You’ll never feel alone

That’s the title of the review I’ll be writing about the hotel I stayed at my last night of vacation. It couldn’t have been louder if I’d invited everyone in the hotel to come sit on my bed and talk through their issues. How could only ONE person on tripadvisor have mentioned the noise issue? I mean how am I supposed to take that one person seriously?

***

I’ve thought about it, and anyone can show you lovely pictures of St. Augustine and tell you the history blah blah blah. But I would like to take a different route and share outtakes with you from my whole trip, with a few lovely pics of St. A at the end. Outtakes such as…

The picture Little brother sent of me remembering what flowers and color look like.

KelFlowers

That time I decided to ship some stuff home because of poor planning. (Little brother, NEVER let me buy books on a trip. What were you thinking?) I’m embarrassed. Other women would have bought a superb new handbag, or earrings in each town. I found the whole Anne of Green Gables set in a used book store. Sigh…

That time the postal folks in the small town where I stopped were pretty shitty to me, actually giving me pause and the thought, hooray for consistency across states. Why you so mean, postal peeps? Why???

That time I immediately started drinking when I got to Charlotte and was disappointed in Little brother’s lack of participation.

cheers

That other time in Charlotte, when this innocuous-looking scoop of mac and cheese I ate made Little brother drive rt 77 out of Charlotte at the speed of light so that I could die alone in the comfort of his home. In the guest bathroom. With the feral one-eyed cat.

That'll teach me to take pictures of my food.
That’ll teach me to take pictures of my food.

That time I was on a little red train whizzing around St. Augustine and it started to pour.

Smokey the tour guide: This is one of the most photographed streets in America blah blah blah. --A little hard to give a damn under these conditions.
Smokey the tour guide: This is one of the most photographed streets in America words words words. –Smokey, dude, DRIVE US TO SHELTER STAT!

Or the time in St. Augustine when I thought, What is up with that huge Statue of David behind a bush across the street?

David1 David2

And then realized, no, no, it’s his hands that are huge.

The time I called the hotel to pick me up at the airport. A van showed up and a guy named Omar told me, out of a crowd of people, to hop aboard. He then drove a couple guys and me around to all of the parking lots.

Omar: Which lot are you parked in?

Me: Huh? Um, Microtel?

Omar: No, I’m not going to any hotels.

Me: Why did you pick me up?

Omar suddenly forgot how to speak English, and the guys in the van didn’t know who to look at. Funny, because I was thinking the whole time, How did he know it was me? Did the front desk tell him to find the fat lady in the striped shirt? Truly.

Or that time I had to call the hotel back and start with, “This is embarrassing, but can you send out the driver again?”

***

So at the risk of you thinking I’m a skosh less than perfect, I share these stories with you because when you travel solo, there’s no one else to tell. And I want you to feel better about your own misadventures.

And now, to take your mind off of some of the oversharing, pretty pictures of St. Augustine:

StA2
Allegedly the oldest school house in the country.

StA1

StA4 StA6

Lisa Rubin, you have competition here...
Lisa Rubin, you have competition here…
Aviles St. The oldest in the US. Oh, St. A and your "oldest" everything.
Aviles St. The oldest in the US. Oh, St. A and your “oldest” everything.
StA10
Won’t lie–jury’s still out on my thoughts regarding St. Augustine.
StA13
That street from earlier, under much better conditions. If someone knows a trick for photographing Spanish moss, I’m all ears.

StA5  StA7 StA11 StA12 StA14

And then there’s this…

StA8

This cottage is for sale. it’s the most adorable thing I’ve ever seen. And it’s right next to two more of the most adorable cottages I’ve ever seen.

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Did I mention it’s for sale? I’ve spent a couple days now weighing out shoveling snow in New Hampshire vs. dying from giant bees in Florida. Haven’t made up my mind yet. But Cottage Girl Musings doesn’t flow quite as smoothly. It would have to be something like Yellow Cottage Misconduct or Zero Square Foot Satire. Something to think about while I’m back in New Hampshire watching the snow melt.

Cheers

The sun came out for four hours

When my friend Miss Robin posts pictures of Beaufort, SC, on facebook, they are all lovely sunsets and beautiful water. What do I get when I visit?    glumsky

But at least Miss Robin is a little ray of sunshine herself. She’s got a good thing going in Beaufort. In just a few years she’s become a local, and I envy the ease with which she makes friends. She’s an inspiration.

