Western North Carolina Nature Center

With our Greenville Zoo membership, we also get into other zoos around the country for free or half off.  It makes a good deal even better!  Since the kids and I had off for President’s Day, we all decided to check out the Western NC Nature Center in Asheville.   The Nature Center has a lot of rescued animals there such as owls, wolves, and coyotes.  All of the animals there are native to the region.  It’s a really beautiful setting with very natural environments for all the animals.  We had a great time and got to go to Salsa’s afterwards for lunch. Yum!

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The Lake Eden Arts Festival in Black Mt, NC has come and gone again this fall.  We had a great time as always!  The weather was beautiful, the people kind, and it is always such a great time to reconnect with family and friends!
Graham once again made record bowls to sell at the Children’s Market this year.

He expanded his line though to include record cover bookmarks and wine cork earrings.  Such a little entrepreneur!

Surae, of course, worked as the record bowl apprentice!

He did a great job selling all weekend.  He loves to make some Lego money!!

The Weisers camped with us along with 2 other families from Atlanta.  We had a big group and lots of kids running around all weekend.  It was wonderful to get to spend some time with Chris and Tammy and to let all the kiddos play together!

The music was super as usual.  The Secret B Sides played all 3 nights which was fantastic.  Surae even got to go on stage with Juan!  Such the little groupie!!

Lots of fun was had by all as always.  I was once again blessed by the blue fairy and I’m hoping that will hold me over until the spring!

 

Jekyll Island, GA

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Michael’s cousin Tish recently got married in St. Simon’s Island which gave us a wonderful opportunity to visit Jekyll Island.  Jekyll is a barrier island off the coast of Georgia and is only about 7 miles long and 1 1/2 miles wide.  There are biking trails all around the island, so we spent a lot of time biking which was great.  You can bike along the ocean, marsh, and in the historic district.  We got there Thursday afternoon after about a 6 hour drive from Greenville.  The campground is fairly packed in and nothing too great, but nice enough for being able to stay right across from the beach.  There are live oaks throughout the campground and the bathrooms were some of the cleanest I have ever seen at a campground, so that’s always a bonus!

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We spent Friday on the beach and biking around town.  The biking really was fantastic.  It would be great if every town had so many biking trails that get you everywhere you need to go without ever having to get in a car.  The beaches were really beautiful too.  We went to some sections that were covered in some of the biggest pieces of driftwood that I had ever seen. The kids loved climbing on them.

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At night, we went to eat at Crabdaddy’s Seafood Grill with Michael’s parents.  It was absolutely delicious!

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On Saturday, we biked again back into the historic district.  The historic district houses the Jekyll Island Club Hotel which was built in 1886.  It seriously feels like one has entered lifestyles of the rich and famous when you step foot in this area with old men and women dressed in white playing croquet on the manicured lawn.  Ridiculous!  It’s a gorgeous area though and you do get the sense that you have stepped back in time.

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The historic district also houses the new Sea Turtle Center where they were having a Halloween Party.  It was lots of fun and we got to see all of the sea turtles that were being rehabilitated.

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Saturday night, we went to the wedding in St. Simon’s Island.  The ceremony was held overlooking the ocean and it was really breathtaking- beautiful weather, gorgeous bride, so fun!  Graham and Surae had a blast at their first real wedding.  It was a great night.

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We headed back home on Sunday with everyone exhausted from a busy few days.  We definitely plan on returning and experiencing even more of the region next time.

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LEAF Fall Festival

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The Lewis family has been having a really, really busy month of October.   We’ve been squeezing in quite a bit of fall camping which has been so fun.  In mid October, we made our annual pilgrimage to the LEAF Festival in Black Mt, NC.  Boy, were we happy to have that pop-up!  It was a cold, cold weekend, but luckily fairly rain free.  We arrived on Thursday and were actually able to get electricity in the camping lot, so we had lights and heat all weekend.  The Weiser’s camped right next to us in their pop-up, so we had a great set up with both of our pop-ups and Halloween lights and decorations strung about the site.

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Musical highlights of the weekend were the Secret B Sides in the barn.  They are out of Asheville and super funky.  They played Friday night and the barn tuned into a huge dance party.  It was so fun.  The Cowboy Junkies played Saturday night and that was incredible.  I spent many a night in college listening to the Cowboy Junkies, so this was a serious treat for me.  The lead singer’s voice was perfectly heart wrenching.  Great show!  And then on Sunday, Arrested Development played again.  They played at the last Fall LEAF and it was certainly my favorite at that fest and they did not disappoint.  Their energy is amazing and that was another huge dance party.  So fun!

