Red Clay Soap

Red Clay Soap = Best. Soap. Ever.

I never thought I would be the type of person to get excited about soap.  It’s a product most of us buy without a second thought despite the fact that our skin is the largest organ of the body and deserves to be treated with care.  Then I met Stephen Palacino at the Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery Holiday Flea in December, bought my first bar of Red Clay Soap, and found a soap worth raving about.

Curing the soap.

Red Clay Soap is made by John and Rachel Palacino, the owners of Double Blessing Farm outside of Travelers Rest.  What makes Red Clay Soap different from all the other soaps out there on the market?  The Palacino’s make Red Clay Soap with goat milk from their own goats, vegetable oils instead of lard, essential oils, and a whole lot of passion and skill.  What you won’t find in their soap are harsh, unpronounceable chemicals, preservatives, and dyes.  The Palacino’s are committed to creating an excellent, wholesome product resulting in satisfied customers with healthy skin.

The Double Blessing in the name of the Palacino farm refers to the fact that, unknown to them, their first goat was pregnant, resulting in two goats for the price of one.  However, those words could also be appropriately applied to Rachel and John themselves.  They are delightful individuals with a passion for people (and goats!).  Whether helping others achieve their dream of homestead farming, combating the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of goats and goat products, or making superior soap, the Palacino’s are committed to making the Upstate a healthier, happier place to live.

I'm also a big fan of the goats!

I am a huge fan of the Palacino family and Red Clay Soap and I definitely not the only one.  John and Rachel receive testimonials from customers, near and far, detailing all the ways Red Clay Soap has improved the condition of their skin.  With a wide range of soaps including Rosemary Mint (my current favorite), Oatmeal Honey, Gardeners Blend, Herbal Wild, Spiced Coffee Cake, Orange Vanilla, and Patchouli Honey to name a few, there is something to please everyone.  In Red Clay Soap, John and Rachel have created more than just a soap company.  They have created a way to help people feel more comfortable in their own skin.

You can find Red Clay Soap in places throughout the Upstate of South Carolina and Western North Carolina including: Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery, Nyla Beans, Skin Sophisticates – in Dallas Skye, Apple Tree Home & Garden, The Country Peddler, Olde Faithful’s Antique Mall, and The Wild Radish.  The Palacino’s also sell Red Clay Soap at farmers markets, craft fairs, festivals, and on their website.

Visit the Red Clay Soap website or Facebook page to find out more and connect with the Palacino family.

Categories: Gifts, Leah's Favorites, Products | 2 Comments

A Few of My Favorite Things

This will be my last LLL post for 2011 since I will be traveling and enjoying the last of the busy holiday season with my friends and family.  I plan on having many local adventures, though, between now and my first 2012 post so I will have more wonderful local treasures to share with you in January.  I will still be sharing local tidbits on the LLL Facebook, so be sure to like the page to stay in touch.

Before I sign off for a couple weeks, though, I want to leave you with a few local organizations that could benefit from some tangible Christmas cheer this year.  I hope you will consider giving a gift to these amazing organizations that do so much to benefit our local community.

Pendleton Place Children’s Shelter:

Many abused and neglected children have found love, comfort, safety, and a place to beginning the healing process at Pendleton Place Children’s Shelter after being removed from their homes by DSS.  The staff here cares deeply for the children and nurtures each one from the moment they step in the door.  Pendleton Place Children’s Shelter tries to provide the children and teenagers in their care with as many “normal” childhood experiences as possible.  They need the assistance and support of the community to do that.  Whether it is providing the items on a child’s Christmas wishlist or planning a fun field trip or party, Pendleton Place Children’s Shelter relies on the generosity of community  members to keep providing excellent, loving care to children who need it most.  Visit the website or Facebook page to find out how you can help.

Project Host:

If you’re reading this right now, chances are that you have a warm home and plenty to eat.  There are many in Greenville who are not so fortunate.  Project Host seeks to help the hungry in the community by providing a nutritious, fulfilling meal each day to anyone in need.  Beyond meal provision, Project Host is home to a culinary school that trains unemployed/underemployed individuals in culinary arts in order to give them an opportunity to gain steady employment.  Driving down Academy Street it is easy to miss the nondescript building that houses this wonderful organization but, for those in need, this organization is an oasis in the midst of a difficult and lonely journey.  To find out how you can help Project Host continue to perform these much-needed services for some of our neighbors, visit the website or Facebook page.

