Thursday, September 29, 2011

Recap Purgatory

We're rounding the bend on our two-month anniversary, and so far, there's not a wedding recap in sight.  I wish I could tell you that they're in the works, but that would be a big ol' lie.  Here's the facts.  I'd love to get started on my recaps yesterday.  We have our professional pictures back and minus our thank-you notes, our wedding has officially come to a close.  However, wanting to do recaps in the very near future and doing recaps in the very near future are two most clearly different concepts.

Truthfully speaking, I'm getting clobbered by my current schedule.  I'm struggling with my simultaneous transition into a new semester (my last semester!) and a new job.  When I'm not feverishly trying to catch up on some homework or sleep, I'm trying my best to transition into that third new frontier - the whole marriage thing.  Unfortunately, all of this newness consumes a hearty portion of my schedule.  At this point, I don't feel like I have the blocks of time necessary to outline, write, and add photos to all the recaps I would hope to produce while maintaining a quality that I desire.  This tug-of-war between wanting and being able to is what has landed me in recap purgatory.

All of this, "Woe is me, how on earth could I possibly be expected to handle school and a job and a voluntary hobby all at once?!" actually has a purpose, I swear.  The way I see it, there's two options for recapping the Snow Cone wedding. 

Option A: I can start the recaps ASAP without any promise whatsoever of regular or frequent recap posts.  Sure, I could whip up something this week, but the next one may not be for 2-3 weeks, if not longer.
Option B: I can hold off on starting the recaps until my life settles down a bit (likely the winter holiday season).  Despite the delay, once the recap train leaves the station, it will be most certainly chugging full steam ahead. 

I honestly don't know which of these choices is more appealing to me as a writer or to you as a reader.  For that reason, I'm asking anyone who's inclined to vote to indicate which style of recap pacing you'd prefer.  This feedback won't be only for myself; I know other bees are interested to hear what the mass consensus is on this topic. Help a blogger out, take a few seconds, and let me know how you take your recaps - slooooooow and (maybe) steady, or delayed and frequent?

How do you prefer your recaps?
 Quick start, spotty frequency
 Delayed start, high frequency free polls 

Monday, September 19, 2011

The SCs in SC: The grand finale

After our sailing adventure, we finally reached our last day of the honeymoon.  Determined to make the most of it, we hit the beach early, getting what will likely be our last taste of the Atlantic Ocean until next summer.

We laid in the sun most of the day, reading through our respective beach books.  His:
Image via Amazon

Image via Amazon

After getting our last hours of sun, we cleaned up and headed into Charleston for our final dinner.  We had a really hard time picking a restaurant for our last hurrah - we wanted it to be undeniably good (which, at that point in the trip, every meal had been), but no menus were jumping out at us.  Finally, after evaluating our options, we went with our guts and made reservations at Magnolias.  Before setting foot in Magnolias, though, we popped into its sister restaurant, Blossom for some pre-dinner cocktails - white sangria for Mr. Snow Cone and a glass of Cava for me.  

Once we downed our drinks, we entered Magnolias, hoping it would live up to all of the hype we'd been hearing for the past few days, weeks, and months.  I'm not even going to beat around the bush - this restaurant completely blew us away.  Both Mr. Snow Cone and I agreed that our meals at Magnolias were the best-tasting dishes we've ever eaten.  Everything was perfectly balanced, flavorful, rich, and delicious.  Our service was outstanding and the meal was expertly paced.  I'm not even kidding you when I say that I get a little pit of bittersweet nostalgia in my stomach every time I think of that meal.  It was so perfect, and it's a bummer to think that it will likely be quite a while until we get the pleasure of dining there again.  

Anyhow, onto the food!  We were greeted with celebratory champagne and strawberries, which started the meal off on a fantastic note.  For appetizers, Mr. Snow Cone had their blue crab bisque,
Image via RoadFood

while I opted for their signature plate of a "Down South Egg Roll," which actually graces the cover of the restaurant's cookbook:

The really impressive part of the meal came during the entrees.  Over the course of the trip, I had developed an affinity for the local standard of shrimp and grits, to the point where I'd ordered it three times in less than a week.  Before going to Magnolias, I promised myself and Mr. Snow Cone that I would not order shrimp and grits a fourth time, since that would be beyond excessive.  That vow flew right out the window when I read the description of Magnolias' take on the classic dish, which expanded on my beloved shrimp and grits by adding scallops and lobster.  How could I not?!  

