Monday, September 24, 2012

License Day

Today, I finally worked up the courage to get my North Carolina drivers license.  I had called the DMV back in July when I first moved into town to check on the process.  The man on the phone told me I could come in and wait about four hours, or I could make an appointment (they were scheduling two months out).  "Even with an appointment," he informed me, "it can still be an hour wait."  Wow!  And I thought Michigan was bad.  Needless to say, I didn't go that day.

My next step was to go to the North Carolina DMV website and read more about the process.  I checked out the locations around Charlotte and thought I would go to the office closest to IKEA--nothing like a little retail therapy to make a dreaded situation less painful.  I read a review on that office and it got a 0 out of 5  because the employees were rude, the wait was long and it was the worst experience the reviewer had ever had.  Hmm.  Scratch that idea.

One woman I know went to the DMV and when she arrived, the line was out the door.  She timed how long it took to wait on each person, counted the people in line and realized she wouldn't even get in the door before they closed, so she left.  She said to go outside of Mecklenburg County.

As I talked to more people, I heard that the test was incredibly hard and you needed to study.  "Know the statistics," I was told.  I talked to several people who had failed the exam.   In good ole Michigan, they don't even make you take a test.  (The rumor is they did away with it because so many people failed.  That says a lot about the intelligence of Michiganders.)

I decided last week that I had procrastinated long enough.  I made a rule that I couldn't get a pedicure (which I was desperately in need of) until I got my license.

Today was the Day of Days.  After studying the 93 page handbook all weekend, I drove to the little town of Monroe (Union County) with two documents showing my birthdate, my Social Security card, proof of address, and proof of car insurance in hand.  Amazingly, I was out of there in 20 minutes with a perfect score on the test and hopefully a decent looking picture.  I have to admit, when she asked me my hair color, I told a little white lie and said brown.

Of course, y'all are probably wondering what kind of questions they asked on the test.  Here's one for you:

How old must a child be to ride in the back of a pickup truck?

(Does any other state in the union ask that question?)

The answer, by the way, is 16 years old.  Now that's something to look forward to.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Nike App for Running

My husband has moved me into the 21st century. He gave me an iPhone and iPad for my birthday.  I didn't think I needed either and so I acted excited when I opened them, even though I wasn't all that thrilled.  OH MY GOSH!  How did I live for 55 years without them?  My husband now likens me to our son when he got his first Nintendo.  I simply can't help myself.  A question pops into my head and now I can find instant answers.  It's incredible.

Whenever I run, I like to know how many miles and what kind of incredibly fast pace I've run.  In the olden days (2 months ago), I would wear a stop watch and then clock my route with the car after I finished.  It worked for the most part, unless I went off-roading.  Now, with my Nike running app, I know as I'm running my mileage, pace, and how long I've been running.  A lady updates me every mile.  The first time I used it, I didn't know about the lady and thought people were behind me talking.  Of course, I had my iPod playing separately, since I hadn't downloaded any music to my phone, so I couldn't tell where the sound was coming from.  Now I have my music and phone all in one.  The lady's voice comes through my headset.  No more turning around to find nobody there.

Running in Charlotte has been a challenge.  When we first got here, it was so hot.  I like to run when the temp is in the 60's.  The low temps in July and early August were in the 70's.  I don't do well in heat.  We've turned the corner in the past week and it's perfect in the early morning.

Secondly, I can't leave the house without going down a hill, which leads to the problem of having to run up them when I come home.  My route yesterday was the hilliest yet.  Thankfully, now that I have my phone with me on my runs, I can always call 911.

Lastly, in Michigan, whenever I came upon other runners, I would say "hi", or at least nod my head, and I always got a response.  Here in Charlotte, I say hi and people don't even glance my way.  After a few rejections, I tell myself I'm not going to say hi anymore.  Of course, when I come upon the next runner, I have to say hi and, of course, I get nothing.  For the most part, people elsewhere in Charlotte have been very friendly.  I guess the runners here take their exercise seriously.

We have a greenway near the house 
we're renting.  It's great.

 I like the boardwalk portions of the greenway
as there is less likelihood of seeing snakes.

Keep your eyes open for things 
moving in the grass.

