Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I have a new obsession: cupcakes. It all started a few weeks ago when S & I bought a dozen cupcakes at a little shop in Calabash, NC for my sister's birthday. Then last week, I visited my local cupcakery, and that was all she wrote. I'm especially fond of anything with coconut, although I'm not sure why because normally I don't care for coconut too much. I'm afraid now that my diet is going to go to H-E-double-hockey-sticks. Oh, well. At least it's just one little cupcake (at a time) and not a whole cake or anything.

Time lapse

Mom & Dad's backyard, Sunday afternoon. It was still snowing.

Monday morning at sunrise.
Monday morning, around 9AM.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Snow update

No idea what time the snow started, but when I woke up at 6:30AM, the ground was covered. By 8:30AM (approx. when this photo was taken), we had 3-4 inches, and by noon we were up to 6 inches. Now, at 2PM, it's still snowing. One of my Facebook friends who lives nearby reported "8 inches and counting" just a few minutes ago. This is definitely some sort of record.

There was no traffic on the road this morning, so things were eerily quiet until my cousins Sandra and Anna came over on their four wheeler. Sandra was driving, and Anna was riding on a large empty horse feed sack that was tethered to the four wheeler. We heard that the electricity is out in some areas. Our lights flickered several times, but so far, we're good. The question now becomes . . . when will I get back to Charlotte?!!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

White Christmas?

Merry Christmas from southeastern North Carolina, where we're under a winter storm warning. This is something that hardly ever happens here, yet according to the most recent report, we're expecting anywhere from 4 to 6 inches of snow overnight and tomorrow! I grew up here and never remember having more than 1-2 inches of snow at a time. In fact, most years it doesn't snow at all here, so that should tell you just how unusual this event is. Of course, everyone's excited. I'm told that grocery stores emptied out yesterday as people prepared "just in case" (most stores were closed today for Christmas) and today my Dad suggested for me take my car to town to fill up with gas "just in case." (I hope I'm not sorry later that I didn't take his advice!) Anyway . . . the next 24 hours are sure to be interesting. I'll fill you in when I can.

Hope you had a great holiday! :-)

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Aw, shucks

Last weekend we celebrated my sister's 40th birthday (so hard to believe that my "little" sister is now 40!!!) and my brother-in-law's 41st in true Carolina style. We all drove to the coastal town of Calabash, North Carolina, which is known for its seafood restaurants (our favorite? Ella's. It's worth it to see Ella's photo gallery if you've never been to Calabash.) It's December, which means . . . IT'S OYSTER SEASON!!! Roasted (steamed) oysters is a Carolina favorite, and that's what my sister wanted. [I guess this is where I add the disclaimer that I'm not a big oyster fan, although I did partake, given that it was a birthday celebration and all. Let's just say I took one for the team. LOL!]

To give you an idea of how much of a Carolina tradition this is, my nephew learned how to properly use an oyster knife at the age of three. And my Mom can shuck her way through a bushel of oysters in about thirty seconds. OK, maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but not much.

S and I split a "full roast" of oysters. I have no idea what this means, except that it's twice as much as a half roast. They bring it to you in a big steamer pan with the lid on, and it's REALLY hot. You carefully open up the lid, carefully grab an oyster, carefully take your oyster knife and pop it open, and Voila!

Good times, baby. Good Carolina times. And guess who's becoming quite the pro at shucking (and eating) oysters? That's right, a certain gal who was born in New Jersey and raised in Europe!!! Bet if you'd ask, she'd even give you a tip or two. We might as well go ahead and get her that Carolina Girl hat and make it official. :-)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fear not the nail gun

I did some volunteer work with my local Habitat for Humanity yesterday. As you probably know, this international organization focuses on providing affordable housing for people who need it. The houses aren't free; the homeowner has to be able to make mortgage payments and they also contribute a significant number of hours to the construction. Our supervisor told us that 20% of the cost of a home is in the labor, so by using volunteers, that reduces the price of the home. Of course, there are other variables, such as interest-free loans and donated materials; that makes the home even more affordable.

About a dozen people showed up to lend a hand yesterday. At first, we thought we were going to be painting at a house on the north side (because that's what it said on the web site), but there was a logistical mix-up and we ended up doing trim work at another house, shown above. Being new to construction, I wasn't really sure what "trim work" meant, but I was willing to learn.  I was assigned to work with a team of two other people to measure the base of the walls for three bedrooms. We gave the measurements to a professional, who cut baseboards to our specifications. Then we installed them with a nail gun. At first, I didn't want to use the nail gun. I'd never used one previously. I considered it to be loud and scary. But the supervisor demonstrated how to use it and how to load it, and then encouraged me to give it a try. So I did. It was kind of cool and empowering. I'm not afraid of the nail gun anymore! :-)

After we nailed the baseboards to the studs (which were marked on the drywall), we caulked everything. My caulking gun was defective, so I ended up getting as much of the caulking material on my hands and apron as I did on the walls. Or so it seemed. Oh, well. You can't do construction and NOT get dirty, right?!!

By the time we shut down around 1PM, I was tired and hungry. I walked into the Qdoba on Woodlawn in my dirty construction clothes, not really caring what anyone thought about it. In fact, I kind of liked walking in there looking like that. As heads turned, the feeling of empowerment continued: I AM THE MASTER OF THE NAIL GUN!!! AND I HAVE BURNED ENOUGH CALORIES TODAY TO EAT WHATEVER I WANT!!! Bwhahahahahaha!!!

I enjoyed my experience so much that I can hardly wait to do it again. I just need the right tools and equipment. I already have a hard hat and an apron. After lunch, I visited my local hardware store and bought a hammer, safety goggles, a pair of work gloves, some carpenter pencils, and a bar of Lava soap. Now I just need a pair of steel-toed work boots and I'll be good to go. If I can master the nail gun, can a sander or router or jigsaw be far behind?

Friday night at the local coffeehouse

After dinner at Kabob Grill in Dilworth last Friday night, S & I decided to pop by the coffeehouse next door for lattés and beans. Turns out this is the "original" Dilworth Coffee, which according to our barista opened in 1989. OK, so I haven't yet been to every independent coffee shop in Charlotte, but I have to say that Dilworth Coffee - and in particular, this location - is my favorite so far. I could hang out here all day. Look closely in the photo, and you'll see a sort of self-portrait. :-)

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Southern gothic

We saw lots of Spanish moss on trees in Georgia. It especially likes Live Oaks, but we also saw it on Cypress and other trees. There was a flyer in our Bed & Breakfast that told of the legend of the Spanish moss. It goes sort of like this: back in the olden days, a bearded Spanish sailor "bought" a native woman, intending to make her his, um, wife. To get away from him, she climbed up a tree and from there, jumped into the river below. He climbed up after her, but his beard got caught in the tree. In the meantime, the woman swam away. Not sure what happened to the man, but 400 years later, pieces of his beard are still found in trees all across the Deep South.

While we were in Georgia, we stayed at the Brunswick Manor in the St. Simons Suite. Our gracious and knowledgeable host, Rusty, recommended a restaurant in downtown Brunswick called Cargo Portside Grill, where we had an amazing Saturday night dinner which included lots of Gorgonzola cheese (those who were there will reminisce this trivial statement with a smile). Brunswick also has an amazing wine shop called True Vine. I was rather impressed with their selection. They even had an Austrian Grüner Veltliner, which I rarely find in the States. And Spanish Cava, too!

