Five on Friday: Fave QC Spots

Charlotte has a lot to offer – I think people think it’s this little Southern town that’s lacking in culture, restaurants, etc, but they would be incorrect :) Here are 5 of my favorite spots around town that I’ve missed desperately of the last 18 months!

Hi Charlotte!

Hi Uptown Charlotte!

| ONE | Paper Skyscraper. I mean I love a good stationary shop, but Paper Skyscraper is so much more! They have the cutest paper goods, duh, but they also have so many unique goodies. The ones that are Charlotte or North Carolina specific are my favorite trinkets! (I also love the owners’ dog, Patsy, who greets customers).

| TWO | Reid’s. Y’all, I legit missed this place. It’s a cute little speciality grocery/wine/lunch spot. They have stuff I cant find at other food shops and I always leave spending just a teensy bit more than I anticipated. Always well worth it though! (Ahem, pimento cheese is always high on my list of priorities at Reid’s!)

| THREE | Shower Me with Love. This is a new favorite for me because I never spent much time in there before, but I went in to register the other day, and it’s just swoon-worthy. For whatever reason, there weren’t many (or any) baby shops in Sydney – it was all online – so it’s been fun to go into actual stores!

| FOUR | Whitewater Center. I haven’t been back yet, but it’s on our summertime list! They have so many activities and their summer concerts are really fun!

| FIVE | Friend’s homes. Cheesy to the max, but I’m owning it. I’ve loved catching up with some of my friends over the last week or so, and just going over to someone’s house with whom you’re comfortable is so refreshing, and frankly has been so foreign (excuse the pun) over the last year and a half. I am soaking it in and hope we can reciprocate soon!

Five-on-Friday

A Liz Adventures | North Carolina Charm | Hello! Happiness | The Good Life

The one with adjustments

I think I have finally (almost?) come out on the other side with regards to jet lag. It’s great to be back, but I just feel like it’s been non stop as well – not much time to just “take it all in” yet. And I know that my still jet-lagged husband is ready to just sleep and {play} golf through next week when he takes so much needed time off.

Speaking of adjustments, I knew that I would toss and turn for the first ten days or so – get up at 4AM, take a 2 hour nap, etc, but there are two adjustment that I dont think I had originally anticipated…

  1. Driving on the right side of the road again. I wrote about adjusting to driving on the left side when we first moved to Perth last April, but let me tell ya: getting back into driving on the other side again is almost as challenging. True story: if I’m at a stop light or sign, I sometimes have to tell myself OUT LOUD that I must turn onto the right side of the road. Traffic circles petrify me – I have to tell myself which way to turn like half a mile before said traffic circle appears. Fear not fellow Charlotte drivers: I am safe on the roads – just sometimes a bit slower than usual. Also an issue: just getting your bearings in staying in your lane. I am in constant fear of hitting the curb! Again, I just won’t be driving in the fast lane anytime soon 😉
  2. Sales taxes. Dubai and Australia were expensive. No question. So I do NOT miss those high prices at shops and grocery stores. That being said, when you saw the price tag, you knew what you were going to get. I just 100% forget about sales taxes!
  3. Credit/debit cards accepted everywhere. Before we got an Australian bank account, we only had our international credit or debit cards and many places would roll their eyes, have a surcharge (especially for AMEX) or make you sign even for debit – it just was a pain in the you know what and made paying at the register a longer process. Not anymore…bliss!!!

Sorry this post lacked some pictures! I need to get back on that to keep y’all entertained 😉 Hopefully this week! Happy Hump Day!

The one from Charlotte

After a brief hiatus, I’m back! And from Charlotte now.  Last week was a whirlwind/black hole of moving back, moving in, getting settled, catching up and some brief (but rigorous house hunting). And all of this on top of trying to get over jet lag. And did I mention Barr kept traveling most of the week? I still dont know how he does it…

Not that I am complaining! It was a great week as we tried to get back in the swing of things, and we’re so thrilled to be “home” – although it won’t feel like home until we get our pooch…the countdown to next weekend is on :) And until we’re free of rental furniture.

So keep your fingers crossed for us during our first house hunting and home buying adventure; the Charlotte market is a little crazy, so we’re just trying to keep our heads above water and praying that we’ll be able to find a place and be in it before the little one arrives in October!

Home sweet home!

Expat Five on Friday

This will be last expat post (for now), so it’s fitting to do a post on my top five takeaways regarding living overseas these last 19 months. TGIF!

| ONE | Cultural immersion. I will miss hearing different languages, accents and stories of travel. Dubai and Sydney were chock full of public transportation rides where, yes, I was jostled and was exposed to some…ahem characters  – but hearing all the different languages will be something Ill really long for I think. And while in Perth we may not have encountered as much cultural diversity, we met so many amazing expats (particularly from the states) with just incredible travel and expat tales. We were all more or less over on the edge of the world and travel and expat-ness was what we had in common – those bonds we formed were really special.

Image via TimeOut Dubai

| TWO | Travel, travel, travel. The travel opportunities Barr and I had were once in a lifetime. Though we both have some regrets about not traveling as much as we should have/could have during our stint in Dubai, we learned our lesson and soaked up the exotic and unique destinations as much as we could in Australia. And that’s not to say we didnt get to go to some cool places while in Dubai – Cape Town is probably up there with one of our favorite trips ever.

Cape Town - October 2013

South African adventure in October 2013

| THREE | QT with my husband. We bonded more over the last (almost) two years than we ever would have in the states, I think. Frankly, at the beginning of each of our expat destinations, we didnt know many people (if any) and all we had was one another. Particularly in Perth where Barr was based locally, we were blessed to spend lots of time together that we never would have had in the states. Even with the travel, the quality time we shared is something I will always treasure from our expat experience.

Bonding over cocktails - one of our favorite things!

Bonding over cocktails – one of our favorite things!

| FOUR | Community. While it was always challenging to build a real sense of community in Dubai, Perth or Sydney (I mean if you’re only in a city for a few months, that investment of time and energy is lacking on all sides, let me tell ya), the friends we did make in each of these cities are ones we will treasure forever. We cant wait to see our Dubai bestie, Virginia, in Charlotte next week! :)

| FIVE | Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Being an expatriate makes you realize how much you have. I probably should have always realized this, but I definitely took our life in the states for granted more times than I care to count. Living in a foreign country/countries, even ones that are very developed, are never like your home country (and you wouldnt want them to be – that’s part of the experience), and at certain points (sometimes more often than not), you yearn for your parents, your dog (!), your friends, your church, a community, your own bed. Just general familiarity, really. And while I cant say “Ill never take those things for granted again”, I will absolutely be more cognizant and thankful of them on a daily basis.

So, I dont think this is “good bye” forever to expat life, but who knows? I am very type A and have always been trying to plan out as much as the future as I can, but being an expat (or maybe just Barr’s or a consultant’s wife) has taught me that sometimes, you just have to let life happen and amaze you. And this has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life, and I cant wait for the next chapter.

Thanks for reading :) Ill be back, next time on the other side of the world!

Five-on-Friday

 

A Liz Adventures | North Carolina Charm | Hello! Happiness | The Good Life

The one with repatriation fears

As we prepare for repatriation, packing up our clothes and knick knacks in boxes and suitcases – some things we’ve accumulated over the last 18 months and some that have made the thousands of miles of travel from North Carolina to Dubai to Perth back to the states and to Sydney – I cant help but feel a little apprehensive, excited and nostalgic. And maybe some of that has to do with pregnancy hormones (sorry, Barr!), but I think a larger portion has to do with general uncertainty about what’s next.

Sounds weird, right? I mean Ive felt like our lives have been in so much “where are we living next?” mentality since we left Dubai last April – and it was rarely easy on my type A-self – but at the same time, I think I took a bit of comfort in that uncertainty or at the very least, the certainty of expat life. Does that make sense?

Either way, I am scared of repatriating. I remember my mom repatriating to Houston after years in Canada (expat-lite) and Singapore (expat-heavier) and the challenges she encountered upon returning to the states. Of course you’re excited to get back to what you remember as a routine and normal, but when you really sit down and think about it, is it really the “norm” anymore?

That, my friends, is the fear of repatriating: what is normal? What has changed? I think the answer is: everything. You anticipate moving back and hopefully settling back in as you were 18 months ago, but upon reflection, is that really possible? Probably not. Life has moved on back home (as it should), and you’ve changed because of your own experiences (as you should), but that doesn’t mean you cant help of thinking of how things used to be. It’s the age old “grass is always greener” paradigm.