Image via Grits and More
 It was divine.  Rich, melt-in-your-mouth, best-thing-you-ever-ate divine.  I also paired it with a side of macaroni and cheese because I was unwilling to leave the South without some classic m&c.  The shellfish and grits made the macaroni and cheese look like simple child's play in the food world, and that's quite the statement from a macaroni lover like myself!

Mr. Snow Cone ordered one of the restaurant's signature entrees, Parmesan-crusted flounder.

He had pretty much an identical reaction to mine.  After all of the delicious and outstanding meals we'd enjoyed over the week, he was still unfaltering in giving his meal at Magnolias the top honor.  Practically a month later, we still ooh and aah over our dishes!

Finally, as if we hadn't consumed enough calories over the first two courses, we of course decided to get dessert.  Mr. Snow Cone kept it relatively light with some strawberry ice cream, while I kept it more than relatively heavy with a cream cheese pecan brownie.  Probably not a better way to wrap up your honeymoon than eating thousands upon thousands of calories, right? 

 Before saying a difficult good-bye to our beloved Magnolias

The next morning we woke up and began to prepare for our trek to the airport.  As one last special treat, we booked a couple's massage at Wild Dunes's spa, Sand & Sea Salon.  Neither of us had ever gotten a massage before this, so I think we were both a little eager to see how it would all go.  At first it was a little uncomfortable, since you don't normally frequent rooms with very dim lighting and quiet, soothing music.  Once we got situated on our massage beds, though, the relaxation took over.  We were both like jelly when we left, undoubtedly satisfied with our inaugural massages.  With the beach, the food, and massages still on our mind, we headed to the airport, and before we knew it, we were back in Pittsburgh, marveling at the unbelievable honeymoon we just had the luxury of enjoying.  I have no doubt that we'll be back to Charleston in the near future.

I think my long-winded love for Magnolias speaks for itself.  For the married folk, what was the highlight of your honeymoon?  For the engaged audience, what are you most looking forward to on your upcoming getaway?

(all photos personal unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The SCs in SC: Jibs, booms, and tacking, oh my!

We knew going into the honeymoon that Mr. Snow Cone and I have very different vacation techniques.  I'm perfectly content to grab a good book and an icy beverage, plop myself down in a beach chair, and not stir for the rest of the day.  Mr. Snow Cone, on the other hand, is much more active - he likes adventure and experience and fatigue.  Given how much time we had spent lazing about on the beach, I decided it was probably time to give him a relatively active afternoon, so I let him pick whatever outdoor activity he wanted, and we'd give it a go.  Earlier in the trip he'd noticed a brochure for a sailing lesson, so once he got the go-ahead to pick an activity, it didn't take long for us to make our reservations and head out to the marina.

We took a private three-hour sailing lesson with OnDeck, an international sailing company with a branch in Charleston.  We didn't necessarily intend for it to be a private lesson; we just lucked into a little privacy because no one else booked our same time slot!  Mr. Snow Cone got tasked with steering while I working the ropes while we tacked.  It was definitely not easy for a weakling like me, but I managed to get through it.  We switched positions temporarily, but I quickly realized that steering was not my strong suit.  I decided a little manual labor was better than a lot of mental labor, so Mr. Snow Cone gladly took his steering job back from me.  We spent a lot of time learning basic sailing jargon and technique while we scooted around Charleston Harbor.  Unfortunately for us, with Irene's impending arrival, a lot of the winds had been sucked out to sea to join the brewing hurricane, so the air was a little still, resulting in some slow goings on the sailing front.  Nevertheless, we made the best of it, using the most of every little breeze we could.  Even when we were sitting instead of sailing, we had some great scenery all around us, like gorgeous blue water,

 the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge,
and the USS Yorktown.

Even though the wind shortage didn't necessarily make for an action-packed sailing adventure, I think Mr. Snow Cone's thirst for vacation activity was still satisfied.  Just look at that grin!

After a sunny three hours and lots of sailing education, we returned to land.  We ate at Red's Ice House, a local joint with some awesome seafood, pulled right from the water the restaurant overlooks.  All that sailing helped us build up quite the appetite; we managed to polish off a hearty amount of shrimp, crab legs, and fried oysters without breaking much of a sweat.

