Monday, August 29, 2011


Good Monday morning friends, I trust that you weathered the weekend without too much fun or too many weather woes. Here From The Land of Palm Trees, we had a very pleasant weather weekend after Irene exited to the Northeast. My heart goes out this morning to those who have suffered storm damage. For the most part and relatively speaking we got lucky here in The Lowcountry, relative to the Mid-Atlantic coast and New England.

Our Saturday evening was dominated by a varsity high-school football game that was postponed from Friday night due to the storm. My youngest son Noah's Northwood Academy Chargers played their backyard rival, Pinewood Preparatory in North Charleston. The move to Saturday night in North Charleston instead of our normal home football field in Summerville gave Michelle and I the opportunity to FINALLY go to Extra Virgin Oven (EVO) to try out this award winning eatery. To call EVO a pizzeria would be a misnomer of epic sorts, but as evidenced by the signboard outside of the Park Circle location, that is exactly what they are. What is not surprising is that this little gem has a list of awards as long as the line to get into the Coastal Carolina Fair on a Saturday night. Most recently, this month, Food Network Magazine placed EVO on their 50 States and 50 Pizzas list and their Pistachio Pesto artisan pizza was part of their Greatest Pizza's in America choices. In an area that is absolutely flush with GREAT restaurants, it is impressive that EVO has been named Best North Charleston Restaurant by the Charleston City Paper for three years running and in 2008 the Charleston Post and Courier placed EVO on their Top 3 Peoples Choice Restaurant List.

It should be obvious that I was excited to have the chance to try out EVO for myself. As I drove down East Montague towards the quaint corner near Park Circle where EVO lives I was impressed by the re-vitalization of the area by the City of North Charleston. The Park Circle Area has been the focus of a redevelopment plan by the city aimed at creating infill neighborhoods within the section of the city and the project has been cited by Bloomberg's Business Week for their accomplishments. The area of shoppes, bars and restaurants has a chic feel that is reminiscent of upscale metropolitan block in Chicago or Boston. Once again, as I often say to myself, "Really? Are you kidding me, this is here, where I live? Lucky me."

EVO is not a large place, it is fairly intimate and I would imagine that there are always folks hanging out at the bar waiting for a table to open in the dining area. It is casual, but at least on a Saturday Evening I would have to say that the clientelle appeared to be very style concious. We were dining fairly early in the evening and the diners were a mix of families and twenty-somethings, but it is obvious that EVO appeals to a wide range of people. The adult beverage list of options is quite impressive featuring some great craft beers along with a limited, but righteous, selection of white and red wines. I tried a New Belgium 1554, an Enlightened Black Ale from Fort Collins, Colorado and I was pleased with my choice.

I enjoyed my beer while I waited for Michelle, she had taken a pit stop at the mall on the way and had directed me to go ahead and order our dinner since she would be 15 or 20 minutes behind me. I chose for us the award winning Pistachio Pesto, a great looking pizza featuring that classic wood fired thin crust EVO pizza crust embellished with a pistachio pesto (the reason for the name of the pizza), goat cheese, house-made mozzarella, creme fraicle, parmigiana-reggiano and sea salt. To me, it looked and sounded wonderful, but for my wife judging by the look on her face when I told her what I had chosen, it was "not so much." My suspicion was confirmed when she casually picked at a couple of small pieces. My wife, bless her heart, is a complete and utter pizza with red-sauce traditionalist. Actually, my tastes are much more bold and courageous as I border on being a foodie, entertained and attracted by building a creative dish using unusual combinations of foods to create a symphony of taste for the buds. Michelle is more rigid and if the ingredient list includes something she doesn't care for no degree of culinary finese can achieve a highly rated dish.

