48 Hours in Durham, North Carolina

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This past March, Anne and I took a road trip to the South to visit Durham, Charleston, Savannah, and Asheville.  We spent two nights in each city, and started to get the flavor for each place we visited.  It was a lot of driving from Philadelphia – over 2,000 miles in eight days!  I knew early on in our trip that I wanted to write a travel post for each destination, so I started taking notes on the fun and delicious experiences we had while we were away.

This week’s post is dedicated to all things Durham.  I have been here several times, as my older sister went to college in Durham, and decided to stay for a few years after graduating.  It was Anne’s first time visiting, though, so we had a lot of exploring to do!  I’ve broken down my travel guide by category: food, drinks, shopping, and activities.  Please do not hesitate to ask me any questions in the comments section, or add to my list of great things to do in Durham!

48 Hours in: Durham, North Carolina {A Travel Guide}

Food

Elmo’s Diner: This might be my favorite breakfast spot in all of Durham.  The service at Elmo’s is excellent, they provide coloring supplies while you wait for your food, and their well-designed t-shirts are sold in a wide variety of great colors.  I can’t leave without ordering their sunflower seed French toast.  Elmo’s is on my list every time I visit Durham.

Cosmic Cantina: Mexican food is a hot commodity in Durham, and Cosmic is a great stop for lunch.  The service is quick, and the food is even better.  Cosmic is open until the wee hours of the morning – 5 a.m. for those out late!

Geer Street Garden: I’m going to cut to the chase here: Geer Street’s jalepeno-cheddar hushpuppies are a must.  While I’m at it, I’d also recommend their fried green tomatoes.  This establishment has inviting seating both inside and outside.  Anne and I sat at the outdoor picnic tables, which had a very nice ambiance with lots of happy customers and good lighting from stringed lights.

Caffe Driade: This cafe is off the beaten path – literally.  It is tucked into a pretty wooded area between Durham and Chapel Hill.  The inside is quite small, however Caffe Driade has ample seating on the outside patios.  Relax in nature while you enjoy a pastry, sip hot tea, or nurse a fancy coffee drink.

Toast: Another absolute must.  My sister introduced me to this slice of heaven many years ago, and it’s still better than ever.  What steals the show for me is their side salad.  You’re thinking: “A side salad?!”  Yes.  It gets me every time.  Pair it with Pick-Three-Crostini and you’re good to go.  Just make sure to prepare yourself for what will be a very enjoyable eating experience.

Dos Perros: Although Anne and I did not eat at this restaurant, it has an excellent reputation.  We experienced chef Nora Mendez’s cooking at a local event, FARE Project.  The featured short film, Vida Propria, sheds light on Mendez’s journey as an immigrant kitchen worker and mother.

Drinks

Fullsteam Brewery: This brewery, which is right next to Geer Street Garden, is a fantastic watering hole.  Their beers come in half pints (yay!) and full pints.  Three of our favorites were the Fullsteam Amber Lager, Beasley’s Honey Wheat, and The Common Good – a delicious cidery beer that had my name written all over it.  What might be Fullsteam’s coolest factor is their Forager Project.  Fullsteam puts out a call for harvest, community members bring in items such as wild pears or figs, and then Fullsteam makes beer with these goods!  Foragers even get their own shmancy Forager Hat.

The Pinhook: The Pinhook is a great venue for trivia, open mic nights, disco dance parties, and more.  It’s a safe space for LGBTQ folk, and can be BYO food and BYO dog.  Pretty neat.

Whiskey: This is a high-class establishment for 23-year-olds and over.  Whiskey has a dress code after certain hours, and offers all kinds of specialty drinks.  It’s located right next to Toast, so be sure to stop by while you’re in the neighborhood.

Shopping

Cozy: Cozy is situated between Elmo’s and Cosmic Cantina, and is a cute store for jewelry, accessories, clothing, shoes, and knitting supplies.  The workers are quite friendly, and are eager to help whenever possible.  I’ve gotten some nice things from Cozy over the years!

Regulator Bookshop: This is a great neighborhood bookstore.  Regulator has a wide selection of books with a nice sitting area toward the back of the shop.  The service is friendly (this is becoming a southern trend, isn’t it?) and very helpful.  Be sure to check out the basement, which has many books on sale.

The Makery: While Anne and I waited for a table at Geer Street Garden, we wandered over to The Makery for some eye candy.  This little shop is chock-full of locally made gifts and accessories.  They even hosted an Etsy craft party a few weeks ago.

