Family Road Trip- Charleston and Beyond

May 8th, 2015

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…
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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.
Hannah Crowell
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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.
Hannah Crowell
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!Hannah Crowell
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!
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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!
Hannah Crowell
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.Hannah Crowell
…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.
Hannah Crowell
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.
Hannah Crowell
My little beach dancer.
Hannah Crowell
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.
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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.
Hannah Crowell
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
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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…

Hannah Crowell
Apparently I was very fond of taking pictures of the tops of buildings.
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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).
Hannah Crowell
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.
Hannah Crowell
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.Hannah Crowell
I, on the other hand, was more interested in getting the perfect selfie with my husband.
Hannah Crowell
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.
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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.
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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.
Hannah Crowell
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.
Hannah Crowell
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.
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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.
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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.
Hannah Crowell


Tulum, Mexico

November 12th, 2014

My husband and I went to Tulum last month and if it weren’t for the fact that we have 2 kids at home, we would still be there. It was truly an idyllic spot that we never wanted to leave.
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It all began when we walked out of the airport in Cancun and were greeted by 80 degrees and a giant margarita stand. ¡Viva la Mexico!
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We wanted to stay at The Beach Tulum Hotel but my inability to plan in advance turned out to be the best thing that could have happened to us. The hotel was booked and they suggested we try next door at Ana y Jose. It was the most perfect place on earth and once there, we couldn’t imagine staying anywhere else. We arrived to flower petals on the bed, sparkling rosé, and a private dipping pool! With 23 suites, you’d expect to feel on top of other guests but they’re spaced out really well with ample tropical foliage so it feels intimate and small. Since it was off season, it was quiet, uncrowded and just right for us.
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This is Ana y Jose, who I want us to be in 30 years.

Our first night we were tired and ended up just eating chips and guacamole (an omen of many a snack/meal to come) and drinking margaritas on our back patio. We spent the evening only speaking to each other in our version of the Spanish we learned in high school, long since forgotten. We found this to be wildly amusing, though I would imagine any eavesdropping staff thought we were idiots.
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While we did not stay at Coqui Coqui, we did walk down the beach to take full advantage of their spa services and a mojito. And by a mojito I mean several mojitos. There is a masseuse named Sara who was so amazing we ended up going back for seconds! I want her to come live with me. Had my Spanish been a little better, I would have invited her to do so. Coqui Coqui  is so lovely: small, impeccably furnished and definitely the prettiest hotel on the beach. I was in heaven in the perfumeria and can no longer imagine a life without their rose oil.
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Our second night we tried to go to Posada Margherita but they were closed for a wedding. The owner, Alessandro, was so gracious and apologized numerous times, gave us a glass of wine and drove us down the street to Casa Banana. While not our favorite, I have heard others rave about it and we loved the setting: a little jungle paradise at the end of the main road in Tulum. The next evening in a rain storm, we walked the pitch black length of the beach back to an open Posada and it was such delicious meal. We had pasta with broccoli and mushrooms and the most amazing red snapper cooked in sea water with ginger, everything unbelievably fresh and cooked in their open air kitchen. It’s a must-go spot for sure.
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When we planned the trip, I was adamant about visiting the ruins. Once we got to the beach and found our chairs under the straw umbrellas, that plan went out the window opting instead for lazy days with margaritas and chips with guacamole. We read and swam and did absolutely nothing. It was a dream.

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So sad that the only picture we have of us together from the trip is a #selfie! I am also taken aback by the fact that we were comfortable being sun glass twins on this particular day.
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I paid $20 for these three bracelets because I am incapable of understanding foreign currency.

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Our fourth night we had delicious drinks at Gitano and dinner at Hartwood. There is so much hype surrounding Hartwood and for good reason. We had the best ceviche in the history of ceviche. Red snapper and jalapeño. I could eat it every day. I had lobster and my husband had the charred octopus and every bit of it was perfection.
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Our last day, we strolled in downtown Tulum to get little gifts for the kids and experience life away from the posh hotels. It was a sleepy Sunday morning and we wish we had gone at lunch time and with a good appetite because there were so many taquerias that were the real deal and all smelled so delicious as we passed them by. I begged to take this baby hammock home. Mind you, we have no baby. I was denied despite my numerous pleas.
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I fell in love with this pup.

