Year in Review: 2018

How is it already January? Anyone else feel like the winter Olympics were last month (probably just me)?

November and December have been absolutely crazy months for us. We were in six different countries (seven if you count a week in the UK during mid-October) including about a month away from home. I’m REALLY far behind on updating everyone on the amazing places we’ve been this year, along with the continuous atrociousness that is USA Gymnastics, Michigan State University, and the USOC (spoiler alert: it’s even worse if that’s possible, but I’m sure you already guessed that). 

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Because we’re in a new year and I love making lists, this post will include 2018’s #allthethings : life things, my favorite things, traveling things, food things. You know, my usual rambling.

Here’s the Thing: Sometimes Life is Good and Bad.

Like most things, 2018 was both wonderful and terrible. This year I was forced to really start to put a lot of my own experiences in perspective; a combination of the #metoo movement, Nassar victim impact statements, and constant discussion of abuse made avoiding my own history inescapable. I learned that I need to start taking my emotional and mental health more seriously rather than continue my usual tactic of ignore, ignore, ignore.

I learned that I’m not alone.

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Bratislava, Slovakia: One of the best memories of this year is streaming the Larry Nassar sentencing from my phone with a friend in a Slovakian speakeasy. A pretty perfect representation of my 2018.

This year I laughed until my stomach hurt, sat at the edge of the world, and ate an obscene amount of sweets with my coffee. I was able to see my family, my friends, and experience new places with the people I love. I had carrot cake cheesecake for my birthday, walked Prague with two of my favorite boys (Ike and Chris), won a fantasy football true crime league, and hosted more get-togethers than I can count.

Looking back, my heart is both broken and full. I’m so incredibly thankful for everything I have and accomplished this year.

There is pressure during the new year to make a fresh start. In a lot of ways a new beginning sounds great, but in a lot ways it doesn’t.  I’m in a sort of weird in-between limbo right now. And you know what? That’s fucking okay. I am striving to just be content with where I’m at rather than put pressure on myself to move too quickly (one of my intentions for 2019).

Saying Goodbye:

Ike in 2016.

Before I start my lists, I want to take a moment to speak on one the hardest months of my life. In January Ike was diagnosed with terminal cancer and given weeks to live. We were completely devastated. At only eight years old and in great health, the diagnosis came as a complete shock.

My little bandit.

Ike came from a longggggg line of Boston Terriers; we adopted his grandad Skittles when I was in middle school. He (and Porkchop) have always been such a constant in my life that letting him go was one of the absolute most difficult things I’ve ever had to do.

Thankfully the diagnosis proved to be incorrect in that the masses on his liver and pancreas weren’t in fact cancer. That news however, was coupled with the fact that the small mass in his chest (right between his lungs and heart) could prove to be fatal.

Best of brothers.

After two months of chemotherapy, I had high hopes that he could recover. Ike was a tough and stubborn dog; his abdominal masses were shrinking and he was doing great. When he started having issues breathing I hoped it might just be due to the change in the weather. Unfortunately, it wasn’t. The mass in his chest was growing. And there was nothing we could do to stop it.

Look at these babies! Ike was constantly judging everyone.

The vet told me this was a difficult way to pass away… and we would know when the end was here. We didn’t want our best boy to suffer. Even now, I can’t even talk about that day and the morning I had to make that decision, never knowing if it was right. I’m just so incredibly thankful to Chris, my friends here in Papa and far away, my family, and of course,  Porkchop and Arya.

Ike and his new sister Arya in 2017. She actually found the skin issue on the back of his neck (you can see it here in the picture too) that led to us beginning the tests.

I still expect him to grumpily come inside out of the rain or itch his face on the covers every morning. Chris still looks for him when he comes back from traveling for work. Arya and Porkchop were both really confused at first, but I think are doing better. PC really misses his little brother. We all miss this little guy.

Ike’s favorite pastime: sunning himself. On his last day with us he had all the sun.

I don’t really know how to end this except to say how heartbroken I still am. Some days are easier. Other days are really hard. If you’re reading this and are working through something difficult that happened to you this year, just know that you’re not alone. And its 100% okay to feel sad or guilty or angry or a combination of any and all the emotions. 

Best Places of 2018:

This year we saw incredible new places and had the opportunity to visit old favorites.

The Giant’s Causeway, Northern Ireland

Places we visited in 2018:

  • Belfast (and the coast), Northern Ireland
  • Berlin, Germany
  • Budapest, Hungary
  • Bratislava, Slovakia
  • Charleston, USA
  • Cleveland, USA
  • Dresden, Germany
  • Dublin, Ireland
  • Kethely, Hungary
  • Edinburgh, Scotland
  • Lisbon, Portugal
  • Peniche, Portugal
  • Prague, Czech Republic
  • San Francisco, USA
  • Seville, Spain
  • Vienna, Austria
  • Zagreb, Croatia

I’m extremely thankful to have the chance to visit a couple of our favorite spots with friends and family who made the leap over the ocean to spend time with us in Europe.

Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest

Choosing my absolute favorite places is virtually impossible. Taking into account a number of factors, here are my picks for 2018 (in no particular order):

Coast of Northern Ireland

Christmas in Zagreb

Seville, Spain

Edinburgh, Scotland

Honorable mentions go to Budapest because of so many reasons, but specifically the Budapest Beer Week that was absolutely awesome.

Favorite Concerts of 2018:

This year was THE year of shows for us. We saw a ton of our usual musicians (Pokey LaFarge) and a couple of new ones (FINALLY Flight of the Conchords went on tour). Here’s a list of everyone we saw live in 2018:

  • A Perfect Circle
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Pokey LaFarge and the South City Three
  • They Might be Giants
  • Jack White

My favorite shows of 2018:

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Middle school Ashlyn was absolutely ecstatic to see Franz Ferdinand. They were great–full of energy and fun–and sold out a huge space. 100% recommend. (Prague, Czech Republic)

Flight of the Conchords at Capitol Theatre

Finally saw Flight of the Conchords in real life. (Dublin, Ireland)

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Of course Jack White is at the top of the list. He was amazing (as always) and just as incredible as when we first saw him play in 2005. (Edinburgh, Scotland)

Special shout-out to Jane Goodall, who spoke in Budapest this year. Technically not a band, but it was truly a dream come true to see her in real life.

Favorite Books of 2018:

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via Cutiosities on Etsy

This year I surpassed my goal and read 41 books! 2018 was definitely a year of nerding out both in fiction and non-fiction. I joined a couple of book clubs (one here in Papa that connects readers from all over the world, Now Read This! A NYT/NPR collaboration, and of course Emma Watson’s Our Shared Shelf). My favorites are definitely influenced by a lot of the personal struggles I had this year. Here are my top books published in 2018:

#8. Things We Haven’t Said: Sexual Violence Survivors Speak Out (Erin E. Moulton): An anthology of stories of sexual assault, Things We Haven’t Said is a powerful book on why survivors struggle with speaking out on their experiences through providing an outlet to victims who typically don’t have one.

#7. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny (Kate Manne): A professor of philosophy at Cornell University, Manne states that misogyny is “a social and political phenomenon with psychological, structural, and institutional manifestations” that enforce gender roles that continue to influence society today. Detailing the impact of these ideas both culturally and institutionally, Manne’s book provides context on why we expect (and allow, and in some ways, forgive) actions of one group of people over another. 

#6. Heart Berries: A Memoir (Terese Marie Mailhot): Mailhot’s memoir is raw and at times difficult to read. A Native author, this beautifully written book details her life in crisis: poverty, overcoming multiple disorders, losing custody of her child, growing up with an absent mother, and life on the Seabrid Island First Nation Indian reservation in British Columbia. 

#5. A Perilous Path: Talking Race, Inequality, and the Law (Sherrilyn Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, and Anthony C. Thompson): This slim book (128 tiny pages) is a discussion on race in America by the leading civil rights leaders in the field. Their conversation on inequality and changing culture and institutions was one of my favorites this year.

#4. Where the Crawdads Sing (Delia Owens): Owens’ first novel, Where the Crawdads Sing is a gorgeously written story of a girl growing up alone in the marshes of North Carolina. I adored not only the descriptions (it reminded me so much of Charleston) but also Kya’s story of persevering on her own and in her own way.  

#3. Educated (Tara Westover): I finished Tara Westover’s memoir in two absolutely brutal days. Educated tells the remarkable story of Westover’s life from being born (sometime, her actual date of birth is unknown) to survivalist parents.  Their mistrust of medicine and education meant that she had very little experience of the outside world. Her desire and determination to leave home for education (eventually a PhD and at the disapproval of her family) is one of the most incredible (and impressive) stories I’ve read all year.

#2. One Person, No Vote: How Voter Suppression is Destroying our Democracy (Carol Anderson): Anderson discusses the implications of the 2016 election–the first in fifty years to be held without the complete protections of the Voting Rights Act–and how voter suppression systematically blocks the ability of many Americans to submit their ballots. Her work details the impact of Jim Crow and voter requirement laws implemented after the abolishment of slavery, the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters leading up to the Civil Rights Act, and the continuous suppression through various laws and redistricting today. 

