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Maintenance Must-Dos for Homeowners to Complete this Fall: Part 1


It’s that time of year again. The leaves have begun their transformation from green to golden yellow, orange and red, and a tinge of crispness can be felt in the cool air. Fall has officially arrived, and with it comes a checklist of household chores that everyone homeowner should complete before the cold winter days looming on the distant horizon catch up to them. Follow these maintenance must-dos for homeowners within the next few weeks, and you’ll be able to kick back and relax with a cup of hot apple cider knowing your property is in top-notch shape for the seasons to come.

Stock up on Supplies

Photo: Reader’s Digest

Whether you anxiously await on the onset of winter weather or you absolutely dread the cold that’s sure to come, stocking up on seasonal supplies is one of the simplest and most effective ways to gear up for the snow, ice and possible power outages that often accompany the season. No one wants to think about snow shovels and ice melt when it’s still warm enough to enjoy the great outdoors without having to put on a parka; however, when it comes to stocking up on winter supplies, the old adage “better safe than sorry” definitely applies.

Photo: Larson LawnScape

Rather than wait until the first flakes of snow—or, worse, a surge of sleet—begins to fall and then rushing to the store in inclement weather to grab supplies, shop for winter necessities well before you will actually need them. The specific items you’ll need to purchase depend on what geographic region you reside in and what types of climate you typically experience, but you can’t go wrong with bags of pet-safe ice melt, shovels and ice scrapers. 

Photo: DIY Network

If your home is in an area that receives significant snowfalls throughout the winter months, be sure to have your snowblower serviced so you aren’t surprised with a faulty piece of equipment that refuses to work the first time you try to start it for the season. Don’t forget to fill your portable gas container with fuel and store it in a safe spot so you can easily access it when it’s time to clear your driveway and sidewalks of that chilly powder that falls from the sky.  

Photo: Consumer Reports

You can’t put a price tag on the peace of mind that comes with realizing your walkway is quickly filling up with snow and knowing you’ve got a sufficient shovel and several bags of ice melt safely stocked in your garage or basement—stock up this fall and save yourself the trouble of grabbing gear when everyone else in town is rushing to get it!

Trim Trees to Prevent Property Damage

Photo: Post and Courier

 You don’t have to live along a hurricane-prone part of the coastline to know that strong winds can topple even the tallest of trees and toss them around like matchsticks. Dozens of people are killed in their home or their home each year when a strong storm rolls through, bringing with it enough rain to over-saturate a tree’s roots—or winds so intense they rip a tree from its foundation and send it hurtling into a home. But did you ever stop to think about how the trees in your very own yard can pose a threat to your property and your family in the dead of winter?

Photo: Riverhead News & Review

Winter storms can result in high winds that whip through neighborhoods and cause even the sturdiest of trees to break loose from the ground, potentially falling onto residences and harming those inside. Likewise, ice storms can coat the limbs of trees with layers of thick, heavy sheets of ice that cause them to snap loose from trees and fall on anything that stands below.

Photo: Alyse Lansing Garden Design

To ensure your family and your home are safe this winter—and to prevent damage from fallen trees from potentially injuring your loved ones or resulting in having to file a claim with your insurance company—use this time to take inventory of the trees on your property and to determine if any are in danger of being damaged this season. Be on the lookout for dead branches or diseased trees, which are most likely to fall victim to sheets of ice or strong winds first. Trim the damaged portions off the tree to avoid branches or limbs wreaking havoc on your residence when a winter storm hits. Trees that are leaning toward your property or that have grown just a little too close to your home for comfort should also be trimmed back, removed or relocated if possible to protect your home and its occupants this holiday season.    

Test Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Monitors

Photo: WCCO CBS Local

Nothing is more important than the safety of your family and your pets, regardless of what season it may be. Although smoke detectors in your home should be checked to ensure they are in working order once every single month, batteries are generally replaced only twice a year—and fall is the perfect time to do it.

When winter weather arrives, you’ll be trading air conditioning for central heat and ceiling fans for portable, plug-in heating devices, which can present a fire hazard when not used properly or monitored carefully. Most heated blankets manufactured within the past few years feature an automated shutoff mechanism that prevents them from overheating and potentially catching fire; however, many older products don’t turn off after being in use for a set amount of time, putting our property—and your family—at serious risk.      

Photo: Clarksville Online

Because so many products and devices are used during the winter months to heat your home and personal space, it’s imperative to replace the batteries and check your smoke detectors in the fall to ensure they are in working order and can alert you to a fire if necessary. But fire isn’t the only threat homeowners face during the winter. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 20,000 people are exposed to carbon monoxide each year and end up in the emergency room. In addition, 4,000 individuals will require hospitalization for their illness, and more than 400 people die as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning—many of them while sleeping in their own homes, unaware that they have been exposed to the deadly gas that can be generated by something so seemingly harmless as a furnace.

This odorless, colorless and tasteless gas is extremely difficult to detect, and while the initial systems are similar to those that come with a common cold or flu—such as headache, nausea, dizziness and weakness—coming into contact with carbon monoxide can ultimately result in carbon monoxide poisoning or even death. Don’t let your family risk a dangerous encounter carbon monoxide this season. Purchase a few carbon monoxide detectors for various rooms in your home online or at your local hardware store, and rest assured knowing your loved ones are safe from this difficult-to-detect substance that has been coined the “the silent killer.”

**Check Coastal Cottage Company’s blog next week for more helpful and important tips for preparing your property for the upcoming winter season!





