The Next Chapter Pt 3: Life in Chapel Hill

I feel like the whole moving story deserved at least one more post that lets me tell you a bit about the area I now call home.

The weekend that Erik’s parents were with us (my parents stayed until Tuesday), his Dad took it upon himself to show us some of the sites.  That started Saturday morning with a trip to Franklin Street.  Franklin street is the main drag for Chapel Hill.  It’s covered in cute shops, bars all over, and it’s a foodie’s dream.  There’s everything there.  You can find chains like Chipotle and Noodles and Company, as well as delicious sweet treats including several frozen yogurt shops (Sweet Frog seems to be the main chain around here) and Krispie Kreme Doughnuts (they took ours back home away), and little shops and bars all over this street.  There is this bakery/ice cream parlor that Erik and I walked by one night when we were out for a stroll that has cupcakes (my favorite!) and gelato, but what’s unique about this place is they make adult gelato treats.  You can get vodka and other liquor based gelato creations served in a martini glass right along with your cupcake.  We haven’t gone there yet, but you better believe we will!

Anyway, Saturday morning:  We were taken to Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe on Franklin Street.  It’s this narrow little place (much like most of the shops along Franklin) with the best breakfast food ever.  We walked in and god smacked in the face with the scent of syrup, bacon, and sweet, sweet pancake and waffle batter.  I was in Heaven and we weren’t even seated yet.  We managed to get countertop seating, which was awesome because we got to sit and watch the pro breakfast cooks work their magic.  I had a cinnamon apple waffle with bacon and Egg Beaters and sugar free syrup (while enjoying a food I still I have to feel like I made at least one Weight Watchers conscious decision..) and it was lovely.  I feel compelled to go back and try their signature M&M pancakes.  Just the sound of those words makes my taste buds giddy.  After an amazing breakfast with super friendly service we were ready to face our day of unpacking.

(My parents, Erik, and I enjoying breakfast at Ye Olde Waffle Shoppe.  His parents are behind the camera)

As we were walking up Franklin St I noticed that everyone, and I mean everyone had something Tar Heels related on (UNC mascot).  I have never lived in a University town before, so I never realized how much of a “thing” showing your university’s colors was.  I knew that Erik and I had to hop on the Tar Heels bandwagon when I saw this little old man walking down the street in a Tar Heels baseball cap.  I expressed my desire to get “in” with the Chapel Hill way of life, and Erik’s mom wasted no time leading us a few stores down to “The Shrunken Head” which is one of the best known shops for all things Tar Heel (although I later learn that Kohls, Walmart, Target and basically anywhere I go will have Tar Heels gear for purchase).  After some browsing and trying things on I managed to walk out of there with a cute long sleeved shirt (thanks to the clearance rack), some super soft sweatpants and a windbreaker jacket with hood, thanks to my parents, and an amazingly cute hoodie thanks to Erik’s parents.  As we were talking to the store owners (it’s been a family owned business for years) they learned of our move and our engagement so as a little housewarming gift they threw in these big plastic cups, one in Tar Heels blue and a pink one for me.  I was now satisfied with owning some Tar Heels gear.  I was officially a Chapel Hill resident, and now I could look the part 🙂

(In the Shrunken Head, me sporting my new sweatshirt, and Erik being a real man and not being afraid to hold my purse;-)  )

Saturday night the group of us (Erik and I plus all parents) went out to an epic dinner at the Carolina Inn.  Built in 1924 by a UNC alum, this place is actually listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  When you walk in you can just stand in awe at it’s elegance.  It’s very classy with an eclectic collection of furniture making the visual experience truly unique.  There are long halls and many rooms, and that’s just on the main floor.  Never mind the fact that somewhere there are actual hotel rooms that probably cost several hundred dollars a night to stay in.   We walked into the dining room which was very quiet and had brightly colored upholstery on the chairs. The menu reminded me of something you would see on a cruise ship; there weren’t a whole lot of choices, but each choice was unique and decadent.  We started with some bread (as always) and they brought us a cold beet soup in a little cylindrical glass, meant to be sipped.  It was an interesting flavor which I happily tried a few sips of before my tummy decided it wasn’t for me.  That’s fine, onto the main course: steak.  We are talking enough steak for 3 meals for me sitting on top of delicious mashed potatoes.  I ate the top piece, and ended up taking the bigger piece home along with the leftovers from a parent who had the same thing.  Then we looked at the dessert menu… Oh. my. goodness!   We each ordered something different: peanut butter/pretzel/chocolate mousse pie, berry cobbler, pecan bread pudding, chai creme brûlée, and for me: red velvet mousse cake.  We all played pass the plate, as we wanted to get our hands on all of dessert awesomeness spread out in front of us.  The meal was amazing, we were all in good company, Saturday was a success.

