My November Bucket List (and how I did in October)

fall leaves

Do you all enjoy these bucket list posts?? They really help keep me accountable and productive during the month, so I might make it a monthly series if you’re interested?

I was just looking back over my October bucket list – I didn’t do as much running or hiking as I wanted to, mostly because I spent so much time working to get out the vote. I did, however, rack up miles and miles of walking while knocking on doors to talk with voters! With the November 6th midterm election coming up, encouraging voters became my number one priority for October.

** If you’re reading this and you’re in the USA, PLEASE be a voter this year!!!! Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, every vote is crucial!**

I also didn’t finish going through my fall and winter clothes; temps were warm for much of the month and it just wasn’t high on the priority list. I did start pulling them out; they are currently heaped all over the bed in my son’s old room (my husband asked “what volcano exploded in Alex’s room?”), so I will have to get them all sorted before he comes home for Thanksgiving!

So, without further ado, here is my November bucket list:

Attend my first ever Watch Party – on Election Night, after being a poll greeter for much of the day, I’ll be attending a Watch Party! This is the first time I’ve ever worked an election, and I’m super excited to share the anticipation and (hopefully) the celebration with my fellow Democrats who have all been working so hard to get out the vote!

IMG_1523Just a few of the books waiting for me….

Spend November 7th reading on my porch all day – so many things got put on the back burner during October, including reading! I’ve got a HUGE stack of library books waiting for me, so am going to spend a good chunk of the day reading on my front porch. A good book, coffee and my dog…sounds like a pretty perfect day to me 😊

Finish culling my fall and winter clothes – I want to keep only the clothes I love and wear, and consign or donate the rest. (And my son will need somewhere to sleep when he comes home for Thanksgiving, so there’s that – I work well with firm deadlines lol)

me and sisMe and my sister – so excited to see her at Thanksgiving!!!

Clean my house from top to bottom for the holidays – We are so grateful that all three of our kids are coming home for Thanksgiving! My sister and brother-in-law and my dad and stepmother are also coming, so we’ll have a fun houseful. I’m really looking forward to it, and will spend much of my time between the election and Thanksgiving doing a deep clean in preparation for the holidays. I’ve blocked out days on my calendar for this and will tackle two rooms per day.

gingko leavesSwishing through the fallen leaves is one of my favorite autumn activities!!

Spend lots of time outdoors – November is a great month in North Carolina, so I want to spend time outside every day in the fresh air and sunshine. My husband is heading back to work this month (yay! He got a job!) so I’ll be mostly in charge of walking the dog during the week now, which will definitely help with this goal.

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Schedule four blog sessions this month – I’ve been trying to increase the number of posts I do each month, but life keeps getting in the way (no firm deadline…that’s the problem😉). I signed up for an online blogging course way back in August but haven’t started it yet, so I am going to schedule four times on my November calendar where I will sit down and spend one hour on the blogging course! (If anyone out there wants to be my accountability partner and hold me to this, I’d be ever so appreciative!)

Find fabric and order two new chairs – We are in the middle of a living room refresh (our new couch comes on Thursday!) and I’ve been searching for a pair of swivel rockers to put on either side of our fireplace. I found the chairs, but am not enamored of any of the fabric choices, so am currently searching for fabric that I love. Wish me luck!

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Have friends over for a bonfire and roast some marshmallows – A couple of weeks ago, I hosted some girlfriends for a backyard fire and s’mores – it was a such a relaxing evening and I’m not sure why we don’t do it more often. I’m going to plan another evening this month – there’s just something about sitting outside when there’s a chill in the air, bundled in a blanket, roasting marshmallows and chatting around a fire.

So there it is…no big travel plans this month, but lots of nesting in preparation for the holidays. And I’ll be sure to throw in a spontaneous adventure or two for all of you!

 

 

 

7 Easy ways to help Get Out the Vote (that don’t involve talking to people)

vote is voice hats

For those of us in the United States, Tuesday November 6th is Election Day. I’ve been spending lots of time this month working on getting out the vote; I’ve even *gulp* gone out canvassing! Like most people, I was super intimidated at the thought of getting involved and TALKING TO PEOPLE (it’s not nearly as bad as I thought it’d be), so thought I’d share some easy ways to help get out the vote that don’t require voter interaction!

poll greeter

Wear a “Vote” button, hat, or tee shirt – An internet search shows thousands of buttons, car magnets, and tees with messages about voting! You choose the message you want to wear and when you want to wear it. I ordered this tee and this tee and am going to wear them on the days I know I’ll be running all over town. I don’t want to get into any confrontations with people, so chose a simple, non partisan message.

vote buttonHelp make buttons – ever wondered where all those buttons come from that everyone’s handing out around election time? Volunteers make them! Just call your party’s county office or your favorite candidate and say “I’d like to help make buttons” – easy peasy!

postcards

Write postcards – this is a super easy way to help! The postcards to voters project is nationwide, but many candidates and local party offices/precincts have initiated their own postcard writing campaigns. You can gather friends for postcard writing parties or do a few at a time during commercials while watching TV; handwritten postcards are a great way to reach voters! My precinct wrote postcards before our primaries, and several folks came to vote with postcards in hand – so very rewarding to know our efforts mattered!

Share information about voting on your social media – You may have friends and neighbors who don’t know how to make sure they’re registered to vote, whether your state offers early voting or what the locations and hours are for voting. Its easy to share factual information like this in a non-confrontational way, along with a reminder that its important that we ALL vote, regardless of our party affiliation.

door hangers2

Drop off door hangers – Our precinct printed door hangers with info about early voting locations, the slate of candidates, and other issues on the ballot. We’ve had volunteers driving around neighborhoods and putting them on doors, as another way to contact voters.  I’ve done several neighborhoods and rarely does anyone come to the door when I’m there.

**Full disclosure: I did have one lady come to the door while I was approaching. I just said “I’m dropping off some info about early voting” – easy peasy!**

Put a sign in your yard – If you have a particular candidate or issue you’d like to support, ask for a sign to put in your yard! Candidates LOVE this, particularly if you live on a street that gets lots of traffic, as name recognition can make all the difference in who gets the vote.

