Friday, August 4, 2017

Your Femme au Foyer Great American Eclipse 2017 guide!

We’ve established that the Upstate is THE place to be for the total solar eclipse on August 21st, with 2 minutes and 40 seconds of darkness as the moon blocks out the sun at 2:38pm. We will not experience another total eclipse until 2078 (although in April of 2024 South Carolinians will only have to travel as far north as Indianapolis to experience a total eclipse in the United States)! Hotels in the area have pretty much been sold out for the last couple of months, so if you’ve not already made plans you might be left behind in the… light?

However, for those of you headed to experience the eclipse anywhere between Newport, Oregon to Charleston, SC, here are the top solar eclipse necessities, courtesy of Femme au Foyer.

1. Eclipse glasses. This one is non-negotiable; the danger to your retinas is so real that Greenville County schools have pushed back the first day of school so that the eclipse doesn’t coincide with school pick-up. We ordered ours online, where they can be had for a very reasonable price. Be aware that although adjustable (can be folded smaller or larger to fit various heads), regular glasses might be too big for kids. I found this family pack that has smaller sizes for the boys… (Note, your camera and telescope also need a special filter if you’re planning on looking at or photographing the eclipse with them.)

2. When sending out your party invites or ‘wish you were here’ cards, you’ll want to pick up Total Eclipse of the Sun postmarks. Be ready to splurge an additional 25 cents for the fancy envelope, which blocks the sun from hitting the stamps; you need it because the stamps are heat sensitive. The first U.S. stamp to use thermochromic ink, placing your finger over the black disc on the stamp causes the ink to change from black to clear to reveal an underlying image of the moon (it reverts back once it cools). The photograph that appears on the stamp is from an actual total solar eclipse that was seen over Jalu, Libya in 2006, taken by astrophysicist Fred Espenak who also photographed the full moon visible underneath.

3. Soundtrack. Bonnie Tyler makes the cut with Total Eclipse of the Heart.
Blinded by the Light and Eclipse by Pink Floyd (Dark Side of the Moon) are also on the playlist. However for the 2 minutes and 40 seconds of darkness we’ll be listening to Bruce and Dancing in the Dark. Maybe afterwards we’ll put on Carly Simon’s You’re so Vain; “…you flew your Lear jet up to Nova Scotia to see a total eclipse of the sun.”

4. Refreshments. For your afternoon coffee break, pick up a bag of Total Eclipse from Leopard Forest, coffee roasters located in Travelers Rest. The dark roasted coffee blend of ½ Organically Grown Sumatra, ¼ Rainforest Alliance Certified Brazil & Colombia, and ¼ Farmer-Direct Zimbabwe is an earthy, smoky, wake-up type of coffee according to the Leopard Forest website. Order online or pick up a package at the Forest Coffeehouse, Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery or one of the dozens of other retailers in SC, NC, TN, VA and KY that carry Leopard Forest. Guaranteed to keep you awake until 2:38pm!

Looking for something other than coffee? Heron Hill has an “Eclipse” red wine out, and FiftyFifty Brewing Company out of CA has an Imperial Eclipse Stout. Or, being as we're in The South, Casey Jones Distillery is offering a Total Eclipse Moonshine….
5. Snacks. Astrobake these eclipse cookies for the perfect eclipse treat, although if you’re looking for the easier route there are plenty of store-bought options: Eclipse gum, Sun chips, Moon Pies… 

There are plenty of great articles on finding an Eclipse Party in the Upstate, so if you’re still looking for the perfect place to experience totality, you might want to check out the links I’ve added below. Happy eclipsing!!!

* NASA has partnered with video platform Stream to pull off an unprecedented livestream of the eclipse using a network of 50 high-altitude weather balloons equipped with cameras. Drifting at an average altitude of 100,000 feet, these balloons will offer a view of the August eclipse unlike any other. According to Stream, this livestream event is expected to be viewed by more than 100 million people. Find it here!

* Roper Mountain Science Center’s Eclipse Extravaganza is sold out, however there are still tickets available for the Friday night Eclipse: The Sun Revealed Starry Nights program, and RMSC is selling eclipse glasses in the lobby. The Children’s Museum of the Upstate also has eclipse programming, as does Lake Conestee Nature Park. For a great roundup of the events happening in Greenville and vicinity, check out GVL Today's list of Where to go for the Total Solar Eclipse in the Upstate!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Restoration of the Freedom Monument/Brīvības piemineklis

Visitors to Latvia’s capital might be surprised to find the Brīvības piemineklis behind scaffolding as Rīga continues its preparations for the Latvian Centennial celebrations.

The view of the Freedom Monument will be obstructed for at least a couple of months, depending on the scale of renovations that the monument might require pending a complete inspection. The last restoration was completed between 1998 and 2001 in preparation for Rīga’s 800th anniversary, and since then the piemineklis has seen only minor upkeep.

194,000 Euro in funds have been allocated for the restoration, which will include cleaning the stars and stone surfaces, replacing damaged seams, and repairing the monument’s indoor staircase and basement room. The stars were last gilded 2006 and therefore will hopefully only require polishing, and barring unforeseen issues with the foundation (which was previously strengthened to guard against sinking) only cosmetic work will be completed on the base.