(My steak and red velvet dessert)

Erik’s parents left on Sunday.  The adventure of unpacking continued with target runs and working through things box by box.  I met up with my parents one morning at a local cafe called Cafe Carolina.  They have great french toast, yummy sandwiches (Erik and I learned that later) and yummy baked goods, including Tar Heel colored cupcakes.  I would expect nothing less from a Chapel Hill eatery 🙂

(The Cafe Carolina Cupcakes)

My last adventure with my mom was to David’s Bridal, seeing how on top of everything I have a wedding to plan.  We figured we should at least start looking for a dress, as I had no idea what I wanted.  Looking at them all hanging there was totally overwhelming, so I decided maybe I should just try some on for fun.  5 dresses and one awesome consultant later, I actually bought my wedding dress.  Say What?!?!?  Yup!  Done and done!  Obviously no pictures or details will be posted until Erik has seen me.  It was an awesome impromptu adventure.

Since our parents left Erik and I have discovered other places as well.  The first MBA event took place at a bar called “Top of the Hill” where the main area is actually 3 floors up at the top of the building and you can look out over Franklin street.  It’s another local landmark.   I also was taken over to the business school one day for a BBQ and Erik gave me the grand tour of the place he will be spending so much of his time.  I found several local Weight Watchers stores and all of the stores I’m used to having access to back in Illinois.  There is even a really decent mall only 15 minutes away, compete with a Sephora and with an Ulta across the street. Win! Erik and I have spent Saturdays registering for our wedding at Bed Bath and Beyond and Macys, so we got to explore the mall together.  We really know how to spend an entire day out shopping..  I also have a Trader Joe’s and a Whole Foods right by the music school I am teaching at, which is great, except I don’t have the money to shop there.  Still, it’s nice to know they’re around as well.

It has been and continues to be quite an adventure discovering places around my new home.  I know there have been more places we’ve explored over the last month or so, but I don’t need this post to go on forever.  Chapel Hill is a nice place full of kind people.  I keep hearing I am going to love the winters since I’m from Chicagoland, so I am actually looking forward (at least a little bit) to winter this year.

There’s still a lot to work on and a lot of things to accomplish and the craziness of the fall season has yet to start for either of us, but getting the chance to settle in over the summer was a great choice.  Life is good 🙂

The Next Chapter Pt 2: North Carolina

Well, after being here just over a month I figured I probably should finish up our moving story.  Sorry it’s been so delayed.

Part 2: The journey to Chapel Hill

After our fabulous evening in Florida, Erik and I were up early (The goal was to leave around 6:30 or so) and getting ready to head out the door.  The house was silent, as his mom was still sleeping and his dad had left to go to work for an all day surgery.  As we’re getting our acts together we keep hearing thunder booming in the distance.  Of COURSE it plans on raining on the day we’re driving 12 or so hours to our new home.  I didn’t think much about it until Erik’s phone rings and it’s his father”

There are tornadoes and a storm heading up from the south.  I suggest you get on the road now and try to beat it.


So we hurried to get the last of our things together: water bottles full, snack bag full of granola and protein bar type things, one last check to make sure we didn’t leave anything behind, and we hopped in the U-haul and pulled out of the driveway…just in time for the heavier rains to start.  Perfect..

I will say this, I was so glad Erik was driving.  After my whole almost-died-learned-my-car-could-float experience (which happened a week or so before I went to Florida to meet Erik in person 2 years ago) I still am wary of driving in the rain.  I would have been terrified to be driving this downpour in the U-haul.