So, if marriage is all about compromise, I think the Snow Cones did a pretty good job of using our honeymoon as a kick-start to a great marriage - a little bit of relaxation for me, a little bit of activity for him, and a ton of happiness for the two of us!

Did you do anything new or adventurous on your honeymoon?

Monday, September 12, 2011

The SCs in SC: You and me, and hurricane makes three!

After a rainy day, Mr. Snow Cone and I were excited to see sunshine coming through our windows the next morning.  Our happiness didn't last very long, though, as we casually turned on the television to discover a startling image.

Yep, that's Irene, our honeymoon third-wheeler.  Earlier in the week, we had heard that Charleston could be hit by something that was maybe going to be a mild hurricane, but definitely not until Saturday evening at the latest.  At that point, we decided not to worry about it, since we were scheduled to be out of Charleston by Saturday night.  So, imagine our discontent upon seeing this revised forecast on our television - Category 3 hurricane with 115 mile per hour winds, hitting Charleston pretty darned directly, on Saturday morning.  

We wrung our hands and pouted for a few minutes before deciding that we didn't want to get caught up in a tidal wave of people trying to revise flight plans as the storm drew nearer.  With heavy hearts, we decided to end our stay in Charleston about 24 hours early, flying out on Friday instead of Saturday, hoping to avoid Irene's wrath as much as we could.  

Inspired to make the most of what abbreviated time we had remaining, we headed into Charleston for an afternoon full of sightseeing. 
Miraculously, it was a perfect 75 degrees as we spent the hottest hours of the day traipsing around the city!  We took our second carriage ride of the trip, this time using a group tour to get a more complete understanding of the city's architecture and history.

We saw the city's landmark church, that tilts a bit due to a 19th century earthquake,
 and itty bitty side streets that were originally designed for a horse and buggy,
and old-fashioned architecture with buildings that are only one room wide,
 and houses with detached kitchens to beat the heat prior to the invention of air conditioning,
 and Charleston's oldest building (a liquor store),
 and weaponry left over from the Civil War,
 and houses that cost $8 million and are still considered "small" compared to their neighbors,
 and the street Mel Gibson rides down during the beginning scenes of The Patriot.
For anyone who visits Charleston, I highly recommend doing a historical carriage ride through the city; it was one of the highlights of our trip.  The guide was very knowledgeable and personable, making it a really pleasant way to spend an hour while learning about your surroundings.

Before coming to South Carolina, we had decided that we wanted to invest in a piece of art as our premiere souvenir, rather than collecting knick-knacks all over the place.  Without any rhyme or reason, we decided to pop into the Gordon Wheeler gallery that we stumbled upon.  We immediately fell in love with his style of art and how "Charleston-y" it looked to us.  It didn't take us long to decide on a winner that fell in a price range we were comfortable with.
"On Meeting" by Gordon Wheeler

After getting robbed a day by Irene, we were really, really excited to find a piece of art that we both loved and would be a treasured keepsake in our home for years to come, always reminding us of our fantastic trip to Charleston.

Finally, to cap off our lovely day in the downtown area, we enjoyed some martinis at Squeeze, a tiny but trendy bar, before eating our weight in seafood (yet again) at High Cotton.  We noshed on fried oysters, surf and turf, and shrimp and grits before waving our stomach's white flags of surrender.  For what started off as a cruddy morning, the day resurrected itself beautifully.  Even though we were losing a day on the tail end of our trip, with days like this one, we knew we were getting the most out of our experience in the South.

Did your honeymoon get boogered up due to some less-than-stellar weather?

(all photos personal unless otherwise noted)

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The SCs in SC: "The weather has been unbelievable."

Before our honeymoon, when people learned we were going to South Carolina in August, most individuals chose to inform us of exactly how hot it would be down there.  Um, yes.  That was a big part of the reason we chose to go to a southern state for our honeymoon - we wanted to be warm and be able to relax on the beach. We realistically expected it to be borderline unbearably hot and humid during our stay, so imagine our surprise when the first few days of our honeymoon were, dare I say, comfortable!  And then, it happened.  As we were sitting on the beach on Monday morning, and Mr. Snow Cone declared, "The weather has been unbelievable.  If it rains the rest of the trip, I still think our overall trip weather would be a pretty good."  As a firm believer in jinxing yourself, I immediately scolded him and wrote his comment off.

