10 Things I Miss About North Carolina

It’s been a while since I announced we would be leaving North Carolina. We are now settled in South Dakota, and I’ve been thinking about, and missing North Carolina constantly. Here is what I’m missing the most.

10 Things I Miss Most About North Carolina

1. Design

In the south, everything comes with a monogram, from car decals to apparel to floor mats. Clothes come in bright, vibrant colors with pretty patterns and chevron (my favorites include a dress I found that’s covered with crabs and a flamingo cardigan!) Basically, I can sum this up with saying I just want the entire crown & ivy collection at belk. Side note: Belk probably deserves it’s own shout out; I had never even heard of Belk before North Carolina but it seemed to be my go – to for new clothes. Finally, I grew an obsession with Simply Southern shirts, and I want every single one! I think that Simply Southern shirts have made their way to the Midwest (although they are not nearly as popular as in the south) but the bright colors and chevron will forever stay Southern!

This is my favorite Southern outfit. You can't tell, but this is my crab dress ;)

This is my favorite Southern outfit. You can’t tell, but this is my crab dress 😉


I know that weather is crazy everywhere, but North Carolina weather was arguably some of the craziest weather that I’ve encountered. My boss told me my first week there that if I didn’t like the weather to wait ten minutes, and she was not kidding. I learned to always have an umbrella and rainboots, and most importantly, I learned that you can never trust the weathermen! Not that it’s their fault, the weather is so unpredictable.

On the other hand, the crazy weather has really worked in my favor many times; there were so many times at the beach that it looked like it would storm. All of the tourists would scatter, but us locals knew better. You don’t believe the sky until it’s actually raining on you. I got the beach to myself several times because of this – and I’ve never been rained!

This picture was taken smack dab in the middle of tourist season. Do you see how empty the beach is? It was packed before this cloud came around; and it never rained!

This picture was taken smack dab in the middle of tourist season. Do you see how empty the beach is? It was packed before this cloud came around; and it never rained!


Barbecue, fried chicken, greens, Bojangles, Waffle House, fresh fish – the list could go on forever! And aside from southern food, we were also close to plenty of Thai and Japanese food, most likely to accommodate the service members who had been deployed to those areas.

Carolina food

4.Southern Charm!

Nope, not talking about the TV show (although I love that too!); I am talking about manners and being polite. And saying ma’am, sir, please and thank you, and of course, “bless your heart!”. Plus, in the South, there is no reason too small to have a party to celebrate something!

North Carolina

5. The beach

Oh, the subcategories I have for this; this is going to be a long one because I miss the beach so much it hurts. I miss being the only person on the beach in the winter, walking for hours after work and never seeing a single soul. And always having a go – to no matter what, whether we were bored, needed something to do, or just because, the beach was always an option. There was no bad day that the beach couldn’t fix for me. I miss looking for dolphins, seashell hunting, and looking at all the beautiful, unique houses that I dreamed of owning one day. I miss getting sunkissed from laying on the beach all day then stopping at the fish truck on the way home and grilling fresh fish for dinner. I miss the first sight of my beloved Topsail Island from the top of the huge bridge that you must drive on to get there, the cheesy tourist shops, and knowing the difference between “normal” traffic and “tourist” traffic. I miss watching visitors on vacation; I loved being able to tell vacationers that “I live here” and feeling so proud and so lucky about that. Living at the beach and visiting the beach are two very different things, and I will forever miss being a “local”.

North Carolina beach

6. The mountains
It was North Carolina where I discovered my love for the mountains. Never in my life have I lived anywhere close to the beach, and the same is true for the mountains. So the fact that the Great Smoky Mountains were under a 5 hour car ride away was something pretty special to me. I felt so spoiled having such easy access both to the mountains and to the coast. We are close to the mountains now, but there was something about the Great Smoky Mountains that was special to me. Maybe it’s because it’s where I first fell in love with the mountains, or maybe it’s because they seem so much more relaxed there than here – I don’t know. I just know I miss them!

One of my favorite trips was when we went to see the Fall colors

One of my favorite trips was when we went to see the Fall colors

I could look at those layers all day long

I could look at those layers all day long

7. The East Coast Time Zone
Believe it or not, I preferred the East Coast time zone! I liked being ahead of everyone else. Now by the time I get to work, my old co-workers are two hours into their day, and I’m pretty jealous around 1:30 my time when I know they’re headed home for the day. It was also convenient if I ever needed to call customer service for something because usually they were based somewhere with an earlier time zone (mostly because it was Iowa that I would need to call). Now when I get off work and they’re already closed because I’m the one that’s behind!

North Carolina

8. Animals
From dolphins at the beach to bears in the mountains and anything in between, I always was able to get my animal fix. One of my big bucket list items was to volunteer to watch the turtle nests; I was actually going to sign up right around the time I found out that I’d gotten the job in South Dakota. North Carolina is also a wonderful place to hunt for seashells.

Metal Detector

9. History
We loved being close to so much history. Not only did we love being able to take in museums, Fort Fisher, Fort Macon, the Biltmore Estate, the USS North Carolina, Wright Brothers museum, lighthouses, the railroad, and so much more, we were also close to even bigger historical sites that were just a half – day’s drive away. We were lucky enough to visit Gettysburg, Washington, D.C., and so much more because we didn’t have to hop a plane like we would in Iowa.

