Life is a Highway

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As I head toward my 64th birthday on January 9, the celebrations are well underway. Get up to speed with what I’m doing, with my post from two weeks ago HERE.

Every day I randomly select a number and than match it to my list of 64 birthday activities. If that number is already selected, I randomly choose another number.

Although I felt a bit reluctant to celebrate in this way this year, I admit it’s a fun way to honor the woman I am becoming and engage playfully and creatively with myself and the Divine. I’m glad I chose to proceed.

Check out which activities popped up for me during the last two weeks and hop on board my celebration vehicle. Life is a highway…and I’m going to ride it right up to my January birthday…and far, far beyond.

Life is a Highway title meme

11/16/21 Work Through the Get Untamed Journal (in process)

Talk about a “random” activity working out well…my Get Untamed Journal by Glennon Doyle arrived perfectly on this day. I dove right in.

Glennon’s book Untamed is crucial to my wild woman journey. I’m on my third read through the book. When I saw that an accompanying journal was due out this fall, I pre-ordered it last spring.

Subtitled “How to quit pleasing and start living”, Get Untamed contains excerpts from Untamed, fresh insights and questions from Glennon and pages for the reader to write out her own thoughts and realizations. I’m loving this journal so much.

Life is a Highway untamed
Life is a Highway – Get Untamed Journal

11/17/21 Wear My Hair Differently

If you’ve known me for long, you know I wear my silvery hair straight and long. I haven’t changed my hairstyle in many, many years.

For this “try a new thing” activity, I borrowed a triple barrel hair waver from my daughter. As she handed it over she cautioned me to not burn my forehead with the heated barrels.

I had fun creating loose waves in my long hair. The hairstyle reminds me of the 1920s when women crimped their hair. I wore my new style all day. And I did not burn my forehead…I burned my neck! OUCH.

Life is a Highway waves
Life is a Highway – making waves

11/18/21 Create a Vision Board for 2022 (in process)

11/19/21 Research Things to Do in Honolulu (completed)

One of my 15 cities on my travel list, Honolulu came into my awareness when it landed on the Top Ten Hipster Cities in the US list. I know I’ll enjoy a visit here.

Life is a Highway honolulu
Life is a Highway – Research Honolulu

11/20/21 Research Things to Do in Salem (completed)

Salem, MA has long been on my list of places to visit. I’m interested in the history and the stories, along with experiencing the energy there. As I research these locations, I’m realizing just how strongly cities call to me.

Life is a Highway salem
Life is a Highway – Research Salem

11/21/21 Email Pitch to Savannah + Accommodations (in process)

After I do the research for each location, then I’ll pitch the tourism boards and several accommodations in each city…when that activity is selected. So far, Savannah and Memphis are the only cities in which the Email Pitch followed the necessary research.

11/22/21 Email Pitch to Chicago + Accommodations (not completed yet)

11/23/21 Do an Adventure Challenge Activity (scheduled)

I’m taking my Instax camera and Adventure Challenge Solo Edition Book with me on my weekend getaway (activity chosen on 11/7) to Springfield, MO. I have that weekend booked for 12/10 – 12/12. I’m excited to share more about that trip later.

11/24/21 Connect with My Song for 2022 (completed)

Every year, a word/theme, symbol and song find me for the journey ahead. My word for next year is “adventure” and my symbol is the VW Van. The day of this activity the song for 2022 found me quickly, literally popping into my head full force.

Rascal Flatts’ song Life is a Highway is perfect to roll with me through a year of adventures. These lyrics caught my eyes and tugged at my heart:

“There’s a world outside every darkened door/Where blues won’t haunt you anymore/Where the brave are free and lovers soar/Come ride with me to distant shores.”

Life is a Highway 2022 song
Life is a Highway – Connect with 2022 song

11/25/21 Email Pitch to Taos + Accommodations (not completed)

11/26/21 Go on a Solo Day Adventure (planning stage)

11/27/21 Design a Wild Woman T-Shirt (completed)

What a great way to commemorate my Year of the Wild Woman! I enjoyed playing around with design ideas and coming up with a colorful and playful tee. There’s a second “design a t-shirt” activity on my list. And a “have my daughter in law Megan create the shirts” one too.

Life is a Highway tee
Life is a Highway – design a Wild Woman t-shirt

11/28/21 Email Pitch to Memphis + Accommodations (in process)

11/29/21 Research Things to Do in San Francisco (completed)

San Francisco is high on my travel list. Whether I visit that city next year or not depends on how the pitches go and how everything aligns. I’m open to these travel experiences and excited about visiting without being rigidly attached to when. For me, that’s part of the fun of traveling.

One Third of the Way to My Birthday

Unbelievably, I’m one third of the way through my birthday activities. It’s fun and it’s challenging. I like “going beyond” my comfort zone in big ways and these experiences take me there.

Plus, it’s beneficial for me to reach out to tourism boards and hotels. I’m a travel and lifestyle blogger. This is part of my job. I enjoy creating content for others that is helpful and beneficial for them as well.

What I’m finding is that as I reach out to people, others are reaching out to me. I love that outward flow and return of energy.

Life is a highway…and I’m going to ride it all night long.

Many compare the “senior years” to the sun going down…calling them the twilight years of life. You won’t find me sitting in a rocking chair, reminiscing about life. I’m riding the waves of life all through my long night. Someday, when a bright new day dawns, I’ll be off on a fresh and exciting adventure unlike any I’ve experienced before. But…not yet.

Life is a Highway san francisco
Life is a Highway – Research San Francisco


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Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO

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Although not born and raised in Joplin, Missouri I have lived in this community longer than I’ve lived anywhere else. I grew up in the large city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. At age 12 I moved to the tiny town of Noel, Missouri near the Arkansas border. And in 1980, as a young wife and mother, I moved with my growing family to Joplin, a mid-sized city in the heart of the four states area.

For 40 years I’ve called Joplin home. It’s grown tremendously in those four decades, lost 30% of its homes and businesses during the May 2011 EF5 tornado and recovered with strength, hard work and determination afterward.

Located on historic Route 66, many people travel through Joplin on their way to somewhere else. The next time you find yourself rolling down the highway on a road trip, consider a stay in Joplin, the little city that could. While here, check out these fun places to visit in Joplin MO.

Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO title meme

Joplin History & Mineral Museum

This museum is appropriately housed in a 1909 building that originally served as the concession stand at Joplin’s Electric Park (now called Schifferdecker Park.) The museum complex contains historical wings that showcase Joplin’s colorful history and the Tri State Mineral Museum that pays tribute to the mining industry in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri.

Location: 504 S Schifferdecker Ave, Joplin, MO

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm, closed Sunday and Monday

Joplin Little Theatre

Adjacent to Schifferdecker Park is Joplin Little Theatre. Established in 1939, by a group of local thespians, the group performed in a couple of different places before renovating a building that became their permanent location. Originally called Park Playhouse, the theatre opened in 1948 with a performance of “The Skin of our Teeth” by Thornton Wilder.

Today this little theatre is the oldest continuously running community theatre west of the Mississippi. Joplin Little Theatre’s season runs from September through the end of May the following year. Check out their website for the 2021 – 2022 season. Tickets for performances are available for purchase there.

Location: 3009 W. First Street, Joplin, MO

Hours: Vary with shows and performances

Nine Lives Cat Lounge & Adoption Center

This coffee shop that opened in town last year has a fun twist! Customers can enjoy locally roasted coffee, tea or smoothies in the company of cats…or humans. Yummy treats are offered for sale as well.

Nine Lives Cat Lounge offers coffees and teas, espresso drinks, sugar free smoothies and pastries, cookies and baked goods from local bakeries. Two steps down from the main level is a cozy seating area. A large glass window allows a peek into the cat lounge, which must be kept separate from the dining area.

There is a $5.00 fee for 30 minutes in the room. The fees help the cats live their best lives, while waiting for their forever homes. Lounge fees go toward vet care, food, kitty litter, cat toys and disinfectant for cleaning.

