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Reading Slumps, Favourite Authors & Other Reading Questions

Every time I write another post about reading habits, I feel certain I’ve tapped the end of interesting questions related to said topic. But then another assortment of questions crosses my radar. This just goes to show there are many unique ways to enjoy the reading process!

How do you handle reading slumps? And a note on seasonal fluctuations

Last week Suzanne asked how I handle reading slumps. I had to mull over this for a bit. April and May were hit-and-miss in the book department. I abandoned multiple books and finished others that could be best described as mediocre. Sometimes a consecutive run of uninspiring books turns me off from reading anything – even old favourites – for a while, but this is mostly buffered by the fact I have a natural break factored into my reading routine: summer.

June through August is peak reading season for many bibliophiles; books are the perfect complement to a day at the beach or a long airplane journey. But I have always prioritized reading during colder months when, at least in rural Canada, there isn’t much else to do with leisure time.

I don’t consider this summer break a “slump” – I genuinely look forward to time away from books. Some of this is the longer days and nice weather. Get outside and look up at all the beautiful wonder around you – my mind subconsciously screams. The kids are off school and bedtimes creep later, so there is also functionally less time in my day for reading. And, since I get most books from my local library in hardcopy, it is more of a hassle to juggle returns when we’re away on vacation.

Goodreads tells me I’ve read 47 books so far in 2022 and there’s a good chance I’ll read 47 more, but those will be concentrated between September to December. The last few weeks have been a nice reading reprieve, but I already have a list of holds deferred for the end of August and I’m excited to resume regular book consumption at that point.

*I do read some over the summer, but I’ll average 1-2 books/month instead of 8-10.

do you prefer to finish – or start – a great book?

Hmmm. So tough. I think I prefer to finish a great book. It leaves me sad when something wonderful is over, but there is a unique satisfaction that comes from completing a great book.

do you REcommend books to others?

I don’t recommend books very often and, if I do, it’s almost only to close friends. I’ve read too many books that others have raved about only to be disappointed, so I tend to mention what I’m reading relatively casually and let others take the lead if they want to know more. In short: I don’t want to be the one who recommended a book someone else hates.

Do you belong to a book club?

I have never formally joined a book club and don’t have much interest in doing so. I also don’t go out of my way to discuss books with people – generalizations will usually suffice.

If I’m reading a non-fiction book on a topic that feels applicable to a conversation (say a discussion about parenting when I’m in the middle of reading Hunt, Gather, Parent), I might mention something relevant.

Reading books with the main purpose of discussing them in a group sounds…tedious. Especially if I didn’t like the book in question. I’ve gotten better about abandoning books and think the sense of obligation I would feel to persevere for the sake of a book club would frustrate me. But what do I know – maybe I’d actually love the experience?

Do you have a favourite author?

I don’t. I’ve loved many books by many authors, but I can’t easily identify a front-running favourite.

do you seek out movie versions of books (or vice versa)?

I don’t. I’ve watched lots of movies that have been based on books. I think Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Lord of the Rings trilogy was spectacular, and Meghan Follows hits it out of the park as Anne of Green Gables. I actually like The Hobbit movies more than the book. But, in general, movies based on books tend to be a letdown.

I’m trying to remember a single movie I’ve watched that has spurred me on to check out the book. I did watch Unbroken first, but didn’t actively seek out the book because of the movie (that said, Unbroken is one of my all-time favourite books).

*I’ve posted a list of YA books that have accompanying movies – this made for a fun reading adventure with the kids.

fiction or nonfiction?

If you were tasked with writing a specific genre of book (let’s assume – for the purposes of this exercise – it would be bestselling either way), would you rather have your name on a work of fiction or nonfiction?

While I gravitate toward nonfiction, with a special spot reserved for memoirs, I’m not sure about this one. I feel like my natural inclinations lend themselves far more to nonfiction, but for this particular hypothetical – guaranteed to be a bestseller – I think I’d opt for fiction?


Your turn. How do you handle reading slumps? Do you maintain a full reading schedule over the summer? Do you prefer to start – or finish – a great book?

Header photo by Paige Cody on Unsplash

(More) Things I Wish I Liked (or Loved)

I’m back again with another round of Things I Wish I Liked (or Loved). This is not to be confused with Things I Know I Love (an important flip side to consider).