Meals on Wheels of Greenville:

For many home-bound individuals, the deliveries from Meals on Wheels mean more than just a nutritious meal.  A delivery from Meals on Wheels means a visit from someone who cares about them and a connection with a world in which they can no longer freely move about.  Meals on Wheels of Greenville is supported in its entirety by the generosity of the community through individual and group donations.  Everything from the packaging of the meals to the handing out of routes and the delivery of the meals is done by volunteers.  Visit the website or Facebook page to discover ways you can help continue this vital service to home-bound members of our community.

Categories: Experiences, Philanthropy | 1 Comment

Climb@Blue Ridge

Climb@Blue Ridge Indoor Rock Climbing

Each year, on my birthday, I try something new.  It’s my way of reminding myself that leaving one’s comfort zone is a good thing and should be practiced regularly.  So, Friday afternoon found me clumsily scaling the walls of Climb@Blue Ridge, an indoor rock climbing facility located in Taylors.

Striking a pose with my "fierce" face.

Nervous about climbing and belaying for the first time, I was very pleased with the patient instruction of Barry Gwynn, one of the owners of Climb@Blue Ridge.  From assisting me with putting the harness on correctly to instructing me on proper belay techniques so that my husband did not plunge to the ground whilst climbing, Barry was extremely helpful and informative.  The climbing routes were clearly labeled and rated according to difficulty which enabled me to pick a route that I was capable of climbing to the top of the wall.

A couple of the walls

Climb@Blue Ridge offers climbing clinics, group rates, and memberships as well as great rates on all-inclusive climbing and bouldering.  Want to go climbing but don’t have the gear?  No problem.  Climb@Blue Ridge will rent shoes, a harness, and chalk to you for only $3.  What Climb@Blue Ridge does is make indoor rock climbing enjoyable yet challenging for the novice as well as the more experienced climber.  Rock climbing at Climb@Blue Ridge was a fantastic way to spend my birthday afternoon and I will definitely be a repeat climber.

Climb@Blue Ridge is located at 301 Bulls Road, Taylors, SC 29687 

For hours and information on rates and special events, visit Climb@Blue Ridge online or on Facebook.

Categories: Experiences, Family Fun | Leave a comment

Night Owl Chocolate

For years I’ve felt comfortable calling myself a chocolate lover.  Then I met Makesha Duncan, a woman whose affinity for chocolate is so far beyond my own that I can now only comfortably call myself a chocolate liker.  Throughout culinary school and her jobs in various pastry kitchens, Makesha maintained a passion for creating decadent chocolate treats.  Eventually her passion for chocolate moved beyond creating with chocolate to creating chocolate itself and Night Owl Chocolate was born.

Chocolate in the melanger.

Night Owl Chocolate is the only bean-to-bar chocolate company in the Upstate. Makesha and her husband, Dave, begin each batch of chocolate with single-origin, fair-trade, organic cocoa beans.  After the beans have been hand-sorted to ensure that bad beans do not get into a batch of chocolate, the beans are roasted and crushed.  The crushed beans are winnowed to separate the shells and then the cocoa nibs are juiced to create the chocolate liquor.  The chocolate liquor is ground together with sugar and vanilla beans in a melanger for 30-40 hours straight.  That’s right.  30-40 hours.  The chocolate is then aged, tempered, molded, and packaged.

 Simply typing the words to describe the process of chocolate-making cannot convey the skill and patience required to make an excellent batch of chocolate.  Makesha and Dave spend hours upon hours in their chocolate kitchen, crafting high-quality chocolate.  For them, Night Owl Chocolate is a labor of love resulting in excellent locally made, organic chocolate that delights the taste buds.  When I took my first bite of the 70% Dark Chocolate bar made from Madagascar beans, I knew that Night Owl Chocolate is meant to be savored, not merely eaten.


