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This fall I wrote a book. It’s called “Secret Charlotte: A guide to the weird, wonderful, and obscure,” and it’s part of a series of similar books in other cities. The reasons I chose to write this aren’t all that romantic. My publisher from a previous book called and asked if I’d be up for writing it. I said yes because I’m incapable of saying no.

Around October I started hating myself. Books aren’t easy to write in general and this one was especially hard because it required hours (and hours and hours) of research. It’s filled with a mix of old and new quirky stories about Charlotte.

At some point in my writing though something completely unexpected happened: I became obsessed with Charlotte’s past. Charlotte, a town I’ve covered for years, is often accused of destroying its past and covering it up with something shiny. Before, I’d been mildly disturbed by this in the “I wish we hadn’t torn down those old buildings because it’d be nice to have a little more character in that yuppie neighborhood” kind of way.

But when you’ve spent hours reading about the people who shaped a city before you were ever even born, something changes. Now, I drive down streets imagining what they looked like before. When I see old buildings, I wonder who lived there. I notice street names I’ve never considered and wonder who they’re named after—and who named them, and who lived on them, and why they seemingly inexplicably curve at certain points.

I’ve long since turned in the manuscript. But I can’t get enough. This photo was one of my favorites that I dug up. (I think it was from the Observer, but can’t remember.) Every time I look at it, it reminds me of It’s a Wonderful Life. It’s Christmas in 1940, right around when parts of the famed movie took place.

The shot is standing on North Tryon Street at 6th Street looking south into Uptown Charlotte. The Mayfair that’s on the right is now The Dunhill. And Carolina Theater there on the left is now being restored. Learning about the city’s history has made me think about other things when I see this too:

Things like, all those neon signs were so prevalent then that the city thought they were cluttering the streets and declared they needed to be taken down. Ratcliffe’s Flowers was owned by a stubborn war veteran who refused. Today, his former store’s building has been moved up the block, but his sign was declared a historic landmark and still hangs on The Green on South Tryon.

And really even this is just history layered on history. Before the Mayfair Manor (now Dunhill) was built, Tryon Street Methodist Episcopal Church stood on this property. The church though had only had the property since the 1860s. Before that it was owned by a man named Joel Huggins, a slave holder who moved to Texas with two other families around the time he sold the property to the church. (He posted an advertisement in a local newspaper looking for me to help him move his family’s slaves across the country.) Huggins would go on to fight for the Confederacy and survive the war, but die a few years later in 1869.

These are the kinds of rabbit holes I’ve been going down all fall. And now, when I go to dinner at the Dunhill’s Asbury restaurant (named for the original hotel’s architect), I can’t help but think about the hotel’s glory days as the city’s best, and the church there before it, and Huggins before that. (I also can’t help but talk about all this. I’ve become super annoying to hang out with.)

Anyway, I’d write more, but in writing this I’ve become curious about the other two families who moved to Texas with Huggins. So, I’m off to more digging.

 

 

 

Puppy Love

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We don’t know Pawley’s exact birthday, but sometime right around now six years ago this little adorable animal was born somewhere in Gaston County, North Carolina.

I found her about five weeks later. It was a rainy and cold Wednesday in January. My friend Jenn and I took an extra-long lunch and drove to the animal shelter in Gastonia to see about her adopting a dog she’d noticed on their Facebook page. (Six years later, Jenn still only has two cats.)

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But as I waited for Jenn, I noticed a shivering pile of brown and black puppies in one of the outdoor pens. You couldn’t even count them, they were so bundled together, trying to get warm. I asked a nearby worker if I could hold one. Which one? he asked. Any of them, I said.

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He reached into the pile and pulled out Pawley. These have been here awhile, he said. Tomorrow is their last day. And thus the story of how Pawley became the third member of our little family.

She hasn’t always been the easiest dog:

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But Pawley is one of the greatest things to ever happen to me. She shares my adoration for the outdoors and for bacon. She’s my favorite companion for walks and runs. She’s the protector of our little group. And she’s probably taught me more about love than any human.

So, this is my “happy birthday to Pawley” post. And my “if you can, get a rescue” post. Because she’s my best crazy decision.

