living local · summer

Why That South Carolina Low Country is Home Too

This is a repost I wrote two summers ago. Over the past week Edisto Beach suffered extensive damage in the wake of Hurricane Matthew because it did what it does best–provided a barrier. You can view photos of how the beach fared on Facebook Edisto Beach Police Department. Much gratefulness to those who serve the locals of Edisto and those of us who borrow that title whenever we can.


I like to write about living local. So much so that it was my 31 Days series this past fall. (Anyone already gearing up for that? Yeah, me neither.) I write about places to go and eat and how to support local small businesses because it’s a topic my husband and I are passionate about. Also, I just really love to get out of the house and explore. Keeps my kids from fighting over electronic devices.

So I write a lot about living local here in northeast Georgia even though I’m technically a transplant to this place. I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately. How something about a place will continue to shape our character and decisions long after we’ve left it. How you can belong to a place in zipcode and phone record but never really belong, never really feel a part of the intricate web of history and geneology that so pervades small southern towns.

I’m glad I live here, belong here, am raising my family here. My blood connection to these woods and blue ridges lies with my grandfather who loved a campfire and hot coffee with almost the same intensity that he loved my grandmother. But even so, sixty-plus years of fall camping trips at the secret Walnut Tree isn’t the same as having been born into this place and these people. I get the history but not the lineage.

Then, after a six year hiatus, my family heads back down the coast to sleepy Edisto Island on the edge of the South Carolina low country. I grew up riding the waves and scraping the shells out of my swimsuit on this beach that’s like a portal to another time. My mother grew up coming here after the tobacco had been hung to dry in the barns and school was near on the horizon. I’m writing a novel that’s set on these shores and dirt roads hung with Spanish moss. So it’s more than just a vacation destination. It’s as much home as the Granite Capitol that raised me and the mountains that hold me now.



But I didn’t realize that until I’d been gone and returned to be saddened by the changes and heartened by all that stayed the same. We rode bikes in the evening twilight and bashed our knees in the high tide waves. We hunted snail shells and sharks’ teeth and the elusive sand dollar. We set up canopies and played all day.


We bought a book that could have been written about my family.

The Pink House, by Kate Salley Palmer

We shared this favorite place with friends and popsicles and Independence Day.

One day I rode my bike down Pointe Street in search of two older beach cottages the local historian said would help me visualize the Edisto of my mother’s childhood. There was a woman tending tomatoes and flowers in the raised beds of a community garden in someone’s front yard, and I stopped to ask her a few questions about living here.

Tivoli Cottage, Edisto Beach
“Where you from, honey?” was her iconic greeting.

I told her where we live and added that I’d grown up coming here and my grandparents had been from nearby Walterboro.

“Oh,” she said with an easy wave of her hand. “You’re local then.”

Local indeed. And grateful for it. · living local

Ten Things To Do With All That Zucchini

We went to the beach last week. It was great but more on that at a later time.

Anyway, due to some miscommunication, I came home to a fridge full of my CSA produce including plenty of this year’s bumper crop.

Do you know what all locally home-grown farmers (and gardeners) are picking right now?

Yellow squash and shiny green zucchini.

I love it. But I’ve heard some folks don’t. Or maybe they’re just tired of always eating squash covered with cream soup and cheese.

Hopefully, trying one of these new ways to eat your vegetables will turn you on to these humble veggies that can grow as big as a baseball bat if left alone. Those are only good for scooping out the inside and being stuffed with some delicious concoction involving cheese and sausage. This ideas are more on the simple side.

Funny story. Sometimes my kids just eat the zucchini while I’m slicing.  Then they say things like, “Mama, that was a funny tasting cucumber.”


1. Shred it and freeze it. Add it to soups, chilis, tacos, spaghetti…all winter long. They’ll never notice.

2. Make Blueberry-Zucchini Muffins. (Recipe for 2-4 below.)

3. Make Chocolate Chip Zucchini Bread.

4. Make plain zucchini bread. There might be a theme here.

5. Try Squash and Potato Au Gratin. I made this the other night and my picky no-squash eater said, “Hmm…this is actually good!”