I am also not a big appetizer fan when I am dining out. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I don't care for the food, it is just that if I am at a fine restaraunt, my nose is usually keen enough upon walking through the door that I don't need a mini plate to stimulate my appetite. I have however, been known to order 2 different appetizers as my main course, especially if the dining spot is known for the appetizer. I am however a big fan of salads, not just necessarily any salad, but I really look forward to a fresh and crisp salad leading up to the entree of choice. I would even say that I have fairly decent critical skills when it comes to recognizing and rating a really good salad. I had ordered a Farmer's Salad, constructed with local bibb lettuce, mixed local greens, arugula, crisp bacon, carrots, cucumbers, fresh chives and oregano and an heirloom tomato that was as sweet as any fresh tomato I have EVER tasted. I have got to tell you, bad tomatoes can render a SPECTACULAR salad inedible, but a great fresh from the garden heirloom tomato can make a Spectacular salad, OUTRAGEOUS. This salad was OUTRAGEOUS. I can not describe to you the freshness that existed within that bowl.

After dinner we headed over to the football stadium to enjoy watching our son and his teammates. The weather was perfect for a "Friday Night Lights" experience on a Saturday night. As always, the Chargers represented their school well, even though they lost on an absolute last second touchdown, literally, so you know it was an exciting game. The evening also presented the perfect opportunity for a post-game photo of our favorite football player with his favorite cheerleader.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Goodnight Irene!

As you know by now, my job requires that I do at 7 on 7 off schedule. So Mondays are my transition day. I either spend the day preparing for my first night of 7, or I come home from working night 7, catch a couple hours of sleep then propel myself into my week off. This past Monday morning when I arrived at home and checked the progress of Hurricane Irene, she was projected to make landfall somewhere along the Northern Coast of Florida. I was awakened 2 hours later by an alert on my smart phone announcing that the latest advisory from the National Hurricane Center projected Irene to come calling at Edisto Island, a mere 45 miles south of my home near Charleston. It was a surreal moment, did I really just see what I think I saw? After 4 summers of living hurricane free in Charleston, was I finally going to have to deal with one of the most feared of natural disasters for those who live along the coast of the Southeastern United States?

Well, as you know by now, The Land of Palm Trees was pretty much all but spared any measurable devastation, thank God. I had received countless phone calls, text messages, and facebook alerts urging us to be safe, wishing us luck and good fortune with Irene. And I certainly realize just how differently the scenario could have played out.

Once again, one of the primary reasons that I write From The Land of Palm Trees is that I love sharing our lifestyle with others in the hopes that it may inspire the person who may be suppressing their dreams out of the fear of the unknown, or the fear of failure, or the realization that in order to pursue a dream or desire one usually has to step out of their comfort zone, often entering unfamiliar territory and leaving the daily routines of their life behind. Sadly, many dreams simply never materialize out of the fear of trying. We talk ourselves out of chasing a dream, we accept what we know is really not what we want just because we are comfortable and can carry on just fine doing what we are doing. And with every one of our dreams that becomes smothered, a piece of our soul succumbs as well.

If you couldn't tell from reading this blog of mine, I love my new home in The Land of Palm Trees. It doesn't mean that I don't remember where I came from, it doesn't mean that I am not a proud son of West Virginia. It doesn't even mean that I love Charleston, South Carolina more than I love my home, in West Virginia. What it does mean is that, for me and my family, this is where our dreams could be realized. For lots of reasons, I knew that my wife and I, along with our sons could never achieve our dreams if we didn't have the courage to step outside of our comfort zone and try this. To not do it, we would have been accepting less than what we desired. Sadly, I know that many people never have the courage to take that step. And in not chasing their dreams they rationalize and come up with many reasons and excuses. Some may cite the fear of earthquakes for instance. Shortly after we moved to the Lowcountry, the Weather Channel featured our new home, Charleston in a show called It Could Happen Tomorrow, where they illustrated that Charleston is overdue for having a major earthquake. When some of my friends and family members heard about this fact, I heard from more than one of them, "Why would you move someplace that has earthquakes?" Well, millions of residents of the Middle Atlantic region of the US now understand that natural disasters don't always come with a warning before the shaking starts.

Earlier this week when a Lowcountry visit by Irene appeared imminent, I received a call from somebody whom I love very much, and she half-heartedly said, "how's that easy livin' working out for you today?" Once again, why would anybody want to live in a place where they are at risk for natures fury in the form of a hurricane? Tonite, as we realize how lucky we were that Irene passed us by, there are millions of Americans in the population centers of the Northeastern United States staring down the barrel waiting for a possible landfall from a hurricane. In just a matter of days ago many of those people had never considered their chances of experiencing a landfalling hurricane. I pray that they will be just as fortunate as we were in dealing with Irene.

