Tips for everyday adventures

29 May 2013

On Sunday afternoon, John and I took a beautiful country drive to the rural town of Saxapahaw, walked along the Haw River exploring old dams, split a BLT at the Saxapahaw General Store, and finished our afternoon with ice cream at Maple View Farm. We call little excursions like this “everyday adventures,” and they are one of our most favorite things in life.

Saxapahaw river walk

Three years ago I posted a few of our favorite tips for finding fun and free (or almost free) things to do, and I thought the unofficial start to summer would be the perfect time to update that list. Our methodology isn’t rocket science, but I’m hoping it might reignite your spark for discovering the adventure that’s all around!

azalea gardens in raleigh

Tip One: Watch the News
John watches the news every night (he really, really loves the weather, but usually tunes in for the whole shebang). News stations will often sponsor or have a presence at interesting community events, giving them incentive to promote them beforehand.

Success Story: A few years ago we heard about a massive azalea garden in Raleigh while watching the evening news, and it’s been a must-visit in our household every spring since. SO Pretty! Cost: FREE

koka booth ampitheatre outdoor movies

Tip Two: Listen to the Radio
I find that the best stations to tune in to are NPR and the oldies station. You’re looking for the advertisements here, so don’t change the station once the music stops!

Success Story: The Koka Booth Amphitheater in Cary shows recently released feature films almost every Friday in the summer. The Amphitheater itself is beautiful, and the surroundings are equally so. The back deck hosts a variety of independent vendors, and you’re also welcome to bring your own food and drink. Heard about this while driving home on NPR! Cost: $6 for two tickets

nc museum of art outdoor movies

Tip Three: Read the NY Times Travel Section
They have entries for an astonishing array of locales across the US (and beyond!), and they always unearth some fun choices. Check the main page out here. John also wanted me to recommend looking at TripAdvisor for your locale, instead of just when you’re traveling!

Success Story: The nearby NC Museum of Art has an awesome sculpture garden. We first read about it here, and have since walked and biked its path many times, and even took our engagement photos there! Cost: FREE (A few years ago we also found out they show outdoor movies in the summer – so fun!)


Garden & Gun

Tip Four: Read Grace’s Guides
I’ve talked about this a bit way back when, but Design*Sponge has amassed an excellent collection of City Guides, similar to the Times’ write-ups but with a longer list of options and more of an indie-crafty bent. Click here to see if there’s one for your area!

Success Story: Though it’s hard NOT to run across the cheerful Locopops logo after spending a short while in the Triangle, I believe we read about them first on Design*Sponge. Think flavors like raspberry hibiscus, cucumber chili, banana pudding, and Thin Mint. COST: $5 for two pops

duke chorale christmas concert

Tip Five: Use Your Resources
This could mean a variety of things, but for us, it primarily means the universities: Duke, UNC, and NC State are all within a half hour’s drive. About twice a year I make a point to stop by each school’s website (specifically, their calendar) to see what lectures, performances, or events might be on tap. I’d also recommend checking out your town or region’s website and/or Parks & Rec publication for notice of festivals (which are often free) and classes (which are often inexpensive), as well as your local library.

Success Story: One of our favorite NC traditions is attending the Duke Chorale’s annual Christmas concert. The singing is wonderful, every pew in the breathtaking Duke Chapel is filled, and it really puts you in the Christmas spirit (and y’all know I love Christmas). Cost: a can of food each for the local food bank.

Southern Weddings Pie Party

PieBird pie via Southern Weddings (photo by Joey + Jessica)

Tip Six: Follow Local Media
Between Twitter, Facebook, blogs, mainstream newspapers, and local publications, there’s no shortage of insider knowledge out there for the plucking. I personally love Map & Menu (particularly great for Portland, ME and the Triangle!) and Indy Week’s “Best of” recommendations (lots of communities have something similar); I also love finding random bloggers’ suggestions for our area, like this post from The Fresh Exchange.

Success Story:
Before she moved to Boston, Dina from Honey & Fitz was one of my favorite people to follow on Twitter because she always seemed to know what was up before I did :) She was the first person to know a Container Store location was opening in Raleigh, she led me to an amazing charity tag sale, and she tipped me off about a new restaurant focused on pies (yum!). PieBird is a great spot for lunch or something sweet post-dinner. COST: $5.50 per slice

rise biscuits and donuts

Tip Seven: Talk to the Locals
Fairly obvious, but worth mentioning. Once you start to meet people who’ve lived in the area, you can of course pick their brains about little-known landmarks and leisure activities, but I’d also suggest some innocent eavesdropping. (What?! You haven’t done this in, say, a coffee shop?) I also find asking people what their favorite local place or thing to do is a great conversation starter!