#1. I’ll be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer (Michelle McNamara): My favorite book of 2018 is McNamara’s account of her obsession to help catch one the of the most horrifying rapists and murderers in United States history, the Golden State Killer (a name she coined). I’ll be Gone in the Dark is so well-written that you feel her passion and dedication to find the man who assaulted more than fifty woman and killed ten people on each page. The chilling final chapter–McNamara is speaking directly to GTK–and her prediction of how he might be caught is eerily similar to way it actually happened in reality, although she passed away unexpectedly before he was arrested.

There are also a ton of great books I read this year that were published before 2018 including Sing, Unburied, Sing by Jesmyn Ward, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI by David Grann, Stamped from the Beginning: The Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Ibram W. Kendi and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 

Favorite Brunches of 2018:

It’s no surprise that brunch is my absolute favorite meal. Here are my favorites from 2018:

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#8. Blueorange (Vienna, Austria): This everything bagel from Blueorange was one of the best breakfast sandwiches I had in 2018 (a big accomplishment considering Chris is the king of making them). Brie, honey, walnuts, and greens… what else do you need in life?

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#7. Munchy Food Truck (Zagreb, Croatia): Who says it isn’t appropriate to order a homemade waffle covered in Nutella and bananas at 10am? If you dip it in coffee, it counts as breakfast.

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#6. Holy City Brewing (Charleston, SC): It’s no secret that HCB has my favorite brunch in Charleston. My last minute visit meant I had only one Sunday for brunch and this crunchwrap was absolutely the best decision I made all summer.

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#5. Urban House (Bratislava, Slovakia): The best Bloody Mary of 2018! Look at this amazing spread. My favorite dish is their vegetarian English breakfast–the greens are the tastiest part of the meal.

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#4. Maggie May’s (Belfast, Northern Ireland): Maggie May’s has the absolute best diner food. A small, cash-only restaurant in Belfast, their menu is extensive and the food is so genuinely good.

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#3. La Jeronima (Seville, Spain): This croissant was stuffed with roasted eggplant and honey marinated tofu (I can feel the collective “ugh” from meat-eaters reading this and the “ooooh!” from my veg friends haha). This tiny cafe in Seville had such a unique menu that I wish we were able to have breakfast there every day.

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#2. Copenhagen Coffee Lab & Bakery (Lisbon, Portugal): So here’s the thing–I love a solid avocado toast and this was hands-down the best I had all year. Heather and I chose this PLUS sweets with no regrets. Not pictured is the hot ham breakfast sandwich that Chris ordered that smelled so good, Karl had to get one for himself (second breakfast for the win).

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#1. 3FE (Dublin, Ireland): Look at this scotch egg! These hash browns! In addition to their amazing menu 3FE also hosts coffee tastings and training for those interested in learning more about roasting their own blend. This tiny cafe earns my favorite brunch of 2018.

Favorite Podcasts of 2018:

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I love podcasts. Sometimes I don’t turn on our TV for what feels like weeks because (nerd alert) I’ve discovered a new show and binged all the episodes in a few days. Similar to my book choices, my favorite podcasts are heavily influenced by a lot of my personal struggles and growth this year. Here are my favorite podcasts published in 2018:

#8. Believed (National Public Radio): The goal of Believed is to answer the question so many people have asked: How did Larry Nassar get away with decades of abuse to hundreds of girls and women? Their interviews with survivors and parents can be an extremely difficult listen, but necessary if we want to learn how to change the system that allowed for this abuse to occur for so long. 

#7. Keep It! (Crooked Media): Keep It! is my weekly guilty pleasure podcast. Hosted by Ira Madison III, Kara Brown, and Louis Virtel, they hilariously discuss the intersection of pop culture and politics. Kara also has my favorite frustrated statement of 2018: “people just need to read!”

#6. Uncivil (Gimlit Media): The only reason Uncivil isn’t number one on my list is because  most of their episodes were published in 2017 and therefore didn’t qualify as a “2018” show. Discovered late this year, this was one of my binges of 2018. Each episode “ransacks America’s past” and tells an untold story related to the Civil War.