Anyway, that's the last of the photos and stories from our recent trip to Georgia's Golden Isles. Come back again soon to see what else we've been up to!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deep fried delicacies

I'm a native Southerner who has come back home to the South after many years away. Not too long ago, I would have turned up my nose at deep fried food. But now that I'm back and exposed to it on a daily basis, I have to admit: I love the stuff. I took the photo above at a food vendor's booth at the Arts & Crafts Fair on St. Simons Island Saturday afternoon. Didn't buy anything (since I'd just eaten some local shrimp on Jekyll), but I was tempted. Deep fried, people. That's what it's all about.

P.S. Although it was a serious violation of my diet, I had lunch today at the very famous Price's Chicken Coop in Charlotte. It was the best fried chicken I've ever had. And so worth the dietary setback. :-)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Island time

After the barefoot beach walk on Saturday morning, we drove around Jekyll Island. It's a small island, so that only took a few minutes. Along the way, we saw a movie set and "trailer city" for the upcoming X-Men: First Class movie; we were told that filming would start today. In the center of the island, there are some cute little shops, beautiful old buildings formerly owned by rich folks with last names like Morgan (as in J.P.) and Rockefeller, and the lovely Jekyll Island Club Hotel (above). We had lunch (local shrimp!) at an open-air place called The "Rah" Bar, and then it was time to head over to the other island . . .

St. Simons Island is larger than Jekyll, and more crowded. It's not far, only about a 10-15 minute drive across three bridges and through the town of Brunswick (which I'll write more about in my next entry). St. Simons has a busy downtown and waterfront park, and a lighthouse. An arts and crafts fair was going on, and there was live music in the waterfront park. We walked on the pier, took some photos, and enjoyed the view.

More photos and stories coming soon!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Empty beach

We just returned from a nice weekend getaway with friends to Georgia's Golden Isles, which include Jekyll Island (above) and St. Simons Island. Over the next few entries, I'll be sharing some photos and stories from our trip. Here's the first: The beach on Jekyll Island was empty Saturday morning. We removed our shoes and took a long barefoot walk. Along the way, we saw all kinds of shells and stuff on the shore, like sand dollars (intact!) and horseshoe crabs (some intact, some not!) At one point, we spotted a dolphin swimming parallel to us along the shoreline! Awesome.

Unexpected Thanksgiving


A few weeks ago, on the Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving, I found out that my Aunt Ruthie passed away. Aunt Ruthie (wife of Uncle Bob) had been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer just a few short weeks after I saw her at the family reunion in August. I remember she made a rather enigmatic comment to me as she was leaving to drive back to their home in St. Augustine, Florida: "Well, I guess this'll be my last family reunion." At the time, she didn't know she had a terminal illness. She'd just been having a lot of back pain (which was probably a result of the undetected cancer) and was finding the long car trip to be uncomfortable.  Needless to say, the events of her illness and passing were very upsetting to me, and to others in my family. We all liked Aunt Ruthie a lot, and will miss her terribly. 

It was not a typical Thanksgiving for us. But some good things did happen. I was able to travel to St. Augustine to be with my family and help out during this time; I got to know one of my cousins whom I hadn't seen since I was six years old; and I spent more time with my sister that I have in I don't know when. We experienced good weather, and one afternoon, we were able to get out and see some of the historic district of St. Augustine (above) which is beautiful, especially this time of year with all the Christmas lights everywhere. This was an unexpected Thanksgiving, for sure, but it only magnified for me what I already know: that I have a lot to be thankful for.

And I am thankful.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Forever autumn

These photos were taken yesterday afternoon, so we still have quite a bit of fall color in Charlotte as you can see. Fall was late getting here, but it seems to be sticking around longer than it does in some other places.

Reminds me of the song "Forever Autumn" by Justin Hayward (Moody Blues). I always liked that song regardless of the fact that it's so sad. I'll be sad when the fall color goes away!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall color

When I lived in Indiana, I got used to vibrant fall color which peaked in mid-October. So when mid-October came and went here, I was thinking: "Hmm. I guess the color is more muted here because there are more evergreen trees or whatever." (Twenty years away will make you forget these things.) All I had to do was wait 3 weeks. I took this photo today in Freedom Park. It was another gorgeous Carolina day!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Come on, ride the train

This is the LYNX, Charlotte's light rail. Currently, there's only one line - the Blue line. It runs from Uptown Charlotte to Pineville and back, along South Boulevard. We live close to the Woodlawn station (but not close enough to walk to it, unfortunately).

There was a plan to expand this line out to UNCC and to build a couple of other lines. The Red line was going to go all the way up to the Mooresville area. The Silver line would have gone to Matthews, probably close enough to my office that I could have taken the train everyday.

But then the economy went nuts, and now people don't want their taxes raised. So the future of LYNX is uncertain. This is too bad, because the LYNX is awesome!

Where I'm supposed to be

A lot of people seemed to think I'd fallen on my head when I decided to move to the discount retail industry after working in Big Pharma for a decade. Even one of my cousins admitted: "When I heard you were working at [my new company], I thought: "Man! She's really gone downhill!" I'll admit, for the first few days as I acclimated to my new environment (tiny workstation, grey paint, industrial lighting, no coffee shop) there were a couple of times when I questioned my decision, too.

But something happened Monday morning that reinforced the feeling I've had all along about this job and company. This was the right move for me. I'm where I'm supposed to be.

It wasn't anything complicated or time consuming. The whole event lasted maybe 20 or 30 seconds. My Senior Vice President (who reports to our CEO) was walking past my desk on his way to somewhere else. When he passed my workstation, he stopped. "How are you?" he asked, and we exchanged the usual pleasantries. Then: "I'm hearing really good things about you. So glad you're here with us!" It was a simple but powerful interaction.

My Senior VP stopped by MY cube to talk to ME!!!

When I was with my previous company, I never saw my Senior VP. The VP underneath him was more visible, but I ever actually met the man. I mean, there were at least three people on the org chart between us, and there were several thousand people at my level. I was just krill in a very large ocean.

I've been with my new company for just shy of three months now, and while it's true that I miss some of the perks of my old job (such as the onsite coffee shops (with baristas!), cafeterias, credit union, health center, etc.) I can honestly say that the perks of my current job are vastly superior. The people are great. The work is challenging, but it's also fun. Most importantly, I feel appreciated.

I'm glad I made the switch.

Monday, November 1, 2010

My other life

We spent this past weekend on the family farm in southeastern North Carolina. This seems to be becoming the norm rather than the exception. At least two weekends a month, we pack up the dogs and head to the farm as soon as possible after I get off work on Fridays, and we don't come back until Sunday evening. It's not that we don't like the city or don't want to be here, because of course we do. It's just that going to the farm is sort of like going camping, but better. We get to hang out with my very cool parents. We get to feed the chickens and gather (and eat!) the fresh eggs. We get to be outdoors as much as we want, and watch the birds and the dogs and even the deer feeding on the edge of the woods. It's all very laid back.