Robs_Kel

Unfortunately, I couldn’t spend much time in Beaufort. I needed to find sunshine somewhere. So I hit the road. And of course I saw sunshine over Beaufort in the rearview mirror. Figures.

The whole ride to Florida was gray and messy. Luckily, Florida has other amusements to offer.

Bail

The paper by the door handle starts off “Went to jail…”

I headed to the coast. Even if the weather was not great, I needed to see the ocean without snow and ice. I present to you Fernandina Beach. Only surfers and a few hearty souls, but it was nice to sit for a while and enjoy it.

FernandinaBeach

Back in the car with messy beach hair, I headed further south. And right around Atlantic Beach, the sun came out. Praise Jesus! I found a secret squirrel parking strip in a residential section and followed the blue…

AtlanticBeach1 AtlanticBeach2

It was an amazing couple hours on the beach. I just lay there soaking up every drop of sunshine. I texted a few people to let them know I was going to move there. I thought about how happy the cats would be out on the lanai. Then I dealt with the traffic on the strip. Oy. That actually made me miss rural NH.

It was a straight, slow-as-dirt, traffic-laden drive down the coast. Might as well take the highway, frankly. There’s no chance of seeing ocean at any point. All the houses have soaked up the view. But finally I got to my destination: St. Augustine!

I was immediately engaged in traffic chaos there too, so I just took an out-of-the-way moment and watched the sun go down. Today was what I hoped the whole vacation would be. I needed to take in every last minute of the sun.

StAsunset

It’s like Gone with the Wind on mescaline, sport.

When I first arrived in the South, I bought sunglasses. That automatically ensured that the sun would not shine. So then I bought an umbrella with the same mindset. And for a while it worked. So, while very overcast, there was no rain in Savannah.

Ahhh, Savannah.

Forsyth Park
Forsyth Park

This is my second time here, and I really dig it. To this Yankee, it’s exotic. I’m charmed by the history and the Spanish moss and the parks. I sat on many benches and watched people walk by.

And then there’s the architecture.

Savannah2 Savannah1

And the Mercer House…

Mercer_House

I don’t know–am I excited because this is a famous house, or because John Cusack stood right here during filming? I leave it to the reader to decide.

http://www.everythingspacey.com/midnight.html

Yeah.

So I find dining in new places to be a stressful situation. I spend time in the moment looking on TripAdvisor and Yelp and trying to read each review. All the while, I get hungrier. And then I can’t make a decision. And eventually all hell breaks lose and I end up stuffing my face with the wrong thing or going hungry. Luckily, I didn’t hit the wall too hard in Savannah. I ate at District Café, right downtown.

District_Cafe

I ordered a beer at 11:59 because, you know, vacation. A crotchety old couple bellied up to the counter right next to me. There were sooo many other spots to sit. But they cuddled with me. Fine. Then they ordered a coffee and an unsweet tea. (Why go to the South if you’re not going to sweeten it up?! I instantly didn’t trust them.) They were rude and dismissive to the nice woman behind the counter. Then they started to fight outright. Apparently she does everything, including all of the vacation research. He apparently doesn’t do anything and doesn’t care. They were ancient. This is clearly not a new conversation. So why did she get so huffy? When they finally left to go be miserable somewhere else, I turned to the guy next to me and said, “They were such a lovely couple.” He simply pointed to some art on the wall.

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Touché, dude. Also, I’ll be stitching this little number up when I get home.

Anyway, great city, crazy walkways, head shake–inducing kitsch, and a pretty sweet art school.

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Watch your step, ladies. This is actually worse in person than it looks here. I would suggest not wearing heels down by the water.

Savannah6 Savannah5

And the amazing smell of pralines along the waterfront.

Free samples!
Free samples!

Yes, I’m a fan of Savannah. Not sure I could live here, but it’s fun to visit. Next stop: Beaufort!

A feral cat and tough love massage

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…

That was me arriving in Charlotte Friday: a tired, huddled mass. Times have been tough at work, the winter has become a tiresome creature, and I’m just worn out. And I felt bad leaving several things, personal and professional, behind in New Hampshire, but I’m not sure there will be a “good time” to do this in the near future, so I just did it. I rolled a bunch of clothes into a ball and hopped a plane to seek asylum with Little brother and his wife, Ligia. And together, we’ve had several adventures.