This evening I saw one of the most beautiful natural scenes I have ever witnessed. It was nearly a spiritual experience for me, not just because of the beauty to my eyes, but the way that it warmed my heart to know that in the face of danger we had prepared and planned for the worst, prayed for the best and at that very moment I realized, we had been granted the best possible outcome. And as I gazed upon this wondrous sight, I am convinced that I have never witnessed anything quite like this before in my life. A beautiful red-sky sunset enhanced by the amazing contrast of a clear western sky merging with angry looking band clouds from a major hurricane as it was pulling away from our coastline. Up until that moment I had never been 150 miles from a major hurricane standing under a sky where the hurricane and the normally clear sky converge. The colorful breathtaking sunset that I was witnessing would not have been possible without Irene passing us by. Watching the cloud formations and the fading sunset, I felt very lucky to be right where I was at that moment. And I was reassured that I am living in an amazing place, experiencing amazing things and living a wonderful life that I would have missed out upon if I had allowed myself to settle for the comfortable surroundings of my former home, job and lifestyle. And in that, I hope that somebody will read this and have a realization that it is time for them to courageously follow their dream. So, goodnight Irene, please treat our friends to the North as good as you treated us, go on out to sea or at least calm your fury and be nice.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

OK, Maybe Just A Little Worried About Hurricane Irene

While we slept Irene continued to churn away down around the Dominican Republic and this morning the local weather forecasters are a little more confident that they know what Irene is going to do. As time goes by the uncertainty will lessen, they say. Last evening the reporters were stressing "awareness" but not alarm, and there still seemed to be hope that the late night advisories would show a continued shift in Irene to the East. However, it now seems that the shifting away of the projected path has sort of stopped and Irene seems to be taking aim at the Carolina coastline.

The Live 5 News weatherman stressed this morning that they have taken the "red-line" away from the forecast track because it represented an estimate of where the center of circulation would be, the eye if you will. He stressed that Irene looks to be headed for mega storm size and that is very important that people not focus on the red line or eye of the storm, because irregardless of left or right shifts in the eye path, strong conditions will exist everywhere within the shaded cone areas. The bottom line, if Irene behaves exactly as forecast now and her eye falls on land near Wilmington, NC the eye of a category 4 hurricane will pass 75-100 miles off shore of The Land of Palm Trees. They stress, a category 4 hurricane the size that Irene looks to become will have hurricane force winds extending out several miles from the eye, and at that time, a 100 mile shift could bring the eye right over just about any point along the South or North Carolina coast. So...... The word yesterday was, "review" your hurricane prep plans. This morning, they stress, expect hurricane conditions here Friday night and Saturday morning and begin implementing your plans. In other words, gather your "take with you kit", ie documents, heirlooms,checkbook, bills, computers, cash, etc and know where you are headed if you will be evacuating.

We live about 25 miles inland, so our worries are not storm surge related, but our concerns focus on wind damage, tornadoes that are spawned by the storm and flooding due to torrential rains. During Hugo, buildings and homes in Summerville did sustain major structural damage. Not saying that Irene is going to be another Hugo, although, if the storm grows to Cat 4 status, you have to be prepared for Hugo like effects. Our family hurricane plan has always been to evacuate inland for any nearby landfall of a Category 4 storm, and stay put for Category 3 and below. We have all of the supplies on-hand to prepare for staying put. Today, we will begin to gather our evacuation kits, in the event that conditions later in the week call for an evacuation. The checklists are in place, and at this point, the question doesn't seem to be whether Irene will impact us, the question is how much impact will we experience.

