charleston sc visitors-guide

It’s been a recent dream of mine to travel to Charleston, SC. It’s a weird time in my life where my husband and I are actually discussing retirement options. Say WHAT?! Yes, it’s true. It’s not to say that we have never discussed retirement until now, but as our kids are starting to enter high school, the reality of where we would retire creeps closer.

shallow focus of clear hourglass
Photo by Jordan Benton on

Charleston, SC, came up as a place that I wanted to explore as an option. As luck would have it, my hubby had a business trip planned for this year, so I joined him there for the weekend prior so I could scout out this city’s potential as a future home.

flower basket Charleston

What an incredibly charming city. From the brick crosswalks, to the flower filled window boxes, to the gas lantern lighting and the federal style architecture, the place oozed with charm. As a photo fanatic, each step was a head turner for another slice of eye candy to capture.

federal style arch Charleston

We had no planned activities except, of course, dinner reservations! The trip was meant for both of us to relax and just explore and see what we would see. We checked into our hotel near Marion Square. It was a terrific location. Not much of a water view, but perfectly situated for us to walk wherever the mood struck us.

charleston door

We arrived just after Hurricane Michael came through and carried any type of bad weather away with it. The temps were terrific and nothing but blue skies for our weekend. It’s an incredibly easy walking city. Navigation is no problem, HOWEVER, ladies, take note of the time worn sidewalks that can snap an ankle if one does not pay attention (especially in heals!)

charleston manhole cover

Our dinner reservations for the first night were at Charleston Grill located in the Belmond Hotel in the midst of the delightful King Street. King St. is loaded with shopping. You’ll find stores that we all know and love, plus local establishments that can hold their own with the big boys.

charleston grill bar

Charleston Grill delivered some of the tastiest cocktails that we have ever had. The bar area was gorgeously appointed and they even surprised us with a tasty amuse-bouche while we waited for our table. We were seated at an intimate table by the window overlooking the hotel courtyard. It was quite lovely. We opted for the chefs tasting menu paired with a spectacular bottle of white burgundy.  As they say in the south, Cheers, Y’all!

charleston grill app.JPG

After our fantastic meal, we walked it off with a casual stroll through the city back to our hotel for a relatively early night. We are not party people and we had more than indulged at dinner.

charleston evening

The next morning we bee lined straight for the local farmers market set up in Marion Square across the street from our hotel. We enjoyed awesome breakfast burritos and took in all of the booths of food, local produce and products, and crafters. Before heading back to our room to regroup for the rest of our day, we grabbed some Starbucks. Yeah baby!

marion square sign

The goal for the day was to make our way down to the water by way of the famous Rainbow Row on East Bay St. But first a trip for lunch at a local Cuban restaurant called Cuban Gypsy Pantry Eatery on Calhoun Street. I suppose you’d have to classify this as a dive, as it wasn’t fancy in the least, but the food….!!!! The food was amazing. Luckily we were on foot for the rest of the day to walk off that delicious lunch that was almost impossible to stop eating. It was an easy walk to the water, full of quaint shops, historic architecture and amazing views.

rainbow row

I envy the people that live there to be able to walk that city every day. It is unique for sure. A combination of other places I have visited, but decidedly it’s own flavor. There was a little bit of Florida, a little bit of New Orleans and 100% Southern. It was heavenly during the day and magical at night. I couldn’t get over the number of church steeples in view and the mix of historic and new construction. And the water views filled with little sailboats….are you kidding me?

water view in Charleston

We made our way back to “our” neighborhood to check out a rooftop bar. Carolina Ale House did not disappoint. We sat at the bar and ordered from their impressive collection of beers on tap. We were surrounded by TVs everywhere, all playing college football, with different collage fans at each table. After enjoying a beer and the atmosphere, we headed back out to explore yet another part of the city; the restaurant district. This area had a plethora of super cool stops and every type of food one could want. After making a lap through that area we made our way home. We were exhausted from a day filled with walking (and beer), so we opted for dinner in. We grabbed take out from a local pizza place and headed back to our home base.

chandelier from trees

The next morning I walked to church. It was an OOOOLLLLDDDD school Greek Revival style church built in 1838, complete with paintings dating back to 1814 and most of its original architectural attributes in tact, or at the very least restored. Again, the church was an easy walk to and from our hotel. We opted to have breakfast at the highly rated crepe restaurant called Breizh pan Crepes just off of King Street. It was a delicious meal with great views of the street for people watching. We returned to our hotel to check out so that my hubby could check into his hotel for his business trip.