The Move of the Millennium: Moving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse

Photo: Photography Life

When it comes to landmarks along the Outer Banks of North Carolina, none are as well-known or frequently visited as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse. The iconic lighthouse—which stands 193 feet in height—is the tallest lighthouse in the United States and attracts approximately 200,000 visitors each year, making it one of the most popular attractions from Corolla to Ocracoke Island. Situated in the heart of Buxton on Hatteras Island, the famous black-and-white spiraled structure has stood watch over the Graveyard of the Atlantic for centuries, warning sailors of the treacherous sandbars and shifting shoals that lie just off the coast of barrier islands.

Photo: National Geographic

However, in 1999—nearly 200 years after the construction process was complete and the lighthouse was lit for the very first time—the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse found itself threatened by the ever-encroaching Atlantic Ocean. Decade after decade of converging currents, strong surf and storms ranging from minor nor’easters to massive hurricanes caused the ocean to slowly but surely swallow up stretches of the sandbar on which the lighthouse stood, leaving the tower increasingly vulnerable to the white-capped waves and the threat of imminent destruction.

Photo: National Park Service

In 1893, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse was recorded as standing 1,500 feet from the shoreline, but less than a century later, in 1975, only 175 feet stood between the structure and the pounding surf. When cracks were found in the walls of the tower, the lighthouse was closed to the public. Five years later, when the lighthouse stood just 50 feet from the ocean, U.S. Senator Helms and North Carolina Gov. Hunt teamed up with others who feared the damaged structure would be lost to the sea if left in its current condition, and the Save the Lighthouse Committee was formed. The National Park Service requested an independent study of the lighthouse’s precarious position be performed, and the results included the recommendation that the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse eventually be moved to a spot farther away from the sea.

Photo: Pinterest

Attempting to buy some time before the structure had to be relocated, the National Park Service called for restoration of the cracks in the tower that had forced the closure of this Outer Banks landmark. The restoration process began in 1990, and once the cracks were fixed and visitors could once again safely climb the 257 steps inside the lighthouse to reach the top, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse reopened to the public in 1993. In the years that followed, the erosion continued, and the epic waves that attract so many surfers to the Cape Hatteras National Seashore each year had stripped away all but a small sliver of sandbar that separated the base of the tower from the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo: Lighthouse Friends

In order to save the lighthouse from eventual devastation, the National Park Service had to pick one of three options for ultimately preventing the structure from falling into the sea: reinforcing the existing jetties that were designed to stretch into the surf and reduce the impact of wave action on the island; constructing a seawall around the lighthouse so that it would eventually end up sitting atop its own island in the ocean; or move it to a safer location a bit further inland. Although there was widespread support for all three options, in the end it was determined that the best option for protecting the tower was moving the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse farther away from the surf that constantly threatened it. In 1998, the U.S. Congress passed a relocation budget, and the plans to perform the so-called “move of the millennium” were officially prepared.

Photo: National Park Service

Although smaller lighthouses had been moved in other coastal states in years past, moving the tallest lighthouse in the United States was no small feat—and no structure of its scale had ever been relocated before. A New York-based company called International Chimney Corp. was contracted to move the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with the help of another contractor, Expert House Movers of Maryland. In order to move the structure from its perilous position by the sea, the lighthouse—which weighed 4,830 tons—would have to be lifted off its foundation and transferred to a transport system that would ultimately move it along a predetermined route to its new location, where it would be placed atop an all-new foundation.

Photo: Island Free Press

The first step in the process of moving the lighthouse was to replace the original foundation with temporary supports and shoring beams. A series of cross beams and main beams were then set, allowing the temporary supports to be moved. The structure was then raised six feet off its foundation by hydraulic jacks that were built into the main beams. Once the structure was raised, rollers and roll beams were inserted. The jacks were shored with the use of oak cribbing, and the system was pressurized and lifted again by the jacks. As the structure was lifted off its foundation a little at a time, the jacks were retracted and shored up several times before it was once again lifted to six feet and ready to begin its journey down a pathway through the sand to its new location nearly 3,000 feet from the spot where it currently stood.

Photo: Pinterest

On June 17, 1999, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse captured the attention of people across the country and around the world, as it started its slow and deliberate journey to the southwest. The support frame moved along its track to the new location with the assistance of roller dollies and steel track beams that served as rails. The lighthouse was kept carefully aligned by three zones of hydraulic jacks, which prevented the structure from swaying and potentially tipping over. The support frame was pulled forward toward the new lighthouse location just five feet at a time by a series of push jacks that were clamped to the track. Sixty automated sensors placed in various positions on the lighthouse constantly measured the load’s tilt and vibration, and a weather sensor attached to the top of the lighthouse kept tabs on the temperature and wind speed throughout the entire moving process.


Three weeks after the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse began its 2,900-foot journey from its perilous perch on the edge of the Atlantic Ocean the move was complete, and the structure was placed on top of its new foundation. The lighthouse joined several other structures that had been relocated from the original lighthouse site earlier that year, including the principal keeper’s quarters, the double keeper’s quarters, an oil house and cisterns. Finally saved from years spent facing the risk of tumbling into the ocean that had continuously eroded the shoreline over which it stood watch for centuries, the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse reopened to the public on November 13, 1999, and once again resumed its status as one of the most iconic landmarks on the Outer Banks of North Carolina.   