That afternoon, we decided to tear ourselves away from the beach long enough to experience some local culture and history by visiting a South Carolina plantation.  We opted to go to Boone Hall Plantation, as it was the closest plantation to our resort and it boasted some original architecture from the Civil War era, which was a big draw for us.  After getting there, we discovered that we weren't the only ones smitten with the scenery at the plantation; multiple movies have been filmed there, including The Notebook.  The landscaping was gorgeous; I really enjoyed the plantation's pecan trees that were over 100 years old.

Even though I do love a good pecan, I have to say that the plantation's most impressive landscaping feature was a long road lined with gigantic Oak trees.

After scoping out the grounds, we decided to watch a presentation on local Gullah Gullah culture, highlighting the history, language, and music that pervaded plantations during the 1800s.  The presentation included an interactive portion, calling for volunteers from the audience to participate in a music demonstration.  Bravely, Mr. Snow Cone decided to participate, showing off his natural sense of rhythm.
We also toured the original slave cabins, which gave us an interesting perspective on slave culture on a Southern plantation.

Remember Mr. Snow Cone's ill-advised comment about the awesome weather we'd experienced up to this point?  Well, it definitely came back to bite us in the butt.  We were preparing to tour the plantation's mansion when I checked the weather on my phone.  It read, "Severe thunderstorms developing directly over Boone Hall Plantation."  Awesome.  Sure enough, in about three minutes, we went from this:
... to looking at this:

It poured.  And gusted.  We sought refuge in a tiny little visitor's center to wait it out.  After about an hour of "waiting it out," we were debating whether to cut and run when we heard a large crack and saw a bit of a blur in our periphery.  We looked over just in time to see a large pecan tree fall to the ground.  Apparently it was nearly 150 years old and was just too aged to survive the storm.
As the visitor center's employee was lamenting the destruction of a "piece of history," we decided that enough was enough, and we'd had our fill of thunderstorms and plantations.  We headed back to the resort to relax before checking out a cool local restaurant for some killer seafood.  Unfortunately, the severe thunderstorms just kept coming, so we decided to play it safe and stay on the resort for dinner.  Twist our arms, we headed back to our beloved Sea Island Grill for some light fare before calling it a night, hoping the worst of the bad weather was behind us.

Anyone else visit a place connected with a famous movie on your honeymoon?

(all photos personal)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

The SCs in SC: Introducing... Wild Dunes!

We woke up on Saturday, ready to get the next chapter of our honeymoon underway!  After a leisurely breakfast of leftover dessert, we hopped into the car and drove about 20 minutes to a nearby barrier island called Isle of Palms.  This picturesque little island became our stomping ground for the next week, with Wild Dunes serving as our home base.  We pulled up to the resort's main entrance and were immediately giddy and excited to check out the resort and all it had to offer.  After checking in, we made a bee-line for the ocean.  We didn't decide to stay at a beach resort without the intention of spending as much time as humanly possible within sight of the crashing waves!  We grabbed a quick lunch and a celebratory cocktail before hitting the sand, eager to lap up as much sunny relaxation as we could squeeze in.

It wasn't much after that point that our villa became available.  Upon opening the door, we both let out a big, happy sigh and let goofy grins spread across our faces.  Our villa's foyer had an oversized picture window looking right out onto the Atlantic Ocean.  It was unbelievable.  Unfortunately, we didn't have too much time to soak in the view, as we had to get ready for our dinner at the resort's signature restaurant, Sea Island Grill.  I'm not going to lie -- we decided to eat here because we got a deal on a dinner package as a result of being guests at the resort.  We decided to use the package on our first day at the resort to avoid going back and forth to downtown Charleston twice in one day.  I kind of wrote that dinner off as one of our lower-key, potentially less memorable meals of the trip.  I'm happy to report that I was 100% wrong on all fronts.  Our meal at Sea Island Grill was utterly divine.  I enjoyed she-crab bisque and the most tender steak I've ever had, while Mr. Snow Cone dined on a poached pear salad that he still won't stop talking about and Grouper.  Simply stated, we were blown away by Sea Island Grill and would gladly have eaten there multiple times during our stay.

