Sunday, August 27, 2006

A Year of Courtney

Well, I’ve made it. One year of meanderings about Bluffton and Lowcountry happenings, hot spots, not spots, and a little controversy thrown in for good measure.

So, it wouldn’t be a fitting anniversary celebration (thanks for all of the cards and flowers by the way) without a re-cap of the last 365 days, so here goes. What did this Yankee learn during her first year in Bluffton?

Southerner’s have a special way about them, as evidenced by our move to South Carolina. When our moving van broke down on I95 in North Carolina, a Southern Gentlemen escorted us, our three pets, our two cars, and one 26 foot moving van, to our new hometown.

Don’t pack the plunger, unless you have clearly labeled the box that it is traveling in. Chances are you’ll need it before all of the bathroom boxes are unpacked. (Especially if you’ve bought a brand new home, takes a little time for those pipes to get up to speed.)

The New Jersey DMV could take some lessons from the SCDMV. The experience was actually a pleasure.

Bluffton High School football offers the community the opportunity to leave their differences at the gate and be part of the same team, if only for a few hours.

R, R, R is for Oyster, oyster, oyster. (Months with “R” in them are oyster months.) Never had an oyster before I moved here yet I find myself counting the days until May River oysters are back in season.

You could miss fall, if you don’t pay really close attention. The good news, however, is that your mums can virtually pass as perennials (ours did). Your pumpkins, on the other hand, may suffer an unkind fate falling victim to the bright fall sun.

Starting your day at the Bluffton Coffee House, where you not only get good coffee, but great conversation can make you smile all the way to work. It is so nice to see the same faces week after week – old friends and new.

The smell of the May River is intoxicating, however pluff mud, not so much.

Jersey Mike’s subs are the perfect cure for brief bouts of home sickness.

No frozen fingers or toes when hanging your holiday decorations. Heck, its still seventy degrees out!

Finding a new hairdresser, a new dry cleaner, or a new circle of friends is difficult. But, if at first you don’t succeed, try and try again. (On the latter, if all else fails, wear a sign that exhibits your personality profile in the hopes of meeting a good match.)

Grits come in two varieties … the kind you eat and the Girls Raised in the South. Get to know and respect both.

Property Owner Associations abound. Learn the rules, abide by the rules and report the folks who don’t? I still haven’t figured out the answer to the POA puzzle, I want a nice neighborhood, but I don’t want to live in Pleasantville. What’s a control freak to do?

Get out of Bluffton every once and awhile and explore Savannah, Charleston, Beaufort. It is fun to play tourist for the day. Or play tourist closer to home by strolling Calhoun Street or braving the beaches of Hilton Head.

And, finally … no matter what you do, never, and I mean never, knock pancakes or NASCAR. It just won’t be pretty!

Now, what to do for the next fifty-two weeks … any ideas?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Happy Hour Hot Three

"Within the South itself, no other form of cultural expression, not even music, is as distinctively characteristic of the region as the spreading of a feast of native food and drink before a gathering of kin and friends."
- John Edgerton, from "Southern Food”

After much research, and a number of hours imbibing, I am excited to unveil my happy hour top three hit list. My first instinct was to try to for a top 10 list, but the time and effort involved could have been detrimental to my health (and I don’t get reimbursed for expenses).

#3. MiTierra
Dr. Mellinchamp Drive, Bluffton
After surviving a minor hiccup earlier this year and a temporary loss of their liquor license, MiTierra is back. I’ve mentioned them before and I stand by my claim that MiTierra is a perfect spot for an after work happy hour. The frozen margaritas are a treat. As a connoisseur (or so I thought) of the frozen concoction, I was also surprisingly pleased by their margarita on the rocks, I may be a convert.

What I like best is that you can grab a table with the goal of only enjoying a few drinks and there is never any pressure to order a meal. The waitresses keep the chips (always warm and right out of the kitchen) and the homemade salsa (a cilantro lover’s dream) coming all night.

