Illuminating Christmas

I love decorating for Christmas, and I especially love Christmas lights.

Christmas Eve 2013 -- Felicity, left, and Bailey
Christmas Eve 2013 — Felicity, left, and Bailey

Last year Christmas at our house looked like this (including darling granddaughters).







This year, there’s no room for a tree in this condo, and living as nomads, of course none of our ornaments are with us anyway. Here’s our Christmas Tree this year.

Christmas Tree 2014
Christmas Tree 2014


Glass of Christmas LightInstead, this year we have drinking glasses with dollar-store lights stuffed in them on various end tables and counters, which is more festive than you might think, but still. I’m enjoying lights wherever I can find them.

Taco Boy, Folly Beach
Taco Boy, Folly Beach

Last Friday night we went to dinner at Taco Boy, here on Folly Beach, because it had a few fun lights and looked quirky enough to pique our interest. Plus I haven’t quite satisfied my craving for Mexican food. Mediocre margaritas, I’m sorry to report. The fish tacos were not bad, but the lights were better. I’m not certain they were all to do with Christmas, but look how fun they are . . .

Taco Boy lights
Taco Boy lights

And the wall of masks is pretty great, too . . .

Taco Boy, Folly Beach
Taco Boy, Folly Beach

By the time we left, I still hadn’t had my fill of Christmas lights, so instead of heading straight home, we decided to follow some signs we’d noticed advertising a holiday light show. It turned out to be the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park . . .

James Island County Park
Sand sculpture celebrating the Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park

. . . which is apparently a big deal around here. It was mobbed, even at $15 per car. Not quite Cavalcade de La Rochelle, but reasonably entertaining, especially for children, with more than 700 light displays, many of them moving and changing. My favorite was this beautiful blue tree reflected on the pond . . .

Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park
Holiday Festival of Lights at James Island County Park

This evening the sun set on a day of pouring rain, gloomy as can be outside. So I’m especially thankful to be inside, having a glass of wine with David and enjoying our dollar-store decor and tea lights on a tray, in place of the usual shimmering tree and blazing fire. Of course, even dollar-store lights shine, and they’re beautiful to me.

A few bonus thoughts about light:

Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.∼Desmond Tutu

Every man must decide whether he will walk in the light of creative altruism or in the darkness of destructive selfishness.∼Martin Luther King, Jr.

There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.∼Edith Wharton

Wishing you light and life this Christmas!






Middleton Place

I decided I couldn’t wait to show you Middleton Place . . .

Middleton Place
Middleton Place

. . . a local rice plantation first settled in the 17th century, so I’ll save other Folly fun for later. This past Saturday afternoon was absolutely glorious, so we drove out to Middleton Place, because we’d heard the grounds were fabulous . . .

Live Oaks at Middleton Place
Live Oaks at Middleton Place

. . . which, as you can see, is absolutely true. The live oaks were huge and spectacular . . .

Live Oak over Pond Middleton Place EnhancedLive Oaks at Middleton PlaceCircle Trees Middleton Place

. . . the waterfowl were cooperatively posing . . .

Great Egret at Middleton Place
Great Egret at Middleton Place

. . . and a few paperwhites and camellias were even in bloom.

Blue Heron
Blue Heron

Paperwhites at Middleton Place

Camellia at Middleton Place
Camellia at Middleton Place

There was also a lovely little restaurant. We got there just in time to catch the end of the lunch service and had a cup of She-Crab soup, of course, but also shared a Fried Green Tomato sandwich–YUM!

Aside from the grounds and restaurant, there were also artisans in the workshops demonstrating work that would have been done on the plantation. Here’s the cooper . . .

Doug Nesbit, the cooper at Middleton Place
Doug Nesbit, the cooper at Middleton Place

. . . an absolutely charming gentleman who spends his days giving history lessons to tourists and making barrels and buckets like the ones you see on his work table. There was also a potter and a woman who dips candles and grinds corn with two huge grooved circular stones. I was so fascinated–and distracted by the peacocks in the rafters waiting for spilled corn–I forgot to take a picture.

One thing I appreciated about these artisans, aside from their skill, is that they always used the term “enslaved Africans” instead of the simpler “slaves” which struck me as a more respectful, honest treatment of the hard fact of how this particular part of American prosperity came to be.

Slave Graveyard at Middleton Place
One of the Slave Graveyards at Middleton Place

Let me never forget those whose lives were not–or are not now–filled with days of ease and adventure.

From an old hymn:

Comfort, comfort ye my people,
speak ye peace, thus saith our God;
comfort those who sit in darkness,
mourning ‘neath their sorrow’s load; 

Words: Johann G. Olearius, 1671
∼Translation: Catherine Winkworth, 1863

I wish you comfort and peace this Christmas season, and I wish for you an abundance of opportunities to share the same with all those you encounter.


Charming Charleston

Charleston is a very photogenic city, from the Arthur Ravenal Jr. Bridge we had to cross (and recross) when we got here . . .

Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, South Carolina
Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge, Charleston, South Carolina

. . . to the multitude of intriguing little alleys . . .

Alley Mirror Charleston

Brick Alley Narrow





Brick Alley 2


Diagonal Tile Alley


Christmas Gas Lamp

Lots of brick–which I love–and even cobblestones on some streets. And of course now it’s all decorated for Christmas. So even though most of the trees still have green leaves on them, and there are palm trees everywhere, there’s a gaslight glow to everything–which, okay, is probably here all year, but it goes really well with all the poinsettias and red ribbons and ornaments.

