3 02 2014

I can spend hours wasting on Wikipedia. There is endless information in the world, and what amazes me even more is that our ancestors didn’t have access in their whole lives to the information we can browse in one hour.

But did you know our own South has versions of our own Wikis?

Many of the states such as Alabama, Georgia, and Virginia have their own encyclopedia.

So the next time you’ve got a little time to waste, learn a little bit about our own Southern backyard.

What We’re Into: Fall Edition

5 10 2013

Many of my favorite blogs post regular roundups of what they’re loving that week or month. I always get excited about lists, so we thought we’d throw up a few of the things we’re loving around here from time to time. What’s caught two Southern girls’ eyes lately? Check it out…

record player


Portable record player (plus a bonus: Saturdays scouring music stores for some Elvis on vinyl)

Deep Roots album by Steven Curtis Chapman — Bluegrass meets favorite hymns. Mr. SIT and I discovered this gem from one of my favorite artists at Cracker Barrel one morning, and it’s been our going-to-church music on Sundays ever since. (And I found this Wall Street Journal article amusing: Cracker Barrel is “the Starbucks of Country Music.”)

Civil Wars new album

Carry the Fire song by Andrew Peterson

the road


The Road by Cormac McCarthy — And speaking of “carrying the fire,” this book is one of the best I’ve read this year. It has haunted my thoughts in a wonderful way ever since.

All of Ann Patchett’s books — Ann Patchett is not exactly a well-kept secret. I had read Bel Canto a few years ago, but I picked up another of her novels, and then voraciously read everything she’s written within a few months. I think I loved State of Wonder best of all, but it’s a hard decision. She has a way with language and stories. And, she’s a Nashvillian (Nashvilitte?).

Modern Mrs. Darcy blog — Actually, one of the aforementioned bloggers that regularly gives readers a peek into what she’s into is this Louisville gal — The Modern Mrs. Darcy. This is one of those blogs that I’m always thrilled to see pop up with a new entry on my Feedly. I always find some gracious inspiration, a great read, or something new to me!


photo (6)

These cotton stems I found at Target — A bit of rustic glamour added to my decor as an homage to my favorite Southern crop.

WoodWick brand candle — I love my gas fireplace. It’s so convenient to turn on in the mornings once Mr. SIT is off to work, but I miss that crackling wood sound. And the WoodWick brand is made in Virginia … some of the other brands don’t make that crackle.

sweet potato

Click image for source {via Saveur}


Sweet Potatoes with Butter and Brown Sugar — I cannot get enough of these lately. For breakfast, for dessert — pure deliciousness.



Rosetta Stone — Remember my New Year’s Resolution to “values timeblock“? Well, one of the items I came up with to be the kind of person I wanted to be, was to speak another language. Spanish is so practical. Over seven percent of the world speaks it, not to mention a certain mister with whom I reside. I’ve been dabbling in it for a while now, but I’m redoubling my efforts as the young people go back to school. Something about September always makes me want to learn.

U.S. Constitution — I’ve taken a new interest in the very founding document of our great nation. I’ve had the privilege of hearing a Constitutional expert, Bob Menges, in a 12-week study at our church and it has been hugely enlightening. There is so much about the framing of this rule of law that I did not know, and it effects each one of us each day of our lives. If you’d like to experience his course on our nation’s charter, he has all the sessions available (for free) on his website.


St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Norfolk, VA


Virginia Beach, Virginia — I got to tag along with Mr. SIT on a work trip last month to the Virginia Beach-Norfolk area. Norfolk gets a bad rep as a drab military town, but I found it is rich with history and art and great food. I ran around town dashing to the renowned Chrysler Museum satellite sites, St. Paul’s Church to see a Revolutionary-war era cannonball stuck in its brick wall, and feasting on southern sea fare such as potato chip-encrusted crab cakes.

Tennessee — This fall, we are heading back “home” to Tennessee for a proper vacation. Bookended by a wedding in Memphis one weekend, and a birthday celebration from my mom in the Smoky Mountains the next, we decided to spend a little time in Nashville and Cumberland relaxing and seeing the sites in between. I’m so excited to experience the Ryman and Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage and to catch Tennessee’s counterpart to my Charleston’s Husk.

And last, but not least…

Football is back! — Truth be told, while I’m a basketball girl myself, I love that Saturday afternoons are reserved for curling up on the couch with Mr. SIT, good snacks, and maybe a magazine or two for me (if it’s a Tennessee game).

Southern Fort: Fort Wagner

24 05 2013

The Storming of Ft. Wagner

If you’ve seen the film Glory, starring Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, and Morgan Freeman, you’ll remember the historic Civil War battle at Fort Wagner. Positioned on the Atlantic beachfront, this fort was the site of two Civil War battles and was responsible for the subsequent inspiration and recruitment of many African-American soldiers.

This southern fort is especially fascinating to me, as it was built on swamp lands, which have been slowly eroding over the years since, and now, only the Morris Island Light tower remains, surrounded by water.

