Friday, March 28, 2014

Nikon 101

We have this beautiful camera, or as Tom says, "its not a camera, its a Nikon" and I have no idea how to use it, in fact I just put it in auto and point and shoot; so I took the opportunity to sit down and actually learn to use it while here on Lake Norman. I had the opportunity to sit down with Kevin at Photography by Kevin and get a one on one lesson on all the features and awesomeness that this bad boy is capable of, and wow, the things it can do!

Kevin was great, I had a three hour lesson on aperture, shutter speed, composition and proper use of the flash and I now feel set and confident to get out and play with all my new learned skills. I was also given a challenge for a photo a day for a year, so if you're on Instagram, you might get inundated as I take this challenge beginning on April 1st!

We took last weekend to take and really explore Charlotte, we had the opportunity to walk the streets, take in the scenery of the this vibrant and fun city, and of course break in my new found camera skills.

First lesson, Charlotte doesn't have a downtown, they refer to it as uptown, and it is a much bigger and bustling city than I gave it credit for; I was amazed at all the booming businesses, the number of tourists and then the charming homes in the fourth ward; and then there is NoDa, the artistic area of Charlotte. Just driving down the streets of NoDa made me feel like I stepped of the set of the latest hipster movie; bands playing on the corner, people walking their dogs up and down the streets and into galleries and all in true hipster fashion.

Ethel also got her first taste of hockey while we were here. The Charlotte Checkers had their annual Pooch Party along with Project H.A.L.O., a no kill animal shelter, and we were lucky enough to go this dog gone fun event and I'm pretty sure even Ethel enjoyed it!

Overall, North Carolina has been my most favorite stop along the way; I don't know if has to do with the fact that I am finally acclimating to the nomad status, the relief of the house finally selling, or if it really was just the location and the people. Either way, we are looking forward to exploring other aspects of what this gorgeous state has to offer.


Ah, the Biltmore, luxury and glamor in the Appalachians! We had the opportunity to visit Asheville last weekend and spend some time in this hip and vibrant city; not only visiting the Biltmore Estate, but enjoying downtown Asheville and Biltmore Village as well. Asheville is set right at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and it wasn’t until we arrived into town that I realized how much I missed the amazing vista that mountains create, it was a delight to live in the shadow of grand nature again for at least a weekend!

The Biltmore, pictures can’t even begin to describe its grandeur; the Vanderbilt home is massive and luxurious, it is truly an American castle! Not to mention the thousands of acres that surround the home and make up the beautiful estate, the exceptionally dog friendly estate, which for us was a dream, especially for Miss Ethel. Dogs are allowed all over the estate grounds, including all the outdoor dining areas, gardens and trails, and when it comes to touring the home and winery, they provide a kennel service for free.

We had the opportunity to sit and visit with a few of the locals, and learn just a little bit more about Asheville that makes it great, and needless to say, we are already planning our return trip, next time for a month stay! 

In other news, we celebrated the official closing of our Utah house while in Asheville, as in we actually got money this time! Woo Hoo! And can I just mention that having the house sold was a huge weight lifted, one less giant stressor in our lives and validation that we are on this amazing journey for the long haul, so keep reading, we promise more adventures to come!


Friday, March 14, 2014

Home Sweet Lake Norman

We have been in North Carolina for almost two weeks now; I am just realizing that I still haven’t given you all a peek at our Adorable A-Frame Lake House that we are living in for March. Wow, time flies when you are off playing, especially when I am trying like hell to play catch up on the blog with all the New Orleans fun that we experienced. So thank you for patience with me and just sufficing with Instagram photos for the past bit until I get you all the down low on how delightful and wonderful this place is.

We ended up on a fluke in Mooresville, North Carolina; we had intended on Nashville and then Savannah, but we waited too long to book a place to stay while all the ins and outs of the sale of our place in Salt Lake was going on, and then couldn’t find anything in those areas.  So here we are and am I ever so glad that we landed here, it is stunning and a breath of fresh air. 