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#5. My Favorite Murder (Exactly Right): My favorite true crime podcast, MFM is hosted by Karen Kilgarariff and Georgia Hardstark. Each week they share stories of murder, cults, and hometown stories from listeners. Not only discussing true crime, Karen and Georgia are also super open about their own struggles with mental health, finding time for self-care, and sparked a million taglines including the famous “stay sexy and don’t get murdered”, “you’re in a cult, call your dad”, and my personal favorite: “can’t you see from my really thick black eyeliner that I’m no one’s mother?”

#4. R U Talkin’ REM: Re: ME? (Earwolf): As stated by Scott Aukerman, it truly is the year of R U Talkin’ REM Re: Me. Hosted by the superfan Adam Scott Aukerman (Adam Scott [Parks & Rec] and Aukerman [the hugely underrated Comedy Bang Bang!]), this podcast discusses the impact of R.E.M.’s music album by album. Their banter is hilarious and each episode is filled with smaller episodes (“Is this an episode of ‘I Love Films?'”) that Chris and I always played during our hours on the road this year. 

#3. GymCastic: The Gymnastics Podcast (Gymcastic): Definitely a niche podcast for fans of the sport, Gymcastic makes the top of my list not only because of their analysis of the sport (and mostly hilarious takes on competition, scoring, and love for the athletes) but their unrelenting dedication to discussing the Larry Nassar abuse that finally began to garner mainstream media coverage this year. Each week hosts Jessica and Spencer held MSU, USA Gymnastics, and the USOC accountable and provided an outlet to athletes and survivors. Their coverage of not just the abuse, but of the cover-up and mismanagement makes Gymcastic one of the my favorites this year. 

#2. Serial Season Three: The Cleveland Court System (This American Life): Rather than focus on one particular story (unlike seasons one and two) season three instead tells the “extraordinary stories of ordinary stories” taking place at a courthouse in Cleveland. These  largely untold narratives of people working through the complicated (and convoluted) justice system was one of the most frustrating and heartbreaking podcasts I listened to in 2018. 

#1. Scene on Radio Season Three: Men (The Center for Documentary Studies at Duke University): I loved season two (“Seeing White” featuring Dr. Chenjerai Kumanyika, host of Uncivil) so I was really looking forward to season three of Duke University’s podcast. With the goal of discussing “How did we get sexism, patriarchy, misogyny in the first place? How can we get better at seeing it, and what can we do about it?” hosts Jown Biewen and Celeste Headlee tackle a topic each week and provide feedback on how we can combat these systems. The episode “Himpathy” was the most difficult and impactful for me; it featured input from Kate Manne on not only why survivors of abuse feel sympathy for their abusers, but also how society does as well. 

Extra love to Pardon My Take and Fantasy Football Focus, which I binged throughout the entire NFL season. 

Favorite TV Shows of 2018:

This year I hardly watched any new shows (too much reading and podcasting I suppose) so my list is embarrassingly small. But here are the shows you absolutely need to watch:

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#5. Ballers Season Four: If you know me, you’re not surprised by this choice. Listen, I love the Rock. I love Rob Cordray. I love football. Is this a ridiculous show? Yes. Do I love it? Yes. Does the plot matter? Nah, not really.

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#4. Better Call Saul Season Four: One of my favorite shows continues to get better with this newest season. Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks are still absolutely amazing as Saul and Mike. The return of Gus Fring (one of the best characters of Breaking Bad) makes this season binge-worthy for sure. The season finale nearly gave me a heart attack.

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#3. End of the F***ing World: Technically the show premiered in the UK in 2017, but it wasn’t picked up and added to Netflix until 2018, so it counts for me. I loved this show. Jessica Barden and Alex Lawther are superb as Alyssa and James. Their relationship is endearing, odd, and their adventure to find her birth father completely drew you into the show; the final episode was amazingly filmed. I’m so glad it was picked up for a second season.

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#2. Game of Thrones Season Seven: Finally, this year I got into GOT. I always begrudgingly sort of paid attention to the show over the years but never committed (why is everyone so dirty?) until this year. Maybe call it the revenge of Arya Stark or the undeniable affection I have for Tormund, but I’m 100% in moving forward. Better late than never.

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#1. Sharp Objects: Yep, Sharp Objects beats Game of Thrones for me. The combination of Amy Adams, Patricia Clarkson, and Eliza Scanlen gives me LIFE. Incredibly creepy and at times jarring, Sharp Objects was my favorite show of 2018. Closer was my favorite episode that also creeped me out the most.

Here’s to 2019!

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Currently Reading: My Sister, the Serial Killer (Oyinkan Braithwaite)

Currently Watching: Ozark Season 1 (Netflix)Ashlyn (2)

 

 

 

Seven Days in (Mostly North) Charleston: How Many Biscuits can one person eat in a Week?

