My Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy

Every Sunday, I try to attend my version of church, yoga on the deck at the Pour House, a Charleston music venue. Our teacher, Kate, shares messages throughout the hour-long practice and since I’ve been attending for a while now, some have stuck. The one that gets me every time is:


Why do I share my story? It’s a story that might feel too personal for some, too icky to think about, too scary to imagine, or just plain uncomfortable. But in sharing my story, I’m helping others; past, present, and future.

Since I shared a public post on social media in December of 2017, people have reached out from various walks of my life:

“I’m having the genetic testing done and it makes me want to puke, I’m so nervous”

“I could use some advice from you. One friends has been fighting breast cancer and is getting a mastectomy tomorrow. Do you have any tips you can share that might be helpful for her recovery?”

"My mom had breast cancer, BRCA is not relevant, and her age when diagnosed, and my current age makes thing different. But I’m here for you should you need me. Courage, my friend. You have it in spades, but a little more never hurts. Hug that boy of yours for me."

And I respond. Quickly. Likely with more feeling or descriptives than most people will expect to receive, but I put myself out there to be open, honest, and help others.

Let’s start with what I shared the day before my first surgery:

December 27, 2017 // 34 years old

Fair warning: This post is about breasts and about as real life as it gets.

A decade ago, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because of her journey with cancer, that ultimately took her life, and other family history, I have always been proactive with my health. Doctors estimate my risk for breast cancer around 40% (without the BRCA genes) while the average US woman’s risk is 12%. My plan was to breastfeed Grant and then get these death knockers removed. The past couple of months, I’ve met with doctors and worked with insurance to get my prophylactic bilateral mastectomy scheduled for tomorrow. This is where I ask you to consult Google. It should be very clear to you- this is not a boob job. In fact, I’m personally choosing another reconstruction option entirely because my choice is to not deal with the maintenance of implants. The several week recovery that comes with this surgery alone is enough for me. I am privileged to have the opportunity to reduce my risk of breast cancer to 1-3%. Without insurance, this surgery would cost over $200,000. So, why am I sharing this? 1) I don’t want to go through this alone. I want to talk about it, be open with my experience, and be here for others if they or someone they know goes through it. 2) I have to give my husband and Grant’s Poppy & Yaya (Barry & Pam) a shout out. Without them, I’m not sure I’d have the courage or support to go through this. 3) I know you guys have some good TV and podcast recommendations (my books from the library are in place).

The next day, my husband, Trevor, sat with me in the pre-op room, both of us patiently and bravely awaiting the next dozen or so hours of surgery, recovery, days of a hospital stay and several weeks of partial (notice I don’t say full) recovery.

To share my experience I’m going to answer my most FAQs:

What is a Prophylactic Bilateral Mastectomy?

Prophylactic mastectomy is surgery to remove one or both breasts to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer. According to the National Cancer Institute, prophylactic mastectomy in women who carry a BRCA1 or BRCA2 gene mutation may be able to reduce the risk of developing breast cancer by 95%. In women with a strong family history of breast cancer, prophylactic mastectomy can reduce the risk of breast cancer development by up to 90%.

What kind of PBM did you choose? How did you choose this?
To start, it’s important to understand that the mastectomy (breast tissue removal) and reconstruction are two different surgeries, that ultimately take place at the same time, but then require follow-up surgery to complete. I chose the nipple sparing mastectomy (so yes, you now know I still have nipples!) and the DIEP Flap reconstruction.

When I started considering the PBM, my OBGYN pointed me in the direction of Dr. Beatty with The Breast Place, located in Charleston, SC. Dr. Beatty, her staff, and Dr. Hahm, the connected plastic surgeon talked me through the process and gave me all my options. For years, I had planned to get implants post breast feeding, but after talking through the upkeep and having foreign objects inside of my body, I decided to go with the DIEP Flap.

What is DIEP Flap?

During DIEP flap surgery, an incision is made along your bikini line and a portion of skin, fat, and blood vessels is taken from the lower half of your belly, moved up to your chest, and formed into a breast shape. No muscle should be moved or cut in a DIEP flap.

The tiny blood vessels in the flap, which will feed the tissue of your new breast, are matched to blood vessels in your chest and carefully reattached under a microscope.

What do your breasts feel/ look like?
To quote the new physician’s assistant from last week, “They feel like real breasts!” Because they used my own body fat to form the shape, they have a natural feel. Now, what do they feel like to me? I have no feeling in my breasts or in the area near my stomach where the scar from the DIEP Flap remains.

Clothes fit me similarly, although I’m a bit smaller than I was beforehand. They’re perkier even post breast feeding, which is a positive. I will say I still haven’t landed on a bra that makes me completely happy. Underwire is unrealistic post surgery, so don’t go out buying new bras immediately. Your breasts will continue to change size for about a year after your initial surgery.

Are you happy with the outcome? Would you do it over again?
Absolutely. Overall, my experience has been positive. From the support of family, friends, and doctors to the final results. The risk decrease makes it all worth it. Whenever I start to get down about my scars, I look at my son Grant and see that I’m likely going to be around longer to watch his life unfold. Worth it- even with 6 weeks of not holding him as a one year old, post surgery.

What’s been the best side affect?
Truly being able to share my story with others. And knowing that I dropped my percentage from 40% to around 5% (originally 1-3%, but they’ve changed that statistic since I had the surgery).

What was something that was worse than you expected?
In order to remove all of my breast tissue, they had to remove a portion of my rib (1-3 cm) where it meets my sternum. Because of that process, I have a popping on the right side of my chest that mostly happens during yoga, stretching, and sleep. I’ve become accustomed to it, but if you ever see me lay my right hand over my chest quickly, that’s why.

The other two annoyances that stick out to me during this process were the surgical drains and medications. To read more about the reasoning behind drains, click here, but in short they got caught on things, made it hard to go out in public (where do you put them for clothes?) and sleep, and were not fun to clean. They were in for about a week post both surgeries. Honestly, nearly two years later, I’ve gotten to where I can sleep on my stomach again and it is so welcoming.

As for medications, well I could write an entire other post on this. You’re sent home with bags of heavy painkillers, all linked to addiction issues in our country. Luckily, I had a husband who was cognizant enough to realize I was not mentally present the first week or so home. He started taking notes on timing and weaning me off the stronger meds, moving me to Tylenol and Advil during week 2. For some humor, Trevor found me watching the same episode of the Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (and laughing as if it was new to me) a couple of times.

What have been your best resources for recovery and healing?
To start, I was in the best shape of my life before I had the surgery. I joined a workout group and worked hard to be as healthy as possible to make the recovery as easy as possible. I also joined a Prophylactic Mastectomy Facebook group that answered a lot of questions and gave several background stories to other people’s journeys. While I’m not a part of it anymore, it did help to know there were thousands of other people going through a similar situation. There was a feeling of isolation, but I also didn’t feel like having company around often. It was temporary, as everything in life is.

Items you can purchase/ have ready beforehand:

  • A wedge pillow to help you sit up while you sleep.

  • A shirt to hold your drains.

  • Anything soft; socks, robe, blanket.

  • Protein bars, nuts, dried fruit and other shelf stables snacks.

  • Whole food vitamins to fill in the nutrients you’re not getting from eating regular meals.

  • Face masks; they made me feel almost human again.

  • Books and TV shows ready on your laptop.

  • An app to keep track of your meds with your caretaker. We used the ‘Notes’ app on the iPhone, but I’m sure there are better options now.

  • Scar Away Sheets (long and thin for the DIEP Flap stomach scar) and Mederma Quick Dry Oil to minimize scarring.

How frequent are your doctor’s visits now?
I only have to visit my surgeon, Dr. Beatty and staff at The Breast Place, and my plastic surgeon, Dr. Hahm, once a year for a check in. There are no mammograms or MRIs necessary, anymore.

What was the financial cost? How did you deal with your health insurance?
There were bills for over $200,000 at the end of all of the surgeries. Luckily, I have excellent insurance through Trevor’s employer (I certainly don’t have that option as an independent contractor in real estate). While I don’t have an exact amount, because there were multiple invoices and doctors, I do know it was under $5,000 out of pocket.

Less than a month before my first scheduled surgery, I received a letter in the mail that insurance had rejected my claim to cover the majority of the cost. This reminded me of the many times I saw my dad sitting at the kitchen table, organizing my mom’s invoices from surgeries and treatments and calling insurance representatives until he got the answer he wanted. So I did the same. I called until I got a sympathetic ear, a woman who currently had breast cancer. She put me through to the right people, who then approved the surgery within 48 hours. So I still got to have my first surgery on my timeline that I had planned work and childcare for. Could you imagine making this huge life decision only to have insurance say “Nah, 40% isn’t a high enough risk”? Well, turns out they didn’t have the right familial history. So to that I say, be your own advocate and ask questions of your insurance representatives. Never stop calling. You will get done what needs to be done.

During the recovery process, I kept some notes to remind me of where I started and where I ended up. Below are those notes, with some additions now that I’m lucid.