After all…everybody’s good at/interested in something and nobody’s good at/interested in everything.

more things i wish i liked

  • Strong coffee. I think it would be nice to enjoy strong (black) coffee. Earlier this spring I had a coffee that could have stripped varnish. The person who prepared said coffee downed her cup contentedly and I remembered, yet again, how much I dislike strong coffee.
  • Herbal tea. Let’s stick with the warm beverage theme for a minute. I’ve tried – really tried – to like herbal teas. I just don’t like them. Peppermint, lemon, chamomile, peach. Ick. They make a great caffeine-free option, but I don’t enjoy them.
  • Company (that sleeps over). I love my family (and non-family guests) but I’m always uptight when company comes to stay. It’s like I no longer feel at home in my own house when someone else is under my roof. I don’t sleep well, I never know how long I need to stay up with the guests in the evening, I worry about the timing of meals. It never feels appropriate to be in my pajamas by 7:30 pm, but that’s exactly what I want to do. Everything just feels slightly…off. Are the visits great? Yes. Do I love being surrounded by people I love? Yes. Do I want people to come visit me? Yes, yes, yes. Am I almost always ready for visitors to leave? Yes. I have an acquaintance that LOVES to have people in her home. She has even gone out of her way to have someone in her space long-term. This is not me, but I kinda wish it were?
  • Hills. I hate hills. Some people see them as a challenge and great addition to their workout, but I genuinely dislike hills when walking/running.
  • Playing sports. I am uncoordinated and unathletic (for sports at least). I love the idea of belonging to a women’s soccer league or playing volleyball with the kids in the backyard, but it is definitely not in my suite of talents.
  • Gardening. I wish I liked gardening. I love the aesthetic of a nicely landscaped yard, but have no desire to do these things myself.
  • Talking on the phone. I would prefer to exclusively text/e-mail (or see someone in person) – I don’t like talking on the phone. But I know there are some special people in my life who DO enjoy/prefer this mode of communication, so I wish I liked it more, especially for their sake.

Your turn. Anything you wish you liked (or loved). Do you enjoy black/strong coffee, hills, overnight company, and working up a sweat in your local recreational soccer league?

Header photo by TeaCora Rooibos on Unsplash

Casual Friday + Bird Poop

Last weekend I was standing in the middle of our backyard (without any trees or power lines nearby) when a bird, circling overhead, decided it was time to lighten his/her load…and pooped on my back.

One minute I was standing there enjoying the sunshine and the next – *plop*!

And that basically summarizes my week.

Beautiful weather and clear skies – with some proverbial bird poop dropping in from out of nowhere.

Nothing remotely bad happened but I felt very unsettled and anxious (I think I managed to avoid grumpy, so that’s a win?) for the first half of the week. I’ve never been a fan of transitions and this felt like an especially hard one.

Let’s discuss the stressors first, and then I’ll take a stroll down #Joyfinding Lane.

  1. Renovations. The work that started while we went away went well (or so I’m told). But now I’m fretting about every little detail. Did they put enough insulation under the subfloor? Did we buy enough flooring (we did; a tape measure and some simple calculations alleviated this fear)? Did we make the right decision on X,Y, Z? I hate this spiral of What-If thoughts, but renovations park my butt into the front seat of an Anxiety Rollercoaster like nothing else. There feel like limitless (and expensive) ways a renovation can go wrong and I seem to make it my mission to think through every single one of those worst-case scenarios. I also had a very intense/negative experience with a subcontractor last year that left me rattled and extra nervous. And…the renovation is in our main entryway which means we have no hooks or closet at the moment which lends to the feeling of chaos. To repeat: nothing remotely bad has happened…(yet)…I just feel uneasy.
  2. Lack of routine. We’re back into a quasi-routine, but nothing will be fully structured again until September. The kids are registered for a week of day camp, but we’re purposely leaving the summer flexible for travel and sabbatical fun. Family will be coming to visit for several weeks, but those dates haven’t been solidified. It’s all good stuff, but the lack of future structure is already making current me stressed and for no good reason, except I feel a general lack of control.
  3. Vacation slump. Leaving South Carolina is impacting me the same way the week after Christmas always leaves me feeling blah. It has been so long since I’ve visited (15 years) and I know my kids + their cousins are growing fast and it feels sad and hard to have that trip behind us since we had been anticipating it for so long. A post-vacation letdown is normal, but it was a little more intense than I expected.
  4. General life stress. I always forget the low-level stress involving house/kid management that is off our plate while on vacation. All of sudden I’m back to thinking about dirty floors and laundry and meal planning. Do we need more toilet paper? Are we out of milk already? Also, there has been an ongoing challenging interpersonal situation for ~8 months that I completely avoided in the US and it felt jarring to start dealing with the situation immediately upon our return home. [Update: after I wrote this little blurb, I received Cal Newport’s latest newsletter where he talks about how famous authors – which I am not, but let’s stick with generalizations here – often retreat to small/cramped/odd locations outside of their home environment to focus on writing. Newport ends his essay by saying: Home is where the heart is, but it’s not necessarily where the mind reaches its full potential. And I’d add to this: home is not necessarily where I feel the most relaxed. I often classify myself as an introverted homebody but, too often, when I’m in my own space I get distracted by all the things I could/should be doing and can be too paralyzed by my to-do list to relax or maintain a singular focus on work. Anyone else relate to this?]
  5. Work nerves. It was hard to transition back into work routines. I wrapped up some major projects before I left for the US, so things were relatively quiet the whole time I was away (technically it was a working vacation). I had a hard time getting my “head in the game” after being away for two weeks, but I really needed to be on the ball. I’ve been planning a virtual research conference for several months (which happened yesterday and, spoiler alert, everything went fabulously well) which was making me nervous all week.

Now: onward and upward.

SOCCER | The kids started summer soccer league this week and it was great. Watching them play as the sun set over the field – carefree and enjoying physical activity with friends in a team environment – was so fun. The next practice was in the pouring rain and that was great too. I had an umbrella and they didn’t care!

READING | Nothing to report here. I deferred my holds while were in the US and no books came in this week. I love reading, but it also feels good to have a concentrated break. For the first few days after arriving home, we didn’t even have any picture books in the house which felt sad, but also indicative of the kids moving into a new phase of life (somebody hold me).

Our library; one of my most-loved places.

FRIENDS | What a great week for friendships.

My best friend celebrated her birthday last weekend. We ended up meeting for an early-morning walk followed by coffee at my place. Later that day she texted to ask if our whole family could come over to enjoy some birthday dessert (strawberry shortcake) after supper. I had already showered and was in my pajamas (let’s ignore the fact this was 4 pm on a Saturday) but I love this friend enough to get out of pajamas. The strawberry shortcake was delicious and there was lots of merriment and good cheer.

Another friend/neighbour recently returned from a year in Ireland and he came over for an impromptu BBQ after church on Sunday.

Monday, in a last-minute change of plans, I hosted the final session of a book discussion on friendship (using Jennie Allen’s Find Your People). I’ve missed about half of the sessions (facepalm), but it has been a great experience getting to better know this group of honest, funny, and generally delightful women.

Tuesday after school I took the kids to a local playground to meet up with friends and that evening I took my best friend out for supper (my birthday gift to her every year is supper out at a local restaurant, followed by thrifting!).

Pre-supper photo op
We always start with a custom trio at a local Mediterranian place; the roasted red pepper dip (centre) is our favourite but the cucumber mint (far left) was also delish.

On Wednesday a friend who recently started working in Wolfville stopped by on her lunch break. It was only a 30-minute visit, but the spontaneity was delightful. I’m not always a fan of spontaneous company, but this is the one friend where I literally would not mind if she stopped by when every toilet in my house was overflowing.

And Thursday at supper we celebrated the end of Bible Club (a weekly event the kids attend) with a Pizza Party.

THE JOY OF GETTING STUFF DONE | I think the biggest source of my anxiety/angst this week was the feeling of having a gazillion loose ends. Being gone on vacation + the looming break from routine over the summer make me frazzled. One day I decided to power through a slew of little things that were bogging me down. I tackled 2 months’ worth of mail (you know, the stuff that can’t be thrown out/handled immediately and grows into an enormous stack that needs to be filed in about 175 different locations), I changed furnace filters, I cleared pictures off my phone, I drafted an itinerary for our trip to NYC, I finished registering the kids for daycamp, I bought and delivered a gift card, I sent random e-mails, I returned phone calls, I tackled work miscellany, I cleared out the freezer and prepped some meals for summer company. None of these tasks was hard on its own but felt daunting when considered in totality. Crossing them off my to-do list cleared up so much mental headspace.

ADVENTURES | John took the kids hiking to Cape Split. Levi did a stint on John’s shoulders on the return trip but Abby walked the whole 15 km+ distance! En route there is a giant tree where people carve their initials and they found a set John and I had carved ages ago (maybe 15 years?).

And while I was out for supper Tuesday night, they went to some of our favourite local spots: Scot’s Bay for skipping rocks and “The Lookoff.” The beauty of Nova Scotia never ceases to amaze me.

Another day = ice cream at a local farm market. He (Levi, not the goat) gets a haircut next week; the fluff is adorable, but it gets so long, so fast!

WORDLE | The pictures say it all. This week marked our 4th and 5th times of getting the word in 2 tries; the thrill never gets old (though we’ve stopped screaming so loud it scares the children).


And that was the week – lots of fun, along with some anxiety/restlessness…and one giant dose of bird poop on my shoulder.

Happy weekending friends. May your skies be clear and sunny, with nary a defecating bird in sight…

Header photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

Wash When Dirty – And Other Life Advice

John bought a shirt recently (thrifted, of course) and I had to smile when I saw the underside of the tag:

Wash this when dirty.

No complicated instructions, just a healthy dose of common sense.

And it got me thinking – wouldn’t it be great if life came with a bunch of giant tags?

How about:

  • Sleep When Tired
  • It’s Okay To Say No; or, Just Say Yes
  • Eat When Hungry
  • Drink More Water
  • Breathe
  • Be Kind
  • Cry When Sad
  • Smile When Happy
  • Laughter Is Encouraged

Alas, life doesn’t always come with handy labels. But I did get a kick out of this tag. (Side note: does anyone else say they “Get a kick” out of something? It means to find an object or situation funny/interesting, but I don’t know if it’s a localized colloquialism or a broader social phrase?)

Any “tags” you’d like to suggest?

Header photo by PlanetCare on Unsplash

Things I Know I Love

Years ago, during a particularly rough patch of solo-parenting (John’s work schedule had him away regularly), I flipped to the back of my planner and made a list titled, quite unoriginally: Things I Like. At the time I was most certainly not enjoying: feeding, bathing, and diapering little kids by myself. Bedtime was an exhausting trainwreck; mornings weren’t much better. So it helped, a bit, to be able to reference a list of things I actually enjoyed, including: thick blankets, hot showers, watching Blue Jays baseball, and eating sushi.

While I’m still no fan of solo-parenting, life looks a lot different these days. There are no diapers to change and mornings/bedtime are a lot more tolerable without an infant or toddler in the house. More generally, I’m being intentional about spending time doing things that I actually like doing (and finding ways, where appropriate, to avoid the rest).

So I don’t love fresh flowers or sweating or spicy food or rollercoasters…but here are some things I do love.


  • Photography. Taking photos, editing photos, looking at others’ photos – I love it all.
  • Tidying/Decluttering. Organizing a sock drawer, clearing out the fridge, sorting through old clothes in a closet – these are happy activities that both calm and energize me.
  • Reading. I’ve loved books my whole life and browsing at a library or looking over at my bedside table and seeing a stack of new books never fails to fill me with joy.
  • Writing cheques. I’ve talked about this quirk before, but I absolutely love writing cheques. Weird/random, I know.
  • Going to my favourite coffee shop. I don’t go often (an average of once a month?), and I always get the same thing (Earl Grey with oat milk), but I love this space. Sometimes I meet friends and other times I take a book or my laptop and enjoy solitude. It’s such a warm, inviting place.
  • Eating. While there are a few things I tend to avoid (cheese, spicy food, and quiche), for the most part I love all foods. I know many people enjoy eating, so this isn’t necessarily very original but, occasionally, I hear about someone who genuinely doesn’t care about how food tastes or looks (how, I ask?!) – or has a lot of food intolerances – and it just reiterates how much I love food and appreciate my ability to enjoy a wide variety of foods! Favourites: sushi, roasted sweet potato, peanut butter, eggs (any form but quiche), oatmeal, Twizzlers, cherry cheesecake.
  • Hot showers. While I’m not always a fan of getting wet – mostly because I find it a huge nuisance to deal with wet hair – I love long, hot showers. The long and hot parts are key. I don’t take one every day, but in the winter a hot shower is one of my favourite things to do when I’m tired and cold. (Incidentally, I loathe baths and often go years without taking one.)
  • Massages. I know some people don’t like the sensation of a massage (especially face massages), but I love them. One year we had an especially great insurance plan and I maxed out every penny of my massage allowance!
  • Opening curtains in the morning. Specific, I know, but opening curtains never fail to delight me – even if I’m in a hotel room. I crave natural light and find any space looks mildly (or, in some cases, majorly) depressing until the curtains and blinds are open. Thankfully we have a lot of windows in our house and once everything is opened up our house is very bright.
  • Closing curtains/turning on lamps at night. On the flip side, I love making the house cozy and warm in the evening. Shutting curtains and blinds and turning off overhead lights in exchange for softer lamp light makes for a satisfying evening transition.
  • Laughing. I love to laugh. John makes an effort to get a chuckle (or cackle, I have a range of equally awkward hilarious laughter sounds) at every available opportunity and he is usually successful. I’m trying to go out of my way to seek laughter these days. In terms of a specific comedian, Nate Bargatze is my favourite because of his deadpan delivery and the fact his material is family-friendly (I don’t enjoy crass humour, which seems to make up the majority of standup acts).
  • Behind-the-scenes. I love documentaries and memoirs. When I was in high school, I went through a major Tolkien phase. As much as I loved the actual Lord of the Rings movies, what I liked far more was watching behind-the-scenes footage – learning about costume design and location scouting or watching outtakes was the epitome of good entertainment to me.

