Bargain Shopping Lowcountry Style

Angela:

Emily and I love a good bargain, especially now that we are both moms. I discovered an entire new way of shopping when I was pregnant and was invited to attend the Charleston Repeats Sale (taking place again next weekend!) as a "New Mom."  Never again would I buy retail without thinking twice. With resources like ThredUp, OfferUp, Letgo and numerous other local, resale Facebook groups, rarely do I have to make a trip to a large retail store to make my purchases. I've bought everything second-hand, from maternity clothes and baby food, to floor lamps and baskets.

One of my favorite semi-annual sales, the Daniel Island Red Balloon Yard Sale, is quickly approaching. My girlfriends and I make an event of it. We leave our babies with their dads, meet before dawn, grab coffee and a biscuit, then begin the yard sale hunt. It's always fun to show off our goods at the end and decide who gets the "best bargain" bragging rights. 

I get excited about the semi/annual sale events, but for the day-to-day stuff, I often try to find it at a local resale shop first. I feel good about shopping second-hand because I am not only saving money, but also supporting local businesses.  

We've listed several of our favorite shopping spots below. 

For the kids:

Tiny Tadpoles is one of my favorite go-to shops on James Island.


Angels and Rascals in Mount Pleasant has an ever-changing inventory sure to please.


Charleston Repeats Sale is coming up March 9th-12th at the Omar Shrine Temple in Mount Pleasant.

In support of a cause:

Habit for Humanity ReStore has lots of great finds for those DIY projects around the house.

Animal Helpers Retail sale proceeds go to Pet Helpers to save animals in the Lowcountry.

 

Fashion and home finds:

Reinvented Upscale Resale is where I go for work attire and those staple closet pieces.

Worn. Consignment + Wear for Men is the place to send your man for an affordable wardrobe update.

Consign Charleston is hands down one of my favorite shopping spots! Find anything from designer clothing and jewelry, to furniture for the home.

Mt. Pleasant Mall in... you guessed it, Mt. Pleasant... is housed in an old furniture store and packed to the brim with impressive home items.

Other Events to check out:

Daniel Island Red Balloon Yard Sale
Whale of a Sale
That BIG Book Sale
Great Outdoor Gear Sale (James Island County Park)
Charleston Style Exchange

My husband requested that I be sure to add that McKevlins and Ocean Surf Shops have a great variety of used surf gear (I guess this is my hint).

Support local businesses by shopping resale instead of retail! Leave us a comment about where you like to bargain hunt. Even we haven't visited all of the great consignment shops around the Lowcountry.

Lowcountry Beer Is Here (Pt.2)

Trevor:

A lot has happened to the Lowcountry Beerscape since my last love letter. Can you believe 10 breweries have opened up?! Charleston City Paper follows the new arrivals, but Charlestonbrewerylist.com is even more on the up-and-up. There are a few breweries focused on distributing, but no tap rooms, just yet; Fatty’s Beer Works, Lo-Fi Brewing, Snafu Brewing, & Fat Pig Brewing. Snafu tap room is imminent. For the ones with open tap rooms NOW, keep reading:

Ghost Monkey
@ghostmonkeybrew | MAP
This nano is adjacent to the Wando Port Terminal on Long Point Road and their primate braincase is always howling for a pint. Garage doors are up in nice weather with music, food trucks, and a constantly rotating draft selection Thursday through Sunday. Special shoutout to the monkies for hosting Lowcountry Libation’s Colonial Cup Competition last year shortly before they opened their doors to the public.

Two Blokes
@twoblokesbrewing | MAP
Walk through the double entryway just off Long Point Road to find the Blokes’ Half Pints kids corner up front and a 7bbl brewhouse in back. Patrons, alewives (I'm referring to Emily, here), blokes, and lady blokes take refuge from the heat 7 days a week for a lineup of solid flagships and a steady drip of special releases.

Cooper River
@cooperbrewing | MAP
The shotgun style tap room near the “bridge to nowhere” runs parallel to the production floor. Gaze out through the glass with a pint in hand for a picturesque view of stainless brewery operations or chat with the Herron behind the bar. Find their warehouse 4 days a week for patio fun and food trucks to boot.

Low Tide
@lowtidebrewing | MAP
Open 5 days a week on Johns Island, this tap room has plenty of space indoors and out. Feed off their dozen beer offerings, plenty of food trucks, yoga and the natural beauty of the Island. Bring the dog and pick up an LT collar from their merch area.

Charles Towne Fermentory
@chsfermentory | MAP
Rustic meets fresh in this modestly sized Avondale tap room. You’ll find a small but distinctive tap list, with a healthy dose of hop haze for those who dig it. Go early with the kiddo before the crowd heats up 6 days a week.

Lagunitas Brewpub
#lagunitascharleston | MAP
Same vibe, different tastes from the old Southend location. Live music at 4:20pm every day to go with plenty of picnic style seating and hop forward favorites and seasonal brews. Grab some brewpub grub and chill.

What's your favorite new spot around town? Old favorite? 

Drink local, drink fresh! Cheers.

Bonus:
Thanks to my wife for carting us boys around for our field work on this post!

Favorite Food Truck Finds

Angela:

My husband and I have a running joke that we must lower our expectations for a delicious meal when we are vacationing because we may be disappointed when compared to dining in Charleston. In my opinion, we are spoiled here in the Lowcountry with the unbelievable amount of superb food available to us.

Some of my favorite bites of all time have happened in parking lots, on the side of a road, or in the heat of a summer farmer's market. I’m talking about food trucks. My very first weekend living here, friends invited me to tag along to a food truck rodeo. I had never heard of such a thing and was hooked from the very first bite.

In keeping with tradition, this weekend we attended the 6th Annual Food Truck Festival held in a new location in the Park Circle neighborhood of North Charleston. It was a little chilly for a Lowcountry winter day, but there was plenty of great food, drinks, and dancing to keep you warm.

Don’t miss the Johns Island Food Truck Festival event scheduled for February 11, 2017 or the Food Truck Rally 5k happening April 22, 2017.

If you’re not ready to try a food truck rodeo, start small by supporting the local truck parked in your office building parking lot for lunch one day. You can track your favorite trucks by following them on social media or by using trackers (like this Roaming Hunger tracker). You can also receive updates about events by ‘liking’ the Charleston Food Truck Federation Facebook page.

Holy City Sinner and Food Trucks In have provided a decent list of most of the food trucks in the area, but they are ever changing and often times you stumble upon something new to give a try when you least expect it. A few of our favorites (in no particular order):

Brava Bowls

Roti Rolls

Outta My Huevos

Short Grain

The Juice Joint

I’m not the only one raving over this trend, rumor is that a Food Truck O’Rama will be opening in the spring (a place where food trucks can park and patrons will have access to seating, a bar, and bathrooms). In addition, we are seeing a trend in pop-up shops such as Two Nixons. (Delicious!) 

Also consider hiring a food truck to cater your next big event, meeting, or even birthday party such as Dashi!

Last but not least, a BIG shout-out to Dunes Properties colleague and food truck owner Jared Maus. Check out his truck, the Immortal Lobster, for an unbelievably delicious lobster roll (oddly enough, the Connecticut Roll was one of my pregnancy cravings)!

Idea Alert: If anyone would like to start a Poutine Food Truck, I promise to be a loyal customer! Tell us what food trucks you would like to see in the Lowcountry in our comments section.

A Love Letter from Ashley Galloway Thomas

Ashley:

I moved here in the Summer of 2014 with my then boyfriend (now husband-woot!) David, a Charleston native.  We had zero job prospects and a small amount of money to ride out an unknown length of unemployment. Some people thought we were foolish to move to a new city on these circumstances but to us, it just felt right. We were living in Peoria, IL at the time and were ready for a change (and some warmer weather). Charleston seemed like a no-brainer for us. We had a lot friends there, it’s full of amazing food and we’re total porch dogs. What more could we want? Two of our good friends let us stay in their attic apartment for a few months until we could land some jobs and find a place of our own. Which we did. And the rest is history.