The Background of Blackbeard the Pirate’s Flagship Vessel


The waters off the coast of the Outer Banks of North Carolina have claimed the lives of thousands of ships throughout the past several centuries. However, few vessels that have met their fate in their shoals along the Graveyard of the Atlantic are as well-known as the one sailed by a pirate named Edward Teach—better known as Blackbeard—in the early 1700s. In true pirate fashion, Blackbeard commandeered the merchant vessel—which he renamed the Queen Anne’s Revenge—then overtook its crew and outfitted the ship with a series of armaments he would need to wreak havoc on the high seas and earn his title as one of the most notorious pirates who has ever lived.

Photo: Trip Advisor

Although Blackbeard—who was seen as a menace by merchants and a threat to the supplies sailing in and out of area ports—was killed by a lieutenant in the Royal Navy in 1718, the whereabouts of his infamous vessel remained a mystery for hundreds of years, until it was discovered at the bottom of the ocean in 1996. The flagship of Blackbeard’s small fleet of ships, the Queen Anne’s Revenge was a 200-ton frigate built in Rochefort, France. Originally named La Concorde, the ship was owned by Rene Montaudoin—a prominent French merchant who ran a slave-trafficking company—and used primarily for slave-trading operations. According to the Queen Anne’s Revenge Project, the ship operated out of a port in western France called Nantes, which was situated at the mouth of the Loire River and became the heart of the French slave trade during the 18th century.

Photo: Leah Marie Brown Historicals

From 1713 to 1717, La Concorde made three journeys. Each trip, the vessel was stocked with trade goods at the port of Nantes during the spring, and then it sailed south to the west coast of Africa, where its captain was responsible for purchasing enslaved Africans who would be kept as “cargo.” La Concorde would then set sail from the shores of Africa and head to the New World—a transatlantic voyage that typically took up to two months. The 500-plus slaves transported as human cargo during each trip were typically taken to islands in the Lesser Antilles, where they were sold as laborers to work in the sugar cane fields. Once the enslaved Africans were taken off La Concorde, the ship was loaded with new cargo—often sugar from the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe—before it set off en route to France once again.

Photo: Replica of the Queen Anne’s Revenge pirate flag

During La Concorde’s third and final voyage transporting slaves from Africa to these island nations, the vessel was sailing through the shipping lanes of the Caribbean—an area known for the presence of pirates who would commandeer the ships and ruthlessly pillage any trade goods they found onboard. On November 28, 1717, La Concorde was captured by Blackbeard and his pirate crew as the ship was sailing near the island of Martinique. Blackbeard quickly converted the former merchant vessel into a ship better suited for acts of piracy, mounting 40 guns on the 103-foot-long frigate and renaming her the Queen Anne’s Revenge.


Blackbeard and his crew of 300-plus men—including some who had worked aboard La Concorde before it was plundered—continued to sail back and forth between Africa and the islands of the Caribbean, attacking merchant ship after merchant ship along the way. Eventually, his flotilla made its way up the Eastern Seaboard to South Carolina, where Blackbeard famously blockaded the port of Charleston and looted virtually every vessel that sailed into or out of what was at that time one of the busiest ports in the southeastern United States. After successfully plundering dozens of ships in South Carolina, Blackbeard headed up the coast toward the Outer Banks, where he would frequently anchor the Queen Anne’s Revenge in the waters of Ocracoke Inlet—a high-traffic waterway that vessels making their way from the open ocean to mainland settlements along the Pamlico Sound frequently passed through.

Photo: Daily Mail

However, during a voyage that took his flotilla of pirate ships farther south, toward the Shackleford Banks on June 10, 1718, Blackbeard ran the Queen Anne’s Revenge aground on a sandbar near Beaufort Inlet. Supplies and stolen goods from other vessels were quickly transferred from his flagship to a smaller vessel in his flotilla, and Blackbeard and his crew escaped the ordeal. The damaged Queen Anne’s Revenge, however, was left stranded on the sandbar, where it eventually was claimed by the shifting shoals and the waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

Photo: Queen Anne’s Revenge Project

The notorious 18th century pirate was later killed in combat on November 22, 1718, when he and his crew were the recipients of a surprise attack by British sailors who sought to put an end to piracy. For centuries, the exact whereabouts of his sunken flagship were unknown—that is until a marine archaeology team found what they believed to be the wreckage of the Queen Anne’s Revenge on November 21, 1996. Strewn along the seafloor, the team discovered several 18th century artifacts, including anchors and cannons. In 2004, the site where the Queen Anne’s Revenge was found at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean was officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and many of the artifacts were transported to a conservation lab in Greenville, North Carolina, where visitors can view these pieces of piracy up close and personal during a tour of the facility.

*Stay tuned for our upcoming blog about the discovery of the Queen Anne’s Revenge off the coast of North Carolina as well as the numerous centuries-old artifacts that were found within the wreckage of Blackbeard the pirate’s famous flagship.

A Look Back at Hurricane Matthew

Photo: WTVR

In the wake of Hurricane Harvey, which produced devastating flooding throughout Texas and Louisiana in late August, all eyes were on Hurricane Irma—a massive Category 5 hurricane whose projected path put the Outer Banks of North Carolina in the potential crosshairs until a shift in its positioning caused the incredibly destructive storm to change its route and make landfall along the Florida Keys instead.

Although the Outer Banks dodged a bullet when the record-breaking hurricane the size of Texas struck the Sunshine State, the thin string of barrier islands that hug the North Carolina coast has not always been so lucky. In the past several decades, the Outer Banks have been hit with a slew of storms the wreaked havoc on the popular vacation destination. Perhaps the most destructive hurricane to recently strike the region was Hurricane Matthew, an enormous storm whose effects on eastern North Carolina will be recorded in history books and forever be remembered by those who experienced it firsthand.

