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.