I also love: going to art galleries or museums with John, holding hands with the kids when we’re out running errands, warm Magic bags when I’m cold, long walks with family and friends, washing dishes (if there aren’t too many and my sink will drain), the smell of permanent marker and, well, a lot of other things!

The older I get, the more I’m learning to give myself permission to be okay with admitting there are things I simply don’t enjoy. I don’t have to eat the melted cheese on lasagne or hop on a rollercoaster. I realize that saying yes to uncomfortable things can be fun and part of life’s adventure – to that end, there is a good chance I will end up on a rollercoaster this summer. I try to factor in the discomfort where it feels appropriate and a net-positive experience.

But other times, it’s okay to admit that life feels best when I’ve closed the curtains and turned on the lamps by 6 pm on a Saturday night. Closely followed by hopping in for a hot shower and putting on cozy PJ’s before sitting down to watch Nate Bargatze on an at-home date night with John.

Your turn. What are some things – big or small – you genuinely enjoy? Does anyone reading here like baths, leave curtains closed during the day, and feel apathetic about photography?

Header photo by Eddie & Carolina Stigson on Unsplash

Be Like The Bird…

I’m back with another poem. I know – who have I become?

Poetry is a genre I want to love but often find tedious. I’m recognizing I really do appreciate this form of art, just not always from traditional sources.

I love lyrical music and, in this format, consume poetry daily! And perhaps that is part of the allure of picture books, as they so often read and function like accessible poetry (especially some of the masterfully-written rhyming books).

So maybe I’m a poetry buff after all? Regardless of my official status, here is a poem I’ve loved for years:

Be like the bird, who
Resting in his flight
On a twig too slight
Feels it give way beneath him,
Yet sings
Knowing he has wings.

Victor Hugo

What wonderful imagery: to sing when the branch gives way and then take flight.

Putting this into practice is where the challenge begins but, sometimes, when the world seems to give way beneath us we remember dormant skill sets. (Unfortunately, mine don’t include the ability to fly. Wouldn’t that be convenient.)

Header photo by Pete Nuij on Unsplash

Destination Georgia: Savannah

Everyone, it seems, either raves about – or wants to visit – Savannah. My brother always makes a point to coordinate a trip when he visits South Carolina; work colleagues told John it was a “must-see” destination in the South; Tripadvisor reviews are glowing.

Hmmm.

If I had to use a single word to describe Savannah, it would be “underwhelming”.

But then I’d be quick to provide lots of caveats. In retrospect, I think much of this underwhelm had to do with our inflated expectations, relatively short stay (a day trip), and some unfortunate timing/misinformation. Because it was a lovely day: my sister took our kiddos to the local zoo back in Columbia while John and I got to explore a beautiful city on foot.

Summary: I’m glad we went, but don’t think I’d feel the need to return on any subsequent trip.

highlights

*Credit alert: every picture in this post (except the header) was taken by John. I didn’t touch my phone while we were in Savannah!*

  • The architecture. Hands down my favourite part of Savannah was wandering the streets and seeing all the beautiful historic homes. Everything oozes character. It’s hard (especially on a first visit to a new location) to gauge how much time to prioritize for leisurely wandering vs. doing specific touristy things. We tried to strike the right balance, but if I ever do go back to Savannah, I would aim to spend the majority of my time exploring the quaint streets and marveling at the charm of the buildings.
I loved, loved, loved this. An old stucco sign peeling away to reveal the original brick.
  • Cobblestones. This fits in with my appreciation for the architecture; I loved seeing all the cobblestones and learning more about their history. In Savannah, most of the cobblestone streets were sourced from rocks used for ballast. Ships were landing in the area and unloading ballast stones right into the harbour which, for obvious reasons, isn’t sustainable long-term. Harbourmasters started forcing ships to unload their rock ballast (apparently the water would go rancid so they couldn’t use the same rocks over and over again) onshore, and those rocks were then used to pave streets. Since different source locations used different stones for ballast, it resulted in a range in the type of cobblestone streets. This all makes sense, but I was oblivious until I read a placard about it. In a few places, I actually saw old asphalt chipping away to reveal the original cobblestone beneath. So cool!
  • The squares. I think there are 22 squares total in Savannah and they were delightful. They’re scattered throughout the city and lend to it being such a walkable city. Vehicles have to constantly route around these squares, so there are no big lanes of traffic to navigate as a pedestrian. One square had a statue of John Wesley – founder of the Methodist Church and famous hymn writer (including Hark The Herald Angels Sing) – who preached in Savannah.
First Methodist Church
John Wesley statue