Photo: CNN

Hurricane Matthew originated as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa nearly one year ago, on Sept. 22, 2016. Six days later, the wave became a tropical storm near the Lesser Antilles, and it reached hurricane status the next day north of Venezuela. From there, Hurricane Matthew—the 13th named storm of the 2016 hurricane season and the second major hurricane—rapidly intensified into a Category 5 on Oct. 1, making it the first Category 5 hurricane to form in the Atlantic Ocean since Hurricane Felix in 2007.   

Photo: Stephanie Banfield, Seaside Vacations Outer Banks

On Oct. 8, 2016, Hurricane Matthew—which weakened while crossing landmasses throughout the Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Cuba—made landfall in South Carolina as a strong Category 1 storm. Tracking northward, Hurricane Matthew moved up the southeastern United States and into North Carolina, bringing with it massive amounts of rainfall that overwhelmed waterways throughout the Tar Heel State and resulted in substantial flooding that prompted evacuations and roof rescues in several cities.

Photo: Outer Banks Drone

Although storm surge from the ocean and the sounds contributed to some of the damage, the majority of the devastation caused by Hurricane Matthew was due to prolonged periods of heavy rain. Large portions of the Outer Banks experienced so much unprecedented flooding in low-lying areas that water levels rose to upward of four feet in several neighborhoods, most of which were not prone to flooding, leaving residents immensely unprepared. From Corolla to Kill Devil Hills to Hatteras Island, unelevated homes were submerged by flood waters, vehicles were destroyed, parts of Highway 12 collapsed and washed away, and downed trees knocked out power to much of the region for several days.

Photo: Stephanie Banfield, Seaside Vacations Outer Banks

Emergency management officials estimated that 4,000 properties were affected in Dare County alone, resulting in $40 million in damages. While no fatalities were reported on the Outer Banks due to Hurricane Matthew, the storm was responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,000 people—20 of which were in North Carolina—as it made its way from the Caribbean to Cape Hatteras before turning and heading once again out to sea. According to National Geographic, Hurricane Matthew was “one of the most destructive storms of recent years” and, according to some experts, could serve as “an indication of extreme [weather] events to come.”




Richard Etheridge & the Pea Island Life-Saving Station: Part 1

Photo: Bowman Murray Architects
Photo: Pinterest

When most visitors to the Outer Banks hear the words “Pea Island,” images of a windswept wildlife refuge that stretches from sea to sound on the northern tip of Hatteras Island often come to mind first. But for those familiar with the storied past of the barrier islands off the coast of North Carolina, such words don’t just conjure thoughts of a location known for exceptional shelling spots and opportunities to see a wide array of wildlife in their natural habitats—the area is synonymous with one of the most important groups of people in Outer Banks history: the surfmen of the life-saving station at Pea Island.  

Decades before thousands of vacationers venturing to the Outer Banks for a week of rest and relaxation began spending time on Pea Island National Wildlife Refuge during their stay, this narrow sliver of sand just south of Oregon Inlet served as the location of the U.S. Life-Saving Service’s Station 17. Founded in 1871, the U.S. Life-Saving Service was tasked with ensuring the safe passage of sailors aboard vessels that made their way up and down the shipping lines along the Eastern Seaboard. The shifting shoals off the Outer Banks of North Carolina proved extremely treacherous for even the most experienced of sailors to navigate, resulting in so many dozens of shipwrecks over the years that the region was subsequently dubbed “the Graveyard of the Atlantic.”

Photo: Pinterest

For Station 17, architect J. Lake Parkinson designed a boathouse-type structure to be erected on the sandbar overlooking the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean. Featuring rustic wood walls, dormers to allow light to splash onto second floor, and a crow’s nest that offered a 360-degree view of the surrounding area, the life-saving station became home to a crew of seven surfmen led by the now-infamous Richard Etheridge. Although it was one of seven life-saving stations to be constructed along the North Carolina coast during this time period, Station 17 was unique in that it was the only station in the country manned by an all-black crew. Born a slave in January 1842, Etheridge enlisted in the Union army in August 1863, shortly after the North invaded the Outer Banks—and with considerable Civil War experience under his belt, he joined the U.S. Life-Saving Service upon his return home from the war.  

Photo: Pinterest

Continuously faced with the grave and imminent danger posed by strong currents, rough seas and frequent storms off the North Carolina coast, the surfmen at Station 17 had their work cut out for them each day they reported for duty. Though Etheridge was, at one time, one of only eight African-Americans serving in the entire U.S. Life-Saving Service, his sharp skills and superior leadership abilities quickly led to his promotion, and he soon became the first black keeper to serve in the U.S. Life-Saving Service.

Etheridge and his all-black crew on Pea Island earned a reputation for operating “one of the tautest [life-saving stations] on the Carolina coast,” and made headlines when they rescued nine crew members off the E.S. Newman, a three-masted schooner that had veered 100 miles off course in a storm on Oct. 11, 1896. Etheridge and his fellow surfmen fought massive waves, pouring rain and blowing wind for hours on end as they repeatedly ventured into the ocean and back to the shore 10 times to save every sailor from the E.S. Newman—an effort for which the Station 17 crew was posthumously awarded a Gold Lifesaving Medal on the mission’s 100 anniversary in 1996.