Tomorrow, more than likely the National Hurricane Center will issue hurricane watches and warnings for our area. That will add a degree of reality to the whole experience. Over the next couple of days a great deal of the uncertainty will give way to the reality. Importantly, the models now show a concensus South or North Carolina impact. Life goes on this morning, there is school to prepare for and a morning round of golf before an afternoon of packing our evacuation kit. Have a great day and I will try to keep you up to date From The Land of Palm Trees.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Not To Worried About Hurricane Irene At This Point

For the past five summers Michelle and I have maintained a keen eye on the tropical updates during hurricane season. Obviously, when we decided to move our family to the Lowcountry back in 2007 a common comment we always heard from friends and neighbors while saying their goodbyes back in West Virgina was, "aren't you afraid of those hurricanes?" In fact, the employees at the hospital where I worked prepared a huge hurricane survival kit and presented it to me during my last days there. And at the beginning of each season since moving here I have re-visited that tote and enjoyed, again, the many messages and greetings written on the tote by well wishers that day. Also, I have added to and updated many of the items, but it is comforting to know that if we ever do have to "ride one out" I will have not only provisions, but also the words and greetings written on that box to entertain me by candlelight.

Interestingly enough, in the five years we have been in The Land of Palm Trees there has only been one tropical system coming close to Charleston. That was Tropical Storm Hannah back in 2009, and we were in Chicago at my nephews wedding when she came calling. Actually, our flight out of Charleston was one of the last to leave prior to the airport being closed for the storm. But early last week the local weather guy mentioned a couple of systems in the Atlantic and he said one of them could become tropical, it caught my attention and for some reason, I had a feeling that this one might just give us a scare. And sure enough, for a good portion of the afternoon the National Hurricane Center had drawn a bulls eye right around the Lowcountry with a projected landfall at Edisto Beach. Of course, when you are dealing with tropical systems that are five or six days away, alot can happen, so it was a bit of a novelty to realize that all eyes were focused on our little piece of sand right here in Charleston. For now, it seems as if landfall is moving up the coast toward Myrtle Beach and even further towards Wilmington, NC. However, once again, when you are five or six days out, things can and do change and Charleston is still well within the "cone of uncertainty" and we will keep a watchful eye out. At this point, we have our plan, we know what were doing, where we are going if a Category 4 or 5 cane is coming our way. We have covered the preparation guide from cover to cover and aside from a few little details, we are prepared. I was starting to feel a little more relaxed about the whole deal until my brother called a bit ago and told me that he was watching The Weather Channel (cause that's what old dudes like him do) and that WC Anchor Jim Cantore announced he is headed for Charleston, SC on Tuesday. That guy is a weather disaster magnet, the Geraldo Rivera of the weather world, so my guess is once Irene gets word, she will shift back towards Charleston Harbor.

As you can see, we aren't too concerned to miss out on a nice evening on the front porch. There were thunderstorms here and there around and it made for some awesome clouds and lightning, although, it never did rain here at our house. At the risk of sensationalizing Irene I think I will try to journalize my tropical experience here In The Land of Palm Trees, after all, this blog is about life in The Lowcountry and in August and September storms are part of the reality of life here. So check back from time to time this week and if I see Cantore tomorrow I think I will suggest that he head up to Boston for the rest of the week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Fun With Yellow Rice and Veggies

Hello blogworld! I have been unplugged for several days, recharging my batteries I suppose but a lazy Sunday afternoon with an eye on the tropics has provided me with the inspiration to do some blogging. That and the more practical need to do something with last weeks harvest and bounty from the Farmers Market. I was looking for something creative to serve along with some great barbecued chicken done on the grill and since the family loves yellow rice and I had some zuchinni squash that I needed to use up, I thought I would try and create a sort of pilaf style dish using zuchinni, shredded carrots and chopped onion.

I started with a medium size zuchinni and cut it in half lengthwise then sliced the halves very thin. Grated some carrot, chopped 1/4 of a Palmetto Sweet Onion and grabbed a bag of yellow rice from the pantry. The directions for the rice call for using water and butter, so I decided to saute the veggies in the butter for about 5 minutes before adding the water and a couple teaspoons of chicken bouillon to the pot. I brought the water and vegetable broth to a boil, then added the yellow rice, reduced the heat to and covered the rice and vegetables to allow for 20 minutes of simmering while I turned my attention to the grill.

