Sunday, December 29, 2013


I'm a little late writing my post for Christmas, but I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday. I spent my holiday with my family enjoying our Christmas decorations and meals.

Christmas Tree

Our den is where we really decorate.

Behind the sofa

Even the TV is decorated.

Our Dining Room Decorations

The countertop of our kitchen.

The other side.

Our apple tree

The other half of our kitchen

Another Christmas Scene

And, of course, our luminaries.

Even Rocky was forced...I mean... swept up in the Christmas Spirit.

Do I really have to wear the hat?

I love this time of year because it is fun to see my house transformed into a magical Christmas-themed wonderland. Even as an adult, I can still feel my inner child's excitement when Christmas day rolls around.

Christmas was also a time for new adventures. During the month of December, my family and I decided to explore Christmas attractions around the state.

The first place we visited was the Christmas Tea at the Pegg House Tea Room in Kernersville. Built in 1885, this house now serves as a tea room where you can have lunch or a proper English High Tea. They hold a special fixed Christmas Tea every year, and we decided to stop by and try it.

The Pegg House Tea Room
The staircase in the house.

Inside, the house was decorated for the holidays.

Christmas Tree

They even covered the seats to make them elegant.

The place setting was festive yet beautiful.

The tea came in two courses. The first was a delicious soup followed by the standard tea consisting of mini sandwiches, scones, and desserts. As always, I chose Earl Grey as my tea. Armed with that tea, I was ready to enjoy the feast they had provided for us.  

 Their butternut squash soup was amazing!  

Besides the mini sandwiches and desserts, they also had mini homemade quiche.

Of course, no tea is complete without scones and homemade Devonshire cream.

I loved the tea. It was delicious, and I'm definitely planning to come back and try their regular tea as well.

The other adventure my family and I chose this holiday season was to see McAdenville. Nicknamed Christmas Town USA and voted #7 on Yahoo's 2011 Top Ten Christmas Attractions, McAdenville lives up to its name. The entire town decorates for Christmas, transforming itself into a magical Christmas Light Wonderland. 

Welcome to Christmas Town USA

At one of the schools, they wrapped the air conditioners to look like presents.

One of the many houses that were decorated.

The lake

The reflection of the lights in the water was beautiful.

Driving through the town.

They really go all out.

I love these lights.

With over two miles to explore either by foot or car, there is a lot to see and marvel at. The lights start at 5:30 and weekdays are the best time to go. We were able to drive through the town twice without enduring too much traffic.

Charlotte is about 20 minutes from McAdenville, so we decided to treat ourselves to dinner in Charlotte at the Capital Grille. The food was amazing and enjoyable after the long drive.

Filet Mignon perfectly cooked.

You shared the sides so my family and I decided on Lobster Mac and Cheese

and French Green Beans and Shallots with Heirloom Tomatoes. 

I throughly enjoyed the holiday season this year. Whether experiencing new holiday events such as the Christmas Tea or McAdenville or reliving holiday traditions like decorating the house, this Christmas has been fun and rewarding.

Regardless of whether you celebrate Christmas, I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and are looking forward to the new year to come.

~A. E. Keener

Interested in my adventures? Click the links to learn more:

~Pegg House Tea Room:


~Capital Grille:

Friday, November 1, 2013


Ever since I grew out of trick-or-treating, my excitement for Halloween has diminished. I wanted to try to bring back that old excitement I used to have for Halloween so I decided to start some new Halloween traditions with my family this year.

So, we decided to have a small Halloween feast.

Here it is with decorations included.

Close up of the centerpiece.

I've been trying to cook more so I figured Halloween would be a great time to try some fun, new recipes. For lunch, the recipes I prepared were:

Munchable Mice

Taco Mac Cupcakes

Apple Sangria

And Parmesan Basil Biscuits.

I didn't make these. My mother found them at Williams Sonoma and they were too cute to pass up.

She also purchased these candies from Williams Sonoma. They were so good.

It was so much fun trying these new recipes. With classic Halloween tunes playing in the background and a tablescape that created an elegant but spooky atmosphere, it wasn't hard to be swept up in the Halloween spirit.

Even Rocky got into the Halloween Spirit.

And, at night, the tablescape looked even more elegant and spooky.

The full tablescape lit up at night.

And here's a close-up of the centerpiece.

We ate pizza (a family Halloween tradition) and watched It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, another Halloween classic. Still in the Halloween spirit, I decided to try one more recipe.

Goblin Good Orange Cookies. A perfect way to end a meal.

While cooking all day was exhausting, I really enjoyed making the new recipes and sharing them with my family. I definitely think that I'll keep this Halloween tradition.

I hope everyone had a happy Halloween. And most importantly, I hope everyone remembered...

~A.E. Keener

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Beaufort, N.C. Day 2

Day 2 of Beaufort. I decided to explore more of the town. The Beaufort historical site offers a double decker bus tour that takes you through the historical section of Beaufort.

Who said you couldn't experience a little of England without being in England?

Beaufort is filled with history. Many of its houses date back to the 1700's. The residents of these houses are required to keep the exterior looking as they did back when they were first built. This means that a lot of houses are painted white.
One of this house's residents was Jacob Henry, the first Jewish member of N.C. Legislature. He lived here in the 1800's.

The Sloo House (1708)

Owins-Bedford House (1730) 

A myth that still persists is that Blackbeard lived in this house. Even if it isn't true, the house is still beautiful.

After the bus tour, I decided to have lunch at the Spouter Inn. Besides being on the waterfront, it had delicious food.
The outside of Spouter Inn

The view wasn't bad either.

Gumbo with cheese toast

Spouter Chowder
They also had amazing pastries!

 As I mentioned in my previous blog, my second day in Beaufort was focused on the wild horses that inhabit the islands nearby. Beaufort has several small islands within boating distance. Carrot Island and Shackleford Banks are the most well known for their horses. Shackleford Banks' wild horses are descendants of Spanish horses who survived shipwrecks. Carrot Island's horses are wild horses from the Rachel Carson Reserve who have lived on the island since the 1950's. Both islands encourage visitors to walk around and experience the wild horses up close.   

Unfortunately because of the government shutdown, Shackleford Banks was closed to the public.  So, after lunch, I went on a water buggy instead and viewed some of the horses on Carrot Island.

Our ride

One of two stallions we saw. He is munching on cord grass.

Another shot of the same horse with less glare.

Another stallion was grazing nearby.

The horses are incredibly smart and self-sufficent. One amazing fact about the Carrot Island horses is that they can sense when quicksand is nearby and intentionally avoid grazing in these areas. I also saw a stallion and his harem. Unfortunately we were too far away for me to take a picture. 

I did see some interesting things other than horses.
An Ibis hanging out on Carrot Island

An interesting boat

The colored flags running vertical each signify a letter and spell out Beaufort.

While I was disappointed that I didn't see the Shackleford horses, the ride was both fun and educational. I have a greater appreciation for wild horses. They are a lot smarter and more resourceful than we give them credit for. 

After the boat ride, I had cocktails and appetizers at the Queen Anne's Revenge.

Queen Anne's Revenge

I liked how the inside looked.

Blackbeard's Bloody Mary. It had Artisan fresh made Bloody Mary mix and it had Blackbeard in its name.

Mozzarella wrapped with Baked Proscuitto. Yum!

That night, I went to dinner at the Front Street Grill and the Rhum Bar at Stillwater. This restaurant was on the waterfront as well and had delicious flounder. 

The restaurant's sign

Rhum Bar Punch. I felt like I was in the islands. 

The day was eventful and exhausting, but well worth it. The next day, I had a few hours before I had to leave Beaufort so I decided to visit Beaufort's old burying grounds. The grounds were deeded to the town in 1731. 

Samuel Leffers (1736-1822) an early school master. He wrote his own epitaph:
"Praises on tombstones are but idly spent, 
A man's good name is his best monument."

Sarah Gibbs (1792) and Jacob Shepard (1793). Sarah was married to Jacob, a seaman. He went out to sea and was presumed dead. After an absence of several years, Jacob suddenly returned and found that Sarah was married to another man named Nathaniel Gibbs. They agreed that Sarah would remain married to Gibbs as long as she lived, but must spend eternity at the side of Jacob Shepard.

"Crissie Wright" Common Grave. The grave is for the soldiers who froze to death after the wreck of the ship in January 1886. Apparently, we weren't the only ones here to see the graves.

The grave of Captain Otway Burns (1775-1850). One of North Carolina's greatest heroes in the War of 1812.

Girl in Barrel of Rum. A girl of an English family wanted to see her homeland. Her father decided to take her but promised her mother that he would bring her back. On the way back to Beaufort, the girl became ill and died. Back then, those that died on ships were buried at sea. The father couldn't bear the thought of not giving his daughter a proper burial and breaking his promise to his wife. He bought a barrel of rum from the captain and placed her body in it so that she could be buried in Beaufort.

After the burial grounds, I went to the Beaufort coffee shop for a quick breakfast.

Front of the coffee shop

It has a nice coffee house feel.

Tropical Smoothie and just made cinnamon buns? Yes, please.

And of course, I had to try a chocolate bar that has Beaufort in its name.

After the coffee shop, I headed back home. I loved my little adventure to Beaufort, NC. I felt like I stepped back in time to the age of pirates at the maritime museum and was closer to nature with the Carrot Island Horses. Beaufort has definitely earned its title of "America's Coolest Town" in my mind.

~A. E.  Keener

Interested in my adventure? Click the links to learn more:

~Beaufort Historic Site:

~Spouter Inn:

~Water Bug Tours:

~Rachel Carson Reserve:

~Shackleford Horses:

~Queen Anne's Revenge:

~Front Street Grill and the Rhum Bar at Stillwater:

~The Beaufort Coffee Shop: