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Countertop Review

This time last year I was packing up our house to prepare for our down-to-the-studs renovation in our kitchen, family room, and master bath as well as the addition of a screened porch. The family room wasn't originally part of the plan, but that's a post for another time. The kitchen was where I really had to plan and scheme, and, yes even fret, to stay in our footprint and budget and to get the function and look I wanted. I love a challenge like this, though, so despite some occasional frustration with my client (aka me! ), I enjoyed the process. A key "want" of mine was honed marble countertops. There are dozens--maybe hundreds--of blog posts, articles, and showroom sites that compare various types of countertop materials and their pros and cons. I read most of them and took notes from a lot of them in the months leading up to our start date. One of the most helpful things was visiting a sweet friend's kitchen, where I was able to ask questions about cleaning, a

Those Autumn Leaves

Not too long ago, Middle sat hunched over his biology book, notes, and a laptop.  Earnestly, he asked, “Mom, do you know how to balance chemical equations?”  I figured  that since he was studying biology, it would be safe to say, “Oh sure, honey, it’s been a while but I think I can do it.”  Now when I say “it’s a been a while,” what I mean is that the crust of the Earth was still hot the last time I balanced a chemical equation.

Middle’s first semester biology project, however, is a lot more appealing than balancing chemical equations.  He has to find leaves from 25 trees indigenous to South Carolina.  Fifteen of the trees are assigned; the remaining 10 may be of his choosing, as long as the trees are native to the Palmetto State.  IMG_2570

Each tree has to be represented by at least two leaves, pressed in a leaf press and mounted in an album.  Of course, each pair of leaves must be labeled by scientific name and common name.  Additionally, economic and anecdotal information about each particular tree is required.  The leaves must be green; they may not have any tears, specks, or other imperfections.  Seriously.IMG_2588

Students were strongly encouraged to include their families in the leaf collecting part of the project, so off we headed to the South Carolina Botanical Gardens, conveniently located at Clemson University.  I am ashamed to say that I had never visited the state’s Botanical Gardens before.  What a treat!  The Gardens, which are free and open year round, comprise 295 acres.  Miles of streams and nature trails weave throughout a 70-acre arboretum, a butterfly garden, a wildflower meadow, and fern and bog gardens.IMG_2579

Pictured above is the elegant wind flower, growing in the woodland garden.  I had never seen this flower before, and I can describe it only as arresting.  It literally took my breath away for a second. The brilliant white blossoms wave on stems that are about three feet tall.  In addition, more than 400 varieties of camellias, as well as an extensive collection of hollies, hydrangeas, and magnolias are planted on the property.

Needless to say, we spent most of our time in the arboretum, looking for flawless green leaves.  Notice I did not say all of our time.IMG_2562

Despite all the leaf angel antics, Middle was able to identify most of the trees he needed.IMG_2572IMG_2566 The Pumpkin Ash was a new tree to me.  Below is the trunk of a Shag Bark Hickory.IMG_2565  Little enjoyed climbing the Southern Magnolia.IMG_2567The Mister and Little with our collection. IMG_2568Certain family members have accused me of burnishing our life in this blog.  I don’t think that’s quite the case.  I really don’t burnish; I just leave out the more mundane and irritating bits.  Still, in the spirit of full disclosure, let me say that our lives are not blog perfect.  Stuff gets misplaced.  Sometimes we’re late.  The house gets messy.  We bicker.  We regularly annoy one another.  Sometimes on purpose.IMG_2576 IMG_2577IMG_2575Usually, we get over it pretty quickly.       IMG_2586Ice cream produced at Clemson’s dairy by Clemson cows and served by students at the ‘55 Exchange seems to help, although Little still looks a little miffed.  IMG_2589All in all, it was a gorgeous day, a Sunday afternoon spent in God’s breathtaking creation with nary an iPod or cell phone to distract. IMG_2590 IMG_2591Delicious autumn!  My very soul is wedded to it, and if I were a bird I would fly about the earth seeking the successive autumns.  ~George Eliot IMG_2592

"Behold congenial Autumn comes,
the Sabbath of the Year."
-  John Logan, 1748 - 1788


Thy bounty shines in autumn unconfined
And spreads a common feast for all that live."
-   James Thomson

Ah. Sweet Autumn.  Let’s not rush through what’s left of it.


  1. Oh, I so agree ~ let's hold on to every little second of it! Your pictures are breathtaking and I wish I could have been with you; seems like only yesterday I was searching for leaves with my two. Thanks so much visiting me and for your sweet words tonight!

  2. What stunning pictures. Our leaves have now turned brown and have fallen... a few solitary leaves cling to branches for dear life. Outside, it reminds me of a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!

  3. I think you have inspired a family field trip. The pics are beautiful.

  4. What a great homework assignment (rather there than sitting at home!). Fall is my favorite time of year - the colors, the smells. Thanks for sharing such great photos of the foliage.

  5. Oh yes, I agree with George Eliot. Her sentiments closely resemble my own feelings about Autumn. Your photos are absolutely stunning. Looks like a great day out..and what a lovely family!


  6. Gorgeous pictures... We are still having the leaves change down here. Just not as vivid! I remember my own leaf project in the seventh grade. Wish it had been assigned during the fall like Middle!

  7. Fabulous family project and I love any botanical garden...such a treat! my interview with Empress of the Eye...then enter my new Giveaway....I know you will love it!!

    Art by Karena

  8. I sometimes wonder if I make things look a little too easy or pleasant around here too - but meh, when we look back on our lives are we going to want to remember the good or the bad? I say just the good :O)

  9. So this is what fall is supposed to look like! I feel like I've been on a wonderful family vacation with you. You take the best photos! :) xoxo

  10. Thanks everyone for such kind compliments! If you could see the condition of my little camera (the door that holds the batteries in is broken, so I have to hold it closed while I shoot!) you would see why I am asking Santa for a new one! Still, I love taking photos!


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