St Mary's Charleston

This next hotel, The French Quarter Inn, was located close to the water and it was spectacular. We were greeted with complimentary champagne while we waited for his room to be ready. The rooms were very large and were beautifully appointed. Not one detail was missed, down to the brass finishing on the corners of the large baseboards. It was love at first sight for this architecture nerd.

The French Quarter Hotel

Alas, it was time for me to head home. Charleston, SC, was a beautiful host for the weekend and I cannot WAIT to go back. It’s southern charm and hospitality are notable and would make a great destination for any occasion.

charleston gazebo

Pure Love Macaron: The Next Chapter

pure love macaron logo

I have found myself in an exciting situation. In this post I get to do a follow up piece on my previous Guest, Kim Moehnke of Pure Love Macaron. In last week’s post, I talked a little about how serendipitous my blogging experience has been this past year. My original article on Kim and her lovely business went live in July 2017 (Guest – Pure Love Macaron). As you’ll recall, again from last week’s post, I reviewed one of the restaurants covered in the cookbook titled Fine Foods & Favorite Restaurants of Northern Virginia that I collaborated on along with Cayenne Pepper Studio. This recipe book will also be featuring Kim! It was so amazing for me to get to tell more of her story in that compilation, which is due out in November. And most recently our paths crossed again when Kim reached out to me to cover an event and new business venture that she was launching. Well don’t mind if I do!


Sergio and Kim from wine pairing

Kim has collaborated with Sergio Mendes from The Ashburn Wine Shop, in Ashburn, VA, on the shop’s own next chapter of offering wine and small bite food pairings. The wine shop will bring in local chefs to create tasting dishes for guests to sample along with a thoughtfully paired wine selection. A constant on the menu will be Kim’s delicious macarons.


macaron and wine pairing photos by Sandrine

I attended the inaugural event, as press, and was very much delighted by the fare for the evening. Kim and Sergio worked closely to create a divine pairing for the kick off. Kim is known for her creative and sophisticated flavor combinations and she stayed true to form. From pistachio, fig and goat cheese, to a whimsical waffle, maple and bacon, Kim concocted delectable bites perfectly complimenting the wine selections.

waffle macarons

Be sure to put a tasting trip on your calendar for your next date night, girls night out, or corporate event. It’s a super tasty way to spend an evening, and something new and fun to do in Loudoun.

one loudoun flag

These tastings are just the start for Kim and her next chapter of business opportunities. You will also find Pure Love Macaron sharing retail pod space this year with the mobile boutique Nolly Pop in One Loudoun. You can shop the boutique and pick up some lovely treats as a gift or to sneak home and indulge just for yourself.

boxed macarons

Also in the works for Kim in 2018 is her collaboration with and their upcoming Gala. AALEAD stands for Asian American Youth Leadership Empowerment and Development. The organization supports low-income Asian Pacific young people with educational assistance, identity development, and opportunities to emerge as leaders in their community through after school and summer programs. Kim has the honor of providing the party favors for over 300 gala guests later this month. No doubt her creative flavors and impeccable presentation will be a shining example of her fabulous taste and elegant style.

aalead gala ad.png

This is my first opportunity to be able to do a follow up story on one of my Guests. It’s incredible to see the growth explosion in the works for Pure Love Macaron and I’m honored to be able to share it with you on Kim’s behalf. Be on the look out for Pure Love Macaron. Spoil yourself or someone else with a custom box. The opportunities for you to enjoy them are expanding!


Kim pure love cookbook image

*Photos by Cayenne Pepper Studio

The Ashby Inn & Restaurant

The Ashby Inn

I’m not going to lie. Blogging sure hasn’t paid the bills around here, but what it has done is it has opened up a lot of really cool experiences for me in the past year. And this one is definitely one for the list.

As you may recall, I wrote a piece in February about a fantastic local food photographer, Sandrine Brubaker of Cayenne Pepper Studio: At the time, she was launching into a new project where she was polling the public, via social media, to get a list of favorite restaurants/chefs/dishes from local, Northern Virginia establishments. With that information, she was going to reach out to those who were nominated, interview them, have them create a dish or two, photograph the dishes, collect the recipes and put it all in one cookbook to be sold to benefit *The Tree of Life in Purcellville, VA.

tree of life ministries logo

I was so intrigued by this project that I reached out to San to learn more. Sandrine’s is a lovely story in and of itself. She has turned her gifts and talents into a successful photography business as well as using it as therapy to help her combat the mental fatigue of living with a chronic illness.

Well, because she was so pleased with the article that I wrote about her, she asked me to be the writer for her upcoming cookbook. How could I say no?! I loved this project, and getting to be a part of it was a gift for me. I don’t often find ways that I can give back to my community, but I can through writing. I appreciated the opportunity to do something for others outside of my kids’ schools and my own church.

My workspace

Sandrine’s notes from her interviews with the chefs began coming in. I worked through them, did my own research, and put together each profile for the cookbook. The most historic site that she visited was The Ashby Inn in Paris, VA. She had loads of notes from the Executive Chef and there was a great amount of historical data that I could use to put together a nice bio. It was a great experience and I learned a ton.

One evening last month, I decided to rush out at the last minute to walk in for a manicure and pedicure at our local nail salon. They were booked at that time, but they asked if I could come back in an hour and they would stay open late for me to finish my services. Not really thinking, I agreed.

I returned later that evening for my appointment. While I was in my chair, they seated another woman right next to me. I’m a talker, but I try to be respectful of those who may not be or who just want some alone time, so I didn’t engage the lady in conversation.

avoid meme

I did, however, hear her say to her tech that she was sorry that they would have to stay late to work with her. At that, I chimed in and said, “They told me the same, so if we stick together, we’ll be fine.” A little polite giggle and end of conversation.

I moved on to have my nails done. At this point, the other woman and I were the only customers left in the shop. Only our two techs and the manager remained and it was getting late. They seated the woman right next to me. So we began to chat.

The standard…do you live in the neighborhood? What do you do?

Lindsay, as I came to find out her name, had worked for an international hotel chain for many years and had been living in Singapore until relocating back home to Virginia. Being from Charlottesville, she didn’t know very many people in the area. She had just purchased a home in Middleburg and was setting down roots here. Oh, and she was the General Manager from a little place called The Ashby Inn, had I ever heard of it?


Are you kidding me?! I was sitting next to the GM of The Ashby Inn. Sandrine was featuring their restaurant in the book! Uh, yes I had heard of it! I then began to totally geek out. We talked about all of the things that I had learned writing the piece for the book. I admitted that I had never been out to The Ashby and that my wedding anniversary was coming up. Maybe my husband and I would go there for our celebration. And that we did.

close up photography of wine glasses
Photo by Valeria Boltneva on

The Ashby Inn restaurant surely delivered. They offer a nightly chef’s tasting menu with or without wine pairings, and a vegetarian tasting menu, which I found fascinating and uniquely modern. You could also choose a 3 course al a carte menu. That’s where we landed.