Charleston has been and continues to be a beautiful place to live. Here are my top four reasons why I love living here.  

There’s a Strong Local Movement Here

In addition to the many local/family owned restaurants in the area, there are over 80 local farms here in the Lowcountry, many of which participate in a CSA program. Subscribing to a CSA helps keep your kitchen stocked with fresh produce, something near and dear to my heart as a Registered Dietitian. The healthier your environment is, the healthier you will be. Plus, it encourages variety in your diet which is a hallmark of nutritious eating. Love a good farmers market? We’ve got five; downtown, Mt. Pleasant, James Island, Johns Island and Boone Hall. Shopping at the farmers market is a great way to support local farmers and purveyors. The Lowcountry’s use of family owned local farms removes the dependence on 'big agriculture' which causes enormous environmental implications and does not support a sustainable food system, something that our growing population depends on. 

The Lowcountry Landscapes & Views Never Get Old

From sunsets to enormous oak trees to marshes, the Lowcountry is not lacking in the unique landscape department. Some enjoy the sunrise from the connector or the Ravenel bridge on the way to work. Others may watch a vibrant sunset on one of Charleston’s beaches, or over a drink on the dock at Shem Creek. There are several rooftop locations as well that give amazing views of the city. As for our dog Kiki, she prefers the warm and grassy marshland; she says the pluff mud is good for her skin. While the Angel Oak is a stunning and iconic tree of the Lowcountry, massive oak trees are all over this city, beautifully lining the streets of neighborhoods and parks, creating a canopy of oaks. And let’s not forget the beauty on the outskirts of Charleston like Boneyard Beach on Capers Island. We love to Kayak out and camp on Capers; it makes a great weekend getaway. 

 Shem Creek sunset

Shem Creek sunset

 Angel Oak tree

Angel Oak tree

 Kiki enjoying the marsh

Kiki enjoying the marsh

Edmund’s Oast

The Charleston food scene is insane and there is no shortage of fantastic restaurants. But this one is my favorite. From the food, to the atmosphere, to the beer selection, it stole my heart at first visit. The menu boasts seasonal and local ingredients, always keeping you on your toes with something new. I always try something new when I go and have never - I repeat, never - been disappointed. This is rare and probably why I like Edmund’s Oast so much. If you like watching the chefs prepare your meal you can sit inside at the Chef’s Counter which places you front and center of the open kitchen. Or if you feel like enjoying the beautiful lowcountry weather, sit outside at a community table and get some fresh air. And lastly, the beer. Edmund’s is one of the few brewery based restaurants in the Lowcountry and has 40 beers on tap at a time. My favorite Edmund’s beers are Circe and Farrago. And you gotta try the Peanut Butter & Jelly beer just once. They also feature guest taps from local brewers and the most recent was a phenomenal Belgian Golden Ale brewed with beets. Yep, beets. Beautiful color and earthy flavor.  

 A look into the Edmund's Oast kitchen

A look into the Edmund's Oast kitchen

I Can Commute by Bike

Why live downtown and not bike everywhere? This is a major perk for David and I since we both work at the College of Charleston. It takes us 15 minutes to get to work and we don’t have to sit in traffic or stress out about finding parking. When it rains we wear ponchos/rain jackets and when it’s 120 degrees outside we bring a change of clothes. We bike to friends houses, restaurants, bars, the farmer’s market and the Music Farm. The only thing we need now is a bike trailer to tote our groceries from the Harris Teeter :) And with all the hard work Charleston Moves is doing, we look forward to seeing other parts of Charleston become more bike friendly.  

 Biking through the seasons

Biking through the seasons

Bio:

Ashley Thomas is a Registered Dietitian at the College of Charleston, teaches the Nutrition and Dental Health graduate course at MUSC, and writes her own food and nutrition blog, The Fresh Beet. She and her husband David Thomas live downtown with their spoiled fur baby, Kiki.  In her free time, Ashley can be found brushing up on her pottery skills, doing yoga and spending time with friends in the lovely Lowcountry. 

Self Discovery & Care in the New Year

Emily:

This past week, I read an entire book, mostly in one day. Not a children's book, but a 300+ page fiction novel. This is quite the achievement for my new mom status. Finishing that book did not come without guilt. The dishwasher really needed to be unloaded, the dog walked, notes needed to be put together from my 8 showings earlier in the week, and there was an email from my broker I needed to follow up on. Truly, the list goes on and on, so why not pause, decide what can wait (I mean, the baby has to be fed), and take some time for yourself? Below are some ideas on how to concentrate on your self care for the New Year. 

THE GIVEN
If you're reading this post to be encouraged to get your nails or hair done, get a massage or head to a yoga class, go for it, but the suggestions below are a little more outside of the box. I'm sure someday in the next couple of years, I'll have a few hours to spend at Earthling Day Spa and it will be fabulous. 

GET OUTSIDE
If you live in the Lowcountry, you have access to some of the country's best county parks and beaches. On the days I only have 30 minutes to spare, I tend to take a stroll around our neighborhood. It's the ultimate mood changer and especially rewarding now that my husband and I both have a FitBit (thanks, Santa). Our dog doesn't mind it and it's a major calming resource for the baby. Recently, I discovered a hiking group called Hike It Baby and once my little is old enough, I'd really like to try out Loblolly Adventures

 Our littles, Ruby and Grant, enjoying Hampton Park in downtown Charleston

Our littles, Ruby and Grant, enjoying Hampton Park in downtown Charleston

LISTEN TO PODCASTS
For the busiest of people, a podcast is always a good idea. We're all in the car on and off throughout the week, so why not use that time to listen to a 30 minute segment on your hobby or lose your mind in fiction? Serial was a big hit a couple of years ago, but I've been sucked into Limetown, Presidential, TED Radio Hour, and Love + Radio. The lists for good podcasts go on and on. The library also has free downloadable audiobooks through the Overdrive and Hoopla.

GO TO THE LIBRARY
Speaking of books; When is the last time you went into a library and got lost for a while? One of my favorite activities is to walk to the New Book section in my local library branch and leave with a few, free to check out, non-fiction books to leave laying around the house. Do I really need to own The Tao of Bill Murray? Probably not, but it is fun to pick up and read a few lines when I have a moment or two to spare. Commit to spending 20 minutes walking around the library (apply for your library card online). It's mind-opening. If you're lucky, the bread making book you bring home for your husband might turn into his newest hobby that will keep an endless supply of baked goods in your home. 

DISCOVER NEW FOOD
Which leads us to cooking. Full disclaimer; Cooking is not my thing. Sure, I can bake a pre-made mix with the best of them and my mom's recipe for potato salad is a real winner, but it's not something that calms me. That being said, eating good food does heal me. Some days good food is comfort food and others it's a big, fresh plate of veggies, but either way, staying nourished is a good way to care for yourself. The library has an endless selection of cookbooks and our favorite time-sucker, Pinterest, still has all those recipes you saved back in 2013. We're lucky to live in a place that supports many farmer's markets and farms. Buy a veggie you've never cooked with before (watermelon radishes, anyone?) or stop at the farm stand you've been passing for years.

SLEEP WHEN YOU CAN
Rest doesn't come as easy for me as sleep. The day before I went into labor was spent at a nearly two hour yoga class after cleaning up one of my listing's back yards from Hurricane Matthew. These days, when my son goes to sleep, the electronic devices and lights get turned off and I commit to getting in as many hours of sleep in as I can. All these phone and computer items I've suggested above? Well, there's a time to stop. Tonight, pay attention to how long you spend doing unnecessary phone scrolling instead of sleeping. If there's anything motherhood has taught me in these first couple of months, it's that I can be incredibly unpleasant without sleep. Need something to keep you focused on cutting screen time? Try the app Moment.