One of the many mega-churches in Charlotte.

I love running down the tree-lined 
boulevards here.

An example of the hilly streets.  
They're a bear as I get older.

My routes take me by several golf courses.  
They make for nice scenery.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

Southern Food

I love to cook, but for some reason, I felt like going out this weekend.  Friday evening, we tried an Italian restaurant within walking distance of our house.  It was okay, but didn't make me emit yummy sounds.  Saturday evening, we tried an "Asian fusion" (or so it said on the outside) restaurant, but it turned out to be traditional Chinese food.  We should have known when we walked in the door and the place was virtually empty that it was a sign to turn and run.  But we didn't listen to our inner instincts and were batting 0-2 for good restaurants.

But fear not--we hit it big today.  After church this morning (a dynamic sermon, by the way--go to's message should be posted soon), we decided to go to a restaurant called The Flying Biscuit.  Oh my!  I can feel my coronary arteries clogging up already.

For any southerners reading this, you may want to sit down, as I'm sure you can't imagine that this is true goes.  I have never had grits before.  Shocking, but true.  They look like Cream of Wheat to me, and I can't say I'm a big fan.  My husband ordered them with his Mexican breakfast wrap and I tried a bite--which turned into 2, then 3, then 4.  I was expecting something grainy and sweet, and these were savory and creamy.  I asked the waiter how they prepared them and he mentioned three words: cream, cheese, and butter.  Yikes!  No wonder they're so good.

Thankfully, I ordered the Hollywood Omelet which was made with egg whites, mushrooms, spinach, and tomato coulis with a small bowl of fruit, instead of grits.

Did I mention the white cheddar cheese in the omelet and the lard laden biscuit on the side?  It was heavenly! Speaking of heaven, I may be there sooner than I think as I feel like I've been having angina since we walked out the door.

 A happy customer!

On the positive side, grits and biscuits may be my job security.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

North Carolina Sites

Our daughter and son-in-law came to visit a couple of weeks ago.  We had been wanting to go see the Biltmore Estate and this was the excuse we needed to go.

The Biltmore is located in Asheville, NC, which is about 130 miles west of Charlotte.  We left after church on Sunday--about 10:45 a.m.  We were getting hungry for lunch and didn't see anything of interest along the highway, so we took a detour to Lake Lure to find a restaurant with a view.  Larkin's on the Lake fit the bill and was well worth the extra time and miles.

Our view during lunch

By the time we got to the Biltmore, it was after 2:00 p.m., so we quickly went to the house and took a self guided tour.  Annie did the honors of reading the narratives about each room.  It was like stepping back in time.  It was much like the TV show Downton Abbey.  I could picture the staff hanging out in their quarters and the family changing clothes 5-6 times a day for all their functions.

We checked out some of the gardens and then headed over to the winery.  We weren't too impressed with the wines.  (They might want to focus on making grape jam.)  We finished up with dinner at Cedric's Tavern and then headed back to Charlotte.

My husband and I are going to go back and spend a night at the hotel so we can take advantage of the activities.  They have miles of paths that would be great to hike and bike on.  They also have fly-fishing, raft trips down the river, horseback riding, Land Rover adventures, and sporting clays.

 View from the back porch

 My husband wants to do something 
like this with our patio.  
Unfortunately, we'll be long gone by
the time the trees mature.

If you've never been, you need to check it out.  The house and grounds are beautiful and the history is fascinating.  It's like taking a mini-vacation to Europe--or not.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

Chick-fil-a -- I had never experienced it until moving to Charlotte.  My husband and I needed something quick for lunch one day and so we decided to give it a shot.  The drive through lane had at least twenty cars backed up so we were definitely going inside.  I opted for the Chargrilled and Fruit Salad which turned out to be awesome.

It had grilled chicken, Monterey Jack and Cheddar cheeses, fresh strawberries, red grapes, apples, mandarin oranges, and granola, over mixed greens with a berry balsamic vinaigrette.  All of that for only 230 calories and 6 grams of fat.  I was feeling so healthy.  Then my husband pulled out the package of chocolate chunk cookies he had surreptitiously purchased.  Yes, I said package.  He didn't buy just one--he got the package of six.  Well, I have to tell you, you cannot eat just one.  These cookies are soooo good.  Since I had only had the salad, I indulged in two cookies, all the time thinking, "How bad can they be?"  Of course, I didn't check it out until long after they were into my digestive system and moving toward my hips.  Here's the skinny--320 calories per cookie with 14 grams of fat.