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Giving Thanks and Eating Cannolis

It’s been one week since Thanksgiving. And it’s taken me this long to have six extra seconds to post about it. Holiday season business is no joke, you guys.

Anyway, Thanksgiving was awesome. Michiel and I went to visit my brother and his wife—who is eight months pregnant!—at their cozy home in the Massachusetts countryside.  The holiday was about 50% sleeping, 40% eating more food than is socially acceptable, and 10% other fun things like hikes in the woods, exploring Concord, Mass. walking around Harvard’s campus, and checking out the Christmas lights in Quincy Market. In my fantasy life, this is how my time would always be split.

 

A Walk in the Woods

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Last week, someone said something in passing to me about how they’d read once that lots of super successful people were solo walkers. Like, historical thinkers enjoyed going on walks alone to clear their heads—and often come up with new ideas.

I couldn’t stop thinking about this. So yesterday afternoon I packed both pups into the car and drove to Crowder’s Mountain for a four-mile hike to its peak.

It was a perfect day for it. The fall colors right now are unbelievably vibrant. And it was one of those perfectly crisp and clear late autumn afternoons. So, I turned off my phone, strapped on their harnesses, and the three of us set out.
It wasn’t all glorious. Rosie has inch-long legs and so today my right arm is sore from carrying a chubby dachshund up half a mountain. Of course, my left arm is sore from holding back Pawley, who would have preferred to not be on a leash and rather chase all forms of wildlife on the mountain. I’m the only person in the world who returns from a hiking trip with sore arms.
But it was pretty wonderful. I don’t think it made me the next Charles Dickens or Mark Zuckerberg. Yet. But consider me sold on how relaxing a walk alone in the woods can be.

California Dreaming (Again)

The entire state of California is basically cost prohibitive for me. But when I’m perusing homes for sale for fun, I inevitably end up there. This house is my latest favorite. It’s in Corte Madera, just north of San Francisco. I love it for the unusual layout, bright rooms, incredible views, and cool modern touches. So, if they could just decrease its price by about  85%, we’d be in business.

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When we were in Palmetto Bluff over the weekend two events were happening. Garden and Gun magazine was holding its annual Made in the South awards. As a magazine editor/fan girl, I was stalking keeping a close eye on that activity/those attendees.

Meanwhile, the rest of the resort seemed to be there to celebrate a wedding between two very stylish New Yorkers—and at least one style blogger guest. Katie was much more focused on that activity. (Seriously. It’s been three days since we returned and she’s still sending me screenshots of Instagram pics from the wedding.)

Both events looked beautiful. The magazine’s party was held under string lights next to the water with oyster shells underfoot and live oaks overhead. The wedding was held under a huge tent in the main square. This photo above is of a section of the backdrop for the band. (Hello, seriously detailed decor.)

I’m not super into weddings, but I love this look. I want it as a running centerpiece on a long table top. Or as a backdrop for a photoshoot. Or just to put in my living room and stare at because it’s so gorgeous. So, I’m posting it here mostly to remember for when I throw my fantasy dinner party. And, of course, just in case you too wanted to just stare at it.

Weekend in Palmetto Bluff/Heaven

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I traveled to Palmetto Bluff this weekend. And it was glorious. This was my second time at this charming resort, which is set on 20,000 acres in the South Carolina Lowcountry, and I’m a little in love with it. Every part of the setting is perfect—from the hundreds of live oaks dripping with Spanish moss to the bright white egrets that perch along the shores of its waterways.

And the resort only enhances the setting. White cottages, tin roofs, and gas-lit paths make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time—but into an incredibly luxurious version of history, complete with endless recreational options, inventive cocktails, and high thread count sheets. Oh, and in case this didn’t already sound like heaven, there are extra-extravagant touches like puppies running around as “canine ambassadors” and a “S’mores Cart” that pulls in so you can roast your own variation of the gooey treat in the riverside firepit every evening (you can’t make this stuff up).

I went with my friend Katie and we had the best time. Highlights included an afternoon kayaking trip, a long morning bike ride, a PB&J cocktail made with peanut-infused bourbon, a fireside pizza-and-wine dinner, and those aforementioned s’mores. Returning to the real world wasn’t easy. Here’s a peek from our trip: