The Tides Are Changing

Friday, May 29, 2015
Hello Friends.

And HELLOOOO Friday!

Relaxation Station is upon us.
I'm happy it's Friday but I don't feel like doing anything besides eating Chinese food and watching The Office.   Life struggles.

I think I feel exhausted lately because I'm about to dive head first into a chaotic month.
We're leaving Sunday morning to head to the mountains to celebrate our 2 YEAR wedding anniversary!

I plan on floating under waterfalls and lounging in rocking chairs well into Tuesday ;)

We're staying at an Inn on top of a mountain right off the Blue Ridge Parkway. It's not very known, but we drove by it once when we were out there exploring and I've always said I wanted to check that place out so, here we go! I'll definitely report back my experience.

On the home front, we're moving into a new apartment June 13th.
It's coming up so fast, and this week I made a lot of calls to switch our electric, have our washer & dryer picked up, etc....and I'm really catching a case of the feels.

I've moved a lot in my life so usually it's no big deal. But this tiny little apartment was our first place. And not only that, but I feel like it was just yesterday we were sitting in cold NH dreaming of moving somewhere else. Somewhere new and warm. We decided to JUST GO and found this apartment online, filled out an application, and left. We didn't even take a tour, see the neighborhood, nothing. Had no jobs when we moved down here....nothing.

And it turned out better than we could've imagined. We live in a quiet, wooded neighborhood with giant windows overlooking some of the best sunsets I've ever seen in my life. The town we live in is so picturesque, I feel like I'm on the set of a movie sometimes. We both have jobs that keep food on our table. It's just amazing how when you throw caution to the wind and just dive in head first, how great something unknown can turn out to be....

I'm really going to miss it.
It will be hard to close our first front door for the last time, but I'm really excited to open a new one.

Have a great weekend friends, and Happy June.

U.S. National Whitewater Center

Tuesday, May 26, 2015
So the other weekend when my mom was in town, we decided to finally cross off one of the last things on my Charlotte bucket list. The U.S. National Whitewater Center!

I know - Not such a glamorous photo. But that leads me into my first piece of advice:
DO NOT bring your phone. But if you must - make sure it's tucked tight in a backpack or has a lifeproof case. This is an adrenaline junkie park and the chance of dropping your phone into a raging river or getting it squashed by a mountain bike is 9 out of 10.

This place was a blast though. My body was sun burnt & sore for days afterwords.
They have zip lining, paddle boarding, kayaking, mountain biking and of course white water rafting.
Fun fact: it's where Olympians train!

There's nothing better than having fun while getting in a great workout.
Win-Win in my book

This was my first time paddle boarding and let's just say I've been searching Craigs List for my own.
It was soo fun to paddle around and look at turtles and giant gar swim below me!
I promise it's not nearly as hard as it looks.
You gotta try it.

Now for the takeaways:

This place is expensive. While I wish I could go every weekend, it's definitely a once-a-Summer activity.
We didn't get to white water raft because we showed up later in the day and it cost extra. To get the best bang for your buck, show up right when they open and do as much as you can!
And go on a weekday. I hear it gets obnoxiously packed on the weekends. We went on a Monday and had easy access to everything - no lines.

They provide everything you need. Life jackets, helmets, bikes, paddle boards....they will provide it all! All you have to do is show up wealthy and well hydrated.

The locker system sucks. I'm definitely not one to be pessimistic but in all reality, it does. You pay $2 for your locker, then you have to pay $2 again for every time you want to re-open it.
Soaking wet Steph was not happy she had to pay $2 to change her clothes.

This is a very strenuous park. You have to walk a lot to get to each activity. Sometimes with 10lbs of harness gear attached to your body, in 100% humidity, in a ruthless Southern Sun.
You've been warned.

On the plus side, if you live in the area, I hear their Thursday night River Jam sessions are really dope.
Live music, food and craft beer - all after hours at the park - Count us in!
It's definitely on my agenda to check out some day this Summer.
Just hope I don't have to pay $2 for a Solo cup.

Get over it Steph.



Alright y'all. It's almost 5PM so you know what time it is.

Early Mornings & Tropical Storms

Friday, May 22, 2015
Happy Friday friends!
Grab your iced coffees and settle in for story time.
I've got a good one.

My final tale in this mini-series of Charleston area adventures brings us to Folly Beach and Botany Bay.

With a cameo from Tropical Storm Ana.

My luck with the weather down near the ocean is never good this time of year: Exhibit A.

Let's be honest.
I was so bummed that this tropical storm had plans to just sit and churn over the exact area we planned to explore - for the exact 3 days we were there.

We pulled up to the hotel at the height of the storm and I unloaded all of our stuff in hurricane force winds and a soaking rain. Only to find out we couldn't check into our room for a couple hours. Frustrated and uncomfortably wet, me and my electricuted style hair crawled to the nearest chair and just sat there staring at the radar on my phone. Business professionals attending a conference at the hotel walked by, and gave me the funniest looks - probably wondering if they should throw me money.

