Hammocks Beach/Swansboro

It’s been a while since I’ve written about an excursion. Things have been complicated lately, and other thoughts and concerns have presented distractions. That’s ok. Life happens. But this morning when I got up and saw the sun shining on a beautiful day,  I decided that it was time to go exploring. I called one of my favorite sidekicks, and started the conversation like I often do, “I know it’s late notice, and it’s fine if you’re not interested but…” About two hours later, we were on our way to Hammocks Beach State Park near Swansboro, NC.

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Hammocks Beach consists of 1520 acres. It includes a mainland area that offers a visitors center, lookouts, a launch site for canoes, kayaks and ferries and a hiking trail. It also consists of four barrier islands: Bear Island, Huggins Island, Dudley Island and Jones Island which are accessible by ferry or private boat. Bear Island is the biggest attraction of the four. It is 4 miles long, has a south facing beach and contains hiking trails, as well.

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The history of Hammocks Beach is an interesting one. Originally, it was inhabited by Native Americans. Once the Native Americans migrated northward, pirates moved in and roamed the waters and the islands around the park. During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers used Bear and Huggins Islands to defend the mainland and during WWII, the Coast Guard used the area to monitor for German U-boats. In the early 20th century, the island was acquired by a neurosurgeon from New York named Dr. William Sharpe who willed it to the NC Teachers Association, an organization of African American Teachers. In 1961, they donated the park to the state of North Carolina. Originally intended as a park for minorities, the park was opened to everyone after the Civil Rights Act in 1964. 

(Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammocks_Beach_State_Park)

Since we were at Hammocks Beach Park during the off-season, my friend and I were unable to take the ferry over to Bear Island. We stayed on the mainland, strolled around the museum in the visitors center and went to the lookouts on the grounds. We found the hiking trail but a controlled burn prevented us from walking the entire length of the trail.

We turned our sights to downtown Swansboro which was only about 8 minutes away, and found a restaurant close to the water named Boro. I had delicious Brazilian chicken in a tomato basil wrap with sweet potato fries and slaw. My friend had a burger and fries. The price was pretty affordable as we both paid about $11 and some change for lunch.

Afterwards, we walked the length of Front St where the restaurant was located. Quaint shops lined the street along the water. We found a candy shop called Candy Edventure and I bought some peanut butter chocolate fudge.

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They also sold scorpion suckers…

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and ant suckers…

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but I opted not to try those. (I can’t think why) (Eww).

With fudge in hand, we strolled back up the street and slipped into a coffee shop/bar named Bake, Bottle & Brew.  I figured that a cup of coffee would go really well with my dessert. It ended up being my favorite place on that little strip.

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With our bellies full and our sense of adventure satisfied, we headed home. I’m thinking that I may go back during the summer to see what those places are like during the busy season, but I really enjoyed hanging out there today while everything was kind of quiet, too.

Until next time..:)

A Day in Charleston

Recently, I took a day trip to Charleston with a couple of friends. It was not our original plan, to be honest. We had originally planned to go hiking in Dupont Forest. Mother Nature had other ideas, however, and it rained at Dupont during the time of our trip. It did not, however, rain on the coast that day so we re-calculated and went to Charleston instead- which of course was still a lovely day.

 

On our excursion, we stayed around the downtown Charleston area. There is so much to do in that area that we found plenty of sites to see on our day trip. A friend of mine arrived prepared, having printed a map of downtown Charleston, and from there we made our selections. We parked near Waterfront Park and met at the Pineapple Fountain. From there, we wandered down to Rainbow Row then decided to tour the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon.

 

Afterwards, we started looking around for a place to eat. One of my friends was a vegetarian so we walked from restaurant to restaurant reading menus on windows until we settled on the Sweetwater Cafe.  I had a delicious tuna melt on sourdough with a side salad and sweet tea. My friends both had breakfast dishes. We discussed our next move over lunch. The City Market was close by so we decided to go there next. There were hundreds of vendors at the market with a plethora of unique and beautiful items, including the famed sweetwater baskets of Charleston. I bought a couple of small gifts. I might have bought more but I was traveling on foot and knew that I would have to carry the bags.

