New Moon on Monday – Solar Eclipse is Coming!

Where are you going to be on Monday, August 21, 2017?

white_light_coronaAre you going to be working in an office?  Or will you be seeing the sight of a life time? The countdown is on!  To steal a quote from one of my all time favorite movies, “LadyHawke”.

In 26 days, in Columbia…

there will be a day without a night…

…and a night without a day.

In less than a month a small portion of the United States will be experiencing a total solar eclipse. While eclipses happen somewhere on the planet every year, the path of totality (total solar eclipse) hasn’t swept across the U.S. in 99 years and this time it is making a transcontinental cut straight through the center of the country.

I will not be in an office in Atlanta (even though you will see a partial) on this day, oh no no.  I will be in South Carolina in the path of totality and I urge you to take the day off and hit the roads to catch a glimpse of stars in the middle of the day.

The last time the U.S. had a total solar eclipse was in 1991, and was only visible from Hawaii.  Before that, in 1979, the total eclipse that hit the mainland was only visible in the Pacific-Northwest, and would be 40 years before the next big one. The time has finally arrived and it indeed is big.  It hasn’t been since 1918 that a total solar eclipse made it’s away down the middle of the Continental U.S.!  The time is now because as you can see it is going to be a few years before you have a chance to witness it again.

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The Path

Are you in the path?  NASA states that most of the country should catch a small portion of the eclipse but to see the total eclipse you need to be in the direct path.  The path of totality is only 60 miles wide, so it is very narrow. On this interactive map you can plug in your zip code to see if you are in the path of the eclipse, the animation is pretty cool, it will show you how much you will actually glimpse.

Visit Farmer’s Almanac to see where you can see partials and total’s and the times table.

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“You suddenly feel as though you can see the clockwork of the solar system. Where you think you lived doesn’t look like the same place anymore. We kind of know — in the back of our minds — that we live in a giant ball and it revolves around a hot ball of gas, and we’re floating in space. But you don’t really believe it until you see something like a total solar eclipse, where everything is all lined up and you go whoaaa. Other planets pop out. You got instant nighttime. And you can see Mercury and Venus usually. And sometimes Mars and Jupiter. … It looks like the pictures from the textbook. It’s not entirely a science thing anymore. … It’s mostly a thing where you have a better appreciation of where you are in the solar system.” – Ernie Wright, NASA

Where Can You See the Eclipse in the South?

You can check out all the areas by visiting http://www.eclipse2017.org/2017/maps.htm  For my friends and family living in Georgia, you have a few options for viewing.

As stated above: Atlanta will see a partial eclipse.  “Partial” sounds so blase but even if you can’t take off to witness the total eclipse, you will still be able to see a large portion of it, 97% according to Farmers Almanac.

Atlanta 1:05 p.m. 2:36 p.m. 97.0% 4:01 p.m.

So if you are in your office, you may be wondering why it got dark at 2:36 in the afternoon.  97% partial is very dangerous on the eyes to look at as the moon is not covering the entire sun.  Eclipse glasses are a must in this zone. Start time is 1:05 and end is 4:01.

There is a tiny area in north Georgia (Toccoa, Blairsville and Clayton) that is in the total eclipse path.  (does anyone else start humming Total Eclipse of the Heart when you read that?)  Clayton has the longest totality time (how long the sun is completely covered) because it is almost dead center.  North Carolina, like Georgia has a tiny little portion of the state, but Tennessee and South Carolina has quite a few towns in the path.  Click the images to see up close.

 

If for some reason your boss has you chained to your desk during the small window of the eclipse. Fear not you can stream it live.

Eye Safety

Looking at an eclipse directly will damage your eyes.  Don’t do it.  Purchase glasses. Please read how to safely watch the eclipse here. I picked my glasses up at the Planetarium at the University of South Carolina in Aiken, SC for 2 bucks.

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Phone Apps

There’s an app for that!

