mouse who wears a little outfit and sleeps in a matchbox with her very own pillow – what more could you ask for? The company has many mice to choose from – including a mouse in a tower which seems exciting.
From me and Hannah to you (with our confused sister, Chelsea, in the middle) Happy Holidays!
I would love nothing more than to be the consummate mother who spends afternoons and weekends with her children baking the perfect gluten-free, agave-kissed sweets, sewing tiny, stylish outfits for their cherished American Girl dolls or devoting hours upon hours to creative free time or outdoor activities. However, the reality is I have two children, I constantly fret over my perpetual mess of a home, I have a company to run and I need to devote a minimum of four hours weekly to either watching, thinking about or internet stalking the cast of Downton Abbey (priorities?). So simply, there isn’t time for all that. I do, however, revel in the making of Valentine’s cards and early each February, I turn my home into a Valentine’s DIY sweat shop of sorts. Several years ago I started marbleizing my own paper which involved making rakes out of toothpicks, figuring out just what the hell methyl cellulose is and blocking out the very time I usually reserve for sleep. An art teacher friend of mine told me about marbleizing paper with shaving cream and food coloring which seemed like a much more civilized craft for small children. My dear friend Gina brought her son, wine (do other mothers do art projects without?!?) and our little sweat shop turned out some pretty cute little Valentines if I do say so myself. Below, a how to…
My little ladies started back to school this week and it has been total madness. On my 2nd grader’s first day of school I came to a daunting realization about myself. I had spent hours and hours looking for the perfect, unique back pack. The funkiest navy Mary Janes I could find that still fell within the guide lines of acceptable uniform protocol. And way, way too much time finding the perfect windbreaker and tennis shoes. And then, on the first day of school, running late (as usual) and we had about half of the actual required school supplies because I had not paid much attention to that aspect of the whole back to school process. The practical necessities. I left feeling as if every other mother has it SO much more together than I. And while I do hope my children develop a sense of practicality, organization and prioritizing that I clearly lack, I have to accept me for me. And I am that mother that will spend hours looking through Japanese websites in search of adorable little bento boxes for their lunches yet inevitably neglect to pack it properly. If anyone from their school ever reads this, we will be asked to leave I am quite sure.