We got on the highway, and then it was simply time to pass the time.  Right away we cracked open the “Do You Know Your Bride/Groom” books.  Since Erik was driving, I had to fill them out for both of us, so I did a handful of questions in mine, told him my answers and we would discuss, then I’d read him his questions and keep a poker face on so he could answer freely.  Then we’d discuss his answers about me.  Many of the questions were silly little things like “does your bride prefer ice cream in a cone or cup?” but it was a lot of fun being able to sit and discuss these little quirks and preferences that we have.  Thank you Milan for getting us these books.  It was literally six hours into the drive before we finished them.  That’s half the drive! Epic win!

In case you were wondering, yes, it was raining the entire time thus far.

We’ve also been doing an engaged couple’s devotional (we started before we actually got engaged.  I really should have seen that whole ring thing coming..) so we talked through an entry of that as well.  It was a long, generally uneventful car ride.  I was really impressed with, despite the fact we’d talk on and off all day, every day, we kept the conversation going for almost the entire ride.  We also listened to a podcast (part of one at least) and listened and sung our way through “The Producers.”  We did make one stop at a rest stop once we crossed the state line, so I do in fact have photos of my first time stepping foot in North Carolina.

We arrived at our apartment complex around 9:00pm (if I recall correctly. This is the downfall to me waiting a month to write this..).   After stashing our U-haul at the apartment, my mom came to take us to their hotel.  After a day of snacking on fiber enchanced granola bars and things of the like, we were pretty desperate for some real food.  Turns out that by 10:30pm on a Thursday Chapel Hill is pretty shut down.  My mom ended up taking us to a pizza place called Brixx.  This will end up being a place we visit several more times between our first visit and today.  Good pizza, and great prices (BOGO!) after certain hours.  2 whole pizzas and a beer or two cost a whole $15 that night.  Not bad for our first dinner in our new home town.  After dinner it wasn’t long before we busted out the pull-out sofa bed in my parent’s hotel room and crashed for the night.  The next day would be my first day moving into an apartment of my very own 🙂

My (Our) New Place

Let me start by explaining that headline.  Long story short, Erik got us this apartment before he proposed with the intention of this place being OUR apartment after we got married.  In the meantime, it is “my” place with the understanding that he’s basically there all the time except sleeping hours when he goes to the bedroom he’s renting in a another building of our complex. That being said, it really is our place, even now.

After a fabulous breakfast at the hotel (I’m a sucker for good breakfast food), Erik and I headed over to the apartment to get our keys.  While we were trying to be right on time and arrive at 9:00am, we got there only to read a sign that said the office didn’t open until 10… just our luck.  We at least discovered that our U-haul and his BMW on the trailer behind it had in fact survived the night.  Finally we could get into the office, only to have a bunch of random little paperwork things go wrong.  I met the slightly more stressed side of Erik (we’ve met before, but rarely in person) and while I played the slightly calmer one, we eventually got our hands on the keys to our place.

Walking in to my first “big girl” apartment was awesome.  I had dreamed about an apartment of my own for years and finally, thanks to my wonderful fiancé, without whom I would be nowhere close to this reality, I had it.  As unpacking happened at one point he looked at me, grabbed my face and said “Seeing this smile on your face makes it all worth it.”  Being reminded of how much I’m loved warms my heart 🙂

We hired movers to help us get everything out of the truck because it would take 5 times as long to do the work ourselves.  Not to mention the best way to obtain my belongings was to empty the U-haul, bring the U-haul and the movers to where my stuff was, have the movers unload my stuff from one truck to another, and then bring the U-haul back.  It actually wasn’t a complicated as it sounds.

Oh…did I mention this entire day was also taking place in the rain.  That stupid tropical storm followed us all the way to North Carolina.

Fast forward:  All of the boxes are in the apartment, Erik’s parents finally arrived, managing to fly (his dad owns and flies his own little plane) safely in the horrid weather and off we go to spend a few days unpacking the chaos before Erik’s first summer course happens on Monday.