When we're on the farm, we stay in The House With The Crooked Floor . . . and we're trying to fix it up, little by little. The floor may be crooked (several windows are crooked, too), but this is a special house. Built by my great-grandparents in approximately 1905 on land that's been on one side or another of the family since before the U.S. Civil War, this is special house on a special plot of land . . . to me.

I've mentioned previously that my Dad grew up in this house. I, too, lived here -- from the ages of 5 to 11. When I lived here, the front bedroom (my room) had orange shag carpet. Back in the 70s, baby, that orange shag carpet was the deal. :-) It's not there anymore, though.

Betcha wanna know how the house became crooked. Well, it didn't have anything to do with politics. Many years ago, my uncle (who lived in this house until he passed away a few years ago) wanted to move the house further back from the road. He hired a crew to move it, and they lifted it up from the foundation. Suddenly, the house began to crack, so they had to put it back down. And the legend was born.

Our favorite part of the house is the front porch. We love sitting in the front porch swing with our morning coffee. The porch is slightly hidden by Camelia and Azalea bushes. The Camelias are currently in bloom (Yes! In November!) There's a big oak tree in the front yard that's been here longer than anyone remembers.

When you're sitting on the porch, you can watch the traffic go by, or you can watch the horses on my cousin's farm across the road. Both of these activities can be quite entertaining. Believe me.

Anyway, that's the story behind the story of The House With The Crooked Floor. And now you know where many of our weekends are spent. This is my other life, and I love it! (S loves it, too!)

Sunday, October 24, 2010

At the office

For you Inquiring Minds - you know who you are! - meet my office desk. My desk is usually clean despite the dust. I don't have many personal items - just a Vienna calendar (sent to me by friends E&B at the beginning of this year); headphones for my iPhone; and a certificate I earned in a recent work meeting (I received the very prestigious and highly sought-after Boomerang Award, for traveling around the world just to come back home to North Carolina.)

It's not that I dislike personal stuff at my desk. I'm just not used to having a desk. Yet. After all, I was what they call a "mobile" worker for nearly three years in my previous job. At first, sitting here felt so cramped. I felt claustrophobic. But I'm over that now.

So it's probably only a matter of time before I have more personal junk on my desk. I guess then I'll have to take another photo, and write a Before and After blog entry. :-)


My work team had an offsite meeting recently and when we took a break, I turned around and saw an amazing view of uptown Charlotte. (Look between the middle columns to see what I mean.) I'm sorry that my iPhone camera can't capture what I saw with my own eyes, but at least you can get an idea. When I walked closer to the edge of the building, I was able to get the shot below of the skyline. The distance between where I'm standing and uptown is approximately 6 miles.

I'm really looking forward to a nice "Carolina blue sky" day (not overcast, like it was on this day) when I have the time to go uptown to take some photos. Not yet sure when that will be. Could be winter by then!

P.S. A follow-up to the recent DMV blog entry: it took only 8 days before my NC drivers' license arrived in the mail. I guess that's not so bad, all things considered. :-)

Friday, October 22, 2010

My old school

Steely Dan had a song in the 70s about never going back to your old school.  One night last week, I disregarded this advice and returned to my undergraduate alma mater, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, for the first time in over 20 years. Boy, was I surprised!

The place has really grown both in campus size and in number of students enrolled. When I went, there were maybe (this is a guess that could be a stretch, actually) 8,000 students enrolled . . . now there are over 24,000! Back in my day, there wasn't much of a campus life. The school was located on the far north side of the city (actually, it seemed like it was in the country then). Now, the city has grown to it and beyond. They call it University City. There's lots of stuff going on, both on campus and nearby.

There are many new buildings at UNCC, like the Student Union building above. They all have a similar look, and the campus is modern-looking and very clean. I went to a meeting in the College of Education building, and it almost made me want to go back to school. Emphasis on almost.

When I was a student there, we only had a couple of sports programs, but none of them were particularly interesting. It's mostly a basketball school - and there have been some successful basketball seasons and several trips to the NCAA tournament. I never went to a basketball game there and I probably won't now. But in 2013 when their new football team debuts, you might just find me in the stands of the new stadium. If I'm still living here then, I might even consider buying season tickets. Go 49ers!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Inspired by elders

I had a couple of potentially life-changing experiences lately. The first involved some family members; the second involved total strangers. It goes like this. My dad (who will turn 77 soon) is the youngest of 13 children. Of his remaining brothers and sisters, the oldest is 96 and the youngest is 83. They all got together last weekend, and for the first time ever, I found myself just sitting back and taking them all in, thinking: "I hope I got these longevity genes."

The second experience was with the residents of Atria Merrywood, a retirement facility down the street from where I live. S's Mom was in town and decided to stay there for a few nights last week to check it out in case she decides to move to Charlotte. We went over for dinner on Wednesday night, and I was totally amazed with some of the people I met (and a few others I heard about). For example, Ann, our hostess, is 82 and probably in better shape than I am. She's very active in the residence, and also in local community theater. And she shoots pool! We heard of another resident who is 100 years old and still drives to Concord (a nearby city) once a week to take decorative painting classes. These are just two of the amazing people we encountered either directly or indirectly while we were there.

The whole thing got me to thinking. After all, I've seen people in their 60s and 70s who seem "old" and unhealthy, but there are also people in their 80s and 90s who seem "young." Why are some people old and others young despite their chronological age? Three things stuck out to me: 1) the "young" people don't eat much! 2) the "young" people are very active and involved with hobbies, volunteering, etc., and 3) the "young" people are very social and seek out opportunities to keep learning.

I want to be one of the "young" when I get older. Therefore, I'm starting to ask myself what I can do NOW to increase the possibilities of being "young" in 30-40 years. The first thing I've decided to do is to lose some weight. Not for vanity's sake, but for health and longevity. I may or may not be blogging about this in the future, but by writing this, I'm committing myself to living a healthier lifestyle. I don't know if it's possible to overcome 30 years of bad choices, but I'm going to try.

One day at a time. Today is the first day of the rest of my life. No time like the present.

Here I go!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Mitch, please call Bev asap

I had my first experience (since 1989) with the Division of Motor Vehicles (a/k/a "The DMV") today, and it was blog worthy. I'm just not quite sure where to begin, though.

Should I begin with the fact that it's located in the most dreary and run-down old strip mall in one of the most dreary and run-down parts of town?

Or with the fact that I spent 3 hours there just to get my driver's license?

Or that I didn't get my actual license, but rather, got a little piece of paper that's supposed to be some sort of a lame-a$$ substitute until the real one is sent to me in the mail in approximately 20 days?

Or that I spent 3 hours there?

Or that the test is full of questions that have nothing to do with driving? (Sample question: Which of the following should you do in order to be safe while walking at night? A. Walk on the right side of the road with the traffic. B. Walk in the center of the road so drivers can see you. C. Wear white. D. All of the above. Correct answer C. Again, nothing to do with driving.)

Or that it cost me a whopping $32?

Or that the young whippersnapper who assisted me (when it was finally my turn) asked me if I'd ever had an NC driver license before . . . I replied that I had many years ago . . . he looked me up in the computer system and found me . . . and exclaimed: "DANG!!! YOU GOT YOUR LICENSE IN 1980!!! I WASN'T EVEN BORN THEN!!!"