Up to 16 people may enter the living room style area at one time. Visitors receive a timer and when their 30 minutes are up, they leave so others can come into the room. The goal is adoption and to date, Nine Lives has very successfully found homes for their temporary residents. Check out my post HERE about my visit to Nine Lives.

Location: 2201 E. 7th Street, Joplin, MO

Hours: Monday – Thursday 9:30am – 6:30 pm, Friday – Saturday 9:00 am – 7:00 pm, Sunday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm

Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO cats
Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO – Nine Lives Cat Lounge

George A Spiva Center for the Arts

George A. Spiva, businessman, philanthropist, and lover of the arts, helped establish Joplin’s first art center in 1958. He believed that all people deserved art opportunities.

The mission of Spiva Center for the Arts is to celebrate the creative experience. The Center hosts exhibits, offers classes, programs and events and contains a gift shop filled with unique art.

Location: Currently at 222 W 3rd Street, Joplin, MO (Opening soon at the new Cornell Complex on 7th Street.)

Hours: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00 am – 5:00 pm Closed Sunday – Monday

Candy House Gourmet

Do you love gourmet chocolates? Then you MUST stop by Candy House Gourmet.

Established in 1970, this long time Joplin favorite is famous for their hand dipped chocolates. Other treats for sale include toffee, caramel pecan turtles, brittle, fudge, pecan logs and salted caramels. Chocolate dipped strawberries are available in the spring and caramel apples in the fall.

Enjoy samples of candy, watch through showroom windows while candy makers work or take a more in depth tour of the candy making process.

Location: 510 S Kentucky Avenue, Joplin, MO

Hours: Monday – Saturday 9:30 am – 5:30 pm Closed Sunday

Journey Through Slime Event Studio

Newly opened this year, Journey Through Slime is a sensory focused studio offering make your own slime, slime parties, educational toys and products and yummy desserts including hand dipped ice cream.

The company also sells slime making kits, for at home fun.

Location: 2310 S Main Street, Joplin, MO

Hours: Wednesday – Thursday 11:00 am – 8:00 pm, Friday 11:00 am – 9:00 pm, Saturday 10:00 am – 9:00 pm, Sunday 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm, Closed Monday and Tuesday

Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO slime
Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO – Journey Through Slime Event Studio

Wildcat Glades Conservation Center

For the nature lover, explore this gorgeous area south of Joplin.  The glades feature a 3.4 mile walk near the river, through wooded areas and along a bluff above the water. The area is home to wildlife, native plants and flowers and the largest chert glades in the world.

Chert is a hard rock formation, exposed to the surface after the soil erodes. It hosts a unique desert like environment characteristic of arid regions. Only 60 acres of chert remains in the world, of which 27 are in Wildcat Glades Conservation Center.

Also visit the Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center onsite. Inside you can learn about the ecosystem of the area and the wildlife.

Location: 201 Riviera Drive, Joplin, MO

Hours: Glades open daily

Shoal Creek Conservation Education Center: Tuesday – Friday 9:00 am – 5:00 pm, Saturday 10:00 am – 3:00 pm, Closed Sunday and Monday

BONUS: Grand Falls

Continue east on Riverside Drive to visit Missouri’s largest, continuously flowing waterfall. The chert glades continue into this beautiful nature area as well.

Route 66 Drive-In

Did you grow up watching movies at a drive in? Or perhaps you’ve never been to one. If visiting Joplin during the months of April through October, enjoy this now rare experience!

Route 66 Drive-In is a historic outdoor theater that first opened in September 1949. It is located between Joplin and Carthage, MO. There are 300 drive-in theaters left in the US, nine of those in Missouri.

Route 66 Drive-In features two back to back feature length films every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, during open season. They offer concessions and a playground in front of the huge screen, for children to play on while waiting for the first movie to start.

Location: 17231 Old 66 Blvd, Carthage, MO

Hours: During the open season, the first film begins after sunset.

Mercy Park Sculpture Garden

When the tornado struck Joplin in 2011, one of the city’s two hospitals lay in the storm’s path. St John’s Hospital took a direct…and devastating…hit. The hospital rebuilt as Mercy Hospital in a new location. On the old site now exists Mercy Park, a 16 acre green space featuring a large pond with fountains, walking paths, pavilions and a unique sculpture garden.

Currently 15 bronze sculptures enhance the natural beauty of the park. A variety of artists contributed these amazing works of art that depict animals, children at play and a serene Native American woman.

Location: 3002 St John’s Blvd, Joplin, MO

Hours: Open daily until 11:00 pm

BONUS: Cunningham Park

Across the street from Mercy Park lies Cunningham Park, established as Joplin’s first municipal park in 1898. Also destroyed in the 2011 tornado, Cunningham rebuilt the playgrounds and pavilions and also created interactive memorial gardens that pay tribute to those lost in the storm, to the houses destroyed and to the many, many volunteers who journeyed to Joplin to help with clean up.

Location: 26th Street & Maiden Lane, Joplin, MO

Hours: Open daily until 11:00 pm

Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO sculpture
Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO – Mercy Park Sculpture Garden

For Active Children of All Ages

Visit this trio of fun places, to allow kids to burn up some energy!

SOAR Trampoline Park

This fun indoor park just north of Joplin features dodgeball, a Ninja obstacle course, lots of trampolines, basketball, party rooms and foam pits.

Read my review HERE.

Location: 1502 S Madison, Webb City, MO

Hours: Wednesday – Friday 3:00 pm – 8:00 pm, Saturday 9:00 am – 9:00 pm, Sunday 11:00 am – 6:00 pm, Closed Monday and Tuesday

Joplin House of Bounce

Have fun bouncing and climbing at this large indoor playground featuring bouncers, slides and obstacle courses.

Location: 3684 N Main, Joplin, MO

Hours: Check their Facebook page for open bounce times.

Ocean Adventures Indoor Playground

This ocean themed indoor playground features three levels of play including slides, a huge ball pit, mazes, tunnels, obstacle course and many other immersive play stations. They also have a separate play area designated for toddlers.

Location: 2630 S Duquesne Road, Joplin, MO

Hours: Play times are in two hour sessions. Check website for details.

Bookhouse Cinema

Joplin happily welcomed its first indie movie theater in 2018. Bookhouse Cinema shows indie films, documentaries, classics, non mainstream movies and occasionally mainstream films.

Adjoining the theater is a charming pub where appetizers, meals, drinks and snacks are available for purchase. The pub also hosts events such as game nights and comedy shows AND they offer delicious vegan meal options.

Location: 715 E Broadway, Joplin, MO

Hours: See website for showtimes and movie selections

Escape Joplin

Escape Joplin offers immersive escape room adventures. Their themed escape rooms are designed to allow teams to enjoy 60 minute adventures that engage the senses, challenge the mind and unlock imagination.

Each room contains a different set of challenges and objectives to solve, to escape. Teams work together to find clues and hints that solve puzzles to unlock new items. Find the medallion, the hidden treasure or the secret code to win the game.

Location: 2640 E 32nd Street, Joplin, MO

Hours: Sunday – Thursday 1:00 pm – 9:00 pm, Friday 1:30 pm – 10:00 pm, Saturday noon – 10:00 pm

Downtown Joplin

Joplin’s historic downtown area contains unique shops, restaurants, art galleries and entertainment venues. It also hosts cultural community events such as the monthly Third Thursday (April – October) and the yearly Wizard’s Run, a Harry Potter themed event. Main Street closes for these special events, from 7th Street to A Street, so that visitors may freely wander, visiting shops and booths, without interference from traffic.

A few blocks east of Main Street, at 931 E 4th Street, is Joplin Empire Market. This large indoor market features produce, foods, plants and artisan made crafts and products.

Visit Joplin MO

I hope you see that there are many fun places to visit in Joplin MO. Besides these local spots Joplin also offers a large variety of shops, hotels and accommodations, restaurants, historical sites, green spaces, parks and walking trails and standard favorites such as a multi-screen movie theater, a mall, waterpark, state of the art library, golf courses and many other places to explore and play.