Text voters – Lots of organizations/candidates use texts to get their message out. You can sign up to help text voters. Most use apps with pre-scripted messages that conceal all phone numbers for privacy reasons (yours and the people you are texting). While there is no face to face interaction, I’ve received both positive and negative replies. I handle the negative ones by texting back “So sorry to bother you! I’ll remove you from our list right now😊” This is super easy – the app I’m signed up on loads the message and all I have to do is tap “send” – I can send about 800 texts in an hour or so!

**And two bonus ideas if you don’t mind a little voter interaction…**

Phone banking – Many people these days don’t answer their phone if they don’t recognize the number, so you’ll mostly be leaving voicemails. Candidates and political parties focus on calling folks who they believe will support them, so you’ll generally be calling people within the same party. You will be given a script and a list of numbers; everything is loaded on a website to make it as easy as possible. You can do a few at a time (while waiting in the school pick up line, folding laundry, etc.) or a bunch all at once. If someone does pick up, you’ll usually have a positive conversation!

booth at pride

Staff a booth at a festival or fair – I’ve worked my party’s booth at two different fairs and festivals this month, asking people if they’re registered to vote and handing out  voter materials. I’ve had some great conversations and love that I’ve been able to provide help to folks who were unsure about their registration/polling locations/issues on the ballot. I’ve broken down and cried with a couple of women and been the recipient/giver of hugs  – it’s been an amazing experience!

 

My October Bucket List

blue glass front porchOctober is one of my favorite months…although it is 88 degrees today, I’m all about fall and am anxiously awaiting its arrival here in North Carolina (I got a quick little taste in Prague last week, where for three glorious days it was in the high 50’s).  Here are some of the things I’m excited for this month…

Digging out my fall clothes – I LOVE being able to wear clothes without sweating! It’s so much fun to play in my closet and say hello to my favorites from last year…I’m super excited to pull out my fall clothes this month! A huge closet purge will be happening – after living in Connecticut for five years before moving here, I have LOTS of winter clothes. But in the South, we don’t get super cold winters, and I’ve about given up on ever moving back to somewhere with colder winters. This year, I’m going to ruthlessly get rid of the thick sweaters I no longer wear and some of my heavier winter coats.

 

IMG_5975.jpgMy two favorite hiking buddies!

Hiking in the North Carolina mountains – Do you prefer the beach or the mountains??  I am a mountain girl all the way – I love hiking and our North Carolina mountains have some beautiful trails! Blocking out at least two or three days to head west and do some hiking with my husband and dog is a high priority for me this month.

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Working with my local party to Get Out The Vote – for those of us in the USA, midterm elections are November 6th. I spent all of 2017 being angry, then decided that working to help get out the vote was a great way to funnel my anger into positive action. Whichever party you belong to, please make plans to BE A VOTER this year – to paraphrase Barack Obama, “democracy works best when we ALL participate”!

purple reeds

The Chiluly at Night exhibit at the Biltmore – I have been so excited to see this exhibit of Dale Chiluly’s glass in the gardens of Biltmore Estate, but it closes this weekend.  So I spontaneously bought a ticket on Tuesday and drove to Asheville last night….the exhibit was AMAZING and I’m so glad I went!  If you are in the area and have been wanting to see it, I highly recommend it. The night tickets are sold out, but you can still see it during the day through Sunday.

glass ball front lawn**secret tip: You need a wristband to access the gardens after 7 PM, but if you have a daytime ticket, you can hang out in the shops and restaurants until dark and look over the wall to see a few of the pieces lit up in the front “side garden” – there’s also this beautiful piece on the front lawn that you can access up close without a wristband**

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Beethoven’s Fifth with the Charlotte Symphony – My husband introduced me to the joys of going to symphony concerts back in college – and now we go several times a year. This weekend we are heading to Charlotte to hear Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – I’m looking forward to getting dressed up and having a date with him.

Mornings on my porch – Even though it’s still in the 80’s here, the morning temps are a bit cooler and the humidity is lower, making mornings on my porch pleasant again. One of my favorite things to do is to sit on my porch in the morning with my dog, my coffee and a good book. if you happen to pass by, wave and say hello!

IMG_7921.JPGWith Marek, our running tour guide in Prague!

Running – After doing two runs in Prague (including our running tour), I’m looking forward to spending more time running once the temps are lower. Salem Lake and Tanglewood Park are two of my favorite places to run – they both have lots of shade and beautiful fall foliage. Once the leaves start to change, I’ll be out there a couple of times each week!

What are you most looking forward to this month?

Great October Events in Winston Salem, NC

tree-99852.jpgOctober is one of my favorite months in North Carolina!

Happy Saturday!  I’m back from my bike trip and have mostly recovered from jet lag. I have lots of great stories to share from the Czech Republic, but first comes the next installment in my monthly series “Great Events in Winston Salem”.  Lots of awesome happenings this month…the Dixie Classic Fair, PRIDE month, and Halloween, to name just a few! Here is a curated list of fun events in October (if none of these tickle your fancy, just check Facebook events for Winston Salem in October – there are thousands of listings)!

autumn-986343.jpgOutdoor events

October is one of my favorite months in North Carolina – the temps are finally cooling off, so I plan to spend as much time outdoors as possible! Here are some great choices…

Thursdays @ 5 PM – Innovation Quarter YMCA Trailblazers running group – run along the Long Branch Trail then head over to Incendiary Brewing for a post-run pint. Now that my bike trip is over, I want to do more running, so am definitely going to check it out!

Saturdays in Old Salem – Old Salem is beautiful in the fall and on Saturdays, it’s great fun to wander the Cobblestone Farmers Market then wander around Old Salem and walk the Strollway. They have special family activities on Saturdays as well.

Sunday 10/14 – Fall Foliage hike at Salem Lake – from 12:30 – 2 PM, enjoy a guided hike around Salem Lake to enjoy the fall foliage.  Free, but call 336-650-7677 to register.

Tuesday 10/23 – SECCA Slam for Art Charity Golf Tournament – if you love to golf and want to support SECCA, this is the event for you!

 

trivia night.jpgTrivia Nights

I love trivia nights – there’s just something fun about getting a team of friends together and racking our brains for those crazy tidbits of knowledge! Most trivia nights are on Monday and Tuesday, so it’s a great way to start the week with some fun.