No worries about the disrupting the diners with bouts of laughter or loud conversation. The bar sits in a separate room, perfect for the office crowd to get together and complain about their day and their boss, which I of course, never do.

# 2. Myrtles Bar & Grill
Bruin Road, Bluffton
Myrtles is a perfect Thursday night stop because … oh yes, its ladies night and the feeling’s right, oh what a night, ooohhh what a night. (Any one else picturing John Lovitz in the Wedding Singer right now, or is that movie moment mine alone?)

Some of the girls from work and I dropped by to test out the $3 martini menu. As we perused the menu for appetizers, the bartender informed us that he was the Chef and everything on the menu was, of course, delicious. He went on to tell us that he worked the bar on Thursdays because they needed a good looking guy for ladies night – humor and talent, what a combination!

Anyway, much to my delight, the martini menu included a margarita (see number 3 for my love of margaritas) and it was perfect. The glasses seemed to get bigger with each round, but that could have just been us. I had three and had to leave before I felt the need to spend the night sleeping on the sidewalk at Myrtle’s.

Appetizers were great too, we sampled the spinach dip – warm, cheesy, and definitely in the comfort food family, the friend oysters and fried calamari. All were spectacular. (I guess the Chef really isn’t needed in the kitchen on Thursdays.)

As a bonus, J. Howard Duff plays the blues from 7:30 until 10:30 PM.

Drum roll, please ...

1. Pepper’s Porch
May River Road / Route 46, Bluffton
Rounding out the top three, at number one is Pepper’s Porch. We’ve been heading to Pepper’s most Fridays this summer. The new Back Bar opened a couple of months ago and the outdoor venue is a hit! I could sum it all up in two words – dollar beers.

Yes, you read correctly, happy hour on Friday nights ‘til 7:00 p.m. features $1 beers, and $3 pitchers. Carolina Blonde, on tap, is amazingly refreshing and not beer bitter.

The interior of the Back Bar feature a couple televisions, dart board, disco ball and a pole, which I’ll admit is a bit suspect. I have never seen the pole utilized, probably because I am home in bed before its starts to see an action. For all know it could be a support beam, but it adds an interesting element nonetheless.

The outside tables sit upon a bed of oyster shells and fill up quickly on Friday. The full menu is served outside but if its finger foods you desire, try the fried pickles and peel and eat shrimp.

At 7:00 p.m. “Snow Bird Mike” hits the stage with his guitar and plays classic rock hits from the Eagles to Bread, perfect for singing along.

Pepper’s Porch screams Lowcountry and that is what makes it a hit in my book. So, maybe I’ll see you there? You can buy me a beer. Cheers!

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She is really quite responsible and has not tested the beer or margaritas at every establishment in Bluffton. Give her another year.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Bookworms Unite!

When I made my first holy communion, I was selected by our Pastor to do a reading during the church service. My mom loves to tell the story about little seven year old me, in my white dress and veil, standing on the altar looking out at the congregation of hundreds of people. I was the best reader in the 2nd grade and this was my reward.

What my mom doesn’t know and what I remember most about the day is this … I wanted to cry. I remember standing up there and debating in my mind should I cry or should I keep reading? I chose the later, and thank goodness I did, or my mom’s story would be very different – ending with me hiccupping and red in the face with swollen eyes.

Fast forward twenty something years and I still love to read. And good news - when I am in front of a crowd I still manage to read without crying. My true passion however is curling up with a good book – spending weekends swinging in the hammock when the weather is right and toasting in front of the fireplace for the couple of months that bring a chill to the air.

I have seen and heard a number of discussions regarding the things that we would like to see in Bluffton. I only have one thing on my list - a book store. (If there is a book store in Bluffton and I’ve missed it, please let me know!)

Yes, I am lazy, but I hate driving to Hilton Head after work on weekdays and risk getting stuck in bridge traffic on the way back to Bluffton. Saturdays on the Island offer even less appeal with checking in and checking out tourists clogging the roadways. Sometimes I will make the trip to Barnes and Noble on a Sunday. And when I do, it is like going to a spa – it is comfortable and relaxing, and you can talk out loud without being shushed. In case you haven’t noticed, I have a lot on my mind that I like to share now and again, so the Library isn’t the best spot for me.