Have you visited my hometown of Joplin? The next time you are in the area, let’s meet up for a coffee or hot tea!

Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO downtown
Fun Places to Visit in Joplin MO – Historic downtown area

Also check out 12 Things You May Not Know About Joplin Missouri


And these fun Amazon finds:

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to, all at no extra cost to you.

Tradd Street Series

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Author Karen White inspired my recent trip to Charleston, South Carolina. Her Tradd Street Series, set in that charming city, delighted me and birthed a curiosity to explore Charleston myself.

That’s the power of a well written book…or seven. They transport the reader to another place, another time, another culture. Karen’s books enchanted me. And I transported myself to the actual city, in early September.

There really is a Tradd Street in Charleston. I wandered down it several times. And many of the buildings and locations she mentions in her books are there too. What fun to explore a new to me city, that also felt so familiar.

Check out my mini reviews of each of the seven books in the Tradd Street series. Perhaps you will feel inspired to read them…and explore Charleston too.

Tradd Street Series title meme

Meet Author Karen White

Karen White is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of 29 books…and counting. She lived in London, England as a child, however she now lives near Atlanta, Georgia with her husband. They have two grown children.

According to her website, Karen grew up in a house full of brothers. She came to appreciate strong female characters in the third grade, when she read her first Nancy Drew Mystery…The Secret of the Old Clock.

Although she initially pursued a career in business, she wrote her first book, In the Shadow of the Moon, in 2000. She is well known for her Tradd Street Series, publishing the seventh book in that collection in early November.

Karen’s roots are in the south, where many of her stories take place. Her charming stories contain a fun mix of drama, mystery, intrigue, romance and sometimes ghosts.

Tradd Street Series Karen White
Tradd Street Series author Karen White. Photo from her website.

The Tradd Street Series

Following is a brief, spoiler free overview of each of the books in the Tradd Street Series, in the order of publish date.

The story is ongoing, flowing from book to book. Therefore, it is important to read the books in order. I picked up my first Tradd Street book from the library last spring, after my mother read the back cover aloud to me. Not realizing a series existed, it happened to be book three, The Strangers on Montagu Street. I took it home and quickly realized I’d jumped into the middle of a story. Research revealed six books in a series…with a seventh due out in November.

Finding the first book, I devoured it and my mother and I both read through the whole series.

Here they are. Click on photos of books for more info or to order.

Book One The House on Tradd Street

Set in Charleston, this first book introduces the characters. We meet practical and extremely organized Melanie Middleton, a realtor who specializes in historic houses. This realtor though possesses a unique gift. She sees, hears and senses ghosts. And in a town full of historic events and locations like Charleston, that means she sees spirits everywhere.

To her great surprise, Melanie inherits a historic house on Tradd Street. The old house comes with a housekeeper, a dog, a number of restoration projects…and ghosts. There’s an old mystery to unravel, a family of spirits and a disappearance to solve.

Other characters introduced in The House on Tradd Street include Jack Trenholm, an attractive, charismatic writer obsessed with unsolved mysteries, Melanie’s father, a recovering alcoholic, and an eclectic assortment of friends.

Book Two The Girl on Legare Street

As Melanie renovates the old house she inherited, her life gets disrupted by the return of her estranged mother. Ginette Prioleau Middleton left Charleston 35 years ago, leaving Melanie’s father to raise their daughter.

After purchasing back the family home on Legare Street, Ginnette and Melanie seek to rebuild their relationship while combating a vengeful spirit residing in the house. Melanie, Ginette and Jack uncover dark secrets in their attempt to restore a family.

Book Three The Strangers on Montagu Street

This book introduces a new character, a teenaged girl named Nola. The girl turns out to be the daughter of Jack Trenholm, Melanie’s partner in solving mysteries and her love interest. Jack is as surprised as everyone else to discover he has a daughter.

Nola arrives with only a few possessions, after the death of her mother in California. However, she doesn’t arrive unaccompanied. An old dollhouse, occupied by more than toys, and a spirit that arrived with Nola vie for the girl’s attention and create havoc in Melanie’s life and house on Tradd Street.

Book Four Return to Tradd Street

Melanie and Jack’s relationship is as complicated as the house on Tradd Street. When Melanie discovers she’s pregnant, she determines to create a home for her and Jack’s child and embrace the role of single mother.

Tradd Street house has other plans. The wails of a ghost child will not allow Melanie to sleep at night. A shocking discovery at the house, during the extensive renovations, changes everything and launches Melanie deep into the house’s history and a tale of love, loss and betrayal.

Book Five The Guests on South Battery

Book five introduces new character Jayne, who seeks out Melanie’s services as a realtor. Jayne is eager to sell an old house on South Battery that she recently inherited.

Jayne is shrouded in mystery and strangely, seems to possess abilities similar to Melanie’s. A creepy doll and a malevolent spirit in Jayne’s house reveal secrets that refuse to remain buried.

Book Six The Christmas Spirits on Tradd Street

The excavation of an old cistern, uncovered in the backyard of the house on Tradd Street, stirs up spirits from the past. The ghosts invade the house. Plus a persistent rumor that a long lost Revolutionary War treasure is buried on the property creates more problems.

Melanie and Jack once again join forces to solve a centuries old mystery before it destroys their lives and all that they hold dear.

Book Seven The Attic on Queen Street

In this last book in the Tradd Street Series, Melanie struggles with devastating changes in her life. As she and Jack comes to terms with those changes, a longtime nemesis steps in to seemingly offer a solution. Is all what it appears to be though?

While the house seems to develop a personality of its own, a friend asks Melanie for help in solving the decades old murder of her sister. The attic on Queen Street seems to hold the answers along with a less than friendly spirit who does not want the murder investigated.

My Thoughts about the Tradd Street Series

I love this series. Here’s why.

I identify strongly with Melanie’s character. She’s a psychic realtor…and so am I. She shows and sells old houses, in spite of her fears and her abilities to see, hear and sense ghosts. I do that too. It is helpful to me, on a deep level, to read about Melanie’s experiences and compare them to mine. Her growing courage and acceptance of her gifts mirrors my journey.

I appreciate the realistic way that Karen White portrays the supernatural, so much so that we exchanged emails and I had the opportunity to ask if she has intuitive abilities as well. She does not…at least not to the extant that her character Melanie does…but she’s always pursued an interest in ghosts and hauntings.

The series is fun to read, with passages that deliver some scary moments. It’s NOT full of blood and gore however. The books would translate wonderfully into a Netflix series! Fingers crossed.

Karen deeply loves the location and it shows in the way she features the city. Her beautiful ability to capture Charleston created a longing in me to explore the places she writes about.

The stories are uplifting, encouraging and thought provoking. By the end of the last book I felt like I’d acquired dear friends…or new family members.

Tradd Street Series corner of Tradd and Meeting
The corner of Tradd and Meeting Streets. Imagine my joy.

Pick Up Your Ticket to Charleston

Even if you don’t have Charleston on your travel list, you will enjoy this series. The books are extremely entertaining and hard to put down once you begin reading.

I love seeing new places, through the pages of a book. Charleston came alive for me, as I read about Melanie and Jack’s adventures. I hated to see the series come to an end. I’m SO grateful Karen is crafting a new series, set in New Orleans. It features Nola from the Tradd Street books as the primary character. That means, hopefully, Melanie, Jack and some of the others show up in future books. I can’t wait to dig into The Shop on Royal Street next spring.

You can check your local library for Karen’s series and other books…they are all good…or you can purchase them at your local bookstore or order them via the links in this post. Start with The House on Tradd Street. As we head into winter, it’s the perfect time to curl up with a cup of hot tea and an excellent book…or seven.

And please, let me know what you think!

Tradd Street Series 62 Tradd
In case you are wondering, there isn’t a 55 Tradd Street, like in the book. This one, at 62 Tradd is close to the location in the book. I just read today that the house at 125 Tradd Street inspired the one in the book.


Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to, all at no extra cost to you.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston?

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

I recently enjoyed a solo trip to Charleston, South Carolina, spending four days exploring that city on my own.