January 8, 2018 (11 days after surgery, drains hidden)

January 8, 2018 (11 days after surgery, drains hidden)


Week 1:
Entire week of medication fog, but I remember the stellar care I received from the nurses and doctors at East Cooper Medical Center and The Breast Place. I will always remember the kind nurse that gave me my first shower post-op. At home, set up with shows and books, but not ready for any company. Grant is staying with his grandparents. Feels pretty isolating.

Week 2:
Fully engaged in self healing with at home entertainment. Started to accept some visitors. Meds went down to Ibuprofen, Tylenol, and the occasional muscle relaxer. Drains are out, so I can ride in the car, again. Grant is home, but I can’t pick him up, so I mostly stay away with the exception of watching him play. Still feeling a bit isolated from the rest of the world.

Week 3:
Took off my ‘out of office’ on email (a week before planned) and starting to feel more like myself with the light responsibility. Ended up connecting with a new buyer client who was ready then and there to start their search for a home, so Trevor and Grant drove me to a local coffee shop (I wasn’t allowed to drive yet) to have an initial meeting with them. They happened to be a nurse practitioner, so I felt comfortable sharing my story with them later. It was such a positive light in my recovery to meet this person and get back to work!

Week 4:
Work continues to be more of a constant. I try to walk to a food truck festival in our neighborhood and am exhausted for a day. Have to get drains put in again, temporarily. My grandmother, a constant driving force in my life, passes away and Trevor and I travel to my hometown for her funeral. Feeling set back and down.

Week 5:
I’m able to wear most of my own clothes, again. For the first few weeks, everything would rub on my DIEP Flap scar or interfere with my drains. Out of the house more and ready to drive next week.

Week 6:
I get to hold Grant! I’m sure more happened this week, but it was relatively unimportant.

Other follow up:
My main surgery was in December 2017. There were two smaller surgeries to follow that were to close up the scar on my breasts and to ‘fill’ the breasts more after their settling. One was necessary, the other one I wouldn’t do again. For the second surgery that took place in November 2018, they were hoping to make me closer to a B cup, but my fat wasn’t sticking to the breasts like they had planned. They performed fat grafting on my lower back to obtain the fat to be injected into my breasts. It was painful and mostly unsuccessful. Looking back, I wish I would’ve stuck with what the original surgery accomplished because even though it was a smaller recovery, it ultimately kept me down longer physically and emotionally. I was ready to be done!

As time was passing while I was at home recovering, I kept an active list of thank yous to those who helped me along the way.


  • People that called me brave- it made me braver

  • People that reached out to ask questions about the process for themselves, a friend, or family member

  • Library staff that helped me with my book holds

  • All the podcast and show recommendations (Mrs. Maisel was my favorite)

  • Thoughtful snail mail and flowers; check-ins via text, once I was able to communicate

  • Meal Train food deliveries- the impact this made on our day to day life with a toddler was enormous (and some of you should become personal chefs)

  • My great friend from high school that I haven’t seen in two decades, but took the time to mail me a care package box

  • Friends picking me up and driving me around to get me out of the house (and one time accidentally buying a house)

  • MUSC for letting my husband work from home

  • Colleagues offering to help in any way with work; specifically the owner of my company, Dunes Properties

  • Clients for being understanding and patient

  • My ‘project manager’ who reminded me to slow down

  • My neighbor (at the time) whose own dog exercised Miles every single day on the fence line

  • My aunts who pulled together my Grandmommy’s clothing which gave me loose fitting options to show property in

  • Grant’s Poppy & YaYa who watched him away from the house, the first week, so he wouldn’t be tempted to use me as a jungle gym

  • Last, but not least; my husband Trevor for being a badass who was always supportive of my decision and ran the household for several weeks without a glitch in the system

  • (And if I forgot anyone or anything- blame it on the meds)

This will likely continue to be an active document, one I’m updating with questions or feedback. So feel free to share yours.

I want to leave you with something that has stuck with me since this experience. I read somewhere that a way to shift your attitude is to say “I get to” instead of “I have to” or “I must”.

I get to pick up my son (although that will be weight prohibitive soon). I get to drive myself to work. I get to go on walks with my family. I get to wake up every damn day and tell my story.

Lowcountry Experience Gift Guide 2018

Thanksgiving is a few days away and so we find ourselves quickly rushing into the holiday season. Originally, this post was meant to follow the previous year’s gift guide format, where I listed out fantastic local wares that would make great gifts. Then I glanced around my house, got overwhelmed with the amount of ‘stuff’ sitting around, and thought back to a tip a friend of mine shared years ago, “Experiences, not things”. And while, yes, I still enjoy the occasional physical gift, there is no lack of experiences to partake in Charleston, so I’ve listed my favorites below for all ages.

All of these experiences are staples of Charleston. My son was gifted the Children’s Museum Membership for his birthday and it’s made a great get away for our entire family. Cost, benefits and details in link to each membership association.
Gibbes Museum of Art
South Carolina Aquarium
Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry
Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
The Charleston Museum
The Charleston Friends of the Library

My son, Grant, at the Lowcountry Children’s Museum

My son, Grant, at the Lowcountry Children’s Museum

Outdoor Adventures
From a kayaking to see a sunset to finally running the bridge to taking advantage of all of the parks Charleston County has to offer, this gift really keeps giving and lets your recipient have some flexibility in how they want to use it.
Coastal Expeditions
Cooper River Bridge Run (or another 10k or 5k)
Charleston County Parks
Charleston ZIp Line Adventures
Wild Blue Ropes

Palmetto Islands County Park in Mt. Pleasant

Palmetto Islands County Park in Mt. Pleasant

Health & Wellness
Yoga studios and gyms abound, so maybe check with the recipients personal preference of location. Spas are a-plenty, as well, but these are my favorites. Also, “Hi” to my husband.
Woodhouse Day Spa
Urban Nirvana
Yoga Studios

At Serenity Now Yoga with some friends

At Serenity Now Yoga with some friends

Musical & Theatrical Performances
There is no lack of talent in our city and many acts travel to town throughout the year. Summer and winter are a great time to enjoy performances at any of these venues.
Charleston Music Hall
North Charleston Coliseum & Performing Arts Center
Spoleto Festival USA
Pure Theatre
South of Broadway Theater
Charleston Stage
The Footlight Players
Theatre 99

Groundhog Day Concert at Charleston Music Hall

Groundhog Day Concert at Charleston Music Hall

And because it was this post’s original intent, here are some additional gift ideas:
Charleston Magazine Holiday Gift Guide
Traveler of Charleston Holiday Gift Guide
Explore Charleston Holiday Gift Guide
Christmas in Charleston Gift Ideas
Upcoming Buy Local Markets

What’s your favorite experience in Charleston? Would love to add to this list for future years.

Welcome to Hollywood (South Carolina)!

Have you ever been to Hollywood? Meaning, the town of Hollywood, South Carolina? Moving to Charleston and working for the county library, everyone was always talking about the elusive Hollywood branch. So I decided I would visit the branch once and continued going back annually to check in on this little slice of paradise, just a little over 30 minutes away from downtown Charleston. In fact, they’re currently in the process of expanding that library branch from its current 1,026 square feet to a whomping 15,000 square feet.

Image: Charleston County Public Library

Image: Charleston County Public Library

These days, I visit the Stono Ferry Racetrack in Hollywood annually to attend Steeplechase of Charleston with my Dunes Properties family. Happening this weekend!

Dunes agents Emily Gildea and Vannessa Carter with family and friends

Dunes agents Emily Gildea and Vannessa Carter with family and friends

To quote the mayor, Jacquelyn S. Heyward:

On behalf of the council and residents, I want to welcome you to Hollywood, South Carolina. A small rural town, located in Charleston County nestled between the Edisto and Stono rivers.  The Hollywood where ‘Real’ people live.

With a population of close to 5,000 people, it is 21 miles from Charleston proper and lies near the outside of the Charleston County line, with the Edisto and Stono river being around the corner. The South Carolina Picture Project has an in depth look at the history of those areas, as well as many more in the Lowcountry.

The town page is full of FAQs for residents and business owners, but this Facebook page really gives you an overview of other events happening near the area, historic spots to visit, like Wide Awake Plantation, and places to eat.

Now for some of the current properties available in that area (yes, there’s more than one road in the town):

Let me know if you’ve ever been to Hollywood (South Carolina) and if you have any fun memories of the area or any must-see stops.

Hurricane Journal and Resources

Another year, another hurricane season. Those of us that have lived here a while have become well acquainted with the season and everything that comes with the news. For newcomers and those looking for new resources, I’ve put together a hurricane journal of my personal experience, most recently with Hurricane Florence and information you might find useful this year and into the next.

Emily’s Hurricane Florence Journal

Sunday, September 9
It’s the first Carolina Panthers game of the year! We go to a friend’s kick off party, take a walk to the marsh during halftime, and chat about how we’re likely not leaving for the storm they’re warning about, unless it’s a category 4 or higher.