The answer, my friends, is a lot.

There are many things I miss about Charleston: the good food, the good beer, and the amazing people I met in my ten years living in South Carolina. Last week I traveled to the Lowcountry at the very last moment to pack up the rest of our belongings. The stress of moving, especially in the blazing Charleston summer heat, was offset by getting to see the people I miss so much, as well as eating #ALLTHETHINGS that I have been intentionally sectioning off from my brain as a way to survive not living around some of the best food ever.

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Me. Everday. But let’s be real, that’s everyone in SC from the months of May-September.

So what to do if you find yourself in Charleston for a couple of days? Feel free to follow this timeline of biscuits, bookstores, and beer.

Where are We?

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Charleston is a coastal city located in South Carolina and known for its food, culture, and history. Originally dependent on slave labor for crops including indigo and rice, the city’s economy is now dominated by tourism. Having been away for two years, it was insane to see just how much Charleston and the surrounding areas have grown and changed. The city is a lot more than what you’ll see on Southern Charm; the area is diverse, unique, and 100% recommended.

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The iconic Ravenel Bridge although #keepit to Mr. Ravenel.

Prepare yourself for the brutal heat and humidity in the summer; recognize that you will be in a constant state of sweatiness. But on the plus side, everyone is just as sweaty as you are, so use the heat as an excuse to drink all the sweet tea (no thanks), beer (alright), or Royal American Signature Punch (yes please).

With only one week and a million things to finish, these were my absolute musts while in town (see below for my added must-do, see, and eat list). Disclaimer: I lived and stayed with our friends in Park Circle, so most of my recommendations and favorite places are in this area. Park Circle is located in North Charleston, about a fifteen-minute drive from downtown and probably holds the biggest piece of my heart.

+Special shout out to my amazing friends who traveled last minute to see me, helped with moving, and supported us via text when things were stressful. My roomies for the week, Heather and Karl (and their amazing pets), made a stressful time manageable and not only withheld judgment on all the biscuits I consumed that week but even encouraged it by leaving out homemade preserves.

My Charleston in a Week:

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Gorgeous flowers in the front yard ❤ Thank you Erika and Heather for always making the flowers beautiful! I finally got to see the Black Eyed Susans I planted in 2016 actually in bloom this year!

Wednesday:

After a 17+ hour travel day all I wanted to do was visit my favorite locations in Park Circle, which I realized is mostly carbohydrate and breakfast food-related places. Embrace it my friends.

Stock Up on All your Carbohydrate Needs at EVO Bakery:

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Via Neil Bansil

EVO Craft Bakery was an absolute staple for us when we lived in Charleston. I always tried to race to the bakery before they closed to buy bread, biscuits, and scones. Thankfully they are now open later and on the weekends! Kids these days just don’t know the struggle.

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Via the Local Palate

The super nice lady behind the counter barely judged me as I bought two biscuits, a scone, and an entire loaf of rye bread and shoved them all in my backpack. “I’m visiting from Hungary,” I repeated, hoping to not give off a super desperate-for-Southern-biscuits-vibe. “Oh, I understand!” she calmly responded as I talked myself out of buying a couple of chocolate chip cookies for the walk.

Grab a Coffee and Re-Stock your Greeting Card Inventory at Orange Spot:

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via Charleston City Paper

With a backpack full of breakfast food, I walked to Orange Spot‘s new location for an iced coffee. I must admit, I was a little sad to find out that they switched spots (just a short walk from the original location) because I love their first building. However, I’m beyond excited that they needed a bigger space for their growing business of honest coffee, sandwiches, and snacks. Plus, I was able to stock up on all my favorite greeting cards from Ink Meets Paper.

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Have Breakfast or Lunch at the Junction:

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HASH BROWNS

Now with a backpack full of biscuits and stationary (the most Ashlyn sentence ever?) I finally decided to have actual breakfast at the Junction Kitchen & Provisions. Located just a couple of streets from our house, we used to visit for brunch periodically. I love their hash browns and Veg BELT (mushrooms, lettuce, egg, tomato). They have also started a partnership with the new bookstore in town, Itinerant Literate, to host the “Get Lit Book and Dinner Club”.

