The lovely couple, Erin and Ryan Champion--How cool would it be to say "We are the Champions!" Their last name ROCKS!
The last time I rode around in a car with Erin she was driving a 1997 Honda Civic. I was pumped when she picked me up from the airport in this...
I named him Benny the Beemer, but Ryan insists the car needs a girl's name. :(
We kicked my vacation off with a trip to Moonlight Pizza. This place had a really cool funky and urban atmosphere. We ate outside next to candlelight and the weather was beautiful. Erin and I split the Greenhouse Effect--pizza with tomato sauce, garlic, basil, spinach, black olives, sun dried tomatoes, lemon zest, and mozzarella. We washed down the delicious pizza with pomegranate margaritas. Just a warning, from this point on, this post will contain a lot of food talk. You can't visit the South without eating your way through it! After dinner, we went back to Erin's house to share a bottle of wine. And I loved the wine! We sipped on Charles Shaw Shiraz, aka, Two-Buck Chuck. That's right folks, is $2.99. I loved it so much, I made Erin take me to Trader Joe's to purchase some to take home in my suitcase. And now, I wish I would have bought more...
Trader Joe's is an awesome store that carries great tasting foods, mostly used for entertaining. And the staff all wear Hawaiian shirts. Fun!
Day 2 of my trip was extremely productive because I got to cross 4 things off of the list of must sees before you die! We headed to Chapel Hill for a view of the University of North Carolina and a walk down Franklin Street.
We made a stop for lunch at Mama Dip's.
Not only was this restaurant in the book, but it has also been featured on the Food Network. That qualifies as a must see in my opinion. And just in case that is not enough to convince you to stop by for lunch, Paula Deen, the Southern Queen of food, holds an autographed spot on one of the walls when you walk in. I ordered Chicken and Dumplings for lunch. My meal came with two vegetable sides. I picked mashed potatoes with gravy and mac and cheese. You read that right, mac and cheese qualifies as a vegetable in the south! That's my kind of eating. And did I mention I had some cornbread, too? And did I mention I ate all of my food?
After that meal, some "walking around" was in order. So we headed over to Durham to visit Duke University. We spent some quality time in the Sarah P. Duke gardens. This spot was free to visit, not to mention beautiful. Here are a few of my favorite pictures.
After relaxing in the garden, we took a walk over to the famous Duke Chapel.
After walking off lunch, it was time to eat again! We picked another selection from the book, Magnolia Grill. This sophisticated restaurant is located in the middle of a neighborhood in an old converted grocery store. Magnolia Grill has also won several awards for its tasty food, including being ranked as #11 on Gourmet Magazines top 50 places to eat in America. Wow! We started out with a glass of wine and a crab dish for an appetizer. I had a NY strip for dinner with some yummy potatoes. We all finished with this...
The lemon poppy seed souffle cake with raspberry sauce was perfection!
After dinner, Ryan and Erin took me to Durham's new chic area for entertainment, the American Tobacco District. This was one of my favorite places to visit. This area was once one of America's largest tobacco manufactures. Today, the old warehouses have been renovated into bars, lofts, and office space. We went to Tyler's Tap Room to have a drink. Erin introduced me to this beer...
Lindemans Framboise Lambic, brewed in Belgium. I'm not gonna lie--this is a girly beer, but so yummy! Before it was common to use hops to season beers, fruits and vegetables were used. This beer is seasoned with raspberries and taste like fruit punch.
On Day 3, I made sure we hit up some Chick-Fil-A, which is probably my favorite fast food restaurant. How I wish we had one in Wichita!
Day 3 is also when I met my new friend. In 2005, I took a trip with a group of people from my church to Kampala, Uganda. We traveled to Africa to support the work of Watoto Children's Ministries. The mission of Watoto is to Rescue the precious orphaned children of Uganda, then Raise them in the word of God, and Rebuild Uganda by teaching these children how to be the next generation of Ugandan leaders.--Rescue, Raise, Rebuild. Instead of putting these children in a traditional orphanage, Watoto has developed a model that allows them to be a part of a family. They have 3 villages with medical clinics, churches, schools, and homes. Each home is made up of a mother and 8 children. This allows the children to grow up in a supportive and loving environment where they are allowed the opportunity to learn about the value of a healthy family. In 2005, our team helped build one of the homes in Suubi Village. Suubi is Swahili for hope. The experiences I shared with the people I met there left a lasting impression on my heart. I knew I wanted to continue to be involved with the mission of Watoto. However, visiting Africa on a regular basis is not financially possible for me. How I wish it was! So, I decided to sponsor a child for $35/month. Shortly after my trip, I was matched with Derrick. He was 7 years old at the time. It has been so much fun to see him grow through his letters and pictures he sends me. Watoto also puts together a children's choir. They allow each child to tour a developed country for 6 months. This allows Watoto to share their message while giving the children an opportunity to see what could be possible for their country as well. Derrick was in Raleigh at the time of my visit. So, after 4 years of sponsoring him, I actually got to meet him! And I loved every minute of it. He was incredibly sweet and polite. And his smile screamed innocence and happiness. I am so thankful I got to see him. If you are interested in learning more about Watoto or sponsoring a child, visit Watoto's website.
After seeing the Choir, Erin and I headed to a fashion show. The event was called Redress Raleigh. The fashion show only showcased eco-friendly designers. All of the garments were created from recycled or remanufactured garments as well as eco-friendly fabrics and production processes. One of the designers was Lindsay Kay. In case you missed it, that's my first and middle name. So, I felt compelled to take photos of her line. Please remember, I am not a professional photographer people...
Day 4 meant it was time to leave. I had my last southern meal of Biscuits and Gravy at Bojangles. I can't wait to go back and visit. There is still so much to do in N. Carolina out of my book! Here is Otto, Ryan and Erin's dog, giving me a kiss goodbye.
Thank you Erin for letting me stay in your beautiful home and planning such a fantastic trip! I can't wait to see you and Ryan again.