If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead, you won’t want to miss Joymongers Barrel Hall’s special trivia night in honor of the new season of The Walking Dead starting at 7 PM on Monday, Oct. 1st.

Geeks Who Drink Trivia  This event is held every Monday from 8-10 pm at Wise Man Brewing – you can show up in teams of up to six people or as a single player and they’ll help you find a team!

Finnigan’s Wake on Trade Street hosts Trivia every Tuesday at 8:15 PM. My husband and I won t-shirts one night for coming in last…but we had tons of fun and always enjoy the great selection of beer and the delicious food here!

Foothills Brewpub hosts Trivia every Tuesday (8-10 PM) and Thursday (9-11 PM) – and Tuesday is half price fish and chips night!

 

pumpkin-2327488.jpgHalloween events

Friday 10/5 (and other dates) – Mystery & Mayhem Segway Tour – Every October, Triad ECO Adventures offers our Mystery & Mayhem tour on various Friday and Saturday evenings. Only for gliders with prior Segway experience, these night tours are limited to six people – come hear stories of “Spooks and Specters and Mischief Makers”! (Full disclosure: I am a Segway Glide Guide for this company; book a tour and I might end up being your guide!)

Tuesday 10/23 – SECCA is showing a National Theatre Live performance of Frankenstein – with Benedict Cumberbatch. Perfect for Halloween week!

finnigan's wake hearseFinnigan’s Wake used a hearse in years past for their parties…

Saturday 10/27 – Finnigan’s Wake Irish Pub is hosting a Halloween Party with live music. Costumes highly encouraged – music begins at 10 PM! Finnigan’s gets my vote for one of the best patios in Winston Salem plus they have a great selection of beers on tap.

Friday 10/26 – Tuesday 10/30 – Old Salem hosts the Night Watchman: Legends and Lanterns Tours. Night tours by lantern light through Old Salem hearing tales of ghosts and night time mischief – I’m in!

 

oktoberfest-968232.jpgOktoberfest!

Festivals and Fairs

Sept 28 through October 7th – the Dixie Classic Fair is back for the 136th year (it began as a wheat exhibition in 1882). This will actually be my first year going to the fair – I’ll be working at the Democratic Party booth in the Annex helping to register voters, so pop by and say hello if you’re there on October 4th!

Lots of Oktoberfest celebrations on Saturday 10/6 – Foothills Brewing Company Tasting Room from 12-6 and Joymongers Barrel Hall from 12 noon to midnight.

On the 13th, the Triad German Club is hosting their Oktoberfest Party from 5-11 PM.  Bratwurst, apple strudel and German Beer – what could be better??

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Thursday 10/4 – Sunday 10/7 – OUT at the Movies Fest – celebrate PRIDE month with this film festival showcasing LGBT films at the ACE Theater on the UNCSA campus.

Saturday October 13th – PRIDE festival and parade downtown in the Arts District. Always a fun event!

grafitti wall.jpgArt and Home events

SECCA (Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art) has an exhibit through November 7th about Cuban Art – this looks super interesting so I’m definitely planning to check it out.

SECCA also collaborates with the Arts Council of Winston Salem and Forsyth County to host a series of screenings from the National Theater in London – click here for the full schedule and details, but October’s line up includes Hamlet, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night, and Frankenstein.

Southern Home and Kitchen offers up a huge variety of fun cooking classes, from How to Throw a Cocktail Party to Cooking with Cast Iron. I just bought my first cast iron skillet, so I may have to sign up for that one!

Tuesday 10/2 –  Come join the fun and sing along to Grease at a/perture cinema! Tickets are $18 and 100% of the proceeds will be donated to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

Wednesdays – Did you know that the Central Library on 5th Street has Blockbuster Wednesdays? They show movies for free in the auditorium – click here for the full schedule, but on 10/3 the featured film is Coco (a great family movie), beginning at 4 PM.

What fun things will you be doing this month? Let me know what I missed!

7 reasons why women need friendships with other women

amigas with bikesThe Three Amigas – my biking buddies!

Happy National Women’s Friendship Day! I’m so glad there is a day to celebrate the friendships of women, because these are some of the strongest, most important relationships in a woman’s life. In honor of my amazing, incredible girlfriends, here are seven reasons why women need friendships with other women…

Emotional Support – Women are wired for emotional relationships, and we communicate differently than men. Men want to fix things; they see a problem and immediately start thinking of solutions.  Women think with logic AND emotion – sometimes, I just want someone to understand how angry/sad/confused/frustrated I am feeling. If I say “Can you believe this just happened?!”, I’ll immediately get an understanding and sympathetic “AARGH!” right back. And sometimes that’s all I need.

Honest feedback  True friends act as a sounding board and help us figure out how to deal with troubling situations. If I’m tangled up with emotion, my girlfriends can help me clarify WHY I’m feeling the way I am, whether my actions in response to those emotions are reasonable, and which actions might make more sense. And when needed, they’ll just give me the brutal, honest truth, whether it’s “That was a crap thing to do” or “You’re being unrealistic in your expectations”!

women's marchShared experiences led these dear friends and I to the Women’s March in Washington, DC, Jan 2017

Shared life experiences  There are some things that men and women just experience differently, and sometimes we need to tell our story to someone who can understand every step of the way.  Feminine health issues, childbirth, working in a male-dominated field, sexual harassment/assault, or figuring out how to deal with the children and men in our life are just a few examples. To quote one of my dearest friends, “We love each other’s children as if they are our own, and gladly cheer when they triumph and support them and each other when they stumble”. Men can certainly support us and talk about these things with us, but our shared experiences with other women bind us together in a unique way.

Stress relief – Women are nurturers – it’s what we do. We make meals for friends with new babies, have coffee dates where we vent about our current worries, and organize each other’s linen closets (making sure they’re stocked with toilet paper) without being asked. When life is exceptionally crazy, my women friends help take the load off, whether by helping me decorate for a holiday party, pulling me out for a coffee break, talking through my list to help me prioritize, or reminding me to make time for exercise, nutrition and sleep. 

Rellies!Some of my favorite shopping buddies – my family!!!