BE YOUR BEST SELF/MOM
Since both becoming moms this year, Angela and I have both discovered a few resources to help along the way. Local entrepreneur (and friend), Gervase Kolmos, runs Shiny Happy Human, an online and in-person resource to moms. The Facebook group makes me laugh on a daily basis and helps me feel sane in this motherhood ride that somedays threatens to steal every brain cell I've worked so hard to cultivate. Posts on MotherMag and PopSugar Moms also help to relinquish some of the squishy brain functions. Alone time is absolutely necessary, so why not check out a morning program once or twice a week for those kiddos that aren't in school yet?

@gervasekolmos

What are some of your favorite things to do to encourage self-care? 

Wishing you great health and happiness in 2017!

 

Lowcountry Love Letters Official Instagram

We've come a long way over the past two years! As we gear up to start another year of Lowcountry Love Letters, we wanted to share a new way to follow our adventures; through our Instagram account @LowcountryLoveLetters.

We'd also like to encourage you, our friends and followers, to document your Lowcountry experiences by using the #LowcountryLoveLetters hashtag. Who knows? Maybe we'll feature one of your photos on our account!

You can check out more of photos past by searching #LowcountryLoveLetters and don't forget to follow @LowcountryLoveLetters for blog post updates, listing/home-buying photos, and generally gorgeous photos of the must-see Lowcountry.

From our families to yours, Happy Holidays!

Lowcountry Gift Guide 2016

Yes, we know it's hard to believe that the holidays are already upon us, but have no fear. We're providing our second annual gift guide below, featuring great gift ideas for under $50. Last year's gift guide has held the test of time, with items from Rewined Candles and King of Pops, so feel free to trek back for additional ideas.

3 Little Beads Oyster Pendant, $52 (ok, just over $50!)
Known for their original painted oyster pendant, this company describes their designs as delicately fierce handcrafted jewelry.  | Online Shop

Bittermilk, $20
Hand-crafted cocktail mixer compounds | Retailers

Bulls Bay Saltworks Gift Box, $30
Salt, sustainably harvested from Bulls Bay | Retailers

Callie’s Hot Little Biscuits, $40
Carrie Morey founded Callie’s Charleston Biscuits in 2005 with the goal of making the tender, buttery, made-by-hand biscuits of her mother accessible across the country | Retailers

Cirsea Ice Cream Pint Club Connosiuer, $50
Eclectic ice cream flavors made by hand | Retailers

Color Coloring Book Bundle, $30
Celebrate the unique qualities of Charleston and use your imagination to add in the real energy of these special places - the people! - as you color the town | Online Shop

CSA Gift Card, All prices
Give the gift of local fruits and veggies with a gift card for any amount to one of the local Community Supported Agriculture groups in the Lowcountry, like Ambrose Family Farm or Boone Hall Farm. | CSA List

Fiber Art Workshop Woven Wall Hanging, $42
Handmade weavings, felted wildflower arrangements and terrariums, and felted jewelry | Online Shop

Firefly White Lightening Moonshine, $20
Firefly Distillery is located on Wadmalaw Island, South Carolina, thirty miles south of Charleston. It is the largest distillery in the state and has become a top destination in the Charleston area. We recommend visiting the distillery to pick this gift up and staying for a tasting. | Distillery or local liquor stores

Geechie Boy Mill Holiday Breakfast Sampler, $50
On their Edisto Island farm, the Johnsmans, owners of Geechie Boy Grits, operate historic working mills, creating grits used in the country’s finest restaurants, includingJames Beard award-winning chefs in nearby Charleston and around the nation.  | Retailers

Heritage by Sean Brock, $25
In Chef Brock’s much-anticipated first cookbook, this James Beard Award-winning chef presents all of the sublime dishes that have made him one of our country’s most acclaimed chefs | Local bookstore or Amazon

Mac & Murphy Gift Card, $50
Card and accessories gift shop located in the Cannonborough neighborhood | Online Shop

Nostalgic Graphic Shrimp Boat Children's Tee, $31
Vintage inspired tees that capture the memorable moments of childhood | Retailers

Peninsula Grill Coconut Cake, $12 per slice or $130 for full cake (16 servings)
With its twelve towering layers of delicious, Southern perfection, the Peninsula Grill Ultimate Coconut Cake® caused a sensation when it first appeared on the Peninsula Grill menu Valentine's Day 1997. Praise from Bon Appétit, Saveur, Martha Stewart Living, The New York Times, TODAY Show, and Vogue—in addition to other esteemed culinary and travel media outlets, made the fresh vanilla and coconut infused dessert famous. | Online Shop or Peninsula Grill

So Twisted Up Headband, $12
Headbands and wraps with fun colors and designs that stay on securely with a "hidden" wire | Online Shop

Suite 33 Cosmetic Case, $45
Designer, Emily Papuga has created a collection of throw pillows and accessories using patterns inspired by iconic places and pieces of our #1 city. | Online Shop

Sweeteeth Chocolates, $6-$8
Sweeteeth creates artisan chocolates using traditional, handcrafted techniques. Their operation in North Charleston, is devoted to the small-batch production of finely crafted chocolate bars and bon-bons, with an emphasis on high-quality chocolate couverture and innovative flavor pairings. | Email sweeteeth@evopizza.com or spot them at many different food spots like Ted's Butcherblock or Caviar & Bananas

What's your favorite gift to give from the Lowcountry? Does you family have a tradition of giving certain gifts each year?

A Love Letter for Tater Burney-Wicke

David Wicke:

This past weekend, I had to say goodbye to one of my best friends and beloved family member.  It was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do.

I met Tater "Buzz" Burney-Wicke over 4 years ago when Angela and I began our relationship.  I had set my jacket down on the couch and Tater hopped up, laid down in it and promptly went to sleep.  Normally, very territorial, Angela was surprised Tater was so comfortable with my presence.  Never once did he snap at me.  He was always tolerant of guests after some initial barking and sniffs, but he instantly liked me and would nuzzle up to me.  The affection was mutual.  Angela once told me that Tater was a major factor in deciding to be with me.  If Tater didn't like me, then I just wasn't good enough. She also told me that she thought I married her to be closer to Tater.  I'm a lucky man that the both of them decided to keep me.  

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Over the years, we went on many travels.  He would hike with us on Hunting Island, comb the beaches on Dewee's Island and Folly Beach, and James Island County Park.  He loved walking through Hampton Park and Downtown Charleston and especially around our neighborhood in Riverland Terrace.  We would take him to visit Angela's parents in North Carolina and my parents in Goose Creek.  He wasn't the quickest dog to walk with, though. Every ten feet, he had to mark his territory.  Tater would turn a 10-minute walk into an hour., but it was worth it to see his happy little tail wag back and forth.

 Tater at his Riverland Terrace homestead

Tater at his Riverland Terrace homestead

For a man who loves the water so much, I was a little disappointed that Tater wasn't a water dog but, I think I understand.  Tater was so fiercely loyal and protective, he would literally drown himself trying to rescue you from the water.  Bath time wasn't his favorite, either, but he loved to be chased afterward.

 Angela and Tater on Dewees Island

Angela and Tater on Dewees Island

We would often fall asleep and take naps together on the couch.  Sometimes, he would sleep next to my face and let one rip.  Oh so polite, that little guy.  He loved being chased throughout the house ending with belly rubs.  Sometimes, we would search the house for him only to find him curled up in our laundry.  If we ever had to leave him at a family or friend's house, we would leave one of my recently worn shirts in his bed.  He felt more comfortable that way.

Tater was a very punctual dog, too.  Each morning at 7, he would let us know it was time to get up.  At 4pm, he would be by the door, letting Angela know that I was on the way home.  At 5pm, I would come home and he would be under foot, ready to greet me. 6pm was dinner time and at 9pm, it was back to bed.  And if we didn't go to bed? He would get up every few minutes to let us know, "It's bedtime!".

Sometimes, if he was sick or scared, I would stay up all night with him, even on a work night.  I was never angry, I only wanted him to be comforted.  It worked both ways, too. He was there to comfort me on my not so great days.