Success Story: A friend tipped us off to the opening of Rise in Durham. Their narrow focus on biscuits and donuts is right up my alley, and their flavor combinations are hard to beat: to name just a few, cardamom tea cake, Nutella, tiramisu, and orange and rose water donuts as well as BLT with chipotle mayo, French toast, and spinach and goat cheese biscuits. YUM! COST: From $.95 to $2.95 per donut, and $2.25 to $4.50 per biscuit

pick your own strawberries raleigh

Tip Eight: Be Observant
Again, I know this is patently obvious, but stick with me here, because this is the single best tip I’ve got. Wherever John and I are, we keep our eyes peeled. We peruse flyer walls while waiting for restaurant tables, we notice roadside signs, we pick up brochures wherever they’re available. And then we remember to follow up once we’re back home.

Success Story: What do we keep our eyes peeled for? We never know, but it’s usually something good. We stumbled upon Backwoods OK while on an unrelated hike, found out about a massive used book sale from a poster at the library, and discovered the best family farm (with the most delicious pick-your-own strawberries) because we weren’t afraid to follow a sign onto a side road on the way home from the grocery store. A tip: If I see a sign or flyer that catches my eye while out and about, I’ll snap a quick photo with my phone so I can add the info to my planner later or look up the website when we get home.

So tell me — do you love everyday adventures, too? What’s your favorite one? Where do you find your best ideas? I’d love to hear!

House search update no. 3: The conclusion

21 May 2013

Friends! Apparently owning a home takes up a lot of your time! I know I left you hanging after my last post (thank you for all of your kind comments!!), and I wanted to make sure I completed our house search story before too much time has passed. You now know where we ended up — here’s how we got there.

craftsman bungalow

When last we left off, we had just canceled our contract on the historic downtown home. As I pressed publish on that post, we were actually in the middle of negotiations on another downtown home. This second one kind of came out of nowhere for us, even though it had been on the market — and our radar — for a few months. It was outside of our budget but not outside the realm of possibility (dangerous territory). And it was perfect. Like, move-in-and-not-change-a-thing perfect. Finishes, wall colors, layout — I loved it all. Best of all, since it was new construction (well, within the last ten years), it had all the charm of a historic home without the headache. Witness:

Screen Shot 2013-05-20 at 10.27.55 PM

Doesn’t it look exactly like this house??

Like the other downtown home, we thought this one was overpriced, too. And, since we had just been bitten by our last house not appraising, we were very hesitant to offer a price that we (and our realtor) felt would not appraise. So, we submitted an offer that was substantially below the asking price. Wouldn’t you know, a day later the seller’s realtor tells us they have a competing offer and invites us to submit our “highest and best” offer. We did, and our realtor called a few hours later to tell us we had been outbid.

Friends, I’ll be honest: this is the first point in our saga where I cried. I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but we had just come off a roller coaster ride with the historic home, and were so eager for this house (on the opposite end of the spectrum) to fix everything and finally end our house search. This also felt like the first offer situation where it was our fault for not coming out on top: we could have bid more, even if we didn’t want to. We started to wonder whether we’d ever come out on the winning side of a contract, or if we’d be outbid for the rest of our lives. Dramatic? Yes.

As the weeks went by, we started to wonder about a few other things, though, until three thoughts began to crystallize for us.

No. 1: Were we looking for a house that simply did not exist? Were we at least subconsciously looking for a house that matched the type of houses we grew up in — big, private lots and old neighborhoods with mature trees — in an area where houses like that simply do not exist? The answer, I think, was yes. As you can imagine, if you’re looking for something that doesn’t exist, you’ll never find it.

No. 2: This didn’t have to be our forever home. Again, we never discussed this, but I think subconsciously we were both measuring houses against an unrealistic standard for a first home. This is likely based on our own experiences growing up: I’ve only ever lived in one house, and John, two. However, we didn’t need to have the pressure of finding the PERFECT house, or finding a house that would meet our needs for the rest of our life, in this particular search.

No. 3: We began to see being outbid as a blessing. At the time all of this was happening, we were completing the “Disciples Path” study with our small group. As part of it, we took a spiritual gifts assessment (you can take it here if you’d like!). John and I both came up with Giving as our dominant gift. Here’s the description:

“The God-given ability to give material wealth freely and joyfully, knowing that spiritual wealth will abound as God’s work is advanced. People with the gift of giving are not always affluent, but they are always generous with what they DO have. People with this gift usually manage their finances well, may have a special ability to make money, and tend to be frugal in their lifestyle. They use these skills to increase their support for God’s work and trust that God will provide for their needs.”

