Friday, December 30, 2011

Just in case... (Resolutions for 2012)

A lot of sources (albeit ancient sources) say that 2012 may be Earth's last year.  Of course, there are three groups of people as a result: skeptics (2012 is just another year), believers (2012 is our last year!), and the oblivious (What's a Mayan calendar?).  I am not sure which group I fall into, but I'm leaning towards the believers...for one small reason.  I don't actually think the world will end in 2012, but maybe I'll live by these words anyway..."just in case".  What if it is the last year?  What would you do?  What would you say?  How would you live your life?

Here's my "just in case" list for 2012, ya know, just in case.

 Just in case this is my last NYE, I don't want overpriced cocktails, shouting over a crowd of strangers, or the ultimate let down of planning a super-fun night.  You see, the best adventures in life are never, ever planned.  I have only come to this revelation in the last few years.  Before that, I was a victim of disillusionment from movies, TV, and the media.  While I love When Harry Met Sally more than I love some of my own friends (you know who you are:) ), I realize that the last scene of that movie is really The Devil.  New Year's Eve generally does not end with hoards of singing people covered in confetti and a love proclamation.  So, this year, just in case it's the last one, I want to spend NYE with people I love, talking, dancing, rapping...ya know.  Sometimes the best plan is to ditch the plan.

Other resolutions?

Well, guess you'll just have to wait and see...but just in case, I'll be working on that list!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Smart Art: Idea for a GNO (Girl's Night Out)

Someone once told me, "Less is More."  I think that was my kindergarten teacher, and I think it involved my liberal use of the finger paints.  Despite the fact that my work won't be hanging in the Louvre any time soon, making art is still a fantastic form of expression, a means of relaxation, and it's a lot of fun.  My BFSJBWATIHME (Best Friend Since Justin Bieber Was A Twinkle In His Mama's Eye-Think that acronym will catch on??) and I decided to try something different for our latest adventure in Charlotte: painting wine glasses.  You've seen them on the shelves of your favorite kitschy boutique or arty bargain store; personalized wine glasses for that special occasion, the colors of a favorite team, or a specific holiday theme are the perfect gift for the vino drinker on your list.

Wine and Design is located on East Boulevard across from Moe's and just down from Cantina 1511 (  The upstairs studio boasts all kinds of opportunities to release your inner Monet: pet painting (canvas not K9), guided painting, open studio time, and much more.  Their website features a calendar with the various guided painting experiences offered weekly.  The friendly, trendy staff helps to set you up with your paint colors of choice and materials, while you pour your favorite wine, which is BYOB.  Tara and I had oodles of fun, enjoyed conversation with other amateur artists, and painted to our hearts' content to the seasonal tunes of "Baby, it's Cold Outside" and "Christmas Canon".  Here are five reasons you should try a "Girl's Art Out":

1) Painting is proven to be soothing after a stressful day/week, and on a Friday night, it's better for you than that third martini
2) Every girl loves a personalized wine glass (whether a gift or one you make yourself)
3) Meeting new people, being nosy and asking questions, and overall adult social interaction is a must
4) BYOB means you're out on the town without spending a fortune
5) " Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up."  ~Pablo Picasso

I think my kindergarten teacher would be proud that I still got it! (She's rolling her eyes in Heaven-That girl was the worst artist:) )

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Tales of a tailgate...10 reasons to park it

There are few reasons to want to hang out in or around your car...
 1)  There's the overly creepy gentleman lurking outside the mall...not a good reason.  
2) Or the guy who seems to be washing, waxing, or drying his car off (i.e. oogling you and your groceries) in the neighborhood.  
3) And let's not forget the classic scenario in which you live in a large city and a giant meteor is about to strike Earth, but you're stuck in traffic due to zombie mutilation at every exit. 