  • The Spanish moss. It adds so much charm to the area and everywhere we looked there were giant southern oak trees dripping with the stuff.
  • Sushi. Okay, this had nothing to do with Savannah, but we couldn’t decide what to do for lunch (we had looked at some local seafood places along the waterfront but nothing seemed overly appealing). In the end, we Googled “sushi” and found a nice, but inexpensive, spot about 400 m away from our current location. It was hot and I was thirsty and hungry. The combination of some solidly enjoyable sushi and bottomless ice water was so refreshing.
  • Old Sheldon Church Ruins. This was en route back to Columbia (located in Beaufort County, SC – so we were no longer in Georgia). What a hidden gem! Up until recently, it was believed this church had been burned by the British in 1779 (during the Revolutionary War), rebuilt in 1826, and then burned again in 1865 during the Civil War. In reality, the church may have been dismantled for materials during the Civil War. Either way, it was a beautiful spot off the beaten track which ended up being one of the highlights of the day.
About a decade ago they put up fences as people were stealing the stonework. Sigh.
This was so cool (pictures don’t do it justice). This stonework growing into the tree was something we just happened to spot on the periphery of the grounds.

medium lights

  • Fresh pralines. All along River Street, candy stores hand out free samples of praline. They were good, though a very big sugar high and a bit too sweet for me. It felt like an iconic food to indulge in, though, and we each bought one and ate it by the waterfront! (The kids would have lost their minds as each store had SO. MUCH. CANDY.)
  • The Cathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist. The architecture was beautiful.
  • Forsyth Park. Admittedly we didn’t explore absolutely everything in this park and it was very pretty…but mildly underwhelming. I think it is the #1 ranked destination in Savannah and I kept thinking, “We have parks as nice as this back in Canada.” Minus the Spanish moss which really is so hauntingly beautiful. I understand why it is iconic, but I was left expecting something more, somehow?
  • We stopped in at the world-famous Savannah College of Art and Design. There are a lot of different locations in the city, but we happened upon a store-front/gallery which is also part of the school campus. We love art!

low lights/UNDERWHELMING STOPS

  • We went to the Bonaventure Cemetary to see the statue made famous by the cover of Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil. And the statue wasn’t there. Whomp, whomp. Now if I had done sufficient research before the trip I would have been aware the statue has been moved to a museum (by the family whose plot contained this suddenly iconic grave marker, so this makes a lot of sense). The cemetery was huge and really quite beautiful but we didn’t stop to take a single picture. Oops. The cemetery is so large you can drive through it and we had someone behind us the whole way so it never made sense to stop. If we had planned to explore the cemetery more leisurely I think I would have really enjoyed this spot, but the air had gone out of my proverbial balloon upon learning the statue wasn’t there (which was the main point of our stop).

We did walk by the Mercer House (I haven’t read the book or watched the movie but this is a BIG tourist draw).
  • Chippewa Square. This square was made famous because it’s the location of the Forrest Gump “Life is like a box of chocolates…” scene. Except the bench built/used in the movie is now in a museum. Which was a bummer…couldn’t they at least build a replica?)
Forrest in Chippewa Square
Elisabeth in Chippewa Square (I found a bench, but should have posed in front of the memorial you can see behind Forrest)…
  • The Savannah National Wildlife Refuge is closed for renovations until April 2023. Normally you can drive a 5-mile stretch and see lots of alligators (there is a part of the road officially labeled Alligator Alley). From what I’ve heard/read it is very beautiful, and there are some great hiking trails. Not being able to access this spot was a major bummer and the information online was ambiguous so we did swing by and can confirm – it IS closed/gated to the public right now.
  • The waterfront. We started our trip at Forsyth Park (nice, but underwhelming given the hype), and I was legit excited to get down to the famous waterfront. We wandered down through the city and suddenly looked up and saw an ENORMOUS container ship going right by us. We had arrived! (This makes a lot of sense; for many years Savannah was North America’s fourth-largest port for shipping container traffic!). Now the pictures of Savannah’s waterfront looked lovely (see the Unsplash header for this post by way of an example), but those views are taken from the other side of the Savannah River! I suppose if we had taken a river cruise we would have gotten to see a full view of the historic part of town, but from my viewpoint looking over to the opposite side, it was mostly just a lot of cranes, convention centres, and big hotels – a very industrial vibe, and not in a hip, trendy way.
  • Tybee Island. We went to Tybee Island to visit the lighthouse; this island is a major tourist draw and I think if we had been staying for the day and rented bikes it would have been a lot of fun. But parking was crazy and what we really wanted to do was wander around the lighthouse and read about the history of this lighthouse…but it’s all fenced off. To get on the grounds you have to pay (entry does include a climb to the top of the lighthouse, though). It would have been $12 USD each (so over $30 CAD total) to get entry and it just didn’t feel worth it. So that was disappointing. The beach was…okay. We wandered down to explore, but it didn’t have anything unusual that made it stand out to me.