Monday, September 10
Our friends are coming to visit from out of town this week, so we’re preparing for their visit, doing laundry, and working a regular schedule, when all of a sudden, phones start blaring. The governor has called for a mandatory evacuation order beginning tomorrow at noon. Work gets put on hold to start preparing the home for the hurricane; bring everything inside from outside, put the trash bin, recycle bin, and wheelbarrow in the garage. Call contractor about boarding up windows with the hurricane shutters (re: plywood). Put together and send a list of resources (below) to clients. Finally, take a video of the interior of our home and all our belongings, for insurance purposes.

Tuesday, September 11
Hit the road early with my son and dog, before the interstate reversal. The song “How Bizarre” starts playing on the radio and I think, yes indeed. Leave my husband, a 30 year Lowcountry resident, behind to finish up items around the house and coordinate with his mom and grandfather, a Hurricane Katrina survivor, to get them on the road with us to my dad’s house in Asheville, NC. Made sure to leave a key with our new neighbors that moved in last week, since they say they’re sticking around. “Hi, nice to meet you. Here’s a key to my home.” Contractor shows up to put up plywood after we’ve all left, so I luckily have an app on my phone to open the garage door for access to hurricane shutters. Begin to receive texts from friends with concern, as many of them have been through hurricanes themselves.

Wednesday, September 12
Wake up with the entire family safe and sound in Asheville. Eat some pancakes, make some phone calls. Supposed to have home inspection today that has been rescheduled to next Tuesday. Will there be a house to inspect next Tuesday?

Thursday, September 13
Bagels instead of pancakes today. My son and dog are thriving, as I’m starting to get a little cabin fever and feeling the uncertainty of the storm’s challenges. My client calls me from New Jersey that has a home closing on Johns Island next week. “Everything ok?”. I call the builder and he’s prepared to protect the home. Will the closing happen?

Friday, September 14
Finally decide to check in on the news and make some decisions about a return home, as the storm doesn’t look as bad for Charleston as it did originally. So incredibly thankful. If the worst of the storm is coming on Saturday in Charleston and Sunday in Asheville, do I go ahead and drive home today to make it for my final walk through for Monday, so we can close on the home on Tuesday?

Saturday, September 15
Decided to stay a little longer and hedge my bets on leaving late night on Sunday. We previously had plans to visit my hometown the following weekend, so my husband decides to stay in Asheville with our son for the week and work remotely, until I’m able to make it back after work. I continue to check on friends and clients that stayed around, as they report minimal rain and a few branches on the ground. My friends even FaceTime me to drive by our old neighborhood and check on one of our homes.

Sunday, September 16
The time has come. Asheville is getting the rain this evening, so my mother-in-law and her father hit the road back to Charleston to get him settled in his home. Time to message the contractor to remove the hurricane shutters. I wait to put my son to bed in Asheville and brave two out of four hours of nighttime rain as I come down the mountain from North Carolina to South Carolina with my dog in tow. We arrive tired, but happy to be in our home, almost as we left it.

Monday, September 17
Wake up early, unable to sleep and begin to put the house back together and everything back outside. The city feels calm as I drive to the final walk through of the new home closing tomorrow and prepare for another home inspection. You can still see the hurricane shutters on some windows and feel the relief of those you encounter throughout the day that we didn’t get the worst of it- this time.

Our family in Asheville, NC in 2018 for Hurricane Florence (L to R: My husband, Trevor, his grandfather, Richard, my mother-in-law Phyllis, my dad Barry and his wife Pam, my son Grant)

Our family in Asheville, NC in 2018 for Hurricane Florence (L to R: My husband, Trevor, his grandfather, Richard, my mother-in-law Phyllis, my dad Barry and his wife Pam, my son Grant)

Tracking the Storm & Other Resources:
SC Emergency App
SC Hurricane Guide
Enki Research
Evacuation Zone/ Plan
Waze App
Disaster Supply Kit Checklist
Emergency Communication Plan
AirBnB Open Homes
Post Storm Resources

Packing List (a slight parody)
Wedding vows
Photo albums
Pet records
Waterproof map
Flood policy declaration page
Insurance info contact
Extra chargers
Water in growlers


I think it’s important to remember that those of us that leave with an impending storm and those of us that stay, all have ours reasons. Maybe your grandfather stays in an assisted living home that closes with the mandatory evacuation, so you have to find new housing or your grandfather isn’t able to travel in the car for long periods of time, so you stay behind. Maybe the cost of evacuating is too much of a financial struggle. Think about the cost of gas, lodging, and missed work. Luckily, our state does provide resources in those times of need. Small businesses suffer as our community flees away from town. Luckily, Explore Charleston and Lowcountry Local First worked diligently on social media to share what businesses were open during the storm and shortly after. Any way you look at it, we all have our reasoning and personal experience to build on from storms past and present. I don’t think it’s fair to assume people are being cavalier. Critical thinking is key.

Stay safe, Lowcountry friends!

Our family in Asheville, NC in 2016 for Hurricane Matthew (I gave birth to my son, Grant, 3 days later).

Our family in Asheville, NC in 2016 for Hurricane Matthew (I gave birth to my son, Grant, 3 days later).

Lowcountry Job Hunting

Whether you're a Charleston native, looking for a change in workplace scenery or new to town and looking for a job opportunity, this post is for you. This overview of job hunting in the Lowcountry is a pathway to a fresh start.

Overall tips:

Charleston is ultimately still a small town. Networking can get you far in finding connections to jobs that might interest you. It never hurts to meet new people or connect with people you maybe haven't seen in the years since you were in your previous workplace role. The new, every day Charleston newsletter, Chs Today, sends out daily networking suggestions, like the Lowcountry Local First Mixer or East Cooper Networking. We'd even suggest joining a social sports league, Meet-Up, or volunteering around town.

Even in the age of email, texts, and networking, Resumes and Cover Letters are relevant. Some tips and tricks here. 

This summer, National Career Fairs is hosting a Charleston Career Fair, free for job seekers. You could also set up a Google alert to be notified when a new search with the words "Charleston job fair" or "Charleston career fair" become available. 

If you're on Instagram, they now allow you to follow hashtags. Check out #chsjobs and #charlestonjobs for a start.

Photo via @chstoday

Some of our largest and most known local employers and links to their career sites:
Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC)
Roper St. Francis Hospital
East Cooper Medical Center
Charleston County School District
Charleston County Parks & Recreation
Charleston County Public Library
City of North Charleston
Town of Mt. Pleasant
Berkeley County Government
College of Charleston
Trident Technical College
The Citadel
South Carolina State Ports Authority

Local and national employment sites:
Lowcountry Classifieds
Digital Corridor
Simply Hired
Glass Door
Facebook (yes, they've even jumped on board!)

Contract work:

Non-profit specific job listings:
Together SC

(the use of home computers, telephones, etc, to enable a person to work from home or in a shared office space while maintaining contact with colleagues, customers, or a central office)
Local Works
Work Nest

This post has been a long time coming, packed full of useful information, but we would love to hear your feedback, as well. What did you find as your best resource when you were job hunting in the Lowcountry? Do we need to expand on any details of continuing the search?

Ultimately, we hope you find something fulfilling, challenging, and FUN and we believe there are plenty of opportunities for that in Charleston.

Updated 3/7/18:
Center for Women, Ready 4 Work program

Downtown Local Lunch Spots

This week alone, I've been contacted three times by friends in town for a conference or other events for suggestions on lunch, coffee, and family friendly dining downtown. And guess what- I KNOW lunch (and it looks like I must like it best in the form of a bowl). For now, I'm going to focus on local, lunch spots within walking distance of the Francis Marion Hotel, along with my personal favorite lunch pick, a link to their menus, and a full map to guide your way:

(Walkable map)

Closed for Business
Pick: Jimmy Serano Veggie Burger

Pick: Ciccio Pizza

Juanita Greenberg's
Pick: Chicken Rice Bowl

Pick: Lula Kabab

Basic Kitchen
Pick: Salmon Rainbow Bowl

Circe's Grotto
Pick: Cuban Press

Pick: Delecta-A-Bowl

Pick: Chickpea Salad

Pick: Koran Short Rib Banh Mi

The Watch
Pick: Fish Tacos

Virginia's on King
Pick: She Crab Soup

Poke Tea House
Pick: Seared Tuna Poke Bowl

39 Rue De Jean
Pick: Brasserie Burger

And in case you aren't motivated enough, some Instagram accounts to follow:

@basic_kitchen (their Instagram is a MUST follow)



@therestorationhotel (The Watch)

If you're staying at the Francis Marion Hotel, your closest local, coffee (and craft beer) shop is Kudu, but fair warning, they don't have WiFi, so you're going to have to interact with people and nature for a few minutes.

What are your favorite, downtown lunch spots? This list is all within 10 minutes walking distance of Marion Square.

Current favorite family friendly spots downtown for lunch AND dinner (not necessarily walkable, but space for those toddlers).