 All of those scenarios ARE NOT the purpose of this blog.  I'm talking about the all-American tailgate happening at a concert, football game, or festival near you!  Here are 10 reasons you shouldn't fight it when you're friends suggest they'll get the beer, and you bring all the gear~

10) Everyone's happy-Kids, parents, grandparents, friends...anyone and everyone enjoys good, old-fashioned camaraderie around a gas grill placed too closely to the exhaust pipe...In all seriousness, food = good, a portable bar = good, cornhole or other tote-able game = good.  No one's wearing a frown face when they have a personalized koozie and a baby in college colors.
9) Other people are crazy-People go all out at tailgates...yellow and black astro-turf grass, full body paint, a band hooked up to a van's generator...the sightings are endless. Chances to meet interesting and new people are a dime a dozen, or should I say a deviled egg a dozen (yeah, some times they're good cooks!~) The tailgater can also chat it up with" # 1 fan" guy (insert high fives here), free food guy (insert chili dogs here), or "good story later" guy (insert good office lunch talk here)...they'll all be there.  I once saw a topless lady painted in a Caribbean scene at a Jimmy Buffett concert, like she jumped off the wall at the Louvre, had a high school friend punch someone in the face (okay, that was before tailgate), and watched two sorority sisters participate in a hula contest.
8) Creativity-You can theme it out to no end at a tailgate.  Name your team, band, or historical era here.  There's nothing like a pint of Mead and turkey leg to get a good Renaissance fair going, and there's quite a bit of glory in being dressed head to toe in "insert school colors" to get ready for the big game.  You can name your own cocktails, appetizers, and games, be the envy of all the other spaces, and forever live in some family from Georgia's Christmas or campfire stories.
7)The secret's out... It's more fun that the actual event- You may have paid high dollar for that ticket, but let's face it:  the tailgate will probably exceed your expectations, and leave you wanting more quality time leaned up against the hood (especially in a scenario where you're with long-lost girlfriends).   You'll still be shaking a maraca long after "Margaritaville" has played, or singing the fight song when half-time has come and gone.  You may choose to sell those tickets (expect less than face value :( ) to that cheap attendee (who was counting on your second wind fizzling out) in exchange for one more Jello shot with your best friend.
6) Calories in a car (or different zip code) don't count-Everyone's heard that old wives' tale, right? That's why pizza rolls, spinach dip, and queso are a must for a tailgate.  No one's chomping on salad and rice cakes when they're ready to party (use the Bridesmaids Kristen Wiig voice for that one).  So, mix in that extra bag of shredded cheese and forget that you used a rubber-band to secure your jeans instead of buttoning them (we've all done it...don't lie).
5) Make your own soundtrack-There's no better reason to bring back the mixed tape, err CD, than a tailgate.  Downloading and burning your favorite tracks, or for you high techies, plugging in your iPod or Pad, is the quintessential way to spend your pre-game or show.  Everybody knows the band isn't gonna play that obscure "classic" and that the arena only gets 30 seconds of "We Will Rock You" before copyright issues.  Don't be afraid to sing at the top of your lungs (#1 fan guy is sure to stop by and join in) and pretend you've got a spot on stage or a solo at half-time.
4) Did someone say half day?-That's right.  Tailgate starts early, and if it doesn't fall on a Saturday or Sunday (which it usually does, and therefore negates # 4) that means you need to leave work early so you can get your pig in a blanket on!  Tell your boss "Buh-Bye" and head for that spot closer to the port-a-potties.
3) Camping without the camping-Tailgating is so popular because it reminds us all of camping...without the actual camping.  The best part is always "getting there" or the "before"...i.e. you want to roast marshmallows, but sleeping in a tent is for the boy scouts.  Tailgating combines all the camp fun without the mosquitos and deflating air mattress.  Everything's outdoors, portable, and you're definitely roughing it when you have to go into a bush to use the bathroom because the arena is too far of a walk.
2) You can finally use that...-You know how you get all of those presents or free items you'll never use??  Well, tailgate is the perfect time!  Plastic cups from Bob and Susie's wedding suddenly become expendable beverage holders to trade for a temporary tattoo at the t-shirt stand.  Those fold-able chairs that you always carry in the car are suddenly your couch away from home.  That mini blender that Aunt Maureen was sure you'd use a lot is finally dusted off to provide a frozen concoction that helps you hang on (Thanks to JB for that lyric).  There's no telling what treasures lie in your attic or garage that could suddenly be key props in an amazing tailgate experience.
1) The number one reason tailgating is "the heat"?  It doesn't have to be done in the heat...because tailgating is year round fun.  Break out those gloves, that parka, and your cordless cappuccino maker for a teeth-chattering good time.  This afternoon retreat is really about getting together with friends and family to celebrate, whether the game is win or lose, the concert is rockin', or the festival has pickles on a stick or not.  Tailgating is fun in the Fall (or any month at all)!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Cravin' more in Charlotte