Over the next few days, with the awesome help of both sets of parents we managed to turn the chaos of boxes stacked high into an unpacked apartment that definitely felt like a home.  Thanks to our parents for all of their help and hard work with that.  Since moving in, Erik and I have really felt at home in this place.  Even if he does leave at night, he tends to be back not long after I wake up in the morning.  It has been an amazing month and a half of actually seeing Erik every day in person.  No webcam, no constant need to text…it’s glorious.  No, we haven’t killed each other yet, Yes, we are still in love and engaged.  🙂

I think a Part 3 will be in order just to mention some of the things we’ve been up to, including some of the places we visited that first weekend with our parents.  Erik’s parents lived down here as well for a bit so his dad took us to see some of the local sites.  Part 3 coming soon.

Stay tuned…

Chapel Hill 101

I’m currently sitting in Cafe Carolina a mere 2 minute drive from my apartment to use their internet, as I don’t get internet at my place until tomorrow.  Around me are southern accents of a group of women discussing life issues or something (I overheard a few seconds of “it really changed me” as I tried to find a table with an outlet) and a family with small children talking about sweet tea.

As I want to take more time and be in the comfort of my own home before writing out my moving saga, I figured I’d start you all off with a few things I’ve learned about my new home.

-I have noticed a few things already.  I was warned about this by Dan from my church.  People are a lot slower here.  I notice this in terms of communication. Back in Des Plaines I send emails to my employers and if I don’t get a response within a few hours they are either on vacation or their devices are broken.  Here everyone takes their sweet southern time to get back to you.  I really wouldn’t mind if it wasn’t for the fact I’m trying to get my jobs rolling.  I sort of need to get an income flowing to my bank account..

-The second thing I’ve noticed is NC drivers are insane.  no regard for those around them, flying around corners at any speed they please, etc.  Perhaps I only notice this because I’m a born and raised Chicagoland driver, but really people…slow down and pay attention.  My father commented on how he’s never seen so many random fender benders pulled over on the side of the road.  I’m not surprised..

-After spending time waking around town (and having breakfast at an amazing waffle place) with Erik, my parents, and the future in-laws (the meeting of the parents went great, by the way, and I am very thankful for that) I also learned of the almost cultish feel of an actual University town.  Everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, walks around in Tar Heels blue up and down Franklin St.  I noted that being gear-less was a problem when this little old man walking down the street was even wearing a Tar Heels baseball cap.  Something had to be done(it required shopping, so of course something had to be done).  Becky (Erik’s mom) took us to the most popular Tar Heels gear store in town, the Shrunken Head,  where Erik and I both solved the issue of not fitting in with the crowd.  Thanks to his parents for buying me an adorable Tar Heels hoodie and to my mom for the comfy sweatpants and windbreaker jacket emblazoned with the UNC logo. Throwing in the cute shirt I bought for myself I can now rest peacefully knowing I can fit in to the big university way of life, wearing Tar Heels blue proudly as Erik and I live in Chapel Hill for the next two years.

-Bugs… lots of bugs.  Erik has killed several for me already, although my dad had the honor of taking out our first spider.  The scenery with all of the trees in our complex is amazing, but with all of the trees comes bugs.  *sigh*

-You can listen to the frogs at night. 🙂

– My new grocery store (Harris Teeter) has double coupons: EVERY DAY!  I have never experienced the joy of double coupons.  I can’t wait to plan ahead and play “how much can I actually save?”  No, I will NOT become an extreme couponer, but I will put forth my best effort to save when I can.

-Thanks to UNC MBA social event and the MBA partners program (a club exclusively for the spouses/significant others of MBA students) meeting new people and making friends won’t be a problem.  We’ve been out to two socials already, one of which was at the pool located right by my apartment building.  Last night we also ended up with our first house guests: a couple who we were swapping engagement stories with and decided to take the conversation inside before the bugs attacked.  Not bad for only being moved in a few days.

I’m sure there’s more, but that’s what I can think of off of the top of my head.  As I said, the moving story will come soon, complete with pictures. I’m excited to be on this adventure.  I’m not sure that it has sunk in that Erik and I won’t be separating anymore.  Ill give it another week or two before that hits us, but I will say this: even though it hasn’t hit us yet, I’m getting a huge amount of comfort knowing that fact.  We don’t feel pressured to fit in all of this time together or various activities like we usually do on our visits.  We have all the time in the world.  It is a wonderful thing. 🙂