 

Resources:

I urge you to read more.  It is fascinating! For more information please visit:

I hope you find a spot to see this phenomenon.  Lots of cities have events, and the areas are going to be packed.  I will be in the woods somewhere in South Carolina.  I am not telling you where, find your own spot! 😀

Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all!

Fran

Finding Hope in Hopelands Gardens

This week, in the middle of our work day, our middle daughter, Olivia texted her daddy and me with a message. “I think I had a seizure“. This is not a message either of us wanted to see while at work in Atlanta, Photo Jul 12, 10 52 51 PM2.5 hours away from her. Olivia suffers from epilepsy and is attending culinary college in Augusta, GA. She had made it 13 months without an episode and we all felt a false sense of security, that maybe it wouldn’t happen while she was away. I immediately got into my car and headed her direction.  She is fine, albeit sick to her stomach and beat up.  Her shoulder dislocates during her seizures and even after surgery still causes her pain. It was hurt again. Her tongue was gnawed on during the attack and had huge tears on the sides and tip. She had dark circles under her eyes and was still disoriented when I arrived, but she is alive and safe. She sleeps 90% of the day after the seizure and it takes her a full 48 hours to gain energy enough to do much of anything, it will be a week before she feels remotely herself again. it takes a toll on the mind and spirit as much as the body.

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Snuggling post seizure.  Olivia’s kitty (Bast) is an excellent photo bomber

Her spirit was crushed with the hope that maybe, just maybe a miracle happened and she would never have another. The hope that she would be able to drive soon and live a normal life of a 19 year old student, were dashed. Olivia doesn’t talk much about the pain caused by seizures. She just says, “Epilepsy doesn’t have me, I have epilepsy“. She is not going to allow it to control her life. She doesn’t complain, but when I see her holding her arm close to her body, or hear her talk with a lisp because her tongue is chewed up, I know she is hurting. It’s difficult for her entire family.

EPhoto Jul 13, 10 35 45 AM (1)ven though our hopes were squashed, there is always hope. Without it what would humanity be?  We hope for love, the end of wars, a family, a job, a long life.  We also hope for sunshine, or rain depending on our needs. Our current need was to give Olivia positive vibes: in comes Olivia’s best friend Mikayla. We have known her and her mother since the girls were in 2nd grade, and they are family. Even though the two girls attend different schools and only see each other on breaks they still remain close. When Mikayla heard that Olivia had a seizure she dropped her plans and came to check on her bestie. The day after the seizure, even though Olivia didn’t feel up to much of anything, we thought flowers, sunshine and laughter were in order. As a plus it was Mikayla’s 20th Birthday! I did a quick Google search for what was near us and Hopelands Gardens, Akin, SC came up.

Hopelands Gardens was bequeathed to the town of Aiken by Mrs. Hope Islein and is now a city park. Mrs. Islein spent only winters in Aiken (I mean, Y’all it is hot here) and planted the now 150 year Oaks and Cedars as well as large estate gardens.  We had no idea what to expect when we arrived. We parked and walked over to a welcome sign, pulled out a brochure and became excited. “Welcome to the Labyrinth at Hopeland Gardens” it said.

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“The labyrinth is a metaphor for life’s journey… Follow the path to the center and when you arrive linger and absorb all that the labyrinth and garden has to offer”

Side Note: The labyrinth was modeled after the Amiens Cathedral, France.

2017-07-13 10.51.12-1We set off down the path choosing a direction as we came to forks in the stone walkway. Walking under these trees provided shade as well as beauty, on the scorcher of this summer day. The trees are massive and beautiful with their long ivy covered branches arching out to the sides. The birds and girls chattered softly as we went.

Olivia was definitely on the “struggle bus”. She lacked energy and was stumbling about clumsily, which is very normal after a seizure.

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We came upon three brick reflecting pools guarded by two hound statues where the original house once stood. We lingered here for a bit, to allow her to rest. The pools water was algae green and reflected the tree tops. Tiny fish could be seen swimming within the green depths. A gentle breeze swept in.