Photo: Hatteras Realty

The Pea Island life-saving station, its crew and, most notably, its leader, keeper Richard Etheridge, played a pivotal role in the history of both the Outer Banks and the U.S. Life-Saving Service, which would later evolve into the modern-day United States Coast Guard. After 20 years of service at Station 17, Etheridge fell ill at the age of 58 and passed away in January 1900. The life-saving services provided by the station continued to be operated by an all-black crew until the end of World War II, and the station was officially decommissioned in 1947. Shortly after the turn of the 21st century, William Charles Bowser—one of the last living surfmen to serve at the station—passed away in June 2006, at the age of 91. In March 2010, Herbert Collins—the surfman who had secured the locks on Station 17 on the day it officially closed—also passed away.

Photo: Seaside Vacations Outer Banks

Although the life-saving station at Pea Island sat empty for decades and was left to deteriorate in the harsh conditions that characterize the desolate sandbar on the edge of the earth, the structure underwent an extension renovation in 2008. Stay tuned for our next story, which will highlight the renovations performed on this life-saving station that has earned a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

3 Easy Ways to Update Your Home Without Breaking the Bank

Photo: Pinterest

Are you sick of your home’s boring, unimaginative style, or growing tired of its dingy, dated décor? Do you wish you could update your home’s appearance but can’t afford the cost that comes with a full-on renovation? We’ve all been there. If you’re searching for a few quick and easy ways to significantly enhance your home’s aesthetic appeal without breaking the bank, follow these three tips for refreshing your living space while sticking to a super-strict budget.

Pick Out New Paint

There’s no easier or more inexpensive way to give your home a brand-new look than swapping out the stale colors that currently coat your walls for bright and vibrant hues that welcome you when you walk through the door. While some do-it-yourselfers steer clear of painting projects because of the perceived hassle, you won’t find a better bang for your buck on a budget home renovation project anywhere else.

Photo: Pinterest

For the best results, select shades that evoke moods which correspond to each room you plan to update. Cool colors—like blue, green, gray and lavender—call forth feelings of peace, calm and tranquility, making them the perfect choice for bedrooms. Warm colors—ranging from yellow and orange to red and pink—can have a stimulating effect and are therefore are great option for home offices, accent walls, or living rooms, dens and kitchens.

Photo: Pinterest

In addition to altering the types of feelings a certain room evokes, the paint color you choose to display on your walls can also help to change the perception of a specific room’s size. If your goal is to make a small space seem a little bit larger, opt for a cool color—like a deep blue or aqua—which can help to open or “expand” a space as the color appears to recede. Warm colors, by contrast, have a tendency to “advance” toward you when you step into a room, making large rooms feel more intimate and cozy. Whatever hues you pick from your preferred palette, giving your home a much-needed pop of color is a surefire way to completely overhaul its appearance for the minimal cost of a few cans of paint and a handful of brushes.

Update Cabinet Pulls and Bathroom Faucets


Another simple and inexpensive way to take your home’s décor from drab to fab is to replace dated fixtures with ones that are bright, shiny and new. Few aspects of your home get used more frequently than the fixtures throughout, and whether you realize it or not, coming into contact with ones that don’t wow you—or, worse, ones that remind you that your home is in desperate need of some upgrades—can play a pivotal role in the way you feel about the space you call home.

Photo: Anthropologie

Take a moment to think about just how many times each day and night you handle the fixtures throughout your residence. Whether it’s the leaky handles on your bathroom faucet you struggle to turn each time you wash your hands, or those ugly, sticky cabinet pulls you’re forced to grab every time you time you make a meal or put away a plate, the less-than-impressive fixtures found in your house can have more of an effect on your mood than you might think.

Photo: Etsy

From brass and bronze to copper, chrome, nickel and gold-plated, the options available are virtually endless. Head to your local hardware store to search for a style that fits your needs, personal style and your budget—or browse online retailers via websites like Etsy for a product you can customize right down to the color and texture. You’ll be amazed at how adding an updated set of fixtures to your home can drastically change the entire look of a kitchen or bathroom for anywhere from $50 to a couple hundred dollars. Just make sure you stick with one style and color scheme throughout to keep your home looking uniform and avoid creating an awkward contrast from one room to another.  

Upgrade Your Lighting Fixtures

Photo: Birchlane

When it comes to mood-boosting home improvements that won’t put a major dent in your wallet, installing new lighting fixtures should rank at the top of your to-do list. Much like the pieces of furniture you’ve chosen to decorate the interior of your home tell a story about a homeowner’s personal style and preference, lighting fixtures create an immediate ambience that determines both the look at feel of your space. If you long to come home after a long day at the office and lay back and relax with your four-legged friend, you probably wouldn’t choose a stiff couch with an expensive, scratchy fabric for your living room—you probably prefer a plush and comfy couch that welcomes you and your guests to kick off your shoes and make yourselves at home.

Photo: Pinterest

The same is true for lighting fixtures. There are thousands of styles available today—pendants, track lighting, wall sconces, chandeliers and more—and the odds of your home having one that speaks to your particular style upon move-in are slim. Fortunately, updating your lighting fixtures is an easy and relatively cheap task. Once you’ve selected a style that suits your personal tastes, narrow your options down to individual fixtures that blend in well with the rest of your home. If you just outfitted your kitchen cabinets with brand-new brushed-nickel drawer pulls, for example, don’t install a brass lighting fixture over the dining room table.

Photo: Pinterest

Look for sleek and sophisticated styles that contribute to the overall feel of the space but don’t draw too much attention to the fixtures themselves. Just as the knobs or pulls in your kitchen serve as an accent to the cabinets themselves, the lighting fixtures you install should complete the look you’re going for without attracting too much of the attention as the focal point in any particular room. Switch out a cumbersome and dated chandelier for a trendy, colorful pendant that’s more your style, or install under-cabinet lighting or recessed lighting in rooms with low ceilings that can’t easily accommodate a hanging fixture without making the room feel even shorter than it already is.  

