Happy New Year!

Hanging out with the Terracotta Army at the Field Museum

I’m sitting here shoveling red, green and silver Hershey’s Kisses into my mouth thinking about the past year. 2016 wasn’t all I was hoping for exactly, but it was still great. My New Year’s resolutions went out the window faster than a hot knife through butter. Did I exercise and eat right? Sort of. And then I fell off the wagon – a few times. Did my credit card get paid off? That would be a resounding no.

Eating canal-side at Gam Gam in Venice

Now, I’m not so I’m so poor that I can’t afford to pay attention, but I do have a little ADD. As for that credit card that I didn’t pay off, not only did I not pay it off, I booked the trip of a lifetime to Italy for two weeks with Juston instead. At this point neither one of us is getting any younger, especially me, and I figure if I croaked tomorrow Juston can pay off my credit card with my insurance money. It’s all good.

Most adorable nephews!!

2016 is an unforgettable year. Juston turned 21. My nephew Noah was born and his brother Connor turned five and started kindergarten. North Carolina suffered two horrific floods back-to-back after Tropical Storm Julia and Hurricane Matthew, followed by harrowing wildfires in the mountains in a manner of weeks. It was horrifying to watch these natural disasters unfold. Even today, you can see the damage that remains. And of course, the political storms will not soon be forgotten.

Personally, 2016 for me was jam-packed with traveling around [mostly] North Carolina. From the mountains to the coast and everywhere in between, I traveled and ate my way around the state.

Eating local across North Carolina

North Carolina is a barbecue state. Barbecue quest 2016 started at the Q-Shack in Durham. Noble’s Meats & Eatery in Spring Lake is really a butcher shop, but man alive do they have great food. Their ribs? Amazing. Local celeb Bob Garner breezed past my table at The Pit in Raleigh. Short of mugging him, I spoke with him for a few moments and then he was gracious enough to take a photo. The Pit has succulent barbecue and the best banana pudding ever. I didn’t stop there though. If you’re looking for a unique barbecue experience, the Pik-n-Pig is the place to go. Located on an airstrip, the food is good ‘ol country cookin.’ Bonus? You can watch planes land and take off while you nosh. Tucked in Charlotte is Queen City Q. The staff are friendly, the food is fantastic, and they have Cheerwine. Could it be any better? Utter Barbecue perfection. Lexington is the {un}official, official barbecue capital in NC and home to the Lexington Barbecue Festival. The town is chock full of barbecue joints. My first visit to Lexington included a stop a the Bar-B-Q Center, which kicks pork booty. Plus they have a banana spilt with at least a gallon of ice cream precariously topped with chocolate syrup, nuts and whipped cream.You’ll leave so full you’ll practically squeal.

Wilmington & Wrightsville Beach, NC

Wilmington and Wrightsville Beach are always relaxing favorites. I try to visit a couple times a year and when I leave I feel rejuvenated. Airlie Gardens  was visited several times throughout the year: in the spring to see Andy Cobb’s whimsical frogs on display at Ribbit the Exhibit and again in December for Enchanted Airlie.

The Queen City

April brought an influx of parrots to Charlotte for the Jimmy Buffet concert, where I took in the Margaritaville singer for the first time. As far as concerts go, Jimmy Buffett was a beach life extravaganza, unlike any other I’ve ever been to for sure. People go all-out with their tailgating and there are many fun people to see. While in the Queen City, I also explored and ate my way around, including a stop in “Paris” at Amelie’s French Bakery Cafe.

Traveling around Italy with Juston

The most exciting part of 2016, by far, was the trip to Italy with Juston. It was absolutely, undoubtedly the best trip I’ve ever taken with the kid I love more than anything in the entire world. Two weeks traveling around Italy with Juston was the second most memorable event next to giving birth to him on my 25th birthday. We laughed, we ate, all while taking in the most wonderful sights in Italia. Rome, Sorrento, Capri, Venice, Florence and Tuscany – each city had stunning art, architecture, and food.

The Coliseum

The ruins of Pompeii

Salone dei Cinquecento, Palazzo Vecchio, Firenze, Italy

What I loved most about Italy, aside from being there with Juston, is the history spanning hundreds of years in one place. Old and new blend together in a harmonious canvas across the countryside. Romans especially are very proud of their history. While not all their history is rosy, Italians are fiercely proud of it, the good and the bad, nonetheless. After the last several years in the US in the South, I cannot imagine how freeing that feels.

Sights and tastes of the Windy City

Italy was followed up with an Independence Day trip to Chicago. I hadn’t been to the Windy City since I was a little girl and was greeted with sunny skies, cool breezes, friendly Chicagoans, and, of course, flavorful and delectable food.