A mother and child sat near us playing in the pool water and my two girls sat discussing a duck that Mikayla named “Quackers“.

Photo Jul 13, 10 47 56 AMIt was apparent Olivia’s spirits were being renewed by her friend in the warmth of the sun. Continuing along we hugged a few trees, “climbed” in a big oak, and rested by the small pond where we watched dragonflies, ducks and turtles play in the water. It was quiet and peaceful as we lay there on the green grass by the small stone gazebo. Olivia closed her eyes and rested on the banks of the pond as her friend sat near.

 

We found the labyrinth and the girls made their way to the center.  The sun was high in the sky and shined directly upon them. Olivia lifted her face towards the sun and closed her eyes and said, “absorb the good vibes of the labyrinth and gardens, Mikayla“. Together they stood there motionless, faces towards the sky. The best of friends in unity, soaking up the sunshine, warmth, air, and earth.  I stood on the outside of the labyrinth and allowed them to follow their “life’s journey”.  I smiled.  Our spirits were revived.  There is hope where there is the love of  friends and family.

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“Absorb the good vibes of the labyrinth”

Keep the Lust for Wandering through Life’s Labyrinth Y’all

Fran

See all the photos by clicking here

 

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Thanks to:

https://www.cityofaikensc.gov/parks-playgrounds-natural-areas/hopelands-gardens/

 

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Pecan Pie, a Clock Tower & Mystic Grill

Recently, Shane and I were traveling from Augusta to our home in Locust Grove, GA.  We had left home early that morning and after a long day, it was nearing 6pm. We were getting hungry.

Pulling out my phone and searched Google for “restaurants near me”. A list of chain restaurants popped up.  I scrolled through looking for the locally owned eateries as those are our favorites and I came across a few and picked the first one that caught my attention.  Mystic Grill.

Being a lover of sci-fiction and all things fantasy, I am way into anything with the name “Mystic” in it, so I put it into my GPS and off we went to the town square of Covington. The square itself only lies a few miles off interstate 20, is maybe 30 minutes outside of Atlanta.

barI would have loved to explore the town square, but my man was hungry and getting grumpy so we immediately went inside the restaurant.  We entered in through the bar and had to walk through the restaurant to get to the hostess stand, which was weird. Oops wrong door and as Shane said, “We look like igits”. The bar has this blue glow to it and was pretty cool.

Photo Jul 06, 5 14 42 PMThe dining area, with oak tables and staircase, had plastered walls and uncovered brick that has faded with time. Exposed pipes run along the high tin ceiling gave it a old factory feel. I love tin ceilings. They were very popular in the south in the late 1800’s. Some of the paint is chipping off and you can see the tin peeking through the white paint which shows it’s age.  There are large arched windows that allow natural light to illuminate the room.

We grabbed the menu and began to look over it, on the back is a history of the building and the grill.  It boasts of a view of the clock tower from the roof and Shane said he thought, “Great, Fran is going to want hangryto go see it“.  He knows me so well!  And I did, so up I went alone, ’cause he was hangry and could really have cared less.  I headed up the stairs to the roof top bar and it is a fantastic view of the square and clock tower.

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The clock tower really is something.  They just don’t build things like this anymore.

There is rooftop seating and a bar. I could feel a warm breeze, even though it was the beginning of July and 95 degrees out. I bet it is a very nice place to hang out, on a warm summer evening.

I climbed back down the stairwell that was decorated with signed Mystic Grill menus from actors that had visited the joint.