Mooresville sits right on Lake Norman; in fact I am staring at the lake while I write this post. This town is also deemed, “Race City USA,” and boasts a ton of NASCAR museums, home to Penske racing and numerous NASCAR drivers. I know absolutely nothing about racing and I hear that it's kind of a big deal, so I am going to try like hell to muster up some enthusiasm for it and I am going to avoid referring to it as “The Redneck Round and Round” while we are here; I am pretty sure it wouldn't go over to well, and I might get the boot and now I am visualizing a real life Rambo event happening! This past weekend we hit up a car museum and to give it credit, the cars were really cool and of course Tom’s face lit up like Christmas morning, especially when he saw the bright red 66 Mustang!

Lake Norman is huge and gorgeous and there is just something about water that balances me out and makes me come alive; I wake up every morning smiling knowing I get to look out over this amazing body of water and can’t wait to get outside and smell the air, or it could just be that spring is around the corner, but I'm going with the water. Not to mention the home we are staying in just exudes charm, if it was human it would literally sweat it from every pore of its being; it has this crazy eclectic energy to it and I spot something new that I hadn’t noticed before that just gives me a grin.

So here she is, our home for the month of March:

Shelf in the kitchen, how many random items can you find that make you smile?
 Master Bedroom with Reading Nook:
 The Yard:
Peaking through our backyard and out onto the lake

Other updates, the house is officially empty of furniture as of yesterday and ready to go for the new owners. We had sell number two fail on the house two weeks ago, but we were lucky that we had some very eager buyers with a back up offer that made number three truly a charm and we signed docs last night! Fingers crossed that funds show up!

Also, I just want to give a huge shout out to some amazing people who have been so gracious with their time and so willing to do the things we are not there to do for ourselves! So first up, my brother Rodger and his wife Staci, thank you so much for meeting people to get things out of the house, patching and painting walls after all the furniture was out and just checking on the house for us on a regular basis. To my neighbor, Sid, for checking on the house, taking apart our bed frame, meeting movers and cleaning up the house after agents and potential buyers tracked snow through the place. To our agent Audrey, for going above and beyond what an agent should do and meeting people to buy furniture, keeping the house clean and keeping me sane! And last but not least, thank you to Pat and Camille, for allowing us to use your basement as a storage unit for the pieces of furniture we decided to keep! We truly couldn't do this without you all and we appreciate everything you have done for us! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!

We are off to Asheville this weekend for a little celebrating, so Biltmore posts to commence soon!

Thursday, March 13, 2014


Mardi Gras falls on that infamous Fat Tuesday, unfortunately we made our NOLA exit before then, but did however get to enjoy a month’s worth of Carnival festivities. Carnival season commences on January 6th of every year and is full of parades, masquerade balls, beads, decorations and of course king cake; New Orleans is the only city I can think of in the United States that can pull off two months of celebration on such a grandiose scale; the Krewes, the city and citizens have it down to a science!

Our favorite parades were the kick off of parade season, “Krewe du Vieux” and “Krewe Delusion” and they are geared directly to the locals. Now for my Utah folks, think the Park City Follies and just take that, amp it up about ten times, and then put it into parade form. These parades are full of satire, humor, nudity and crass entertainment; I doubt we saw a single sober person while watching this parades and it was pure awe and amazement for close two straight hours! 

We were lucky enough to find a balcony at Mimi’s in the Marigny and had a great view of the parades, we had access to the bar and convenient bathroom and I’ve heard these are the crucial points for pure parade enjoyment. Not only did we have an ideal location, but we got to hang out with a bunch of locals and witness the parades through their eyes, which made the experience that much more informative and fun; they were an encyclopedia of knowledge about the Krewes and if there was a float Tom and I didn’t quite pick up on, they were quick to explain the satire behind it. 

The floats were amazing; seriously, try and visualize a twerking Governor Jindal robot! Yeah, we pretty much had two hours of this non-stop entertainment! And for folks down on the street, well they were keeping their buzz, beads with airplane liquor sized bottles attached to them were being liberally handed out by those in the marching groups. Now these parades are not cheap to put on, they are free to the public and not paid for by the city. That is right the Krewes put on their parades and pay for the floats, the flare they throw, and then they get ranked; of course the wealthier and more creative parades landing over Mardi Gras weekend, with the exception of the two we saw on kick off weekend, meaning they start off with high expectations and end on an even higher note!

