Sunday, July 24, 2011

Wonderful Wine

Since this is my last week in SC, instead of a cocktail post we're going to discuss the wineries I've been to in South Carolina and Georgia.

I'm rather proud of my current wine collection. There are several Georgia wines, a few South Carolina wines, some PA wines, and a German wine I got at the Outer Banks, NC.

I've found three new favorite wineries in and around upstate SC. Since I just took my parents there yesterday, we'll start with Habersham Winery. It's located in Helen, GA at the Nacoochee Village. They're pretty fairly priced, and have a complementary tasting of up to 4 wines in their tasting room. That's also where I got this:

It's pretty much the best thing ever. Also in Nacoochee Village is an amazing antique store in an old 3-story mammoth farm house. It's a never ending maze of gorgeous antiques and collectibles. There are also a working river-powered grainery, and a little coffee shop in the Village. Down the road is a Pizzeria/Tavern. We didn't eat there because we didn't want to fight the horrific traffic.

The first winery I found when I moved here was Victoria Valley Vineyards in Cleveland, SC. Sadly, I don't have any pictures of this, but it's a gorgeous winery - very European looking. They have free tours of the winery and vineyard, and tasting is (I believe) 5 wines for $5, and you can buy your tasting glass for $2. They have a lot of wines that I loved, and this is where I discovered Viognier and White Merlot. Loooove.

The last winery that I went to around here is the Boutier Winery in Danielsville, GA.

The woman who was there is one of the owners (the other is her husband - the winemaker), and is from Ireland. I could have stayed all day just to listen to her accent. The tasting is 6 wines for $6, but I was the only one there and she kept telling me I had to taste this and that, and I ended up trying about 10 for $6. I was pretty much tipsy by the end. The wines are a little pricier, but amazing!

Yesterday with my parents, we also stopped at Sautee Nacoochee Vineyards and Yonah Mountain Vineyards, both in Sautee, GA. The first one allowed free tasting of up to 10 wines, and had this slushy wine mix stuff that was AMAZING. The woman who did our tasting was a super-nice Italian lady with a fun accent. We got some of the slush mix and a couple of bottles of "Red Headed Stepchild".

Yonah Mountain had tastings of 4 wines for $4, or 10 wines for $10, and you got a free glass with the latter. We just did the 4 because by this time, I was probably already 3 glasses of wine in and had barely eaten all day. Their wines were good, mostly dry, and pretty expensive. I did get a bottle of the Bearly Sweet Red because it was delicious. Mom really liked their Dolce Bello wine that actually had chocolate extract in. I wasn't really a fan of that one, but it would probably be amazing with something like chocolate cake or fondue.

Overall, I'm very impressed with the wine scene around me. Once I'm back in PA, maybe I'll do a post on wineries up that way!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Chasing Waterfalls - Station Cove Falls

I visited my 9th SC waterfall the other night. I waited until the last minute again, and had to hike in the twilight. I went to Station Cove Falls, out past the Oconee Station State Historic Site. Apparently there are more trails and a pond and some old buildings, too. If I had more time here, I'd totally check it all out.

It was a half-mile hike both ways to the falls, so a nice evening hike. It started out fairly uneventfully. No other people around, no other cars in the parking area, so I knew I would be alone at the falls. I think the trail ran close to the pond, though. At one point, I could hear something like a quadrillion bullfrogs croaking. I'm pretty sure God stores his frogs there when he's not using them for Biblical plagues.

I hurried along to the falls to try to beat the darkness and avoid getting attacked by an army of frogs. About halfway there, I came to this:

The lower branch was about stomach-high, and there's about 3 feet between the branches. My choices were to go through or under. Well, I chose through. My problem was, I kept picturing huge spiders and nasty bugs getting on me while climbing through, so I tried to make as little contact with the tree as possible. I basically got a running start and Superman-ed my way through, and had to tuck-and-roll on the other side. It worked out better than I expected - I'm still alive. :-P

I hiked a bit farther and came to the falls. I looooved these falls.

