Archive | April, 2013

Springtime wanders into the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

30 Apr

I recently had the pleasure of staying a weekend in Chapel Hill, NC. Expecting to be completely run over by students all day, it was a nice, quiet paced weekend to roam about the historic University of North Carolina campus.

Our friends in the area raved about the beauty of  the UNC campus and could not wait to give us the grand tour.  Needless to say we were not disappointed. Being the oldest public university in the United States the UNC at Chapel Hill campus boasts examples of numerous iconic architectural styles. Walking through campus is like a tour through the ages as a wide variety of species of trees all over campus drape your path. There are also fantastic little architectural gems hidden along the way – an unexpected tunnel, a gargoyle curiously perched along the side of a building it was not originally built into…..the sights on campus can even get downright weird sometimes. What’s even more spectacular is that there are stories – fact or fiction – for nearly every building, plant, or unique quirk on campus.

We started off by visiting the legendary Moorehead-Patterson bell tower surrounded by lush, green gardens. What really caught my eye as we got closer was the stunning blue tile that lined the Gothic cathedral ceilings of the breezeways.

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An obligatory long hallway shot:

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What is especially brilliant about this location of campus is that right behind this very traditional red-bricked structure is a fabulous science building with a strong industrial-brutal style. The building is also connected to several others built at different times.

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And then not far up the road – almost within shouting distance – is this brand new, gorgeous modern glass building.

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We then strolled further it across campus, taking note of the magnificent Greek Revival-style Louis Round Wilson library and it’s surrounding buildings – a few were built as early as 1793, others at the beginning of the 1900’s or later.

We eventually made our way to the Coker Aboretum, which is filled with plants and trees form all over the world. This entrance to the arboretum is so fantastic you almost feel as though you are entering another world.

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Other highlights of the arboretum included an impressive collection of Japanese Maple trees, and also this guy:

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These beauties made a little “ring” when you shook them.

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I could go on forever (and post about that many pictures, too) about how truly fantastic the arboretum was. As we finished up the path the light was getting lower we decided to make moves towards Franklin St. We of course stopped and saw the iconic Old Well which doubles as the symbol for the university. I was also particularly taken with the fantastic harvest crown on the top of the columns in front of the Playmaker’s Theatre.

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We eventually made our way to the Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery for some local brews. I recommend their award winning Ram’s Head IPA or their Blueridge Blueberry Wheat for something refreshing and unexpected.

If you follow me on social media, you’ll have noticed in the past weeks I have shared my fascination of this campus several times over, however this post merely scratches the surface of an impressive array of the buildings, character, and the award winning design of the UNC campus. If you are ever passing through I highly recommend a long walk and a quiet moment to enjoy a wonderful display of history and architecture.

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“Farm-to-table heirloom pork belly aioli froyo”

26 Apr

Sounds delicious, right?

I must thank my Twitter colleague @SamWithans for that gem of a title. It was some witty Twitter banter about another foodie/restaurant “trend” popping up in Charleston that produced that tweet. And while at first I laughed so hard I nearly snorted my coffee out of my nose, I suddenly realized that some of these foodie “trends” have been with us for quite a while. I then began to think of what the permanent effects these trends might have on their particular veins of the food and beverage as well as agricultural industries.

What do you think when you read the term “Farm to table?” Do you think of trendy, high society dinners set in mystical fields with Spanish moss floating among the oak trees? There may even be mason jar lamps on the table. Rest assured there is bacon on everything too.

What do I think of when I hear “farm to table?” I think of dinner in my kitchen tonight. And tomorrow night. I think of how my family, neighbors and I live our lives day in and day out. Farm to table dining is nothing new for us. It’s how we live. And it used to be how we all lived. And now only the “cool kids” are doing it, or at least, that is what is being marketed.

My main issue with romanticizing the term “farm to table” is that it partly creates a notion that eating fresh from the farm is unapproachable and expensive, when actually, it can be much more cost effective and convenient than the alternative.