Taco Boy
HomeTeam BBQ
Rutledge Cab Co.
Park Cafe (outside/no dinner)

Have an idea for a blog post or would like to submit your own Love Letter to the Lowcountry? Email 

Home Seller Checklist


This past year has been the year of the Home Seller. As I do with first-time Home Buyers, I like to sit down with sellers, whether it's their first or fifth time selling a home. The process seems to change frequently with the flow of the market, the location of the home and advances in technology. Below is a basic checklist of how we work together to get the home listed and sold. 

1) Why Do You Want to Sell?
Has the time come to downsize? Is your family growing? Are you moving to a new city? Each of these reasons has a different launch pad into the process of home selling. If you're looking to sell your home and buy a new one at the same time, you need to list your home before searching for the new home. (That will take a whole other post!) If you're selling and not buying again, the process is a little less complicated. It's also important to figure out what kind of bottom line you want from the sale of your home. We will work through these reasons and many others during our first chat together.

Front of Home.jpg

2) Contact a Realtor
It's important for the agent to talk you through the home selling process. Going through these steps below are just the beginning. Agents have the capability to get your house listed, marketed, and shared beyond your regular sphere of influence. At Dunes, we pride ourselves on creative marketing, effective communication, local expertise, and a record of success. The Dunes difference is fully outlined here, but reading testimonials from former clients tells the story on another level.

3) Focus on Necessary Updates
Yes, not all updates are necessary. Kitchen needs new countertops or one room needs new carpet? Well, what if the new buyers want to pick their own countertops or carpet? There are ways to offer a concession to the buyer for the improvement of those items without limiting yourself to picking for them. However, some maintenance issues like a leak in the roof, warped wood siding, or a loose toilet would be better off being repaired before listing. 

Back Yard 1.jpg

4) Price Your Home
The agent you picked to list your home has incredible access to information about your neighborhood and the current market. What homes have sold most recently? How similar are they to your own? What is the bottom line of your price to sell? A combination of calculating expenses (closing attorney, agent's commission) and a comparable market analysis will bring you to a final number that you ultimately should feel comfortable with listing your home at.

5) Prepare Home for Sale
Dream clients are the ones that have their home under a regular maintenance schedule. We're talking heating/cooling units, fireplaces, termite bonds, home insurance, roofs, yard maintenance, electrical items, windows,and plumbing. We also know that time gets away from the best of us. It might be a bit past time to get one of those services inspected and we're happy to connect you to local service providers. Getting your home ready for sale also means taking care of the big ticket items before listing- and a home inspection from the buyer. It will make the transaction down the road much easier! So gather all those manuals to the stove and dishwasher you hid years ago, and have them ready for the new owner. 

Another big action item is staging. Clean, de-clutter, and then de-clutter again. We can't say enough about de-personalizing your space. Your bridal portrait truly is beautiful, but the buyer wants to picture themselves living the Lowcountry life, not you. Closets need to be decluttered, too. Hide the winter items, you don't really need them here anyway (other than the occasional cold spell). Hide those appliances that aren't permanent. Each room should have a purpose. Bring some color to the front stoop with a colorful doormat, wreath, and hanging plant. You will likely only have to keep it alive two months max. We believe in you! 

Living to Kitchen.jpg

6) List Home for Sale
Paperwork is signed, photos are taken (at Dunes, we will provide you with professional photos), 800 word or less description of your home is crafted better than the most recent non-fiction bestseller. It's time to click the LIST button (if only it were that easy, but we won't bore you). This is where a Open House comes into play. Preferably, within the first few days of being listed, so you can get the majority of the showings done when you (and your pets) won't be home, anyway. 

7) Showings
After your home is listed on our Multiple Listing Service, agents and clients searching the market will be able to see your home in person after sending in a request. There are many types of ways to schedule showings that your agent will discuss with you at the time of listing. Lockbox on the door? Dogs need to be put up before someone comes in the house? Baby naps 2-4pm? We can adjust the schedule to work best for you and the potential buyers. All we really need you to do is keep the house maintained on the same level that it was the day of its beautiful listing photos- and to turn the lights on before you leave the house every morning.

Entry Way.jpg

8) Review Offers
There's a buyer- and they want to buy your home! Sometimes this happens the day of an Open House and sometimes, it's a wait. Either way, we'll review the offer together and its contingencies to make sure it's a good fit for your bottom line. A response to the offer can come in the form of a counter offer or acceptance. Negotiations are on the table until the expiration time period runs out. There is always the possibility of a multiple offer situation in this market- meaning more than one buyer wants to buy your home. You have the upper hand in negotiations as the seller and can work on crafting the best final contract for your home.

9) Under Contract
Once the home is under contract with a buyer, we work quickly with the Buyer's Agent to get their home inspection (should that be a part of their contract) scheduled during the allotted time frame and closing scheduled with an attorney. From the home inspection, there may be a few punch list items that would be submitted as repair requests, which are also negotiable. They may also need to visit the home with contractors to get quotes for any work they may want to be done after closing. We will constantly be checking in with the Buyer's Agent to assure us that the financing (if there is any) is on track to close. Typically, within 30-45 days, you will be ready to close, but first you'll need to work on the transferring of utilities to the buyers and sending information to your lender/ closing attorney for loan pay off on your current home. Most buyers also choose to do a final walk through a few days before closing to make sure repairs have been done as necessary and the home is still in the similar state as they viewed it last.

10) Closing
You've packed up the house and are ready to go... to the closing table. Bring your ID and get ready to sign your name a hundred times (buyers have to sign a thousand times). You'll also want to bring any keys, the garage door openers, mailbox keys, manuals, and any other documents pertaining to the home. You can't go overboard with this- the new buyer will truly appreciate your diligence.

Note- this is simply an overview. The process can seem overwhelming at first glance, but that's why I'm here to help! Call or email me today to discuss your home's potential for sale.

***Photos are of my newest listing in the Clearview neighborhood on James Island, 615 Beauregard Street. Contact me or your Buyer's agent for a showing today!***

Beginning in 2018, Angela will be stepping away from her blogging duties to focus on her full-time job, motherhood, with the occasional assist to Emily in child-rearing and home showings/ inspections. It's been a wonderful couple of years working on this project together and we look forward to seeing what the future brings! For now, Emily would love your feedback on what you'd like to see on Lowcountry Love Letters in the years to come.

Neighborhood Spotlight: Park Circle

We're often tasked with finding clients neighborhoods that mark off certain items on their livability checklist. Walkable, bikeable, easy access to good food, dog friendly, and park nearby are normally at the top of people's list. Add to that a budget and you've got yourself a handful of areas around town that fit the bill.

Park Circle, located in North Charleston is a simple answer to all the above, also factoring in affordability. For a little history, check out Below, we touch on the current happenings in the area.

New builds are happening left and right in Oak Terrace PreserveMixson (complete with a hip and kid-friendly pool) and Hunley Waters, but there's also the traditional area off of the circle.

p&c park circle.jpg

Eat & Drink
There's no shortage of locales for coffee, cocktail hour, or lunch and dinner and the list continues to grow. Most of their names speak to their craft.

Get Involved
As it is in most of Charleston, there are events to fill every hour of your social calendar, but we picked a few of our stand-outs.

As you may remember, Angela moved to this area earlier in the year and has recently sold Emily (get it?) on moving her family there next month, as well. So this list will serve as a great resource when our husbands ask us, "Honey, what's for dinner?". Especially since Angela has another little one due early next year. We don't have much time for cooking, nor do we excel at the art of food.

What's your favorite spot in Park Circle? Do you have a memory from this area if you grew up in the Lowcountry? We'd love to hear more about the history.

Oyster Time


Before I moved to Charleston, I'm not sure I had ever tried a raw oyster. Now, I wait for months with the letter 'R' with the best of them. The local, raw, steamed ones are still rolling out at most spots, so you might want to call ahead to confirm. But otherwise, raw, fried, as a cocktail or fancy as can be, we have a list (and juicy photos - pun intended) for you to make sure you never miss out when in search of the perfect oyster around town.

When You're Feeling Fancy:
The Ordinary (Downtown)

When You'd Like to Combine it With Booze:
Pearlz (Downtown/ W. Ashley)

When You Want to People Watch:
The Darling Oyster Bar (Downtown)

When You Want to Try Out the New Joint:
Rappahannock (Downtown)

When You Want to Host a Roast:
St. Jude Farms (My house or yours? Tips on making your oyster shucking table.)

When You Want a Sunset:
Bowens Island (James Island/ Folly)

When You're Looking for a Date Night:
Amen Street/ Coast (Downtown)

When You Want a Variety of Options:
Leon's (Downtown)

When You Remember the Secret Spot:
167 Raw (Downtown)

When Your Counterpart Wants Pizza: 
Wood & Grain

What's your favorite spot to grab oysters around town? You can truly find oysters at almost restaurant in Charleston! Favorite type? Memory? I still long for the fried oysters at the now shuttered Leaf and have the best memory of shucking with my dad at the spot that is now a barbecue spot (imagine that) on Coleman in Mt. Pleasant.