We devoted most of Sunday to living the beach bum life, snoozing on towels and cooling off in the ocean.  It was exactly the type of honeymoon we always wanted.  No set schedule, no big responsibilities, no need to worriedly keep an eye on the time.  Furthermore, our villa had virtually no cell phone service with AT&T.  Despite the minor inconvenience this posed at times, I think it actually helped to further our relaxation and seclusion.  No need (or ability) to check email, update Facebook, or call anyone.  It was just me, Mr. Snow Cone, and the beach.  Pure bliss.

After letting our brains turn to sun-friend mush, we popped over to Charleston to meet one of Mr. Snow Cone's cousins and her husband for dinner.  Mr. Snow Cone is supremely Italian, so it was only fitting that we dined at Monza, a little Italian restaurant with amazing pizza, while visiting with members of his family.  I have to say, unlike many Italian meals, this dinner actually left me appropriately satisfied satisfied instead of completely stuffed in every capacity.  With mozzarella and marinara running through our veins, we retired to Wild Dunes, completely unprepared for the turn of events the next 48 hours would bring.

What pleasant surprises (like our awesome meal at Sea Island Grill) did you discover on your honeymoon?

(all photos personal)

Monday, September 5, 2011

The SCs in SC: The royal treatment

After our ginormous lunch, we decided to try to take a stroll around downtown Charleston to get the lay of the land.  We browsed in some antiques shops, some art galleries, and the city's downtown market before deciding our full bellies and the South Carolina heat were too much.  We headed back to the hotel, eager for some air-conditioning and relaxation.  As we were introduced to our room, it became very clear that the attention to detail was not limited to the hotel's front desk.  We had a congratulations card and a half-bottle of champagne waiting for us, which pretty much served as a sumptuous cherry on top of a glorious, gorgeous room. 

Our room wasn't overly spacious; however, what it may have lacked in square footage it more than made up for in amenities.  The bathroom was huge, the closets had the ever-awesome hotel robes, and the bed, ohhh the bed.  It was gigantic, and it had some of the most impressive linens I've ever experienced.  This is the only equivalent I can think of:

Image via We Heart It; Art from Disney

After getting cleaned up for dinner, we headed downstairs to the hotel's signature restaurant - The Peninsula Grill.  As soon as we claimed our reservation, the hostess immediately responded with a "Oh, hello Mr. and Mrs. Snow Cone!  Congratulations on your wedding!" which impressed us, to say the least.  As our dinner went on, though, it became clear that we were going to be impressed for the entirety of the evening.  Every single staff member called us Mr. and Mrs. Snow Cone and offered their congratulations.  We feasted on delicious seafood course after course, before finishing the meal with desserts that greeted us like this:

Needless to say, we polished most of those off and wrapped the leftovers up for breakfast the next morning.  We left dinner the exact same way we left lunch - totally stuffed, totally satisfied, and totally impressed.  

But we had more to accomplish after dinner than just digestion - Mr. Snow Cone had arranged a private carriage ride for us to enjoy!  There was a minor miscommunication in the booking process, resulting in our carriage arriving an hour later than anticipated, which was not a problem in the slightest.  We walked out of the hotel and saw what would be touring us around the streets of Charleston.
That's right, an illuminated pumpkin carriage.  Apparently we were supposed to have a more traditional horse and buggy set-up, but with the error in booking, we got assigned this bad boy.  A little campy, for sure, but I was totally eating it up.  I may have had a mild to severe obsession with Disney princesses in my younger years, so the opportunity to pretty much live Cinderella's life for part of the evening was a nostalgic dream come true for me.  Our ride around the city was very nice, with dozens of people pointing, taking pictures, yelling congratulations, and being totally jealous of our sweet ride.  I mean, can you blame them?

Once the ride ended, we decided we were undoubtedly pooped, so we headed back to our yummy room for some even yummier sleep.  Between the princess-y bed and the princess-y carriage ride, the first evening of the honeymoon fulfilled two pretty substantial fantasies of this Disney fanatic.  Oh, and the sublime service each and every step of the way didn't hurt, either.

What wowed you on your honeymoon?  Anyone else ever been lucky enough to take a princess carriage ride?

(all photos personal unless otherwise noted)