 

After the City Market, we went to visit the horses. Charleston, like so many historic cities, offers carriage tours. We had heard that the public was welcome to visit the horses-carriage ride or not-just to say hello so we found a stable and met this beautiful guy, who was resting when we stopped by.

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The remainder of our trip was pretty much a self-guided walking tour to view old buildings that we thought might be of interest. We saw some churches

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cemeteries

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and an old prison.

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We also saw some beautiful historic homes. One thing I loved about Charleston is that, even though the homes are beautiful, they aren’t always uniform. There’s a “Charleston style” that carries throughout the city, but I literally saw homes side by side of different styles and colors, and the effect was charming.

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Before we ended our day, we treated ourselves to a Belgian Gelato. I chose chocolate hazelnut. It was delish! Full of gelato, we wandered back to our cars and prepared for the drive home. I looked at my phone and saw that we had walked 7 miles throughout the day. I guess we got in our hike, anyway.

Greensboro Writer’s Conference

This weekend, I did something very writery and attended the NC Writer’s Spring Conference. Located at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, the conference offered exhibits and book sales, a choice of one morning and one afternoon workshop, faculty readings, open Mike readings and more.

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It was actually a busy weekend in Greensboro as an annual Furniture Market was also taking place. After driving over three hours to Greensboro on Friday afternoon, I was glad to have secured a room early at the local Hyatt as rooms were scarce and overpriced in response to the crowds.  While I sat at the hotel bar sipping a rum and coke and dining on chili and spinach salad, I overheard a few people at the front desk trying to get a room, only to be told that there were no rooms available. I felt very fortunate for mine.

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I slept well on Friday and arrived at the conference on Saturday morning early enough to peruse the exhibit tables. Small publishers and independent bookstores filled their tables with books from NC authors that they had published or were affiliated. A few of them offered information on writing contests. I met a woman who offered to put my name on an email list for an online critique group for people who write children’s books.

 

Next, I attended my first workshop at the conference. The topic was building poems that editors will publish. In the workshop, we discussed lyricism in poetry and finding one’s unique voice as a poet. The author and editor leading the workshop gave us some insight on what she looks for when she screens poems for her press.

 

Afterwards, we broke for lunch. I had never been to the UNCG campus so I googled restaurants close by. There were two within walking distance. As I stood inside the Old Town Draught House, a fellow workshopper from Charlotte, Reita, offered me a look at her menu. A gentleman behind us told us that in order to be served we simply needed to sit down at the bar. We decided to sit together and order. I dined on the Turkey melt with veggies and sweet tea and conversed with Reita over lunch. By the time we finished eating, we had exchanged contact information. We walked back to the workshop and parted ways. I went on to listen to a few faculty readings.

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My afternoon workshop, geared towards children’s authors, was titled “Exercising the Imagination”.  We discussed ways to tap into our personal passions and take our stories in new directions. The author leading the workshop gave us some ideas for exercises that we could use to access our imaginations. He was also a good source of information regarding future conferences.

 

Before I left for the day, I decided to pick up a book from both of my workshop presenters. They were on sale at the exhibit tables and were reasonably priced. Running Music  by Crystal Simone Smith is a book of poems and The Nine Pound Hammer  by John Claude Bemis is a YA fantasy book that explores American mythology. I look forward to reading them both.

 

Before I hit the road, I googled the closest Starbuck’s and picked up a Starbuck’s Mocha and a cookie. Probably not so wise as I’m trying to lose a little weight, but I’ll start over tomorrow. I had a long ride ahead of me and kind of wanted something special to take the edge off the commute.

I’m really glad I went to the conference this weekend. It was a great source of instruction and information, and I met a lot of pleasant people. Plus it was empowering. I don’t often travel alone overnight and it was kind of nice to go on my own. It was also nice to take another step towards fulfilling my desire to be a writer.   