A few other thoughts:

  1. If I was interested in American Civil War history, I think I would adore Savannah. History is everywhere with plaques about specific soldiers and battles which, frankly, all goes over my head.
  2. On a related note, locations celebrating Johnny Mercer (most famous for writing Moon River, but he received nineteen Oscar nominations and won four Best Original Song Oscars), Flannery O’Connor (born and lived in Savannah until she was 15), and the Mercer House (famous for Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil), would all be a lot more impressive if I was attached to these famous Savannah natives/stories. Apparently, some people base their entire trip around Mercer House tours and relevant sites. I think it’s a bit like visiting Prince Edward Island – if you’re not engaged by the Anne of Green Gables narrative, you’re going to miss out on a lot of the charm and touristy appeals.

While I’d rank Savannah as a solid B, I can see how to certain demographics/under certain conditions it would be an A+. We didn’t do a riverfront cruise, trolley car tour, visit local plantations, or rent bikes on Tybee Island. We weren’t there long enough to soak up some of the most charming elements of the area and I think the city at dusk would be stunning. So, given the parameters of our visit it was underwhelming but with oodles of caveats and still many, many highlights! Even as I’m writing this I feel like I need to go back and give it another try?!

Has anyone else ever been (or have plans to go) to Savannah? Thoughts?

Header photo by Tyler Edic on Unsplash

Casual Friday + We’re Home

There’s a lot to unpack – literally in terms of sand-filled clothing and proverbially in terms of memories – from our trip to South Carolina.

We arrived home in the wee hours this morning. It was incredible to see family and we loved soaking up every ray of delightful Carolina sunshine (though, despite best efforts and near-constant sunscreen application, everyone but Levi walked away with some iteration of a sunburn). Outside of my parents, I see family quite rarely because of geography, and COVID hasn’t helped. So it feels very, very special when we get to spend time together.

I’m old enough to realize that hello always necessitates goodbye and I’ve also learned it’s better to leave a party before you’re ready (thanks, Dot)…but still, I’m feeling pretty bummed and sad right now. I wish we were still lounging on the beach or heading to the pond for another fishing adventure instead of jumping back into the less exciting routines of life.

But that life is objectively wonderful (or so I tell myself in between reaching for my down-filled parka; the weather in Canada is…cooler). The renovations that were started while we were away progressed relatively smoothly. There are lots of fun school and work and summer sporting routines to ease back into next week.

Without further ado, a recap; it was one of those “highlight-reel” sort of weeks.

week #2 in South carolina

SATURDAY | We spent most of our day on Lake Murray. After a fun morning of wakeboarding, tubing, and swimming, we enjoyed a picnic lunch on the boat while drifting in a cove. The water was warm, the sun was shining and it was just a lovely way to spend my birthday.

SUNDAY | We were up and out the door early, headed to Charleston for a two-day stay. We planned to start on the beach at Isle of Palms, but crowds were huge because of the long weekend, so we ended up reconfiguring our plans and headed right to downtown Charleston. We had a picnic lunch at the waterfront battery and then spent several hours walking around the city.

The most memorable stop for me was the John Rutledge House Inn. Years ago we found a framed sketch of this location for several dollars at one of our go-to thrift stores. We liked the aesthetic, bought it, and it has been hanging in our home ever since. So one of our main goals in Charleston was to visit the house in person.