Our last night, we ended up at Gitano after we had a massage across the street at Coqui Coqui. We had pork and red snapper tacos and they were so good. Gitano might be my favorite spot in Tulum. The al fresco bar is so beautifully designed and with an October breeze it couldn’t have been more perfect. I just loved everything about it. The second we walked up I thought, “Why don’t we have anything as beautiful as this back home??”. And then I remembered Nashville is not exactly a little bohemian beach town. Sigh.
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It was such a beautiful trip with the most amazing food and perfect weather and I got to read TWO books which never happens in my real life. Our trip ended at a Margaritaville in the Cancun airport which is both humorous and endlessly depressing. After 5 days of the freshest fish imaginable, I ended our perfect vacation with a giant platter of “Volcano” nachos in an airport chain restaurant. And that’s when the finality of our vacation became very real.
Come hell or high water, I was bringing all of our sea fans we’d collected home with us. I managed to pack 4 in my suitcase but our big one wasn’t going in to any bag. I actually carried it home, swaddled in laundry bags like a very sad little baby. It smelled like horrible rotting fish and I thought I was going to be asked to deplane as I was making my fellow passengers (including my extremely annoyed husband) physically ill. We were red flagged at Miami customs, sent to agriculture and made to go through the X-rays normally reserved for drug smugglers. I was accused of stealing it from the Ocean’s floor to which my response was , “Oh good lord no! I have a very real fear of touching the bottom of the ocean.” That man hated me. But alas my beautiful sea fan made it home and after a vinegar bath (god bless Google for knowing everything), it sits atop our piano as a daily reminder of our happiest place on earth.
Next day it was back to our real life. Paradise just a blur.


The Getaway : Serenbe Farms

March 27th, 2014

Flipping through Garden and Gun sometime last summer, I came across an article on an idyllic little community just southwest of Atlanta, GA called Serenbe located in Chattahoochee Hills. It looked like a perfect little family vacay paradise and just this past spring break, we made the trip. The first of many I am sure.

After a two day stop in Atlanta with visits to the aquarium, LegoLand (lord help me!) and the High museum and to some of our favorite restaurants both old and new, and determined to impart some sense of the awe inspiring power of nature upon the children after the cultural overload of Atlanta’s urban sprawl, we arrived at Serenbe ready to be out of the car and to all breathe in the fresh air of the country right on the cusp of a very long, strange winter turning to a very welcomed spring. A 1,000 acre sustainable community with great, locally sourced restaurants, lovely little shops, a spa and a wonderful old Inn, needless to say, we loved it!

We’d decided on renting a loft in the community; white, modern and stark and perfect for our little family with a lofted bed above the master suited perfectly for a pair of little girls. A short ways away, the kids could run free on the farm and got to pet and feed all manner of furry creatures. A pair of baby goats named Salt and Pepper (think we made those names up) were almost assuredly to come home with us if it were up to the kids. We hunted four leaf clovers. We found thirteen. We all ate one in some odd family ritual we concocted on the spot. We took walks on which we played a strange “hobo game”, a crude kin to rugby, with sticks we’d found in the woods and an old, rusty tin can. We took a beautiful, mozying trail ride through the woods, what was certainly the highlight of my children’s young lives.

The morning of our departure, we ate amazing sausage, egg and cheese biscuits at the Blue Eyed Daisy which might be the highlight of my not-so young life. In the end – and true to whatever fantasy I’d dreamt up over Garden and Gun a year ago – it truly was the idyllic get away I hoped it would be. Below, a taste of our (too) few days in the country, care of Serenbe. Next visit, we stay on the farm.

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Hers and His : Winter.

December 5th, 2013

Winter is perhaps the season I most look forward to. As soon as New Year’s day comes, I loathe the cold and dream of spring. But for those few weeks, winter is the most magical time of year. I am completely incapable of building a fire that does not involve a duraflame, it rarely snows in Tennessee anymore and I am chronically underdressed, but I love the things and rituals that go along with the winter season. Here is my Hers & His winter favorites…

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October 3rd, 2013

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Hers and His : Fall

October 1st, 2013

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I love summer, but at a certain point, I’m just over it and ready for Fall already. I want big comfy sweaters and boots and more than anything I just want to burn the oppressive bikinis I have been a slave to for the last few months. It comes on slow and late in the South, but once it does, the smell of fires in fireplaces at night, fallen leaves and earlier sunsets are just about the greatest things. Here’s a few of the best things about Fall for both her and him.

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