I returned to my table, showed Shane the photos and finished reading the back of the menu.  It turns out that this restaurant is unlike most.  It was born out of the fictional town of Mystic Falls, Virginia in the TV show The Vampire Diaries.  This is extremely neat to me because, typically, restaurants don’t pop up because it existed in a TV series.  Being from Atlanta it is not a shock to hear that towns all over the metro area are used in the film industry.  Pinewood Studio resides here and we hear about filming in the area quite often.  I talked to the waitress and she said people come from all over to eat here just because of the show.  ast week there was a father and daughter from Denmark that came to town just to see the famous town of “Mystic Falls” and to eat at this diner. She also said while there are a lot of fans, many locals come back because of the food.  Ok now I want to try the food seeing that I am sorta a local.

Perfect timing, our appetizer arrived. Warm baked brie with peaches and pecan streusel.  Holy cow was it good.  For our main course, I ordered a mix greens salad with pecans and goat cheese.  I added a grilled chicken breast for protein.  The chicken breast was under-seasoned and just “eh” but if you took a bite of the cheese and the pecan vinaigrette with it, it made it pretty good.  Shane had the Clock Tower burger.  Photo Jul 06, 5 42 45 PMThis thing was huge! Bigger than Shane’s head huge! Caramelized onion, on a beef patty with a fried egg, bacon, and cheddar cheese.  On top of the bun were two onion rings and around it were homemade house potato chips that were crunchy on outside and soft on the inside.  They were so good and it was very hard not to keep stealing them off Shane’s plate, which he secretly hates.  I was pushing it by grabbing a few, but figured I was safe from his grumpiness now that he has food in his tummy. Even though I am trying to eat healthy and for piethe sake of this blog, we had to try the dessert. Shane is a pie kind of guy, so we ordered the warm Derby Pie which is a warm pecan pie with chocolate sauce and ice cream.  “Holy pecan pie, Batman!” It was phenomenal.  I had a few bites and then he devoured it.

For the two of us it was a 50 dollar bill before the tip. This was 1 appetizer, 2 entrees, 2 non-alcoholic drinks and 1 dessert.  While it was not a cheap dinner, it was a good dinner.  My salad was 15 dollars which I believe was a bit too expensive because for the most part it is just a salad mix arranged on a plate, topped with a few onions, cheese, pecans and chicken that was nothing special.  On the other hand, Shane enjoyed his burger and it was cooked perfectly to his liking. grillIn all we do not regret our trip here, as the atmosphere was nice and the staff was friendly.  We would go back if we were in the area, and I would splurge and eat a burger.  If you are a fan of the TV series, you will definitely want to stop by.  Understand though from what our server says, the inside of the grill does not look exactly like it does in the show. Structurally it just wasn’t possible, but there are a lot of aspects that were modeled directly from the show itself.  Be sure to sit on the benches in the square directly in front of the restaurant.  (shown in photo below) Apparently, an actor’s bum also sat upon it and this might thrill you.

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Covington Square

Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all

Fran

 

Sun, Saltwater and Seasonal Fireworks

File Jul 06, 8 21 32 PMIt is tradition in my family that we spend IndependenceFile Jul 06, 8 19 01 PM Day at the beach watching the waves crash to the shore as thousands of sparkles ignite overhead in a thundering fireworks display. There is nothing like it, 9 miles of beach all igniting in a brilliant performance. From our spot we could see the marina, 4 resorts, 2 restaurants, 2 piers and the bay all igniting fireworks. They are everywhere and some classify it as mayhem. Children playing with sparklers and adults lighting explosives right beside you. While I can’t say it is completely safe, I highly recommend that at least once in your life you take a trip to the gulf coast for the July 4th celebration.

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My siblings and me in 1975.  I am the cute little one in the front.

