Cool Roadside Architecture: Myrtle Beach Edition

A few days ago I posted about some of the fun souvenir shop architecture found in Padre Island, Texas. Here are several similar sculptures from South Carolina’s Grand Strand. Continue reading

When the Levy Breaks

Sometimes the inlet floods. Here’s the road in front of our house.


Rainy Days in Murrells Inlet

I’m in South Carolina’s Grand Strand for our annual family beach week! For the third year in a row we snagged the same gorgeous oceanfront house. Unlike years past, it’s been overcast and/or raining each day so far. This means the water is rolling right up the beach past our steps. We’ve had some great sightings of both dolphins and sharks chasing giant schools of fish!

IMG_6464.JPGThe shore as seen directly below our upper deck. Note the fences and built-up dunes; new this year to prevent erosion. The dunes are still favorite haunt of ghost crabs, cotton rats and the occasional bunny.

Improving your air travel experience

Great article posted at xoJane today by Portland writer Amanda Blum called How to Have a Generally More Pleasant Air Travel Experience. Her tips are great and many of them boil down to one thing – be kind, and not just because it might nab ya some upgrades, but because … well, I’ll just let you read it. :)

El búho y yo

For the past several weeks, I’ve been learning Spanish with the help of the program Duolingo and its owl (búho) coach, Duo. This program – which is FREE by the way – has been an absolute godsend for me. Earlier this summer, I started working with a Spanish coursebook and a few CDs, but found myself getting bored and impatient, and the lessons weren’t really sticking. With Duolingo, I can log in to the app via my iPhone or to the main program from my laptop, track my progress, take quizzes, see a list of vocabulary I’ve learned, and tell at-a-glance which lessons it’s time to go back and practice. I get emailed reminders to log into my lessons, which get progressively harder as I increase my knowledge.

As I work, I gain “lingots” – virtual currency which I can spend on outfits for Duo, extra “lives”, quizzes, and “fun” lessons like Flirting or Idioms. The app smartly allows users to make their experience more social if they choose. You can share your progress with your friends on Facebook, for example, or go online to access forums and recommended immersion programs.

The best part of all of this? It’s FREE! You don’t have to spend a fortune on Rosetta Stone if you don’t wish. Give this a try first. Spanish isn’t the only language – find French, Dutch, etc. It is fun and a great stress-reliever. And the award-winning mobile version (which links to your usual account) is great for on the go. with the app you can practice speaking your chosen language, as well.

Complaints? Sometimes the spoken portion of the app will be really lax about some words, and very picky about others! And occasionally, when I have to choose the correct words to make a sentence, one of the required words is missing from the options! These are relatively small compared to how much more comfortable I feel with Spanish now. And yes, I’m smitten with the adorable owl.

Coach Duo

Coach Duo

Whichever language you choose, buena suerte!

Las Vegas Photo Ops

There are a lot of fun things you can do in Vegas, some goofier than others. My husband and I like to take full advantage of every silly opportunity we can.

“Hey guys! Wanna play blackjack? Hey, what are you screaming at?” At Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay

T-Rex crashing the party at The Adventuredome amusement park at Circus Circus!

T-Rex crashing the party at The Adventuredome amusement park at Circus Circus!

So there we were, exploring this ancient temple, posing for a photo, when suddenly ...

So there we were, exploring this ancient temple, posing for a photo, when suddenly …

Beyond the overpriced souvenir photos, you can find kooky snapshot ops outside the resorts, too. Costumed characters parade up and down the sidewalks willing to pose with you for a few bucks. These panhandlers dress as everything from Hello Kitty to the minions from Despicable Me, to a gingerbread man we saw drunkenly slumped over on the sidewalk mid-day. His more sober pals stepped over him to continue working the crowds.

And outside the recently shuttered gardens at Bally’s Las Vegas last winter, I was walking toward a post when a huge Chewbacca suddenly stepped out right in front of me. We surprised each other, but I was the only one of us who screamed right in the other’s face. Nearby, my husband chuckled; he’d seen Chewy coming even though I hadn’t. “I was hoping that would happen,” he chortled. From then on we often saw Chewbacca parading around in that same area. “Hey, Chewy!” someone would yell from the walkway overhead. “Heeeeeeeeeeey,” Chewy slurred back in just about the laziest Wookie accent possible. He was definitely our favorite.

The Strip is going to change quite a bit in upcoming years with brand new resorts and attractions. I’m looking forward to making a third trip sometime soon. Will Chewy still be there? We’ll find out, and hopefully get a scream-free picture!

North Padre Island Kitsch

Padre Island, both in/near Corpus Christi, Texas depending on where you are on the island, looks like it might be a hoppin’ little place. It’s hard to know for sure when you’re there on Christmas Day. But even on a chilly gray December afternoon, the delightfully kitschy souvenir shops stick out. I absolutely love places like this. Just a couple (there are more on the south side of the island):

Running from the classic shark entrance at Third Coast Beach Company on Padre Island.

Running from the classic shark entrance at Third Coast Beach Company

The full shark is quite large!

The full shark is quite large!

Giant Mermaid at Ocean Treasures souvenir shop, which is made up to look like a monstrous sand castle.

Giant Mermaid at Ocean Treasures souvenir shop, which looks like a monstrous sand castle.

The castle is surrounded by various sea life sculptures and fountains.

The castle is surrounded by various sea life sculptures and fountains. We couldn’t have gotten the full castle in the pic without crossing the street!

Read more about these kitschy photo ops at one of my favorite sites, Roadside America:

Third Coast Beach Company – Inviting Shark Mouth Entrance at Roadside America (Note: There are a LOT of shark entrances in the United States; Roadside America has a great directory of them here.)

Ocean Treasures – Giant Fake Sand Castle at Roadside America