Did I mention I spent 3 hours there?

I've been back in "Cackalacky" about 7 weeks now, and if I recall from my time in Austria, this is about when the excitement of the new place wears off and the culture shock kicks in. Yeah. I'm culture shocked, all right.

Three hours at the DMV is B.S. I recall several years ago in Indiana when there was lots of chatter about the horrible wait times at the BMV (they call it "BMV" in Indiana). Governor Mitch came to the rescue and fixed that mess and now the Indiana BMV is pretty much a well-oiled machine. I got my Indiana driver's license renewed in less than fifteen minutes last year. OK, so maybe a renewal isn't the same as an original. But I sure wish Governor Mitch would give Governor Bev a call and challenge her to do whatever he did there here.

Three hours!!! And that didn't even include the license plate, which I'll have to take another half day off for . . . after I get my real driver's license.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The house with the crooked floor

I was having coffee on the front porch of my parents' house this morning when I looked across the lawn toward the house with the crooked floor. Built in the early 1900s, this is the house where my Dad (who was the youngest of 13 children) grew up, and where I lived from the ages of 5 to 11. You'll probably be reading more about it now that I'm back in Carolina, because I'm spending more time here on the family farm. Now you know what it looks like (at least from the back) . . . and yes, it really does have a crooked floor . . . and lots of crooked windows, too. :-)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Work sweet work

So here it is, the photo you've been waiting for . . . the place where I spend approximately 40 hours per week . . . my new work home. It's too bad that my camera can't capture the vastness of the campus because this building is actually quite large. This is just the front. You should see how far it goes back! And this is just one building. There are a couple of others.

In a lot of ways, my building is similar to the last place I worked. The, um, décor reminds me a lot of Building 22 before the upgrade (in other words, it's cube city, with industrial lighting and lots of grey shades. Very stimulating--Not!) My main complaints with my new work home are: 1) There's no coffee shop anywhere on the property; and 2) We don't have a parking garage. I've gotten used to the former (thankfully there's a Caribou just around the corner). But the latter sucks, especially when it's super hot out or when it's raining.

One thing that's taking some getting used to is the number of 18-wheelers in the area. We have a distribution center here, and a huge fleet. Trucks are always coming and going. It's fun to watch. Makes me feel like a little kid playing with my Matchbox City -- only the toys are a lot bigger and I can't actually play with them.

I'd like to tell you more, but I need to save something for another time. Maybe someday soon, I'll share a photo of my cube! Here's a hint: it's pretty boring, because since I was a mobile worker for a couple of years before taking this job, I just can't get into decorating it or keeping too much stuff around. I'm not so sure I'll ever get used to working in a cube -- ever again. :-)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Freedom Park

I've written about Freedom Park a couple of times lately, so I thought I'd show you a photo. Took this one around 6PM this afternoon . . . a beautiful time of day to be there. We only have a slight amount of Fall color so far. I can't help but wonder how colorful things are back in Indiana. Fall just doesn't seem the same here. Maybe it's just not here yet?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A walk in the woods

Today was one of those days when the weather was so perfect, we just had to get outside. Everyone was in the mood for a long walk, so we went to Reedy Creek Park. Located on the northeast side of town not far from UNC-Charlotte, this 116 acre park and adjoining 700+ acre nature preserve is full of wooded trails, ponds stocked with bass, a disc golf course, playgrounds, picnic areas, and a very nice mostly wooded dog park. It rocks! We give it five stars.

Cody and Chelsea LOVED the wooded trails. They had to be on their leashes on the trails, of course . . . so after our long hike, we took them to the dog park. Glad we took them hiking first, because in their tired state, they were a little more social with the other dogs. (We still have a long way to go with the yapping, though!)

After a couple of hours in the park, we drove 10 miles west to the area around Northlake Mall. But the mall wasn't our destination. We were looking for the REI store. Both of us are huge REI fans, and we weren't disappointed! Great store.

And a perfect day. :-)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

10 things I like about Charlotte (so far!)

Not necessarily in order . . . 

1. Sushi is huge here, and there are lots of good sushi restaurants around. My favorites (so far!) are New Zealand Café (it's close to work) and Sushi 101. I love New Zealand's sweet roll. Sushi 101 (it's close to home) has some amazing noodle dishes in addition to good sushi. Question for my more sushi-sophisticated friends: Is deep fried sushi available anywhere except the South?!!! I never had it until a few weeks ago when my coworker Lauren shared her order with me. It's soooooooo good!!! (even better with sweet tea. Ha!)

2. Dean and Deluca's Sticky Bun Latte (made with toffee nut, almond, and hazelnut syrups) . . . and an almond croissant . . . my favorite weekday "pick it up on the way to the office" breakfast.

3. My new work team. They've been really nice and patient so far, and almost all of them are FOODIES!!! We go out to lunch as often as possible. :-)

4. Shopping for groceries at Earth Fare. We don't have Whole Foods in Charlotte, but Earth Fare is an Asheville-based market that carries lots of organics, local food, and other good-for-you stuff. They also have garage parking, which I've found to be very nice in 90+F weather.

5. Uptown. Every other city calls it Downtown, but not Charlotte. Whatever you call it, it's clean, pretty, interesting, and alive. There's tons to do there.

6. The trees. The city planners and developers designed around the trees instead of just bulldozing them. The tree-lined streets of Myers Park (e.g., Queens and Providence) are nothing short of breathtaking.

7. Walking the dogs around the lake at Freedom Park. There are lots of other parks here to explore. We just haven't had time yet!

8. Listening to WFAE (FM 90.7) on the drive to/from work. I enjoy their programming so much, I might just end my long-time subscription to Sirius XM.

9. The Manor Theater on Providence Road. I used to go to "indy" movies there when I lived in Charlotte in the 1980s . . . and it's still there!!! . . . and it still runs independent movies!!! OK, so it's the Regal Manor Theater now. Whatever. I love it!

10. Last but certainly not least . . . being closer to my parental units. I've visited them almost every weekend since I've been here. I was really lucky when I was assigned parents. Not only do I love them, I actually like them, and enjoy hanging out with them. So it's good to be back. :-)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Secret's in the sauce

Since my parents moved back to the farm a few years ago, I've heard all about the hard work, effort, and fun involved in the annual church BBQ. Our church is a small one, way out in the country, with membership in the double digits and an average Sunday attendance that's way lower than what it was when I was a kid. Yet over the past few years, this annual fundraiser has managed to sell some 1000 tickets for its BBQ lunch. That's BBQ, not barbecue, neither of which is a verb, thank you very much. You do not BBQ (or barbecue) something. BBQ is something you eat. Specifically, it's slow-cooked pork that's been shredded and mixed with a delicious if questionable sauce that contains vinegar, hot pepper flakes, and various other secret ingredients. At least, that's how we do it in eastern North Carolina. :-)

Anyway, the church BBQ was yesterday, and I volunteered. Of course, I had no idea what job I'd be assigned. Admittedly, I was hoping for something glamorous, such as serving plates or whatever. But, you do what they ask you to do, and they asked me to be in charge of the jams and jellies. OK, so I was mildly excited, since my Mom made lots of the jams and jellies being sold. I tried hard to sell Mom's brand, but sadly, her products were not quite as popular as those of the local Renaissance Man. I don't know what's so great about a man making jams and jellies, but this dude is really popular, and everyone was asking for his products. Perhaps I should have fibbed and pointed to my Mom's stash whenever people requested Renaissance Man's. But it was church, so I was honest.