Southern Fort: Fort Frederick

23 05 2013

Natural Beauty at Fort Frederick Preserve

Built by the British between 1730 and 1734, Fort Frederick was designed to defend against a possible attack from the Spanish at St. Augustine. It measures only 125 feet by 75 feet, but held a battery and cannon along the east wall and a magazine and barracks in the interior, which was garrisoned by a company of foot British Regulars until their transfer to Georgia in 1736.

Located near Beaufort, South Carolina, the fort remains the oldest tabby fort. Artifact collecting, digging and metal detecting are not allowed on the preserve, since climbing or walking on the fort can lead to deterioration of this cultural resource. So while it is currently closed to the public, this beautiful and historic landmark may be arranged to be visited by calling for an arranged tour. A committee to conduct preserve maintenance and other stewardship activities has been formed to benefit the preserve.

Southern Fort: Fort Moultrie

22 05 2013

Located off the coast of Charleston is a grouping of citadels called Fort Moultrie, named for General William Moultrie after the Battle of Sullivan’s Island. The entire history of sea-coast defense from the 171-year history can be told from this island fort.

Moultrie's Liberty Flag being raised during the Revolutionary War.

Moultrie’s Liberty Flag being raised during the Revolutionary War.

During the American Revolution, patriots began to build a fort from local palmetto logs. When British ships opened fire, their cannon balls virtually bounced off the palmettos until the British ships were driven back from the area. June 28th is still known as “Carolina Day” as a celebration of this galvanizing victory.

Fort Moultrie

The fort evolved with the times through further wars, including the Civil War and World War II, as well as hurricane storms. Today, the National Park Service runs this historic landmark as part of the Fort Sumter National Monument. As this southern fort is located quite near my new home in Charleston, I plan to visit Sullivan’s Island and Fort Moultrie soon.

Southern Islands: South Padre Island

14 05 2012

When we think of the Southern islands, I jump right to the Carolinas, Georgia, and Florida.

But don’t forget the Gulf Coast has some beautiful islands as well. South Padre Island off the coast of Texas is a resort island that is always filled with good food, good music, and water and sun. What more could you want?

If you’re an outdoorsman (or outdoorslady), there’s plenty of kayaking, horseback riding, and fishing. The island is host to many annual fishing tournaments, so whenever you visit, you’re likely to see a few catches being hauled in.

And check out last year’s Southern islands week featuring Dauphin Island, Jekyll Island, St. Simons Island, and Kiawah Island.

A Weekend in Charleston

13 05 2012

If the South has a capital, it’s Charleston, South Carolina. From the moment I turned onto Highway 17, I was smitten by the Lowcountry. How is it that I’d never spent more than a few minutes passing through this charming city? Well, I made up for lost time this weekend. We met my dad there for a little 50th birthday trip, since it’s one of my parents’ favorite cities, and halfway between my folks and my sister and her husband.

There was so much to do on our itinerary, we of course didn’t see it all, but I think we gave it a pretty good go, and I know we’re all already planning our next trip back! Here’s what we did, in case you want to re-create a patented Thompson family trip:

Thursday Evening

Mr. SIT and I snuck in early and had a delicious dinner at Jim ‘n Nick’s. Listen, I’m a Memphis BBQ girl, but I do love some vinegar-y Carolinian ‘que. And Jim ‘n Nick’s Cheese Biscuits are to die for!


We slept in a bit at our hotel in preparation for a big weekend of late nights chatting and eating. Upon recommendation from a friend who works for the Charleston Tourism Department, we stayed in the up-and-coming neighborhood of North Charleston. In addition to being full of great shopping, eating, and near the airport, it was also central to everything. It never took us more than 20 minutes to get anywhere in the city.

Then, before our families arrived, we explored the city a bit, familiarized ourselves with the varied neighborhoods like quaint Summerville, hip Park Circle, beautiful Avondale.

But as soon as the families arrived, we hugged and squealed and then promptly went for the food (you’ll notice lots of eating on this trip). Jack’s Cosmic Dogs was the perfect place to start off a fun and distinctly Charleston local favorite. There were dozens of hot dogs to choose from, and the atmosphere rocketed us (sorry!) back to the atomic age.

Next off, we headed straight for the downtown area. We strolled through the City Market, the perfect place to pick up souvenirs like handmade woven baskets, art, benne wafers, and jewelry. It’s like Etsy in real life! We wondered up and down Meeting Street, where you’ll find plenty to see. My favorite were the gorgeous old churches, fitting appropriately in the “Holy City.” So much history!

We lucked out and happened upon the French Quarter on the first Friday of the month, where the local art galleries fling open their doors with plenty of art to see, snacks to nibble, and wine to drink. The best part? I happened upon a couple of new favorite artists, and even got to visit with one about her inspiration and process.

But by the end of the evening and plenty of walking, can you believe it we were hungry again, so we headed over to the highly recommended Sesame Burger. The service was fantastic, and the menu varied so that even the vegetarian lovers in your group will be happy. I got the South Carolinian burger, topped with pimento cheese. You can not go wrong with that! Plus, everything, and I mean everything is fresh. They even grind their own meat on site.