Previously, I’ve enjoyed solo weekends away within 100 miles of home. And I’ve flown alone across country, meeting friends or colleagues at my destinations. However, this was my first solo trip to a new to me city.

Inspired by the Tradd Street series of books, by Karen White, I set off on an adventure to see this gorgeous city for myself. Was I nervous? Yes, a little bit. Lying awake the night before my flight I wondered, “What am I doing??”

My excitement overrode my slight reservations though…and I’m glad. That trips set the stage for more solo trips next year.

So…is it safe to travel solo to Charleston?

Read my thoughts about it and what I learned.

Charleston, South Carolina

Charleston is a port city in South Carolina, founded in 1670 as Charles Town. It soon became the fourth largest city in the colonies and the wealthiest.

Charleston is known for its cobblestone streets, horse drawn carriages, antebellum houses and a rich history that stretches back to the Revolutionary War. The downtown historical district includes the French Quarter, the South of Broad neighborhood, the Battery promenade and Waterfront Park that overlooks Charleston Harbor.

I visited in early September, 2021, flying from Tulsa International Airport to Charleston Airport, with one layover in Dallas, Texas. After arriving in Charleston about 5:30 PM, I took a taxi to my accommodations, Meeting Street Inn on Meeting Street in the historic district. And I arrived home about 1:00 am Friday morning, after travel delays due to a tropical storm.

Those are the basic details of my trip. However, it’s the time spent between arriving and leaving that will remain in my memory forever.

Here are my suggestions for traveling solo to Charleston…or to any other destination.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston the battery
Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston? The Battery along Charleston Harbor.

Plan Ahead

I began planning my solo trip months before departure. After arranging accommodations and securing a flight, I turned my attention to studying Charleston and reading posts from other travelers about their experiences there.

Part of my preparation included studying maps of the historic district. Since I was on foot, I studied the layout of streets and found the locations of all the sites I wanted to visit, using Google Maps and a historic map that I bought from Amazon. In my imagination, I walked those streets.

By the time I arrived in Charleston, I felt like I knew the city. Wandering the streets the first 24 hours brought a sense of familiarity that kept me centered and aware. I never got lost walking in Charleston, even though it was my first time there. Always, I knew exactly where I was.

I keep a travel notebook and it accompanied me on my trip. I added lists of places I wanted to see, tour info, accommodation info, vegan restaurants, sites I wanted to photograph and even possible blog post topics. Plus I created a loose itinerary for each day. That notebook proved valuable to me.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston broad street
Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston? Broad Street at sunset.

Choose Accommodations that Work Well for You

Accommodations are always an important component of a trip and perhaps even more so for solo travel.

I chose to stay in the historic district, since most of what I wanted to see was there. And, I wanted to feel safe. I researched accommodations in Charleston’s historic district and jotted down info about the ones that appealed to me.

It became an easy choice for me. Meeting Street Inn checked all my boxes: a beautiful outdoor space, historic stories, charming rooms, in-room refrigerator, central location, free breakfast and evening nibbles and a secure set up.

I loved my stay at the inn. It became my base of operations.

Create a list of what’s most important, in accommodations, and use that list as a guide for finding the perfect spot for your stay. Top of the list…do you feel safe staying in the hotel/inn/resort and in that particular location?

Is it Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston meeting street inn
Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston? Lion statue in Meeting Street Inn courtyard.

Explore During the Day and Stay Aware

I used the daylight hours to thoroughly explore the neighborhoods around Meeting Street Inn, traveling the streets for real and finding the sites on my list. Two of my booked tours were in the historic district as well. I located the meetup places for both and noted the distance from the inn so I knew how long it took to walk there. And I made a stop at the Visitor Center to chat with staff there, pick up information and get the bus schedule.

Charleston has a wonderful…and free…downtown bus system called DASH. It serves as a hop on/hop off bus with multiple stops in the historic district. I rode the DASH bus my first morning in town, to get a great overview of the area, and then took off on foot.

My familiarity with Charleston served me well during the evening ghost tour. I knew where the tour began. I did not know where it ended and how far I’d need to walk to get back to my accommodations. As the tour finished, I knew exactly where I was…a short two blocks from the inn. Knowing the streets gave me the confidence to get back to my room, without concern. As a bonus, other people were walking that direction. I tagged along behind the group!

Stay Aware

When out walking, during the day or evening, always remain aware of what’s going on around you. Watch people and traffic. Keep your phone close. And if anything makes you feel uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to ask for help or enter a store or business.

And make sure someone knows where you are. Keep in touch with family or friends back home. And communicate plans with the front desk person at your accommodations.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston circular congregational church
One of the stops on the ghost tour…Circular Congregational Church and graveyard.

Talk to Strangers

Although we all grew up with the warning about “stranger danger”, talking to people I met in Charleston remains one of my favorite memories. I consider myself a mix between an extrovert and an introvert. I enjoy engaging with others…and I’m perfectly happy in solitude.

From the moment I arrived in Charleston until I exited a taxi at the airport to depart, I enjoyed chatting with strangers. Some lived in Charleston. Others came for a visit, like me. I learned much by asking questions and listening to stories.

The people of Charleston are friendly and helpful. I talked to the staff at Meeting Street Inn, the staff at the Visitor Center, bus drivers, taxi drivers, restaurant waitstaff, museum curators, tour guides, children playing in fountains and their patient parents, workers, artists and those riding buses and participating in tours with me. I met local residents and people from far away places.

It was fun to put myself out there and talk to strangers who quickly became friends. Even if you don’t typically talk to strangers, try it. Try going beyond your comfort zone and engaging with others in genuine ways.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston gullah woman
Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston? Mildred, a Gullah Woman who makes sweet grass baskets.

Have Fun

By my second day in Charleston, I had a detailed understanding of the city. It was time to really enjoy myself. I wandered the cobblestone streets, snapped lots of photos and discovered beautiful hidden alleyways.

I used my list of “must sees” to do what I most love to do…explore. And I visited the vegan restaurants in my notebook, for lunches and suppers.

I knew that I walked the city as a solo traveler…and a female one at that. Yet I never felt afraid or uncomfortable. And I certainly never felt bored or unsure about what to do next.

I made the most of my time in Charleston and had an incredibly fun visit.

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston dinner for one
Beautiful supper for one at Basic Kitchen.

Traveling Solo

Is it safe to travel solo to Charleston? My experience says yes.

Will I travel solo again?

Yes! I enjoyed my trip to Charleston so much that I’ll definitely travel solo again.

I learned important things about myself on this trip. City energy appeals to me, especially cities with a historic district. I discovered I can take care of all the details of getting to where I need to go and getting back home. People have good, kind hearts, for the most part, and a willingness to engage with others. And I found that I love the freedom of deciding what I’ll do and when I’ll do it.

Solo travel empowers me and brings me joy.

I already have a couple of trips scheduled for next year, with many more in the planning stages. The majority of these are solo adventures.

Do you enjoy solo travel? Where have you journeyed to, on your own?

Is It Safe to Travel Solo to Charleston city girl

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64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday

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This season, from September 1 until January 9, is my favorite time of year. Not only do I love the holidays…Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas…my birthday is January 9.

For the third year in a row, I’m celebrating my birthday in a big way by enjoying special experiences leading up to the actual day…one for each year of my life. Although it’s fun to celebrate in such a way (check out last year’s activities), and I learn new things about myself and the world I live in, I almost didn’t participate this year. It’s a huge time commitment to squeeze in 64 extra activities as I approach my 64th birthday. I honestly don’t have the time for anything else beyond what I’m already doing.

However, as I contemplated skipping the birthday festivities, I felt sad. And sadness will not do.

So, this year, a bit of a compromise. I did list 64 wild things for my 64th birthday. Most are not new experiences. Instead, they are things I want to do and I’m allowing the random selection of when they are done to be the fun part.

Rather than write experiences out on slips of paper to draw from a jar, I’m using an online random number generator. And as I did last year, I’m not tying myself to doing the activity on the day it is selected. My goal is to do them all by my birthday…with the exception of adventures that will unfold over the course of 2022.