Feeling completely clueless as to what to do next, I decided we can either sit at this hotel and pout, or make lemonade out of these lemons.

And you know what happened?


The Weather Channel featured a photo my mom took of me dancing on the beach at Botany Bay.
I've been a huge fan of the weather channel since I was a little girl. I've loved storms since I can remember and was on the news for spotting my first tornado at age 6. This was a dream come true for me.

So here's how it happened.

The sun started to poke through the clouds on our drive to Botany Bay.. so I began to feel hopeful.
Then we pulled up to the head of the trail and saw this.

A fierce wall cloud from Ana's hurricane formation, rushing in towards us. Illuminated perfectly by the position of the sun... I was in storm chaser heaven.
So I ran to the water to meet this storm front and DANCED.

"The Earth has music for those who listen"

I honestly couldn't contain my excitement as I saw this huge wall cloud moving in towards us.
This time around, I loved the rain and my messy hair! ;)

I ran, climbed trees, collected shells, did cartwheels...pretty much felt 8 years old all over again.

You know what's cool about being in this right place at the right time...half the sky was clear blue while the other half was a hurricane. So glad I took photos to help visualize it, because it's really indescribable.

After this evening at Botany Bay I felt silly for pouting in the hotel lobby. I think a life lesson I pulled from this is to remember that everything happens for a reason. Sometimes the reason is a hard lesson that will help you evolve. Other times it's to direct you into absolutely beautiful moments that you couldn't imagine in your wildest dreams.

That night I was too excited to fall asleep. After a day playing in a hurricane at the beach and knowing we were getting up at 5:00AM to catch a sunrise.... I was restless to say the least.

This sunrise was special though. You see, at Folly Beach there is a massive boardwalk that photographers line up at to take photos of the early morning sun poking through the wooden beams, as angry waves crash up against them. It's truly something else. And I was ready to join the club.

5:00AM. Alarm goes off. I throw the blankets off, run a tooth brush over my teeth and grab my camera gear then excitedly yell: READY!

First thing I do when we step outside is look up at the sky. I can see stars!

We begin our 20 minute drive to Folly Beach. As the sky starts to emit a faint blue glow, I begin to see a wall of clouds.

We get to the beach minutes before the projected sunrise. With my boots laced tight and my eyes tired and puffy, I run through the sand to the pier, only to find photographers already lined up in the best spots.
Damn it.

But then I look up and realize...that wall of clouds was actually another one of Ana's hurricane bands...and it was moving directly towards the sun.

So, I never got my prized sunrise shot.
Better luck next time.
Once we realized the party was crashed, we packed up my camera and decided to drag my feet walk to my favorite Folly Beach breakfast joint: Lost Dog Cafe.

By the time we were done the sun came out and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.
But of course.
So with bellies full of Lox and Coffee, we decided to take the long way back to our car.
You know, there's something so rejuvenating and peaceful about walking through neighborhoods early in the morning before anyone's awake. Laughing at trashed balconies from parties the night before.
House cats strolling down the street without any worry of cars.
It was kinda-sorta the highlight of my day and pulled me out of my funk.

We were trekking 3 hours home that morning so before we trapped ourselves in a car, we decided to skim the beach and take some photos anyway despite our ruined sunrise.

It turned out to be such a lovely morning. I remember taking deep breaths and sipping my hot coffee while walking alone around the belly of this pier. I think my life lesson from this trip is to have no expectations.
Life will handle the rest.

I hope this mini-series inspired you to get out there and explore.
No matter where you live (or what the weathers like) there's something new to be found.

Wishing you a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!
How fun it would be to share an icy cold beverage and swap adventure stories...

A Tea Party & A Giant Tree

Wednesday, May 20, 2015
When I'm not doing serious things like discussing finances with Mitch or trying to pretend like I know what I'm doing at work, I really strive to live a life of imagination.
 I look at everything as whimsical, new, and exciting; I like to bring fantasies to life.

So naturally I'm always on the prowl for a new place to explore.
A place that will make me not believe my eyes...

And I found one.

The Angel Oak Tree.

This massive tree is located on Johns Island in Coastal South Carolina.
She's free to come see, so it's an awesome site to visit if you ever find yourself in the Charleston area.
Walking up to this tree will literally stop you in your tracks. Take your breath away.
She'll leave you standing with a wide open mouth, to just gaze at such a massive plant.

Let's be honest, I had such a hard time not climbing those soft, green, mossy branches. How perfect would it be to take a nap on one? They were calling my name...

I also went into a day dream where one day I own a home with a tree like this and it will be filled with cats.

I wanted to keep my 'Stephy in Wonderland' high going, so next up we went somewhere very unique...

The only tea plantation in America!!
How cool is that.

I've loved tea since I was a little girl so this was really a dream come true for me.
A bird could've shit on my head and I would still leave this place dancing.

Charleston Tea Plantation.

Another free activity in close proximity to Charleston!

This place has free entry into their factory where you can get a tour and learn how tea is made.
A man started this tea plantation when he was only 23 years old.

The only part that costs money is the Trolley Tour that takes you to every nook and cranny in the plantation.
It's $10 per person and worth every penny.