Make sure to mark your calendar for the Lowcountry Oyster Festival on January 28 of next year.


My son, Grant, last night at Bowen's Island after eating his actual weight in food

My son, Grant, last night at Bowen's Island after eating his actual weight in food

From Fixer Upper to Listing

Today, we're sharing the blog with our colleague, Taylor Tillman. Last week, Taylor held an Open House for her listing at 40 Poinsett Street and we knew we had to share its story (beginning in 2015!) with our followers. Remember when Emily had her listing at 2 Shand and did Neighborhood Spotlight on the North Central neighborhood? Well, since then Huriyali has done an expansion and Renzo will be opening soon. Emily got some good time in at the new coffee shop, The Harbinger, before the Open House. The LowLine will be such a beautiful revitalization to the area.

If you’re an avid HGTV watcher, like myself, you’ve probably seen one of the many shows geared toward house flipping and renovation.  While the entire process is condensed into either a 30 or 60 minute show, I didn’t realize everything else that occurs behind the scenes but thanks to my parents, I have learned quite a bit about house renovation in the past year.

My parents started their adventure into the house renovation business in the Summer of 2015 after starting a business with my brother, Trey, and family friend and contractor, Rick Rockwell. Rick specializes in restoring historic Charleston homes to their original character and since my dad, who grew up in downtown Charleston, wanted his focus to be on historic downtown Charleston, the pairing could not have been better.

The lucky winner ended up being a house on Poinsett street, located in the North Central neighborhood.  North Central is close to Upper King Street and Rutledge Ave.  It is also a hop, skip, and a jump away from Morrison Drive which is home to both Edmund’s Oast and Tattooed Moose (two of my favorites).   It is also a neighborhood with a great deal of real estate investment potential so I can absolutely see why my dad chose this area.

And now I present to you, 40 Poinsett Street:



She’s a beaut, right?

To say this house was a fixer upper was the understatement of the year.  I am sure you are asking yourself, “Why wouldn’t you just tear it down and start fresh?”.  Downtown Charleston has a governing body known as the Board of Architectural Review whose purpose is “preservation and protection of the old historic or architecturally worthy structures and quaint neighborhoods which impart a distinct aspect to the city and which serve as visible reminders of the historical and cultural heritage of the city, the state, and the nation.” This means that in addition to the permits one has to get when building or renovating a property, you also have to get the approval from the BAR.  Thankfully, my dad knew all this this before buying the property so he was prepared for the extra hoops to jump through.

October 2015 comes around and my parents close on the house.  My dad’s first order of business was clearing out the yard.  He’s a DIY kind of guy so he was able to get a lot done himself along with some help from my brother and boyfriend.  The house had been abandoned for approximately 40 years so he definitely had his hands full with the yard for a couple months.  February 2016 began the start of obtaining permits and getting the green light from the BAR to proceed with the design plan.  (This can be an arduous process because it is generally unheard of to obtain the go ahead on the first try with the BAR) After months of speed bumps and probably a few “Why did we decide to do this again?” conversations, we are now in August 2016 and my parents are finally able to talk about an interior design plan.  My mom has quite the knack for interior design so this is right up her alley. I also love interior design so it was fun for my mom and I to discuss different options.

Follow Taylor's story in Part 2 and Part 3 on her blog,

What's your favorite part of the North Central neighborhood? Experience with Fixer Uppers?

Lowcountry Eclipse Plans

There are many reasons that I love calling the Lowcountry my home. Among my top reasons are the outdoor and nature options that are provided to us by living on the coast. As the Solar eclipse approaches I am again thankful that I am lucky to live in an area that will reach 100% totality of the eclipse. I AM PUMPED! I have always been inspired and humbled by nature and have obviously never seen an eclipse in person. And buzz kill; I'll be at work while it's happening!

If you are lucky enough to have the day off work, are staying at home because the kids are out of school or are treating yourself to this special event, there's not a shortage of things to do. With over 100 events scheduled in the Charleston area there is something for everyone to enjoy.

“Things I Would Rather Be Doing Than Going to Work, So You Should Do Them”

For my Yoga friends, Charleston County Parks is offering a Sun Shadow Yoga class at the Mount Pleasant pier from 1:30-2:30pm. This class is for ages 12 and up and costs $5 in advance or $8 day of event. 

If you want to view it from the beach, the City of Isle of Palms will host an eclipse viewing event on Front Beach. Leading up to the eclipse, there will be music by DJ NattyHeavy on the beach behind the Windjammer. Plane Jane will take the stage following the eclipse to celebrate this incredibly rare event. Children's entertainment will be available in the Isle of Palms County Park, and eclipse information will be provided throughout the event. The event will be from 11:30am – 4:30pm.

Want to know how wildlife are going to react to the eclipse? Caw Caw Interpretative Center will be hosting an Eclipse Extravaganza from 1:30-3:30pm where you will enjoy a guided tour by a naturalist. 

For those of you in North Charleston, the new venue The Bend will be hosting a free, family friendly and educational event from 12-4pm. Look to the Sky will feature live music, STEM based activities, a Boeing trebuchet, robotics demonstrations and more.

Last, but not least, on my list of events I would rather go to than be at work, The Charleston RiverDogs will have an Eclipse Home game at Joe Riley Stadium. Gates will open at 1pm and first pitch will be at 4:05pm. During the eclipse there will be special guests from NASA there to teach you about the eclipse as it happens!

Yes, I am secretly hoping to have a Heroes moment and gain a super cool super power after this event.

And now for Emily and Angela's Plans:

Originally, we planned to walk outside at the time of the eclipse and enjoy it from our front yard, since it's during our little one's nap time, but then we heard about the Total Solar Eclipse Barn Jam in Awendaw. Parking is open at 10am, with music starting at noon. We've got our glasses ready (thanks, Brownyard Law Firm!) and are ready to shake it down to some tunes!

The eclipse has been the talk in our house for some time now. Out-of-town relatives started requesting to stay in our guest room six months ago!  Most of our extended family will be coming into town for the main event and I'm excited to share this once in a lifetime experience with our nearest and dearest. We joked about searching for Al Roker, who will be in town, or if we didn't have a baby, I would have insisted that we go kayaking with Coastal Expeditions (word on the street was that all of the spots were filled within 24 hours of reservations opening last December). It's hard to decide what to do with all of the options, but I think that we will stick close to home in Park Circle and go to The Bend. Out of excitement, I've purchased the special edition Total Eclipse of the Sun stamps from the post office which use thermochromic ink that reacts to the heat of your touch (Emily bought them, too!). Maybe I'll give one to Frances to play with at work (we love you Franny).

A few tips that we received from the Mount Pleasant Police Department and wanted to pass along:

  • Expect heavy traffic beginning the weekend before the eclipse
  • Have your cars filled with gas and have groceries stocked before the weekend, the influx of visitors may put a strain on supplies
  • Sunglasses will not protect your eyes! Only use certified eclipse viewing glasses
  • The pedestrian walkway on the Ravenel Bridge will be closed from noon until 4pm and will not be available as a viewing site
  • Under no circumstances should you stop your vehicle on any roadway or bridge during the eclipse
  • Expect cellular communication towers to become overloaded, have a plan in place to communicate with family and friends beforehand

We hope that you all find somewhere to view this amazing celestial event. Stay safe out there and wear your eclipse glasses. You can find them almost anywhere in the city right now, but they can also be purchased for $1 at all of the Visitor's Centers. For more information and a complete list of events visit the Charleston CVB’s eclipse website.


A Love Letter from Avery Bowman


This past week, my husband and I got a good look into our future by housing my cousin's 9 year old son, Avery. His free time was spent schooling us at SkeeBall, teaching our 9 month old to 'RAWR', walking our dog, reading books from the library, and catching a foul ball at the RiverDogs game. His visit was timed to attend Coastal Expeditions' Young Naturalist Summer Camp. Like any good auntie (Familial Relations 101, anyone?) would do, I had him journal about his daily experiences to save and share with his family back in Tennessee. And as you can see below, to share with Lowcountry Love Letters.


First, about the camp:
"Each day at Coastal Expeditions brings a new adventure and includes activities like pulling a seining net along the shores of a barrier island, kayaking alongside a manatee in Shem Creek or exploring a bird rookery in the Charleston Harbor.  Your young naturalist will experience the Lowcountry in a way that will foster a life-long love for this unique environment.

Our camps foster kayak skills, leadership, team building, self esteem, and environmental appreciation. Making learning fun while participating in interactive activities is our goal for your young naturalist."

Read More>

And now, from Avery:

First day of camp means meeting new friends. Kayaked for the first time ever! Bonus- it was with dolphins. Kind of wondering if I'm going to see them every day. We went on an adventure walk at the Shem Creek Pier and saw a million crabs.
Quote of the Day (QOTD): "Do the cicadas here have microphones?"

First time paddle boarding. We went twice and it was so awesome. I sat most of the time. It's really difficult to stand up! Dolphins were there to say 'hi'. Pretty sure a jellyfish got me. Not my first time with that experience. Went swimming off of the dock.