Is it only me that’s envious of the crew that will come face to face with Milda in the coming months? If only I could don a hardhat and present my Femme au Foyer credentials to gain access to the upper levels of scaffolding, some 130 feet in the air overlooking Vecrīga and Brīvības iela! One can dream...  

Friday, July 28, 2017

Five on Friday: the August edition

It’s hot. With temperatures in the mid-90s for the past week, I don’t think I’m the only Upstate mom that has been spending more time indoors. While we’ve been enjoying our time at the library, The Children’s Museum of the Upstate, Summer Movie Express $1 movies and on the couch at home watching TV (shhh, don’t tell!), we’ll be making the effort to get out to cross some last things off the summer bucket list before school starts this month. Now if only we could get temperatures to drop under 90 for a week or so, that would be great.

1. The Carolina Panthers return to Spartanburg! The Panthers kicked off their training camp at Wofford College Wednesday with a kickoff party, and practice will continue through mid-August here in the Upstate. For more on what to expect, check out last year’s post, Carolina Panthers training camp. For a training camp practice schedule, please visit the official team page.

2.  Every Friday night the Roper Mountain Science Center hosts two showings of their feature show Eclipse: The Sun Revealed in the newly renovated T.C. Hooper Planetarium. Learn about the historical and cultural view of eclipses, the geometry behind them, and how to safely view one in preparation for the total solar eclipse that will take place on August 21st. Starry Nights at RMSC have never been more exciting! For more information and for tickets please visit the RMSC Starry Night website, and for a review of the show please see my post on Starry Nights. Bonus: Hooper Planetarium is air conditioned…

3. The Indie Craft Parade is coming back to Greenville for the 8th year this September, and tickets go on sale August 1st! The three-day festival celebrates handmade art, and has become one of the premier Southern craft events showcasing quality southern-made goods. Read about it here, buy tickets here.

4. This next event requires a bit more of a commitment, but it is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to explore one of the two Frank Lloyd Wright properties in South Carolina, and his only plantation – Auldbrass. The estate is only opened to the public every other year on one weekend in November, and online ticket reservations are opening August 1st. Warning - the tickets sell out quickly! For a picture tour of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Auldbrass please visit my post on the subject, and for ticket reservations visit the Open Land Trust website.

5. A public service announcement: The $10 lifetime National Park Service senior pass for U.S. citizens age 62 or over will increase to $80 on August 28, 2017. Although still a good deal in my opinion, if you’re not already a lifetime pass holder, you might want to take advantage of the lower rate by visiting a federal recreation site before the end of the month. If you would prefer to buy online from the USGS store, or by USPS, there is an additional charge of $10 for processing the application. The passes are valid at more than 2,000 Federal recreation sites where entrance fees are charged. The National Parks centennial has passed, but our public lands need our support now more than ever!

Stay cool,
x Femme au Foyer

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

The Ecology Lab at RMSC

Second Saturdays are the perfect time to get out to the Roper Mountain Science Center, located right here in Greenville! On the second Saturday of select months, the learning spaces throughout the science center are open to the public, offering visitors an opportunity to enjoy experiences similar to those which engage students during the weekday lessons held in the center’s classrooms and labs. The Living History Farm, the Planetarium & Observatory, the Symmes Hall of Science... In addition to special activities geared towards that Saturday’s topic, there are also plenty of resident animals to meet and exhibits to explore - and if you’re a RMSC member, it’s free!

Red Eared Slider

Our favorite summer stop on Second Saturdays is Harrison Hall of Natural Sciences, and during the recent Blueberry Festival we spent some time exploring the Ecology Lab. Located right next door to the Marine Lab, the Ecology Lab showcases South Carolina habitats from the mountains to the sea. Oriented like a classroom, the center of the room is filled with long tables and chairs; on the Second Saturdays these are often filled with crafts and activities. The Butterfly Adventure was in its final day, and so thousands of butterflies had been created at one station to form an enormous hanging work of art that fluttered in a corner.

Four large “Living Habitats” line the far wall: a Mountain Trout Stream, a Beaver/Turtle Pond, a Cypress Swamp (with alligator), and a Salt Marsh. Murals, faux rock work, and aquariums with live animals & plants showcase these habitats, while a fifth terrarium with carnivorous plants highlights our Carolina Bay habitat.

Along one end of the lab is a mural of a forest, and a large window overlooking the pollinator garden which is often buzzing with the resident bees. A bench faces the window, offering a quiet place for observation.This is also where the live indoor honeybee hive is located; this brand new hive was installed in June of this year as an Eagle Scout project, replacing an older display without the convenient feeding station of the new one. The full pollen sacs on legs of bees returning from their foraging were clearly visible, and we watched in fascination as they performed the waggle dance, the figure-eights that instruct the rest of the hive where to find a food source. 