64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday title meme

64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday

Here’s how this works.

I listed and numbered 64 activities in my notebook. Beginning on November 7, I randomly select a number, using the online generator, and then date the chosen activity.

While there are some “wild” experiences on the list, I’m leaning heavily into adventures. My word for 2022 is “adventure” and I’m super excited about that. As I complete this wild year and embrace an adventurous one, this blend of birthday activities moves me into a new year.

I’ll create birthday posts twice a month, to update on what I’ve done. And like last year, I’ll not write about every experience but highlight some that I’ve done. I’ll also note whether the activity is completed, in process or scheduled out.

Here are the first activities from the past week:

11/7/21 Plan a Solo Weekend Adventure (booked in Springfield MO for 12/10 – 12/12)

11/8/21 “Shop” for a Vintage VW Van (completed)

The VW Van is my symbol for 2022, representing adventure. For fun I included this activity as a way to put my intentions out into the universe.

I discovered VW Vans, from the 60s and 70s, range in price from $5000, for a van that needs tons of work, to $150,000 for a fully restored vehicle.

The one pictured here is a 1967 model, for $79,900.

I can see me driving one of these on road trips!

64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday vw van
64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday – shop for a vintage VW Van

11/9/21 Dancer’s Legs (in process)

I love that when I ask a question or put a request out there, I get a response. Next year brings adventures and big plans coming to fruition. I need my legs, which were damaged due to a car accident in 1995 and years of chronic pain and inflammation, to keep up with me!

I’ve been walking daily, to strengthen them. When I asked what else I could do, to keep my legs limber, flexible and strong, two things immediately came into my awareness…tai chi and this course from DailyOm…Dancer’s Legs.

Before my legs gave out on me, I practiced tai chi. I feel ready to return to this beautiful moving meditation. And although I had not heard of this course called Dancer’s Legs, it popped into my email and caught my eye.

This fourteen day course focuses on small movements that strengthen, tone and elongate the muscles in the legs. Taught by a dancer, this sounds like the perfect course for me. I have a very full week this week and I’m out of town this weekend. I begin Dancer’s Legs next Monday.

64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday dancers legs
64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday – Dancer’s Legs

11/10/21 Research Things to Do in Savannah Georgia (completed)

Next year I have 15 adventures that I’d like to experience, in 15 different US locations. All 15 cities made my birthday activities list. As they are randomly selected, I am looking at activities, tours, accommodations, vegan restaurants, etc. and creating a section in my adventure notebook about each. Plus I already have trips planned for Gatlinburg, Tennessee and John’s Island, South Carolina.

For each city, I request a visitor’s guide and sign up for their email newsletters. I’m also ordering historic maps from Amazon for each location. See the one I ordered for Savannah HERE. Plus I create a Pinterest Board for each city, to keep info together.

Also included separately on my birthday list is to email pitches to the tourism board of each city and several accommodations for comped stays. This keeps me moving toward my goals as a travel blogger.

64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday savannah
64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday – things to do in Savannah

11/11/21 Search for Adventure Related Hashtags on Instagram (completed)

Instagram is my primary source for connecting with brands and travel partners. I’ve focused on this social media platform for the past two years, learning as I go, and hashtags are an important component when posting.

I currently use 18 – 30 hashtags every time I post. This year I created lists of hashtags focused on solo travel and living life beyond the edges. For next year, my Year of Adventures, I’m including 10 adventure related hashtags.

On Instagram I don’t want to use hashtags that have high numbers…in the millions…because new posts quickly drop out of sight. I want under a million and over 50,000 with a couple under that number.

Here are my ten adventure hashtags:

#yearofadventures #adventureanywhere #adventurealways #adventureepic #adventureiscalling #adventureislife #adventurespirit #adventuremore #adventureseeker and #soloadventures

I save these on my phone where I can easily copy and paste to appropriate posts.

Join me on my adventures and follow me on Instagram, if you aren’t already! I’m always happy to return the follow.

64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday hashtags
64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday – adventure #s

11/12/21 Create an Adventure List for 2022 (in process)

11/13/21 Shared Adventures with My Grandkids (in the planning stage)

These adventures will take place in 2022. I have six grandchildren. This activity has challenges. One grandson is living in Moscow, Russia for two years, getting his master’s degree. The youngest just turned a year old. The four in between are all teens.

I’m looking forward to the challenges though and sharing my love for adventure with each child. I’ll need to get creative sharing an adventure with my grandson living in Russia.

64 Wild Things for My 64th Birthday grandkids
My oldest and youngest grandchildren.

11/14/21 Watch a Film or Listen to a Podcast Featuring a Wild Woman (completed)

11/15/21 Research Things to Do in Memphis, Tennessee (completed)

I just selected this one today and started by requesting a travel guide and signing up for info. I find these research type activities so much fun! Doing the research and then engaging my imagination before travel creates an amazing travel experience for me.

Headed Toward 64

I am off with a bang on the birthday activities for this year and happy with the way the experiences are flowing and/or lining up. I’m engaging my creativity and playfulness without overburdening myself, time wise. It’s a win/win. Truly, I’m grateful that I gave myself a green light to celebrate in this way.

Watch for an update in a couple of weeks!

64 Wild Things for my 64th Birthday


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Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

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On my last full day in Charleston, I boarded a bus headed to the oldest tourist site in the Lowcountry. This historic property also lays claim to the oldest public gardens in the US.

Was I excited? Not exactly. I felt…cautiously curious. Thirty other people chatted as we bounced along in the air conditioned bus. I remained quiet and introspective. The truth is, I almost didn’t join this tour, making a last minute decision late the day before to go.


Our destination was Magnolia Plantation and Gardens. While I looked forward to walking in the gardens, slavery is a huge issue for me. I wasn’t sure what the energy would feel like at the plantation and how that would impact me as an intuitive empath.

However, the city of Charleston is deeply connected to slavery. I discovered as I explored the city, listened during historic tours and talked to the people of Charleston that this city does not shy away from its complex history. Rather, they’ve expanded their history, instead of hiding it, glorifying it or ignoring it,  which is something I appreciate. Charlestonians tell their stories and make sure all of the past is talked about openly.

I decided not to shy away from Charleston’s history either. My first plantation choice was no longer reachable by tour bus. And while that one seemed like a “safer” choice, I chose another plantation, feeling a strange draw to that one for reasons I did not understand at the time.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens title meme

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens History

The Draytons

The plantation dates back to 1676, when Thomas and Ann Fox Drayton built the house and a small formal garden on almost 1900 acres along the Ashley River. During the Colonial Era, the plantation thrived, growing and accumulating wealth due to the cultivation of rice by enslaved people brought in from Barbados in the 1670s.

In 1825, upon the death of the great grandson of the first Drayton, the plantation passed to his daughter’s sons, Thomas and John Grimke. As there were no male heirs, the stipulation was that the grandsons must assume the last name of Drayton.

The elder brother Thomas died tragically a short time later on the steps of the plantation house, from a gunshot wound while hunting. Younger brother John, an Episcopal minister, unexpectedly found himself the owner of Magnolia Plantation at the young age of 22.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens live oak
There are live oak trees at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens that are hundreds of years old.

The Creation of the Magnolia Gardens

It was John Grimke Drayton that created the informal romantic gardens at Magnolia. His young wife, whom he met and married while attending seminary in New York, grew up in Philadelphia. John hoped the gardens would make Julia feel more at home in South Carolina.

The stress of managing the plantation and pastoring a congregation in a nearby church led to John developing tuberculosis. Working in the gardens, expanding them and tending to the plants, became John’s therapy. And it appeared that he responded well to being outdoors. Until his death, 50 years later, John devoted himself to creating an earthly paradise for his wife.