Durham, also known as the Bull City, offers many places to see and eat

Durham, also known as the Bull City, is home to the Durham Performing Arts Center (DPAC), a huge local food and arts scene, and a rich history. Lyle Lovett & His Large Band performed at the DPAC, where I saw him for the third time. As always, it was a lively show and I’m hoping they’ll come back next August too. I tried several local restaurants and bakeries. On the top of my list: Scratch Baking. Holy cow do they have luscious, filling desserts! I even had my photo from Scratch featured on the Visit NC website. Pretty cool.

Looking out over the Blue Ridge Mountains from Rough Ridge with Juston, Daphne, & Sadie

Juston and I went hiking with the girls, Daphne and Sadie, over Labor Day weekend. Being the flake I am, I left my hiking shoes at his house and had to climb Rough Ridge and the Linville Falls in flip flops. Not exactly ideal, yet the views were stunning.

The National Folk Festival, flea circus included!

The National Folk Festival in Greensboro is a musical, craft and food delight. Entertainers from all over the world performed all genres of music and dance, and served international foods to delight your tastebuds. Unfortunately it was a thousand degrees hotter than the sun and I was more thirsty than hungry, but I did shake my booty as various performers did what they do best. It was like traveling the globe in a matter of blocks around Greensboro.

The Mountains of North Carolina

The mountains of NC are among the prettiest in the land and fall is the best time to visit. Fortunately I was in the Great Smoky Mountains during hurricane Matthew and before all the horrific wildfires. I spied elk in Cataloochee and climbed Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. On my way to and fro I stopped by several quaint mountain towns: Saluda, Sylva, and Dillsboro, NC. Each place I visited was more charming than the last. Say what you want about North Carolina, but you can never say we’re not friendly.

Local storm damage from Hurricane Matthew

Art Deco cars: sleek, streamlined automobiles greeted me at the NC Museum of Art in Raleigh.

Rolling Sculpture, Art Deco Cars from the 1930s and 1940s

The year finished out with Christmas lights, fireworks, and family. Is there anything better in life than that?

Celebrating the holidays around North Carolina

Now all I’ve got to do is get me some resolutions. This year I’m going to be a realist. Sure I’d love to lose weight! But you can’t do that and eat. And when I say eat, I mean EAT. None of that half-hearted noshing performed by the overly image conscious crowd. This girl loves food and intends to eat – no holds barred.

As for saving money or paying off my credit card? Of course I’d love to do both! Reality says it’s not gonna happen. I’ve got another trip of a lifetime with my mom planned for 2017. We’ve talked about visiting Victoria, BC for years and years. My mom turned 68 in 2016 and can finally walk better than she has in seven years. Five surgeries later, while she may not be fast and the pain may be unbearable at times, she can hobble along pretty good. We’re going to Victoria, come hell or high water. And that’s more important than paying off the credit card. I’ll get it done eventually.

Goals for 2017

What I’ve decided to focus on instead is family and kindness. If 2016 showed my anything, it was the importance of family and friends. Maintaining relationships takes some effort, but the payout is much more than the effort. As for kindness, 2016 reared it’s ugly head in politics and brought out the worst in people. I’ve reinforced my thought that although we may not agree on everything, we can still be kind to one another. And I intend to follow the words of a very wise rabbit: “if you can’t say nothin’ nice, don’t say nothin’ at all.” Practicing silence will be meditative for me or cause me to meditate, I’m not sure which, but I’ll see soon enough.

The Chinese Lantern Festival at the Booth Amphitheater

My wish for everyone is that you start the year off with a clean slate. Each day is a blank page in the novel of your year, make every day count. Be thankful. Laugh. Cry. Don’t be afraid. Make mistakes. Get out of your comfort zone. Love. Most of all, live. Life is short and we need to live each day as if it were our last.

Much love,

Mindy

6 comments on “Happy New Year!

    • Hi Towanda!

      Thank you! I agree that travel motivates you and gives you experiences you’ll never forget. I hope you have a wonderful 2017!

      ~Mindy

    • Oh Beth-Venice was pure magic! I loved Italy as a whole & hope one day I can visit again. I’m taking my mom to Victoria, BC in late spring & cannot wait. There are so many things I want to see & do, it’s hard to choose. I’m focusing on biting small chunks off my bucket list one at a time.

      Happy 2017!

      ~Mindy

  1. What a great recap! I loved loved loved seeing your pictures from Italy, Durham (Bull City represent!), and the mountains. A trip to Victoria sounds fantastic!! Best wishes to you in 2017!

    • Hi Liz!

      Happy 2017 to you! Thank you for your comment! You know I love Durham! One of my favorite NC cities for certain. 🙂

      I’m really looking forward to Victoria. I booked it last weekend & the countdown has begun!

      ~Mindy

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