6. Make pizza crust. Pinterest has at least a gazillion pins for this.

7. Shred it. Add it to cooked rice with black beans and salsa. Mix well. Stuff tortillas and top with cheese.

8. Roast it with a drizzle of olive oil, kosher salt, and pepper. 425 for about 15 minutes.

9. Roast it with a sprinkle of parmesan, some sliced olives, and maybe some thinly sliced purple onion. Same as #8. Add leftovers to pizza.

10. Shred it (if you’re going for disguise) or chunk it (if you’re going for hearty). Add it to the Best Tomato Sauce Ever and top your favorite pasta or that spaghetti squash that came with this week’s CSA delivery.

Zucchini Bread (or Muffins) Adapted from Thy Hand Hath Provided

3 eggs
1/2 c brown or granulated sugar
1 c honey
2 c grated zucchini
3 tsp vanilla
2 c all-purpose flour
1 c whole-wheat flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
3 tsp cinnamon

In a large bowl, combine all your wet ingredients including zucchini. In another, smaller, bowl combine the dry ingredients. Sift the dry into the wet. (Yes, it’s necessary. Yes, it’s a pain.) Fold in blueberries (2 c) or chocolate chips (2 c) or some of both. Divide into two greased loaf pans (9x5x3) or into 24 muffin cups. I recommend using liners because I hate to wash muffin tins. Sometimes I get a little more than 24. Sometime I get a little less. It’s what happens when you don’t measure precisely. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour (bread) or about 35 minutes for muffins. You want a knife inserted in the center to come out clean. I make muffins because I can never get the center of the bread to get done. Also, I think muffins keep better. Or maybe I’m just lazy.

See original recipe here.

What do you do with all your zucchini and squash?

living local · motherhood · summer

In Which We Camp at Don Carter State Park

I am clearly a crazy person. Do not confuse what I am about to tell you with the idea that I’m a great mom or a fun mom or a brave mom.

I am none of those things.

I am a crazy mom who gets wild ideas and then with the same incorrigible stubborness I despise in my 8 year old, I continue to pursue said crazy ideas even when the odds are stacked against me.

Oh, and then I whine about how the odds are stacked against me and I just can’t ever seem to catch a break.

Sheesh. I am a crazy person.

I took my kids camping last week. Yes, all of them. Yes, tent camping. Yes, it was raining the day we set out. Yes, we had to hike in to our site.

Yes, crazy person.

But they were so excited. And so helpful. And so thrilled to be camping and swimming in the lake. By the way, it’s perfectly acceptable to be wet while swimming, but getting wet because rain is pouring down while your crazy mother tries to set up the broken canopy is not acceptable and results in massive screaming.

Just so you know.

We had decided to check out Georgia’s newest state park, Don Carter on the shores of Lake Lanier. It’s only about 25 miles from home and has a great beach area the kids are in love with. And the most awesome playground, ever. However, it also has a truly primitive campground. They were in love with that too.

Twelve sites are nestled back in the woods and along the lake shore. They’re fairly separated from one another, so you definitely don’t feel like you’re camping on top of someone else, but the trade off? All sites require a walk in. Some more so than others. Last weekend when we scoped it out, they picked out one of the farthest sites from the parking lot. It was about 100 yards down a paved trail and another hundred or so yards up a trail through the woods.

“But, Mommy, we won’t wake up anybody else when we get up early!”

Well, there’s that for a positive.

Really, it was a great site. My only complaint is not actually the walk in, but the lack of a picnic table in the primitive sites. I for sure wasn’t carrying one of those up that trail. Our two-room twelve-person tent was enough of a load, thank you very much.

So we walked it all in. I had repacked all the gear to make it as easy as possible, planned meals around minimalist needs and cooking (Pop-tarts for the first time in months!), and steeled myself for the potential complaining when they realized just how much work this really is.