Thursday:

Order the Best Pizza and Breadsticks in all of Charleston (fight me, I don’t care) at Park Pizza:

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Via Park Pizza Facebook

Park Pizza is the absolute best pizza in Charleston. I could have only eaten their pizza the entire time I was in the states and would have been 100% okay with that. They have a monthly special (July’s was a cheese curd concoction) and sometimes add those specials to their regular menu. Two of my favorite specials are the Kurt Brussel (now available all the time) and their take on a Thanksgiving pizza (probably my favorite pizza in the history of the world). I ordered one of my go-tos, the Seven Layer (black bean spread, mozzarella, cream cheese, cheddarjack, black olives, pico, jalapenos, cilantro) which was also the last pizza I had before we moved.

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Me remembering how amazing this pizza is.

Meeting up with Friends to Discuss Life and True Crime at the Mill:

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Via Facebook

Last month Chris and I were watching the true crime series Confession Tapes on Netflix when one of the episodes mentioned a murder that took place at the Mill. “Maybe they mean our Mill?” I jokingly said as I let the dogs outside. As I shut the door, I head the narrator say, “Located on East Montague Avenue in North Charleston, a body was found in the Mill after a fire broke out…” Crazy sometimes how home randomly arises unexpectedly (you can read more about the forced confession of Wesley Meyers and the death of Cynthia Margiotta here).

I love the Mill. You know you can grab a drink, play pool, see a band, or just hang out on the back patio. Happily, I was able to meet up with Jen and Joel to catch up on life.

Friday:

Get your Fancy Taco on at Pancito & Lefty:

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My face when this dishes arrived

Pancito & Lefty recently opened in the northern area of downtown Charleston. After a long (and so sweaty) day of moving, we had dinner at Pancito & Lefty after it cooled off outside. Their menu is AWESOME and we ordered a ton of food including tacos, the super addicting street corn, and mushroom tamales. In addition to their menu, Pancito & Lefty also offer a Mezcal tasting option, which I would never try on my own, but was nice to sneak a taste from a more experienced Mezcal-enthusiast friend (Adrian, who should probably put that on his resume).

Bonus: Try and Entice the Owl across the Street to Hoot at You

Karl was successful, Heather and I were not.

Saturday:

Praise all that is Wonderful at Los Reyes:

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When in Charleston, I have to visit Los Reyes. An absolute staple for us when we lived in South Carolina, Los Reyes also helped me overcome all of the stress and terrible-ness that comes with working retail for five years. They have multiple locations, but my favorite is off of Rivers Avenue in North Charleston. Their no-frills food is quick, easy, and genuine. I met the owners while working at Best Buy and absolutely fell in love with the couple. It was amazing to visit Los Reyes with a group of awesome friends (both in town and that came to visit! I know the best people), to catch up on all things life: new and terrible music, youths, and how refried beans are the best addition to any meal.

Enjoy Live Music at the Royal American:

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via Argot’s Facebook

I was so excited to learn that my friend’s new band would be playing at the Royal American the weekend I was in town. Argot, created by a couple of the members of the now-retired Great Yankee, played a set on Saturday. I love the Royal American, not only because of the above-mentioned Signature Punch, but also for their “No PBR, Don’t Even Ask” sign and $2 house-made whiskey shots. It’s a great venue to see a show too as the bands play on the left side of the bar. I loved being able to visit one of my favorite bars, hear fun music, and see an awesome friend. You can read more about Argot’s great EP in the Charleston Post and Courier.

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Via the Sonic Post

We were planning on leaving after Argot’s set, but after seeing the final band warm-up, we decided to stay to watch the Tan & Sober Gentlemen play an for more than an hour.  The North Carolina-based band is a hybrid of Carolina folk music and the Irish band Flogging Molly, or as they state: “Scotch-Irish hillbilly insanity they dub ‘Celtic punk-grass.'” They were a lot of fun to see live.

Bonus: Check out Argot’s B-Side Session recording of “Beast of Your World“.

Bonus: Have a Dance Party:

Sometimes after having one of the best days ever, you just need to come home and have a Cardi B and 90s R&B dance party. Morbo is definitely not impressed:

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All humans are vermin in the eyes of Morbo.

Sunday:

Sleep in because you’ve Had a Long Week and you Deserve to #TreatYoSelf:

But seriously.

Have Brunch (or Finish your Graduate Thesis) at Holy City Brewing:

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Hiya Crunchwrap

Real talk though, brunch at Holy City Brewing is the best. I consider myself a brunch-enthusiast and their menu is one of my top choices in Charleston. Our friend Joel develops the changing brunch options and always creates something fun and genuine. I mention that you can finish editing your graduate thesis during brunch because that’s precisely what I did the last month before I defended. Sometimes in order to proofread forty pages of your own writing, you need an empty picnic table, a couple of light beers, and solid breakfast options.