Image via the New Yorker

So when people ask, “are you excite to move back??!” – of course the answer is a resounding YES. When you’re an expat, you yearn for your friends, your family, your home, your dog (!) – FOMO is a constant emotion (well for me anyway), but at the same time, I’m scared. Or at the very least, apprehensive. Even though we’ve been anticipating moving back since January, it’s a scary prospect. Settling [back] in anywhere is. I think back to having moved around so much, switching schools so many times, as a child and teenager, before going to college in the states (where I literally knew not one soul) – and I think of that as the best preparation for repatriation (and one of the resounding reasons why Id love for our children to have similar experiences), but either way, starting again is scary. Period. Whether you’ve done it five times or never before.

The important thing for me to keep in mind is life would have changed no matter if we had moved away or not – considering “what could have been” or thinking things like “well in Australia/Dubai, XYZ would have happened” is fruitless. And frustrating. I guess no matter what, thinking about “what might have been” is a waste of time – you’ve got to keep moving forward – remember the good times of the past, sure, but dont dwell on the past too much. Easier said than done, but Ill have this post to hopefully remind me if things get hairy :)

No matter what, I am so excited about what is next for us (whatever that may entail) – I cant wait to be close to family and friends, to cuddle my puppy, to not have poor connection on FaceTime, to go to Target (!), to go to our church every Sunday, to prepare for our son, to make new memories.

Five on Friday: Moving Tips

Y’all!! I cant believe I’m writing this post on moving tips. Not because I dont know about it (Lord knows we’ve moved enough times), but rather because it means were closing in on the end of our time in Australia…and really, as expats. It’s crazy!

So yes, we’ve moved cities a lot, but more than that, we’ve moved houses within cities a lot, too. Since we got married, we’re talking a grand total of nine times. 10 once we find a house in Charlotte. Yes, you read that correctly: ten. freaking. moves. We have stuff spread throughout the United States (cars, clothes, furniture, dog – primarily with our parents, some in storage in North Carolina), not to mention everything that will soon be in transit from Sydney back to the states.

If I sound like I’m whining, I apologize – because honestly, even though we’ve been a bit of a nomadic family these last almost two years (and cant stay in a house more than six months to save our lives), I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. :) So, with all of that said, here are top five tips for moving!

| ONE | Plan ahead. I mean, I am a planner by nature/DNA, so perhaps I sometimes take things to an extreme, and it could be argued that I pack too far in advance, but you definitely need to plan ahead when packing up a home. There are tons of things to tick off a list when moving: cleaning, booking movers, purchasing boxes/moving supplies, deciding what’s going with you and what’s not, and the list goes on and on. Plan ahead – get your movers sorted and the dates booked so you can work with a set deadline.

| TWO | Whittle down your belongings. One of the best things about moving so much is that each time we do, we cut down on all our “stuff”. It’s amazing all of the things you unknowingly accumulate over the years. Take your move as an opportunity to decide what clothes you really need, the furniture you actually still use/like…that kind of stuff. Chances are, if you haven’t used it in awhile, someone else could really love and use it.

| THREE | Keep you boxes/suitcases organized. Perhaps this goes without saying, but just in case, Id recommend labeling your boxes and organizing them by item or room. It just makes life so much easier when you’re unpacking.

| FOUR | Set aside your essentials in an overnight bag. Dont get so wrapped up in your move and packing process that you forget to leave out your essentials. You may not get your boxes right away (ahem, moving from Sydney to Charlotte) or if you’re just moving down the road, you may not feel like unpacking your stuff right away – it’s nice to have a few outfits and toiletries right away, so you dont have to rummage around in all your boxes.

| FIVE | Use what you have. You dont need to purchase tons of packing paper, bubble wrap or moving boxes and waste unnecessary amounts of money (because trust me, been there – done that. More than once.) For example, use some towels or workout clothes to cushion dishes. Stop by a local liquor store – I’ve found that they always have extra boxes (most of the time they’re small, but are perfect for glassware or knick-knacks).

Do y’all have any good tips? We’re in moving mode this weekend, and Im always open to more suggestions. Have a great weekend!