There are many reasons one might purchase Night Owl Chocolate.  Fine chocolate makes a welcome gift and can be the perfect way to end (or begin) a day.  For me, though, purchasing Night Owl Chocolate means I can enjoy chocolate that has been made in a responsible and ethical manner by passionate and talented people who live in my community.  Indulging my sweet side while supporting my community sounds like a win-win situation to me.

Like Night Owl Chocolate on Facebook to stay up to date on offerings and discover more about chocolate. 

Night Owl Chocolate is currently sold at Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery and The Wild Radish Health Store.  For information about ordering directly from Night Owl Chocolate, email Makesha Duncan:

Categories: Food & Beverage, Gifts, Products | Leave a comment

People Watching: Stephen Boatright

Stephen Boatright

Have you met Stephen Boatright?  If you have not had the pleasure, let me introduce you to this man of many talents.  He is a filmmaker, photographer, and thespian filling his days with a wide variety of creative projects.  Whether directing a film, doing a photoshoot, or working in the theatre, his passion for sharing stories is at the heart of all he does.

Courtesy of Stephen Boatright

Originally from Georgia, Stephen began honing his craft at a young age.  While other children were listening intently to the teacher, he was noticing the way light entered the room differently depending on whether it was coming from an overhead light or from outside the window.  He would frame scenes with his toys using his mom’s 35mm camera that always seemed to lack film.  But the lack of film was unimportant.  Without realizing it at the time, Stephen was learning to focus on the essential image and exclude the superfluous.  It is this talent for framing an image or scene that makes his works so striking.

The ability to differentiate between essential and superfluous has not only been useful in his professional life.  It has also helped him maintain his focus on a journey that has included extended stops in Nashville, NYC, and Los Angeles.  On the wall in his office, a solitary playing card is encased within a frame.  Stephen was in NYC when he picked the ace of hearts up from the ground.  At that time, a studio to call his own seemed like a distant dream.  But that day he determined that the card he picked up when he was trying to find his way in NYC would someday adorn the wall of his very own office.  It is a small but powerful symbol of his determination and perseverance.

What will happen to Emmeline?

Stephen participates in and builds community through his art.  His current project, a film entitled Emmeline Muffet Gives Up Her Tuffet, originated from a one-act play by South Carolina’s own Anne Pecaro.  The cast is entirely made up of local actors including Mae Tromsness, an exceptionally talented 10 year-old playing the title character.  And, while not all of us have the talent or skill to direct or act in a film, Stephen gives everyone an opportunity to be involved in the film’s creation by giving everyone the option to contribute financial support (beginning with as little as $5) in exchange for some pretty sweet perks.

Stephen credits his choice to settle down in Greenville to his wife, Michele Labar, who encouraged him to explore the creative side of the city while they were still dating.  Personally, I think we owe Michele a collective thank-you for convincing this incredibly gifted man to make Greenville his home.  I have no doubt that our community is better off due to Stephen’s passionate involvement.

Be a part of film history by clicking here to contribute to Emmeline Muffet Gives Up Her Tuffet.  Fundraising ends Tuesday, November 22 at midnight. 

Interested in booking Stephen for holiday portraits or headshots for audition season?  Email him:

For more about Stephen and his journey visit his official website or his blog.

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The Community Tap

The place for beer, wine, and awesome people.

Anyone who knows me knows that I like my beer and wine but what brought me to The Community Tap for the first time was my love of Magners Irish Cider.  I walked out of the store with a growler of Magners and an appointment to sit down with one of the owners, Mike Okupinski, to discuss how this great source of craft beers and hand-selected wines came to be a part of the Greenville community.

Craft Beer Goodness

It did not take more than a few moments with Mike to realize that the word community in the store name is more than just clever branding.  When the notion to open up a store focusing on craft beer first came to him nearly three years ago, the first community member to support it was Anna, his wife.  While it was not an easy journey from idea to realization, he found support along the way from friends, local business owners, and his business partner, Ed Buffington and Ed’s wife, Kim.  Ed brought his love and knowledge of wine as well as his willingness to work hard and dream big to the business.  The great relationships Mike and Ed have built with their distributors and the other businesses in the neighborhood also add to the sense that The Community Tap really is about bringing people together.