In the past year, things took a turn.  Tater's heart was failing.  It was becoming too big for his body.  It's called dilated cardiomyopathy.  Pushing against his trachea, he struggled for breath sometimes.  Eventually, it became a chronic cough because it was the only way he could breath, if he became too excited (which was always around me).  It was hard, but he was still happy.  We could still walk through the neighborhood and I could still chase him around the house.

With this past year, we added another member to our family, little Ruby.  While Tater was never playful with Ruby, he didn't mind her either.  And Ruby was enraptured with Tater.  She wanted nothing more to pet Tater, her older "brother".  Some days, he would actually let her.  As she began to learn how to crawl, Tater would always stay just out of reach.  Now, Ruby can race along pretty well.  I think she learned faster than normal with Tater motivating her.  I'd also like to think that his heart got so big because it was so full of love for our family.

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This weekend, Tater lost his appetite.  It was surprising because he was always a big fan of my cooking.  Soon, he couldn't walk for very long.  We took him to the emergency vet.  It was a whirlwind of bad news.  We could tell he was in pain and exhausted at this point.  So, Angela and I made the decision to make his last moments as comfortable as possible with the family he loved so much.  With Tater in both Angela's and my hands, we had to say goodbye to our dear family member, our "son".  Four years was not enough for me and fifteen years was not enough for Angela.

I tell you Tater's story, not because I want you to be sad, but because I want you to know the love we knew by being Tater's family.  It may seem ridiculous to those of you without a pet, but knowing Tater's unconditional love is important.  Even as my keyboard is dotted with tears of sorrow and joy, I want you to feel at least a little of that love.

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We're coming up on the holidays which is a special time of year that we spend with family, friends and loved ones.  So here are a few tips for those of you who will be around your four-legged friends:

- Beware of poultry and pork bones as treats.  They can splinter, become sharp and damage the esophagus, stomach and intestines of your animals.  Cooked beef bones are best.

- During celebrations, loud noises and bright lights can frighten your animals.  Make sure you keep track of them during the use of fireworks and such.  More dogs get lost during 4th of July and New Year's than any other time of year.

- If you are planning on getting a pet for your family this holiday season, check out the local shelters, first.  There are a lot of wonderful animals waiting to be loved and join you for your adventures in the next decade plus.

Thank you for listening to my story.  Thank you Tater for being such a fierce warrior, loyal companion and loving brother.  Thank you for being my "son" and thank you for teaching me how to be a good dad!

See You Later Tater!

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Buy Local Block Party 2016- Meet the Vendors

It's hard for us to believe that it's been a year since we hosted the Buy Local Block Party with Lowcountry Local First. This year, their amazing staff and planning volunteers have curated the vendors on their own and have given us a sneak peak into what's to come. See below for all the important details:

FROM LOWCOUNTRY LOCAL FIRST
The Buy Local Block Party brings community members and local merchants together for a one-of-a-kind fundraiser and social event that highlights locally-owned, independent businesses with live music, local artists, indie retailers, farm stand, kids activities, and of course LOCAL food, beverages and beer garden. Just in time for all your holiday shopping, we're curating 40+ vendors featuring local makers, artists, and craftspeople, celebrating the great things that are made, produced and grown in the Lowcountry.

DETAILS
Buy Local Block Party
Saturday, November 12
1630 Meeting Street, 29405
11AM-4PM
Photos from last year's fun

TIPS

  • Bring Cash – Just in case. Many of the vendors accept cards, but sometimes the wi-fi connection runs slow. 
  • Come Hungry – LLF will have plenty of food and drink available from various local vendors along with a local farm stand hosted by LLF's Growing New Farmers program and Lowcountry Street Grocery
  • Pace Yourself – Shop for yourself, or pick up some great gifts for the holidays, with items unique to Charleston that are truly one-of-a-kind finds.
  • Take a Business Card – Most of the vendors have shops online, so be sure to grab their business cards in case you would like a different item, size, shape, color, etc. They may have additional goods online or be open to custom orders.
  • Tickets- Buy ahead of time or pick up day of for $10. Kids 12 and under are free.
  • RSVP- Check out the Facebook event page to stay up-to-date on all the details.

VENDORS

Breton Trading Co.
Ansley Elizabeth Designs
Fiber Art Workshop
Laura Jane Louise Designs
Nostalgic Graphic Tees
Tremundo
LeBon Designs
A Frock To Remember Vintage
Supermassive Textiles
circa1910
Queenly Artistry
Sawdust Wood Co.
Inspired by Stephanie Rose
So Twisted Up
Surcee Jewelry
SheSells Candles
Hemming Birds
Red Rose Vintage
Mad Made Metals
bareforms
Charleston Map Jewelry
The Spice and The Spoon
Moon Bath Botanicals
pH reclaimed
Origin Acres
The Contents Co.
Alison Brynn Ross Illustration & Design
JUST WATCH ME
Hunter Brookes
Bulls Bay Saltworks
Sea+Stone Jewelry
On A Wire Handmade Jewelry
J. Stark
Olinda Olives and Olive Oil
Pure Fluff Co.
Burnt and Salty
Brooke Wilder Atelier
JoJo Rings
The Vinyl Countdown
Mantras in Bloom
Miss Maddies
8 Petals Design

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(L to R): Ansley Elizabeth Designs, Fiber Art Workshop, Laura Jane Louise Designs, Nostalgic Graphic Tees, Tremundo, LeBon Designs, A Frock To Remember Vintage, Supermassive Textiles, circa1910

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(L to R): Queenly Artistry, Sawdust Wood Co., Inspired by Stephanie Rose, So Twisted Up, Surcee Jewelry, SheSells Candles, Hemming Birds, Red Rose Vintage, Mad Made Metals

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(L to R): bareforms, Charleston Map Jewelry, The Spice and The Spoon, Moon Bath Botanicals, pH reclaimed, The Contents Co., Alison Brynn Ross Illustration & Design, JUST WATCH ME, Hunter Brookes

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(L to R): Bulls Bay Saltworks, Sea+Stone Jewelry, On A Wire Handmade Jewelry, J. Stark, Olinda Olives and Olive Oil, Pure Fluff Co., Burnt and Salty, Brooke Wilder Atelier, JoJo Rings

 (L to R): The Vinyl Countdown, Miss Maddies, 8 Petals Design

(L to R): The Vinyl Countdown, Miss Maddies, 8 Petals Design

What vendor are you most looking forward to? How do you like to Buy Local in Charleston?

A Jazzy Start to Fall

Angela:

It was your typical Friday night. An evening stroll with baby had led us to Crust, the local pizza eatery. As we head home David suggests that we take a peak into newly remodeled How Art Thou Café. We've heard that this is the spot for local jazz music, but being new parents we are rarely out past 7pm. In our pre-parent days, we would often end evening bike rides here to have dessert and tea outside.

As we peek inside, we recognize jazz great Richie Cole.  I swoon and feel slightly embarrassed that I am in workout clothes, no makeup, and smell of baby spit-up. We are introduced and find him to be absolutely delightful. I'm running through justifications in my mind to keep my baby out past her bedtime so that we can hear him play; music is stimulating for baby's brain, right? Alas, we must go, but not before promising each other that we will see Richie perform before he leaves the Lowcountry.

 Baby Ruby meets Jazz Great Richie Cole.

Baby Ruby meets Jazz Great Richie Cole.

We decided to make a trip out to Bowen's Island the following Sunday for the 7th Annual Charleston Jazz Jam to catch Richie Cole's performance. The weather was gorgeous, the bugs were at bay, and our seven month old baby was mesmerized. Food was provided by the always delicious Home Team BBQ and drinks were flowing from Coast Brewing Company.

Just when you think that you have seen all that the Lowcountry has to offer, you stumble into another event, community of people, or little pocket of greatness.

You can catch a Jazz Jam at How Art Thou on Wednesday nights and you will want to keep an eye on their events calendar. Once a month they will bring in a nationally recognized musician to perform. It is a small intimate space and just the place for an amazing date night. I think next month we will get a baby sitter and get jazzy with it!

