In a Nutshell: Wicked Southern Y’all

It’s been a while y’all. Like, the last time I did one of these In a Nutshell posts I still lived in Boston. So clearly, there’s a lot to catch you up on from the last five months. I had planned to do a good year in-review recap of 2016 like I’ve done in the past, but considering this is really my first chance to sit down and plan a non-recipe post, that should give you some idea of just how crazy things have been. I’ve been all over the place lately … literally. North, South, East, West, you name it, I’ve taken an insta from an airplane window overlooking every part of America. In 2016 alone, I took 81 flights and spent over 150 nights in a hotel. So far in 2017, I’ve already racked up 25 flights from LA to Puerto Rico, and lots of time in Florida in between and almost 50 nights in a hotel. You know you travel too much when you’re hitting annual status criteria before the end of Q1. So without further adieu, let me do my best to give you the highlights of the past few months.

Down South Y’all

I sold my condo in Southie at the end of last summer and packed up 13 years of living in Boston and drove down to start my next chapter in Raleigh, North Carolina. Anyone who knows me questioned my selection of Raleigh as my next home-base given my first experience down there was not the best. Back when I was a wee little baby consultant, improperly forcing the use of leverage in sentences and not knowing how to rack up miles like a boss, my first project straight out of koolaid-drinking cult initiation (I mean analyst training) was down in Raleigh, NC at Red Hat. Back in 2007, there wasn’t much to write home about Raleigh and we spent most of our time in an office or at the hotel bar, but the city is so different now and there are actual places to eat downtown aside from the bar at the Sheraton. So here’s a sampling of my many reasons why I picked Raleigh, in no particular order:

  • Raleigh averages 1 inch of snow a year. Not 118 inches. And yes while the city shuts down over the first flake, I will never need to pay some druggie named Crazy Vinny in cash on a street corner to shovel my roof
  • I spend most of my week in Florida on a long-term project, so cutting my flight from 3 hours to an hour and 20 minutes means more time at home and less in a plane.
  • It was a hot market in Boston and I sold my condo in less than 24-hours
  • My brother, sister-in-law and nephew moved to Chapel Hill, about 40 minutes from Raleigh – and my parents are planning to move to the NC coast at some point in the next few years
  • I already have some friends down here from my early consulting days
  • Did I mention no snow?

Also, why not? The constant travel had left me yearning for a connection to a home base, and my Boston ties were feeling increasingly frayed. A property search began almost as a diversion, a way to ground myself. To my surprise, it led to a sweet profit from the sale of my condo, reaffirming my decision. Now, Raleigh has welcomed me warmly. I’ve settled into a chic apartment in North Hills, ticking all my essential boxes for walkability: a coffee shop, grocery store, nail salon, and a bar are just steps away. The crowning glory? I’m a leisurely stroll from Target. Without the responsibilities of condo ownership, my precious downtime is now spent bonding with my nephew and immersing myself in the vibrant life of Raleigh. So far, these are some of my favorite spots:

  • YoBaI almost didn’t want to tell anyone about this place, because it’s one of my favorite spots and felt like I hit the jackpot when I found it. It’s a 5-minute drive from my house, and is a hot yoga + barre studio, where the classes are an hour long and the playlists are amazing. The owner is one of the sweetest people you’ll meet, and I definitely need to take a page out of her southern book in being friendly (I’m working on it). My favorite time to go is Friday night at 5:30 to just zen out after a crazy week with some cool people and great tunes.
  • Death and TaxesI went here with my friend Holly (who used to be my intern in Raleigh) a few months back for drinks and apps, and this was some of the best food I’ve ever had IN MY LIFE. Sweet mama jama. The cocktails were amazing, and we had this roasted butternut squash with goat cheese and brown butter spaghetti squash dish that I still dream about. I’ve now got all of the Ashley Christensen restaurants on my list of places I need to eat.
  • Rise BiscuitsBiscuits, y’all. And DONUTS. This spot is popping up all over NC and their chicken biscuit is a great way to start the day. I picked up a bunch of donuts to bring to my brother’s for his moving day this weekend and we attacked them.
  • Synergy Spa: I mean, a spa that has the Synergy in the name? Yep, this place was made for me. My aunt gave me a gift card here when I moved because of the name, and I’ve been a regular ever since. All my travel requires lots of work to keep me looking young, so regular massages and facials are turning into part of my Friday night routine.

So this might not seem like I’ve done much since I’ve moved here, but I’m not home that much, so finding a few good spots has been enough for me for now. We’re heading to Asheville this weekend for a girl’s weekend and I’ve got a feeling I’ll have to write an entire post just about that, based on all the good things I’ve heard. Other than that, I did buy a new car two weekends ago and felt like a legit adult and total baller when I negotiated my way into this beautiful Audi Q5.