Chrismas Courtyard

Then there’s the food. There’s a reason you always hear about southern cooking. We stopped in here early Friday evening a week ago . . .

Southend Brewery & Smokehouse, Charleston
Southend Brewery & Smokehouse, Charleston

. . . originally just for a glass of wine, but the aroma of BBQ was so enchanting, we decided to stay and eat. A local specialty is She-Crab Soup, so we each started with a cup of that. Words fail me. Maybe it was the combination of the wine and the ambiance of the roaring wood fire combined with the transporting redolence of barbecue, or maybe just the drizzle of sherry on top, but it was so amazingly delicious, we  were actually startled. What? Seriously. YUM. Then Shrimp & Grits for David and Famous Smoked BBQ Chicken Brick Oven Pizza for me, most of which we took home. A little too much southern deliciousness for one meal.

Then we wandered a bit more, happening upon the French Quarter Friday Night Art Walk, which was fortunate, as it only happens four times a year. Lots of great art, plus free food and wine, but of course, we had already eaten. Oops. So maybe not so fortunate, since we didn’t need the food and wine and the galleries were more crowded than usual, but there was a fun festive atmosphere everywhere.

Charleston and the Low Country seem to bring out the creative side of people, for me primarily with photography at the moment. I’ve taken so many photos, you should probably prepare yourself for a few more frequent posts while I get caught up. We’re definitely NOT sitting in the condo. We’ve been out and about having all kinds of adventures.

Hope you are too!


Unexpected Folly Beach

After our boomerang start, we are now finally settled in the condo in the Folly Beach area of Charleston, SC. Remember when I said here we’d have easier access to higher ground? Well, I had forgotten that this area is called the Low Country. There’s a reason. It’s just as low and flat as the Outer Banks. Dry so far, though, unless you count the humidity that requires using the windshield defogger ten times during every twenty minute drive.

Wednesday evening, we drove out to the actual beach of Folly Beach, just as the sun was setting through the fog:

Foggy Folly
Folly in the Fog

Foggy Sunset on Folly Beach

Palms in the Fog Vertical

Very cool and kind of surreal. The state park at the southwest end closes at 5, at least at this time of year, and we didn’t get there until about 4:45, but the ranger we encountered on our walk said he was leaving the exit gate open since he couldn’t find everyone in the fog. The whole thing seemed sort of Twilight Zone, but bonus, we got to stay a bit longer.

David on foggy Folly Beach
David on foggy Folly Beach

We LOVE Folly Beach for walking. It’s flat, wide, firm and practically deserted. We saw lots of interesting shells, and a surprisingly large number of sea stars–maybe thirty or forty–stranded by low tide and either playing dead very convincingly or actually dead. I know many sea stars live in the intertidal zone, presumably on purpose, so they must have figured the whole high tide / low tide thing out, but I’m not sure the plan was working that day.

At the other end of the island the surfers were out in full force . . .

Surfer on Folly

. . . um REALLY? It’s DECEMBER, and this is NOT Hawaii. There were probably thirty surfers practically within arms reach of each other, granted, all in wetsuits. One young guy returned to the car in front of where ours was parked on the side of the road and was trying to strip out of his wetsuit and apparently change into something else, inside a smallish towel he had wrapped around his waist, just as I was obliviously brandishing my camera around. Awkward. I snapped a few quick blurry shots of the surfers IN the water and we got in the car and left, tout de suite!

Later, after wandering around tiny, quirky “downtown” Folly Beach, we stopped in here . . .

The Surf Bar, Folly Beach
The Surf Bar, Folly Beach–not actually red inside in real life!

. . . because, really, how often do you find a place like this? It just seemed to go with the weird vibe of the evening. While there, we were surprised to hear the bartender–a young, white woman– mention that she’d be singing with a gospel choir at a Christmas concert Saturday night. We overheard enough to find tickets online to what turned out to be the Charleston Symphony Orchestra’s Gospel Christmas concert, last night at a nearby large Baptist church. Surprisingly, the first half was classical and choral, but they put on the robes after intermission and the swaying and clapping we’d been expecting finally started. The whole thing was impressive, but we liked that part best.


Also unexpected, not to mention disturbing, to see this next to the condo parking lot . . .

Yikes. Yet more evidence we’re not in Colorado at the moment.

Speaking of the condo, the complex is nice and seems to be pretty new, and it’s very posh inside, as well as being conveniently located to both the casual, surfer-hip Folly Beach and classy, historic downtown Charleston (next post, I promise), but I’m not too sure about at least one of the neighbors. On two separate nights around 1 a.m. there has been crazy loud crashing and thumping, I think in the condo above us, as if the furniture were being thrown around or knocked over. No yelling last night, and it only lasted two or three minutes, but the first time this happened there was also a guy doing a lot of shouting, and then someone stepped out of the condo across from us and yelled up toward the thumper-shouter. Yikes. I really expected to cops to show up. But five minutes later, all was quiet again. Weird.

So . . . things are . . . um . . . different here (although I really should have expected the Low Country to be, you know, low). But what’s an adventure without new experiences? And this does continue to be a most excellent adventure, that’s for sure.

Hope you’re having a wonderful holiday season, and that your surprises are all of the very best kind.

And on this anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, above all I wish you peace. Many thanks to those who have sacrificed for our freedom.

Adventures in Wanderlust