Parker & Otis: Parker & Otis is a restaurant and gift shop in downtown Durham.  Their store is stuffed with fabulous cookbooks, kitchen gadgets, and stationery.  Anne and I picked up some chicken feet gummies that made for an entertaining afternoon.

The Scrap Exchange: This is one stop that is an absolute must for any crafter.  The Scrap Exchange is a warehouse filled with scraps ranging from test tubes to bathroom sinks.  If you’re planning on going, be sure to carve out at least an hour.  This place is large and in charge.

Activities

Eno State Park: Get out of the city for an afternoon and venture around the Eno.  The park is minutes from Durham, and offers wilderness trails, shallow streams, historic mill sites, and an overall fun and quiet time.

Cat’s Cradle: Famous artists such as Nirvana, John Mayer, Iron and Wine, and The Head and The Heart have frequented this Carrboro joint for over 40 years.  Be sure to check out their event calendar if you plan on visiting the area.

Again, please feel free to add any Durham favorites in the comments section!  I’d love to hear about some of your favorite things to do in Durham.  Happy travels!

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Day Trip: Milwaukee, WI

There are many cities in the U.S. that don’t get the credit that they deserve.  Between New York and Los Angeles lie a bounty of small cities that offer cultural experiences unique to their regions.  One among them is Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  As the state’s most populous city, Milwaukee and her triple-threat attractions (beer, cheese, and sausage) do not disappoint.

This year, Anne and I spent the Christmas season with her family outside of Chicago.  As the festivities died down and the whirlwind of crafting, wrapping presents, and eating slowed, we all decided to take a day trip to Milwaukee.  A recent article in the Travel section of The New York Times piqued Janet’s interest.

Milwaukee lies an hour and a half north of Chicago, along Lake Michigan.  Upon our arrival, some of us explored the Historic Third Ward neighborhood while others went to the Harley-Davidson Museum.  Some favorite spots in this neighborhood included: Colectivo Coffee Roasters, Hot Pop Gallery, and Milwaukee Public Market (the equivalent of Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia).

Our journey continued onward when we met up for a tour of Lakefront Brewery along the Milwaukee River.  It proved to be a fun and informative tour for all.  We tasted a white ale, an amber lager, a pumpkin lager, and a kolsch-style ale.  Lakefront Brewery was the second brewery in the nation to brew beer with pumpkin, and the first brewery since prohibition to brew a fruit beer.  Pretty neat!

Believe it or not, we ended the evening at Milwaukee Brat House.  Before even ordering brats, we enjoyed a giant soft pretzel that came in a pizza box.  Go big or go home, right?  It was amazing.  We should have stopped there, but alas…  Our day trip was capped off with Kopp’s Frozen Custard.  Despite feeling as though we might keel over, our trip to Milwaukee was a success!  The weather was beautiful, and the city broadened our (Lake Michigan) horizons.

Note: Click images to view in slideshow.  Images taken by Victoria Vitale and Janet Kenealy.

Day Trip: terrain

Last weekend, local home and garden center terrain hosted a holiday open house.  I’ve been feeling my holiday juices begin to flow a bit early this year, and terrain did not disappoint.  Not only is it a home and garden center, it is a restaurant, cafe, and event venue.  Anne and I took her visiting parents to go see what this holiday hoo-ha was all about.  It’s a good thing we went early in the day – the place was full of hipsters by noon!

There is magic in the air at terrain, and your crafting/gardening senses will leave feeling full and refreshed (and very, very eager).  The trip was thoroughly enjoyed by all.  A few items we brought home include a beautiful, vibrant red poinsettia (thanks, Janet & Dave!), succulents, and Christmas gifts for those-who-shall-not-be-named.

To anyone in the Philadelphia area: I urge you to check out terrain this holiday season.  The store is chock full o’ gifts and inspirations!

Note: Click images to view in slideshow.

On The Farm With: Janet Kenealy

From Janet:  An article in the travel section of the Sunday Chicago Tribune piqued our interest in Southwest Wisconsin.  It touted rolling hills dotted with cows and sheep, charming towns filled with antiques and artisans, and–of course–cheese!  Dave and I planned a weekend in Mineral Point, Wisconsin, and we were quickly smitten with the area.  Soon afterward, we were working with a realtor to find a little place in the country for weekend getaways for ourselves and our family.  A check list was created (our family is famous for its list-making), noting all of the features we would like in a second home: a bit of green space in a quiet spot, a simple house with a screened porch, and a location not too far away from civilization and our year round home in Oak Park, Illinois.  We saw plenty of houses during our search but most weren’t quite what we were looking for.