Fort Macon has so much history, and it is beautiful

Fort Macon has so much history, and it is beautiful

10. Memories & People
The people I met in North Carolina took time to show me
everything North Carolina-ian. They took me hunting for shark teeth, made homemade Southern food, took me to festivals, and so much more. The friends I met in North Carolina have played such an important role in my life; they have made me a better person. I don’t know what I expected when we decided to move across the country, but whatever it was, North Carolina exceeded any expectation I ever could have had. I have so many special memories; and some of them can’t possibly make this list because they were just day-to-day life things. Have you heard the quote that you don’t know how special something is until it becomes a memory? That is the easiest way to sum up my entire experience in North Carolina. I miss my friends, and North Carolina more than I ever thought was possible.

North Carolina

10 things I love most about North Carolina

New Adventures

Well, things sure have been quiet on this blog! However, it is only because things in the real world have been crazy. In late April, I received my full, unrestricted license to practice mental health counseling and following that I was busy applying for jobs and interviewing for several positions. With all of that being said, I am excited, nervous, and a little sad to announce that I have accepted a position in Hot Springs, South Dakota.

Animals in the Mountains in North Carolina

While I am beyond excited for a new adventure across the country, my heart breaks a little to leave North Carolina and the east coast. We had always planned on our time in North Carolina being a temporary move, so this shouldn’t be a surprise to me but somehow, it is. Over the past couple of months, I was starting to fall in love with North Carolina even more than ever, and it was starting to look like we were going to be here a little longer than the 1 – 2 years that we had originally planned. I was really starting to kind of fall in love with that idea.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee mountains

But change is good! And exciting! So stay tuned because I’m sure we will have lots of new places to explore. I am also going to backtrack and post some of our latest adventures, including the Outer Banks and Nashville, Tennessee.

North Carolina Pier

My last day of work is scheduled for July 1st, and we’ll probably be spending our 4th of July moving across the country! I’ll be spending the next four weeks soaking up every last second. Luckily, I have a lot of PTO to use up so I’m hoping to squeeze in a few extra adventures before we leave this amazing place!

Topsail Island, North Carolina

Even though I’m from Iowa, I haven’t traveled much west of there, with the exception of Denver. That means that this part of the US will be new to me! If anyone has any tips, hints, or must – see places in or around South Dakota, I’d love to hear them! We’ll be in the southwestern part of the state, not too far from Colorado and Wyoming.

Sunset in Cape Coral, Florida


Life Lately

At this time last year, the weather was cold, cloudy, and rainy most of the time. This week, we were greeted with temps in the 70’s every single day, with two days actually hitting 80 and 81! Added bonus? No humidity (yet); something pretty rare for North Carolina. I’ve been going to the beach almost every night after work to walk and thought I’d share some of my favorite pictures with you from the past 2 weeks.

North Carolina Turtle

This “little” guy was actually not found at the beach; he is one of many turtles rescued by a local after people try “adopting” them then realize they are too much to care for. I wish that I had more information on this guy and the other 40 turtles he lives with, but I was so excited to see him that I forgot to ask for more information. I can tell you that he currently weighs approximately 400 pounds!

North Carolina Shark Tooth

I was not even looking for shark teeth when I found this! I happened to get very lucky and it was just laying right in front of my walking path!

North Carolina Beach Walkway

I think I will forever get butterflies when I first view the ocean!

North Carolina Beach North Carolina Beach Walkway North Carolina Pier

How is the weather where you are, and what are you doing to get outside more?

Five Things I did in February to Save Money for Travel!

It’s time again to share how I’ve saved money this month to afford my travel obsession! You can see last month’s ideas here.

5 Things to Save Money for Travel

By now, you probably know that we love to gamble. I make it a habit to sign up for the reward program at every casino we visit because they will almost always send you incentives in the mail: food, hotel stays, concert tickets, gambling vouchers, you name it! We are members of Total Rewards, and they are our favorite because they have casinos in several locations, including the casino closest to us located in Cherokee, North Carolina. We decided to go to Gatlinburg last month, and the prices for lodging were pretty pricy. To save money, we stayed in Cherokee one night for free with our rewards then drove to Gatlinburg the next day; we stayed in Gatlinburg 2 nights instead of 3 this way but were still able to spend about the same amount of time exploring as if we’d stayed actually stayed there 3 nights! The free hotel night saved us around $160. I feel like I need to mention that even though we love to gamble, we do so responsibly. So we weren’t spending thousands of dollars in order to get this free offer; in fact, we get free offers every month in the mail even though we visit the casino in Cherokee maybe once every 2-3 months.

Gatlinburg, Tennessee
I am a member of hotels.com Welcome Rewards; with this program, you get a free night after staying in a hotel for 10 nights. I had one free night remaining (I always hoard the free nights for the more expensive trips) so I cashed that out for our cabin, saving us $161.26.