1. They boarded me with a feral cat.

So a cat had been coming by the house here and there over the past several months. They fed the cat once in a while, but the cat kept its distance and was a bit standoffish. One day they noticed that one of the cat’s eyes didn’t look right. And it kept getting worse–I’ll spare you the details. But Little brother called to discuss it, and the convo went something like this:


Bro: The vet says it could cost somewhere between $1-3k.

Me: Hmmm. Will this ever become a pet that will live in your home?

Bro: No.

Me: The alternative costs about $130.

Think me cruel if you will, but $3k is a lot of dough. And in the end, Little brother went ahead and took the angry little cat to the vet and saved her life.

But the thing is, like with anyone/-thing coming out of surgery, there is aftercare. So the damn cat has to live in the house so that Little bro can administered daily eye drops and other medicines.

“So, you should know–the cat lives in the guest bathroom,” he told me. Wait, what? I have enough stress right now. I don’t need to slip past a feral one-eyed cat each time I need to pee. But there it was. And so we met.

dun…

Burma2

Dun…

Burma1

DUN!

Burma3

Eek! But where I expected growling and territory issues between two old girls, we’ve actually bonded. She slept with me my first night here–I could feel her relax and stretch out back to back with me. And she may have washed my ear fiercely at some point. So we have a thing going. I give her plenty of space, and she’s coming to trust me on her town terms.

2. I got a tough love massage.

Day one in Charlotte was girl day. We started with a massage to end all massages. Truly. I’m not used to treating myself to something like a massage, so when I was given three options (light, firm, and deep), I went for the gold. I figured light would be wimpy. I figured I had a few knots to work out. I think I said something like, “Firm with a sprinkle of deep tossed in from time to time.” I would live to regret those words. I am not ready for prime time. I thought she was going to pull a Mortal Kombat and reach into my chest, pull out my still-beating heart, and show it to me. “Maybe not so deep?” I whimpered through the round face pillow at one point. It’s now two days later, and I’m not saying I have bruises, because I looked. But maybe the old knots weren’t such a bad thing in the first place. But I’m sure she released any toxins/demons/ghouls from my person. God help her pie dough.

3. I got a taste for haute couture in NC.

After the tough love massage, Ligia and I checked out high fashion in the mall in Pineville.

Jesus_Surf

I’ll be writing a letter to Macy’s when I return home to find out why these items are not readily available in NH.

4. We checked out a few oddball attractions in the Charlotte area.

There is a giant metal head in an unassuming industrial park. I present to you, Metalmorphosis:

Metalmorphosis1 Metalmorphosis2

It’s pretty awesome.
In downtown Charlotte, there are several fun things to check out.  This time we checked out a giant hand and a sprinkling of giant typewriter keys/stamps/books, a piece called “The Writer’s Desk.

Ligia_hand park1 Park2 Pencil1 Park3

5. I got the hard sell on NoDa.

That’s not true, though Michael and Ligia would love for me to move to Charlotte. Of course I would feel most comfortable is the crusty arts district called NoDa. There are lots of streets lined with little bungalows, all in various stages of repair and disrepair. I like them. I can see myself sitting on a front porch and getting to know the neighbors.

NoDa8 NoDa7 NoDa9NoDa4

NoDa2
Look at this primo little fixer-upper with a big tree for shade and its own water supply! Sold!

We also saw this…

They're restoring the mills!
They’re restoring the mills!

Look out, NoDa… You are now an official contender.
And I will help you with your spelling. Ahem.
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And contribute to your cool little free library (note: RR Martin and Sedaris are available).

NoDa5

I won’t lie–since my first visit to NoDa years ago, it’s really becoming built up. I’m going to have to find something much crustier.

It’s been a good three days. I’m not calling the movers just yet, but I definitely needed this. I needed to drink a lot of red wine and laugh and go on adventures. Thank you, Michael and Ligia, for helping me to ground myself again. I love you more than you know. Now we look south to Savannah…

The Firth of March

I’m starting a movement

Today is my own personal Second Annual Firth of March laze-about. Jammies, the full BBC Pride and Prejudice, and stitching. A perfect Sunday if you ask me. I suggest everyone follow suit. Let’s start a hash tag together, friends. #MarchFirth

Pattern is Green on Green by Rosewood Manor.
Pattern is Green on Green by Rosewood Manor. Colin Firth is perfection.