It was secluded, but easy to get to. The falls were tall and gorgeous. There was ample room to jump around on the rocks at the base. It was pretty sweet. I poked around for awhile and tried to find some kind of wildlife... well, I got my wish:

I didn't get too close, and we had an understanding. As long as he stayed on his log, we were cool. It was getting dark, though, and I had to head back. Leaving the falls, I saw something odd:

I'm not sure if this is an art installation... a statement of some kind...? Maybe you can listen to the sounds of nature better through the headphones? Was there an audio tour that I didn't know about? I thought about taking them, if for no other reason than to throw them away, but they looked happy there. Who knows, maybe the owner will come back for them.

I got back to my roadblock and went under this time... a much better decision. It got dark quickly in the woods, so by the time I made it back to my car, I could barely see. No bears/wolves/rabid frogs got me, though.

I have one more waterfall to see before I leave. I'll just have to let my parents entertain themselves for a couple of hours some day. I'm only one away from my goal of 10; I can't stop now!

As per tradition, some supremely awkward pictures of me at the falls:

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Going Home

So I only have two days of work left at the Brooks Center. I'm honestly still not sure how I feel. I've made some amazing friends here, I love my house (sans giant mutant bugs), I love the Brooks and finally feel semi-competent at technical theatre, I love the hiking and abundance of waterfalls.... I've finally established a life here. I do miss Pennsylvania, though. Not the state, necessarily... just being close to my friends and family, and the familiarity that goes along with being closer than 12 hours away from where you grew up.

I'm starting to realize that it takes me about a year to establish any kind of lifestyle. In college, I wasn't really comfortable and happy until sophomore year. After graduation, it took about a year for me to start to accept working at Penney's, and thinking about finding an apartment around there. Here in South Carolina, it's taken almost a year to start going out and doing things with people, finding new hobbies and places to go.... It seems like I keep establishing myself in these short-term situations and then mixing everything up when I finally get settled. I know it's not completely my fault. If I could get a REAL FREAKING JOB, I would be perfectly happy to settle down somewhere for good, or at least for longer than a year. (SOMEONE HIREEEE MEEEEEEE. hint, hint) :-P

I am excited to see my friends and family. It's been about four months since I've seen my parents - the longest we've ever gone apart. I'm sure a few weeks into living with them again I'll complain mercilessly, but I have missed them! I've seen my high school friends during breaks, and at the beach a couple of months ago, but it's been a year since I've seen anyone from college.

What I really need is a month or two at home to reconnect with everyone, experience the things I've been missing, and figure out what I'm doing with my life. It's not necessarily the job or house that I'll miss here in SC, but the friends I've made and the independence I've had, away from everyone I know and alone in my 6-room house. (Dear God, I have to go back to just a bedroom....) I have to box up all the things I love and put my huge, comfy bed in storage. With any luck, it will just be a few months (or less) until someone somewhere realizes I'm awesome and they need me at their theatre.

So in a perfect world, my plan is this: Move home for a maximum of three months. Send out lots of resumes and start volunteering at theatres and doing overhire work. At the end of September, if I'm still unemployed, I'll come work the In the Heights pre-tour tech at the Brooks. At the end of three months, hopefully someone will have hired me permanently. If not, I will get a pay-the-rent job somewhere like Lancaster or Philly just so I'll have my own place again and be in an area where professional theatre actually exists.

I found this quote online: "To look backward for a while is to refresh the eye, to restore it, and to render it the more fit for its prime function of looking forward." ~Margaret Fairless Barber, The Roadmender

I feel like this is what I'm about to do. I'm regressing a bit - moving back in with my parents, re-bonding with my old friends - just for awhile to recharge and reconnect. When I'm ready, and when the universe decides to cut me a break, I can move on with my life - get a new house and job that I love even more.