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Graham also sold at the Kid’s Village for the first time this year since he is now 5.  Michael came up with the idea for him to make record bowls which was a great idea since they are easy to make and we were able to get the records for free.  He sold them for $5 a piece to start and then marked them down to $3 on Sunday.  They were a big LEAF hit and he ended up making about $150!  He doesn’t really even have any concept of how much money he made, but he was able to buy several ice creams at the fest for he and Surae.

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The kids both had a great time as always.  They both marched in the kid’s parade on Saturday which is always a blast.

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LEAF has become part of our family tradition and one that everyone looks forward to and I am sure we will be back in the Spring!

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Camping Trip To Edisto State Park

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Over Labor Day weekend, the family took a trip to Edisto State Park.  My dad and Michael’s brother’s family joined us, so we had a big group which was so fun!  This was our first time camping at Edisto, but it will not be our last.  We booked kind of late and ended up in the Live Oak area instead of the beach camping area.  I was worried about bugs, but they really weren’t bad at all.  The Live Oak area is really gorgeous and the shading helps so much with the midday heat.  The campsite bordered the marsh area and Graham loved getting in there looking for crabs and covering himself in pluff mud.  The camping area is also connected with all of the biking trails, so that was convenient.  The biking trails are wonderful and easy for kids to ride on.  The peace that overcomes you riding past live oaks and over marsh boardwalks is something to experience.  Even though I had a long week at work and was very stressed when I left town, riding my bike through those trails really helped to alleviate all of my worries!

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When we arrived into town, we had lunch at McConkey’s Jungle Shack and it was delicious!!  Michael and I split a fish tacos and homemade fries and it was more than enough food.

http://www.goedisto.com/restaurants/mcconkeysjungleshack.html

Once at camp, Michael immediately set out fixing up the camp and hanging up our ever growing collection of party lights.  It is a sight to see at night!

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The next day, everyone else arrived and we all hit the beach.  The kids love the beach and they had a great time swimming and building sand castles.  That night, we all feasted on seafood from Flower’s Market in Edisto.   We had lobster tails, scallops, and red snapper.  Yum!

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On Saturday, we all decided to check out Botany Bay, a newly opened nature preserve in Edisto.

“The centuries-old farm is a vista of hardwoods and pine stands, crop fields, salt marshes, hummock islands and a maritime forest beach with its own “boneyard” — a ghost forest of dead trees in the frothy surf. The spread includes a three-mile motor tour trail past 19th-century brick and tabby structures, 20 more miles of trails for hiking, biking, birding and horseback riding, fishing ponds and a “throw” launch into Osceola Creek for paddle-powered boats.” http://www.postandcourier.com/news/2008/jul/18/almost_magical47916/

It is an amazing beach.  I don’t think I have ever seen so many shells in one spot and I love the trees coming out of the water.  So beautiful!

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As always, Edisto was an amazing time.  The kids all had a great time together which was awesome!  I really do love the SC Coast and feel so lucky to be able to drive to such an incredible place  in just a few hours.  Can’t wait to go back.  Luckily, I have one more trip to Edisto and then a trip to the GA coast before winter.

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Maiden Voyage in the Pop-Up

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This past weekend, we set off for our first family trip in the pop-up to Oconee State Park.  We wanted to stay fairly close to home in case anything went awry and Oconee has so much to offer in terms of beauty.  The campground was really nice.  We booked late, so didn’t get the best spot, but it was still not bad at all.  There are some great spots overlooking the lake that we want to try for next time though.  The park has a great little swimming lake that the kids really enjoyed.  There are also lots of hiking trails accessed from the park including the Foothills Trail.  We did a hike around the lake that was very easy and really nice for the kids.  They love to hike, but still can’t go too far without getting tired.  Those legs are little!

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As luck would have it, the 50th annual Hillbilly Day was also taking place in Mountain Rest.  What a trip!  I’ll just let the pictures tell that story.

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We also visited Isaqueena Falls and Stumphouse Tunnel which are really close by.  Isaqueena is absolutely beautiful and the kids loved that hike.  Graham felt like a mountain climber.  Stumphouse scared Surae pretty badly.  She’s not a huge fan of dark tunnels I guess.  Plus, everyone in the tunnel was making ghost noises, so that didn’t help.

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This was definitely a great first outing in the pop-up.  I forgot to take pictures of the actual pop-up, but I will next time.  It is surely a step up from tent camping and I am loving it!