They do have 4 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber, so at least there are some redeeming qualities.  I feel so much better.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Apartment Living

We have officially moved out of our house after living there for 18 years.  The movers packed everything up on Monday and Tuesday, which turned out to be two of the hottest days of the summer.  The poor guys were dripping with sweat--which dripped on every surface they were near.  I don't even want to think about what landed on our mattresses and other items that were carried out.  (Thank you to my mom, my daughter, Anne, and my dear friend, Beth, who spent countless hours helping to clean my house after the movers got everything out.  I am truly blessed.)  Since the moving van won't arrive in Charlotte until Monday (I won't say anything about this whole moving process, except don't, under any circumstance, use North American Van Lines), we have three more nights of apartment living.

I've lived in apartments before, but I'd forgotten what it was like.  My memory has been refreshed.

Positives of Apartment Living

  • Decent workout facility
  • Pool that I don't have to maintain
  • Takes only thirty minutes to clean apartment from stem to stern
  • Valet garbage (set it outside the door and someone picks it up)
  • Have met a lot of interesting people

Negatives of Apartment Living

  • "Future Residents" parking spaces are normal size, but residents parking spaces leave no room to open the car door to get out.
  • Shrek lives above us and constantly stomps paces back and forth.
  • I can hear the guy in the bathroom next to us retching in the morning--is he getting chemotherapy or does he party a little too heartily?
  • The flowery smell in the hallway used to mask the garbage center smell is nauseating. (Maybe that's my neighbor's problem.)
  • We are on the bottom floor (street level is the third floor) and have to go outside to get cell phone reception.
  • We have four doors and a gate to go through to get from the parking garage to the apartment--a definite challenge when hands are full.
  • Weekend nights are loud with all the young residents.

I'm counting the hours until we get into the house.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

4th of July

For our first holiday in Charlotte, my husband and I decided to get out of town and check out the North Carolina countryside. I looked online, and since I love to hike, decided to go west to the Lake Lure/Chimney Rock area and then head into Asheville.

Lake Lure turned out to be beautiful. We had lunch at La Strada Italian Bar and Grill. Even though it was 90+ degrees outside, we sat on the veranda with views of the lake and mountains. I had the Oriental Grilled Chicken Salad with this incredible sesame-honey dressing. Yum!
Grilled Chicken Oriental Salad

They look pretty comfy sitting on seat cushions.

With our tummies full, we were off to Chimney Rock Park. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting. When I think of hiking, I picture Rocky Mountain National Park with remote trails. This was a little more touristy with staircases and an elevator instead of switchbacks. 

View of Lake Lure from Chimney Rock

Never-the-less, it was pretty. Of course, with the heat and humidity, we were sweating like pigs. My husband was less than excited about all of this "back to nature" stuff. He reminded me of our children when they were young and forced to hit the trail. He whined a bit but placated me. We ended the torture session with an ice cream cone. He was appeased. We continued on our way to Asheville. We had no idea what to expect, since we hadn't done our homework. Mike had read something about the Grove Park Inn. It's a beautiful resort that overlooks the Blue Ridge Mountains. It's rated as one of the top five spa resorts in the country.
The Grove Park Inn

Being the holiday, the restaurants were booked, so we had a couple of appetizers in the bar and then headed back to Charlotte. At one point, we came upon what, at first glance, appeared to be a major pile-up. Cars were in the ditches on both sides of the highway with people milling about. But no accident was apparent. It was the town's folk waiting to view the fireworks....hmmm...seems a bit dangerous to me, but this must be North Carolina!* All in all, it was a good day. We're enjoying exploring our new environment. My husband says our new adventure will keep us young...either that or give us gray hair.

*We have friends who were missionaries in Africa, and when anything strange would happen over there, they'd say, "TIA" meaning "This is Africa." I'll be doing a post soon about the strange things in Charlotte.)