So it's been a long time, I shouldn't have left you, without a dope beat to step to...okay, not my words, but those of Aliyah in "Try Again" (or whoever raps on that track with her anyway).  But it has been a busy couple of months, so the blog suffered a backseat to my other agenda items such as "work at thankless job" or " move for the second time in a year".  But I'm back to bloggin' with a killer recommendation for all you foodies in the Charlotte area.  It's only the hottest place to hit Graham street...Crave Dessert Bar.  I had heard about this decadent eatery from a valet attendant back in January.  He asked my friend and I, "Are y'all going to smoke hookah now?" as we were leaving restaurant week at Morton's Steakhouse.  We replied with the average, run-of-the-mill response, I suppose, "Uh, no".  Hookah?  Were we the caterpillars from Alice in Wonderland.  But it piqued our interest, and turns out, the spot he referred to was Crave.  A few, or uh 10 months, later we finally landed at Crave after a dinner out to celebrate my divorce (it's final ladies and gentlemen...woot) and we were stunned to find that this place was hopping on a Saturday night.  There were, of course, your club goers in dresses that would make Snooki blush, your hipsters contemplating Plato over the hookah, your baller, shot callers, you get the idea.  And there were a few average citizens, i.e. us, who were seated outside.  We ended up preferring the outside to the inside, as the inside seemed trendier, noiser, and was also mostly reserved for people who pull up in stretch hummers (shout out, Melissa).  But seriously, the ambiance is pretty killer, if you're looking for a low-key, yet happening, spot to spend a Friday or Saturday night.

On to the desserts and drinks, and all I can say is "Wow".  You've got the signature cocktail, the One Night Stand that is literally smokin' (as dry ice is involved), and your classic city drink, the Manhattan (no matter what city), as well as Bellinis, spiked coffees, champagne concoctions, and of course your designer drinks with the ironic names, like the "Clean Slut".  I went with water on my last visit, but I have tried the ONS and the Sweet Surrender (a strawberry martini of sorts).  But if you're not the libation sort, or you're driving, might I suggest the desserts, hence the name.  The red velvet cake is THE BEST, yes ladies and gents, you heard it here, the BEST red velvet cake this side of a Steel Magnolia groom's cake.  It's moist, delicious, and the icing is to. die. for.  Nuff said.  I also tried the scrum-didly-umptious Strawcup Berrycake and it was "Berry" awesome.  You can't get the atmosphere (cool, funky, zen) or the taste (oh so divine) without experiencing it yourself, so if you're craving a cool city vibe, slide on over to Crave for a devlish good time:)

And if you want to know about the hookah (completely LEGAL and innocuous folks), I may have a story to tell:)

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Dandy Date: Dinner at the Dandelion Market

Upon first glance, Dandelion Market looks like just another tiny bar on a side street in Uptown Charlotte.  However, once you step through the doors, you'll believe otherwise.  I first tried tapas (Spanish-inspired mini meals or appetizers) in Washington DC back in the early 2000s.  I found them to be hip, cool, and trendy at the time, but didn't realize that nearly ten years later, I would still love the concept.  It doesn't matter if your appetite comes in small, medium, or large, tapas can fit the bill for any meal.  Dandelion Market boasts a selection of delicious treats such as the "Prosciutto Crostini" or the "Lamb Lollipops".  The tapas dishes usually run from about $7-$10, so they are easy to split and they won't break the bank.  

In addition to yummy treats, DM offers $25 bottles of wine, and no corkage fee, so you can enjoy a delightful glass of Carmenere (hot new Red) and take the rest to go.  But you may want to hang around at Dandelion Market.  Whether you're downstairs in the spacious dining area, or upstairs in the bar area, you'll find the dark wood, low lighting, and pub-like feel to be inviting.  Dandelion Market is also featured on right now, so grab a coupon and head Uptown for a Dandy Dinner!

Six Pence to the wind...a pub worth publishing

Coming Soon

Heaters in 100 degree weather? Must be hot yoga!

I've cursed the scorching summer dog days like most other North and South Carolina residents, but instead of opting for a frosty mug or a dip in the pool, I decided to turn up the temperature with some hot yoga...and I've never been happier. I always wanted to try the phenomenon of hot yoga (also called Bikram yoga, when adhering to a specific set of poses). I've done "cool" or "room temperature" yoga in the past many, many times, floating from gym to studio to home workout video and back. However, I truly feel that yoga is best done in the company of others. I know this idea seems a tad absurd, since amateur yogis are often embarrassed to be seen in less-than-perfect poses (a downward facing dog that looks more like a face plant road kill). I really think the fellowship of a yoga studio is as therapeutic as the stretches are themselves. So, I highly recommend the Om yoga studio in Fort Mill (Baxter).

Nestled in the heart of Baxter, Om is across the street from a maternity store The Bump, on the upper level. A fairly new yoga studio (it opened in January 2011), Om boasts an average of 8-15 students per class, depending on day versus night classes. Van, one of Om's employees, told me: "Honestly we feel very blessed that we get to be a part of this great little community (Baxter Village), and the fact that we get to come in everyday and do what we love by offering a service... that we get to make a difference and positive change in people's lives."

As soon as I walked into the studio, which my friend and I discovered online, I was instantly feeling at ease. I should have been a little apprehensive, seeing as how heaters were circling the room like a school of sharks waiting to turn my newly styled hair into a hot mess. However, I found the studio's naturally lit atmosphere to be calming and soothing, unlike the florescent lights of most gyms.  So, I felt very relaxed as I rolled out my dusty mat and prepared to find serenity.

A gentleman named Dar, the instructor, started class with a quotation about silence. This helped me to remember that yoga is not only a form of physical exercise, but it strengthens the mind and encourages peace and tranquility within as well. As an out-of-practice, often sporadic yogi, I found the class to be extremely challenging, and sweat began to form in tiny beads, soon turning to a flood (not to be gross, but more sweat than a 5K induces). Dar suggested reverting to child's pose whenever a move or stretch felt too difficult. There were several newbies in the class, and I noticed many of them following his advice, as not to tire out too quickly or experience an injury. The instruction was on point, and I learned a variety of new poses that I hadn't ever tried (Eagle and Reverse Warrior).

Throughout the class, I appreciated the soft, hip background music (Foster the People, etc.), the open blinds (which allowed for a glimpse of the setting sun and filled the room with warm, orange hues), and the reassuring voice of Dar, as he moved through each pose, in a quick yet didactic manner. I never felt rushed or forced into a pose, and at times, I paused so that I could watch others and try to emulate them. This patient, nonchalant vibe carried me through the class, when I would have considered giving up (remember, it had been a while since my dog faced downward).

The class ended peacefully with a cooling, lavender-soaked towel, and the same quotation about silence. I felt relaxed, and yet I felt a genuine sense of self-satisfaction and accomplishment. Sadly, I live about an hour away from the studio; otherwise, I would have to go back weekly to feed my new addiction for hot yoga. I will definitely make the trip once a month... but until next time, "Namaste".