Perhaps I am little overly sensitive considering I have worked both in marketing and the local SC agricultural industries since 2008. I currently serve as a Marketing and Membership Coordinator for a CSA program that my husband’s family started. My nephews have grown up eating broccoli out of their front yard.

I see day in and day out the struggles and triumphs of our local food industry from the ground up, and I firmly believe that there are two things that keep our communities as a whole from eating locally sourced, farm fresh foods: cost and convenience. I spend entire days trying to show folks that participating in our local agricultural food community can be something easy and beneficial to all parties involved. That eating food grown by your neighbor isn’t some new, radical concept with a high price tag.

I also spend my time showing our CSA members just how easy it is to incorporate fresh local produce into their every day lives. No need to spend $60 a plate on dinner when you can easily whip up something fresh and nutritious right in your kitchen every day.

I’ll admit, when the demand for Farmer’s Markets exploded in 2009 I was thrilled to be a part of it and was ecstatic at the attention my hard working neighbors were finally receiving for their years of backbreaking work. But here we are a few years later and the farm-to-table dinners are still happening, schmoozing is at an all time high and yet there is still minimal information given to the public at large about how they, too, can participate in the farm-to-table lifestyle.

Farm to table shouldn’t be an option only for those who can afford it. So let’s cut the elitism and find another way to build an agricultural community instead of dividing it at the same time.

Sunshine Naturals

25 Apr

During one of my recent expeditions across South Carolina I had the pleasure of spending an afternoon with Kim B. – Founder and Owner of Sunshine Naturals.

A relatively new company, Sunshine Naturals provides all natural spa and beauty products made in Lexington, SC. This line is excellent for those with sensitive skin or those with allergies to ingredients found in most beauty products. What initially attracted me to their display outside of Rosewood Market in Columbia, SC were the sumptuous lotions. Woodworking can make your hand feel like the Sahara sometimes so I am always on the hunt for the best lotions and hand creams.

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After testing the Rose Geranium handcream I was sold by it’s delicate scent and creamy thickness. It does leave that shiny, waxy finish (it does have beeswax in it, after all!) that helps seal in moisture.  I would definitely recommend this cream for anyone who has severely dry hands or for a great bedtime hand cream.

Oh, the creaminess of it all!

Oh, the creaminess of it all!

What I am really glad I impulse purchased – and for only $2! – was a  bag of their Rhassoul Clay mask. I mixed 1 tablespoon clay mix with 1 tablespoon of water (I didn’t have the recommended hydrosol) as instructed on the back of the bag. It went a long way and provided a nice, thick coat. The ask dried rather well and washing it off is what you would expect – it’s like washing dry clay off of your face. However my pore were immediately much smaller, my skin was very soft and my tone was great.

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Owner Kim shared some excellent information with us about the Rhassoul Clay Mask and it’s benefits. “The Rassoul clay, also called Morrocan red clay, is ultra absorbing, toning and firming, which is why it is a popular spa treatment” she explained. In addition to th Rhassoul Clay, Sunshine Naturals also offers an adobe and a bentonite clay mask. You can use all of Sunshine Natural’s clay masks up to twice a week.

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This photo was too funny to NOT share! That hair…..

I gave it a 4 out of 5 initially, but after a few days and I was so impressed with how clear my complexion was still so I’ve boosted it up to a 4.5.

In full disclosure this was my first clay mask experience of any kind, unless you count goofing off in the pluff mud on kayaks trips in the sea marshes of Charleston in college. Nostalgia aside, the physical results were more than convincing and I plan to make this excellent mask a part of my regular beauty routine.

In addition to lotions and masks, Sunshine Naturals offers all natural salt scrubs, sugar scrubs, hydrosols, soaps, lotion bars, lip gloss and more. You can purchase the Rhassoul Clay Mask, Rose Geranium lotion and all of their other great SC Certified beauty and Spa products from Sunshine Naturals online at sunshinenaturals.biz.