Get a Friend Like Mine who Makes Delicious Bruschetta:

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Seriously the prettiest dish.

One of the absolute best bruschetta dishes ever.

Roll up kids, its Keanu Time:

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Movie time means Keanu-time. We chose the Bad Batch because the preview leads you to believe this film has a Mad Max-esque setting starring Khal Drogo as a high-waisted pants-wearing gangster and Keanu Reeves with a giant mustache. The actual movie is… well… not so much that. I’m still processing my feelings about it.

But there’s always time for John Wick but-every-gunshot-is-Owen-Wilson-saying-“wow”.

Monday:

Enjoy Breakfast Scones at EVO Bakery:

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We enjoyed a couple of scones for breakfast (goat cheese for me, lemon for Heather) and were actually able to eat outside before it became too stifling hot to breathe. I can’t decide if I like EVO’s biscuits or scones more… and prefer to live in a world where I can have both.

Pick out a Couple of Books at Itinerant Literate Bookstop:

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As mentioned earlier, I was a little sad to see Orange Spot move to a new location, but was immediately fine after realizing that the Charleston Bookmobile now had a permanent spot in Park Circle at Itinerant Literate Bookstop (in Orange Spot’s building). The store is absolutely adorable and they have a ton of cool workshops and events in the area. One of the most interesting initiatives is their “blind date with a book” where customers choose a book based off of a sentence written on the cover. Pretty awesome.

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I love books.

The store also boasts a large local author section including a couple of books penned by professors I’d worked with at College of Charleston. I’m excited that they ship books as well so I can continue supporting them even in Hungary.

Devour a Cheese Plate at Goat. Sheep. Cow., North:

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Goat. Sheep. Cow. is an amazingly adorable cheese and wine store that recently opened a second location north of downtown Charleston. Started by two friends, Patty and Trudi, I was so excited to hear that they had expanded. My friend Jen suggested we visit for lunch and I happily agreed, having only visited the downtown store once before moving. The north location is awesome, with a wine and lunch menu that is all the heart-for-eyes emojis. We had the “crack” cheese, vegetable plate, and split a grilled cheese (you’re seeing the theme here) for lunch.

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Tomato Pie and Karlitos for Dinner because YES:

Heather is basically world famous for her tomato pies. For those unfamiliar with this dish, a tomato pie is exactly what it sounds like: a savory baked pie of tomatoes, onions, and cheese. I first had a slice at the Stono Market Cafe, owned by Ambrose Farms. In 2015 I even won a “Most Local” award for my version at the Tomato Pie Competition hosted by Mixson during their “Tomayto Tomahto” event. Heather’s is AMAZING and so perfect for a hot summer night. Karl also mixed his version of mojitos, known as Karlitos, and they were fantastic. Cheers all around to one of the best dinners ever.

Have a glass at Stems & Skins: 

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via Charleston City Paper

Stems & Skins opened in Park Circle a couple of months before we moved, so it was great to stop by with friends. Husband and wife team Matt and Angie Tunstall have established a fun rotating menu of different wines from across the world, beer, and snacks. When I visited they had both a Slovenian white wine and the Hungarian Tokaji style that is developed on an old volcano less than an hour from our house in Hungary. It was awesome to see some of my international finds at a small wine bar in Charleston.

Tuesday:

Tomato Pie for Breakfast because you’re Living your Best Life:

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How do you get through the stress of moving, working with a ton of different entities (on three different time zones) trying to accomplish one goal in a limited amount of time? Tomato pie for breakfast. Trust me on this.

Vaccum-seal Park Pizza because what a Time to be Alive:

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Karl had the best idea in the history of mankind when he jokingly suggested we break out the vacuum sealer to package pizza to take back with me to Hungary. “What the hell?” we shrugged. It was worth a try. So we successfully vacuum-sealed Chris’s favorite pizza (Steeler minus the mushroom: marinara, mozzarella, pork sausage, hot cherry peppers, caramelized onions, and provolone) and mine (Bradwell w/ veg crumbles: olive oil, mozzarella, provolone, veg crumbles, fig preserves, caramelized onions, apples, bleu cheese, pecans) and an order of triple cheese garlic strips because if you’re going to go through airport security with vacuum-sealed pizza, make it count.