I want to tell you about a great local barbecue sauce made in North Charleston that I have been buying every Saturday morning at the Summerville Farmers Market. It is called Southern Comfort Cooking Team and is some of the best darn cue sauce I have ever had. Just the right amount of sweet, tang and spice all mixed together, perfectly. The label touts "Taste The Difference" and you can. Try some out, you can thank me later.

You can't go wrong with grilled barbecue chicken, a tasty rice dish and some fresh ears of silver queen corn, especially if you add a glass of Louis M. Martini Alexander Valley Reseve Cab 2001. Too bad for me though, I've got to work tonite so I passed on the wine.

As for TS Irene, she is churning up strength down around the islands tonite, we have an eye on her and are hoping she hasn't been reading about what a wonderful place The Land of Palm Trees is to visit. Preparation, it is a part of living here and if you live in Paradise, you get a hurricane prep guide and you plan for it. We won't have to worry too much though at least for a couple more days.

So whether you are in The Land of Palm Trees or safe and secure several hundred miles inland, hope you have a great Sunday Evening and an even better week.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

One Hot Mama(cita)

Earlier this week during one of our "heat advisory" days we spent the morning hours on the beach at Station 22 of Sullivan's Island. We were open for lunch plans and decided to test out a new place, Taco Mamacita. Our family loves good Mexican, and I am becoming a fan of gourmet tacos and unique salsas. I had heard good reviews on Mamacita's so off the beach into the cool sanctuary of an island style Mexican joint we went.

I was blown away by Taco Mamacita from the moment we walked through the doors. Whenever you walk into any workplace, whether it is a store, a factory, an office or a restaurant, I can tell if the people who work there are happy and satisfied, and at TM I immediately knew we had made a good choice. No less than 4 employees greeted us with genuine smiles and happy salutations within our first 5 steps into the cantina.

The Taco Mamacita web site proclaims "the Taco Mamacita story is one built around a passion for food and customer service" and I can see that they walk the walk. We had an excellent server who obviously knew what she was doing. Any question about the menu that we posed to her was answered not with a rehearsed recitation of the menu description, but instead she provided a concise but animated commentary on the choice. You could tell that she was not only passionate about the menu items, but also confident that her guests would not be disappointed with her recommendations.

We kept it simple with appetizers, just some chips and salsa although we did try, in addition to the standard roasted tomatoe salsa, the mango salsa which was absolutely out of this world. Taco Mamacita is well provisioned with a generous selection of draft and bottled beers to take care of even the most thirsty of critters. The real enchilada at Mamacita's is the tequila bar. I counted over 76 different bottles of tequila including a handful of extra-premium brands. I am sure that the bar uses fresh fruit juices in many of their concoctions because I watched as one employee fed a continuous supply of whole oranges into a fresh juice squeezer so I am betting the Sangria is AUTHENTIC.

During the course of our lunch we encountered at least 6 different employees checking in on us, filling and re-filling our drink glasses, replenishing our chips and just making sure that we had everything that we needed or wanted. Once again, not the level of service that is usual for a restaraunt with entree prices under eleven bucks. We tried four different tacos as well as a selection from the enchiladas portion of the menu. They offer a great special, any 2 tacos and a side item for just $8.99. The tacos were very tasty and generously stuffed with combinations of ingredients that were perfectly matched for flavor. One of our favorites was the Sloppy Jose, Mama's version of a sloppy Joe, made with ground beef that was both sweet and spicy, jalapenos, monterey jack cheese and sour cream. It was a definite yum. I also enjoyed the Blackened Mahi taco which was recommended by our server. At first bite I experienced a mild tasting chunk of grilled Mahi, seasoned perfectly along with a wonderful hint of pineapple mixing with a slight bight of jalapeno from the jalapeno corn slaw that complimented the taco.

Noah ordered the Enchiladas Suizas, which were done just the way I love them, filled with a hearty portion of pulled roasted chicken and finished with a generous portion of sour cream, and monterey jack and a creamy tomatillo sauce all over.