For those of you thinking of giving hot yoga a whirl, Om is offering new student rates at $60 for 1 month unlimited and they always have discounts for students, teachers and seniors.  I highly recommend this hot spot for hot (and any other) yoga!  For yoga information, the phone number is: 803 396 0493.  Om is located in Baxter Village and it's website is:

Counter Attack at Boone Drug:" Old School" lunch counter fun

Coming Soon

Cool Penguins: Girlfriends and Grub

My foodie sidekick, Tara Gander, has been essential in my edible adventures for the last 12 years.  It started with a dream: road trip it to Gatlinburg, TN from Boone, NC in one day.  This was your classic spur-of-the-moment, let's put a 100 miles between us and your ex-boyfriend kind of college road trip...and really it's where our combined love of travel and food began.  We've come along way from two girls in a Jeep Wrangler eating a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts in one sitting.  I like to think our tastes and palettes have matured, even if we're still the wild and wonderful girls we've always been.

So, I'd like to dedicate this first Charlotte Unhitched restaurant review to Tara, in what will exclusively be known as the "Girlfriends and Grub" sector of the blog.

This wasn't our first trek to the Charlotte favorite The Penguin, located on Commonwealth near Elizabeth, across from Boris and Natasha's, Dish, and the Thomas Street Tavern.  In fact, our inaugural visit seems like a haze full of greasy goodness.  We dove right into the menu letting our eyes grow larger than our stomachs, and we ended up with a table full of food we could barely eat.  I was eager to make a second splash into the waters of The Penguin (first bad pun of the day), so we headed back for a more premeditated meal.

As soon as we walked in, I noticed that the lunch crowd was quite a variety bunch.  There were a few slightly older patrons, probably in for a regular Friday visit, a family here and there, and the most noticeable group, a rowdy bunch of college kids in a back booth.  The Penguin gears toward a younger crowd, in my opinion, with menu quips from Wedding Crashers  (Ma, the meatloaf) and Tommy Boy (wait for it...the Tommy Boy). However, the fare is classic North Carolinian fast food with grease, cheese, and chili with a twist (a black bean burger and some tantalizing salads).  I indulged in a Ma, the meatloaf on my first trek ( a hot dog with onions, chili, and slaw), but this time I tried the soy dog, the Best in Show to keep things a little on the healthy side.  I tend to do this...order a Diet Coke with a cheeseburger, a water with movie popcorn, ice cream without the cone.  I figure every little bit helps.  But I didn't skimp on the one thing that I remembered best from my last visit...the sweet potato fries.  Sweet potato fries are what Heaven is made of in my mind...literally, like Willy Wonka's candy factory, where you can eat everything.  I get all googly-eyed when I see them on my plate, standing out, bright orange, distinguishing themselves from the crowd like a short skirt at a home school convention.  They're a little bit crispy, a tad sweet, and one of the most popular side items on a lot of Charlotte restaurant menus.    "They ain't your mama's french fries... or your daddy's for that matter."  But enough about the most scrumptious starch in my food index.  I found my soy dog, fries, and the honey butter for fry dipping to be a real Friday afternoon treat.  The atmosphere of this dive is what I'd call "Diner Chic".  In other words, it eats like a good ole Carolina hot dog joint, but it looks like a Travel Channel special.

I highly recommend The Penguin, under new ownership, open seven days a week, when the generic neighborhood Sonic won't kick your need for a hot dog fix.  I'll give it 5 ice bergs, because it will really melt your appetite:)

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It is not down in any map; true places never are.-Herman Melville

Welcome to Charlotte Unhitched!  This blog will focus on reviews, recommendations, and stories of all the adventures Charlotte (and the surrounding area) has to offer! I hope you'll enjoy reading and glean some ideas, inspiration, etc.

I have had some beautiful experiences traveling in the last ten years.  From noshing on goat cheese pizza in Paris, to photographing a herd of elephants in Kenya, to eating a scorpion on the streets of Beijing, it's been a whirlwind blast.  I dedicated most of my 20's to planning, executing, and dreaming of overseas travel.  Seeing the world was magical, and my wandering is far from over.  However, as any amateur explorer knows, you need two things to make travel happen: energy and money.  I find myself having more energy than ever before, but sadly, less money!  So, I made the decision to stay put for a while, and to discover what's around me, here in North Carolina...namely the nearby metropolis, The Queen City.