The food was deliciously prepared. The presentation was picture perfect as was the service. The Inn is deceiving large. They have 5 dining areas, one being an ample outdoor area. We opted for an indoor seat (which bummed me out. I love to eat outside, but hadn’t come prepared with a jacket and this late September night was chilly ….for me.)

beef dish at The Ashby

The building was constructed pre civil war and retained all of the charm one would expect would come with that era of architecture. In the room where we dined, there were brass nameplates above the tables. We inquired and learned that those plaques were earned by frequently visiting guests. These guests lay claim to their favorite table in this way. When they call in for a reservation, they trump any non-regular for their table. It’s quite a special way to repay returning guests for their repeat patronage.

I can’t say enough about the meal we had. Although Paris, VA, is about a 40 minute drive from our neck of the woods, it’s a drive through one of the most scenic routes in Northern Virginia of rolling hills, historical homes and structures, and glorious wide open horse farms. Go the other direction for 40 minutes and you will make your way into Washington, DC. But at The Ashby, you can enjoy a fabulous meal, with zero traffic and a no stress parking situation.

The Ashby Inn restaurant

There’s a lot to take in from this post. My life as a blogger, thus far, has been quite serendipitous. I encourage you to look back at my article on Sandrine from Cayenne Pepper Studio and learn more about her and her cookbook project. Stay tuned about the release of the cookbook as a potential holiday gift as holiday shopping is ramping up. And please do yourself a favor and get yourself out to The Ashby Inn. If not to stay as an overnight guest, at least to eat at their spectacular restaurant.

Follow where your path leads you. You will meet fantastic people and it may lead you to your most delicious life.


*The Tree of Life Ministries provides meals on the weekend to children who receive their meals from their public school.


Perspective – Technology

It’s no secret that I struggle with Technology.  I joke (#therestruthinjest) that I have some sort of technology repellant that has been imbedded in my body as I often deal with techno failures that usually infuriate me.  I began to think, am I the only one?  What do others think of technology?  Is it the be all, end all, or is it the AntiChrist?  Or is it something in between?

I’ve asked 7 women to share their thoughts on this topic (7 because I am #8!  I wanted to play too.)  I polled one representative from each age decade to see how they weighed in. Are we more alike or are we polar opposites?  Come with me to find out.


“I think that there are some cases where technology can be helpful and some cases where it cannot be helpful.  Why I think it can be helpful is sometimes when I’m doing my homework and I have to research something, I can go onto Google and just research it.  Why I think it can be bad is because sometimes it can show me things I don’t want to see like a trailer for a rated R movie, something really scary, or something that is not kid friendly at all.   And that’s what I think about technology.”  ~ Caroline 10’s


“I’m a fan of technology. Maybe that’s a bias perpetuated by my experience or some algorithm, but either way, technology as a whole has aided my experiences.

For me, personally, technology has been extremely beneficial. I have a background in science/engineering and have worked in a lab or two, so I’ve seen, firsthand, how beneficial technology can be. In the form of new equipment that runs experiments faster or more efficiently, to new and innovative techniques that help you get a deeper understanding of a certain disease process. Technology can have a real impact on advancement in many areas.

I also recently started blogging this past year and have seen another way technology can be extremely beneficial. It has allowed me to connect with others I may have never met. I’ve been inspired by, collaborated with, and formed friendships that may never have happened. It’s amazing how distance used to prohibit connection. But now, distance is no longer a factor. You can connect with people all over the globe. It has created many new and exciting opportunities for me, personally.

Of course, I’m not naive to the changes evolving technology has brought. As technology has evolved we have seen apparent changes in communication, education, politicking, etc. The complaints and fears are real. Lack of social engagement because everyone is on their phones. Algorithms designed to cater to your previous searches to make your life easier have, in fact, reinforced biases and often led people to live in a bubble. People desiring to live up to social media standards. There are countless ways technology can cause significant impacts that are not always for the best.

I understand and empathize with these fears of others. With the changes that are hard to accept. Though, in my opinion, it is not the technology to fear but the intention. Intention is something we often overlook and is the reason it is so easy for technology to bear the burden. But if we really look into the root of all, it is the intention of use that really is at the heart of it. I believe that, with anything (not just technology), if your intention is out of love, out of goodness, out of betterment, then technology should not be something to fear. It is when the intention is out of fear, out of selfishness, out of hate, out of power, that is when we see misuse. That is when we see destruction and that is when we should fear. To me, it is not the technology to fear but the user.