We enjoyed the sweet potatoe fries, although, they were pretty standard and not out of the ordinary. The green chile rice was good, even better with some of that delectable Mama's sauce drizzled in (more on that stuff in a moment). And while we didn't try any of the mexican sweet corn I did see some on another patrons table and it will definitely be on my plate during the next stop at TM's. In fact, I already know what I am ordering on my return visit. The Peruvian Chicken Dinner with Chipotle Turnip Greens and Mexican Street Corn. What is roasted Peruvian Chicken? According to the menu, "it's the most unique and flavorful chicken you will ever taste. We start by bathing it in fresh-squeezed lime juice, then the skin is rubbed with seasoning to give it just the right blend of sweet and spicy. We then slow roast the chicken until the skin is slightly crisp. Voila, the best roasted chicken you have ever tasted." And you know, based upon my experience, the folks at Mamacita's don't just talk the talk they walk the walk so I am taking them at their word.

Now, back to this stuff, Mama's Sauce. Of course, I am a big fan of pepper sauces of all types. On the table next to one of my favorite stock nectars, Chalupa Sauce, was a plastic squeeze bottle, you know the kind that you use for ketchup for Fourth-of-July picnics, labeled with the words, Mama's Smokey Chipotle Sauce. I don't know what is in it because the label under ingredients playfully says, "Mama's Recipe." In a word, the stuff is UNBELIEVABLE, enough said. Once again, the server was spot-on when she came back to check if we would like dessert, which we declined by the way, and she smiled and knowingly said, "how'd ya like that Mama's Sauce?"

I will definitely be back to Taco Mamacita's located on Sullivan's Island, right next to Dunleavy's Pub on Middle Street, if you go to Sullivan's Island across the Ben Sawyer Bridge you can't miss it, you will practically drive right into it before you hit the Atlantic Ocean. I might add, their story is really cool, Taco Mamacita's is independently owned and operated, there are three locations: Nashville, Chattanooga and Sullivan's Island. So, if you're not at or near one of those three places, I'm so sorry, maybe you should come on down From The Land of Palm Trees, and spend a little time on a great beach and enjoy a great meal at Taco Mamacita.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Well, Would You Look At That v8.11

Today is a very exciting day From The Land of Palm Trees. No, not because for the twentieth day in a row we have a heat index of above 105, but because I am unveiling a new feature for this blog. As you know, From The Land of Palm Trees is a lifestyles blog designed to share the substance of sweet southern living through my eyes. And I also hope that my blog conveys that the quality of life in Charleston is greatly influenced by the diversity of activities and events that are constantly taking place. I want From The Land of Palm Trees to be one of those blogs, not unlike many that are on the list of blogs I follow, that you check in on every day or so not only to be entertained by my periodic diatribe, but to learn more about what is happening in Charleston. And more importantly to let you see what you could be doing if you were here. Sort of a one stop shop for someone looking for a little bit of humor, a little bit of history, a little bit of fine wine and dining and well the occasional view from my beach chair. So once or twice each month I will be publishing an ongoing post, named "Well Would You Look At That!" The title is inspired by the wacky and strange little dude who went viral on You Tube running around punking people candid camera style while repeatedly saying, "would you look at that!"

No, don't worry, I am not going to take to the streets creeping people out while saying "would you look at that" over and over again. The From The Land of Palm Trees Version will be a mix of interesting media that has come across my computer screen in the form of video or print that helps to keep me current with whats happening in my "own kind of paradise."

For starters, one of my favorite bloggers, Joan at Charleston Daily Photo published a great piece this week on her recent Shem Creek Kayak Trip. It was great fun for me to view her work because my family went on the same trip earlier in the spring. There is nothing like being out on Shem Creek in a kayak and Joans post does a great job of capturing the essence of the experience.

Now that I have you in the mood for all things Charleston after spending some time in Charleston through Joan's camera lens, I want to re-direct your attention back inland just a couple of miles to "the Ville", Summerville that is. A little over a year ago the first edition of Azalea Magazine began popping up in businesses around the Flowertown in The Pines. The periodical that prides itself as a lifestyle magazine that celebrates the unique Southern experience that is Summerville, SC is published by a couple of new friends of mine, that happen to also be new neighbors. The summer edition has a great history piece on The Legacy of Big Red, the Civil War Banner proudly hoisted by the Citadel Cadets who fired upon the Union Ship Star of The West as it attempted to forge into Charleston Harbor on a resupply mission for Union occupied Fort Sumter.