Another day, another dolphin. More kayaking today. I'm learning more about the rudder and which direction the paddle will send me. Hint: It's the opposite direction you're moving it.

Day trip to Bulls Island! The waves were awesome. We also got to visit a wolf sanctuary. The boat was neat, but we didn't see any dolphins.

Paddle boarding is becoming my favorite, but man do my arms hurt. We went to Fort Moultrie today. Dolphins were back. 4 days out of 5 isn't bad.

Ocean Waves on Bulls Island
Fort Moultrie

Water shoe blisters
Applying sunscreen

"Do the cicadas here have microphones?"

Daily Journaling

Daily Journaling

Guess who's already asking to come back next summer? We'll gladly take you, Avery.

What should we check out next year when he's here? 


Avery & Grant at the Mt. Pleasant Library

Avery & Grant at the Mt. Pleasant Library

Decorate Local


You upsized your living space, now what? We recently moved from a 1,500 square foot cottage to a 2,300 square foot multi-story box. Things that worked beautifully in my cottage, no longer work so well in our new space. I found myself on the hunt for new(ish) everything, from the curtains to the soap dishes. Since starting this blog over two years ago, I more than ever, appreciate locally made goods and supporting locally owned businesses. I beam with pride when getting a compliment on a piece that I may have picked up from a local artist at a craft market. As we begin to live in our new space, I'm slowly filling it with pieces that I adore. Below are just a few of the amazing local items that I have found recently:

This is the very first thing that I bought for our new house. It's an adorable handmade quilted pineapple throw pillow by the talented Stitchy Things Co. Follow on Instagram @stitchythingsco

Emily introduced me to the new home furniture and décor shop Hausful. Beware, walking into this place, you will want it all!  I have my eye on a gorgeous sofa and toddler bed for little Ruby. Follow on Instagram for all of the latest sale updates @hausful

I think that deep-down, one of the reasons I fell in love with our new boxy house is because of all the blank walls. There is so much room to hang amazing art. Charleston Artist Collective made me want their pieces from the very first time I came across their Instagram @charlestonartistcollective. Truly amazing local talent can be found here. I can't wait to purchase and hang my first piece!

Our new front porch could use some pizzaz to make it more welcoming to family and friends. I happened upon the Old Charleston Trading Company one hot Friday afternoon and found a gorgeous, half-sized joggling board. I knew at once that it had to be mine! They also have beautiful furniture and décor. It can be a little tricky to find, and they're only open Friday thru Sunday. Check their Facebook page for the latest updates. Who needs a rocking horse, when you can have a rocking row boat? Follow on Instagram @oldcharlestontradingcomany

I have no doubt that once my husband and I can decide on a wood finish, we will be purchasing a new dining room suite from Charleston Amish Furniture. If you haven't visited this store yet, you're missing out. The customer service is phenomenal, the attention to detail is spot on, and the products are superior. Just know that each dining piece is made to order, so it may take a while for your perfect piece to arrive, but I'm hoping that it will be well worth the wait!  Dinner party at our house anyone? (Side note: we also purchased a Folly Beach inspired quilt at Charleston Amish Furniture for our master bedroom. It is Gorgeous!)

Daydreaming of this beautiful Dining Suite.

Daydreaming of this beautiful Dining Suite.

I've said it before and I'll say it again, Mount Pleasant Mall is hands-down one of my favorite shopping spots. I don't get to go as often as I would like because I am now accompanied everywhere by a very busy one-year-old, but when I do get the occasional moment to myself, I head on over. While not everything is locally made, each booth is individually rented. Follow on Instagram @mtpleasantmall

I surprised myself last month by taking an interest in Horn and Heel at the American Made Market held outside Edmond's Oast. Surprised because, well, the kitchen is my least favorite room and my husband's domain, but these handmade knives commanded my attention. They were stunning pieces of culinary art. I slipped their card into my wallet for safe-keeping for when the holidays come around. No doubt we will own a set of these beauties in the very near future. Follow on Instagram @hornandheel

Tell us where you like to shop for local goods. I still have about 2,000 square feet to decorate!

A Love Letter from Abbie Pribble


Let me paint a picture for you:

It’s the summer after my freshman year of college at ECU.  My crazy 19 year old self batted my eyes at daddy so I could use all of his airline miles to visit the best big brother ever in his new city for the 4th of July.  Michael has always taken care of me and always thought I was the best thing since sliced bread. I don’t blame him… I’m a pretty cool little sister—just kidding. Anyway, it’s safe to say we are pretty darn close. We were excited to get to spend time together as siblings AND friends, just the two of us. 

So, my dad had to give me step-by-step directions on how to fly on my own. I followed them to a T, changed planes, and finally arrived at CHS! Do you ever have those random moments that you look back on and you can remember every detail? That’s how I feel about this trip. As we drove away from North Charleston and towards Mount Pleasant, I couldn’t help but point out the awful smell. Michael replied, “Oh yeah… I farted. Just kidding…that’s the marsh. It always smells like that. You’ll get used to it.” Great… this sounds wonderful. “But if you look that way, you can see the bridge.” Super cheesy, I know, but it was a good moment.

Abbie and her brother Michael

Abbie and her brother Michael

We spent the week doing touristy Charleston things. We took a carriage ride through downtown. We took a ferry ride out to Ft. Sumter. We went to a Charleston Riverdogs game. We went to the beach on Sullivan’s Island. We took lawn chairs out one night and just sat on the Battery. We bought a book, waited until dark, and did a self-guided ghost tour of the city. I had so much fun exploring the city and just being friends with my brother.  

Then it came time to leave… I was dreading this. I just had one of the best and most memorable weeks of my life and now I was going back home. Not ideal. He hugged me goodbye and I started crying. I couldn’t let go. I fell in love with the smells (except for the marsh), the trees, the food, the activities, the lifestyle, and charm of this town. I decided right then and there that I would get to call Charleston home one day, too. 

As I was preparing this letter, I realized that we didn’t take any pictures of us that week for our mother. I’m sure that made her mad. But since that trip, I have made countless visits and spent some more memorable days with my brother and his growing group of friends and I have made sure to take a picture every time. Many more July 4ths, birthdays, Spring Breaks, holidays, and even a wedding have been great excuses to go back to my favorite city. 

Abbie with her dog-niece Dori

Abbie with her dog-niece Dori

Fast forward 6 years:

Michael is married to beautiful Janeen, they have two dogs and the most thought-out, perfect garden you could dream of. I have been teaching kindergarten in northern Virginia for 3 years and I’m ready to make a change. I finally decided that it’s time. I’m moving in a week and a half. It’s really happening. Closing on a condo today (thanks Emily!) and nailed down a job at Memminger Elementary teaching 1st grade.  Pieces are falling into place for my new life that I’ve wanted for so long. This is about my love for the South and my love for this city, but mostly about my love for my family. I can’t wait to see how this new life plays out. 

Abbie, Janeen. and Michael

Abbie, Janeen. and Michael

Family Friendly Weekend Outdoors

Well, hello, rain and Monday! These past couple of weekends, we have found ourselves outside without even meaning to be. In the Lowcountry, it doesn't take much effort to find something with a breeze, bench, and people watching. Whether you're from here or visiting, we think the activities below will keep you outdoors and entertained:


Fit Mommy Charleston
This newly discovered group meets during the week and weekends at different parks and locales around the Lowcountry. What a great way to explore! Last weekend's class in Park Circle featured ultimate frisbee followed by circuit training for mom, dad and child. $10/ class or unlimited options available.

Marion Square Farmer's Market
This spot is especially packed with entertainment during Spoleto, but takes place every Saturday with the basics; fresh veggies, local artisans, and food. Make it this coming Saturday before Spoleto closes up shop and you'll see dozens of artists, as well. We're fans of bringing a quilt and putting it under a tree for people watching.

Walk down King Street to The Battery
We're sending you on a pretty straight path here, but we also encourage you to veer off onto one of the side streets to find additional charm in the homes and streets of downtown. Try taking a turn down Tradd or Queen street. Pretty stroller friendly. The cobblestone streets rock those babies straight to sleep.

American Made Market (and many more markets)
Charleston has no shortage of artisan markets, but this one is held at one of our favorite dining spots (that's still serving Emily's husband's beet beer, Fan Fiction, on tap!). Follow Thrifters & Drifters, Lowcountry Local First, and US to hear all about them as dates/ times/ locations are released. 

Deck Music at The PourHouse
Kids can let their dance moves loose while parents grab a snack and cold beverage. Check their schedule for all upcoming music, but there's never been a time that we've been here and there hasn't been music playing somewhere.


Dinner at Rita's/ Beach Walk
Try to grab an outdoor table to enjoy the beachy breeze. Their signature nachos are a must. Chances are, they'll have music playing, too. When you're ready to walk off those nachos, head on down to Folly, just a couple of blocks away.


Bendy Brewski Yoga at Holy City Brewing
Our one non-kid friendly option of the weekend, but doesn't everyone need a small break? Yoga and beer. You don't need to say much more.