Photo: Pinterest

Once you’ve enhanced your home’s aesthetic appeal by installing updated lighting fixtures, experts recommend updating the types of bulbs you use in order to complete the ambience you are trying to achieve. Avoid harsh fluorescent lighting and stick instead to incandescent bulbs—which offer a warm and inviting atmosphere—or halogen bulbs, which emit a soft, white light that is the closest you’ll find to the look of natural daylight.

The space you live in is your sanctuary, and with just a few minor and inexpensive updates to the key components of your property, you can enhance the look and feel of your residence to make it feel less like a house and more like a home—all at a fraction of the cost of a total renovation.


The Legend of Blackbeard the Pirate


A popular vacation destination that attracts tens of thousands of visitors to its pristine stretches of shoreline each summer, the Outer Banks of North Carolina is home to a wealth of historical attractions. From the site where the Wright Brothers made the first successful powered flight on Dec. 17, 1903, to the place where some of the first English settlers vanished from Roanoke Island without a trace, the region has witnessed the happenings of an assortment of events that have since made their way onto the pages of history books. But when it comes to the people that put the beaches of these barrier islands onto the map centuries ago, few are more well-known than the infamous pirate by the name of Blackbeard.


Blackbeard the pirate—whose given name was reportedly Edward Teach—was born in Bristol, England, in 1680. Like the majority of pirates of his time—who sought to earn their fortunes and ultimately return home without soiling their family name—relatively little information is known about Blackbeard’s upbringing. It is believed by historians, however, that his first foray into piracy likely took place around the 1714 conclusion of Queen Anne’s War, during which Edward Teach served as a privateer aboard ships sailing out of Jamaica. When the war was over, Teach relocated his base of operations from Jamaica to the island of New Providence in the Bahamas, where he served an apprenticeship under Captain Benjamin Hornigold—the man who founded the pirate republic in the Bahamas.

Photo: Queen Anne’s Revenge Project

With one of the most influential pirates in history as his mentor, Edward Teach—by now referring to himself as Blackbeard in honor of the long, black beard he often wore in tiny braids secured by thin ribbons of various colors—quickly learned the ins and outs of piracy. The pair of pirates enjoyed considerable success on the high seas, commandeering many large merchant vessels sailing through the shipping lanes of the Caribbean and ruthlessly pillaging to acquire the goods onboard. Although Blackbeard and Hornigold made a top-notch team, Hornigold soon deemed the fortune he had amassed from plundering sufficient and retired from piracy in 1718. With Hornigold giving up piracy to become a planter on the island of New Providence, Blackbeard took the skills he had learned during his apprenticeship set out on his own.

Photo: Pinterest

His first order of business was to convert the Concord—a large French ship that he and Hornigold had captured together—into a vessel better suited for piracy. He mounted 40 guns onboard the ship and renamed her the Queen Anne’s Revenge. With a crew of 300 men, some of whom had served as crew aboard the Concord before it was commandeered by Hornigold and Blackbeard, the Queen Anne’s Revenge was ready to set sail in search of merchant ships whose booty could be plundered. According to historical accounts of Blackbeard’s escapades during the early 1700s, the vast majority of crews whose ships were overtaken by the ferocious pirate surrendered without a fight.    

Photo: Pinterest

By the late spring of 1718, Blackbeard’s piracy career had reached soaring new heights. He was the proud commander of at least a half dozen pirate ships, which at one time blockaded the harbor in Charleston, South Carolina, looting every vessel that sailed in and out of the entrance to one of the busiest ports in the southeastern United States. Following the success of the blockade, Blackbeard and a portion of his flotilla sailed further north to present-day Beaufort Inlet in North Carolina, and later to Ocracoke Inlet on the Outer Banks. In the summer of 1718, Blackbeard and about 20 members of his crew sailed through the Ocracoke Inlet and into the Pamlico Sound, heading for the nearby town of Bath, North Carolina. Sensing that the golden age of piracy was coming to a close soon, Blackbeard made his home in the tiny town on the Pamlico River and married his 14th wife, the daughter of a local planter.

Blackbeard the Pirate’s signature pirate flag.

Unable to resist the lure of the lucrative career of piracy for long, Blackbeard eventually set sail once again and continued to loot vessels and bring the stolen goods back to Bath. The pirate frequently anchored his flagship, the Queen Anne’s Revenge, in Ocracoke Inlet, which served as the spot where the most of the ocean-bound vessels from mainland settlements had to pass through in order to reach the open water. Despite the number of ships Blackbeard had such easy access to in and around Ocracoke Inlet, his crew on the Outer Banks was significantly smaller than it had been in years past—leaving him vulnerable to an attack by those who sought to rid the barrier islands of piracy forever.


Having grown frustrated with the infamous pirate and his frequent—and typically successful—attempts to pillage their vessels, the people of North Carolina sought the help Alexander Spotswood, the governor of Virginia. Gov. Spotswood compiled a crew of British naval officers and sent them under the leadership of Lieutenant Robert Maynard to Ocracoke Island in search of Blackbeard. At dawn on Nov. 22, 1718, Blackbeard and his crew were on the receiving end of a ferocious attack by the British sailors.

According to reports, Blackbeard suffered 25 wounds—five of which were gunshot wounds—before finally succumbing to his injuries. To claim the bounty on his head and prove to the governor he had indeed slaughtered one of the most notorious pirates to ever sail the seven seas, Maynard beheaded Blackbeard and displayed the pirate’s head on the bow of the ship as it sailed back to Virginia—a sign to all who witnessed it that the age of piracy in the region had finally come to an end.    