As the heat of July and August gives way to the heat of September, a magical time of the year in the Lowcountry begins to get underway. You guessed it right, football season. Of course there is lots of excitement each Saturday with college football, but the real fun takes place under those famous Friday Night lights of the Lowcountry high school football stadiums. High school football is serious business in South Carolina and while my son's Northwood Academy Charger team is busy preparing for the first game of the season against neighborhood rival Pinewood Prep, the season really is already underway with a series of football jamborees and multi-team scrimmage games over the next two weeks. The biggest high school football pre-season event is the 40th Annual Sertoma Classic held in Charleston at Johnson Hagood Stadium on the campus of The Citadel. Twenty-eight Charleston area high school football teams will participate in the classic held on two consecutive nights, August 19th and 20th. The proceeds from the game support various local children and schools. Check out the 2011 Sertoma Cheerleaders as they show their spirit for the upcoming Sertoma Classic.

And to put the lid on this first edition of "Would You Look At That! From The Land of Palm Trees is a report from the Princeton Review chronicled in Charleston Inspires announcing the best colleges of 2012 and for the eighth consecutive year, the College of Charleston has made the list. In fact, this year four other institutes of higher learning located within South Carolina made the list, including my son JD's school, The University of South Carolina. So, if you have a high school student in your house and you are starting to consider college choices, a trip to The Land of Palm Trees should be in your future. I hope you enjoyed this new feature of my blog, if you did, please comment. Your comments inspire bloggers like me. Also, if you enjoy the blog, please consider becoming an official follower by clicking the link to the right of the posts. We are celebrating Michelles last day of Summer vacation by heading to the beach on Sullivan's Island this morning and with a Northwood Academy football scrimmage tonite. Have a great day From The Land of Palm Trees.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Welcome To The Neighborhood

A couple of months ago I published the first in what I still hope to be an ongoing series featuring the front porches and gardens of Charleston. While I was doing my research into front porches and their role in American Culture I came across an intriguing quote. Not interesting necessarily in it's content but tantalizing due to the quotes originator. The quote was ascribed to Charles "Buddy" Holly, the great American singer-songwriter and pioneer of rock and roll music. The quote, "my vision is to see a neighborhood with children playing on the street and people on the porches with smiles on their faces," didn't quite make the final edition of Porch Sittin', but I retained it for use at some point in the future. I have probed and scoured in vein for the context of that quotation and in the process I have learned much about the life of Buddy Holly but I have no earthly idea why he had a vision of a neighborhood with people smiling from their front porches, nor why he was compelled to talk about it. Likewise, I had no idea how I would end up using his words in my blog, but I knew eventually the quote would be useful.

Last evening the neighbors on our street gathered for a block party and even though the clouds in the sky were threatening and the radar images were ominous, we gathered, we visited, we made new friends and enjoyed ourselves IMMENSELY, as you can see from the pictures. Amidst the laughter and the great food (aren't pot luck dinners the best) I was reminded how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful and vibrant place with great neighbors and friends. It was fascinating to visit and spend the evening with people having such diverse backgrounds and life-stories. Some were native Summervillians, most were transplants like us from Pennsylvania, New York, North Carolina and even as far away as Scotland.

Yet on this evening, we were all residents of the 400 block of Hydrangea Street in a unique neighborhood of homes inspired by the history and charm of a classic southern city, Charleston. As I browsed the photos on my camera searching for the pictures that best captured the essence of life on our street I noticed how nice the homes looked painted in their lively Charleston colors. I admired the neatly manicured lawns and crisp sculpted garden areas and I realized I now had the perfect opportunity to refer to that old Buddy Holly quotation. In fact, I live on a street in a neighborhood analogous to the one contemplated by Holly. No matter where you are today, I hope that you take the opportunity to slow down and enjoy your life, spend some time with your neighbors and have a great day, From The Land of Palm Trees.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Shaggin' at The Country Club