But I didn’t prepare myself adequately for ME.

You know this happens to us all the time as mothers. We plan and pack and prep for everyone else. We overlook ourselves. We forget to account for our own capacity and abilities and instead fall into the belief our kids have about us: we think we can do it all by ourselves.

Crazy person.

I can’t do anything by myself. And the last lesson I want my kids to learn is that I can. Instead, I want them to learn that the only reason mommy can do anything is because the first place I go in the morning is my knees and the second place I go is their daddy.

Problem is, sometimes I skip those two places and go straight to the throne of myself. That’s when I fall apart. Because the pressure I put on myself is infinitely greater than the expectations my Father God or my precious husband have for me.

On our first day out, I prayed and had a Bible study with my kids before we left. We talked about the verse I had studied that morning.

12 Clothe yourselves therefore, as God’s own chosen ones (His own picked representatives), [who are] purified and holy and well-beloved [by God Himself, by putting on behavior marked by] tenderhearted pity and mercy, kind feeling, a lowly opinion of yourselves, gentle ways, [and] patience [which is tireless and long-suffering, and has the power to endure whatever comes, with good temper].–Colossians 3:12 (AMP) 

So, Thursday was a good day despite the rain that came down and the canopy that didn’t come up and the flood that soaked all our clothes.  Thursday I had called on power outside myself to endure whatever came so that my kids would not have a crazy mama. We had all agreed to work on being patient with one another no matter what.

But apparently, I forgot all that by Friday morning when I was getting all worked up over a visit from my sister and the idea that Joshua would come in that afternoon and what if they thought I’d done everything wrong? There was dirt in the tent, no table, and Gus’s kneecaps couldn’t be found under all the scrapes and bruises. Not to mention Amelia wore the same clothes for two days because hers were still wet despite a visit to the the dryer in the posh RV campground.

I forgot, again, that not everything is always all about me. And not everything I do has to be filtered through the screen of what everyone else might think.

Expectations are not absolutes. Life is so often a series of expectations that are unrealistic and unachievable, yet we crush ourselves under the weight of failure when nothing seems to go according to plan. All week people have been asking me if our trip was fun, if it was worth it, if we had a good time. I tend to say it would be more worth it had it been longer, had I been more patient, had it not rained.

But my kids? Just like that time we hiked Tallulah Gorge, they figured it was worth it all along. You know why? They’re expectations were simple: we camp and we swim. Only mine were outlandish.

We camp. We are happy the whole time. No one fights. We sing in the rain. We do everything right so no one can find fault or say they’d have done it differently.

You know what? I’d be really crazy not to like the expectations they have of me a lot better than the ones I have of myself.

Yes, I’ll do it again sometime. But this time? I’ll raise my hands in praise and lower my voice of expectation.

Don Carter really is a great place for families to camp, hike, swim, and play. Check it and other wonderful state parks out here. · living local

It’s CSA Wednesday! {Chicken Kale Enchiladas}

It’s finally CSA season! I’m so excited about fresh, local, organic produce coming to my doorstep every Wednesday afternoon that I almost can’t wait to get home from my writer’s conference and whip up a batch of these great Chicken Kale Enchiladas.

But at home there’s no nice conveyor belt that bears my dirty dishes off to a place where I don’t have to wash them, so I think I’ll wait a bit longer to come home.

In the meantime, tell me what you’re cooking up this week with your CSA or Farmer’s Market finds. Remember, one of the best ways to be both frugal and local is to shop your farmers in season. We’re getting lots of kale this week with our delivery so here’s one of our favorite ways to eat it. Enjoy!