Common interests – While men and women might share any number of interests, I don’t have many men in my life who honestly love spending a day shopping, chatting and enjoying coffee. I, however, love spending time this way! I like romantic comedies and dramas; my husband and children (both my sons and my daughter) prefer action adventures and westerns. I like to read different kinds of books and do different kinds of workouts than my husband does. I could travel 200 days a year and be quite happy; my husband doesn’t love it the way I do. My husband will do these things with me, of course, because he loves me; and I do the same for him. But doing the things I love with other women who are having JUST AS MUCH FUN adds an extra layer of richness to my life. 

IMG_5070My daughter will forever be my partner in fun!!

Fun, laughter and mental health – To quote a wise friend of mine; “Spending time with girlfriends, laughing and having fun, can be like a retreat and reinvigorate you and make you a better parent/wife/partner, etc”. Women need social connections and to feel part of a larger community; taking the time to be silly, have adventures and laugh with our tribe is a vitally important piece of life. When we do this, we are re-energized and can jump back into our daily life with enthusiasm and patience. 

amy and I keukenhoffThis woman has shared my life since the day I broke down crying from stress in grad school – so many memories we’ve created over the last 30 years!

Self esteem and empowerment – we women are hard on ourselves! We deal with self-doubt and insecurities on a daily basis. My friends help me see my strengths instead of my weaknesses. They will be the first to cheer when I do something amazing, without feeling jealous or competitive. I have learned to be more accepting and compassionate toward myself when I make a mistake, and to appreciate all the powerful things my body can do (bike 240 miles through Austria? Done!) rather than criticizing the things I can’t do (pull ups? no way – and that’s okay!). My women friends know exactly how to build me up when I need a boost, and how to encourage me to reach for a goal that I may think is unattainable. And let me tell you this; if you’re hanging around with women who like to tear each other down, you need to ditch those women and make some new friends – you deserve better!

**Thanks to all the women in my tribe, wherever you are! I treasure your friendship – you have added immeasurable joy to my life!**

Ten Tips for a Successful Visit with Your College Student

IMG_E4599.jpgVisiting my son in Rome was the highlight of his first semester in college (For me, at least!)

Well, it’s that time of year…college students are settling in for the fall semester and freshmen parents are missing their kids ever so much! I’ve sent three kids off, and love visiting my kids at school! I’m not an expert by any means, but over the years I’ve come up with a few tips to make visits with my children smoother and more enjoyable for all of us. I’m sharing them here in hopes that they might help some of you – if you have any of your own, I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

**All of these tips are college student approved by my three adult children**

# 1 – Timing is everything.

Schedule your visit during a time that is convenient for your student and keep it to 2-3 days. Visiting during exam week won’t be fun for anyone!  Schedule your visit a week or so AFTER exams, however, and your daughter will be caught up on her sleep and happy to see you! Keeping your visit short also avoids disrupting classes, studying, extracurriculars, etc.

**If your student is studying abroad, the expense is far too great to go just for a weekend, so my recommendation here would be to arrive on a weekend, spend a couple of days with your student, then sightsee on your own midweek, meeting up for another couple of days before you head home.**

#2 – Be prepared to spend some time on your own.

Your daughter will be thrilled to see you, but she won’t have unlimited time…studying, club activities, socials, rehearsals, and other commitments may interrupt your visit. Be flexible and willing to spend time on your own while she’s in class. I’ve enjoyed many a peaceful hour in the gliders on the campus of University of Miami with a good book! I also once took a Segway tour of South Beach while my daughter was in rehearsal.

UM GlidersI spent many happy hours in these gliders while my daughter was in class!

#3 – Always let your student be the one to decide whether to invite friends to join the fun.

Don’t invite their friends along without checking with your student in private first. Sometimes they just want to be with you, and other times they’ll want to introduce you to friends or a new love interest.

eastman Quad at UREastman Quad at University of Rochester

#4 – Ask them to show you around campus.

My kids always loved showing me where they had their classes, the dining hall, their dorm, etc. I enjoyed getting that mental picture of where they spent their days.

#5 – Get a hotel room big enough for your student to stay with you (but don’t be offended if he chooses to stay on campus).

Sometimes your son will want to get away from the dorms or his roommate and stay at the hotel with you to chill; other times it may just be more convenient for him to stay on campus. Don’t take it personally. 

#6 – If your visit is for longer than one night, consider renting a place with a kitchen so you can cook some of their favorite foods.

During my oldest son’s first semester, we visited for a long weekend and rented a nearby cabin. All he wanted that weekend was home-cooked meals after two months of dining hall food!

# 7 – Take her on a Target run to stock up on snacks and supplies.

This is self-explanatory, but especially welcome if your student doesn’t have easy access to Target or her favorite stores. You’ll also win points if you bring her favorite homemade goodies (make sure to bring enough to share with her friends)!

# 8 – Family pets are always a welcome surprise if it’s feasible to bring Fido along!

Seriously…we visited our younger son when he was studying abroad, hosted nine of his friends for dinner, and they ALL said the thing they missed most was their pet (and Chick Fil A)!!

IMG_2544.JPGWho wouldn’t miss this face?

Tip #9 – DO tell their friends what to call you.

College is a tricky time; do they call you by your first name or by “Mrs. So and So”?  Your daughter’s friends will be much more comfortable if you tell them what you’d like to be called. The easiest way I’ve found is to say “You can call me Deanna” when my daughter introduces me as her mom.

Tip #10 – Leave some free time in the schedule to sleep and just hang out.

College students are so busy that they often don’t have enough time to rest and recharge. Go out for dinner, but then go back to your hotel and watch movies together in your pajamas. Or sleep in and have coffee and bagels in the hotel rather than going out to breakfast. Unscheduled time is a luxury for college students!

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Bonus tip: DON’T sleep through scheduled activities! Yep, been there, done that – I forgot to account for the extra noise of the hotel A/C unit and didn’t have my alarm loud enough…slept right through a scheduled breakfast with my son and his friends *Gulp* !

What tips do you have for great visits?? I’d love to hear them!

**Thoughts on Family Weekend**

There’s no right or wrong here. Some families love going to Family Weekend; some families don’t. My kids wanted us to visit when the campus was less crowded, hotels were less expensive, restaurants had shorter waits and we had more free time together. Other families love going to the football games, meeting the department heads, and all the other social activities that are planned. Ask your student and then decide together – some families only go freshman year, some families go all four years and it’s a fun annual event for them!