Looking for other awesome things to do this Fall? Here are just a few suggestions:

 

Literary Lowcountry

Emily:

Fall in the Lowcountry. My favorite time of year. Not just because of the cooler temps that are upon us, but also because it's when That BIG Book Sale takes place. The Charleston Friends of the Library fundraiser hosts more than 60,000 books for children and adults, along with DVDs and other specialty items. Today, we're focusing on some items you might pick up at the sale to learn more about the Lowcountry, or engulf yourself in a fictional tale taking place in this place we love so much.

We encourage you to seek out all of the following books at the sale, October 14-16 at the Omar Shrine Auditorium, or your local bookstore, like Blue Bicycle Books on King Street or Mr. K's Used Books in N. Charleston. Most of these titles are available for free at your local Charleston County Public Library branch.

Books With Charleston in the Title (click on the images for details):

Looking for that perfect beach read? We have our share of authors that base their fictional stories in Charleston, as well.

Popular Fiction Authors:
Dorothea Benton Frank
Pat Conroy
Karen White
Mary Alice Monroe

Below are some other Charleston book lists we'll explore further in future posts:

Poetry

  Poetry-   Marcus Amaker

Poetry- Marcus Amaker

Cookbooks

Guide Books

  Guide Book -  Wildsam

Guide BookWildsam

What are some of your favorite Charleston books or authors? If you've attended That BIG Book Sale before, what's been your favorite find?
 

Shem Creek Staples

Emily:

Shem Creek holds a special place in my Lowcountry heart. When I first moved to town, I lived a few blocks away in the neighborhood, Bayview Acres, and would walk my puppy (now 6 year old nap frequenter) to the pier. Since then, they’ve revitalized the docks and pier, added new walkways, restaurants, and one honking parking garage (that we won’t dwell on because it doesn’t make anyone happy).

This coming weekend, two of my good friends (and clients) will tie the knot on Shem Creek at the beautiful venue, Cottage on the Creek. In preparation for their nuptials and out of town guests, I thought I’d prepare a little bit of history and entertainment on the locale.

History
For a full history, visit this article by our local East of the Cooper newspaper, Moultrie News. Excerpt:

"Today picturesque docks, any manner of pleasure boats and net-draped shrimp boats make this Mount Pleasant creek one of the most scenic and popular spots in the Lowcountry. Restaurants on both sides of the creek offer both superb seafood and up-close-and-personal views at the nature of the creek itself. Kayakers and paddleboarders navigate the creek's narrow waters side-by-side with schools of porpoise and armadas of pelicans, making it a busy creek for both man and wildlife.

The creek's name derives from the Sewee Native American word “shemee,” but whether that was the name of a tribe who lived along the banks or the name they gave to the creek itself is undetermined."

Food & Drink
Tavern & Table
The newest spot on the creek has fancy cocktails, Southern comfort food, and plenty of space for larger groups. Valet parking for the win. I once saw Tara Lapiniski there!

@tavernandtable

Red's Ice House
Two stories high, the buckets of beer are flowing late night and on sunny afternoons, where you can bring your furry friend. Check out any boats docking outside, they may be bringing in some fish that you can watch them measure and clean from a few feet away.

@redsicehouse

R.B.'s Seafood
To be fair, I've only dined here once, but it looks like they have pretty great happy hour specials throughout the week on both food and drink. They've been in business since 1979, after a fire setback in 2002, they reopened bigger and better in 2003.

Shem Creek Bar & Grill
Lunch, brunch, happy hour, dinner- they've got it all. This spot is on the opposite side of the creek from the aforementioned, but you'll enjoy their gorgeous view just as much, and it might be less crowded.

@shemcreekbarandgrill

Vickery's Bar & Grill
This is as close to the dock revitalization as you'll get, along with a stunning sunset view. One of my favorite memories in Charleston was hanging out by their downstairs bar with friends, listening to live reggae. 

Water's Edge
You want me to talk about a brunch? Oh, I'll talk about brunch (says the nearly 9 months pregnant lady). The brunch buffet (Sundays, 10am-3pm) at this Shem Creek staple is one of my top 3 in the Lowcountry. Fresh omelets, crab cake benedicts, shrimp & grits, and more grace the buffet. Don't miss the Bloody Mary bar with garnishes that take up a whole table. 

The Shelter Kitchen & Bar
Just across the street and on the corner, you'll find Mt. Pleasant's favorite late night spot. They frequently have live music and a DJ on Saturday nights. Their burgers aren't half bad, either. Try the Early Bird.

The Wreck
You want a real, local hideaway? Look no further than The Wreck, a little ways down the creek from R.B.'s, but worth the trek, if only to check out its notable history and how it got it's name. They don't take reservations and run a pretty lax schedule on operating hours, so it's good to call ahead. Come hungry for seafood galore.

Recreation
Palmetto Breeze
If you're looking to sail away for a two hour tour (this isn't Gilligan's Island, they'll bring you back), this 100 passenger vessel is great for groups or a date night. At $20/ person, they have a different deal and schedule for each day, but you'll want to schedule ahead of time, as they book quickly. Dunes Properties had a great time last year on a company outing and have another one planned in a couple of weeks.

Coastal Expeditions
You've heard me sing their praises before, but I don't mind doing it again. Their kayak tours are a favorite of visitors and locals alike. Their guides can't be matched. Get the camera out, you'll look like a professional when you show your friends what you got to see.

@coastalexpeditions

Nature Adventure Outfitters
This is where I had my first paddle boarding experience, and yes, you should be sad you missed the show. However, the diners at Red's always have a great view, as you can watch first-timers and pros manage their paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes from the dock across the way.

Other
LodgingShem Creek Inn
Fresh Seafood- Mt. Pleasant Seafood, Magwood Seafood

Congratulations to the future Mr. and Mrs.! I promise to not give birth at your wedding, so long as you provide me with an endless supply of shrimp and grits.

Neighborhood Spotlight: North Central

Emily:

Downtown Charleston is divided up into over a dozen neighborhoods. North of the Crosstown hosts Hampton Park Terrace, Wagener Terrace, West Side, and North Central, to name a few. Last week, I listed a newly renovated home in the North Central neighborhood and thought it would be helpful to highlight what makes this area so desirable:

History
Developed mostly in the early 1900s, from farmland, many of the homes in this neighborhood are two story with front porches made for catching a breeze and enjoying an evening cocktail. Seen on the map below, it is bounded by Mt. Pleasant Street to the North, Interstate 26 to the East, and Rutledge Avenue to the West.

Eat & Drink
North Central Delicatessen
Charleston deli with bagels, Taylor pork roll, hot dogs, sandwiches, and salads. This place gets packed around lunch time with area employees.

Huriyali
Nourish your mind, body and soul with the freshest organic ingredients combined with the best of what the world has to offer; juices, raw bars, sandwiches, Acai bowls, and more. Their back courtyard is a refreshing open space for meeting with friends or enjoying a few moments of solitude. 

The Park Cafe
Neighborhood cafe for breakfast, lunch, dinner, Saturday/Sunday brunch, and daily specials. Their interior is filled with clean design and a greenery wall that will make you want to go home and water your plants.

Moe’s Crosstown Tavern
Popular watering hole for locals that serves a large menu with great food. Voted City Paper's 'Best Pub Food' for 8 years in a row. Brunch is a must here on Sundays, but arrive early with your whole party to get a table.

Rodney Scott BBQ (coming soon)
Whole hog smoking barbecue by acclaimed pit-master, Rodney Scott. A lot of press will accompany this opening before the end of the year.

On the cusp, but still walkable/bikeable:
Rutledge Cab Company | Lewis Barbecue | Home Team BBQ | Edmund's Oast | Butcher & Bee | Tattooed Moose | Santi's | Leon's Oyster Shop | Taco Boy | The Royal American | Palmetto Brewing | Revelry Brewing | Cooper River Brewing

Get Involved
North Central Group
This Facebook group stays active with updates from local businesses and groups that culminate in the area. On a larger scale, the Upper Peninsula Initiative also keeps you up to date with happenings and community planning efforts.