Magnolia Plantation an Gardens red bridge
Magnolia Plantations and Gardens – red bridge in the gardens

Surviving the Civil War

The first and second plantation houses burned, the first time due to an accidental fire and the second time, during the Civil War. Like the rest of the plantation owners in the Lowcountry, John emerged from the war low on funds and with many repairs to make. The rice cultivation stopped. Some of the former enslaved chose to stay on the plantation as free people, working in the gardens for a good wage, and continuing to live in cabins on the property.

To raise funds, John sold off most of the acreage, retaining 390 acres. And in 1870 Magnolia Plantation and Gardens opened to the public, receiving visitors as a way to restore and preserve the historic property.

John Grimke Drayton died in 1890, leaving Magnolia to his daughter, Julia Drayton Hastie. The estate remains in the Drayton Family, 15 generations of descendants from the first owner, Thomas Drayton. It is currently managed by a board of directors that includes members of the Drayton/Hastie family.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens gravesite
Gravesite of the Drayton Family, in the gardens.

The Magnolia Gardens

Our tour began in the magnificent Magnolia Gardens.

Included in these wild gardens are the Barbados Tropical Garden and the shrub maze based on England’s famous Hampton Court Maze. The Eden like gardens draw visitors from around the world.

John Drayton’s legacy here are the azaleas that bloom in the spring. He introduced these flowering shrubs to the United States. His camellia gardens were celebrated by horticulturalists as pioneering.

Although the gardens are most spectacular in spring, plants bloom year around, offering beauty to visitors who wander the extensive paths.

I could have spent the whole day walking in these gardens.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens in bloom
Magnolia Plantation Gardens in bloom

Magnolia Plantation Swamp and Marshes

Audubon Swamp

The Audubon Swamp at Magnolia Plantation originally served as a basin to store freshwater to flood the rice fields. Today the swamp occupies about 60 acres of the plantation. Cypress and Tupelo trees stand in the water, providing homes for waterfowl and wildlife, including alligators.

This section of the plantation requires an extra fee to enter. While I was there, they were working in that area and the swamp was closed to visitors. My tour group rode a tram through the marshes and we got a peek into the swamp. To my surprise, I found the swamp beautiful, with its green water and abundance of flora and wildlife.

This swamp served as the inspiration for Shrek’s home, in the animated film.

Audubon Swamp
A glimpse of the Audubon Swamp at Magnolia Plantation.

Magnolia Marshes

The 45 minute tram ride takes visitors through the surrounding woods and along the river, lakes and marshes, for a interesting look at the natural beauty found in the wetlands. The knowledgeable tour guide, who also drives the tram, shares history about the plantation as well.

We drove by the former slave cabins, fully restored, that are now part of the Freedom Tour.

And we saw egrets, herons and a large owl, along with turtles and alligators who seemed to enjoy the gentle rain.

Visitors can choose to walk in these areas too, along paved paths that hug the marshlands. Although our guide assured us there has never been an alligator attack on plantation grounds, he advised us to remain alert and aware.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens marsh
The marsh at Magnolia Plantation and Gardens
Alligator on a sunning board in the marsh
Alligator on a sunning board in the marsh.

The Magnolia Plantation House

After a quick lunch at the onsite cafe, my group gathered on the large covered veranda at the plantation house. Our guide informed us that no photos are allowed inside, due to the age of many of the furnishings and art pieces.

Ten rooms are open to the public in the plantation house. The family no longer resides here, living instead in houses built a short distance away. The current house, built in 1870 after fire destroyed the second home, features Doric columns, a gabled roof and dormers and a two story stucco tower.

The 30 to 45 minute house tour includes history about the Drayton Family and plantation life. Each room features early American antiques, art, porcelain, quilts and family heirlooms.

I enjoyed the quiet beauty of the house. It was not difficult to close my eyes and imagine a different world that changed through necessity and then through intention.

The Grimke Sisters

John Grimke Drayton’s aunts, Sarah and Angelina Grimke, born in 1792 and 1805 respectively, abhorred slavery. The sisters spent their adult lives as activists for abolition and for women’s rights.

Outcasts in the south, they moved to Philadelphia where they continued to fight for social justice until their deaths.

I also learned that the Draytons treated their enslaved people better than most, caring for them and providing education for the children even though it was illegal to do so. While that does not make enslaving others acceptable in any way, I’d rather hear that people were cared for than the opposite.

And finally, our guide shared that all descendants of Magnolia’s enslaved and freed people are welcome to work for above average wages and live free of charge at Magnolia (not in the former cabins). There are typically eight to ten or more descendants living on the property, working in the gardens or as tour guides.

Magnolia Plantation House
Magnolia Plantation House

I’m Glad I Visited Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

The night before my scheduled tour of Magnolia Plantation, I slept fitfully, feeling restless and unsure about my decision to visit the plantation and also the Slave Mart Museum.

But I wondered if my reluctance to visit was a way of keeping my eyes averted…of refusing to look at the issue of slavery head on?

As I dozed in that alpha state, between being fully awake and fully asleep, I had a visitor. It’s common for me to see spirits while in this state. This night, a very old woman approached me. She appeared as a Gullah woman, descended from enslaved West Africans, her gray hair long and curly, and wearing beads around her thin neck.

She put her face very close to mine, peering deeply into my eyes. Although she didn’t speak, she slowly smiled at me…and then faded away. I didn’t sleep much after that, but I determined to visit both the plantation and the museum, encouraged by the intensity in the Gullah woman’s eyes and her smile. It was the right decision and, as it turned out, the right plantation to visit.

Finding Who I am in Charleston

I’m grateful that I toured both places. I have African heritage, according to my Ancestry DNA results…from Nigeria in West Africa. I don’t know anything about my ancestor. However it is very possible that he or she passed through Charleston.

I appreciate that Magnolia Plantation and Charleston recognize the importance of acknowledging the crucial role enslaved people played in Lowcountry history. It’s important to me to hear their stories and to remember and honor those who labored in the houses and fields in this area.

I no longer fear what I will feel. What I experience is as complicated as the history in the south and that’s okay. I want to know all that I can and someday perhaps I’ll find a clue that leads me to my ancestor.

It’s even possible that I met her, in that space between worlds, and she smiled at me.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens small white bridge

Learn more about Magnolia Plantation HERE.




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Lasagna Gardening

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Lasagna gardening. Have you heard of it?

I hadn’t…until last spring when the practice came into my awareness. I tucked the idea away, until now. As colder temperatures bring an end to my gardens, it’s time to prep them for a long winter’s sleep.

Therefore, it’s the perfect time to try this new-to-me gardening technique.

I won’t be able to tell you the final results, until next spring. However, here’s what I learned about lasagna gardening.

Lasagna Gardening title meme

What is Lasagna Gardening?

This technique has less to do with growing veggies or flowers, and more to do with creating an optimal place for plants to thrive.

Also called layered gardening or sheet gardening, lasagna gardening is the process of layering organic materials to decompose in a gardening spot.

This no till, no dig technique is easy to do and requires almost no maintenance. Once the layers are in place, nature takes over. It’s a wonderful way to compost in your actual garden space, rather than creating and using a separate composting bin or pile.

Why Use Lasagna Gardening?

Creating layers of materials provides the ideal environment for beneficial organisms to do what they are designed to do. The layers lock in soil enriching nutrients and keep weeds away, naturally, without the use of chemicals.

Like using a compost pile, lasagna gardening recycles biodegradable materials such as newspaper and cardboard. And it’s a great way to make use of organic waste such as dried leaves, twigs, plant and grass trimmings and food scraps.

And finally, this form of gardening reduces the amount of trash that goes into landfills, making it eco-friendly.

Lasagna gardening does take time to work. The layers need to break down and become rich soil. Fall is the perfect time to try this technique so that by spring the area is ready to plant.

Lasagna Gardening leaves
Lasagna Gardening – raking up leaves to use

Prepping for Lasagna Gardening

Before creating your layers, pick a  garden spot.

I have a raised garden bed that I use for veggies. The 4X8 size is perfect for this type of gardening. Pick an area that is similar in size. You don’t have to remove the grass first, dig it up or till it. Make sure the spot you pick receives at least six hours of sunlight a day. The layers need to “cook”.