Chicken Kale Enchiladas
8-12 oz fresh kale (cut leaves from stems and dice stems finely, roll leaves and chop)
2-3 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded (or pull from a rotisserie chicken)
small onion, diced
8 oz block cream cheese (can dice for faster melt)
8 oz monterey jack cheese, shredded
2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp taco seasoning
2 tbsp heavy cream (optional)
8 soft whole wheat tortillas

Saute kale stems and onion in butter until soft. Stir in kale leaves until wilted. Add cream cheese and stir until melted. Add chicken, taco seasoning, and mix well. Spoon onto tortilla and roll. Place seam down in a 9×12 baking dish. Spread shredded cheese over tortillas, drizzle with cream, and cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.

Sometimes I add black beans. Sometimes I top the tortillas with diced tomatoes. Sometimes I add salsa to the filling. Sometimes I serve this with salad or guacamole. It’s never the same twice. Perk of being the chief cook and bottle washer.

gardening · · living local · summer · whole foods

The Best Tomato Sauce Ever

The tomatoes are overtaking our garden, and thereby, my countertops.  This picture really doesn’t do them justice.  The container in the background represents a half-hours work of scalding and peeling and chopping only to turn around and realize I missed all these that the girls had piled on the kitchen table.

Oh, and that’s some basil with them.  We’re making tomato sauce tonight.

Which means we had to venture down to the farmer’s market for an onion or two, which means we came home with a watermelon, peaches, zucchini, three onions, and Amelia stole some crayons.

My girls are having an enlightening summer.  Madelynne just realized that spaghetti sauce is actually made from tomatoes.  I’m not sure what she thought it was made from before, ketchup maybe?  Of course, that’s made from tomatoes too.  But they’re not going to admit they actually like tomatoes.

What they like, though, is finding them at summer’s peak hiding behind the leaves that are just starting to wilt from summer’s heat. And they like when I make big pots of this homemade sauce and then ladle it on pizza crust or homemade bread.

They like tomatoes a lot. Too bad they don’t realize that yet.

Basic Tomato Sauce (adapted from Simply in Season)

You will need:
a quality food processor
an apron
some patience
a tolerance for heat

1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic (or 2 tsp garlic powder)
2 large carrots (or more if you like)
1/2 green pepper (or the whole pepper, your call)
2 tsp dried basil (2 tbsp if fresh)
1 tsp dried oregano (1 tbsp if fresh)
1 tsp dried thyme (1 tbsp if fresh)
6-8 cups peeled and chopped tomatoes (about 12-15 romas is best)
6-10 oz tomato paste depending upon how thick you like your sauce
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp honey or sugar to cut acidity if desired

Begin by peeling and quartering your onion. Put it in the food processor and chop it finely. If using garlic cloves, process those too. Saute the onion and garlic in 2 tbsp olive oil until soft. I do this in the bottom of my pot. Peel and chop carrots, then shred in food processor. Same with green pepper. Add vegetables to saute. Add seasonings and stir well. Add tomatoes and tomato paste. Allow sauce to simmer at least 30 minutes. Then serve, freeze, or can.

**To peel tomatoes, immerse in boiling water until the skin starts to crack. Remove using slotted spoon and lay on towels to cool. When able to be handled, peel over a bowl using a paring knife. Chop tomatoes directly into another bowl.
**I freeze mine in quart size zip top bags. Let cool before sealing.
**To can, ladle into hot sterilized jars within 1/2 inch of the top. Add 1 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar per pint to assure acidity, seal with sterilized lids, and process full jars in a water bath for 35 minutes. Makes about 4 pints or two quarts. I usually double the recipe to make it worth my time.

This recipe is really forgiving and is a great base to making the sauce your own. Try spicing up a store bought can of tomatoes. Puree the tomatoes for a really thin sauce or leave it chunky and go garden style. I love the addition of carrots now in any tomato based dish. They add the right amount of sweetness and are one more way I’m sneaking vegetables into my kids.

What’s your favorite food to top with tomato sauce?

Disclosure: I found this unpublished post in my draft box and wanted to get it up to go along with my list of favorite homemade recipes. Right now it’s only April, so I’m not drowning in tomatoes. Yet.