Chasing Waterfalls - King Creek Falls

I'm running out of time to see the 10 South Carolina waterfalls that I wanted to see before leaving. King Creek Falls makes 8. Last night around 7:30PM, I decided that I could make it there and back before dark. I actually did it. It was only about a half-mile hike one way. I would have had even more daylight, but I missed the parking area and drove around the mountains for twenty minutes.

When I finally found the parking area, I had to go down a gravel road for about a quarter mile, till I reached the quarter mile-long trail. On the trail, I made a friend:

Since I was in a hurry to beat the darkness, we didn't really have time to bond and I didn't name him. I continued on the nice little trail till I found the falls. There was only one couple there, that I can only describe as hippy-looking. They had two very friendly dogs that I got to pet. They left pretty much right as I got there, though, so once again I had some falls to myself!

It was very pretty and I'm not gonna lie - whenever I'm alone at a waterfall, I'm tempted to just strip down and play in the water. I've restrained myself thus far. :-P

I didn't stay too long, but I had a look around before heading back. I did have a bit of an awkward photo shoot, just for my blog readers. :-P

I have 2 more falls to see before I leave. They're both fairly easy/short hikes, so I can do them after work. So look forward to at least two more SC waterfall posts!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

30 Things Before 30

I love making lists. To-do lists, packing lists, lists of goals, reading lists, etc. When I moved to SC, I made a list of things to do/see. I'm leaving in a week and I've done quite a bit, but not everything. Oh, well. It's been a good year!

I've decided to make a list of fairly big goals that I want to accomplish before I turn 30 - things to do, see, get, and experience. I know I have 5 and a half years in which to accomplish everything, but I see a lot of bloggers make lists like this when they're 28 or 29 and not accomplish everything.

I figure if I give myself enough time, I can get everything done that I've come up with, use it as motivation to not be lazy, and (assuming I'm still blogging in 5 years) you can all follow my progress.

30 Things Before 30:

1. Visit at least one new country.

2. Finish my list of 100 Books Everyone Should Read.
(14 down, 86 to go!)

3. See 35 different waterfalls.
(10 down, 25 to go!)

4. Go to Disney World.

5. Take a cooking class.

6. See a dozen different lighthouses.
(4 down, 8 to go!)

7. Make sure I've been to at least half of the United States.
(20 down, 5 to go!)

8. Learn (at least the basics of) a new language.

9. Hike at least part of the Appalachian Trail.

10. Sit in the "splash zone" at Evil Dead the Musical.

11. Run a 5K in under 30 minutes.

12. Donate a total of $1000 and 100 hours of my time to good causes.
($412/3hr down, $588/97hrs to go!)

13. Have at least 6 tattoos.
(3 down, 3 to go!)

14. Go for a walk on the beach at sunrise.

15. Visit the West Coast.

16. Go on a cruise.

17. Help throw and/or take part in a progressive party.

18. Gamble at a casino.

19. Go to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

20. Get a solid, steady job.

21. Do a cleanse or fast.

22. Successfully make a souffle.

23. Go on a week-long camping trip.

24. Try vegetarianism and/or veganism for at least a couple of weeks.

25. Bond with my sisters.

26. Go on a romantic getaway.

27. Go to a dorky/nerdy/geeky convention.

28. Achieve my goal weight.

29. Buy a house.

30. Learn to surf or dive/snorkel.

(Last update: 07/03/2015)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Chasing Waterfalls - Pigpen and Licklog Falls

I don't know if I've posted it on the blog, but I made a goal to see 10 different waterfalls before leaving SC. So I went hiking again today. There was something different, though... what was it...? Oh, yeah. I had a friend! Since her roommate was going kayaking, Miss Gabby decided to come along with me. We went back to find Pigpen and Licklog Falls on the Foothills/Chattooga Trails. I went there last week and had vague directions and no luck finding the falls.