Romney Urban Garden
Community garden that hosts garden bed rentals, volunteer workdays, back to school bashes, movies, composting tutorials, and so much more.

Dart Library
Originally Dart Hall, this library, now part of the Charleston County Public Library system, was started as an African American Reading Room in 1927. This active library branch hosts story times, career fairs, book discussions, movies, and other community events.

Enough Pie (Vat Shack)
A catalyst for inclusive and inspiring community engagement in the Upper Peninsula through dynamic partnerships, artistic collaborations and creative placemaking. The Vat Shack, located in Joseph Floyd Manor Park, explores the history, culture, science and art of indigo with 'Community Dye Days'.

The Vinyl Countdown
Independent record store, specializing in new and used, vinyl, and turn tables.

The Faculty Lounge
Blink and you'll miss it. This neighborhood late night spot is good for meeting up with friends, making new friends, and getting sweaty on their compact dance floor.

On the cusp, but still walkable/bikeable:
Hampton Park | Kickball League | Riverdogs Games (you can most likely see the Friday night fireworks from your front porch) 

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Up and Coming
Not much is known on the new-builds coming up on what used to occupy 373-379 Huger Street, other than they're working on the sites daily that will likely feature eight, 2 and 3 bedroom homes around 1,400 square feet, all with drive under garages. Stay tuned!

Do you live or work in the area? What's your favorite spot?

Farewell Summer: Labor Day To-Do List

Angela:

Summer is nearing its end and the relentless heat is subsiding (just barely). The end of summer means different things to different people. To parents, it’s that busy time that the kids go back to school. To the kids, it’s the bittersweet end of break freedom. To everyone else, it's the end of a glorious summer.  The last days of summer are marked by the Labor Day holiday weekend and we've made a list of things to-do to end summer with a bang! If you're planning to move here or have recently relocated, you'll notice there's never a day your calendar can't be filled with something fun! (Note: Be sure to read to the end for our giveaway!)

Labor Day Weekend To-Dos:

I'm planning to spend at least part of my holiday weekend on the beach. One of the best parts about living in Charleston is that there's always a beach nearby!
Photo: @angelawicke

Get your tickets to the 8th Greater Lowcountry Jazz Festival, September 2-4.
Photo: @lowcountryjazzfest

Set sail on the Palmetto Breeze, Friday, September 2nd for the Firefly Friday Charleston Harbor Sunset Sail benefiting the Susan G. Komen foundation.
Photo: @palmetto_breeze

You don’t want to miss the Labor Day weekend fireworks on Folly Beach, September 4th at 9 p.m. near 3rd Block West.
Photo: @edgeofamerica

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Other upcoming Lowcountry events to check out:

Photo: @chasriverdogs

As always, the Charleston Area Convention and Visitors Bureau has a great ongoing calendar here

*Now for the giveaway- Leave a comment with your favorite Lowcountry Labor Day activity for a chance to win two free general admission Riverdogs tickets to this season's last regularly scheduled game on Thursday, September 1 at 6:35 p.m. Giveaway ends Wednesday, August 31 at 12 p.m.

 

A Love Letter from Emily White

Emily White:

Dear Lowcountry,

You have raised me. I was born in July of 2000 at Trident Medical Center in North Charleston, and from there I was brought home to James Island. I was the first child my parents had, and it remained that way for another two years, until my brother was born. We all lived together in a cozy home that I don’t remember much of, except that there was a koi pond, sunflowers, and big trees. We remained there for the next four years, until my parents decided to move to Mount Pleasant. The following years, I was signed up for numerous sports and attended many city coordinated activities with my family. We were never bored.

 Hurricane Irene, 2011, with my brother, Louis

Hurricane Irene, 2011, with my brother, Louis

This past summer, for the first time, I went West Coast. West Coast, Best Coast was a saying I had heard many times, and before my trip, I believed it to be true. We drove all along the California coast, and it being the dead of summer, we stopped at more than a few beaches, and to put it candidly, they didn’t meet my expectations. The beaches could not compare to the ones I had back home. I desperately missed Isle of Palms (IOP), Sullivan’s Island, and Folly Beach, where you were guaranteed water at the perfect temperature, and beaches that weren’t too crowded (especially if you went to the right spot during the right time). Another thing I frequently missed when traveling was our famous Charleston sunsets. I have never traveled anywhere where the sunset was as beautiful and colorful as it is in Charleston, South Carolina. My family’s go to spots to witness this Lowcountry treasure are the Pitt Street Bridge, and the Waterfront Park Pier, but our own backyard also serves the sight justice. 

 My family's addition to the Charleston Strong wall, downtown

My family's addition to the Charleston Strong wall, downtown

One of the other many things that I love about my home is the opportunity it has given me. I am able to go to one of the best high schools in the nation, hang out downtown with my friends, play Ultimate Frisbee with my parents, and run the Ravenel Bridge whenever I want (something 40,000 people from all over the country come to do once a year). And, if the rare feeling of boredom comes about, you can guarantee that a city activity is happening.

 My family, exploring Botany Bay, earlier this year

My family, exploring Botany Bay, earlier this year

Today, I begin my junior year of high school, so the topic of college keeps working its way into the conversations I have with relatives, advisors, and friends. I was born and bred in the Lowcountry and I carry that with me everywhere I go. I’m excited to make my own way, but I also dread the day I may have to say goodbye to the only home I have ever known. Regardless, I know with full confidence that the Lowcountry will always be part of me. For now I am enjoying the next two years under my parent's roof and care in this wonderful city. I am also enjoying the beaches, the sunsets, the weather, and the people whom are unlike any other that I will ever experience anywhere else.

Love,
Emily 

Bio (By Emily Gildea):
Emily lives in Mt. Pleasant with her parents, Eric and Meredith, and her two siblings, Lewis and Molly. Today, she starts her junior year of Academic Magnet High School with her brother starting as a freshman. Emily is an active community volunteer and wrote this letter without any coaxing from a parental unit. I personally connect to Emily through our shared namesake and height advantages.

Gettin' Buggy With It

Emily:

Ah, summer in the South. Hot days, hopefully spent by the water somewhere with a refreshing drink, good reading material and company, and a hefty breeze. Some days, I get to live this relaxing description of life. Others, I’m out exploring new homes with clients, in and out of an air conditioned car, and if we’re lucky- air conditioned homes. This time last year, I was showing homes to clients from out of town, where the power had been turned off, due to no one living in the home. Oh, the audacity! Not that I want to pay that electric bill, either (Pro-tip: It will help you sell your home faster, if it’s on and working well). What did many of these homes, and many others around the Lowcountry, host? Bugs. 

Grossed out? Don't worry, no actual images of bugs ahead. Not to go all Forrest Gump on you, but we have palmetto bugs (yes, they’re different from cockroaches), cicadas, mosquitos, termites, and no-see-ums, to mention a few. Move along if you’d like*, but it’s a fact of Lowcountry life. So much so, that we have a jewelry line designed around the palmetto bugs, the Goldbug Collection, by the oldest family-owned jewelry store in Charleston, Croghan's Jewel Box. And it’s cute. And I own the crest ring. Those clients from out of town were introduced to a palmetto bug that had seen better days, while I showed off my ring and how we embrace our buggy friends.

Follow @croghans:

Nearly a decade ago, I had my first experience with a palmetto bug. I was visiting South Carolina for the weekend, walked into a friend’s bathroom, and found one dead on the floor. Oh, bless their heart, I thought. I couldn’t dare mention it, thinking I’d be critiquing their cleaning skills. Now I know, clean or not, your home is going to have a surprise friend from time to time. Sure, there are ways to keep your home ‘bug lite’ with exterminators I could recommend from around town or some homemade remedies. It’s even required by most loan under-writers to get a CL-100, a termite clearance letter, before buying your home.