Great September Events in Winston Salem, NC!

bailey parkBailey Park is the site of so many fun events!

Of all the places I have lived (I have moved 20 times!), I think Winston Salem is one of my favorites! It’s big enough that it seems like there’s always something fun to do, but small enough that we don’t usually deal with major traffic. Today, I’m rounding up some of the great happenings in September. When I started searching, events just kept popping up, so I’m actually kind of sad that I’m going to miss most of these (I’ll be biking the Czech Republic)  – if you go, please let me know which events you enjoyed the most! I’m thinking of making this a monthly series, so let me know too if this is something you’re interested in seeing.

**I thought about titling this post “The BEST September events in Winston Salem”, but MY best may not be YOUR best; so it’s just going to be a list of some GREAT events in Winston Salem**

Here are some of the cool events I found, in chronological order:

This weekendBookmarks Annual Festival of Authors and Books runs through tomorrow, Sept 9th. Today is chock full of panels, book signings, author talks, and tons of other great stuff! I’m super excited to meet Anne Bogel, author and blogger over at Modern Mrs Darcy.  I’ve been a faithful reader of her blog for several years now and participate in her reading challenges each year. She’ll be talking about “What Do I Read Next?” at 1 pm in the Mountcastle Forum at Hanes Brands Theater – come join me and say hello! For full details and schedules, click here to go to the festival website.

Tonight  Looking for something fun for a date night tonight?  You’ve got a couple of choices! The second and fourth Saturdays of the month, AFAS (Arts for Arts Sake) holds a Salsa Social on the second floor of their building downtown at the corner of Liberty and Seventh St.  Cover is $10…click here for full details.

Your second great choice tonight is Viva Italia! The Piedmont Wind Symphony opens their 29th season with music from Italy at the Stevens Center on Fourth St, starting at 7:30 pm.  There are still some great seats left, and prices start at just $15! 

Wednesday, Sept 12thPicnic in the Plaza – Corpening Plaza is playing host to Simon 98.7 and the Make a Wish Foundation – for $1.98 you get a lunch and ALL proceeds go to the Make A Wish Foundation, which grants wishes for terminally ill children. For full details click here.

Stay downtown for the afternoon, because also on the 12th, Bailey Park hosts Sunset Salutations, a monthly free yoga class on the bottom level lawn of Bailey Park.  Class starts at 6:30 pm.

On Thursday Sept 13th, the United Way of Forsyth County is joining with A/perture Cinema for a showing of Homeless, a film about homelessness, filmed locally here in Winston Salem. A discussion and panel will be held after the showing…for all the details and tickets, head over here

The weekend of Sept 14-15 is full of awesome events, many of them free movies!

Friday evening 9/14  – Head back to Bailey Park for an outdoor showing of Zootopia! Bring a picnic or buy dinner at the food trucks. Food trucks open at 6:30, movie begins at dark. Full details here.

IMG_4014Movie nights in Bailey Park are one of my absolute favorite things to do in WS!

Saturday 9/15 – SO MANY GREAT CHOICES TODAY! You’ve got the Historic Bethabara Park’s Apple Festival AND the 2018 International Village Food and Music Festival during the day (why not hit them BOTH??) then THREE choices for a free movie night! You can choose Coco at BB&T stadium with the Winston Salem Police Foundation; Wonder at the Jerry Long YMCA out in Clemmons; or Field of Dreams, part of the new Films on a Farm series at Crossnore Children’s Home. The latter is a collaboration with A/perture Cinema – admission and parking is free; drinks and popcorn will be for sale to support Crossnore.

wsdashInstead of watching baseball, enjoy a movie in the stadium!

Wednesday, Sept 19thCommunity Yoga in the Atrium at the Innovation Quarter – a monthly free indoor yoga class in the Atrium of the Wake Forest Biotech Place! Click here for all the info.

Thursday Sept 20th – Historic Bethabara Park has a free Summer Nights Concert Series this evening at 6 PM…here are all the details!

Friday, Sept 21 – Friday Fun Day! How to choose –  you’ve got a Grape Stomp Harvest Party at Childress Vineyards, a FREE Fall Film Screening of the best short films produced by UNCSA Film Students on the beautiful UNCSA campus and the Moonlight Madness 5K at Bailey Park, the annual kick off Fundraiser for the United Way of Forsyth County.  I’ve done Moonlight Madness for the last three years and am sad to miss it this year – it’s always a fun event with music, beer and pizza for the participants after the run!

moonlight madnessMoonlight Madness is always great fun!

Sat, Sept 22 brings both Fiesta 2018, the Hispanic League’s FREE street festival – all day fun with food and music from many South American countries. Stop by the festival and then hit up Oktoberfest with Wise Man Brewing and the RamKat. If you’re still standing after Oktoberfesting, you can head over to the Salsa Social at AFAS!

For some midweek fun, check out A/perture Cinema’s showing of Joan Jett: Bad Reputation (Wednesday 9/26) or Pay What You Wish Thursday at Reynolda House Museum of American Art (9/27) – if you haven’t been to Reynolda House before, now’s your chance to visit for free.

Friday Sept 28thSunset Thursdays Free concert at Bailey Park, Mt Joy and Arlie are the featured bands. Don’t let the name confuse you – usually these concerts are on Thursdays, but September’s concert is on a Friday!

Celebrate the last Saturday of the month, and hopefully cooler temps, on  Sept 29th with a Whiskey and Wine Bar Crawl. From 2-7 PM you can wander downtown Winston Salem with a portion of the proceeds going to a local non-profit.

Wow! SO MANY HAPPENINGS in September! let me know if you’d like to see this as monthly series and which events you loved if you go to any of them! 

 

 

Three days in the Dordogne region of France, part 1

beynac 2The riverside town of Beynac-et-Cazenac, with the church and chateau perched at the top of the town

Happy Monday all! We recently got home from ten days in France –  this trip marked a transition for me, as it was the first family vacation we’ve taken without our two oldest children, who now work and live in different cities. I think our youngest may have missed the company of his siblings after spending ten days alone with his parents….