Apparently, or so Google tells me, it is considered one of the best hotels/inns in all of Charleston. John Rutledge was a Governor of South Carolina and also signed the Constitution! The manager of The Governor’s House Inn – located across the street and previously owned by another Rutledge brother – saw us taking pictures and ended up coming outside to provide a free 15-minute synopsis of local history, especially as it pertained to the Rutledge family.

We went back to the waterfront and the kids + a cousin got soaked in the Pineapple Fountain (this was a sanctioned public spot for people to go wading).

Then we checked in to our hotel in Patriot’s Point. Abby spent a happy 30 minutes in the pool doing handstands for me to rate on a scale of 1 to 10. My sister brought all the fixings for tacos and we convened in their hotel room for a supper picnic.

I have yet to “master” the art of the selfie, but this one made me laugh because of Levi’s unintentional photo bomb.

Then we were off to the pier for fishing; Levi caught something on his last cast which was a wonderful turn of luck (in total the group caught and released 5 or 6 fish). While some of the group stayed behind to continue fishing, our family + my oldest niece walked the iconic Ravenel Bridge at sunset. It was stunning.

MONDAY | After making good use of the Continental Breakfast, we headed to the beach. We ended up skipping Isle of Palms (busy + paid parking) and ended up at Sullivan’s Island Beach instead. The kids had a wonderful time, and John told me earlier today this was the highlight of the trip for him. We found a live sea dollar, there was an alligator sighting (um, yikes), and Levi and my nephew dug a giant hole in the sand. John, Abby, two nieces and I walked to Sullivan’s Island Lighthouse, the last lighthouse built in America and, at one time, the brightest lighthouse in the world.

A picnic lunch + some more fishing (John was the only one to catch something at this spot; it was high noon).

On our way back to the vehicle, we met up with a police officer who showed our group a picture of the 8-foot HAMMERHEAD SHARK he caught earlier in the day. From the beach right beside where we were fishing! Double yikes. We picked up a few souveniers and headed for home.

TUESDAY | My brother-in-law had to leave for work in Georgia, so we planned a lower-key day around Columbia. We took my nieces/nephew to Starbucks for a treat and then headed out for a very hot 18-holes of mini golf. It was a lot of fun, and a first for our kids. Mini-golf (or putt-putt as they call it in the South) had been part of our family “bucket” list for the summer, so it was great to check that off in the company of some very enthusiastic cousins. I was so, so bad (and it was so, so hot). But it was fun and that’s what counts.

Next up was a short swimming lesson in the neighbourhood pool (one of my nieces teaches swimming lessons each day, and worked with both my kiddos), followed by a movie night for the smaller kids at home while the adults + my oldest niece and her boyfriend went to see the new Top Gun movie. It was “$5-ticket-night” but the theatre had leather recliners complete with heated seats. This was actually one of the highlights of my trip; it was fun to do something adults-only and the movie was very entertaining.

WEDNESDAY | Our main focus was various stops around downtown Columbia. We visited some AirBnB properties my sister and her husband co-own (gorgeous!).

We wandered around the grounds of the State House, followed by a bit of shopping downtown (Starbucks and Mast General Store, the latter being very fun for browsing) and then a lovely but very, very hot walk down by the river. Park rangers told us there is an alligator that often hangs out on a specific sandbar along the river, but we weren’t able to spot him. We did see four deer, though.

The evening highlight was Levi catching a massive carp in the neighbourhood pond.

THURSDAY | And then it was time to leave. Not nearly as much fun as going, and what a day of travel it ended up being. We had three flights to get home and they were ALL delayed – the first one by four hours. The kids were absolute rockstars. Hardly a complaint in a nearly 24-hour day.

Levi in the Charlotte airport – he was out COLD.

Airport waiting it never fun, but we made the most of it. John and I each took solo walks instead of carting around luggage and kids. The kids spent an inordinate amount of time on moving sidewalks. Our delays meant free snacks and the kids…well let’s just say they really enjoyed the snacks.

We got upgraded to business class on our flight from Washington to Montreal which was such a fun experience for the kiddo’s (and only my second time in business class; the perks of frequent flyer status don’t match the benefits of this sabbatical, but wow are they nice). Huge kudos to John for being such a saavy traveller. I would have been in tears headed to Timbuktu by the end of the day if he hadn’t been around to take charge and coordinate things so masterfully.


And now we’re home. I have hundreds of pictures to sort through and so many great memories of our time away. I think I’ll do a few posts specific to the trip – Savannah, Charleston, Columbia and maybe a bit about some of the things we do to make travel (air or otherwise) with kids a bit easier?

But for now I’m off to do some more laundry.

Happy weekending everyone.