The Lowcountry lifestyle is undoubtedly one that is laid back and fun. Sunshine, sandy beaches and steamy nights under a moonlit sky are images that become part of the memory bank of all visitors to the South Carolina Coast. For those who are fortunate enough to be permanent residents the fabric of those memories represent daily living. With that in mind, is it any wonder that the state of South Carolina has an official state dance called the Carolina Shag. The 105th Session of the South Carolina General Assembly saw to that back in 1984 when the Shag, a version of swing dancing that originated on the boardwalks and beach side pavillions of Coastal South Carolina back in the 1930's, was established as the official state dance. The Shag, with it's nimble footwork danced to an upbeat style of rythym and blues known as beach music, is enjoyed by people of all ages which accounts for it's popularity and longevity, I mean doesn't it make sense, after all, who doesn't enjoy building sandcastles on the beach?

This past weekend my wife and I decided to head out to the Summerville Country Club Candlelight Pavillion and dance the night away with Mark Roberts and The Breeze. Charleston has several organized groups or "shag clubs" that sponsor dances that are open to the public. The Summerville Shaggers Shag Club uses the Candlelight Pavillion at the golf club in Summerville as a venue not only for their large dance events but they also provide free Shag lessons weekly every Monday, beginning at 6pm for Juniors, basic instruction at 7pm and advanced instruction at 730pm. Did you get that? I said FREE Lessons.

What a great way to get together with friends and neighbors for a fun and energetic evening. The nice thing about the Shag, even if you aren't a great dancer the basic steps are really pretty simple to master and hanging out around the dance floor sipping a cool beverage and enjoying some great beach music provides you the perfect opportunity to be inspired by the master shaggers who seem to dance every dance.

The Charleston Parks and Recreations sponsors a weekly Moonlight Mixer, Shaggin on the Pier at the Folly Beach Pier every Friday night during the summer months. So, get out there and start improving your steps and then hit the dance floor for The Official Dance of South Carolina, The Shag.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Out and About In The Land of Palm Trees

The month of August is shaping up to be a busy time to be out and about throughout the Lowcountry. Not only is it back to school time over the next couple of weeks and along with that comes the start of the high school football season where Friday night lights dot the sky around Charleston, but there are quality entertainment options to satisfy all tastes.

The North Charleston Coliseum will feature three fabulous nationally acclaimed acts over the next month, starting with Jerry Seinfeld on August 12th. Alison Kraus and Union Station appear on the 14th and Sheryl Crow guarantees a sizzling end of the month on stage at the Coliseum on August 26th.

Cycling enthusiasts have been training for weeks for the upcoming Bridge Ride to benefit the East Cooper Community Outreach. The ECCO cooperates with various other agencies to serve the tri-county area. The Bridge Ride specifically benefits the ECCO Dental Clinic which provides free dental services to residents East of the Cooper and South of the Santee Basin who otherwise could not afford dental care. You can register for the 70 mile outdoor cycling event at so don't miss out on the high-energy fun. It all takes place at the Mount Pleasant Waterfront Memorial Park with the 70-mile cycling event beginning at 630am on September 17, 2011. Other spinning events and activities will commence throughout the morning. For specific information and opportunites to register please click the link above.

The weekend of August 12-13 is circled in red on my calendar, that's when local rock icons Hootie and The Blowfish will take over the Family Circle Cup Stadium for the 9th annual Hootie and The Blowfish Homegrown Concert. Darius Rucker and his band-mates will once again perform with all benefits going to the Charleston County Schools Back to Basics program that provides school supplies to needy Charleston County Public School students. This years event is a two-day affair, featuring Hootie along with Toad The Wet Sprocket on Friday night and an all day music festival featuring members of Sister Hazel and top-notch regional acts during the day with Hootie taking the main stage Saturday evening. Daniel Island will be buzzing all weekend long with great music, food and drinks and I plan on being there Saturday night, you know, cause I'm such a baby yeah the dolphins make me cry...

Late Summer is a great time to be in Charleston, I thought I would share some pictures of the crepe myrtles on the golf course at The Country Club of Summerville, another reason that I am blessed beyond what I deserve living in The Land of Palm Trees.