Anyway, I’m planning to write a blog post about each segment of our trip, plus a post about driving in France. I also have a few other ideas swirling around in my head, so if you have any questions, let me know and I’ll do my best to answer them!

Early in our trip, we spent several days in the Dordogne region. The Dordogne refers to both a river and a department (county) in the southwest/south central part of France. It’s a beautiful, mostly rural region with small towns, villages, castles, canoeing and prehistoric caves, many with cave paintings from over 20,000 years ago. The river itself is amazingly lovely, with some of the cleanest water in France. The villages rise steeply along the river, and chateaus and castles are dotted along the hillsides.

dordogne river 2The beautiful Dordogne River

We spent four nights at Hotel La Hoirie, just south of Sarlat la Caneda (the main tourist hub, often just called Sarlat), which I chose for two reasons. First, it had air conditioned rooms, and at the time I booked our trip, the temperatures in the area had been in the mid-high 90’s for several weeks (self-knowledge is a wonderful thing…I knew that without A/C at those temps, I wouldn’t be able to sleep and would be a total grump, thus negating the idea of a fun vacation). Second, despite being on vacation, I still needed to train for my upcoming bike tour through the Czech Republic, and the hotel is only one kilometer away from the Sarlat Voie Verte bike path, a 29 km railway line which has been converted into a pedestrian and bicycle route. I arranged a four day bike rental from Liberty Cycle, with visions of getting up early’ish each of the four days and riding 20-30 miles each morning before heading out to sightsee for the afternoon and evening. The path passes through several towns, so my husband and I had even planned to ride together one morning and stop for breakfast along the way.

**You can feel that there’s a story coming, right? RIGHT???**

We arrived at the hotel in the early evening, after stopping to pick up my rental bike. At that point, my stomach was a little upset, but I attributed that to being carsick from the windy roads. The hotel is GORGEOUS – it’s an old thirteenth century hunting lodge, with several old stone buildings, beautiful gardens, a swimming pool, and a restaurant with a lovely outdoor terrace. We had dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant (really good food, if a smidge pricier than other places we ate), so after checking in and dropping our bags in our room, we walked out to the restaurant. Before we even got a chance to order, my stomach started feeling worse, so I left without eating and returned to my room and went to bed.

**You KNEW there was a story coming – if you are easily grossed out, you might want to skip the next paragraph!**

Around midnight, I woke suddenly with that horrible feeling that I was about to puke. My side of the bed was about five feet from the bathroom door…but nope, I didn’t make it. If you’ve ever seen The Exorcist, it was like that – vomit spewed forth all over the floor, the walls, myself, and the bathroom. My husband is my hero…rather than running over to sleep in our son’s room for the rest of the night, he gamely got up and helped me. I think we finally got back to bed around 4 am, after which I fell into a restless sleep.  Once we woke up, my hubby ran and picked up ginger ale, Sprite, crackers and Rice Krispies for me. I slept most of that day…finally dragging myself into the shower around 6 pm, then venturing out to the hotel garden for a brief respite in the fresh air before taking the dirty towels (securely tied up in the plastic laundry bag from the room) to the front desk and trying to say in French “Please throw these towels away and charge them to my room; I was very sick and used them to clean up vomit” (Thank goodness for Google Translate!)

**First day in the Dordogne – no bike ride, no food, 719 total steps for the day, but successfully covered hotel room in vomit, showered and sat in garden for ten minutes before getting rained on**

hotel la hoirieJPGThe one photo I took that day, while sitting in the hotel garden

The next morning, I was able to get up and gingerly participate in the day’s activities, although I again wasn’t able to do my planned bike ride. We drove along the river to the town of La Roque-Gageac (considered one of the most beautiful villages in France, for good reason), where we tried to get tickets for a boat tour along the river. The tours were sold out for most of the day, (the months of July and August are high season) so we jumped back in the car and continued on to Beynac-et-Cazenac.

beynac crepe myrtlesBeynac had the prettiest crepe myrtles!

We were able to get an afternoon boat tour in Beynac, then wandered up the village’s steep streets to the church and the chateau. Once we got back down to river level, we sat and watched the multitudes of canoes heading down the river. Canoeing is a very popular pastime on the Dordogne…if I had been feeling better, I would have loved to float down the river in a canoe, but the one hour boat ride was fun and interesting – the narration was in French, but the guide gave us quick highlights in English and also gave us a copy of the narration in English so we could follow along.

beynac canoersCanoeing along the river is a great way to enjoy the region!

After our boat tour, we drove to Chateau Castelnaud-de-Chapelle, which is a medieval chateau/fortress with a museum of weapons. It was a fascinating look at medieval warfare and I learned lots of details about the Hundred Years War. From the tower of the Chateau, you could see three other chateaus/fortresses – they really could all keep an eye on each other! These are the kinds of things that get the history nerd part of me excited, so I loved our visit here.

castelnaud

For dinner that night, we drove back to Beynac and ate at La Petite Tonnelle. The food was absolutely delicious, the staff was friendly, and we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner on the terrace.

**Second day in the Dordogne – no bike ride, stomach still queasy, ate one light meal, failed to get pics of restaurant, but sat on a boat and somehow managed to survive 12,350 total steps for the day without fainting**

Since I’ve reached 1200 words, I’ll stop here for now…stay tuned for the next installment in the adventure! As always, thanks so much for reading!

Lessons learned from my first (and tenth) trip to Europe, part 3

IMG_7692Sydney Opera House at sunrise

Hello and happy Friday! I hope all my USA readers had a Happy Fourth of July. This is the third and final installment in my “Lessons I’ve Learned from Traveling” series – I’d love to hear if you’ve enjoyed my stories! If you missed the first two installments, read them here and here!