I browse the book aisle in the supermarkets and in Wal-Mart and Target, and my response much too often is …read it, read it, don’t want to read it, etc.

But, think about how much easier life would be if we had our own book store in Bluffton. I have a growing list of friends who are longing for a convenient way to get books, so I throw this idea out there to all of you - an idea that definitely needs some fine tuning from anyone who feels the same way I do.

What do you think about a Bluffton book swap? This could be an opportunity for us to get rid of the books we feel comfortable parting with and a greater opportunity to discover new authors and a little bit more about our neighbors.

I know I have two or three healthy boxes of books that I’d love to share. In addition, I have moved with Joe three times and each time we have packed up boxes of his enormous political and history book collection, none of which I have ever seen him crack open. (I think they were an accessory to lure me in! Love you honey.)

A book swap would offer some of the connectedness of a book club without the commitment.

Can we do this? Am I out of my mind? Is there space for this in an existing business? Does the swap include a minimal fee - on the honor system – that we can contribute to help our neighbors and friends in need? How can we satisfy our book fix and give back to the community?

This is a very rough idea, but one that I feel strongly about (and my friend Karen urged me to write about). If you think we could make this work, drop me a line. If nothing else, perhaps this has rejuvenated your interest in reading and your circle of friends may give a book swap a whirl.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who re-located to Bluffton. She hasn’t stopped reading or talking since her public speaking debut 26 years ago. You can reach her at

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sticks and Stones

I went out of town for 11 days and returned to some hateful and downright mean emails. Then I made the mistake of checking the vox and blogs where I found a number of colorful comments about me, because I expressed my opinion. Sorry folks, I don’t get NASCAR, but I recognize its importance as a sport and that is why I wrote about it. I also don’t like to watch ice hockey – big, bulky guys hitting a small puck just don’t do it for me. Guess this means I am anti-Canadian too?

It seems that if my column has both the words North and South in it (as it almost always does because that is the purpose of my column), I must be making fun of Southerners and touting the superiority of Northerners. Well, it hasn’t happened that way yet, and it won’t.

When I signed on with Bluffton Today to write a weekly column, I thought it would be fun. This isn’t my full-time job and honestly they pay me peanuts, but I thought it would be a great way to get to know my new hometown and the people in it. My goal here is to share my experiences as a Northerner living in the South. That is what I am paid to do. I talk about the places I go, the people I meet, the things I see, and adjusting to a new lifestyle.

If you hate me, fine. If you love to hate me, that’s fine too. But, rather than telling me to go home, or calling me an uppity Yankee b*&%!, how about you re-read the column and talk to me about what I really wrote about, not what you imagine my perception to be. Or, here’s an idea -- you could just turn the page! However, if your purpose is to get under my skin, which I suspect it is, I’ll never convince you otherwise.

To Alice in Wonderland’s friend in the “blogosphere” who found it necessary to research me and my personal life further – I wish I had the free time that you do.

To those of you who claim to “know me” – I don’t know any cartoon characters so, as far as I can tell we are not acquaintances.

Now most importantly, for the many Blufftonians who send me funny emails and share their stories, experiences, and ideas, thank you. You make me smile every day!

So, since we all have to learn to live together – here’s an idea for some G-Rated fun:

Tuesday nights throughout August at Berkeley Place on Buckwalter, The Headliners are performing FREE concerts. It was great to see a Bluffton venue bustling with people. The restaurants were full, business was good, families were enjoying a night out, the crowd was dancing and little girls were twirling in circles around the fountain. It was a beautiful thing. Check them out Tuesdays this month from 7:00 – 10:00 p.m.

Courtney Naughton is a Jersey Shore native who relocated to Bluffton. She wishes she was an armadillo for the thicker skin! You can email her at Stalkers need not respond.