Yes. That is what we are, or what we aspire to be. We want our home to be a blessing to us and others, not something that impedes the work God is calling us to do.

So! Armed with these realizations, we returned to the search with a more generous frame of mind. We quickly found three houses we were interested in in two adjoining neighborhoods, and visited them with our realtor one Saturday morning. The second one we visited was our favorite. It was in a neighborhood that we always thought was cute, but had dismissed in the past because of the tiny size of the lots. However, when we looked with our “new” eyes, instead of just tiny lots, we saw houses purposefully close together to contribute to a sense of community, and happy young families everywhere we looked. The house itself had everything we were looking for — an open floor plan, a big kitchen, storage, charm from the outside, a space that could be used as an office, and a laundry room not in the basement :)

So, we placed an offer. And wouldn’t you know — a few hours later, the seller’s realtor told us there was another offer on the table. This time, though, instead of asking for our “highest and best” offer, the sellers sent both parties a letter rejecting our offers and stating terms they would find acceptable, and saying that they would favorably consider an offer with similar terms. Since we found their terms acceptable, we immediately submitted a new offer, and it was accepted!

Friends, I can’t even tell you how much more of a humane process this was than the “highest and best” situations with all their worrying and second-guessing and uncertainty. We were not surprised, then, to learn that the seller husband is a local pastor (in our denomination!). To add to the “coincidences,” we later found that we share the same sporting allegiances, and we even honeymooned in the same place!! Uncanny.

The due diligence period proceeded uneventfully, and on May 13, we became homeowners. It might not be our “forever” home, but we love it and are so excited to make it our own, and for the life that will happen between our four walls. Our hope is that it will be a blessing to us, and a place of radical hospitality and welcome. We are glad to have finished our home search, but especially to have finished it in such a satisfying way.

More to come soon!


14 May 2013

craftsman bungalow

Seven months to the day after our first trip to look at houses, and two lenders, three contracts, four offers, and many inspections later, we are officially homeowners. (Or, co-homeowners with the bank, as John likes to say – ha!) I’m working on a post with all of the details, but for now I just wanted to give you a peek at the newest member of our family. We’re pretty excited about all that’s to come!

Happy Mother’s Day

12 May 2013

Seven things I love about my Mom (in no particular order):


1. When I was younger, she not only indulged my (admittedly strange but) preferred activities, she enjoyed them alongside me. Some of my favorite memories from elementary school and younger include sneaking into our church’s balcony on Saturdays to spy on wedding ceremonies, and Friday picnics that included D’Angelos tuna pockets eaten in the back of our van with the liftgate open and then a trip next door to browse the Ethan Allen showroom floor. She knew at a young age that these things were important to me, and is probably the least surprised of anyone to see how they’ve blossomed into my career.

2. She is generous with her time. As just one example, from about sixth grade to twelfth grade, I had 4-5 dance classes a week half an hour away, and I had to be driven to every single one. Now that I’m older, that kind of time commitment boggles the mind. I never felt like she didn’t have enough space in her day to talk with me or read to me, and I still don’t.


3. She cries at the drop of a hat. My sisters and I used to make fun of her for this, and we still kind of do, but now I understand that she cries at commercials, movies, and people’s stories because she is a deeply compassionate person.

4. She is the warmest person you’ll ever meet. She has never met a stranger, and will make you feel welcome and included from the minute you come in contact with her.

5. Unsurprisingly, my friends love her, and she loves my friends. She is an “extra mom” to almost every one of them, and they often do things with her even when I’m not around. (True story.) She is always going out of her way to show them she cares about them, like the time she drove to my best friend’s art show a state away to show her support even though I couldn’t attend.

6. She is content. For most of my life, my Mom drove a white minivan that was known around our town as the Jellybean. My sisters and I were okay with it when we were younger, but by the time we were in high school and the van had aged considerably, we would not be caught dead driving it. My Mom, however, drove it happily, even saying that she preferred it to some of our family’s newer options. That may or may not have been true, but her example of not deriving her value from the type of car she drove, and of valuing other things (college payments!) over a new car, has made a huge impact on my life.


7. When my sisters and I were growing up, my Mom was never interested in being our friend. She was our mom, full stop. But now that I’m older, she has grown into one of my very best friends, and I am so grateful for that.

I love you, Mom. Happy Mother’s Day!

All photos by Tanja Lippert, from the morning of my wedding.