Make jet lag work in your favor – When we traveled to Australia, our body clocks were all messed up.  We took advantage of being wide awake at 5 am and scheduled an early morning backstage tour of Sydney Opera House. My daughter, who is a stage manager, loved getting a peek at the backstage workings and hearing the stories of things gone wrong during shows. It was a great chance to experience something I normally might miss. On a normal day, I never see the sunrise; but seeing sunrise at Sydney Harbour was spectacular! If you know you’ll be awake earlier than usual the first day or two of your trip, make full use of those mornings to enjoy sightseeing with fewer crowds or to schedule a special tour that you wouldn’t otherwise consider.

adult-1868988Picture courtesy of Pixabay

Shoes must be comfortable – If you’ve ever gotten horrible blisters on the first day of a trip where you are walking 10-15K steps a day (or more), you’ll understand this one! When forced to choose, prioritize comfort over style – sometimes you can find the holy grail and get shoes that are comfy AND cute, but sometimes you have to settle for shoes that are cute ENOUGH in order to get comfort, which is key. I have learned through trial and error to always pack blister bandaids, moleskin (pack scissors or precut pieces sized for heels and toes) and a pair of flip flops. 

Try to learn a few basic phrases in the language – Anywhere I’ve traveled, people have appreciated my efforts to say “Hello” “Please”, “Thank You”, “Where is the toilet”, “May I have” and “Where is” in their language. Even when I butcher it, I laugh and smile and try my best and generally get smiles and help in return.

**When traveling by bike, I also learn “Please help, my bike is broken”!**

IMG_2340Our hotel room in Austria

Beds may not be what you expect – In some countries, you will get a bottom sheet and a duvet, with no top sheet on the bed. I’ve found this particularly in the Germanic speaking countries. You will also sometimes get two twin beds pushed together for a double, with a space between the two mattresses which can make it hard to cuddle if traveling with a significant other.

Yes, we have no bananas – Many hotels with a breakfast buffet in Europe have stopped serving bananas. I’ve been told this is because Americans take them for later in the day. In Europe, hoteliers generally expect that you will take what you need for that specific meal, not stash extra food for snacks.

IMG_7961Making memories!

Pictures of you and your travel companions will provide better memories than pretty pictures of landmarks and scenery – so make sure you get pics of yourself and your loved ones!

Currency – the best place to get currency is the ATM at a bank. I used to always get cash at the airport ATM’s, but lately the airport ATM’s seem to be connected to the currency exchange booths (which are horrible places to get money) so I’ve started bringing a small amount of the local currency from home. I generally bring enough to get me from the airport to my hotel, plus the price of one meal in case I want to check in and eat before finding a bank. Another tidbit – when given the choice between paying in dollars or the local currency at a store, choose local currency for a better exchange rate.

IMG_1636One of my favorite restaurants in New York City

If you find a place you like, make a note of the address/location so you can go back – This lesson was reinforced  for me on our last trip, when we spent several hours wandering around Venice looking for a restaurant that we thought was “right around the corner” from our hotel! Try to grab a business card or jot down the address when you find a place you like, to make it easier to find if you decide to go back.

Always carry your hotel name and address with you – So you can show it to a cab driver or use the street name to ask for directions if you get turned around in a new city.

IMG_8416First time in first class!

Don’t fly 17 hours straight in coach if you can help it – three years ago, we flew from Dallas to Sydney (17 hours nonstop) in coach, and I will NEVER do that again – it was absolutely miserable! We broke the flight up on the way back into 8 and 9 hour flights with an overnight break in between…so much better!

IMG_2161Windows that open are a wonderful thing!

A/C is not as prevalent in Europe as it is in the USA – If you are traveling in the summer, and air conditioning is important to you, make sure you confirm that the hotel you are booking has air conditioning. Also, in winter, many hotels and restaurants will have the heat blazing. In your hotel room, you will sometimes have a radiator which is adjustable – on our last bike trip, my friend spent an entire night hot and uncomfortable, only to find in the morning that her radiator had been on full blast all night long!

IMG_2412Who says you can’t spend an afternoon reading at an outdoor cafe?

You don’t HAVE to spend every waking minute sightseeing – it’s perfectly valid to sit at an outdoor cafe and read for an entire afternoon. I’m just saying – it’s YOUR vacation, so do what makes YOU happy!

Keeping a trip journal is so worth it – even if you just make short notes about best/worst thing each day, where you ate, etc. I used to try to write several pages each night, but found that impossible to maintain; so now, I jot down best, worst, good restaurants, best quotes, funniest mistake, etc. Super quick notes but they are so fun to look back on and even short notes jog my memory!

Be wary of over scheduling – Try not to jam pack your itinerary. Traveling between attractions will take longer than you  think, and you may not have as much energy as you anticipate. If you’ve been moving a mile a minute and just can’t stomach one more museum, change your plans and sit at a cafe for an hour instead. Allow time for bathroom breaks, coffee stops, and spontaneity. I like to travel slower than some…I break my schedule into morning, afternoon and evening segments, with only ONE planned activity per segment. I do, however, jot down lots of notes about nearby sightseeing options in case we have extra time.

 

Rental cars are usually manual – When renting a car, you must request an automatic if you want one and it will often cost extra. And not all manuals are created equal; I once got stuck in a rental car lot in Pisa because the manual I was driving had a funky trick for getting into reverse! Don’t be afraid to ask for help from the rental car attendant. When driving, it’s also nice to know the city names along your route, as road signs in Europe often point toward towns rather than route numbers.

IMG_2216 (1)This detour sign led to a great day – and gave my blog its name!

Above all, roll with the punches and be flexible – You WILL experience frustrations, hiccups, and giggles. My husband and I stayed in a hotel in Heidelberg where the light over our bed fell down on us, so we slept with our feet at the head of the bed and our heads at the foot of the bed. We’ve gotten parking tickets because we didn’t understand the payment system and the signs. We‘ve made five circles through a roundabout because we couldn’t figure out which exit we needed to take. I told a policeman at the Eiffel Tower “I have a little stink” when I was trying to say “I speak a tiny bit of French”. But if you think of it all as a grand adventure and bend to accommodate these unexpected hiccups, you’ll end up with great travel stories and meet amazing people along the way.

**As my dad always used to say when things went wrong…”we’re making memories!” Here’s wishing you incredible memories!**

 

Lessons learned from my first (and tenth) trip to Europe, part 2

salzburg-708762

Thanks to everyone who liked and commented on Part 1 of this post! It was great to hear your thoughts…I’d love to hear what you think of this next group of life lessons!