In the end, however, the jams and jellies (regardless of maker) sold very well. So did the quilt raffle tickets. My cute little cousin Anna (age 7) was selling the quilt tickets for $2 each, so I bought 5 from her, but she didn't have change for the $20 I paid with (yeah, right) so I offered to buy her 5 tickets. And darned if she didn't win!!! She was so excited because one of the quilts was sort of pink and she wanted it. Actually, I think she deserved to win, because she sold quite a few other tickets . . . . which makes me wonder if maybe someone else could have possibly bought the winning ticket? Hmm.

Another highlight of the event was seeing my third grade teacher for the first time since . . . well, third grade (not really - I think I was a freshman or sophomore in college when I saw her last.) "Mrs. S" was only in her second year of teaching (meaning she was about 23 years old) when I was in third grade, and she was a true hottie back in 1973. In fact, the story goes, on the first day of school I told her that my Dad was "going to die" when he saw her.  Because she was so hot, that is. OK, really, I don't know if he thought she was hot, or if she was even really all that hot, to be honest. But apparently I thought she was when I was eight years old. At least compared to my second grade teacher, who was old enough to retire and not hot at all.

I saw a couple of people I went to high school with, and couldn't help but wonder if I looked as old to them as they looked to me. Some of them have grandkids. Sheesh. And to think that I didn't even think about having kids until a few years ago (and then, I only thought about it for maybe 15 minutes). Who do I blame for that? My third grade teacher! After all, she was the teacher who gave the lesson about zero population growth that so affected me. Too bad I forgot to mention that to her when she asked me if I have any kids!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Settling in

It's been 25 days and I'm still not 100% recovered from the so-called Rhinovirus, but I'm feeling much better. Maybe in a few more days, the weird feeling in my chest will go away, and then I can pronounce myself healed. (It feels like I smoked an entire pack of cigarettes yesterday.)

Anyway, thankfully I didn't have to miss any more work, and really haven't missed out on anything. In fact, I seem to be settling into a routine. My former co-workers at "Red Chemical" would probably be shocked to learn that I've become a morning person. That's right, folks, I'm up by 6:15AM, out the door within the hour, and am typically sitting at my desk by 7:30! It's a miracle!

Work is going well. I need to write an entry about my new job. I'll do that soon. Just know that THERE IS LIFE AFTER RED CHEMICAL.

At least 3 days a week after work, I've been taking the dogs to Freedom Park. Unfortunately, their Mommies didn't do the greatest job of socializing them to other dogs when we lived in Indy, so at least the first 10 minutes or so during our outings, they totally freak out whenever they see another dog. Or runner. Or cyclist. Or person on roller blades. Freedom Park is an amazing park, though. Acres and acres of paths, and earlier this week, I discovered the "Greenway." I'm sure it has a name (something other than the Freedom Park Greenway) but I just don't know what it is yet. Anyway, it runs sort of parallel to Freedom Park in the Dilworth neighborhood. It's surrounded by trees, which makes it a lot easier in this 95F/35C weather.

Really, so far the only two things I'm not totally digging about Charlotte are: 1) the weather (they've had over 80 days straight of temps above 90F/32C); and 2) the traffic. The traffic here pretty much sucks. OK, really, my commute isn't that bad (25 minutes or so), but it can take me an hour to get out of town on a Friday night, whenever I go to the farm.

Other than that, I have to say I'm loving it. It's so pretty here: the trees, the curvy, winding streets, the well-kept neighborhoods . . . and having been away for 20+ years, I see things with a different set of eyes now.

I LOVE the diversity here. There are so many interesting people from all over, from all walks of life, with all sorts of interesting stories. Of course, anytime you have a great diversity of people, you have amazing food . . . and there's some pretty amazing food here. Everything from down-home Southern to South of the Border and some very authentic Vietnamese and Korean. I'm told there's even a fabulous German/Austrian restaurant nearby. I look forward to checking out as many of these places as I possibly can.

Settling into a routine means that I should be able to find more time to take some photos (such as the one of Phillips Place, above) and write blog entries. So come back again soon!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sick of being sick

My readers are probably wondering what's up. After all, I've got this new job in a new city, so surely I must have tons of interesting stuff to write about. But I've only written a couple of entries in the last few weeks. Why? Because I've been under the weather. Really, really under the weather.

Eleven days ago - quite out of the blue - I got this sudden sore throat. Then my nose started running (and running . . . and running . . . ) At first I thought maybe it was allergies. After all, it's August, I'm in North Carolina, and I'm allergic to ragweed pollen. And sore throat/runny nose are two big allergy symptoms.

That's probably why I didn't think much about it at first. Except that my nose was running. A LOT. (Seriously, never had a constant drip like that before. Can you say "bucket", boys and girls?)

The chills and fever came on Day 2 and 3. I missed a day and a half of work (highly embarrassing since I just started!) just before Labor Day weekend. I was thinking: "Great! I should be all better by Tuesday!" since I had a long weekend to continue recovering.

Well, that was a week ago, and I'm still coughing, hacking, dripping (not as bad, thankfully). I also have this constant cold sweat thing going on. It feels sort of like a hot flash, but it's not hot. (So glad I have my sense of humor.)

I haven't been this sick since that time in Portugal. (Sophie, if you're reading this, you know what I mean!)

But I still have to go on. Life goes on. I've got work to do. And stuff to do. Yes, I did seek medical advice, and was told that I have a combination of one or more of the over 200 viruses that are called Rhinovirus, i.e., common cold. It doesn't feel so common.

I've been taking Mucinex DX and Sudafed, which when combined make me rather loopy and take away my appetite for pretty much anything except 1) sugar and 2) Chinese food. Don't ask me why. That's just the way it is.

So bring on the Kung Pao Chicken and the Crab Rangoons, and the granola and the evil little white powdered donuts, 'cause that's about all I can handle lately. Oh, and Pop Tarts. LOTS of Pop Tarts. The frosted strawberry kind. Give me all the sugar, all the preservatives, all the artificial flavors. Now that's medicine worth taking.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

The first two weeks in Charlotte

Hard to believe it's September! Even harder to believe . . . I've been in Charlotte just over two weeks. Most of that time has been really busy: unpacking the essentials, reacquainting myself with a city that's changed a lot since I lived here 24 years ago, starting a new job, etc. My parents visited with me that first weekend, overseeing the movers as they placed furniture and boxes and then helping me set up a few things. Mom decided to hang out with me that first week, so when the second weekend came around, I had to drive her back to the farm. That's a 2.5 hour drive away, so I stayed with them for most of the weekend.

When I came back Sunday afternoon, I felt rested and ready to go back to work on Monday . . . but by Wednesday of this week, I was sick. At first, I thought I was having a reaction to the local pollens (I'm allergic to ragweed, for example). But by Thursday, I was so miserable, I knew it had to be something more. I'm feeling a little better now, but the nurse practitioner I consulted said it might take 2 weeks for me to be back to normal.