As history (and biology) has shown, change is often a hard concept for humans. All technological advances, from the dawn of time, have come under some sort of scrutiny (and many times, for good reason). Maybe I am too optimistic about the subject, but, as a whole, I believe technology is good and can harness great changes and connections for the betterment of humanity. And I will continue to embrace it with caution because the users are only human.” ~ Cristina 20s (Blog:


“I have an amazing love/hate relationship with technology.  As I sit here and write this, I’m currently without power for the second night in a row.  I’m absolutely humbled by how the lack of it can turn my life upside down.  Despite my careful meal planning, I had to throw it all out the window and resort to take out and peanut butter sandwiches for dinner since we cannot power our stove, oven, or microwave.  My 9 month old son is sleeping in the other room but I’m left with uneasy, new mom nerves without the video monitor that I am usually glued to.  It’s safe to say that we have become so dependent upon it that we’re suddenly crippled when we don’t have it.

Technology has done some great things.  I’m instantly connected to my faraway friends and family and can feel like I’m part of their daily lives despite the fact that I haven’t seen them in person in months or years. But there is also the negative side of technology, the time suck of getting pulled in only to reemerge hours later having done nothing productive with that time.  Sitting in bed next to your spouse only to realize neither of you have spoken to one another in you don’t know how long.  I guess it’s safe to say that technology is a necessity that when used carefully can be a powerful tool but should always be used in moderation.”  ~ Jackie 30s


“My thoughts on technology…the first thing that comes to mind is how technology has given our kids such a drastically different childhood from the one I had.  Kids today have everything at their fingertips.  I have recounted many times how when I was a child we had to wait an entire year to see The Wizard of Oz on TV and if you missed it, you’d have to wait another whole year.  No recording it, no watching it later, no fast forwarding through the commercials either! (GASP!)

In this age of instant gratification, I see how my kids never have the luxury of being bored.  They are never forced to use their imaginations to entertain themselves.

We also had the benefit of not having to be in constant contact with our parents.  When I was a kid, I could leave on my bike in the morning and be gone all day.  My parents had no idea where I was or who I was with, but they trusted me to be on my own.  I’m sure on some level that helped with my confidence and growing independence as I got older.  There was a freedom we had as kids in the 70’s and 80’s that kids today won’t necessarily get to experience.

When I think of how technology has enriched our lives in this day and age, I can list many examples.  I have the ability to stay connected with friends and family who live far away.  Simply calling someone on the phone no longer requires watching the clock and dialing the number “after the long distance rates go down” at 9 pm, then timing your call to make sure it didn’t cost a fortune!  I can keep track of people from many different periods of my life on Facebook, many whom I know I would have otherwise never reconnected with.

My life is undoubtedly easier with the technology we use every day in our lives.  I can order my groceries online and pick them up in front of the store.  I can order clothing and shoes from internet retailers and save us from having painful trips to the mall, dragging uncooperative kids along with me.  I can reach out and communicate with my kids’ schools and their teachers at a moment’s notice.  I can monitor their grades and see what we need to work on more at home.  The list goes on and on!

It begs the question, if our lives are so drastically different now from how I remember growing up as a kid, what will the world and technology in our lives be like 20-30 years from now?!” ~Jen 40s


“Although I definitely appreciate our modern conveniences, I still struggle with technology failures and how dependent we have grown on it for social interaction.  I think my favorite thing in my life after my family, my cat, and my bed, is my iPhone.  It is my entertainment, sometimes my workspace, and my chief means of communication.

Being a young child in the 70’s, I quickly began to understand that once a gadget stopped working, it was done for.  I often times struggle with getting technology to respond to me in the manner of my choosing.  I am the vampire girl who cannot be detected by the self check out machine at the grocery store.  I am the person who the fax machine will not work for until I leave the house.  (I have witnesses!)  And we all know this only happens when I’m in an extreme hurry.