Boats and Beaches 

One thing that helps me not go too crazy with all the work travel is trying to fit in a weekend away once a month to relax and not come home and be in full-on errand mode. Luckily I’ve got a good travel buddy in my friend Allie at work (not to be confused with Boston Allie, this is Allie 2.0 who is also originally from North Carolina. Eflandville, to be exact). We impulse booked a 3-day cruise out of Port Canaveral in January over dinner in December, and had the BEST time. We popped bottles, enjoyed the sunshine and got a couples package to the spa. A weekend free from airports and were back at work by 9am Monday.

About 4 days later, we had already decided we needed to book another weekend away in February, so we settled on the St. Regis in Puerto Rico. On points of course. That’s a little above our normal baller status, but the one benefit of living in a hotel 150+ nights a year, is you almost never have to pay for a hotel again. Even super swanky ones. We did roll up to the St. Regis with a bunch of ghetto grocery store bags from Ralph’s Food Warehouse filled with bottles of Prosecco, chips and salsa and cereal – because that’s how we roll.

Turns out we got complimentary breakfast included because of being Platinum Ambassador status level with Starwood, so we decided to toss our Frosted Mini Wheats from Ralph’s and opt for the most colorful Caribbean breakfast each morning. And while it was definitely too quick of a trip for just 2 and a half days, we still definitely enjoyed our weekend away in the sun. Allie became particularly affectionate of the local iguanas at the pool. I can’t wait for this month’s adventure this weekend to Asheville!

Memphis Y’all 

So the weekend after Puerto Rico, I had been invited to a surprise bachelorette party in Memphis, Tennessee for my former Boston tennis partner-in-crime Caitlan. And also found out I had to go to Hollywood for meetings in work that Sunday. So any normal person would say, no no that’s too much. But I asked myself what would Party Marg do? You know, that drunk lady that Caitlan, Colleen and I met at the Vegas airport buzzed out of her mind for a red-eye flight that will forever live in our hearts. And Party Marg would say let’s buzz off in Memphis y’all. So that’s what I did. Two connecting flights, and hiding in Caitlan’s room for 30 minutes with Elissa, we surprised our friend who doesn’t like surprises and then celebrated her Memphis style all weekend.

We spent Saturday afternoon enjoying Memphis by pedal tavern, which was a great way to drink our way through the city on a very sunshiney day. This was the view from the pedal tavern down Beale Street, which is the main street in the city. And these were our colorful cocktails from Wet Willie’s.

La La Land

Catching an 8am flight the morning after a bachelorette was a bit of a struggle, but it was off to La La Land (or Moonlight?) for a few days of meetings in Hollywood. Surprisingly, with all of my travel this was my first time ever in LA. I was able to catch dinner on Sunday night with my LA-based coworker Luke and his wife, and then was up by Universal in Hollywood for the next two days. We got to do the studio tour at Universal Hollywood after our meetings ended which was pretty cool. We got to see the backlot where Wisteria Lane from Desperate Housewives is, and where they film The Good Life and The Mindy Project. No celeb sitings unfortunately, but it was still very cool to see. We have Jimmy Fallon coming to Universal Orlando next week, and I was very lucky to get tickets through my friend Mike, so I cannot wait to see that show again. I saw it three years ago on my birthday with my sister, and got a high-five at the end from Jimmy Fallon. So after Hollywood, I took the long-flight back east and was tired, to say the least. I thought I just had wicked jet lag but ended up with a fever of 101, which may have been my body’s way of telling me to slow the heck down. Sheesh.

April showers, bring more travel

Well, it’s been a busy 2017 so far, and this next month is shaping up to be just as packed with travel. After Asheville this weekend, I’m making stops in Chicago, Connecticut, and Newport, RI over the next 3 weekends for meetings, Easter and my friend Amanda’s bachelorette. Getting on a plane each time doesn’t seem so bad when you think of the great memories to be made when you arrive.

When I was packing up my room in Boston, I found my “Swan Song” that I had published in the BC student newspaper when my term as an editor came to an end. It was basically a full page where you could write inside jokes to all of your friends that no one else outside of McElroy 113 would understand, but I remember searching for a quote to start mine out with. And it’s funny to see how that quote from over 10 years ago applies even more today than before.

“My favorite part of a roller-coaster ride is when you’re going up and you’re slightly scared and really excited. You don’t know what’s coming next but you know it’s going to be good. You can’t handle it, go on the carousel.”