The new apartment is FABULOUS . . . and no, I haven't unpacked all the boxes yet, and probably won't for a while. I LOVE the location of the apartment. It's close to Uptown (people call downtown "Uptown" in Charlotte, for some reason) and also close to the Southpark Mall, which is the mother of all shopping malls in the Carolinas. I can walk to some 15-20 restaurants, a grocery store, a movie theater, several shops, and my new massage therapist!!!

Work is going well so far! My co-workers have been welcoming, and my new manager is very patient with the new girl! I wonder how long I can play the new girl card? Haha. I've got a lot to learn about my new company and this new-to-me industry, but it certainly seems that I joined at a good time.

Now if only S and the dogs can get here, things will be just about perfect. I'll touch base again soon, hopefully with photos.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sorry for the delay, but . . .

The last week or so has been incredibly busy! I've got lots to write about, though. Give me a few days or maybe a week, and hopefully I can bring you up to speed on everything that's been going on! For now, just know that: 1) my new job is going well so far; 2) the apartment and neighborhood are awesome; and 3) despite these things, I'm bored and lonely until S and the canine kids get here. More soon! :-)

Friday, August 20, 2010

The saltwater pool

Hello from our new home! I managed to take a total of one photo today - this one of the saltwater pool. They just put the furniture out here last week, and since this is a new building and not many people are living here yet, you can bet your bottom dollar that I'll be out there just as soon as I can find and unpack my swimsuit. (Now, if more people were around, I don't know.)

The pool will be open until OCTOBER . . . woo-hoo! So there are still several weeks left to get out there and find out what's so great about a saltwater pool. I know there must be something more than just "it's good for your skin." Will keep you posted!

P.S. In case you're wondering, I'm sleeping on the floor tonight. Cross fingers that the furniture will be delivered tomorrow. :-)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Hidden messages in songs

I drove from Indianapolis to Charlotte today, and spent most of the 8 hours either listening to BBC and Martha on Sirius Satellite Radio, or to the "Energy Mix" on my iPod. Ironically, just as I exited the interstate to go by my new apartment, Madonna's "Ray of Light" was playing on the iPod: And I feel . . . like I just got home and I feel . . . Random event? Hmmm. Makes one wonder.

Anyway, I'm moving into the apartment tomorrow. The weekend is sure to be busy, but I'll write and put up some photos as soon as possible. :-)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Carolina cake

I went back to my old office today to have lunch with some former coworker friends, and was pleasantly surprised to find a cake sitting on the table. Is this cool or what?!! Underneath the icing was a very moist and delicious pineapple coconut cake. It was so yummy . . . and there were NO leftovers! It was great to see many of my former coworkers and have a chance to say goodbye in person. Special thanks to my friend Lisa for arranging for the cake! :-)

Moving daze

I was going to call this entry They're coming to take me away, ha-haaah!!! . . . maybe you can see why. We're about 90% moved out now. Not much longer!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

10 things I'll miss about Indiana

Well, here I am, with only one more week left in Indiana before the big move. Yikes! Change is exciting but it can also be a little scary and a little sad. I've been thinking about some of the things I'll miss about Indiana . . . here's what I've come up with so far:

1. My Hoosier friends! You know who you are! (Yes, YOU!)
2. The amazing local food scene . . . farmers' markets, vendors, producers, farmers, chefs. It was here in Indiana that I really began to appreciate homegrown food and what it takes to get food to the plate.
3. Bloomington. It's true that I've only been there once in the last four years, but Bloomington, Indiana is a special place. I love the thriving "college town" atmosphere and the campus with its pretty limestone buildings. And Bloomington is where I met Sandy! And KT! And Amyd! And several other cool/awesome people.
4. Long's Donuts. What can I say. (That was not intended to be a question.)
5. Bjava Coffee. Best coffee around. Period.
6. Cheap housing. Indianapolis has one of the lowest housing costs in the United States. It was only because of this fact that I was able to live in a 5,000 square foot house for the past three years. Now I'm moving into a 2BR apartment in Charlotte. The irony. (At least it's not like in San Francisco. If it were, I'd probably be moving into my friend Q's guest room closet. LOL!)
7. Predictably unpredictable weather. They have a saying here in Indiana: "If you don't like the weather, just wait ten minutes." There seems to be a lot of truth in this. Just today, for example: it was sunny, then it was cloudy, then it was sunny, then it looked like a tornado might come along, then it was sunny, then it poured rain, then it was sunny. All this happened in about a two hour period. Weird, I know, but it's never boring. Oh, by the way: I never knew what a "frontal system" was until I moved to Indiana. This is because Indiana is the only state that gets frontal systems. (Um, just kidding.)
8. The colorful autumns. I never fully appreciated the fall season until I moved to Indiana. OK, so there are parts of Indiana that don't have many trees (we call them cornfields . . . or new subdivisions), the places that do have trees put on an amazing show around mid-October or so. The reds, oranges, and yellows of Brown County State Park (for example) rival what you might find in Vermont or New Hampshire. It's simply amazing.
9. Colts football. I realize I'm moving to Carolina Panthers country. But I'm not sure I'll ever get as excited about Panthers football as I did about Colts football these last few years. I mean, it could happen, I suppose. (Will have to revisit this in a few years . . . if my new co-workers haven't run me off by then for talking too much smack during football season.)
10. There really is such a thing as Hoosier Hospitality. Most people here tend to be very friendly, and they'll go out of their way to help you if you need it. I'll miss that.

Yeah, I could probably list a lot more things I'll miss, but my limit here is ten. However, I'm sure that one day in the not-too-distant future I'll think of something else. That's what reminiscing is for!

Thank you, Indiana, for giving me the best 14 years of my life (so far)!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

And the winner is . . .

The suspense is over! Earlier this week, I accepted an offer to work for a Fortune 500 company based in the Charlotte area. I'll be doing similar work as in my previous job as a learning and development consultant, but now I'll be working in the retail industry -- I'm excited! The new job starts in a little over two weeks, so I've got lots to do in a short amount of time. Like . . . packing and moving, for example.

Our new home is technically in the area known as SouthPark, but very close to Dilworth. This is a way more urban environment than we've lived in for a long time, and we're looking forward to living in a place with lots of activity and where we can walk to restaurants, a grocery store, etc. We'll also be close to Freedom Park, which should make the dogs very happy. I'm sure I'll be blogging about our new city and home quite a bit over the next few months, so check back often!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

An exercise in patience

I know that many of you are sitting on the edge of your proverbial seats waiting for me to make the announcement regarding where we'll be living. A decision has been made. Give me a couple of days and (nearly) all will be revealed. Thanks for your patience!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Hmmm . . .

Triangle in the sky, just before dark last night. (Photo retouched to reduce darkness.) Is it a sign?

Monday, July 26, 2010

10 things I never did in Indiana

As of August 2010, I've lived in Indiana for fourteen years. This was about ten years longer than I planned to live here - since, after all, my original reason for moving here was to attend graduate school. But life has a way of putting you in your place, so since 1996, I've called Indiana home. I never became an "official" Hoosier, but I came close many times. However, I have a feeling that Indiana would reject my application for permanent Hoosier status anyway if they saw this list.

I never . . . 