Meanwhile the other end of the lab has the Invertebrate Zoo, which displays native and tropical invertebrates. On Second Saturdays there is usually a volunteer, or two, who are more than willing to help answer any questions visitors may have; in our case it was concerning large snakes of the Upstate…

With the ‘don’t touch’ policy many science museums enforce with their exhibits, it is wonderful to see the hands-on approach that Roper Mountain takes with the Ecology Lab. In addition to the ‘touchable’ aspect of the Living Habitats (small doors to open to find answers to questions, and models of various animals) the Lab has an “In Touch with Nature Table” that allows kids (and adults!) to hold real artifacts; a snake skin, turtle shells, pieces of coral and seashells were scattered amongst beaver-gnawed branches, pine cones and various other objects found in the great outdoors.

Soon enough the kids had their fill and we headed outdoors to see what was new in the butterfly garden. The Living History farm also beckoned, but it was good to know that on such a scorching hot day we could always return to the cool labs of the Harrison Hall of Natural Science. For more information on the Second Saturday events at Roper Mountain Science Center (the next ones are scheduled in October and November) please visit the RMSC website, which will also have admissions info and hours. Remember, if you’re a member not only do you get free admission to Second Saturdays and Starry Nights, but you also gain admission to over 300 science centers and museums worldwide – for membership info click here and join the RMSC community today!

Monday, July 24, 2017

The Swamp Rabbit – from Furman to the Swamp Rabbit Café

It was a sunny day, albeit without the heat that has plagued the Upstate for the last month. We loaded up the bicycles and headed north to Furman with the goal of hopping on the Swamp Rabbit Trail for the day. Our goal was to bike the 4 miles from the south end of the Furman campus all the way to the Swamp Rabbit Café & Grocery (SRC&G), eat lunch, rest, and then make the return trip - for a total of 8 miles.

There is parking at both ends of this section of trail, though the dirt lot off Duncan Chapel Rd. is on the small side when compared to the extensive trail parking available at SRC&G. If the lot is full, try the visitor parking lot at the Trone Student Center on Swan Lake – it’s just another ½ mile north. While we unpacked the bikes the boys explored, admiring the old rail car to the side of the trail that pays homage to the trail’s origins as a rail line connecting Greenville with Travelers Rest. The trailhead also features a convenient map, water fountain and vending machines. 

For more on Furman and Swan Lake, please visit my post A Lake Hike at Furman University

Headed south you'll pass milepost 27.5, a small clearing with a picnic table, and then milepost 28 before coming to Watkins Bridge Road. Here the trail meets up with the Reedy River, mostly staying within a stone’s throw all the way to the southern terminus in Lake Conestee Nature Park. After crossing Watkins Bridge Road it’s smooth sailing; a straight, level, shaded cruise until you hit milepost 28.5 where the trail gets a lot more urban, with backyards and power lines paralleling the path. Right before crossing Little Creek there is a little wooden structure on the trail, providing room to pull off for some shade and a view of a small meadow.

After the Little Creek bridge there’s another pull-out, this one with concrete benches, a table and some rose bushes to sweeten the ride.

Milepost 29 marks the beginning of a not-so-scenic stretch, industrial/automotive businesses and fences on both sides. However not too much further and you’ll spot the green boxcar of Swamp Rabbit Station and you’ll know you’re halfway to SRC&G. I was happy to see that the pocket park is coming along – the Berea Community Mural Project dedicated “Looking Back” this past May.

For more on this pocket park, please visit my post Swamp Rabbit Station

The next portion parallels power lines and has less shade, but is pleasantly green and has various trees and shrubs planted alongside that will eventually help cool down cyclists. We cruised past the 29.5 milepost and before we knew it were back in the woods. The next mile is pleasant enough, shade and woods to both sides; we hit milepost 30, then 30.5.

Immediately after crossing Langston Creek the trail intersects with W. Blue Ridge Drive. We walk our bikes across all the road crossings on this section of the SRT as they involve wide roads that see quite a bit off traffic, but luckily there aren’t all that many roads to cross…

The last ¾ of a mile (from W Blue Ridge to Cedar Lane Rd.) passes by quickly. More power lines, then another short wooded section, with a Swamp Rabbit Grocery sign and then milepost 31 to let you know you’re almost there. The Reedy River has been to the right ever since crossing Watkins Bridge Road, but here you’ll cross over to the other side of the river, emerging to a large grassy area and an abandoned warehouse. It’s advised to decrease your speed as you maneuver the trail under Cedar Lane Road, but upon emerging on the other side you’ll see the Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery to your right.

In addition to a map, bicycle racks and restrooms, SRC&G is home to the Swamp Garden (an excellent natural play area for the kiddos), the new storage-container-turned-pizza-place, and of course the restaurant and grocery. The opportunity to purchase a refreshing King of Pops or enjoy a locally sourced lunch is definitely one of the benefits of cycling this section of the Swamp Rabbit Trail. Other positive aspects: there’s relatively low traffic on this section and it’s pretty level in elevation. Two drawbacks to this portion of the trail are the road crossings and the slightly monotonous scenery. Having rested, consumed a Swamp Pizza, and played in the Swamp Garden, we hopped back on our bikes and hit the trail north, back to Furman.

Related posts:

Crossing the Reedy River Bridge

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