The musical artist, Ben Folds, knows about bugs in the South. Just last month, my husband and I were at his show with the Charleston Symphony Orchestra, when he stopped mid-song and said, “What the hell is that noise?”. And everyone replied like true South Carolinians, “Cicadas!”. And so he composed a song about them, right on the spot (full of colorful language, so beware).

We have a state bird, reptile, spider, dog, duck, and fish. I hereby declare palmetto bugs our state bug. 

What ways have you seen the Lowcountry embrace our bugginess? These engagement party invites from Ink Meets Paper, a local letterpress shop, are modern and fun.

@inkmeetspaper

*Of note: I am not afraid of bugs, snakes, or many things in general, but put a clown in front of me and I will lose it.

Beat the Lowcountry Heat

Angela:

I have a serious case of the summer heat blues and with a new little one on my hip, getting out and about is nearly impossible. A few weeks ago we posted Charleston Magazine’s “Explore: A Cooler Walk in the City” guide to our Facebook page and it motivated me to find fun activities (read: activities that take place in air-conditioning) that would get me and baby out of the house.

I started by researching activities that I enjoyed pre-baby to see if I could find anything that would be baby inclusive. I started to create my list of things to do and to my surprise it grew long!  Here are a few of my favorite ways to beat the summer heat with baby in tow:

The Yoga House of Charleston’s Love, Baby & Momma class is a great way to stretch and bond with baby all while beating that heat! Don’t worry if little one has a melt-down, it’s all peace and love in this safe space.

Follow @yogahousecharleston on Instagram:

Terrace Theater Lowcountry Parent Family Film Series happens every Wednesday at 11am throughout the summer and kids under 10 are free!  Best part is that they serve wine and gelato so you can spend the extra cash that you saved on your little one’s ticket on “mommy juice.”

The Charleston County Public Library offers numerous activities and events for all ages!  We have enjoyed the Babygarten at our local James Island Library branch each Wednesday.

The South Carolina Aquarium offers daily programs and events sure to keep everyone entertained. They offer a stellar membership benefit package that makes it affordable for the entire family.

Follow @southcarolinaaquarium on Instagram:

And of course we had to list The Children’s Museum of the Lowcountry!  Check out their upcoming events and family membership package options. BONUS: If you purchase a CML membership, you also get a discount on your SC Aquarium membership!

Follow @explorecml on Instagram:

And if you don’t have to worry about a little one, but just want to stay cool, these could be fun options:

Opt for a therapeutic massage with Michael N. Livingston, LMT at Live for Wellness Chiropractic Center. He’s not your typical masseur and he will leave you feeling relaxed and refreshed. Plus while you are there, why not get an adjustment from Dr. Jen Perdue?

Oh to be baby free for a day; I might check out one of the many classes offered at the Gibbes Museum of Art. They offer a variety of classes and programs for all ages and skill levels. They also recently went through a major renovation, which has been gaining praise from locals and visitors alike.

Follow @thegibbesmuseum on Instagram:

If you have to be outside and you’re looking to cool off, check out one of the many Charleston County Water Parks.  Choose from Splash Zone, Splash Island, or Whirlin’ Waters. Get your Splash Pass to save on entry fees all summer long.  

Follow @charlestoncountyparks on Instagram:

Drop us a comment to tell us how you plan to beat the summer heat, and be sure to stay cool out there my friends!

 

First-Time Homebuyer Checklist

Emily:

One of my favorite email inquiries I've ever received was from a couple looking to become first-time homebuyers. You could tell they took their time with the email, asking lots of important questions, until they felt like they had a good handle on what was ahead of them. This was before we even met in person to seriously discuss the process. Since then, I've continually used a version of our Q&A, from that email, to send out to first-time homebuyers before our initial meeting.

Below are some helpful tips and tricks to get you started on your first home purchase, or to review if it's been a while since you've invested in property. Remember: The home-buying process varies for everyone, so this is just an overview of what to expect! There are lots of links to take you to the next level of each subject, if you're ready to enter that rabbit hole.

1) Select an Agent
Find an agent that you immediately feel comfortable talking to. Some are buyer's agents, some are seller's agents, and some do both. Obviously in this situation, you're looking for someone to handle your purchase, so you'll want a buyer's agent. There's nothing wrong with 'interviewing' the agent to see if they're a good fit. You're going to be spending the next few weeks/months communicating with them on an almost daily basis. To feel even more secure in your decision, read more to understand how they get paid. Make sure they communicate effectively from the very beginning and are able to reasonably answer your questions. A great agent should have a blank buyer's agreement for you to review, an agency agreement, an agency disclosure, and references to back up their previous achievements- at the first meeting. (Disclosures and agreements vary from state to state). 

2) Obtain a Pre-Approval
Pardon? When do we get started looking at houses? Yes, in this market, that comes later. Your agent should have access to credible lender references. Interview those lenders just like the agents and they will provide you with a pre-approval letter for your mortgage, along with a good idea of your goal for a down payment and interest rate qualifications. The way most of the homes are moving in the Charleston market (an average of 62 days on the market, YTD), a lot of seller's agents are requiring a pre-approval letter to be submitted with the offer. This makes sense, don't you want to know how much house you can reasonably afford before you start looking?

3) Start Your Home Search
You knew we'd get to the fun part. Work with your agent to set up a search or portal through their Multiple Listing Service (MLS). A lot of the information you find on your own, through searchable real estate sites, can be inaccurate and out-dated. You hired a pro, now use them! Once you've selected your top homes, schedule with your agent to see them. We can typically work through 8 homes on a good weekend day, and 3-4 homes during the evening. As agents, we are used to working evenings and weekends, so we work with your schedule. You're just as likely to receive an email from me at 9:45pm on a Friday as you are 11:30am on a Sunday. Realize that some homes require 24-hr notice to view and others have restrictions on times that the home can be shown. Use that time to do a drive-thru of the neighborhood before the showing. You can never be too prepared when it comes to buying a home. 

4) Select Your Favorites
Maybe you loved 2 of the 8 homes visited. Review the details (Seller's Disclosure, HOA fees/ regulations, Flood Insurance estimates) your agent will send you on each home, and if you want to go see those 2 homes again, schedule a second appointment. As I mentioned before, the average home currently stays on the market 62 days in Charleston County. This differs in location and price range, but if you're set on a home, make that offer. We've all lost that one home we wished we would have jumped on sooner. Viewing comps (comparable home information) can help you come to an offer price and a better understanding the home's value.

5) Start Negotiating
Remember the blank buyer's agreement your agent provided you at your first meeting? Well, now is the time to fill it out with your agent. They should review each section with you, until you feel comfortable about what you're signing. Contracts are not beach reads, y'all. Once completed, the documents (also normally includes a Seller's Disclosure and any addendums), are sent to the seller's agent for review. A deadline is part of the buyer's agreement, so you're on your toes until you hear back. Believe me, it's just as stressful for us agents!

6) Keep Negotiating
You make an offer, they accept, everyone cheers! This is often not the case, but would you really expect that in likely the biggest purchase of your life? There are many scenarios that put you through contract negotiations, so I won't go through them here, but know that this is where that credible agent really comes in handy (again). When you've come to acceptable terms with the seller's agent, this called having a 'ratified contract'. Now you can cheer... and wait for closing.

7) Go Back to Your Lender
Were you impressed with the lender that provided you with your pre-approval letter? Chances are they will be great to work with on acquiring your mortgage, as well. Shopping rates is fine, but read the fine print of that contract you ratified, most have a deadline for applying for the mortgage to get the home closed quickly.

8) Find an Attorney
As Realtors, we're pretty great at writing a contract, but we are NOT attorneys. You will need to reach into your agent's magical bag of credible references and find a closing attorney that will work closely with your lender and agent to guide you through the rest of this process. They get to do all the exciting stuff like, research a deed, file a title, and make lots and lots of copies.

9) Inspect the Home
Another part of your ratified contract (man, for an approximately 8 page document, that thing holds a lot of weight!) is the Due Diligence section. Your agent should have access to credible home inspector references; along with termite inspectors in SC, which is required. The home inspector will give you all the details of the home you're preparing to buy. From this inspection, you're likely to draft a Repair Addendum with your agent, to discuss any repairs and/or negotiations. The termite inspection will give you a qualified CL-100 letter for closing.