1. Went to Indiana Beach. But to be honest, since I'm originally from a coastal state, I don't believe Indiana has a beach. And you will never convince me. So there.
2. Watched the Indy 500. Not on TV, and not at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
3. Went canoeing or kayaking at Turkey Run State Park. In fact, despite doing some heavy-duty camping for a couple of years, I never even made it to Turkey Run State Park. Which is too bad, because it's supposed to be really cool.
4. Visited Amish Country. I always intended to go up to Shipshewana and also to Amish Acres in Nappanee, but just never made it.
5. Went to an Indianapolis Indians baseball game. But Sandy did. (For the record, I did go to several Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Pacers, and Indiana Fever games. I even went to see the Indianapolis Ice. But not the Indiana Ice.)
6. Went to South Bend. So no, I've never seen the campus of Notre Dame University.
7. Attended a football or basketball game when I lived in Bloomington. I did, however, see Bob Knight a couple of times when I lived in Bloomington, before he, um, moved to Texas. Oh, and I also saw John Mellencamp twice when I lived in Bloomington: once at the Borders book store, and once at Subway, where he was eating lunch with his sons! 
8. Made it to the Bill Monroe Bluegrass Festival, the Covered Bridge Festival, the Maple Syrup Fair, Cockadoodle Days, the Feast of the Hunters' Moon, the All-American Country Hoedown, the Columbus Scottish Festival, the Frankfort Hot Dog Festival, the Johnny Appleseed Festival, the Mansfield Mushroom Festival, the Owensville Watermelon Festival, the Sassafras Tea Festival, or the Elvis Fantasy Fest. And darn it, I really wanted to go.
9. Went into any of the old homes in Indianapolis like the President Benjamin Harrison home or the James Whitcomb Riley home or the Meridian-Kessler open house thingie.
10. Participated in any of the Indy 500 Festival events, with one exception: I successfully completed the 2001 Indianapolis 500 Festival Mini-Marathon as a walker. (And I haven't even walked to the mailbox since then. Ha ha.)

I could probably think of lots of other things if I put my mind to it. Clearly, there's a lot to do in Indiana that I never did. I suppose that means we'll have to come back sometime after we move. :-)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Classic cars

I've had so many positive comments about the red truck in the previous post, thought I'd share some of the other photos I took that Saturday night when we stumbled across a classic car show in Saint Pauls, North Carolina. I was particularly impressed with this beautiful Chevrolet Bel Air. Here's some of the other eye candy . . . um, not the guy. LOL.

One side of Broad Street was lined with old cars . . .

I saw some of my childhood favorites, like Chargers, Chevelles, Monte Carlos and Mustangs, as well as a really trippy pimped-out LTD and a couple of Novas. And then there were the really old cars, like this one . . .

Some of them had their hoods up so you could view the engines. They were all soooooo clean. You can tell these folks really love their cars!

They were still setting up when we arrived, and people were slowly gathering. A deejay was getting organized across the street, and country music was blaring through some outdoor speakers. I'm sure this blog entry would be even more interesting if we'd stuck around a bit longer, but we didn't. This time. :-)

By the way, I took all these photos with my iPhone. Despite the bright early evening summer sun, I think they turned out pretty good. Don't you?

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Fire ants, fleas, and pick-up trucks

Just returned from the Land of PAM, where we had many, many adventures . . . and a few misadventures. Let's see, where shall I begin? Should I start with the weak-to-nonexistent signal on my iPhone at my parents' farm? Or their temperamental satellite-based Internet connection that only works when it wants to? I have to laugh now, but it wasn't so funny at the time when:
  • I had to use my Dad's cell phone for a job interview (since mine wouldn't work) . . . and I had to go outside for the interview (for some privacy) . . . and while I was walking around in the yard, I totally forgot about fire ants . . . and I stepped on a nest during the middle of answering a question . . . and got stung. But the interviewer (who was in a comfy air-conditioned office out in San Francisco) never knew, since I was able to restrain myself from screaming bloody murder in her ear.
  • One of the companies I interviewed with asked me to complete an online profile prior to the interview, but Mom and Dad's internet connection wasn't working, so I had to drive into town and find a connection. Ended up at the county public library, where I hadn't been since, like, 1979.
  • I had a phone interview one afternoon, so I drove into town to use my iPhone. But it was too hot to sit in my car. So I went into a restaurant and asked the manager if I could sit in the empty section where they usually have group events. He generously complied, but then I missed the interview because the call went straight to voice mail for some unknown reason. Thank you, AT&T. I may well have missed out of a job just because I happened to be in the so-called 2% of the continental United States where you do NOT have coverage.
  • Later, another company I was interviewing with asked me to email them some information. Again, the internet connection on the farm was down, so at 10PM I drove into town and sat out in the McDonald's parking lot so I could 'jack their wireless. Thank you, McDonald's. I promise not to dis you so much anymore. In fact, I've taken a liking to your sweet tea, and will probably frequent you more often.
  • On our last day on the farm, S & I walked over to Uncle David's house (the vacant house on my parents' land) just to have a look around. Suddenly, we looked down and noticed that our bare legs (we were both wearing cropped pants) were covered with little black creepy-crawly-jumpy things. We raked them off, ran out of the house, and raked them off again. I didn't think much about it after that, but when I woke up the next morning and looked down at my thighs, it was like I had come down with the pox. I counted over 200 (or, more accurately, I lost count at 200) flea bites on my thighs. Thank goodness for Campho-Phenique.
Despite these, um, adversities, we actually had a great time. It was nice to "unplug" for a while - and even nicer to spend time with my parents. Usually when I visit, it all happens so fast: I fly in, I fly out. But this time, we actually got to spend some quality time together. Although it was really too hot to do much outside, we got up early one morning and "processed" chickens. It's kind of gross, and you have to put your head in that special place, but at least now I know what to do if I ever have to process my own chickens. (I would much rather buy them already processed, from a local farmer. Of course.)

I'm not really sure that I could be a full-time country girl. But I do like having at least a part-time connection to the land. I wouldn't mind having a nice old pick-up truck, either - if it were like the one in the photo above.

Still, I do like having a reliable internet connection. And a full set of bars on my iPhone. At all times and hours of the day.

I know that the question on everyone's mind is: Did you get a job? Well, the answer is: Not Yet. I won't know anything for a while, probably not until the end of next week. I'm not really worried about it, though, because I have complete faith that whatever is meant to be will be. We'll end up where we're supposed to end up. No sense worrying about it!

Saturday, July 10, 2010

It's got a lot

We took a quick trip to Charlotte on Thursday and Friday and both of us were very impressed. (Click the link on Charlotte and scroll down to watch a really cool short video and you'll see what I mean.) Charlotte, you've really grown up in the 24 years I've been away! You now have a beltway, a pro football team, a pro basketball team, several beautiful new "skyscrapers", and even a light rail system (OK, so only one line so far, but others are in the works.) Charlotte really does have a lot!

On Friday morning, I had a series of interviews with a company there. From my perspective, the interviews went very well. Perhaps the coolest thing of all is that I was interviewed by a panel of my peers - the people who'd be my teammates if I get that job. I thought that was a nice touch - I mean, how many times do you get to chat with your potential team members during the interview process? (Me, never before.) They work in a highly collaborative environment, so it's important for the "vibe" to be right between everyone. I certainly felt that I could work with them. I wonder what they thought of me?