Celadon Flea
More food and local vendors, the last Sunday of every month. The furniture warehouse is open to the public on these days. It's a fun meet up for friends, with great parking. 


Riverfront Park N. Charleston
Head just around the corner to enjoy art in the park, spectacular views of the Cooper River, and occasional events.

Dinner Al Fresco
Local or not, use some of those veggies and treats you've picked up along the way this weekend to make an outdoor picnic for you and your family on your patio, screened in porch, or yard. Enjoy the silence... we mean, cicadas. 

What's your favorite way to get outside in the Lowcountry? It's not a weekend activity, but Folly Beach Movie Nights are back and they are a kid favorite!


When Buying and Selling Become Personal


Ever wonder what happens when a Real Estate Agent decides to sell their personal home? The art of buying and selling residential real estate is a very personal business by nature, but when my husband and I decided to list our darling Riverland Terrace cottage, the emotions ran high. Luckily my husband is a 'go-with-the-flow' kind of guy and allowed me complete control over all of the details that I, as a Realtor, understood to be crucial to getting top dollar for our little piece of paradise in the Lowcountry. Below are a few tips to keep in mind to get top dollar when listing your home.

 Allow a healthy budget for prepping your home for the market:

I blame HGTV for the attitude of today's consumer; everyone expects to walk into an immaculately staged house. For us (read: family with a toddler), this meant out with the old and in with the new. I spent $1,000 on new (smaller, or as described by my husband, "museum quality") furniture, rugs, lighting, house plants, and even rented artwork (courtesy of the lovely Julia Deckman), in order to set our stage. We rented a storage unit and packed away most of our personal photos, books, tv/gaming consoles, and most of the baby toys. We rented boxes from EcoPax, making storing super easy! I also took the opportunity to clean out and organize all of our closets (remember, people look in every corner when you are showing your home).

PRO TIP: House plants make a space seem alive and welcoming. Unfortunately, house plants rarely survive living with me, so I shopped exclusively from the Lowe's house plant clearance shelves. I was able to pick up around $200 in house plants for $40 the day before we listed and by some miracle, they are all still alive.

Hire professionals:

Cutting corners on items such as landscaping, photography, pressure washing, etc., can really cut into potential profit. Curb appeal is king in this business!  We hired a professional landscaper (Coastal Green) to ensure that our yard was in tip top shape.  We had the house professionally pressure washed (by Under Pressure). Most importantly, we chose a very talented photographer. I would say one of the things that I never 'cheap out' on is photography. Pictures are ultimately what will capture the attention of potential buyers and get them through the door. Donnie Whitaker Photography did an amazing job!

PRO TIP: Adding an American Flag to the front of your home can really make it pop with curb appeal in photographs.

Keep your house and yard neat and tidy:

This seems like common sense, but you wouldn't believe how many homes we have shown where the buyers were completely turned off by clutter, dirty dishes, unmade beds, and the list goes on. You are ultimately trying to allow the buyer to imagine themselves living there, which is hard to do if the house is dirty. This particular tip was especially challenging for our family with a one-year old running around. Sticky hands and crushed goldfish crackers seem to be the norm.  Since I knew that keeping the house super clean and tidy would be challenging, it was important to me that showings were limited and that our house wasn't sitting on the market for months on end. This is where listening to your Real Estate Agent, especially in regards to pricing, becomes key.

PRO TIP: I hired a professional house cleaner to do a deep cleaning prior to picture day and also to come weekly for maintenance cleanings while the house was being shown. Also, a bowl of fresh lemons sitting out can mask daily kitchen odors (I learned that tip from my Granny!).

MOST IMPORTANTLY Listen to your Real Estate Agent!

We decided to enlist the help of Emily for the sale of our home. Legally, I could have listed my personal home on my own, but emotionally, I knew that I needed a buffer. This was one of the best decisions that we could have made. By having Emily list the house, I was able to focus on the emotions that I was struggling with about leaving our cute home and neighborhood. She manned an open house and fielded questions that I would have probably taken too personally. She buffered me from criticism that was not constructive and headed up a mass marketing campaign so that I could focus on getting the dirty dishes out of the sink and watering those doomed house plants.

PRO TIP: Don't be afraid to speak openly with your Real Estate Agent about anything that may be burdening you. Their job to is represent your best interests!  Trust me, they will want to know if you are feeling uncomfortable or unsure throughout any part of the process. A "Big Thank You" to Emily for taking my crazy calls at all hours of the day/night!

Stay Calm and Trust the Process:

Three days after officially listing our house, we had multiple offers, and five weeks later, we closed. Those five weeks were a roller coaster of emotions, but by preparing properly, hiring professionals, and trusting in the guidance of a great Real Estate Agent, we have successfully moved onto our next in Park Circle!

The wicke's new home! welcome to Park Circle!

The wicke's new home! welcome to Park Circle!

A Love Letter from Julia Deckman


I wasn’t born in the Lowcountry, but I found my home here in Charleston. When I reflect on the past 5 years, I realize I owe so much to this amazing city. Charleston is the place where my soul feels at peace and my mind is awakened.

Prior to my time here in Charleston, I had spent my life with my head down and blinders on. I was going through the motions of someone I thought I was “supposed” to be, checking “accomplishments” off my to-do list:

  • Be a good student

  • Don’t cause trouble

  • Go to college and graduate with honors

  • Move back home to be close to family

  • Find a “real job”

  • Bide my time until it’s time to start a family

Without realizing it, my life was passing by and I never took the time to get to know my true self and what I really wanted; I was unknowingly a stranger to myself. The older I got the more anxious and unsettled I felt, but I ignored my anxiety and my subconscious. I assumed all would be well when I was finished with my “to-do” list.

Then, five years ago, I moved to Charleston and I woke up in the middle of a life I didn’t recognize. It’s as if I was asleep for my entire adult life; the path I had been headed down had nothing to do with ME. But I found that the more time I spent in this beautiful city, the more alive and peaceful I felt. I found the courage to make some incredibly difficult decisions and make major changes. I finally started to be present and live on my terms. Charleston gently woke me up and offered the perfect environment to begin living my true life and to be true to myself.

I believe that Charleston is my perfect oasis. It has so much to offer, whether it be the beautiful architecture, the amazing food, the art and culture, or its rich history. Charleston is diverse enough to keep you on your toes, yet inviting enough to make you feel safe and comfortable. The sense of community here is powerful, and I am so happy to recognize faces almost everywhere I go.

Follow Julia on Instagram @byjdeckman

Charleston has also provided me the opportunity to pursue my dreams. After moving here, I quickly realized I would never be happy unless I made my passion a priority. So two years ago I started my art business, and this city has helped support me every step of the way. I scrapped my old “to-do” list and came up with another:

  • Start creating art again

  • Set up a professional business

  • Push myself out of my comfort zone and network

  • Collaborate with other local creatives

  • Become a resident artist at Redux Contemporary Art Center

I am excited to say I have accomplished all those original goals, but the list continues to grow. While I have so much I still want to achieve, I feel fulfilled, happy, and very fortunate. I don’t believe I could have made this life change or become the person I am today without the support of Charleston and its amazing community.

Thank you, Charleston, I will love you forever.

ps. to get a unique perspective on my professional journey, follow along with my blog I actually like to reflect on my initial posts whenever I'm feeling in a rut. It makes me realize how far I have truly come: early days post, year one reflection, year two reflection

As a note of Interest: Angela recently commissioned Julia to paint a portrait of her beloved Tater. We think that it turned out just perfect!

Bachelorette Party Lowcountry Style


If you've ever been out in downtown Charleston past 9pm on a Friday or Saturday night, then you have most likely encountered a bachelorette party on the loose! Before becoming a local, my first trip to Charleston was for a destination bride-to-be party. Having been a bridesmaid well over a dozen times (what can I say, I was in a large sorority in college), I feel that I have planned and attended my fair share of these celebrations. Emily and I thought it would be fun to list out some of the more creative ideas for celebrating this momentous occasion in our lovely city.

Personal Yoga Instruction: We hired a yoga instructor from Serenity Tree Yoga to lead a sunrise session on the beach in front of the beach house that was rented. Pro tip: Do not attempt this activity after a hard night of partying (pretty sure we lost some ladies after the first up-dog).

Hire a Personal Chef: I have made this move multiple times and find that in the long run it is cheaper and time saving. Just think, no need to corral 15 women in and out of a busy restaurant or split the bill 15 ways! Charleston is such a great culinary goldmine that finding a personal chef to hire is easy, check out Yelp's top 10 list and find the best fit for your occasion.

Still not sold on the personal chef idea? Make reservations at the R Kitchen to get a similar experience!

Check out a Plantation Tour: The Lowcountry is surrounded by a number of beautiful plantations. It may be a bit off the beaten path, but an afternoon sipping tea at the Charleston Tea Plantation followed by vodka tasting at the neighboring Firefly Distillery is sure to please!