But as a mother of one Millenial and two of whatever generation came after, I see the serious deterioration of the social skills of my children.  It’s of epidemic proporsions.  My teenagers have no concept of how to communicate with others nor any confidence in doing so.  How will this translate to interpersonal relationships as they move through their teens and into their 20’s?  How in the world are they going to be able to get through a job interview?  Cyber relationships do not provide the human contact that we must have as a species.  It’s very scary to me.  I worry that they will live lonely lives because they do not know how to build relationships.

These bad habits seem impossible to break.  I don’t see an end in sight.”

~Jennifer 50’s ish (I’ll be 50 in January 🙂 )

first microwave

It’s funny, but the first thing that I thought of when thinking about technology was Siri singing her silly song about technology.  Quite a catchy tune and spot on lyrics.  As a child, The Jetsons, Lost in Space and the 1964 World’s Fair in New York were my first experiences with technology.  I was awed by it.  Then came the space program.  Mind blowing!

I’ve always associated technology with the future.  I must admit, I am just as hooked as the younger generation.  It has made my life easier.  But I do long for a time when we were more connected person to person, not via text.  Holding hands instead of phones. Making eye contact with people as you pass instead of heads down and earphones plugged in.  I am inspired by how it has such potential for good when reading Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Technology has changed us.  However, I must admit that it scares me as well.  As much as it can produce good, the evil and danger it can do if not kept in check is frightening!

So, as a person of hope, I believe in it’s ability to help make this world a better place.   I am grateful for FaceTime as a grandparent, and having family so far away.  And I pray that it will not do us harm.

Oh, by the way, I had to write this down with a pen before I could email it using the dictation.” ~ Barbara 60s

first tv

“As I have aged, I realize how much easier my life has been in comparison to my mother. I no longer have to defrost the fridge, clean the oven, or spend a whole day using a wringer washer to do the laundry and I don’t have to hang it outside on the clothes lines.  I am not a big fan of new gadgets, namely rumba vacuum cleaners, iPhones, electric cars, or driverless cars.  I do like my kindle for playing games and emailing and I do like my Alexa.  I guess that I am still a little old fashioned.”  ~Peggy 70’s


“I lived in the era of wringer washers, clotheslines and ice boxes.  When I got married I had a scrub board, a refrigerator, a record player and a TV.  Now I have a dishwasher, washer and drier, microwave, cell phone, and computer with internet.  All in the space of 84 years.

Am I happier?  In some ways, yes.  All of that expensive stuff was supposed to give me more leisure time..NOT.  In some ways it has … making long distance communication much better, but the cost is losing the warmth of face to face communication.  The ability to reach out to hug and comfort another human being.  I may have saved time with laundry, but used the saved time to talk to a non human person on the phone only to be directed to the wrong department.  All that so called leisure is usually spent in frustration.  If it was laundry day that is pretty much all I did.  Now I cram a dozen things in that small space of time.

Technology was intended to improve the human condition, especially in medicine.  New and far fetched cures are promoted so often no one is sure what is hurtful or helpful. That is one of the many downsides to technology.  It can be used for malicious reasons.  Fear is surrounding it, especially when greed is involved.  Cyber bullying, identity theft, etc, is waiting every time you open your computer or pull out a credit card.

I’m using technology with respect and I am getting along today.  But no idea what’s ahead in the future.  God bless us all!”  ~Temple 80s


In reading the responses from each participant, it’s clear, at every age, that we all have become dependent on technology to assist in day to day activities and chores.  As a whole, we all appreciate the elimination of distance as a barrier for communication.  But I noticed a trend, as the participants got older, the actual fear of the repercussions of our obsession with technology for future generations.  With the exception of the very young, it was apparent to all that although communication with faraway friends and family has improved, the communication with those we live around day by day and minute by minute has deteriorated. At every age represented here, there was an appreciation for technology in general, but also healthy dose of fear.