I won't know anything for at least a week. That's just how it goes. It's nothing unusual. But if Charlotte is where we're supposed to end up, we would both be very happy. We'd just have another big decision to make: which neighborhood should we live in? There are so many nice neighborhoods in the Charlotte area. But I guess we'll cross that bridge when we get to it, as my Mom always says!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The land of PAM

Nine days ago, we got the news we had been expecting: our time in Indianapolis (10 years!) is drawing to a close. That very day, I started sending out resumes and seriously looking for a new job in North Carolina and the Atlanta, Georgia area. At last count, I had responded to 26 postings that I found on Monster, Indeed, and LinkedIn. The good news is that within a matter of hours, I got the first of several callbacks. I've already passed several "phone screens" and one interview with a hiring manager, and I have several interviews scheduled this coming week.

North Carolina is my home state and where my parents live, and that's why it's my first choice of a relocation spot. I lived in Charlotte a long time ago. I graduated university there and spent the first 2-3 years of my working adult life there and loved it. The city has grown by leaps and bounds since then, but I'm sure it would be fun getting to know this city all over again. The Raleigh area also has possibilities: it's the seat of state government, the Research Triangle Park and lots of excellent universities are nearby, and it's only about a 1.5 hour drive from there to my parents' house (as opposed to a 2.5 to 3 hour drive from Charlotte). I think we could be very happy in either place.

Atlanta is closer to where S's Mom lives, but still only about 5 hours from my parents. (By comparison, it takes 12 hours to drive from Indianapolis to my parents, and 8 hours to S's Mom.) I don't know much about Atlanta except that it's big and the traffic kinda sucks, but I guess traffic sucks in all big cities. At least Atlanta has MARTA (transit system) and a major international airport.

Turns out that all of these cities are located in an "emerging megalopolis" called PAM or the Piedmont Atlantic MegaRegion. PAM is one of 8 such regions in North America that is expected to be a huge growth area over the next 40 years. We would love to be a part of it!

We're really happy to see that there are so many jobs in our field in these places, and we're feeling confident that something will work out. It's an exciting time, but also a little scary. We'd both appreciate your thoughts, prayers, and good vibes as we head to the land of PAM this week to scout the possibilities. Stay tuned for updates!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The water and the damage done

It's been a rough week, folks.

Five days after the Great Flood of 2010 . . . The big industrial fans and dehumidifiers supplied by the water removal company are STILL GOING, so we haven't really been able to get down there and do much. We did try to empty some water-damaged boxes yesterday, and to our chagrin found that quite a few books and winter clothes were damaged beyond repair. Some of the baseboards need to be replaced. The carpet could not be saved, so we'll have to replace it, or come up with another flooring solution in the finished section of the basement. Thankfully, the water didn't reach the level of the drywall, so the walls are all OK.

To echo what I said previously: it could have been a lot worse.

I learned from this experience that I'm really good in a crisis. I mean, when it happened, I jumped on it, found a water removal company, kept my head, etc. I didn't freak out and I haven't cried (yet!) over losing stuff or whined about the suckiness of the timing of this incident.

But, Dear Readers, I feel the need to warn you about something. If you own a home, go check your homeowners' insurance policy NOW. Be sure that you have the appropriate endorsements or riders in your policy to cover things like water damage or sump pump failures . . . or that you have a separate flood insurance policy . . . or whatever the requirements may be in your state. Seriously, go now and check. Don't just assume it's in there. Read the fine print.

The only thing we can do is just move on. So we will. To quote Albert Einstein: "Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving."

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

When it rains, it pours

I sure wish that someone would have warned me yesterday that I should BUILD AN ARK!!!

We have three inches of water in our basement. Everything touching the floor is ruined, which is a lot of stuff. I'm trying hard to not get depressed - and trying not to feel sorry for myself - by telling myself it could be a lot worse.

The water removal guys have been here all day. So far, they haven't determined the exact reason for the flooding . . . but our sump pump is not broken (as we originally thought.) They said that one of our neighbors across Thompson Road had eight feet of water in their basement. Therefore, it's hard for me to complain much about three inches.

More on this later, when I have time to write about it!

Monday, June 21, 2010

The annoying swarm of African bees

Now that I think about it, I couldn't have picked a better time to be unemployed. Thanks to my status, I've been able to watch most of the World Cup games. This first round (officially called The Group Stage) has been really interesting. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) FINALLY got a World Cup goal today. The look of elation on his face was priceless. And unlike so many other athletes, he didn't make a big deal out of it. He just grinned. In the end, Portugal walloped North Korea 7-0.
  • The USA team may not have a snowball's chance in July of winning (or even making it to) the final, but they were clearly robbed of a victory in their recent game against Slovenia. The score should have been 3-2, USA. The ref who made the call to disqualify the winning goal was vilified for hours on Twitter and elsewhere. I'm not sure I agree with that, but hey. 
  • Spain, Germany, and France have all lost games. All of these losses were considered shocking.
  • USA-England, Italy-New Zealand, and England-Algeria were all draws (ties) when there was a clear expected winner (England, Italy, and England).
  • Italy is so far winning the award for Best Drama Queens. They were such Fakers in the New Zealand game. Everytime one of the All-Whites bumped into an Italian player, the Italian player pretended to be so hurt.
  • The runner-up for Best Drama Queens would have to go to Cote d'Ivoire. In their game with Brazil yesterday, one of their players was grazed in the side by Brazilian star Kaka. He very quickly put his hands up to his face, as if Kaka had elbowed him in the eyes. (Link to clip here.) The ref fell for it and ousted Kaka from the game.
  • The French team went on strike from practice for a day because the coach decided to expel one of the players for being rude to him during the halftime of the France-Mexico game. Hmmm.
  • And then there's the vuvuzela, the nightmarish bumblebee-sounding stadium horn of South Africa. Or as Sandy calls it: "THE most annoying sound in the WORLD." Apparently, the vuvuzela is the only man-made sound you can hear in space. Maybe it will scare off any potential extraterrestrial invaders?
No shortage of drama so far, and the Group Stage isn't quite over yet! So far, the USA is still in it, but if they lose to Algeria, they're out. Ugh, it looks like my favorite international team, Portugal, will have to play Brazil next . . . oh, well, may the best team win!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Tomatoes and peppers, oh my!

This is our first "Early Girl" tomato . . . OK, maybe not so early if you're further South or somewhere with more direct sunshine, but I think she's beautiful! We also have Roma tomatoes (below) and teeny-tiny Cherokee Purples and Grape tomatoes. No sign of any Cherry tomatoes at this point.

Roma tomatoes are probably my favorite for making sauces and salsa, so I really hope this plant produces! We tried growing Romas from seeds last year, but without success. So this year, we bought all our tomato plants as seedlings.

The peppers are also looking good. I picked our first Hungarian Wax this afternoon and we had it in our dinner salad tonight. We've also got Jalapenos (below) and one golf-ball sized Green Bell pepper. AND . . . our single broccoli plant has broccoli in it now! It's only the size of a silver dollar, but looks perfect. Unfortunately, no action yet on the cauliflower plant.

Gardening is fun! Especially when it's time to reap what you sow. :-)