The gulf coast shore line is only 6 hours from Atlanta and we have been coming to the gulf coast shores since I was a child.  Summers were spent in Carabelle, Gulf Shores, and Panama City Beach. My teen years I spent summer evenings hollerin’ at boys from the back of pickup trucks, slowly crawling up and down the “strip” of Front Beach Road in Panama City Beach.  I have a memory of sitting in the back hatch of a red Camero while Poison’s “Pour Some Sugar on Me” was blasting out the rear of the vehicle. Why are kids so obnoxious?   Why were my parents ok with this? Back then the “strip” housed old hot pink hotels, beach bars, and souvenir shops selling cheesy beach items. Today, the run down pink hotels have been replaced with high rise condo’s but the beach bars and cheesy shops are still there. The strip is still packed bumper to bumper with trucks, cars, motorcycles, pedestrians and kids that are still obnoxious about their music.

The first week in July in Panama City Beach is insane.  It is so crowded!  Yet, we still come.  Every restaurant and grocery store is packed.  Go early if you want to eat out. During the summer months, we usually eat a big breakfast, skip lunch and then eat dinner around 5pm.  If you go after 5pm expect to wait 2+ hours to be seated.  I ain’t kiddin’ y’all, it’s crowded.  My favorite places to eat are not the hip places on Front Beach Road.  While I do like Sharky’s atmosphere, I enjoy going to the marina to eat at The Captain’s Table or Uncle Ernie’s.  The Captain’s Table is a “hole in the wall” that has large portions of local fish. The fried shrimp are large and yummy, as well as the grilled grouper.  The cheese curds appetizer is good too.

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Cloudy sunset at Uncle Ernie’s

Uncle Ernie’s sits on the marina and you can watch boats come and go from outside deck seating. It is expensive but the portions are large and it is very good! Their soft shell crab is unbelievable as are the crab cakes. A lot of people like Hunt’s Oyster Bar and the wait for it is usually long no matter what time a 18698288_10155249901072591_3355277205726918202_nday you go. It is a tiny hole in the wall restaurant that is known for it’s oysters. You will wait a couple of hours to be seated if you go for dinner. The food better be darn good if I am going to wait more than 30 minutes; and it is.  I happen to like the Mullet at Captain’s Table and there is rarely a wait there, so I usually opt for eating there instead.

IMG_4971The beach itself is ridiculously crowded. My family calls it “Tent City”. People bring these canopies to the beach to protect their families from the harsh sun and while I hate them, I also carry one over.  They block the view, but also the UV rays so I get why people use them. What I don’t understand is the music blaring out of speakers. Different genre’s of music can be heard all over the beach and it usually is playing loudly. Because they are sitting right in front of a speaker the vacationers have to yell to be heard by one another. This REALLY annoys Olivia, who complains about it and makes us all irritable. How do we combat this? We use sound blocking headphones and only pull them out to talk to each other. This is OK because we like to read or take a nap under our obnoxious but super shady canopy tent.

The condo we stay in, is at Gulf Highlands Beach Resort, a gated community of condo’s on Front Beach Road.  The resort has several pools and an exercise room. There is a pool house that serves food and drinks poolside at the beach.18268617_10155185356232591_9186336115934020299_n

These condos are quieter, and less crowded. These are small 2-3 bedroom town home style condos.IMG_5041

Our condo’s pool with the Majestic high rise in background.  The beach is over those tree’s. 

This week, at any given time there were no more than 20 people at the pool and our little area of the beach was less crowded than the hotels to either side of us.  It took us 3 minutes to walk from the condo door to the beach and to us, not staying directly on the beach gives us an escape from the crowds. No kids running up and down the hallway at 2 am. Also, by staying off the beach you can get a condo for about 100 dollars less a night.  You can book this condo on AirBnB.

Okay so, if we hate obnoxious music and crowded beaches so much why in the world would we come down for Independence day?

File Jul 07, 10 13 04 AMEvery  year, on the fourth of July, as the sunsets and the warm breeze rolls up the coast.  The masses take to the beach.  Thousands of people are spread out over the miles of shoreline but it isn’t shoulder to shoulder crowded.  There is plenty of space to spread out. There is zero stress because we don’t have to drive anywhere. No sitting in a car trying to get there and home.  Just walk to the beach, set up a chair and watch the sun go down and the explosions go up.  People share sparklers with children and we have even been given hotdogs by some really nice people from Alabama. Everyone is kind, generous and social.  The excitement builds as the first rocket is ignited before the sun has even set. It is an exhilarating touch of freedom.