Fill up a growler with one of ten tap brews.

The Community Tap contributes much more to the community than just a fantastic beer and wine selection.  Works for sale by local artists are displayed in the shop and tasting room and the store served as an in-season site for those with CSA shares from Greenbrier Farms to pick up their farm-fresh food.  Mike and Ed also enjoy sponsoring and participating in various local events.  The Trifecta IPA that you might see on tap at other local restaurants and bars is just another one of the many contributions Mike and Ed have made to the Greenville area.

Meet new friends while enjoying excellent beer and wine.

With the vast array of high quality craft beers, 60 hand-selected wines, ten taps pouring a variety of different brews, locally made Sweeteeth chocolate bars, and an event board filled with information on fun local happenings, it is no surprise that the door to The Community Tap never stays closed for long.  Weekly tastings in the tasting room allow wine and beer lovers to enjoy delicious offerings along with the knowledge and expertise of Mike, Ed, and guest hosts.  Private tasting sessions are also available.  Mike and Ed are more than happy to answer any and all questions and offer personalized recommendations based on a customer’s palate.  Mike, Ed, Whitney, and Daniel make even the quickest visit a pleasant experience.

Hand-Selected Wine Goodness

The Community Tap became my go-to place for beer and wine not simply because of the variety and quality of the offerings but because I am thrilled to support a marvelous local business that truly strives to build and strengthen our community.  Whether you are stocking up for holiday parties and guests or just want to have craft beer or a bottle of wine on hand for the end of a long work day, visit The Community Tap and discover why it truly is a Greenville treasure.

The Community Tap is located at 205 Wade Hampton Blvd. in Greenville. 

Visit The Community Tap’s website or Facebook page to find out more about hours, tap offerings, tasting dates, local events, and more.

Categories: Experiences, Food & Beverage, Leah's Favorites, Products | Leave a comment

Loving Local

The 3/50 Project

Since beginning this website, I have had many opportunities to converse with others about the importance of supporting one’s local community.  People are quick to ask me how I make an income with this site and most are surprised when I tell them that I do not get any income at from it.  One man even asked me why I put in all the time and effort each week if there is not a paycheck at the end of a post.  I told him the truth.  I simply love my local community.

To me, each local shop or restaurant is a physical manifestation of the dreams and determination inside my neighbors.  The charitable organizations in the community are made up of people trying to impart strength, resources, and knowledge to others and doing their best to build a strong, vital, and healthy community.  Local events are ways for people to truly connect with each other and make offline friends.  Attending a performance at a local theatre or listening to a band play at a local venue is more than just entertainment to me.  It is a way for me to support and encourage the dreams and hard work of my fellow community members.

Loving local is more than just a catchphrase to me.  It is a lifestyle based on the idea the best way to occupy Wall Street is to buy from the stores on Main Street.  The best way to build community is to engage in the community.  The best way to grow is to have strong roots.  This week I encourage you to check out the 3/50 Project and show your love to a few of the many fantastic local offerings in the Upstate.

Categories: Entertainment, Experiences, Family Fun, Food & Beverage, Gifts, Leah's Favorites, Philanthropy, Products | Leave a comment

Milano Pizzeria & Restaurant

My favorite place for Greek and Italian goodness.

The holidays are fast approaching and soon there will be an influx of friends and family members pouring into town to enjoy the festivities.  Holiday fare will satisfy up to a point but there will be times when you need something more than turkey or Christmas cookies to sate the appetite.  I recommend Milano in Simpsonville for the times when you need a break from the kitchen or a local place to catch up with a friend.

Save room for dessert.

Milano is my favorite local Greek and Italian restaurant because the food is scrumptious and the portions are generous.  There is also a charming local feel about it.  The atmosphere is conducive to discussing business or enjoying a date-night dinner for two.  Milano offers a wide array of options including pizzas, salads, strombolis, calzones, subs, sandwiches, burgers, Italian dinners, Greek dinners, and a children’s menu.  I personally recommend the Chicken Portofino or the Steak Stromboli.  Start with one of the appetizers and save room for one of the tantalizing desserts.  If you’re  in a hurry or want to make your coworkers jealous, Milano also offers a full carryout menu.  With a friendly staff, plenty of seating, and mouthwatering food, Milano is the perfect place for a meal with friends or family.

Milano is located at 633 Southeast Main Street in Simpsonville and serves lunch and dinner every day.  

Categories: Food & Beverage, Leah's Favorites | Leave a comment

Greenville County Museum of Art

Greenville County Museum of Art

I have a confession.  I have always envied those who can creatively express themselves through painting, sketching, drawing, sculpting, and photography.  While my talent lies in other directions, I am grateful for those who can begin with a blank canvas, scrap metal, or a camera and create something that takes my breath away.  I am also grateful for Greenville County Museum of Art which makes inspiring works of art accessible to everyone in the community.

Admission to the museum is absolutely free which means you can enjoy its offerings with your children, friends, and out-of-town guests without emptying your wallet.  My favorite current exhibit, Golden Legacy: Original Art from 65 Years of Golden Books, is a perfect way for parents and children to enjoy art together.  With an “Eye Spy” activity within the exhibit, children are able to actively engage with the artwork on the walls.  For those with different tastes, the museum offers an impressive collection of works by Jasper Johns.  My favorites were Fragment of a Letter and Painting with Two Balls.  Also featured are paintings from Helen DuPré Moseley, an artist from Spartanburg.

The Museum Shop

Head to Greenville County Museum of Art on a Sunday and you can enjoy Sundays@2.  Events for the remainder of the year include a special tour of Helen DuPré Moseley’s art, sketching with Michael Marks, and a variety of musical offerings.  Visit the museum in December to get in the holiday spirit with family-friendly events.  On your way out of the museum, make sure to stop by the Museum Shop and pick up an art book, note cards, prints, or one of the many other items they offer as a memento or a gift.  With free admission, family-friendly exhibits and events, and excellent artistic displays, visiting Greenville County Museum of Art is an excellent way to enjoy an afternoon.

Visit Greenville County Museum of Art on Facebook or the website for more information, hours, and location.

Categories: Experiences, Family Fun | Leave a comment

The Recycled Reader

Books, books, and more books.

My sister taught me how to read when I was about four years old and I was hooked.  I adore books.  I also adore buying books at bargain prices.  That is one reason why The Recycled Reader is my favorite place for books in the Upstate.  I can easily purchase seven books in one trip and keep the total price under $10.  While the promise of inexpensive books drew me to The Recycled Reader for the first time, it is Jill and Anne that keep me coming back.

Jill and Anne are charming bibliophiles who simply want to share their love of literature with others.  With thousands of books filling the shelves and no computer system to track them all, you might think that they could not possibly know which books they do or do not have at any given time.  You would be wrong.  They will eagerly help you find the exact book you are looking for or provide recommendations if you are not sure what to read next. If they do not have a book you want in stock, they will happily take your name and number and then hunt for it at book sales for you.  Browsing through shelf upon shelf in search of a book on your own is made simpler by the time and attention Jill and Anne spend to ensure that each book is properly placed according to genre and author.

Lucy and her baby.

In addition to the astonishing array of inexpensive reading material at The Recycled Reader, one can enjoy the animal life on the property.  Lucy and Radar, the two resident adult llamas, are the proud parents of a three-week old llama.  Jill and Anne love to show the llamas and goats to anyone who is interested in seeing them.  With the goats, llamas, cats, dogs, and the Happy Cow cows relaxing in the pasture across the road, The Recycled Reader is a place children love to visit.

 With books ranging from South Carolina history to baking, classics to popular fiction, and children’s books to adult nonfiction, The Recycled Reader truly has something for every reader.  This local bookshop is a must-visit for anyone who enjoys books, bargains, or friendly conversation with truly delightful people.

The Recycled Reader is located at 321 McKelvey Road, Pelzer, SC just down the road from Happy Cow Creamery.

Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

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