For those of you who may have missed part 1, I’m posting lessons I’ve learned from my travels, whether my first trip to Europe or my tenth. I’ve made lots of mistakes over the years…I’m sharing them here so you can avoid them!

funicular-railway-117281

There are times when the best decision is to throw money at the problem and make it go away – you will invariably run into problems that can be easily solved with a reasonable amount of money.  In my last post I mentioned that my husband and I spent 24 hours in Germany not speaking to each other; we got into a HUGE fight over the 5 euro charge for the funicular at Heidelberg Castle. I was exhausted and did NOT want to hike up the 315 steps to reach the castle; my husband said there was NO way he was paying when we were perfectly capable of taking the stairs. Guess what happened? We hiked the stairs, and I was so exhausted and mad by the time we got to the top that I didn’t speak to him again until we were at the airport the next day! On the flight home, we realized I should have paid the 5 euros and met him at the top, but in that moment, we were SO tired that our brains were not working correctly. Our fight also illustrates that “reasonable” means different things to different people. When I went on my bike trip across Austria with friends two years ago, we discussed this issue ahead of time. And after two days of biking in second-day stinky biking clothes because we hadn’t found a laundromat after six days of searching, we decided it was worth the 75 euros our hotel charged us to do an overnight load of laundry. Was it a lot of money? Yes.  Would we rather have found a laundromat and done it ourselves? Yes, of course, but we split the cost three ways and felt SO MUCH BETTER with clean bike clothes! With no laundromat available, it was our best option at that moment. We made the decision and moved on with no regrets.

**for more topics to discuss before traveling with friends, read this post**

IMG_1625

Don’t be afraid to split up – My husband and I don’t spend 24/7 together at home, but when we first traveled, we stayed together ALL. THE. TIME. Over the years, we have gradually come to the realization that because we have different interests (plus I need alone time to rest and recharge), there are times when it just makes sense to split up for an afternoon.  Florence Nightingale was my childhood hero, so when we went to London, I was super excited to see the Florence Nightingale Museum. My husband had zero interest, but wanted to spend more time at the Imperial War Museum than I did, so I went to the Florence Nightingale museum alone and met up with him a few hours later for a quick look at the highlights of the Imperial War Museum. 

london street-259174

When walking alone, listen to your gut – You know that gut feeling that something is not right? Maybe the hairs stand up on the back of your neck, or you get a weird feeling in the pit of your stomach? LISTEN TO THAT FEELING!!! On my way to the Florence Nightingale Museum, I walked through a slightly sketchy area of London. I was on an empty street when two men came up and started walking behind me. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, and I got a VERY strong feeling of danger. Luckily, there was a convenience store on that block, so I dashed in and stayed there for several minutes. I told the clerk about the men and that they gave me the creeps; he helped me check to make sure they had gone before I continued on my way (looking back, I should have called a taxi to get the rest of the way to the museum, but luckily, I had no further issues). That’s probably the most scared I’ve ever been when traveling. Sometimes we (women, especially) discount that feeling, thinking we are just being silly, but I’m a firm believer in listening to your gut!

london map help janis-oppliger-178385-unsplash

It’s amazing how much you can communicate with smiles, nods and pointing – My aunt mentioned this one, and she was so right! My favorite travel stories are of people we’ve encountered along the way, like the man who came up to my husband in Salzburg and commented on the fact that my husband was wearing shorts and a winter coat in December. We understood nothing he said except “lederhosen” and “BRRR”, but when he wrapped his arms around himself and faked a shiver, it was obvious that he thought my husband was a little nuts for wearing shorts! In Berchtesgaden, we stayed at a Bed and Breakfast run by a husband and wife who spoke almost no English. Despite this, we were able to understand the directions he gave us to the Berchtesgaden Salt Mine, through gestures and pointing left and right. A smile and a nod, along with a quick game of charades, can get you a long way!

Most people are basically helpful (except for the ones who are trying to scam you) and how to tell them apart – Over and over again on our travels, my faith in the goodness of people has been reaffirmed. When our rental car broke down in the Lake District of England, our  Bed and Breakfast host drove us a half hour to the train station. When my friends’ luggage got lost as they were about to start a 100 mile hike along the West Highland Way, their Bed and Breakfast host took the hiking boots off his feet and gave them to Jeff to use until Jeff’s gear arrived. We have experienced countless examples of kindness, but have also been the victims of a few scams. How do you tell them apart? Scammers will usually approach you in a busy tourist spot (train station, ATM, crowded plaza, etc) asking you to sign a petition or hand your money to them as they ‘help” you. A favorite scam at a train/metro station is to offer to buy the tickets for you at the ticket machine. The scammer wants you to give them your money and they will buy you the one week pass, for example. When in reality, they buy you the one-ride ticket and have just made a profit.  **Someone who is truly trying to help, however, will usually just point to the right buttons on the ticket machine and let you do it yourself.**

train station noah-naf-663541-unsplash

We learned the hard way to be particularly wary when the currency is unfamiliar to us, and to NEVER let a stranger give you change at the ATM. In the Czech Republic, where the currency is the koruna, a man came up to us at the ATM and offered to make change (the ATM’s there spit out 1000 koruna bills). He gave us two 500 unit bills, which turned out to be Hungarian currency and worth WAY less than the 1000 korunas we gave him. But the money was very decorated and unfamiliar to us, and we were busy trying to get to the airport to go home, so we didn’t realize the switch until later.  We also learned not to sign any “petitions” in touristy areas. We did ONCE and congrats, you’ve just given your email, name and address to scammers who will then send you “phishing” emails and steal your credit card number!

cheese baguette jez-timms-90838-unsplash

A bottle of wine, cheese and dessert on your balcony can be dinner – Some nights, we’re exhausted after a long day of sightseeing. Other times, we’re traveling with a pretty strict budget and choose to spend it on activities rather than food. For whatever reason, we are perfectly happy picking up a bottle of wine, some cheese and bread, and a small dessert at the local market and having a picnic dinner on our hotel bed or balcony. You can find really fresh ready-to-go meals in the local supermarkets and save tons of money on food – we also love exploring the outdoor produce markets for fresh fruit.

I still have a long list (it’s amazing how many things I thought of once my mind got going), so part three will be coming soon! In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you! Drop me a line in the comments section below and let me know which of these resonate with you! And as always, thanks so very much for reading….