We are awed at the amount of firecrackers that are set ablaze.  You have NO idea guys. It is insane.  Vacationers stop at firework stores on the way down to purchase hundreds of poppers, candles, streamers, whistlers, they dig holes in the sand and ignite these bad boys right beside you! The tiny rockets whistle, as the light trails through the air and explode sending tiny luminous ash streams over head.  It is stunning. Thousands of dollars are spent by ordinary people getting ready to ignite gunpowder filled canisters. This is ONE man’s bootie! Two wagon’s full!

Hotels have pyrotechnic shows, both piers are lit up in a professional display by the city, and the marina also goes all out.

Firework displays symbolize the horrors of war in ironic beauty.

It is a surreal moment for me. I get emotional watching fireworks explode over me. I think about what it must have been like for Francis Scott Key and Dr. William Beanes as they watched the 25 hour bombardment of Fort McHenry from a British ship.  “Bombs bursting in air“. It has been known to move me to tears,  add “The Star Spangled Banner”, and I am done.

This being said, I am going to stop talking and just let the photos explain to you why we come to the beach on the 4th of July to celebrate America’s Independence. (make sure you hum the “Star Spangled Banner” as you watch.)

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Keep the Lust for Wandering, Y’all!

Fran

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Moma and me – July 4, 2017

Thanks to the City of Panama City Beach for supplying me with information about the Firework displays.
I was not paid to endorse any of the restaurants discussed here.  They are really good and are my favorites. The condo at Gulf Highlands Beach resort was given to us free of charge for the week.

Independence in a Small Town

CourtToday is America’s 241st Birthday.  Our Independence Day.  I love my country.  I see happiness as well as sadness in my country.  I see love and hate, pride and disrespect. Like people, no government is perfect.  Communism, Democracy, Monarchy, Socialism. Each has it’s flaws, as there is no such thing as a utopia.  But sometimes on a perfect summer day in a small town you get the illusion of such a thing.

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I grew up in Henry County, Georgia, south of Atlanta.  In the 70’s my town had one red light.  It’s purpose was to stop traffic at the railroad crossing.  There was a Tastee Freez in the middle of town where you could grab an ice cream cone on a Saturday night.

18664683_10154879149124565_1682624335704468530_nEver since I could remember my county has had parades to celebrate Martin Luther King’s Birthday, The Fourth of July, and Christmas.  I marched in the parades growing up and then my daughters had a chance to do the same, on the same streets.

gallery_07During the summer the county seat, the town of McDonough, hosts ice cream socials, outdoor movies, sock hops, concerts, and lunches in the town square.  All free of charge for the families who call this place their home.  Southern charm at it’s very best.

The square is hustling and bustling with crowds and cars during the day.  It really isn’t as “small town” as it used to be, but as the sun starts to go down and the air begins to cool, the square becomes quiet.  When I am walking amidst the geraniums on warm summer evening I feel a peaceful connection to my childhood.

This week Shane, Olivia, Julia, and I were eating at Olivia’s img_4790.jpgfavorite restaurant, H. J. Wings and Things.  Olivia was so excited to have some decent wings while she was home from culinary college for the holiday.

After dinner we drove through the square of McDonough, and seeing it draped with American flags we got out and snapped a few shots of our town all dressed up for America’s Independence day.

 

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Tonight, my community gathered to share ice cream, laughter, music and fireworks.  We celebrated our Independence.   America has learned a lot over the past 241 years, and we still have a lot to learn but today, we were united by our passion for our country.  Life in a small town is good.

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Keep the Lust for Wandering Y’all!

 

Fran

 

Thanks to I Love McDonough where I was able to pull a lot of information about the current events and photos.