10) Apply for Homeowner's Insurance
Your agent (BFF at this point) can provide you with those credible references all over again for homeowner insurance companies. There are going to be a lot of questions about the home during this application process. Don't hesitate to ask your agent the most mundane of questions. Yes, I know the distance to the closest fire station from your home.

11) Set a Closing Date
Your loan is well on it's way to final approval, the repairs are being done or you've settled on a financial exchange for what's necessary, you've read your ratified contract before bed every night for the past few weeks- sounds like you're ready to close! In the ratified contract, you selected a 'Close Date' to aim for, but if you've read through everything to this point, you realize not everything sticks to a strict schedule. Work with your closing attorney to find a date that works for you, your lender, and the sellers to close (us agents will move mountains to be there, so don't worry about us!). This is also where all of your closing costs come together. Estimate sooner than later, so you don't feel ill-prepared.

12) You're Home!
Go ahead, breathe a sigh of relief. You have the keys and a real-life mortgage! In Charleston County, you'll want to apply for your 4% primary resident tax rate ASAP, transfer your utilities, and setup preferred technicians to provide regular service to your home for things like your HVAC system, termite bond, and fireplace (yes, we use those once a year here).

Other helpful links:
Why Should You Use a Realtor (if you read this post, you should already know, but just in case)
Expenses Homeowners Pay, but Renters Don't
"Should I Buy or Rent?" Calculator
5 Tips for First-Time Homebuyers (the pre-pre-approval process)
How Are Real Estate Agents Paid?
Real Estate Dictionary
What Comes After You've Bought the Home

What tips do you have for being a first-time homebuyer? Any stories you'd like to share of your experience?

Lowcountry Rainy Day Plans

Sure, today may be sunny and nearing 85 degrees, but these past few weeks have also been peppered with thunderstorms and tropical storm warnings. Wondering what to do when you’re faced with rain as a local or visitor? Below are some default rainy day plans for all.

Get Active
Being indoors doesn't limit you to sitting down in the Lowcountry. Velocity Air Sports (N. Chs) and SkyZone Trampoline Park (Mt. P) are two great options for all ages.

@skyzonecharleston

Catch a Flick
If you're a local, it's likely you spend less time at the movies in Charleston that you have anywhere else you've ever lived. There's simply too much going on! But really, it's a shame because we have great theaters like Cinebarre (Mt. P), where you can dine and view, and the Terrace Theater (James Isl.) that hosts some less accessible films in a beautiful building.

Take a Drive
Yes, we prefer to view window boxes and The Battery on foot, but think of how much ground you can cover in your car. Make a game out of it for the whole family; How many different color homes do you see? What is the purpose of those cement boxes on all the streets? What year do you think the homes were built?

@dunesproperties

Exercise Your Brain
Being a city, we're fortunate to have attractions like the Gibbes Museum of Art (Downtown) and the Charleston Museum (Downtown). The South Carolina Aquarium (Downtown) is another hot spot for education on conservation and seeing some aquatic friends. The Yorktown at Patriots Point (Mt. P) is another viable option, if you don't melt from the run from car to the museum.

@thegibbesmuseum

@southcarolinaaquarium

Freshen Up as a Foodie
You'll spend a good part of your time in the Lowcountry indulging on delicious cuisine, so why not learn how to prepare your own at home? In the Kitchen With Chef Bob Waggoner (Downtown).

Entertain by Theatre
Our city is home to a plethora of theaters that feature many different genres of performance. Check out The Dock Street Theatre (Charleston Stage), Woolfe Street Playhouse, Pure Theatre and Black Fedora Mystery Theatre (All Downtown). Looking for a laugh? Theatre 99 (Downtown) absolutely never disappoints.

@theatre99

Become a Kid Again
When's the last time you flexed your pinball fingers? The Alley (Downtown) is not only popular for bowling; their arcade games are a strong draw with options like Ms. Pac-Man, Mortal Combat, and a personal favorite, Skee Ball.

@thealleychas

 Photo by:  Ridiculously Photogenic Photography by Will B. King    @riphopho

Photo by: Ridiculously Photogenic Photography by Will B. King @riphopho

And since it is so gorgeous outside today, here's Charleston Magazine's Summer Guide for 24 hours of outdoor fun to entertain you for now.

Where do you like to spend your rainy days in the Lowcountry?

Cheers at Deep Water Vineyard

Angela:

It’s been nine weeks since I gave birth to our first child, little Ruby. To say that I am still adjusting to life as a Mom would be an understatement, so when I was invited out to Wadamalaw Island for lunch at a friend’s house followed by a wine tasting at the neighboring vineyard, I felt torn between wanting to attend while leaving my baby for the first time.

Ultimately, what new mother can turn down an opportunity to let her hair down and drink wine on a Saturday afternoon?  I was excited because I’ve never actually been out to Wadamalaw Island. (Note: GPS doesn’t work great when you get to the edges of John’s Island. Keep right on Maybank Hwy. and you will drive to the end of the Island where the vineyards are on the left.) I didn’t realize how remote the island was. I was relying on my GPS to get me to my friend’s home and ended up taking the very scenic route, passing the cutest little Post Office and Ambrose Farms. At first, when I was driving up what my friend would call her driveway (I would compare it to driving alone in the woods similar to the beginning of a horror movie), all I could think was “Who would live this far out?” until the trees cleared and I was in front of a stunning home right on the water with breath-taking views. When I stopped to look, there seemed to be a beautiful view, no matter where we were on the island. After a wonderful lunch on her back porch, we made our way to Deep Water Vineyard (formerly Irvin House Vineyard) just a few short miles down the road.

Photo Credit @stefaniwilkens

On Saturdays, the vineyard hosts a Weekend Wine Down, with food and music. I was surprised at how many people were there. It seemed to be the gathering spot for locals and tourists alike. For $5.00 we were given a ticket to the next scheduled wine tasting and for $6.00 more we decided to check out the neighboring Firefly Distillery tasting room. 

We gathered in a cute souvenir shop and were called into the “tasting room” promptly at our 2:30pm ticketed time. Not only did we sample five different wines, we also learned about the history of the vineyard and Wadamalaw Island, and got to take home a complimentary wine glass. The wine is made of muscadine grapes, the only grape truly native to the U.S. Growing up in the south, I associate these grapes with afternoon snacks picked fresh from my Granny’s yard, when walking home from school. As it turns out, they don’t make a bad wine.

After we finished the wine tasting, we crossed the patio/afternoon dance floor and entered the Firefly tasting room. This was a different experience from the wine tasting (and rightfully so). We stood at a bar and raised a shot glass, when the bartender would call out a Firefly vodka, whiskey, or moonshine that we might like to try (disclaimer: they do limit you to five tasting pours). This room was rowdy and full of fun, whereas the wine tasting was a little more sophisticated.

All of this “tasting” made me hungry, so I made a beeline for the advertised meatloaf cupcakes. These did not disappoint! Meatloaf topped with mashed potatoes, bbq sauce and bacon, enough said. All of the food looked equally as tasty. Some of the ladies in our group shared this delicious fruit and cheese platter.

Photo Credit @Stefaniwilkens

Once I pulled my face out of the meatloaf cupcake, I took a look around and realized that there was so much more than the tastings. There were farm animals, gardens, and art. Since I assumed all was well on the home front (I hadn’t received any frantic calls from my husband to come home immediately, little did I know that my cell phone didn’t have service), I decided to walk the grounds and explore. I really can’t say enough about how much fun I had on my first day away from baby. In hindsight, if I had known that the cell phone service was so limited on Wadamalaw Island, I may not have gone, but perhaps it was good for me (and Daddy) that I wasn’t easily accessible.

Deep Water Vineyard and Firefly will definitely be a place that I take visiting family and friends in the future. Cheers to next time y’all!