Although it would have been great to stay for Mardi Gras weekend, alas it wasn’t in the budget this round, double for one week what we spent on rent for an entire month. So Mardi Gras will stay on the bucket list, even though we did get to see a bit more of a local aspect of the parades, from what I’ve heard there is nothing quite like Fat Tuesday on Bourbon Street!

Sunset Prior To Parade Starting

First Float Out
Us in Our Mardi Gras Attire
Sampling of how the homes are decorated
And me with a random stranger, but its the only picture with my tutu!

A Night of Randomness

We had one really bizarre, random and coincidental night while in New Orleans and it was just too epic to not share it!

To set the scene, Tom’s brother Todd gave us the contact information of an old friend of his, Sean, in the New Orleans area that is a magician and plays in a band. So Tom reached out to Sean, and we were lucky enough that Sean totally hooked us up with tickets to one of his shows at the House of Blues in the French Quarter.  We are thinking awesome, it would be great to go out listen to some music, hit up Bourbon Street and catch the end of the parades on Canal Street; little did we know that our night would be full of random coincidences!

Now onto the events of the night, the house we rented in New Orleans is just right around the corner from Jacques Imo’s, so we never need to call for a cab, we literally just walk around the corner and grab one from the many tourists that are being dropped off at the must eat restaurant in New Orleans.  This night we needed to wait a bit, there was a bachelor party of about 12 guys ahead of us, their entire party didn’t fit into one cab so they invited Tom and I to share in the second one with the other half of their party.  I’m sitting in the front seat talking back and forth to the cabbie and the bachelor crew, kind of having a party in the car and of course we have our “go” cups, so it’s all fun at this point.  We end up telling the guys where we are heading and then I start talking about this promo that was on the news today about a show at The House of Blues, called Bustout Burlesque, and I am telling them about how this girl literally ice-skates on some foam pad during her burlesque routine and I am thinking how cool it would be to see it, and at this point I’m trying to convince Tom into staying for the later show, but with no avail.

We get dropped off just off of Canal Street, due to parade routes, and walk over to the House of Blues to pick up our tickets at will call. Now we totally think we are seeing the band St. Augustine play, but low and behold it is tickets to no other than Bustout Burlesque! Imagine my delight! Now we are talking burlesque here, not strippers, this is in an entire different realm, even though clothes do come off, it somehow magically done tastefully and classy. Plus they have ice skating on foe ice, a full jazz band playing behind them and a magician, Dante the Magician that is. Yes, Todd’s friend, Sean that got us the tickets was our MC and magician for the night. This show was so much more than I expected and made for a great night of entertainment, and for your viewing pleasure, just click HERE and it will take you to the news version, the clean version that I saw early that day. 

After the show we took a stroll down Bourbon Street to take in all the crazy Mardi Gras season goers in full spirit; beads and boobs were everywhere; no worries, mine stayed put! This was more about taking it all in and imaging the crowds 20 times thicker and the craziness that would ensue the following weekend! Did you know that they literally grease the light polls so that people cannot climb up them during Mardi Gras, needless to say, I was floored, the concept of needing to actually grease a poll to keep people off of them, never even crossed my mind. 
At the end of Bourbon Street we pop out onto Canal Street and catch one of the parades and walk our way up the road, catching beads as they fly freely from the floats and wondering where we are going to catch a cab home. We end up walking up and over to The Roosevelt and the lovely door man hails us a cab, and as we step in, it’s like the night just started, same cab driver that dropped us off; so we ask how often does this happen, only his second time in six years of driving cab in New Orleans!