Five-on-Friday

 

A Liz Adventures | North Carolina Charm | Hello! Happiness | The Good Life

The one with the Summer Bucket List

I referenced my Sydney Bucket List a few days ago as I madly try to tick things off over the next 10 days or so. And like a Sydney list, I also have a generalized Summer Bucket List that I’ve mentally made over the last few weeks. Since June 1 was the first day of winter in Australia (and has felt every bit like winter in my “I dont do cold weather” mind), the daydreaming of summer in the states has kicked into full gear.

Perhaps it feels so cold to me because we dont have any heat in our apartment…

So with that in mind, I give you my {preliminary} Summer Bucket List.

Summer Wish List

House-hunting, home-purchasing, nesting: in that order

A Charlotte Knights game: the pictures of the new stadium, coupled with baseball in summer = perfection

Baby-moon: we’ve toyed around with a few locations, but haven’t made any plans…yet

Trip to the beach: preferably Charleston

Twilight golf: we’ve missed this summer tradition (even if I do just tag along in the cart)

Dog park: Dash loves going off-leash at dog parks; I cant wait to take him!

Reunite with my girlfriends for book club: even if we dont talk about the book :)

Decorate Baby Blanton’s nursery: see “nesting” above

Long summertime walks: preferably with friends/husband and/or dog

Multiple visits to the Blue Ridge Mountains: nowhere else like western North Carolina in the summertime

Obviously catching up with friends and family tops the list, but there are some more specific ramblings. Do y’all have any summer bucket list items? Peace out, winter!

The one with Vivid Sydney

As our time in Sydney quickly draws to a close, we’re trying to soak up as much as this great city as we can – and this past weekend we ticked something off our bucket list: Vivid Sydney. Ive mentioned Vivid Sydney a handful of times over the last few weeks, but it’s only because I couldnt wait to see it in person! I mean check out some of these (professional) pictures of the event:

Vivid Sydney display at Customs House

The iconic Sydney Opera House lit up for Vivid Sydney

Vivid Sydney is advertised as a “light, music and ideas festival”, and it was definitely all of that! It’s a 3 week long event with tons of displays, concerts and seminars all around the city – not just the Opera House!

We went to view the sights on Saturday night, and I mean I knew it would be busy (tons of blocks are shut off to cars and bus routes are extended during Vivid Sydney, if that gives you any indication to the sheer numbers of folks descending on the bigger areas of the festival), but nothing prepared me for the tens of thousands of spectators that crowded Circular Quay last weekend.

Ill have to try to sneak back out during a weekday night because it was PACKED on Saturday

Ill have to try to sneak back out during a weekday night because it was PACKED on Saturday

We got down to CBD pretty early in the evening to run some errands and decided to get drinks before dinner. We first went to Glenmore Hotel in The Rocks. I had heard that it was one of the best rooftop bars to see the Opera House’s light display, and we mercifully got an actual table right at the edge of the roof, so we had a great view.

The Opera House in from the Glenmore Hotel

The Opera House in from the Glenmore Hotel

We were on the other side of the quay from the Opera House, but the light show was still a sight to behold – we couldnt get over how they could get the lights so bright and so crisp from so many different angles! There is a rotating show that lasts about 20 minutes or so, with tons of colors, themes, etc.

Vivid Sydney does the Sydney Opera House

Vivid Sydney does the Sydney Opera House

After we watched the loop about 3 or 4 times, we decided to try out another bar (and another bucket list item) that had been recommended to us months ago: Bulletin Place. Y’all, if you’re in Sydney, you must, must, must go!! They have a rotating cocktail menu of about 5 drinks that feature fresh, seasonal fruit or herbs (in addition to your typical cocktails), but let me tell you: everything is just so customized and fresh! They were so nice to make me an amazing mocktail, with roasted cinnamon pears, apples and ginger, topped off with mint, while Barr had one of the best Old Fashioneds of his life.

Delicious drinks at Bulletin Place

Delicious drinks at Bulletin Place

We wandered around some of the other Vivid Sydney displays around Circular Quay and The Rocks. Some of our favorites? First up was “Life Story” at the Argyle Cut in The Rocks. Underneath a tunnel was a light show put together by BBC Earth, which featured a mini nature movie – it was like an IMAX! Plus, it was really neat to see all these families which had set up chairs or just laid on the ground and looked up to watch the show. It was fully narrated and completely captivating. (Not to mention, the crowds weren’t as bad!)