Yeah, so it’s winter

My Cranky Yankee status might be revoked if I don’t mention the winter we’ve had. Yes, yes, we’ve had a storm just about every week. It’s been impressive. It’s been cold. But as long as I’m not clearing my car or driving in it, I don’t mind it. It’s winter, after all. And I like to hibernate. And I’ve been lucky to work at home from time to time, which means I don’t have to take part in the Parking Hunger Games that happens in the mill parking lot after each storm. It’s enough to make me second guess signing the new lease. But sign I will, because, shit, who the hell can pack and move in this weather?

And as bad as it’s been in New Hampshire, my hat goes off to Boston and the surrounding area. A native North Shore girl, I was impressed with what I saw when I went to visit friends in Salem. It was unreal.

BananaBreadBeer
Mill Girl on location in Salem, MA, doing serious research on the snow situation.
The snow has swallowed the parking meters, which is just as well because it's impossible to park.
The snow has swallowed the parking meters, which is just as well because it’s impossible to park.

Articles have been written, and pictures shared, of the dire situation in Boston. And following those articles are some pretty mean-spirited comments from folks who live in snowier places. I stand on my soap box only to say that in places used to getting such an amount of snow, and likely built in a grid formation, it must seem silly that so much focus has been placed on Boston. But for 400-year-old cities and towns that are a pain to drive through on a clear August evening, seven feet of snow is nothing to scoff at. And with that, I step down.

So I work and rest and craft and pop vitamin D pills. The only downside is that all this time spent in jammies while the snow piles up doesn’t afford much opportunity for adventure. But it does afford for weird impulse purchases.

Bouncing around the room

Being that it won’t stop snowing, and with the stress of huge projects at work, I’m swiftly on my way to becoming the heroine of those articles you read about people who die because they don’t move enough. I’m held hostage at my desk during the day and I sink into the couch at night to process what just happened during the previous 9 or more hours. It hasn’t been pretty. So when an article recently passed by on facebook about “rebounding,” I was intrigued.

Turns out, rebounding is not just for those scorned in love. There are health benefits to bouncing on a mini trampoline. According to the article, here are  several reasons to bounce:

  1.  Zero-impact exercise that won’t stress your joints
  2. Strengthens abdominal muscles
  3. Enhances digestion and elimination (pooping is essential to good health!)
  4. Helps burn calories
  5. Helps decrease your resting heart rate
  6. Circulates oxygen to tissues and muscles in the body
  7. Helps promote relaxation
  8. Improves quality of sleep
  9. Increases blood flow in the veins of your circulatory system
  10. Normalizes your blood pressure
  11. May help combat depression
  12. Stimulates your metabolism
  13. Promotes muscle tone
  14. Increases the production of red blood cells.
  15. Lowers elevated cholesterol and triglyceride levels

Sign me up, Amazon Prime! My rebounder came in the world’s largest box with the word REBOUNDER across it in huge letters, so my neighbors could all snicker at it as they passed by. No matter. I was up and hopping around in no time. So far, I can vouch for #3 on the above list.

Of course I do this in jammies. Please disregard my hobbit feet.
Of course I do this in jammies. Please disregard my hobbit feet.

Summed up in another article, rebounding has the following benefits:

• 20 minutes of rebounding = 1 hour of running for cardiovascular workout
• Easy on the bones and joints (when using a therapeutic rebounder)
• Rebounding strengthens the heart muscle
• Profound body detoxification is possible

See? Profound body detoxification. That’s code for #3 above.

The cats are terrified of the mini trampoline. Finn skulks around it and cries when I’m on it.

[youtube=http://youtu.be/G3R5YFtq0pU]

It’s not easy to profoundly detox when the little guy is tugging at my leg. And his tiny cry slays me.

Then there’s the guy on the unicycle

While I start up this new, work-inspired piece,

The concept is tired, but I think the blood brings new life to it.
The concept is tired, but I think the blood brings new life to it.

and dream about my upcoming vacation in the Carolinas,

Hoping to see this awesome lady, who took me to Hunting Island State Park last year.
Hoping to see this awesome lady, who took me to Hunting Island State Park last year.

I continue to count my blessings, such as on the night when I decided to look out the window and saw this happening…

[youtube=http://youtu.be/es-fIvayy5c]

A guy in a tshirt practicing the unicycle in the snow. If ever there was a god, the fact that I decided to look out the window at that very moment may prove He/She exists.

Cheers