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


One of the first weekends in the "Big Easy" we took the opportunity to ride the free ferry (which now cost $2, it changed just before we left) across the river; that big ol' Mississippi to Algiers. Now I'm not going to say that I was disappointed, but this is not the Mississippi River that Mark Twain had imprinted in my mind. Now granted times have changed, but part of me was still hoping to see some of that historic charm, the steamboats riding up and down the river, and not your run of the mill tourist attractions steamboats, but real ones with people dancing, cruising and just getting around, because you know that is what I had envisioned; damn that Mark Twain for putting all those false, pretty ideas in my head!
City View From Ferry:

Algiers took the “Big Easy” to a whole new level, this place was laid back and chill, I just wanted to pull up a park bench and do absolutely nada, and spend all day doing said nothingness here.  It exuded charm, the people were pleasant and we all enjoyed a relaxing get-a-way, even Ethel. We stopped at Tout De Suit Café for brunch, sitting outside, enjoying the Parisian like atmosphere while sitting across from the park and kiddy corner to the Holy Name of Mary Church.  It all makes for a great atmosphere, especially as the church bells chime every quarter hour, it was a lovely way to spend a Sunday, watching people come and go from mass, and even better when the food was top notch!
 Tout De Suit Cafe:

Now, I am not saying you just have to be lazy and just eat when you visit Algiers; this town is quite charming, you can walk around and take in the homes, or even run/bike the levee top bike/run path, the path runs two miles and gives you an amazing view across the Mississippi to French Quarter of New Orleans, how can you resist exercise when absorbing that view! Just channel your inner Mark Twain, and visualize it the way I did! 

For the $2 it costs now, it is much cheaper than taking one of the tourist trap steamboats, and you get to see the real aspect of New Orleans. I highly recommend it, save yourself the extra 60 bucks! 

Parks Rock

First off, I bitch slapped and pulled myself out of my funk! I really have no right to complain, I am off seeing the world and that is pretty awesome, so next time I turn into a whiny little shit, you are all to tell me to snap out of it and go out for a run! DO IT!!! But thank you all for your concern, love and kind words, I truly do have the greatest people in my life and for that I am tremendously blessed! So thank you, to all of you that give a damn!

Parks kind of kick ass, I just wanted to share that! We can do lots in parks; run, eat, take in nature and even check out museums of all types and New Orleans boasts two great parks with two totally different feels; Audubon and City Park. With our great location, both were really close; Audubon was a quick mile away and City Park about a ten minute drive.

Audubon has a spectacular running trail that I put to use on a regular basis, running around the lake and golf course made for a great distance and kept the runs from getting mundane. Audubon sits right between St. Charles and Magazine Street and kept Ethel and I in shape; well let’s be honest, it just helped balance out all the King Cake I’ve been eating! Oh good Lord, King Cake is a little slice of heaven or a milk shake of heaven; yup, found a joint that makes King Cake milk shakes and yeah, I’m drooling thinking of one right now! 

City Park is home of Morning Call and they hold yet another food weakness of mine, beignets! Now most visit Café Du Monde, and we’ve been there, but Morning Call’s coffee and beignets are so much tastier, although Café Du Monde does have them beat on location, there is nothing quite like the French Quarter. 
 Morning Call

City Park is twice the size of Central Park in NYC, just to give it some perspective and is home to so many attractions: City Putt, New Orleans Museum of Modern Art, The Botanical Garden, Sculpture Garden, Storyland and so many more great things to enjoy! Needless to say, Ethel and I were not lacking on places to get out and escape during the weeks while Tom was off working and we had a nice diversity to  mix up those walks and take in a fun and the off the grid aspect of NOLA! 

Sculpture Garden:

 Botanical Gardens:

More of City Park:

New Orleans has been a lot of fun, for all of us, although we have found it to not be quite as dog friendly as Texas was; even though there are a ton of restaurants with patio dining that she can join us at,  it just hasn’t had the outdoor activity that we were spoiled with in Texas. Plus when we are walking the little critter, one must keep a constant eye on her, since people tend to not know what exactly a trash can is and to Ethel this was heaven on a sidewalk! 

Overall, New Orleans, in my perspective, is the closest one can get to Europe and still be in the United States, it has such a strong French and Spanish influence, from the architecture, the language, the food; it truly is the Europe of America!  The Big Easy is so unique and unlike any other town in the US, and I love it, I truly do, the energy, the people and as crazy as it sounds, the smells! Now if I could just get people to pick up after themselves and pets, it would be pretty dang perfect place to live!