Island Time

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I spent the weekend at Pawleys Island—my favorite place on earth. I’ve been lucky enough to grow up spending summers and weekends there. And I get a lot of questions from people considering a visit. My answer is always: Yes, go there. Now. Now that that’s settled, here are some answers to other questions:

Where to eat: Chive Blossom is my favorite spot. It’s cozy and intimate, but beachy and lively. The She Crab Soup is the best I’ve ever had anywhere (and I’ve tried more than a few). If the weather is nice, sit outside under the string lights. And if you like fried oysters, order these and thank me later. Frank’s Outback is a similar spot both price and cuisine wise. I love sharing a bunch of small plates at this restaurant (get the ahi tuna nachos) and it’s hidden garden is especially nice on a cooler night. For a casual lunch, grab a bite a BisQit. The little burger joint tucked back in the historic Hammock Shops has become one of our favorite spots for a midday venture off the beach.

What to do: Honestly, I spend about 60 percent of my time in the hammock on our back porch with a book, 10 percent walking on the beach, 10 percent swimming, 10 percent sitting in the sun, and 5 percent crabbing. That’s the kind of laid back stuff Pawleys is made for. But a few other fun things to do include renting bikes to ride around the island and mainland, riding said bikes over to the the All Saints cemetery to see the old graves including the famed Alice, buying fudge and walking around the Hammock Shops, going early in the morning to Georgetown’s harbor for shrimp fresh off the boat, and taking kayaks out in the marsh. I’ve done other stuff—golf, plantation tours, Brookgreen Gardens, Atalaya castle—but for the most part those just get in the way of hammock time.

Northward Bound

One of my favorite ways to spend a sunny Saturday is exploring the Lake Norman area north of Charlotte. During the week, traffic makes this area miserable. Seriously, nothing is worth the agony of the parking lot that I-77 becomes at 5 pm. But on Saturdays it’s easy-breezy—and actually a pretty drive as far as interstates go.

On last Saturday’s perfect pseudo-spring afternoon I went with friends up to Davidson to meander around before dinner at Kindred, celebrating my friend Jenn’s birthday. Wandering in and out of shops on its charming Main Street reminded me how much I enjoy this area. So, I thought I’d share a few of my favorite spots in case anyone else was inspired to spend their weekend hours leaving the city for some of its cutest ‘burbs:

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Check out the vineyards. Daveste (above) is at the northern most point of the lake in Troutman. It’s a simple, pretty vineyard with an airy tasting room and outdoor seating overlooking a pond. There are lots of vineyards farther north on 77, but this is a good one for a taste of the local grapes.

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For a playful twist, make a trip to Lazy 5 Ranch in Mooresville. You feed animals like giraffes and deer from your hand. It’s kind of a weird experience, but it’s also pretty fun. (Warning: You will find bits of animal feed in your car for weeks after this trip. Turns out, wild animals are not neat eaters.)

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During the warmer months, stop at Carrigan Farms in Mooresville for a swim. It’s a pick-your-own farm for some seasonal crops and offers fun hayrides in the fall, but the coolest thing at this farm is its rock-quarry-turned-swimming-hole where you park in a field and take a path through the woods to this hidden gem.

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If you’re looking for a casual bite, go to Alino Pizzeria in Mooresville. I really can’t stress enough how much I love this place. It’s the best pizza restaurant I’ve ever been to. Ever. And it’s housed in a cool old mill. It’s relaxed and casual while also being chic. I would eat there every day if I lived in Mooresville. Every. Freaking. Day.

I don’t really feel like I need to express how much you need to eat at Kindred if you haven’t yet. I’ll let all the national accolades and James Beard nominations do the talking for me. But seriously, go there. And order the fried oysters and the birthday cake dessert. I realize that’s a weird combo, but both those things are just so good.

If you have extra time, check out the Davidson Farmers Market on a Saturday morning. There’s a woman there who sells Mason jars filled with fresh goat cheese and tapenade. Buy them. And then grab a fresh loaf of bread at Millstone Bakehouse to smear that on. Unfortunately, there are no photographic examples of this due to being distracted by eating it. So, you’re just going to have to trust me on that one.

 

 

ATX Weekend

If someone said, “Hey, Sarah, create your dream weekend,” I think it’d look a lot like this past weekend in Austin, Texas. I spent three days with four of my favorite people. We stayed in a gorgeous house (Airbnb is the best) and explored a seriously cool city. The weather had that perfect 75-and-breezy thing going, and we dined on patios and sat in the sun all weekend long.

For anyone interested, I’m putting my little “Guide to an Austin Weekend” below. We chose these spots based in large part on excellent recs from friends of my friend Laura (who was master planner for this trip), as well as a few other friend recommendations and the occasional suggestion from articles in the New York Times and Travel + Leisure. Consider this a tested, tried, and true list of some awesome Austin spots if you’re in the mood for a relaxed, food-filled weekend in a fun city.
Restaurants:
Launderette: Stylish, amazing small plates, order the pimento cheese, do NOT skip dessert
Jo’s Coffee (on South Congress): Get there early for breakfast tacos, order iced coffee, and sit on the deck
Perla’s: Perfect tree-shaded patio. Incredible seafood. Best people watching.
Geraldine’s: Great spot for cocktails, shared plates, and an elevated view of downtown
Justine’s: Seriously cool French restaurant. Go—and stay—late. Order steak tartare, french fries, and sazeracs.
Irene’s: Brunch includes patio seating, rose on draft, and multiple versions of toasts (I think the kids call this basic, but whatever, it was great)
June’s: Delightfully colorful street side cafe that feels more Paris than Texas
Guero’s Taco Bar: Casual TexMex in a historical restaurant with live music next door
Nightlife:
Garage: Cozy, candlelit bar with creative cocktails—inside a parking garage
Midnight Cowboy: Reservations required at this massage parlor-turned-speakeasy where you ring an innocuous buzzer to get in. Drinks are made table side—and strong.
Stay Gold: Sophisticated drinks, lounge-y vibe, great jazz music.
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Recreation:
Lady Bird Lake Loop Trail: Waterside trail with great city and river views.
Barton Spring’s Pool: This bright blue spring-fed pool in the middle of town was full of swimmers—even in January.
South Congress Vintage Shopping: Feathers and Uncommon Objects seemed to be the favorites, but there’s plenty here to keep any shopper happy.