Happy spectators at the Argyle Cut

Happy spectators at the Argyle Cut

Part of the "Life Story" light show of Vivid Sydney

Part of the “Life Story” light show of Vivid Sydney

The Museum of Contemporary Art also had an unbelievable display on their facade – it reminded me of a moving rubix cube! Check out my Instagram for a video of this one.

The facade of the MCA's Vivid Sydney display

The facade of the MCA’s Vivid Sydney display

All in all, Vivid Sydney was an amazing event – I’m so glad we went, though Id definitely recommend if you’re planning to see it yourself (festival runs until June 8), try to go on a weeknight as the weekends are insane. And definitely check out some of the side displays – they were some of our favorites!

A fun rainbow light show in Circular Quay

A fun rainbow light show in Circular Quay

Martin Place in Sydney's CBD had tents with lights strung around them, complete with makeshift bars and bands

Martin Place in Sydney’s CBD had tents with lights strung around them, complete with makeshift bars and bands

Part of CBD's hotels lit up for Vivid Sydney

Part of CBD’s hotels lit up for Vivid Sydney

Four

Several bloggers I follow started doing a post entitled “Four”, listing a few things about themselves so you can get to know them better. So in lieu of 5 on Friday, here are 4!

  • Four Nicknames
    • Hmm…I dont think I have too many – certainly not four! In college, friends called me Abs and my parents call me Abby Rabbit, but I think that’s about it
  • Four Jobs Ive Had
    • Receptionist at a country club outside of Asheville, NC (I couldn’t cut it as a waitress) :(
    • Intern at the United States Senate
    • Analyst in business development at a healthcare consulting firm
    • Freelance copywriter
  • Four Movies I’ve Watched More Than Once
    • Wet Hot American Summer: I recently saw this one and have watched it multiple times since. I have my brother in law to thank for this excellent recommendation
    • Pride and Prejudice: Both the Keira Knightly and the Colin Firth versions…too many times to count
    • The Bourne Identity: I cant turn it off – and I feel like it’s on tv a lot! Barr and I love this one.
    • White Christmas: We watch this classic every Christmas, without fail – even if we traveled over the holidays, my dad always made sure we had it to watch. I love singing all the songs.

White Christmas

  • Four Things in my Purse
    • EOS chapstick: I’m obsessed with them!
  • The BEST

    • Several pens and my Emily Ley Simplified Planner (it’s the best – I highly recommend it if you’re looking for a new planner. I always write stuff down – I have a terrible memory.
    • My iPhone (duh), but always cued up with plenty of podcasts these days
    • My Opal card, which is the Sydney travel card for the bus, train and ferry; I try to walk around as much as possible, but I never know if it starts raining or if I get tired :)
  • Four Books I’d Recommend – my favorite question (though one of the hardest!)
    • Shantaram: I keep hearing that they’re going to make this into a movie, and I would love to see them try. Set in India, this is such a sprawling and enthralling story – I’ve read it over and over (and over)
    • Jerusalem, the Biography: My non-fiction pick (see my bucket list answer to see why)
    • Pillars of the Earth: Historical fiction is my genre of choice, and this is a classic
    • East of Eden: Another classic, but it’s heavy (both literally and figuratively). That being said, Mr Steinbeck knew what he was doing
  • Four Places I’ve Visited
    • Musandam, Oman: Part of our honeymoon surprise!
    • Margaret River, Western Australia: Some of the most gorgeous scenery I’ve ever seen. I really miss this part of Australia!
    • Perugia, Italy: When I was studying abroad, a group of friends and I took the train from Rome to Perugia for the annual Perugia Chocolate Festival – an amazing experience and one of my favorite abroad memories!
    • Charleston, South Carolina: My favorite US city: great food, weather, shopping and vibe