You’ll need material for green nitrogen layers and brown carbon layers. Below are ideas for both:

Green Nitrogen Layer

  • coffee grounds
  • tea bags
  • compostable kitchen scraps
  • grass clippings
  • weeds
  • garden clippings and prunings
  • manure

Brown Carbon Layer

  • black and white newspapers
  • cardboard
  • sawdust
  • dry leaves
  • wood chips
  • sticks and twigs
  • straw

Water Source

You’ll water thoroughly between each layer. Have a water hose nearby.

Lasagna Gardening first layer
Lasagna Gardening – first layer…brown carbon

Creating the Lasagna Garden

Having already chosen my raised bed to try this technique, I first prepped the area. Tomato plants flourished still in the space. I picked the last of the tomatoes…all green…and pulled up the plants. I roughly chopped these up, to use as a layer in the garden.

First Layer: Brown Carbon

The first layer is a carbon one. Lay down newspaper, cardboard or wood chips. Because I used several inches of mulch this year in my raised bed, I removed any weeds poking through and smoothed out the mulch as my first layer.

Water layer thoroughly.

Second Layer: Brown Carbon

A second carbon layer goes on top of the first one. Use whatever you have on hand…twigs and small branches, cardboard or paper. I added a single layer of cardboard, making sure packing tape was removed. And I tossed some twigs and small branches in there too.

Water this layer thoroughly.

Lasagna Gardening second layer
Second layer – cardboard

Third Layer: Green Nitrogen

Next add a green nitrogen layer. This includes kitchen scraps, compost, manure, grass and plant clippings or weeds. Don’t use plants or weeds with seed heads attached or you are planting those in an area you may not want them in.

I used the chopped up tomato plants I had just pulled up mixed with kitchen scraps and plant clippings. I collect veggie and fruit scraps daily as I prepare meals. When the large plastic bowl is full, it gets dumped into my compost bin. Today I shoveled out the scraps in the compost bin and moved them to the raised bed.

Water layer thoroughly.

Lasagna Gardening third and fourth layers
Third layer – green nitrogen

Fourth Layer: Brown Carbon

For this layer, use dry leaves or straw if possible. With fall, it’s the ideal time to rake up leaves as they fall from the trees and add them to the lasagna garden.

Create a nice, deep layer of dry leaves or straw, approximately eight to ten inches. I raked up leaves from my Redbud trees, while Greg used a leaf blower to move them my way. On top of the leaves I placed two sheets of very thin cardboard saved from earlier in the year, just for this purpose.

Water this layer as well, very thoroughly. The moisture is important as it helps break down the materials.

Lasagna Gardening leaves
Fourth layer – leaves or straw

Final Layer: Tarp

If desired, cover the layers with a tarp, weighted down on the corners. This speeds up the decomposing process, while helping the bed hold moisture and create heat. You can also use a weed barrier, like this one.

If you don’t have a tarp, consider adding a layer of mulch over the leaves, to help contain them and trap moisture in the layers.

And that’s it! Allow the layers to “cook” all winter, until it’s time to plant next spring. If winter months are very dry, deeply water layers occasionally.

Final layer
Lasagna Gardening – final layer…a tarp

Lasagna Gardening Tips

Fall is the best time to try this technique. A few tips to make the process super easy.

Collect cardboard, newspapers and paper all year, for your garden spot. Similarly, create an outdoor space to stack twigs and small branches.

Start a compost bin, if you don’t have one already. Even if scraps break down, add compost as a layer. Make it a habit to save all veggie and fruit scraps and add meal leftovers rather than tossing them out of the fridge and into the trash.

Save plant cuttings and prunings from flower beds and grass clippings too if you catch those in a bag while mowing.

If you don’t have trees in your yard, ask a neighbor if you can rake her leaves and bag them in large leaf bags. Or visit a park with trees and collect leaves there. Purchase bales of straw at your local garden center.

And ask family members and friends to save kitchen scraps for you, if you don’t have enough.

I enjoyed trying this technique today! Last spring I emptied out a compost bin, moving the rich soil to the raised bed. Next spring, the rich soil will already be there, just in time for planting season.

Have you tried lasagna gardening?

Praying Mantis
My little helper today

Other Helpful Gardening Posts:

Ecological Garden Hacks

Plant in Fall for Spring Color

Fall Checklist for the Garden

Gardening Helps from Amazon:




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Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways

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While in Charleston, one of my favorite activities was wandering the streets of the historic district. For this first visit to the Holy City, my primary goals included getting to know the history and stories of Charleston and exploring the neighborhoods South of Broad.

I accomplished those goals, with great intention and joy. For months before my trip, I explored the city in my imagination. It felt surreal to recognize the familiar streets and then get to know them in a deeper, richer way.

The Charleston Historic District is famous for many things, including ornate iron gates in front of the houses and the beautiful secret alleyways tucked between streets.

I made it my mission to capture photos of both as I explored. Here is a sampling of Charleston gates and hidden alleyways.

Charleston Gates

On my first full day in Charleston, I walked more than seven miles, exploring the neighborhoods South of Broad. As I left the shops and businesses on Broad Street behind, I encountered houses built in the 1700s and 1800s. I admired the architecture, the beautiful side gardens and the wrought iron gates unique to each property. The gates featured in this post stood guard in front of houses on Meeting Street, Tradd Street and Stoll’s Alley.

Meeting Street Gates

Meeting Street is one of the oldest streets in Charleston. It is shown on a 1704 map of the walled city. The name comes from the white brick Presbyterian Meeting House…or church…that once occupied the spot where the Circular Congregational Church now stands.

I stayed on this street, at the Meeting Street Inn, and used this avenue to orient myself while exploring the city. Meeting Street continues south and connects to South Battery Street at White Point Garden, at the tip of the peninsula.

Strolling slowly along Meeting Street, I snapped photos of houses and their fascinating gates. These are my favorites on this tree lined street.

Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways 41 meeting street
Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways – 41 Meeting Street
Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways 23 meeting street
Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways – 23 Meeting Street
Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways 27 meeting street
27 Meeting Street
Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways 3 meeting street
3 Meeting Street

Tradd Street Gate

Tradd Street is named for Robert Tradd, supposedly the first European child born in Charles Town. It’s famous for its gorgeous architecture, narrow street and the mystery book series written by Karen White. The movie The Patriot filmed scenes on this charming street.

And Tradd Street drew me to Charleston. Karen’s books so intrigued me that I desired to experience Charleston for myself. After walking Meeting Street to South Battery, I walked north until I crossed Tradd Street and then walked it back to Meeting Street.

This is my favorite gate on Tradd Street, gorgeous with flowers and greenery gracing the top.

Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways 62 tradd street
Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways – 62 Tradd Street

Stoll’s Alley Gate

Named for Charleston blacksmith Justinus Stoll, this beautiful alleyway…also mentioned below in the hidden alleyways section…is lined with brick houses. Five of the houses in Stoll’s Alley feature gates by ironworker Philip Simmons.

Philip, an African American artisan and blacksmith, spent 78 years crafting decorative iron work. At the beginning of his long career, Philip focused on practical household objects such as horseshoes. By the time he retired, his craft was considered art.

Philip apprenticed with Peter Simmons…no relation…a former enslaved man. At age 26 Philip opened his own smithy. Charleston business man Jack Krawcheck commissioned a wrought iron gate from Philip, for the back of his store located on King Street. Due to the demand for iron during WWII, Philip created the commissioned gate from scrap iron. Although this was his first decorative iron piece, it was not his last. Krawcheck commissioned 30 additional iron pieces from Philip. Ultimately he created more than 500 pieces, including iron balconies, gates, window grilles and fences.

In 1976, Philip created a star and fish gate for the Smithsonian Institute. And in 1982 the National Endowment for the Arts awarded him a National Heritage Fellowship.

My favorite gate in Stoll’s Alley, a Philip Simmons masterpiece.

Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways 7 1/2 Stoll's Alley
A Philip Simmons gate at 7 1/2 Stoll’s Alley

Charleston Hidden Alleyways

Before my trip, I made a list of the city’s hidden alleyways. I didn’t use GPS to locate them. Rather as I explored, I looked for them. Of the 11 on my list, I came across six of them, although I failed to photograph St. Michael’s Alley. That leaves five  more to discover when I return!

These narrow lanes intrigued me. In my city, the alleyways are typically gravel roads lined with trash bins. There’s nothing charming or beautiful about my alleyway. However, the Charleston alleys delighted me.

Price’s Alley

The first alley I came across, Price’s Alley was once swampy marshland. The lane connects King and Meeting Streets and it is the earliest known landfill project in the city’s history. Once called Sommers Lane, the name changed after Hopkins Price purchased the land in 1749.

The alley housed a tannery and later became home to Irish immigrants and African American tradesmen.

Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways prices alley
Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways – Price’s Alley

Bedon’s Alley

Located between Tradd and Elliott Streets, this lane originated early in the city’s history, a place for chandleries, counting houses and mercantile shops. It’s name comes from merchant George Bedon, son of an English couple who arrived on the first ship to Charles Town in 1670.

The small brick buildings on the east side once served as outbuildings for the now famous Rainbow Row on Bay Street. Fires ravaged the alley in 1740 and again in 1778. Today the former shops are carefully restored and function as private homes.

Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways bedons alley
Bedon’s Alley

Stoll’s Alley

This picturesque alley between East Bay and Church Streets was originally called Pilot’s Lane. Harbor pilots walked this path to reach their boats. Later the name changed to Stoll’s Alley, after Justinus Stoll, who built the house at number 7 in 1745.

The Church Street end of the alley is much wider than the East Bay end, where it narrows to five feet in width. As noted above, this alley features five Philip Simmons gates, some of his earliest commissions.

Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways stolls alley
Stoll’s Alley

Four Post Alley

Also called Gadsden Alley, this narrow, twisting lane truly is hidden! It connects Broad Street to Elliott. Our historic tour guide Therese led us down this charming alley. I don’t think I would have found this one on my own.

Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways four post alley
Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways – Four Post Alley

Unity Alley

Once a narrow alley, this passage way between East Bay and State Streets was widened in 1810. It housed merchants, tradesmen and artisans in the late 1700s. At number 2 stood Edward McCrady’s Tavern and Long Room where President George Washington was entertained in 1791.

The tavern changed hands multiple times until it was renovated into a restaurant in the 1980s. Unfortunately, the pandemic closed this historic building in April 2020.

Have you explored the Charleston gates and hidden alleyways? Which alleys did you find?

This beautiful, historic city is full of stories…and surprises. I’m excited to announce that I am returning to Charleston next spring. More about that adventure later. I can’t wait to see what else I discover.

Charleston Gates and Hidden Alleyways unity alley
Unity Alley

Check out this Philip Simmons book from Amazon. Click photo for info.


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The Happy Inbox

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Thank you to Sourcebooks for sending me The Happy Inbox book for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

October was National Book Month. I shared the five books I’m currently reading in this post. Each book appeals to me, for different reasons.

The Happy Inbox, by Maura Nevel Thomas, showed up in my email…and my life…at the perfect time. I admit, I am overwhelmed by the number of emails that flow…and flow…and flow…into my inbox.

Between three email accounts, I received hundreds of emails a day. If I neglect dealing with them for even a couple of days, they seemed to magically multiple, in an explosive way. And then I don’t even want to mess with them.

That’s NOT a good system.

I appreciate The Happy Inbox and the difference it’s making in the way I think about managing emails.

The Happy Inbox title meme

The Empowered Productivity Series

The Happy Inbox is actually book three in the Empowered Productivity Series. Book one is Attention Management: How to Create Success and Gain Productivity—Every Day. And the second book in the series is From To-Do to Done: How to Go from Busy to Productive by Mastering Your To-Do List.

Together these books lay a path to peak productivity. They help the reader achieve results that are most significant, both personally and professionally.

Maura developed the Empowered Productivity System in 2012 after many years of successfully helping her clients. In the past decade, working with some of the world’s most influential leaders and brands, she has reimagined the system, incorporating input and feedback from more than 40,000 professionals.

In short, Maura knows about productivity and freeing others to live extraordinary lives. Her desire is to see more people able to bring their unique gifts to the world in a way that inspires, motivates and excites rather than exhausts, overwhelms and stresses.

The Happy Inbox pumpkin
The Happy Inbox – one of my fall reading books.

The Happy Inbox

This book is easy to read in an afternoon. However, it is PACKED with helpful information for managing communication, not just temporarily but forever.

The book contains five chapters plus an introduction and a conclusion.


Maura points out, correctly, that today managing communication is huge. We are constantly receiving pings…those notifications from emails, texts, phone calls and social media. Truly, it never stops. And those pings are a distraction, causing us to continually switch tasks.

The book offers help in these ways:

  • reduces stress caused by digital and paper clutter
  • minimizes the amount of communication sent and received
  • retrieves important info quickly
  • collaborate with others more effectively

Chapter One: Getting Your Email Under Control

Maura starts here, for good reason. Emails, too many of them, too many unimportant ones, fill our inboxes, creating stress.

There’s no instant fix for overflowing inboxes. However, this chapter and the rest of the book provide the steps for tackling the overabundance of emails and then setting up systems for managing them.

Chapter Two: Being Reactive Vs Being Responsive

In this chapter we learn the things we shouldn’t do with email. There are common tactics we all use to make us feel like we are dealing effectively…and responsively…with emails. However, they are actually counterproductive.

Chapter Three: Processing Email – Done for Now

Maura offers tips in this section for processing emails, dealing with each message so that it’s not hanging around as an unknown. This involves sorting in a variety of helpful ways to help identify what’s there and act in an efficient way. The goal is to move messages out of the inbox.

The TESST process applies to every email:

  • Take immediate action
  • Empower others and yourself (delegate)
  • Suspend to task list, to take required action later
  • Store for future reference
  • Trash it

Chapter Four: If You Need a Fresh Start

The previous chapters supply tools and tips for managing emails. This chapter discusses strategies for dealing with a backlog of thousands or tens of thousands of emails.

There are also helpful suggestions in this chapter for creating better emails. And there’s a section as well on managing other forms of communication.

Chapter Five: Meeting Management

This segment deals with handling meetings, if that is part of your workday.


Maura concludes with key takeaways from the book and positive action steps.

The Happy Inbox emails
The Happy Inbox – see the number of emails??

My Experience with The Happy Inbox

Take a look at the screenshot above. See the email icon? It shows 27,485 emails clogging my inbox. I wasn’t exaggerating when I said this book showed up at the right time.

As Maura points out in the book, managing emails is not a quick fix. However, it IS doable, one step at a time. I am appreciating this book very much as I implement the systems and more than that, recognize why I allow emails to pile up.

In Chapter One Maura writes:

“Your inbox is for receiving messages, not storing them.”

That statement was my first big AHA! I use my inbox to store messages, requiring me to wade through unimportant emails to find, again and again, the important ones. It’s not an effective way to manage communications. I know that. Yet, it feels so overwhelming, dealing with the backlog.

I’m taking action. And I’m learning to implement the systems. It’s not a quick turn around. However, I feel like I’m making progress and streamlining communication.

The number of emails is huge. But that number is smaller than it was a week ago! Step by step, I’m whittling them down.

Get Your Copy of The Happy Inbox

Is your inbox full, like mine? Would you love to manage your communications more effectively? And best of all, would you like to reduce the stress that accompanies a backlog of emails and notifications?

Pick up The Happy Inbox by clicking this link. Or check out all three books in the Empowered Productivity Series, via the Amazon links below.

In the comments below, tell me your numbers. How many emails are currently in your inbox? Can anyone beat my 27,000+? I look forward to sharing, in the near future, a big fat zero for number of emails sitting in my inbox.

The Happy Inbox book


Amazon Links for the Empowered Productivity Series





Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to, all at no extra cost to you.