Sand Castles

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My son discovered these beautiful works of sand art on the beach this weekend. We never know what we’ll find on our beach walks; on this particular walk we found shells, sand dollars, sand castles, birds, and jellyfish. After exploring for an hour or so we settled down to make our own sand castle, which, of course, because he is a five-year-old boy, involved a reproduction of Batman’s head.

I’m always surprised by how engrossing sand-castle building is, and how the simple act of  dripping wet sand, scooping out little waterways, and sculpting buildings, all the while sitting in the warm spring sun can leave you feeling relaxed and clear.  It’s a bit like meditation and a lot like going on vacation.

Here’s hoping you get lots of time to play in the sand this summer.

Strawberry Picking


Nothing says that spring has arrived in the Wilmington area like picking strawberries at Lewis Farms. My son and I have picked strawberries at Lewis for every spring for four years (he turns five in May), and inevitably we both come home sticky, covered in juice, and happy. This year he ate half the strawberries in our bucket before we got home.


Fields are open at their Gordon Road location for strawberry picking Monday- Saturday 8:30- 6:00 and Sundays from 1:00 – 6:00. While you’re there check out their market, which has an amazing selection of beautiful flowers, hanging baskets, honey, jams, and fresh vegetables (the asparagus today was gorgeous). Be sure to have ice cream before you go — we’re fans of both the strawberry and the chocolate (and they taste delicious mixed together!).


Cucalorus 19

It’s time to get your tickets for Cucalorus 19, the annual international film festival that brings filmmakers from around the world to Wilmington each November. Cucalorus runs November 13-17 this year with screenings of over 200 films in venues downtown. The festival opens with Dance-a-lorus, a mix of local film and dance, on Thalian’s main stage on November 13 at 7:00 pm. Filmmakers and movie lovers alike will flock to the opening night party that night at 8:00 pm at the Bellamy Mansion. From that point on, each day will feature an extraordinary mix of work by new and established filmmakers, as well as master classes, special events, and the festival’s famous midnight brunch.

For information on tickets, check out

Writers Week Comes to UNCW, November 4-8

It’s my favorite time of year in Wilmington: Writers Week. Each year the Department of Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington hosts visiting writers from across the nation for a week-long celebration of the written word. This year’s headliner is US Poet Laureate Natasha Tretheway, who won the Pulitzer Prize for her Native Guard  in 2007. Tretheway reads this Thursday night, November 7, at 7:00 PM in Kenan Auditorium. Tretheway will answer questions at 3:30 that afternoon at the Azalea Coast Room. Other readers and panels include Rebecca Petruck, a UNCW MFA alumni whose  first novel, Steering Toward Normal, is an American Booksellers Association “New Voices” top ten children’s debut and will be released by Abrams/Amulet in May 2014; Kathy Pories, Senior Editor at Algonquin Books; poet and MFA alumni Emma Bolden and many, many more. Check out for a full list of writers and an event schedule.

Writers Week’s activities include workshops, panels, craft talks, and readings — all designed to inspire the writer in each of us. Dust off your manuscript and head out to UNCW for the week — you won’t regret it.

Halloween in the Port City


I love fall: the satisfying crunch of acorns underfoot, cool mornings, and pumpkins. The pumpkin patch at Wesley Memorial United Methodist Church at the corner of Peachtree and College Road has been our family tradition for years. We could line a wall with a family timeline, pumpkin by pumpkin, at Wesley. 

We carved our pumpkins today on the back porch: two angry bird jack-o-laterns and a scary face. While my husband and the children carved, I scooped the seeds out of the cool insides of the pumpkins and prepared them for roasting, another fall tradition.

Here’s the recipe we’ve perfected during the years.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


Fresh pumpkin seeds
Olive Oil
Celtic Sea Salt

1. Scoop the seeds and clean them as best you can. There’s truly no easy way to separate seeds from pumpkin goop, other than to do it one seed at a time.

2. Add seeds and a generous teaspoon of Celtic Sea Salt to a pot of water, bring to boil and then simmer on low for ten minutes. 

3. Dry seeds, spread them out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with olive oil and Celtic Sea Salt, and bake at 325 for 10-15 minutes.

4. Enjoy! 

Happy Halloween!

The Perfect Getaway — Off Season Carolina Beach


This year for our anniversary my husband and I packed our bags and headed just 20 minutes from our Wilmington home to Carolina Beach, where we got married six years earlier. I love Carolina Beach in the fall: warm days, cool nights, and the beach belongs once again to the locals, the fishermen, and a few vacationers. Days are still warm enough to sip a cocktail at the Ocean Grill and Tiki Bar, and if you’re lucky (like we were) you just might see a pod of dolphins jumping in the waves.

On Saturday we woke up early, watched the waves from our balcony at the Sea Ranch Motel (one of our favorite Carolina Beach motels) and then walked down the beach to the boardwalk, talking to fishermen along the way. We ate breakfast at the Gulfstream, a local favorite, and then headed back to the beach.

Time slows down in Carolina Beach. We spent our weekend walking, talking, and eating at some of the beach restaurants on the island. (Hint: Havana’s Sunday brunch is one of the best in the area, and Fort Fisher is a great place to find a bit of solitude by the water.) I can’t wait to go back.

A Mama’s Guide to Wrightsville Beach

Yesterday morning when my four year old woke up he asked, “Is it a school day?” When I said no, he smiled, “It’s a beach day!” It’s so good to live at the beach. Thomas and I load of the car with beach toys and escape to the beach once a week. Here are some tips I’ve learned over four years of sandy swimming trunks, bags of beach toys, and many, many sand castles.

Image1. Coffee is a must. We like to stop at Cafe del Mar where Thomas can get a bagel and I can get a cup of joe. Everyone is happy. The folks at Cafe del Mar are so nice, they make a great latte, and they love little ones.

2. Get there early. There’s nothing worse than hot sand on tiny toes or fighting to get a parking spot with a screaming child in the backseat. We aim to get to the beach between 8:30 and 9:00.

3. Access number four rocks. If you’re looking for other mommies to talk to, children to play with, and gorgeous tidal pools, locals know that access four at Wrightsville Beach is the place to be. Did I mention this access has bathrooms, showers, and changing rooms? Sweet luxury. 

4. Apply sunscreen before you leave the house so you don’t get distracted once you get to the beach and forget. Re-apply often.

5. Pack lots of water and snacks. Bring a sheet to sit on in the sand, if you think your little ones will let you sit.

6. Pay for an hour more of parking than you think you need. I learned this the hard way after getting many parking tickets and turning into a grouchy mama trying to drag my little explorer and beach toys to the car in time to beat the ticket. Beach time always goes faster than you think it should.

7. Relax and enjoy – these summer days go by faster than you can believe.