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Food and Such

So as I wrap up the topics I decided to explore during Lent, I come to food. This year, I decided to go Pescatarian for Lent. It wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. I live on the coast and have access to a lot of fresh seafood so I guess I have an advantage there. Also, even though I like pork and beef, it was not difficult for me to give them up. I’m sure this varies from person to person but for me, it was not very difficult. As it turns out, that is a good thing. A few weeks ago, we had biometric testing at my job through our insurance company. My cholesterol was 225, the highest it has ever been, so even though I will no longer be as strict with my diet after today, I still plan to go light on beef and pork and even shrimp, and incorporate more fish in my diet. This is a blessing for some of the pigs and cows, and truthfully, I’m happy for them.

Following, are some pictures of the dishes and information on places I’ve eaten over the last several weeks in case you are interested:

Crab Cakes and Shrimp Parmesan: I visited Gulfstream Restaurant at Carolina Beach, NC with a friend of mine for a birthday dinner. I had the crab cakes and my friend had the shrimp. Gulfstream, which is family operated, has been open for 35 years and was a location site for the TV series “Six”.

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Mahi Tacos: Kickback Jack’s . I know it’s ironic to push a dish from a sports bar when you are trying to eat healthy, but I can’t stay home all the time, can I? These babies were so good I had to pull the picture off of the website as I forgot to take it not once but twice because I started eating before I remembered.

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This is a healthier dish. You quickly learn to supplement your diet with eggs for protein when you give up other kinds of meat. I’ve transitioned to egg whites part of the time, in the interest of keeping cholesterol down. They will be good for omelets and such, but good egg salad requires yolk. My mother made me this meal for lunch one day when I went to visit and it was perfect.

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I put this little concoction together one night with some lettuce, a can of Bumble Bee chipotle-flavored tuna and some fat-free shredded cheese. It’s easy:

Drain can of tuna, add a dash of mayo (if you want to-I did to cool off the chipotle a bit), top with cheddar cheese, microwave for 20 seconds and place on a bed of lettuce. Delicious and easy.

Have a great weekend, all!

Eating (drinking) up the stash

So today, which is almost yesterday (it’s 11:56 pm), I cleaned out my cooler to prepare for my delivery from The Produce Box. I mentioned previously that I subscribe to a service called The Produce Box which delivers fresh local produce to my door every Thursday. This morning, while wiping down my cooler, I decided to take inventory of what I already had. When I did, I realized that I still had quite a bit of produce left over from the delivery last week. I needed to eat it so that it would not go bad and before I received another full box. This led me to look into some creative ways to use the old produce before digging into the new batch. Fortunately, until Easter, I am eating a strong vegetarian diet supplemented by fish and eggs so if I have to eat a lot of veggies to clean out my refrigerator, this is the season to do it.

 

One of the best ways to consume large quantities of fruits and veggies is to make smoothies. I love smoothies and have found that you can dump a large variety of items into a blender and still create a yummy smoothie. Today, I created a smoothie, which I actually named, using some items in my refrigerator that desperately needed to be eaten.  I figured I would share it with you. Here it is:

 

Wendy’s Mint Chocolate Strawberry-Banana Smoothie

Blend:

Chocolate almond milk (about a cup…or so 🙂

5 strawberries (that’s how many were still good)

A banana

About 5 little mint leaves

A few leaves of collards

Ice cubes

 

It was delicious. I looked up the ingredients on My Fitness Pal and found that my little concoction is about 250 calories, has no cholesterol and is packed with vitamin C.

 

I still have quite a bit of mint left over. I definitely do not want that to go bad so I started looking for creative ways to use my mint. I found that I can dry it in the oven and use it for teas and also for, get this, insect repellent. Apparently, ants and flies do not like mint. So tomorrow, I will pull out the freshest mint leaves and make some mint water with them. Then I think I’m going to dry the leaves that look to be in peril, use some of them for tea and sprinkle the rest around as a repellent. Why not? Below are some links that offer creative ways to use mint in case anyone is interested. And below that is a picture of my delicious smoothie.

http://www.naturallivingideas.com/21-ways-to-use-mint/

http://www.meghantelpner.com/blog/10-amazing-things-you-can-do-with-mint/

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Well, it’s Friday now so Happy Friday y’all! I hope to post on my 2nd of seven churches this weekend.