This time, I did more research and figured out where I had gone wrong, and we found Pigpen and both tiers of Licklog. (I'm not sure where these names came from....) We parked in the lot farther away, so it was about 3 miles, round-trip.

After parking, you hike down the Foothills Trail. The first falls you come to are Pigpen Falls, on Licklog Creek. They're right at the junction of the Foothills Trail and Chattooga Trail.

Not overly impressive, but still pretty. There's a nice pool at the base. If I had kids, I would totally bring them here. Pack a lunch, hike in, play by the waterfall. Here's a view from the front:

It's cute. My favorite thing about this hike was the trail. Every so often, the woods would open up and there were little camping areas, usually along the creek. If I were staying here, I would send for my tent and go camping in a heartbeat.

After leaving Pigpen and continuing on the trail, we heard Licklog long before we saw it. Here it is from the trail:

It's much bigger than Pigpen, and much more epic. The problem is, you have to leave the trail and hike down some pretty steep off-shoot paths to get any closer than that. We continued downstream a bit and found three guys camping, and checked out the Chattooga River. After exploring a bit, we headed back to the falls. We found a not-too-deadly path to get down to the lower tier of Licklog Falls, and the climb down was worth it.

There were also great views of the Chattooga River, into which Licklog Falls empties.

Very pretty and isolated. There's a little camping area partway down the little path to get down to the river. It'd be tough getting your gear down there, but I could totally stay for a week.

At one point, I heard a squeal and a splash, and turned around and saw this:

I'm still not clear on how Gabby became stranded on an island in the middle of the creek, but she found a pretty rock, so it's ok.

We poked around and I took some pictures, and then headed back up to the trail. It was dark and dreary and raining, so we started to head back. The "path" to the upper tier of Licklog Falls was wet and deadly looking, so we passed on that. Here's a closer shot of it from the trail:

There was a little camping area at the top of the falls, and you can see right over the precipice. We considered trying to find a barrel and riding down the falls.

All said, I think this is my new favorite trail, and I would so love to camp along there somewhere, sometime. My favorite falls are still Yellow Branch Falls. This was a nice adventure, though, and it was awesome to have a hiking buddy! After today, I've seen (and blogged about) 7 different falls... 3 to go!

As promised in my last hiking post, I have an awkward (and very blurry) picture. :-P

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Big Berta

Since I didn't post a new cocktail this weekend, here's a mid-week one for you. I found it in my Bartender's Black Book. It's called the Berta.

It's 2-oz. tequila, 2-oz. honey, and 1-oz. lime juice stirred until the honey dissolves. Add lots if ice, and fill the glass with soda water. It was surprisingly amazing. You couldn't taste the tequila at all. It was just sweet and light and very summery. Highly recommended!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Chasing Waterfalls - Miuka & Secret Falls

On the Fourth of July, I went off in search of the Winding Stairs Trail, home to Miuka Falls and Secret Falls. As soon as I found the trail head, it started to pour. Cherry Hills Recreation Area was just up the street, so I drove around there for a bit, and then parked at the trail head and waited out the rain.

Once it cleared up, I started out. It was wet and dreary, and the day did not lend itself to a pleasant hike. The trail was about a mile and a half. Going in, it was fine because it was all downhill. (Which of course meant it was all uphill coming back.) I think because of the holiday and the rain, I was the first person on the trail that day. Because of this, I ran into cobwebs built across the trail every five minutes. I also came home with two ticks. They hadn't burrowed in yet, but ew. I did find this neat cave/rock formation thing, under which I planned to take shelter if the rain started again.

I hiked for awhile, and according to the trail directions I had, both falls required me to leave the trail at some point. Now, I pictured leaving the trail and fighting through the underbrush, and coming out at some picturesque oasis with a waterfall and pool. Not so. The woods let out right ONTO the falls. To get decent pictures, I had to climb out onto the steep, slippery cascade. This is what I had to stand on:

It's completely smooth and there's a steady stream of water. But. This is what risking my life enabled me to get a picture of:

So worth it! I would have like to try to climb up a bit and get closer, but it was hard enough getting out far enough to get decent pictures. One slip, and I was in for the water slide ride from hell.

Now that was Miuka Falls, the first on the trail. After I managed to get back to the path, I continued on for awhile. The directions for Secret Falls were a little more vague. I eventually came across what I think was the way to Secret Falls. I found a creek, anyway... and water was kind of falling... but it brought me out in the middle off the falls, and it was impossible to get good pictures, even with risking my life again and crawling out onto them.

Looking up:

Looking down:

I was on a little plateau, so it wasn't as death-defying as trying to get the Miuka Falls picture. At this point, I sat on a dry spot for awhile and had some water (from a bottle, not the creek). When I was getting up, I needed a handhold. As I reached out for a tree branch, I noticed it looked weird. There was totally a spider the size of my thumb blending in with the bark. I was an inch away from grabbing it. I would have taken a picture, but I ran away screaming and crying and trying not to plummet to my death.

Hiking out was rough, as it was all uphill. By the time I was almost back to the start, I was soaked and out of breath. So of course I ran into a group of people. They probably thought I was having a heart attack. They still stopped me to ask stupid questions. Some semblance of the following took place between me and the father (oh, yeah, it was a family... three kids, their parents, and their grandparents):

Him: "What are the Winding Stairs?"
Me: "... that's just the name of the trail...?"
Him: "Oh... well is there anything to see down there?"
Me: "Well there are some waterfalls, but they're a ways down and you have to leave the trail to see them."
Him: "Oh... well, I hear water. Is there a creek?"
Me: "Yeah, it kind of runs along the trail."
Him: "Great! Let's go find the CREEK, kids! Thanks! Bye!"
Me: "Bye...."

I'm not sure why he took 3 kids and 2 elderly people to a moderately difficult trail, knowing nothing about it, but I didn't see anything about a family of 7 dying in the woods.

At this point, I would post a picture of me looking awkward in front of one of the falls, but I had enough trouble trying to get pictures of the falls, let alone me in front of them. I think I'm going to check out another trail with two new falls tomorrow. I'll try my best for an awkward pic!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

5 New Things

So this Fourth of July weekend, I had 4 days off in a row! I made a list of things to get done. For the most part, I accomplished it.

1) Find a new hiking trail/waterfall.
-Done. On the 4th, I went up Winding Stairs Trail and found Miuka Falls and Secret Falls. There will be a post about this soon.

2) FINALLY finish Vanity Fair (the novel, not the magazine).
-Done. I technically finished it the 5th while at work, but I've been reading this freaking book for 4 months now. I kept getting bored and reading other things.

3) Try 6 new recipes.
-Almost. I got 5 done, then ran out of money for ingredients and room in my fridge.

4) See some fireworks.
-Done. I went to Clemson's fireworks over the lake and ran into Sarah (the incoming lighting intern), and two other Clemson theatre kids - Josh and Jeremiah. I also watched Seneca's fireworks through the trees from my front porch.

This post is about the 5 new recipes I tried. I'm quite pleased with the way all of them turned out (except number 4... we'll get to that).

The first thing I tried was homemade crackers:

They taste just like Cheese-Its, even if they look nothing like them.... They're cheesy and toasty and awesome. I will definitely make them again with some kind of dip. I could have let them bake a bit longer... they were still a little soft, but I kind of like them that way.

Number two was homemade chocolate pudding from scratch:

It was super easy, even if it didn't come from a little box. It's super sweet, though. Might have to cut down on the sugar next time. Still better than pudding cups. :-P

My next conquest was Hawaiian Bread:

It's amazing! There's pineapple and coconut in it, so it's sweet but not too sweet. I should have cut the recipe in half, but I put one loaf in the freezer for later. Maybe when my parents are here. :-) Since I think this was my favorite, I'll post the recipe at the end.