Uncover the History of Hatteras Island at the Frisco Native American Museum

Photo: Alterra

When it comes to tourist attractions on the barrier islands of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, the first ones that typically come to mind for most vacationers are the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, Jockey’s Ridge State Park, the Lost Colony and the many fishing piers that extend from the shoreline into the crashing surf along our coastline’s beaches. But for those looking for a unique local attraction that’s a little off the beaten path, a journey to the village of Frisco on Hatteras Island to tour the Frisco Native American Museum is a must.

Photo: Frisco Native American Museum

The Frisco Native American Museum and Natural History Center was founded in 1987 when Carl Bornfield and his wife, Joyce, decided to turn their shared love for historical preservation into an attraction that tourists visiting the Outer Banks on vacation could enjoy during their stay on Hatteras Island. Before it became the museum and natural history center, the building—which is nearly a century old itself—served as a general store, post office and shell shop in decades past.

Photo: Frisco Native American Museum

For the first few years after the museum was opened to the public, its founders—who had full-time jobs as educators outside the museum—only opened its doors for tours Friday through Sunday during the school year and seven days a week during the summer season. In 1989, the owners acquired a tract of land that would be used as a natural trail that winds through the neighboring maritime forest, and a year later, when Carl no longer taught full time, the museum began to stay open six days a week throughout the entire year.

Photo: Frisco Native American Museum

As time went on, the nonprofit museum and history center was slowly expanded to meet the needs of its influx in visitors. In 1991, a pavilion was added along the nature trail, and in 1995—after Hurricane Emily thrust more than three feet of water through the building—a two-story addition was built. This addition would serve was a research facility and expanded storage space; it also freed up space for the founders to convert the area that had been a small gift shop into the natural history center portion of the facility.

Photo: Frisco Native American Museum

As the museum grew more popular among visitors, the need for additional renovations became evident as well. In 2005, the gift shop was relocated and a small bookstore was created, adding more than 1,000 square feet of space to be used as a new display room. The natural history center received the addition of a small observation room that overlooks the bird yard, and a floating dock was built along the nature trail out back.  

Photo: Frisco Native American Museum

The series of renovations the Frisco Native American Museum and Natural History Center has undergone over the years has helped to cement the facility’s status as one of the finest historical attractions on the Outer Banks. Today, the museum features an assortment of displays and artifacts detailing the region’s unique history, and also boasts a wide array of educational and informative programs for visitors of all ages.

Photo: Frisco Native American Museum

This summer, visitors can attend two special programs at the museum. At 2 p.m. on Fridays from through August 25, 2017, museum-goers can experience the “Talking Sticks” program. During this program, attendees are invited to create their own talking stick—a tool that was passed from one speaker to the next when a tribal council was called—and learn how to use it as the natives of Hatteras Island may have centuries ago.

Photo: Frisco Native American Museum

At 3 p.m. on Fridays through August 25, 2017, a program called “Hatteras Island Original Inhabitants: Croatoans” is held at the museum. During this program, attendees will learn about the Croatoans, a group of Native Americans that were some of the very first people to call Hatteras Island and the Outer Banks home. This program explores the archaeological evidence that has been discovered from the Croatans’ time spent on the islands and allows visitors to learn what village life would have been like here in the late 1500s.

Photo: Frisco Native American Museum

For those who don’t just want to tour the facility, attend the programs and browse the displays, the Frisco Native American Museum and Natural History Center will hold its fourth “Volunteer Days” event this fall. From October 27-30, 2017, the nonprofit facility will welcome volunteers on the nature trail to help with the construction of a longhouse and gardens on the property. Whether you’re a vacationer just passing through or a local looking for a one-of-a-kind way to get involved with a historical attraction on Hatteras Island, the Frisco Native American Museum has something to offer everyone who finds themselves on the Outer Banks this season.

Explore H2OBX: The Outer Banks’ New Waterpark

Photo: WFMY

If you’re planning a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina this summer and searching for a unique activity that provides fun for the entire family, look no further than H2OBX, a brand-new waterpark located just across the bridge from Kitty Hawk and Southern Shores in neighboring Currituck County.

Photo: Aquatic Development Group

Conveniently located right off Caratoke Highway in Powells Point, North Carolina, H2OBX is situated directly along the route that tens of thousands of visitors take to reach the barrier island paradise for a weeklong vacation. Read on to find out what you can expect to find when you visit this one-of-a-kind Outer Banks attraction this season.

Photo: H2OBX

Located at 8526 Caratoke Highway, the $46 million-dollar H2OBX waterpark held its grand opening event on June 22. Perfect for days when the red flags are flying and the surf is too rough to get in the ocean, H2OBX boasts an assortment of adventures for kids and adults alike. The waterpark features more than 30 rides, slides and themed attractions, as well as a lazy river, wave pool, lagoon, and 50 private cabanas where you can kick back and relax in resort-like style.

Photo: WAVY

If you’re in the mood for a thrill ride, take the “Paradise Plunge.” This nine-story slide allows riders to climb into a launch capsule which will then be dropped free-fall-style from 90 feet in the air before launching into a 360-degree loop. Sound a little too exciting for you? Take the thrill meter down just a notch or two with a ride on the Rip Tide. The 50-foot-tall tube slide takes riders through a series of twists, turns and steep drop-offs before they reach a 35-foot wall that boomerangs them back and forth.