After a full day of house hunting, our realtor showed us one final listing that she said met most of our parameters but was a bit farther away and slightly larger than what we were looking for.  She also warned us it had been on the market awhile and was “a little dated.”  She also called it a hobby farm.  We were intrigued.  Hidden behind a white picket fence and a tall stand of Arborvitaes stood a charming little red brick home built in 1858 with several farm buildings, including an old wire corn crib, and the loveliest assortment of trees – including a little apple orchard!  The property was now 3 ½ acres but had been part of a larger farm years ago.We were immediately enamored with the expanse of grass, the assortment of trees – several varieties of pine, maple, and a mighty oak just outside the front door. But what really struck us was the silence except for the birds and rustling tree leaves.  We could hear cows mooing on the neighbor’s farm and birds were darting through the trees to the feeders by the kitchen window.  The interior of the home was indeed dated – yellow shag carpeting, indoor/outdoor carpeting in the kitchen (!), and 1970s wallpaper on every wall.  The rooms weren’t large but they were light-filled.  There was a good feeling in that house.  So we bought the farm!We set out on a major renovation to make it safe (updated electrical/plumbing) and to make it our own (new kitchen/bath).  We also took a strange little room off the back of the house and added windows to create a lovely little porch which looks out onto the garden.  New windows were installed, the carpeting was removed and the original oak floors were revealed.  Wallpaper was taken down and fresh paint rolled on all the walls.Once the work on the inside was completed it was time to turn our attention to the garden.  The previous owner had an expansive garden.  Starting small, we rototilled a 30 by 60 plot and set out planting.  We learned rather quickly we should never have rototilled the soil, as it churned up centuries of dormant weed seeds the likes of which we had never seen before!  We learn something about our garden (and ourselves) every year.  Lavender, zinnias, pumpkins, black-eyed susans, sunflowers and cat mint all grow very well without needing too much help from us.  We’ve planted hydrangeas around the foundation of the house and have added to our little arboretum by planting a few small trees. In the spring, we plan to add two Asian pear trees and a row of raspberry bushes to our little garden plot.Our next project is to turn a small parcel of our property back to its origins as a prairie.  We took a class on prairie restoration at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and have read books and blogs on the subject.  We’ve also consulted with experts and learned that we have some very stubborn invasive species that have taken over much of the space.  Some of these plants have been on the property for years and will require heavy machinery to uproot them.  It will take tremendous sweat equity and an investment of funds to make it happen, but we hope to someday return the land to its original beauty.When I’m not busy on the farm, the area has some nice little antique shops and thrift stores in which to poke around. I also enjoy browsing the aisles of the local Farm and Fleet.  A neighboring town has an emerging artisan community with galleries, shops, and a few nice restaurants. There’s even a brewery nearby. I continue to learn lessons from our little farm – lessons of patience, mostly.  I am learning to be patient with the land and with the rhythms of the seasons.  The biggest adjustment I must learn to make is to balance the hard work of the farm with its many joys and pleasures.  Now if I would only park the wheel barrel for a moment I will experience them!

What an inspiring story, Janet!  Thank you for sharing your exciting journey.

Note: all photos were taken by Janet Kenealy.

The City of Neighborhoods

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City Hall

Anne and I recently had a friend visit us from out of town, and it was a great way for us to get out and about in our own city!  We spent an entire weekend walking and exploring some of Philadelphia’s greatest neighborhoods.  Included on our self-guided tour: Center City, Art Museum, Fairmount, the Schuylkill River Trail, Chinatown, Olde City, Northern Liberties, and South Philly.  Phew!

The Clock Tower

The Clock Tower

View from the Clock Tower Observation Deck

View from the Clock Tower Observation Deck (note: Art Museum)

The Delaware River

The Delaware River

Rocky

Rocky

Art Museum

Art Museum

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Elfreth's Alley, the nation's oldest residential street dating back to 1702

Elfreth’s Alley, the nation’s oldest residential street dating back to 1702

The Schuylkill River Trail

The Schuylkill River Trail

Chinatown at Night

Chinatown at Night