Charleston: I love you

  • Four Places to Visit on my Bucket List
    • Israel: This is hands down #1. No city in particular (though Jerusalem is a must) – more like as many as I can see!
    • St Petersburg: I would love to see the museums, palaces and architecture – I’m enviously swooning over Ailee’s travels there right now
    • Lisbon: We’ve been tossing around the idea of doing a Spain and Portugal trip for years now – fingers crossed we make it there sooner rather than later
    • Antarctica: Visiting all of the continents is on our collective family bucket list. And no, I haven’t been to South America yet, but you’ve got to get to South America to get to Antarctica! Kill two birds with one stone :)

 

  • Four Things I’m Looking Forward To
    • Our move back to Charlotte! This includes so many sub-categories: buying a home, seeing friends/family/dog, settling back into the United States and our Charlotte community. I cant wait!
    • Summertime! So I think as I continue to get, ahem, rounder over the next few months, I may regret this one, but for now, I bring on the summer and all that entails
    • This one is a bit more imminent: we’re going to dinner in Circular Quay tomorrow to see Vivid Sydney – I cant wait to see it (and share with y’all next week)!
    • Baby Blanton!!!! Enough said :) :) :)

The one about Charlotte

For the last 18 months or so, I’ve been writing primarily about Dubai and Australia (and some of our travels in between), and I know at times I mention our self-proclaimed hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina (even though neither of us are technically from Charlotte – but really, how do you decided where you’re “from”? Lord knows that Barr is not a Chicago kid – where he was born – and I cant remember Chattanooga, TN even if I wanted to. Frankly, Ive always hated that question because it’s always been a hard one for me to answer, but Ill save that thought for another day!)

One of the best parts of Charlotte: this little guy peeking out from our old house

One of the best parts of Charlotte: this little guy peeking out from our old house

ANYWAY, Charlotte. As we wind down on our time in Sydney – and as expats in general (for the time being) – I cant help but think of the beautiful Queen City, so fittingly, our new adventure (and city) deserves its own post. :)

  • City Name: Charlotte – some nicknames include The Queen City, The QC, and The Hornet’s Nest (for their NBA team)
    • The name “Charlotte” (and the “Queen” in Queen City) come from Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz (not the newly minted Princess Charlotte of Cambridge), who was the wife of King George III of England. She lived from 1744-1818. There’s a nice statue of good old Charlotte at the Charlotte airport.

Queen Charlotte at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg airport (image via Charmeck.org)

  • Population: The most recent census (2013) estimates Charlotte’s population at 775,000 within the city limits, with Forbes ranking Charlotte as #9 in their fastest growing cities in the United States report.
  • Major Industries: Banking drives a lot of jobs in Charlotte (Wells Fargo and Bank of America are both headquartered in Charlotte), but the number one employer in the city is the healthcare system, Carolinas Health Care. Retail is also big in Charlotte, with companies like Lowe’s, Belk, and Harris Teeter based there.

Charlotte skyline (image via Wikipedia)

  • Famous Peeps: Emily Maynard (the Bachelorette!), Anthony Foxx (US Secretary of Transportation), Pat McCrory (NC governor), Michael Jordan, Billy Graham, Jim Nantz (hello, friends), and Brooklyn Decker – to name a few. Oh and NASCAR drivers, as well as Hornets and Panthers players.
A NASCAR driving experience on Charlotte Motor Speedway

A NASCAR driving experience on Charlotte Motor Speedway

  • Highlights:
    • Sports: Charlotte is home to two national, professional teams: the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets and the NFL’s Carolina Panthers. The city is also a motorsports hub, with most NASCAR teams calling Charlotte home – it has the Charlotte Motor Speedway as well as the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
    • Culture: The Queen City has some great museums, festivals, parks, performing arts centers, and other cultural pursuits. Some of my favorites are the Levine Museum of the New South, the Mint Museum, Blumenthal Performing Arts Center, and the Billy Graham Library.
    • Weather: Barr will try to tell you it gets “too cold”, but my view is that it’s pretty awesome climate-wise! It’s considered “sub-tropical”, but I love the climate there because we have four distinct seasons, with a short winter. Growing up in Houston (incredibly, oppressively hot and humid for much of the year) and Calgary (two seasons: cold and colder), I like the mix Charlotte offers: we get a handful of “snows” in the winter, but they’re usually gone in a day or two, and while summers are hot, they’ve got nothing on Houston or Dubai.
One of our previous homes in Charlotte after a snow

Our old house in Charlotte after a snow