Follow @Charleston_tea on Instagram:

Shopping: One could not have a proper trip to Charleston without King Street Shopping! Plan your trip accordingly and come for the Second Sunday on King. Or if you feel like making the trip to Mount Pleasant, Gwynn's will not disappoint.

Follow @gwynnsofmtp on Instagram:

All Types of Bars: Rooftop Bars, Dance Club Bars, Bars with homemade pastry (poptarts from The Belmont), Artisanal Bars, and the list goes on. One idea, reserve a Private Room at the Cocktail Club, this place takes you back in time where you can share a punch bowl with the ladies and sip in style. Check out Eater Charleston for a list of all the hottest places.

Follow @cocktailclubchs on Instagram:

Feeling adventurous? Maybe a weekend Cruise to the Bahamas! Find a full list of cruises leaving from Charleston here.

Other Tips:

  • Know the dress code for the establishments you will be visiting. We once had to leave a lady behind because she wore flip flops where they were not allowed. Along the same lines, ladies, note that Charleston streets are cobblestone! We recommend that you rickshaw everywhere to save those precious ankles.

  • Know that some very nice restaurants turn into raging booty-shaking nightclubs after a certain hour in the night. One of my first client dinners ever was running long and our nice quiet table suddenly turned into a spring break video, yikes!

  • Hire professional transportation and reserve it in advance if you are not staying within walking distance. There are a number of fun ways to get around including SC Bar Car, The Pink Party Bus, or The Charleston Cool Bus just to name a few.
    Just for fun, here's a throw back to when Charleston had a little black cab company that would roll out the red carpet (and I had long hair):

For the Morning After: Consider hitting up the Bloody Mary Bar at 39 Rue-De-Jean brunch or if you're really suffering, we've heard good things about Renew IV Spa on King Street (no appointment necessary). If anyone tries Renew, let us know what you think!  Curious minds want to know...

A Love Letter from CeCe Mikell


Every Monday morning, I deliver an East Cooper Meals on Wheels hot lunch to thirteen people who have lived and have lived in Mt. Pleasant, SC longer than I have. That’s saying a lot since I’m a born and raised native of Mt. Pleasant for nearly 42 years.

Late last month, I stopped to talk for a while with one of the children/caregivers of a recipient, and in our conversation, he asked me what I think of how Mt. Pleasant has changed since we were kids who went to the same (old) Mamie P. Whitesides Elementary School on Rifle Range Road at Myrick Road, (old) Laing Middle School on Highway 17 N at Six Mile Road, and (old) Wando High School on Mathis Ferry Road.

For context, here’s a glimpse of the Mt. Pleasant I knew as a child and teenager:

  • The stoplight at Bowman Road and Highway 17 was the last stoplight before you got to Georgetown.
  • East Cooper Family Practice (now Roper St. Francis Physician Partners on Wingo Way) functioned as the emergency room because there was no hospital at all on our side of the bridge.
  • Boone Hall Farm was just another farm to drive by on the way from Mt. Pleasant to Georgetown or Myrtle Beach. 
  • Rifle Range Road was a simple 2-lane back road with no stoplights or even stop signs and was the local drag strip for daredevils on Friday and Saturday nights. The now traffic circle at Porchers (pronounced poor-shay) Bluff was all dirt and gravel and was better known as Dead Man’s Curve.

Do I miss the much smaller town that could boast these memories? Of course, I do – in the same way I miss nap time in kindergarten, recess in elementary school, and the days when my folks footed my clothing bill before school started. Just as I grew up, so did my small town, and in some amazing ways: 

  • The stoplight at Bowman has been replaced by a 4-lane flyover, reducing the number of stops during rush hour. That allows the nearly double the population to get home to kids, evening activities, churches, and beaches more quickly, enjoying more of life in a still-small town with ever more engaging life activities to choose.
  • Our side of the bridge has gone from zero hospitals to having three hospitals, with East Cooper Medical Center exclusively dedicated to our East Cooper/Mt. Pleasant community. Improved medical care means that we who live in Mt. Pleasant get to enjoy it more and longer.
  • Boone Hall Farm has grown into a huge, year-round local produce provider through community supported agriculture along with its farm stand and farm store. Its leading support from the community played a large role in the establishment and growth of the Mt. Pleasant Farmers’ Market located at Moultrie Middle School.
  • Rifle Range Road has opened up to new schools serving both existing and new neighborhoods, and our East Cooper Moultrie District #2 Schools are top in the Lowcountry and among the best in the state.

It's easy to complain about the increase in traffic and paved roads, the loss of wooded land, the number of people who simply weren’t here when the first Wal-mart (now Pivotal Fitness) was built for our small community. These are some of the reasons Mt. Pleasant has earned the nicknames “Mt. Plastic” and Mt. Perfect.” The thing is, that’s not their fault. 

It’s our responsibility – we natives and decades-long residents – to cherish and continually share the evolution of our East Cooper Mt. Pleasant community with those who choose now to make it their home. While new residents can’t share in an experienced history, we can all shape our wonderful still-small town together.

CeCe Mikell is a 41-year-old native of Mt. Pleasant, SC. She is best known as a writer, teacher, singer, and home cook. After a successful career as a college professor in New York, CeCe returned to Mt. Pleasant to care for her family. Today she is a consultant with Armstrong Consulting, specializing in project management, business start-ups, and non-profit initiatives. Follow CeCe’s cooking, singing, and every day adventures on her blog 

Fresh Local Loves

We hope you've noticed that a few things have changed on this site since we first started out; our listings and buyer clients (thanks, guys!!!), motherhood, hairstyles (bangs much?), and even more to come, as you'll see later this week on our Facebook page, but the one constant has been our LOVE for local around the Lowcountry.

Today, we'd like to get your feedback on freshening up our Local Loves section. We're updating our own (see below), but would also like to incorporate yours from your different go-to spots around town. This short questionnaire will take less than 5 minutes. Leave your name, if you'd like us to credit you as a source.

Share your Local Loves!

Angela's Local Loves:

Coffee- Muddy Waters Coffee Bar
They always get my order right even when I'm mumbling and half asleep.

Brunch- Baguette Magic
Try the French toast, you can thank me later.

Garden/ Home- Hyam's Garden Center
Serving Charleston since 1981, this local business keeps our yard in bloom. They recently helped me design a cute flower box under my kitchen window.

Library/ Bookstore- Free Little Library
I love stopping by my neighborhood's Free Little Library. (Click the link to find out if there is one in your neighborhood!) 

Mobile Office- In and Out Car Wash
It might sound odd, but I've gotten quite a bit of work completed while having my car detailed.

Boutique/ Clothing- Style Dwell
Style Dwell has perfect outfits for a night on the town or for a fun work look. Bonus: they have great small gift ideas!

Lunch- Cory's Grilled Cheese
This place is a hidden gem. In addition to an amazing grilled cheese, the burger is pretty delicious.

Grocery/ Farm fresh- Sunday Brunch Farmer's Market
Situated behind the Pour House, this market is where we like to shop for local fresh produce, eggs, meat, and pasta.

Park- James Island County Park
With miles of trails, a fantastic dog park, and an awesome playground for the kiddos, this one is hard to beat.

Emily's Local Loves:

Coffee- Collective Coffee
Beyond impressive selection of brews with a knowledgable staff.

Brunch- Edmund's Oast
Babka wasn't even a thing I knew about until I selected it from EO's menu. Every dish is creative and of premium quality.

Garden/ Home- Abide a While
We have big plans to take Grant here soon for his first (but not last experience) to get our flower boxes started.

Library/ Bookstore- Village/ Poe
The public library is my soft spot, so I'd list all 16 of them if I could, but I love the quaintness of the Village and Poes library. Cannot wait to take Grant to see the Easter Bunny at The Village Library next year. 

Mobile Office- Vintage Coffee Cafe
If I could go here every day, I would. Lots of outdoor seating, with a play area for children. It's like sitting in your backyard with endless fancy toast options.

Boutique/ Clothing- Two Cumberland
It just so happens that I don't buy clothes for myself very often anymore, but when I do need a quick option for a wedding or fun event, this store never disappoints. Bonuses: Their staff is incredibly nice and they have two locations (one downtown, one in Mt.P).

Lunch- Rutledge Cab Co.
While it's been around for a while, I recently discovered their $5 burger deal on Mondays from my friend that calls Charleston #vacationland. Truly.

Grocery/ Farm Fresh- Boone Hall/ Wishbone Heritage Farms
Convenience is a big factor here and with Boone Hall being across the street from our house, we never have a problem stopping by to pick up the veg we need for a meal. Now, for our meat and eggs, my husband schedules a weekly pick-up with Wishbone. Their bacon is one of a kind.

Park- Palmetto Islands
This spot has been a go-to since I moved to the Lowcountry. Great for dog walks, dog park, and now baby walks! We recently went with a large group of friends and explored on a gorgeous winter day. The views are spectacular.

Did you know April is Eat Local month? There are lots of events and ways to get involved.

Your turn to tell us your favorite spots around the Lowcountry!