All the Broccolini:

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Broccolini–a cross between asparagus and broccoli–was one of our summer staples in Charleston. Chris and I used to grill these crispy vegetables at least twice a week. Their existence in Hungary however, is non-existent; the closest we came to finding the elusive broccolini was in the Netherlands, but a friend grabbed the last bundle. I was so excited and happy to snag two portions at the overwhelming Whole Foods and Karl was nice enough to roast broccolini for us to enjoy with our Park Pizza. What a time to be alive, indeed.

TUESDAY IS BOCCE NIGHT IN CHARLESTON BUT IT WAS CANCELED BECAUSE WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

Wednesday:

EVO Bakery Small Dishes:

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Hi Joe! Via EVO Bakery’s Facebook

While I was in town EVO Bakery was hosting a week-long menu of small dishes with a different menu each day. A friend who now works at EVO designed and cooked Wednesday’s menu, which featured a ton of unique (and veg!) options.

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I know, its off-center, but I was so excited for the HCB + GrowFood collaboration! More on GrowFood below.

We had the Bloody Mary Toast, Hot Kale and Mushroom Salad, Apple Jicama Salad, and Baba Ganoush. All were great, but the Bloody Mary Toast with the horseradish sauce was out.of.control.

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Actual footage of me seeing this menu.

Saving the Best Fries for Last at Holy City Brewing:

We started our trivia team–the Only People Paul Likes–a few years before we moved and I’m so glad the team has continued to play each week. Chris and I take trivia really seriously (as does the rest of our team) so being able to play twice while I was in town was amazing. HCB’s trivia is fun, unique, and not for the faint at heart; if you are looking for a place to play trivia in town you should definitely check out Dave’s Wednesday competition.

French fries are Joel’s favorite food and he makes the best version of loaded fries, perfect for when your team is working diligently for that first place title. This is a version of their Collision Fries (sharp cheddar beer cheese, house smoked bacon lardon, melted cheddar cheese, house fresno ranch, scallions, and Bull’s Bay smoked sea salt) but the “Ashlyn style” meaning no bacon.

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Our team tied for first this week, making Wednesday the best end to a super quick and busy visit to Charleston.

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I love my neighborhood.

Things I successfully brought back from SC to Hungary:

  • (2) containers of Pawley’s Island pimento cheese
  • (2) pizzas and (1) order of cheesy bread from Park Pizza
  • (1) freezer bag of seitan and tempeh products
  • (2) bottles of Duke’s mayo
  • (2) six packs of Holy City Brewing’s Overly Friendly
  • (3) books from Itinerant Literate Bookstop
  • (6) cans of Amy’s refried black beans and soup
  • (3) packets of French Onion dip mix
  • (4) small bags of seeds harvested from our yard by the incredible Heather

Bonus: If you find yourself in Charleston for a week, here are a couple of additional must-see dos, eats, and drinks: 

Twenty Six Divine: A husband and wife culinary team that run a beautiful restaurant specializing in small bites and afternoon tea (Charleston, SC).

GrowFood Carolina: The first food hub in South Carolina, I worked with this amazing group of people to bring locally sourced items to the College of Charleston. Look for their label at restaurants.

Edmund’s Oast: My favorite birthday dinner restaurant now has their own brewery and exchange. Go for the amazing beer, cornbread, and atmosphere (Charleston, SC).

Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor: The Gullah Geechee have a long history in Charleston and the surrounding barrier islands. You can learn more about their history, culture, and language at one of the many sites located on the Corridor that stretches from North Carolina to Florida. We also hosted Queen Quet my final semester at CofC.

Stono Market and Tomato Shed Cafe: Owned by the awesome people at Ambrose Farms, they have the best southern dishes and also sell a variety of their produce, casseroles (including tomato pie), and locally sourced meats (John’s Island, SC)

Coast Brewing: Family owned, Coast is another one of the original breweries in Charleston. They have limited hours and beers but are expanding to include longer tasting times (North Charleston, SC).

Sea Island Savory Herbs: The most beautiful and magical place to buy plants and learn more about growing your own herbs, flowers, and vegetables (John’s Island, SC).

Gene’s Haufbrau: Gene’s is my favorite place to have a beer, fried green tomato sandwich, and play board games with friends (West Ashley, SC).

Double Charleston Bonus: Share Your Story CofC. Before moving in 2016, a team of students, staff, and I collected over fifty stories of experiences in Charleston. Inspired by the aftermath of the AME Church Massacre, we wanted to provide an outlet for those in the Lowcountry to share their stories of friendship, love, and justice.

 

Ashlyn (2)

Currently Reading: All of the Women in My Family Sing (Edited by: Deborah Santana)

Currently Watching: The Confession Tapes (Netflix)