You get to see everything there is at the plantation - hear all the history, fun facts, test some body products made from their tea leaves, tour a greenhouse, and have the friendliest, jolly trolley driver who holds each lady's hand as she exits.

So after about an hour in the gift shop, $40 worth of tea, and taking way too many photos of mating lizards.... we finally dragged ourselves back to the car.

But it is without hesitation that I say I will be returning to this classic Southern fairytale every time I'm in Charleston.

Exploring the Lowcountry: Boone Hall Plantation

Monday, May 18, 2015
....also known as Allie's house in The Notebook.

My mom was in town all last week and we had SO much fun. We were exploring non-stop. My body is sore, I have about 700 photos to go through & edit, and I crossed a ton of things off of my bucket list.


It was a real treat to have my mom in town for mother's day weekend; I hadn't seen her since last August. She's my only parent and my best friend. Her and I have one of those soul connections, where no matter how long you haven't seen each other, as soon as you reunite, it's as if no time has passed at all...

The day after she arrived we woke up early and headed down to good ol' Charleston.
Even though there was a hurricane brewing right over the area.

Good thing I love storms.

So Boone Hall Plantation.
My favorite SC plantation thus far.

Sure I may be a little bias because it's so neat to see where The Notebook was filmed.
But it's fun to step back in time and see the 'Old South'

There are so many striking features of this place. The Avenue of Oaks that you first drive down to reach the plantation is the first sight that will make your jaw drop.

Another one is the line of old slave homes along the edge of the road as you near the main house.

It's so surreal. My first reaction to these homes was to turn a blind eye and pretend like that time in history never happened. It's horrendous. But of course you can't deny history, so I went inside every single one and read the story of the people who inhabited them.

Heavy energy.
If you ever visit Boone Hall, I highly suggest taking the time to read the stories in each one of these slave homes. It's very informative and eye opening. It only further encourages me to teach my future family to not see physical appearances; but to see souls.

As you can tell our trip was soggy.
The heavy wind and misty rain never stopped.

But - because we don't care about muddy shoes and crazy hair - we pretty much had the place to ourselves.
Just the way I like it.

Of course as soon as we had enough and left, the sun came out.
But we had dinner reservations at Poogan's Porch downtown Charleston so we had to hit the road!

Since I just ate at Husk last month, and they are right next door to each other, I'll compare the two.

Husk has a cooler style, Poogan's has better food.
Husk has a more Old South feel with a modern flare, Poogan's is straight old South.

I can't recommend just one because it depends what you're going for.
If you're looking for an experience = Husk
If you're looking to eat divine Southern Soul food = Poogan's

And of course each comes fully equipped with a front porch swing and haint blue ceiling ;)
(if you're not sure what I'm talking about, see #7 here.)
They are both some of Charleston's most popular restaurants, so reservations will definitely be required.


Up next I'll share our adventures at the oldest Oak tree East of the Mississippi and I went back HERE during the height of tropical storm Ana.... can't wait to share those photos.

Until then, follow me on Instagram @freespiritfun1 where I post every day!

Walks in the Woods

Tuesday, May 5, 2015
Every evening after work I shut my computer off, put my phone away, and head out to the woods to take walks alone.

Well...not always alone. A bunch of horses and a donkey keep me company.

You cannot put a price on the health benefits of being outside in the all natural world. Away from the artificial glow of laptops and smart phones. Away from the materialistic, high-light reel of social media.
Physical health, mental health...nature can cure all.
It's energizing.

My favorite part of long walks in the woods is the mental health benefit.
Not only does it keep my legs fit but it keeps my mind clear & calm.
Being out in the stillness all alone gives you no choice but to talk to yourself.
Whether it's in your head, out loud, it doesn't matter.

If there's anything I learned in therapy, it's that your relationship with yourself is one of the greatest relationships you'll experience in this life. Nurture it. Be kind to yourself.

Don't listen to music. Listen to nothing but the wind, the birds, and your mind.
And if you bring your phone, make sure it's on airplane mode.

As you can tell mental health is very important to me -- these neurological diseases are no joke.
And the fact that over 50% of American adults suffer from some sort of mental health issue... it really needs to be talked about. I'm glad it's slowly coming out as a not-so-private subject.

I come from a family with a long line of poor mental health history and I plan on sharing a post soon on how I'm fighting that issue and breaking the cycle.
Stay tuned!

And cheers to a mentally-healthy week.


My mom is coming into town tomorrow and I am so excited to pick her up at the airport!!
We'll be heading down to Charleston again for a little mother/daughter getaway.
Can't wait to share that trip! She's just as wild as me so who knows what we'll get into down there.

And since it's Cinco De Mayo I can't leave without sharing an avocado based treat!
My go-to lunch

Avocado toast!
Have you heard of it? I hear it's pretty trendy lately ;)

All you do is mash half an avocado then scoop it onto a slice of toast.
I usually add lemon juice, garlic salt and pepper for taste
Keeps you full for hours!

Alright my friends, I'm off to the forest.

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