Losing one's primary hobby and source of enthusiasm seems devastating, especially when you add a divorce into the mix.  Sound like a recipe for the ultimate bummer?  Yes, it first.  However, I quickly realized that I have an amazing world just "outside my door" (well, not literally) in the city of Charlotte.  I actually live outside of the city, but find a good excuse to visit at least once a week.  Charlotte's not the only chocolate chip in the muffin though!  North Carolina as a whole is filled to the brim with rare restaurants, quirky shops, outdoor fun, and interesting folks.  I've discovered so much in the last year, and I only hope that you, my readers, will too!  And if you do, please share and comment.

  Here are few tips for getting your feet wet in the Charlotte scene:

1) Print:   I've always been a fan of the free publication, Creative Loafing.  You can find this magazine outside of many local eateries, including Mr. C's Chicken in Concord, On the Border at Concord Mills, Dish in Plaza Midwood, etc.  I've been picking them up and perusing for many years, but I decided to make CL my road map for Charlotte fun, including concerts, neighborhood events, and festivals.  It's a great resource, and you can have it delivered to your home if you don't have an opportunity to get out much...of course, if that's the case, this blog might be a little depressing :(  But you can always plan for later.

2) Net:  In addition, I used the trusty Internet (Thanks Al Gore) for further exploration.  One of my favorite finds is the website, which breaks down the city's restaurants into lists and categories, such as "Best Brunch" (and who doesn't love brunch...pancakes or french fries or both!).  I've tried so many scrumptious and delightful spots thanks to this site!  It breaks down cost, provides a rating system, and usually gives hours and address as well.  I've also used Facebook to "like" various restaurants and events, so that I can get frequent updates and ideas for fun outings.  If you have some time for surfing, you can really rack up a restaurant "to-do" list and keep yourself busy with a hectic eating schedule (make sure to slip in that workout, or it can add up!)  For the budget-minded, you can get some great deals on or other coupon sites.  Try hitting up happy hours or lunch, so you can still say you tried it without breaking the bank.

3)Foot:  One other measure I've taken is to explore on foot!  One of the greatest ways to discover and explore is to walk.  I've found this to be true in both local and foreign aspects.  Walking, while a terrific source of exercise, allows you to spot those hidden treasures and spots that you might otherwise overlook.  For instance, while walking up East Boulevard the other night, I realized that I'd overlooked several eateries in  Dilworth (the neighborhood I frequent the most).  The walk also helped jog my memory...I remembered that the Greek Festival will be coming in September, and that I want to try a Yoga class (Be Yoga).

4) Friends: Finally, the best way to explore Charlotte's offerings is to talk with friends.  Everyone knows that word of mouth is key in spreading good (and not so good) information, news, etc. Don't have any friends?  Strike up a conversation with a co-worker or service provider.  I was talking to a man I work with the other night, and he ended up giving me the history, review, and directions to a BBQ joint that I would never have discovered on my own.  Plus, I got some inside scoop on the spot since he'd been going for thirty years!!  By the way, it's Keaton's BBQ in Rowan County.   I've relied on friends for ideas, such as happy hour hot spots, drink specials, concerts, shows, etc.

"I have measured out my life with coffee spoons"-T.S. Eliot

Sometimes, it's the same old story,
You've got the blues; you're feeling hoary,
This is the divorced girl's cure,
to improve the day and mood for sure (Valley Girl Voice)...

Recipe for a better day: Short Skirt, Frapp, and Gaga

Step One: Wear a sundress (long or short, really...the maxi dress is often cuter than the run-of-the-mill mini)
Step Two: Order a tall (cheap and not too calorie-loaded) skim java chip frap from Starbucks (or your local coffee favorite, like Dixie's in Ro Co or Amelie's in NoDa)
Step Three: "Poker Face" by Lady Gaga (if you don't dig Gaga, :/...seriously, "Disturbia" by Rhianna, "The Dog Days Are Over" by Florence + the machine, and any Martina McBride song (except the one about injured birds and spousal abuse) will work for  you!

You are cured!