Great Smoky Mountains Camping Trip

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The end of my vacation break was near, so for a last little getaway the kids and I took a camping trip with my dad.  I hadn’t tried out his new camper yet and was excited to see it in action.  We headed up to Jellystone Campground about 20 minutes outside of Gatlinburg.  Jellystone is a chain of kid friendly, Yogi Bear lovin campgrounds.

http://www.greatsmokeyjellystone.com/

The people who run this place were awesome- a retired cop from LA making a very big life change.  The kids loved the campground.  There was a pool, gameroom, access to a hiking trail, and nightly entertainment.   Each night they play movies in a little theatre and also have a stage for karaoke and bands.  There are also nightly hay rides around the campground where the camp staff enthusiastically leads the kids in Yogi Bear themed sing alongs.  It may all sound cheesy and it is, but the kids loved it, and we had fun too.  Both Graham and Surae really enjoyed the pool.  They didn’t want to get out.

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We also took several little trips into Gatlinburg- to eat, walk around, take the sky lift, and  to check out the Ripley’s Aquarium.  We had been to the aquarium before, once in Gatlinburg and once at the beach and it is always impressive.  Of course, anywhere I can get my fill of leafy sea dragons is a huge bonus in my book.  Those little creatures are amazing!  All in all, it was a great trip.  Thanks dad for the camping trip!!

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Michael is 40!!

On May 2nd, Michael turned the big 4-0!  We celebrated by first opening presents and having cake with the kids.

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Then, we headed out to Cafe Paulista with Andy and Iris for a delicious Brazilian feast.  That place is fabulous!  http://www.cafepaulistagrille.com/

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After that, we asked Michael is he wanted to have a drink at Barley’s where a birthday crew was waiting to surprise him upstairs.  He was truly shocked which was great.  We got him all dressed up for his 40th in Depends, rainbow suspenders, huge glasses, and a blinking 40 year old pin.  It was hysterical.

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For his big celebration, we had planned a getaway to one of our favorite cities, New Orleans.  Michael had not been back since Hurricane Katrina and was ready to see the city again.  We left on Wednesday after work after getting the kids all settled in with my dad (Thanks dad!!!).  We drove to Montgomery and spent the night there and then headed out early the next morning.  We rolled into New Orleans around 2ish after stopping for some gumbo and po boys on the way in Gulport, MS.  We stayed at the Hotel Villa Convento on Ursuline.  This is a family run hotel that I had heard great things about and I was not disappointed at all.  We had booked the cheapest room available which was supposed to be on the bottom floor with no view.  We received a free upgrade though when we arrived and were given a room on the 3rd floor with a great balcony overlooking the street.  The staff at the hotel were so helpful and sweet.  We only paid $80 a night which is nearly impossible to find in the French Quarter.  The only scary part was the elevator.  It was very old and kind of scary, but only added to the charm of the hotel really.  The location was excellent and an easy spot to walk to everything quickly.

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Now, on to food!!  I had done a lot of research prior to the trip and had all of our meals planned out.

The meal rundown was:

Thursday- Dinner at Acme Oyster House

Friday- Breakfast at Croissant D’Or, Lunch at Commander’s Palace, Dinner at Acme again (we were kind of obsessed with the Chargrilled Oysters)

Saturday-Breakfast at Cafe Du Monde, Lunch at Bayonas, Dinner at Adolfos

Sunday- Breakfast at Elizabeth’s, Lunch at Johnny’s Po Boys, Dinner at Muriels

Every meal was really fantastic.  Highlights were the above mentioned chargrilled oysters.  I just found found a recipe for them that we are going to have to try.  Those oysters were heavenly.  We sat at the bar both nights and talked to the oyster shuckers which was very cool.  http://www.grouprecipes.com/sr/36688/chargrilled-oysters-acme-oyster-house-style/recipe/

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Other highlights were the ham and cheese crossaints at Crossiant D’Or (totally light, fluffy, and delicious)

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The turtle soup and bread pudding at Commander’s Palace

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The duck and peanut butter puffed pastries at Bayonas

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Fried Boudin Balls with Mustard Sauce at Elizabeths, and Ocean sauce at Adolfos.  The ambience at Adolfos on Frenchmen was very cool- small place upstairs with not many tables and a bohemian vibe.  The food was inexpensive and wonderful.

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All of our New Orleans meals were seriously delicious overall.  I don’t think people make bad food in New Orleans!!