Photo: H2OBX (Paradise Plunge)

Looking for something a little more family friendly that won’t freak out riders with a fear of heights of sudden, steep drops from the sky? H2OBX features plenty of rides that are perfect for families and young children. Check out the Queen Anne’s Revenge—a ride named after the ship sailed by the legendary Outer Banks pirate Blackbeard in the early 1700s—or sail into Calico Jack’s Cove, a wet ‘n’ wild playground designed for kids of all ages. Children too scared to brave the waves of the Atlantic Ocean can get a similar and safer experience at H2OBX’s Twin Tides Family Wave Beach, a dual-entry pool filled with gently rolling waves.

Photo: H2OBX (Flowrider)
Photo: H2OBX (Lazy River)

If you’re a surfer searching for waves on a day when the ocean isn’t offering what you need, head to H2OBX’s Flowrider, which offers endless waves perfect for surfing or boogie boarding. After a long day of surfing the waves or embarking on one of the dozens of adrenaline-inducing ride, lay back and soak up the sun on a tube ride through the gently flowing waters of the adventure river. This 1,000-foot-long journey takes tubers on a relaxed ride that features a series of waterfalls, geysers and bubbling waters—an adventure not to be missed on your trip to H2OBX waterpark, which offers something for everyone to enjoy on your next Outer Banks vacation.

The Benefits of Rain Barrels and Rain Gardens

Whether you’re looking for an easy way to go green and do your part to protect the environment or you simply want to save a little money all year long, setting up a rain barrel or creating a rain garden on your property will help you to do both.

The Benefits of Rain Barrels & Rain Gardens


By collecting rainwater that falls from the sky and storing it in a tank for later use, you can minimize the amount of water you use from your hose or faucet when watering flowers or the fruits and veggies in your garden. The average rain barrel saves homeowners more than 1,000 gallons of water per year—which translates to savings of up to $50 each month. You’ll also prevent rainwater from flowing down your driveway and into the street, where it collects an assortment of fertilizers, oil and pesticides that ultimately end up in rivers, sounds and oceans, causing harm to the wildlife that call these areas home.

Photo: This Old House

The benefits of rain gardens are similar to those of rain barrels—they also prevent runoff from your property from ending up in area waterways—but this type of rain collection is also a great way to redirect water in your yard to one designated spot, which can relieve flooding issues. In addition to helping to minimize flooding and preventing runoff, rain gardens also offer homeowners a way to conserve water and create a new habitat on their property for wildlife ranging from birds and butterflies to frogs and beneficial insects.  

Types of Rain Barrels

Photo: The Watershed Council

Rain barrels come in a wide array of shapes, sizes and styles, so no matter what your budget or space may be, you’re sure to find the perfect one to fit your needs. Rain barrels are typically made of plastic, and the most common varieties hold around 50 gallons of water that flows off your roof and through downspouts—although bigger options are available and can hold more than 100 gallons once they are full. You can purchase a rain barrel at your local home improvement store—such as Lowe’s or Home Depot—and there is no shortage of options available from online retailers.

Photo: HGTV

Rain barrels are also typically composed of dark-colored plastic, as lighter colors allow sunlight to pass through the container and can result in the growth of algae inside the barrel. Purchasing a rain barrel with a lid is a must, as having a cover on the top of the barrel will keep out children and pets as well as prevent mosquitoes from breeding in the standing water.

Photo: Home Depot

Most rain barrels feature a small spigot, which is used to access the rainwater that is stored inside the unit. And if you’re concerned that a large plastic barrel on your property will harm your home’s curb appeal, fear not: numerous aesthetically pleasing rain barrel options are available—including varieties that boast a deep indention on the top that is designed to be used as a spot for planting flowers, herbs or a miniature vegetable garden.

What is a Rain Garden?

Photo: North Londonberry Township

If your property is prone to flooding or you simply want to help filter runoff and recharge the groundwater supply, building a rain garden in your yard is an easy and inexpensive way to solve all of these issues and then some. Chances are, you drive past several rain gardens in both urban and suburban areas every day and don’t even realize it. Rain gardens are defined as a shallow depression in the soil that contains an assortment of plants and grasses that are native to the region. The goal of a rain garden is to position the depression near a downspout, driveway or some other source of runoff to prevent the water that flows to that area after a rainstorm from continuing on its path and eventually reaching the sewer system or flowing into nearby streams, rivers, sounds or the ocean.

Photo: North Carolina Health News

How to Build a Rain Garden

To determine where on your property you should put a rain garden, wait until the next time a storm rolls in—and then scope out the area to see where the majority of rainwater is pooling up or where it leaves your property and pours into the street or sidewalk. Once you’ve found the spot where water runs to naturally, you can construct a rain garden in the same area to capture the pooling water and prevent it from flowing off your property.

Photo: Seattle Ocean Friendly Gardens Program

When choosing the types of vegetation for your rain garden, it’s important to keep in mind that rain gardens comprise three specific zones. Zone 1 is the centermost area within the rain garden, and because it contains water the majority of the time it should be filled with water-tolerant plants that can withstand standing water for long periods of time. Zone 2 is the middle ring within the rain garden and should be stocked with a mixture of plants that can tolerate standing water occasionally but are also capable of withstanding dry spells. Zone 3, the outer ring of the rain garden, should contain plants or grasses that don’t need much water to survive and thrive, as this zone is rarely full of water for any extended period of time.

Photo: Ocean County Soil Conservation District

By planting a rain garden on your property, you’ll not only enhance your home’s curb appeal—you’ll also help protect the environment by capturing rainwater before it can contribute to runoff and can cause issues for plants and animals within your region.