The fourth thing was Baked Cabbage:

This is the only recipe I wasn't thrilled with. It's from a PA Dutch cookbook that I got for Christmas. I don't know if I did something wrong, or if it's just a weird recipe. You boil the cabbage for a few minutes to get it soft, then you bake it after putting flour, sugar, salt, pepper, milk, and cheese on top. The weird thing was the milk.... It didn't get soaked up or made into a sauce or anything... it was just cheesy cabbage in hot milk. It wasn't bad... just... really weird....

My final experiment was Streusel-Filled Coffee Cake:

This was excellent, as my co-workers will attest. A little dry since I didn't make coffee to go with it, but it was a nice pre-work snack yesterday.

I consider my long weekend of baking, reading, and hiking to be highly successful. Be on the look out for a Miuka/Secret Falls post!

As promised:

Hawiian Bread

28 oz. can crushed pineapple, with juice
10 oz. pkg. flaked coconut
4 eggs
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 c. flour
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking soda

-Combine all ingredients and mix well. Pour into 2 greased loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

*hint* I put the pineapple through a food processor after pouring the juice into the mixing bowl. I wanted smaller chunks of fruit. You can skip this if you want bigger chunks.


Saturday, July 2, 2011

Chasing Waterfalls - Yellow Branch Falls

I made it back to Yellow Branch Falls, and I made sure I had my camera this time! The second time around, the trail was less heart attack-causing, but I was still pretty soaked and winded by the end. It's about 3 miles, round-trip. It's a gorgeous hike, though, and it's probably my favorite waterfall yet.

To get to the trail, you park at the Yellow Branch Picnic Area. It's really pretty, and I have yet to see anyone actually picnic-ing there. Were I going to be around longer, I would totally have a shindig out there. There were lots of picnic tables scattered about, but the main pavilion is awesome and had a fireplace!

When you start off your hike, you start on a little half-mile nature trail, and you have to cross a creek a few times. There were always little stone stairs and stepping stones to get you across, though.

About halfway through the nature trail, the Yellow Branch Falls trail goes off to the side. It's a little under an hour to get to the falls from when you leave the parking area, and it's such a gorgeous hike. I thought it was fairly long, and pretty hilly and narrow, but the first time I went to the falls there were several children and three dogs there. That kind of put a damper on my manly hiking adventure.

This time I passed about 8 people, in three different groups going out as I was going in. At one point, I passed a couple leaving and the guy goes, "Look, there's a snake!" It was little, though, and there were other people around so I didn't want to whip my camera out, or run away screaming... which were my initial responses. The other people I passed were a group of teenagers who had obviously been swimming, and a family of three. Passing all these people worried me, as I was afraid there would be a bunch more at the falls. When I got there, though, I had them ALL TO MYSELF! It was awesome. Awe. some.

I loved being able to play around on the rocks, get wet, and be a kid without anyone there to see. I spent a solid 45 minutes there just crawling around on the rocks and sitting there watching the falls. I even saw some wildlife... and by wildlife I mean some minnows, a moth, and some birds.

I headed back a little before 7PM to give myself enough time to not get lost in the woods in the dark. On the way out, I made a friend:

He was kind enough to hold still long enough for me to change my camera batteries and proceed with a 10-minute photo shoot. I named him Hans... he just looks like a Hans. I would have been tempted to snatch him and bring him home and love him, but I'm not sure what kind of lizard he is, and I don't have any of my lizard-keeping equipment in this state. Besides, I was in his home, and it's rude to walk into someone's living room and kidnap them.

So I think this was my favorite waterfall adventure yet, and quite possibly one of the best experiences I've had in SC. I'll probably go back just because I like the hike, love these falls, and it's familiar now so it's a good after-work excursion.

I shall leave you once again with a picture of me. Not too awkward this time, but I totally look Photoshop-ed in. I'm not. I promise.