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We also were able to see some fantastic music while we were there of course.  How could you not see great music in New Orleans??  On Thursday, we headed over to the Maple Leaf to see Johnny Vidacovich on drums.  That is a very cool place and was a fun night.  The rest of the time, we caught music in the quarter, in the streets and in the clubs.  There were lots of great street musicians out and it was great to see them back out after the storm.  Someone has actually written a book about the street performers and I bought a copy from a magician that Michael got dragged into a show with.  http://www.sidewalksaints.com/

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The Maison Bourbon and Fritzels had great music and we spent some time at both.

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It was great to see New Orleans making all of that wonderful music and delicious food again.  Things have changed of course, but the essence of the city still seems to be there.  I can’t wait to go back again.  This was definitely a great birthday for Michael.  Happy 40th!!

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Pritchards Island Trip

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The Lewis family once again were given the awesome privilege of being invited back to Pritchards Island off the coast of Beaufort.  This is such a unique experience.  Pritchards is truly magical from the driftwood covered beaches to the star filled skies, it is really amazing.  Michael and I took Graham again this year.  Surae is still a little young to run around in the marsh, but hopefully she will be able to come with us next time.  We drove down on Friday and stopped for lunch in Beaufort at Nippys.  This is a local seafood stand and their fish tacos are seriously scrumptious.  I recommend anyone in Beaufort to stop by- http://www.beaufortonian.com/2009/04/nippys-local-gem/

After filling our bellys, we headed to the dock to meet up with Brad, Kate, Captain Al, Don, and Riley Wayne for our boat ride to the island.  Graham helped Captain Al to navigate the way and the boats were off.   It’s a beautiful ride out there and your cares really do seem to evaporate as you leave the land.

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The whole weekend proceeded to be total relaxation.  On Friday, I sat on the dock a good bit and read a book I had been trying to finish for weeks, On Beauty, while the men sat on the boat and shot the shit.

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We went for a marsh walk later and saw a big king snake that Graham was very excited about.

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Cocktail hour was held on the dock and is always a highlight as well.  We sat there and enjoyed one of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever seen.  For dinner, we ate a wonderful steak dinner and then we sat around the fire and to sing and play music.  Heaven!!

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The next morning we set out for the beach.  On Pritchards, you can find the most intact shells and intricate pieces of driftwood.  We all had a great time exploring the beach while Kate’s dog, Bart, had a blast just running around.  This was a serious treat for a city dog.  The rest of the group went back to pick up more people to join the group, and Michael, Graham, and I lounged on the beach for most of the morning and early afternoon.

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After we got back from the beach, we greeted all of the people that had arrived including 3 other boys.  Graham was very hesitant to meet the boys at first, but eventually warmed up and had a blast with everyone.  The rest of Saturday was spent talking, relaxing, eating, and singing songs.

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Sunday morning, a hearty breakfast was made to send everyone on their way.  It was sad to go, but I am so thankful that I was able to experience such a magical place.  I hope to be allowed into the paradise of Pritchards again soon.

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Visit to Atlanta

Last weekend, we took a trip down to Atlanta to hang out with friends and family.  Michael and I left work a little early on Friday and arrived at my brother’s house around 5ish and avoided the major part of work traffic.  Graham was especially excited as Chris had brought out several transformers from his collection for Graham to play with.  Surae warmed up to Chris really well too and loved playing with Ginger and Jack especially.  Friday night was Uncle Chris’s first babysitting experience with Graham and Surae.  Michael and I got Surae in bed and left Graham in the hands of Chris while Michael and I went out to catch a Stereolab show.  Graham was thrilled at the prospect of legos, transformers, and cartoons! 

 

The Stereolab show was a blast and our friends Chris W and Jerry were able to join us.  They played at the Variety Playhouse and I had never seen them before, so it was a really great experience.  At 11:30, Chris texted me to let me know Graham was finally in bed.  Yes, 11:30.  For a boy that normally goes to sleep at 8 at the latest, we knew we were in for some trouble the next day.

On Saturday, Graham and I went to a puppet show at the Center for Puppetry Arts.  They also had a Jim Henson exhibit going on in the museum area that was really cool.  The puppet show was great, but Graham was really tired from being up so late the night before.  After the show, we scooted on over to Chris and Tammy’s house.  We had a great dinner there along with our friends Chuck and Emily as well.  Good, good times and talk!

On Sunday, we met up  at a Dim Sum Restaurant with fellow China travel partners, Christine and Rob and their son and daughter Jeb and Ellie.  Surae and Ellie were both in the Fenyi Orphanage together, so seeing everyone again was so fun.  It’s wild to think that we travelled to get our girls almost a year ago. 

It was a great trip to Atlanta and I look forward to seeing everyone again soon.

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