Of course we had to start Saturday morning off with more food. We woke up early and got to a classic Charleston favorite, Hominy Grill. If you’re going to take it slower, be aware that their crowds start showing up at highest peak around 11 a.m., so grab a coffee on your way, ’cause you’re gonna wait a minute. But boy was it worth it! Around our table, I was drooling over the Fried Green Tomato BLT, Cornmeal Cakes, and poached eggs with salmon. But if it’s your first time, you gotta go with the classic Big Nasty Biscuit. A biscuit topped with fried chicken and gravy. Makes you want to smack yur momma! (But I didn’t. She was sitting right across from me.)

We still hadn’t seen the famous Charleston homes that are so uniquely Southern, and it was a gorgeous day, so we headed for the Battery. What a view! Charleston is surrounded by water, and the cool breezes kept us company while we broke out the bocce ball set and wiled the morning away.

Mr. SIT, trying on hats

But we ladies hadn’t gotten our fill yet of shopping, so you know we had to hit King Street sooner or later. With everything from Louis Vuitton to Forever 21, ladies you will get your fill. But there was plenty for the men to enjoy too. Seersucker, hats, book stores, a whole shop full of industrial lamps that my dad and Mr. SIT went crazy for. And when you’re tuckered out, a two-story Starbucks to soak up some air conditioning.

We’d spotted a cool old building down by the marina, and turns out it was California Dreaming, where my parents had recalled they had gotten unforgettable ribs before at their location in Columbia, so off to dinner we went. We got the best waterfront seat in the house, delicious salads (I mean seriously good, couldn’t-stop-talking-about salads), scrumptious meals, and fantastic service. The wait wasn’t short, since it’s apparently a very popular location, so we suggest calling ahead for reservations.

Since we happened to be in Charleston on Derby Saturday, and since I’ve not missed a viewing of the Derby since I was born, my dad then raced back to the hotel like a prize-winning jockey, just in time place our hands over our hearts as “My Old Kentucky Home” was sung. We’d all placed our bets, but no one chose winner I’ll Have Another. What a inspirational story, so we didn’t mind anyway!

We were all tuckered out from a day filled with walking and shopping, we stayed in for the rest of the evening, playing games and chatting (and polishing off a bucket of Peterbrooke popcorn I had brought up from Jacksonville. Then off to bed early so we could be well rested for…


Like any good southern Baptists that we are, we had to visit a church while we were there. What a treat to get to worship with some real locals, and get a good feel for the city. We had fallen in love with the nearby neighborhood of Summerville, so we tracked down a pastor that had graduated from my favorite seminary, and attended Sunday morning at Old Fort Baptist Church. There are plenty of great churches in the city to choose from. In fact, it got its name, the “Holy City” from the amount of steeples dotting its skyline.

After a failed attempt to lunch at EVO (closed on Sundays — sad for us, good for them!), we settled on spending the perfect day out at Folly Beach. So we drove out, and grabbed a quick lunch at Taco Boy. A cool atmosphere (a little too hip for us Southern trads though… we did not care for the unisex bathroom!) — Taco Boy has fresh tacos a la carte for a quick snack before an afternoon of dipping our West Coast toes in some good Carolina ocean. We frolicked, played a little more Bocce Ball, but were then too hastily ushered to our car by a quick afternoon coastal thunderstorm.

It didn’t last long though. Just enough to cool things off. By the time we had popped into Publix (the things I miss about the South!!) to stock up on more waters, the sun was popping back out, so we drove downtown again for just one more look at those genteel, elegant homes. We just couldn’t get enough! Walk down Broad Street and Church Street for some of the most gorgeous Southern homes you’ll ever see. A girl can dream…

After all that fresh air and water-gazing, we were all in the mood for a little seafood, and you can’t leave Charleston without trying out a favorite, Hyman’s Seafood. Despite its popularity, and location right on Meeting Street, we got right in and proceeded to dine on fresh fish, shrimp and grits, and crab cakes. Make sure you visit their gift shop on your way out. We could not get enough of their salt scrubs. Perfect for souvenirs to bring home to friends and fam who weren’t lucky enough to accompany you on this trip. (Maybe grab one for yourself too, because you won’t stop thinking about the Holy City.)

I even sat at the table where Pat Conroy has dined!


Just enough time to grab a sackful of Chick-fil-a biscuits on our way to the airport and one last wave to the East Coast before we headed back to California. For now. But we can’t wait to get back to Charleston as soon as possible!

As I said, there was so much we didn’t get to this time around. From Magnolia Plantation to Fort Sumter to Sullivan’s Beach, and restaurants galore. Here are a few that are on our list for next time (trust me, we shoved as much food as was humanly possible down our hatches, but we can’t wait to eat at): Poogan’s Porch, EVO, Husk, F.I.G., McCrady’s, High Cotton…

And of you’re still looking for more to do, of course always check out Design*Sponge’s collection of City Guides.