Emerald Isle, North Carolina
This next one isn’t a tip that I actually used this month, but one I’m planning in the not-so-far-away future, so I’m going to include it this month. I plan to start weaning myself off of hotels.com and instead begin booking with the same hotel consistently in order to rack up more points and ultimately get better deals and upgrades. By staying with the same chain, you can gain status. Technically, hotels.com does have different tiers/status but specific hotels don’t necessarily care about that since hotels.com is a third party. By booking directly with a hotel chain, you’re more likely to get bumped up to a nicer room because they can tell if you’re a regular or repeat customer. We just haven’t made that switch because hotels.com has been so easy to use and convenient.

Beach, North Carolina
Apparently this month is all about hotels; I use ebates (sign up here and we will both get a reward!) which is a program that gives you cash back for shopping at certain online stores. They pay you quarterly, and February was my month to get paid! They threw in extra money (I can’t remember how much, exactly) to take it in the form of a gift card instead of via paypal! So I “cashed out” with a hotels.com giftcard. By using ebates this month, I saved $122.37.

Beach in North Carolina
Last, we have been diligent in turning down our heat. It has been very cold, and almost everyone’s electric bill has doubled. I can’t honestly tell you how much this has saved us, because it certainly doesn’t feel that way given that our bill was $100 more than usual (OUCH); but if we’d kept our heat at the normal temperature, I’m sure that number would have been much higher! Here’s to a warmer month, and so far we’re off to a good start!

Blue Ridge Parkway

This month, I was able to save $443.63. I did not include the electric in this total, but I estimate that saved us an extra $50, based on what my co-workers experienced in their bill increase. $443.63 is so much money to me! I was really excited with my outcome this month.

Blue Ridge Parkway North carolina

5 Things I did in January to $ave Money for Travel!

In the last year, all of my travels were road trips or a $79 Southwest Airlines special; but regardless of the distance, traveling is can be expensive. I thought it would be fun to share ways I save money each month in order to travel more, and I would love to hear your ideas! This is also a way to motivate myself and stay accountable; so with that, I bring you to my very first edition of 5 things I did this month to save money for travel!

5 Things I did to save money for travel

When we moved here, anything we wanted to keep but couldn’t fit in our car went to my mom’s basement. When I went home for Christmas, I was able to bring back a lot of my clothes (that I’d forgotten about, honestly) that I hadn’t seen in a year. When I started unpacking, I realized that I’d replaced most of those clothes already. I took that as an opportunity to clean out my closet and I made about $70 selling those clothes.

Shell found at Shackleford Banks, North Carolina

I didn’t go over my cell data. This one might sound a little crazy, but for some reason I really struggle to keep my data use under control. We have an embarrassing amount of data on our plan already, so I refuse to raise it. Instead, I promise myself every month that I won’t go over; yet I do anyways almost every month, racking up ridiculous charges. This month, I “saved” $20 by not going over my data limit. A goal for the future is to lower my data use enough to reduce the overall data on our plan, which would save even more. Rumor at work is that we are getting wireless soon, which would make this goal very attainable!

Washington, D.C.

A friend referred me to Shopkick. I was leery at first, because it seems like a lot of work for not a lot of payout, but I decided to give it a try. Essentially, it is an app that gives you points for walking inside a store, scanning specific items , or purchasing specific items; you then redeem those points for gift cards. I also make it a point to open the app every day because it usually gives you 1-2 points just for opening the app.  It took me a while to remember to turn it on and use it in the stores but now it’s second nature. Today, I was scanning a bottle of wine at Target when another girl came behind me and scanned the same bottle – obviously she was using Shopkick too. I got a “kick” out of that (ha- get it?). I didn’t use Shopkick as much this month as I could have had I remembered to use it every time I went to the store so I didn’t make much, but I did earn $2 towards a gift card. Obviously this one won’t make you rich, but if you’re at the store anyways, then why not.

You can sign up here and we’ll both get extra points.

Tryon Palace in New Bern, North Carolina

While my goal was to make a whole freezer-full of meals that I can throw in the crockpot before work every day, I didn’t end up making the time to do that. We did, however, buy 10 pounds of ground beef. It’s cheaper to buy a tube of 10 pounds than it is to buy 1 pound packages. I cooked all 10 pounds, then placed it back into the freezer to pull out whenever I’m ready. Not only was it cheaper this way, but it will save time on weeknights as I’ll be able to pull the meat out of the freezer in the morning before work and throw it into whatever I want to make that night without having to cook it then! By buying in bulk, I saved around $6.50.

Palm Trees















On the weekend that the northeast was hit with a massive blizzard, we got a little bit of rain and cold weather. We decided to take that as an opportunity to stay inside and watch movies; in other words, we didn’t leave our house at all. We ordered a pizza, but otherwise didn’t spend any money on gas, admission fees to anything, or drinks. Most weekends, we are driving somewhere at least 30 – 60 minutes away, paying for a couple drinks, having a nice dinner, and likely paying for some sort of entertainment as well. I estimate that we saved around $50 on the weekend we stayed home.

So that makes the total that I saved this month $148.50, almost $150! That would definitely cover a hotel for at least one night. It’s a good place to start!