A Baby and a Blizzard

It’s taken me a week to get to this post, but I think of this as a “better late than never” situation because I want to have this here. One day, when I’m very old and my nephew, Patton, is all grown up and having his own babies, I’m going to say, “I’ve got some baby photos of you.”

By then blogs will be obsolete. And he’ll probably be annoyed I don’t have baby holograms of him. But I’ll show him this blog in the same way my own aunt has shown me photo albums and scrapbooks.

So, to the future Patton: You were loved deeply from the second you arrived. And on your one-week birthday, your mom, dad, grandma, and aunt, spent a cozy weekend in a warm Massachusetts house while it poured snow outside in a winter storm the weathermen called Helena. We cuddled you in soft blankets and laughed at your silly faces and chubby cheeks. We watched movies and your dad and I went for walks in the snow. Your parents read books to you and played with you in the sun. And I thought your grandma was going to cry as she rocked you in her arms and kissed you goodbye. You were one seriously lucky kid. But I’m betting you know that by now.

 

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I’ve never been great with the whole resolutions thing. But if anyone can help you resolve stuff, it’s Oprah, right? So this is my 2017 New Year’s Resolution in one quote—to use my gifts and passions to serve others.

I like to look back at years by remembering my favorite travel moments. Mostly because this inspires me to start planning the next year’s destinations. 2016 took me to some of the most interesting and beautiful places I’ve ever been. From right to left and top to bottom, here’s where:

Palmetto Bluff, South Carolina. This was my second trip to this gorgeous property and it’s only become more beautiful. This time, I went with my friend Katie and we had the best time exploring its trails and rivers—and eating for three days straight.

Puerto Rico. The first time I went to Puerto Rico, my experience was a little more bohemian. There were festivals, drinking, exploring—and a pretty violent shooting. This trip to Puerto Rico was all poolside lounging, luxe spas, champagne—and the fear of a high-risk virus. This country is never boring.

Portsmouth, NH. When I was in grad school I interned in DC as a political correspondent for a newspaper in New Hampshire. But until this summer, I’d never set foot in the state. This charming waterside town with its historic buildings and winding streets was a perfect spot to spend a warm summer day.

Hood Canal, WA. Basically everything in Washington State is gorgeous. But the most beautiful scenery I’ve found is when you catch a ferry west from Seattle. Alderbrook Resort, with its cozy interior, gorgeous views, and seemingly endless outdoor options was one of my favorite places I’ve ever been.

Charleston, SC. I never get tired of Charleston—I mean, it’s a beach side town with some of the best food in the country. Hello, dream world. And this summer I stayed at the new hotel, The Restoration, which was amazing. In fact, the word amazing doesn’t do it justice. From its rooftop pool to its chic coffee shop, I wanted to permanently move in.

Caneel Bay, St. John’s. This Caribbean spot had been on my bucket list for years and it didn’t disappoint. I loved its many beaches, crystal clear waters, incredible food, and relaxing vibe. I also went on my best hike of the year there, to the top of a mountain where the view included 360 degrees of other islands and azure blue water as far as you could see.

Los Angeles, CA. I traveled to LA twice this year—once for fun and once for work. Realistically, I’m too innately Southern to be cut out for the West Coast. But man, Southern California. I never get tired of visiting this part of the country.

Palm Springs, CA. Speaking of Southern California, I’m super glad that Palm Springs got popular enough recently to convince myself and two friends to spend a weekend there. We spent three days riding our bikes around, looking at cool architecture, and eating avocado toast. I think we did it right.

Oregon Coast. I spent a weekend last February on the beach in Lincoln City, Oregon. It was one of those places that about every half hour I’d be like “Wow, I’ve seriously never seen anything like this.” Massive waves and stunning beaches. But the drive down from Seattle to the beach was actually the coolest part. Just unreal views.

 

 

 

 

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I’ve had a longstanding obsession with Russia in the first half of the 20th century. It started when I read the book Nina’s Journey the year it came out. That was 1989. I was seven. I can’t imagine why my parents thought it was a good idea for a 7-year-old to read an autobiography from Stalin’s Russia, but that’s an entry for another day. Anyway, my mini-review of my latest read:

The Book: It’s a beautifully told story about a cultured aristocrat who is put under house arrest in Moscow’s most luxurious hotel after the bolsheviks take power. And he remains there for decades—living an incredible life inside its walls.

Favorite Aspect: The food and wine descriptions. This may be the first time I’ve put down a book thinking, “Well, that really left me craving some caviar.” The author makes food and drinks sound as beautiful as any scenery and as charming as any person.

Top quote: “For what matters in life is not whether we receive a round of applause; what matters is whether we have the courage to venture forth despite the uncertainty of acclaim.” So, so true, right?