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This past week Bryan had to go to Charlotte for a work trip, so Madison and I tagged along.  We had a fun time!  It was Madison’s first big road trip, and she did really well.  She lives a good life.

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We arrived Wednesday around noon, and dropped Bryan off at the place where he was working that day, and Madison and I checked into the hotel.  Then we ventured to the mall across the street, and did some shopping!  We spent most of our time in White House Black Market where all the ladies ooooed and aahhhhed over what a sweet, easy-going baby she is.  (I was there for about 2 hours and she patiently watched me try on clothes from her stroller the whole time!)

I ended up getting a skirt, a shirt, and a necklace, all on sale. The sales lady who had been helping me was very disappointed by how little I bought after spending so much time trying things on.  Oh well.

After shopping, we ate at Maggiano’s for dinner, and Madison thought their bread was delicious.

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She was really good all through dinner even though it was well past her usual bedtime by the time we finished and made it back to the hotel for the night.

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It was Bryan’s first time eating at a Maggiano’s and he liked it as well.  Madison really wanted to dig into my lasagna, but that was not an option.

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The next day Madison and I drove to Concord Mills outlet mall!  Do you see the theme that is emerging of how we spent our time?

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We spent most of the day hitting up a bunch of stores at the outlet mall.  Madison scored some pink shorts for $4.99 and some pink sunglasses for $1.99.  I got a dress from Ann Taylor (marked down from $120 to $30!) and a shirt from Banana Republic, also on clearance.  Awesome.

That night we had dinner at Cowfish, which was good – it’s a fusion of burgers and sushi.  There’s going to be one opening up here in Raleigh soon at North Hills apparently.

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Then on Friday, our last day, Madison and I hit up IKEA!!  She was so excited to visit Ikea for the first time.  She was also thrilled to wear her new shorts and sunglasses.  Can’t you just see her excitement?

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I got a really cute napkin holder (for $1.99!), 4 picture frames, some kitchen scrubbers (2 for $.99!), and boxes and magazine holders for organizing stuff next to my desk.  Fun!

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That afternoon we drove back home.  It was a late night by the time we got back, and we were exhausted.  Bryan was exhausted from working and driving… and Madison and I were exhausted from all the shopping.  🙂

Last Tuesday Melissa came to visit, and we spent the first several days of her visit very busy with house things and apartment searching!  We were extremely productive, and started packing up the house as well in preparation for our move.  It’s really a great benefit having Melissa here to help with all of this, because it can get to be overwhelming at times!  She is here for 2 weeks, which is great, and we always love going to the Outer Banks together, so we scheduled in a trip during this visit as well.

Sunday we drove down to Kill Devil Hills.  We always stay at the same Days Inn.

The hotel is not a typical Days Inn, it’s a very neat looking building with a friendly, welcoming front porch.  Our hotel room this trip is the room on the far right of the picture above – you can see the door to our room surrounded by the windows.

The hotel has a nice continental breakfast every morning, and it backs right up to the beach in back, so it’s a simple walk over the dunes.

We really lucked out with the weather on this trip as well.  We had beautiful weather in the upper 70s each day.

Here I am 22 weeks plus 2 days along!

When we arrived Sunday afternoon, we took these pictures, and then went for a walk along the beach.

Monday we drove out to Cape Hatteras to see the lighthouse, which is something Melissa has always wanted to see.

We took a lot of pictures at the lighthouse!

Not only did we see the outside of the lighthouse and take a lot of pictures, we also climbed up the inside!

As you can see, it was a lot of steps to climb!  The equivalent of a 12-story building!  The ranger told us that it’s actually taller than the tower of Pisa.  If the tower of Pisa was standing up straight instead of leaning over, they would be the same height.

So here we are waiting in line to give the ranger our tickets so that we can head on up inside the steep spiral staircase!

The staircase was narrow, and it was tricky when people were trying to go up and down at the same time.  Luckily there were about 6 landings – one after each 2 flights of stairs – so we were able to stop and rest along the way.

When we got up to the top, it was VERY windy!  We had a really nice view of the island, but the wind was crazy.

You can’t really tell so much with Melissa’s picture how windy it was, so let me show you a picture of me:

So we enjoyed the views and snapped some more pictures, and then went back down the stairs, which was much easier than coming up had been.  Although we still stopped on the landings because I was worried about getting dizzy from walking down the spiral so long.

After our lighthouse adventure, we stopped for some ice cream, and then drove back to our hotel to go to the beach for the remainder of the afternoon.

And such a lovely beach it is.

I mentioned earlier that we lucked out with the weather.  We really did!  The forecast for this day had been chilly (lower 70s) and a good chance of rain most of the day!  But what we ended up with was mostly blue skies, and weather in the upper 70s (maybe low 80s depending on which forecast you looked at).  It was great!

I was able to wear my new maternity bathing suit for the first time, too, which was fun!

So this morning (Tuesday) we got up and had breakfast, then went out to the beach for a short bit before we had to check out of our hotel.

It was a lovely mini vacation, and it was a really great break from all the stress of selling our house, buying our new house, packing, getting ready to move, etc.

Now we are back, and so it is back to packing!

Bryan and I just got back from a little trip to Charleston, SC.  I officially completed the last of my research papers, projects, and final exams on Tuesday, which is such a relief!  I am actually done with all of my required courses now for graduate school, which is crazy.  But I am taking one last online elective this summer because I needed 3 more credit hours in order to get my license.  It’s an online class, and it’s only 1 month (well, technically 5 weeks), so I’m not sweating it.  Then, next Spring I will do my full time internship, and THEN I will really be done, and I’ll finally graduate with my Masters in Career Counseling!

So, anyway, Bryan had a work trip to Charleston planned, and I agreed to go along because I knew I’d have just finished my classes (I actually took one of my final exams early so that I could go), and I love Charleston.  Bryan and I have always talked about taking a trip to Charleston together, and since this is the only kind of trip we can really afford right now (AKA paid for by Bryan’s job), we took this opportunity to enjoy the city together.  A sort of baby-moon I suppose, since this is probably as close as we’re going to get to taking one of those!

We drove down Thursday morning, and arrived just before 3pm.  It’s close to a 6 hour drive when you factor in stopping for a meal and a rest stop.  Bryan immediately had to go to work to set up for the conference, but he was done setting up within an hour or so, and so we took a walk and explored King Street.

Our hotel, the Francis Marion was in an awesome location, right in the heart of downtown Charleston, so we were able to walk everywhere in the city from there, which was wonderful.

So Thursday afternoon we walked around a bit, and then went to dinner with Bryan’s co-workers that evening.  After dinner that night Bryan and I walked down to the waterfront by the aquarium, which was of course closed by that point, but it was beautiful weather for an evening stroll – 80s during the day, 70s once the sun set.

Friday morning Bryan worked at the conference until a little after 1pm.  I slept in, read some of the book I’d brought along, and went downstairs to talk to the concierge about making lunch and dinner reservations as well as ideas of things to do and tours she recommended.  She said that Husk was recently named “the best new restaurant in America” by Bon Appetit Magazine in September 2011, and therefore it was impossible to get dinner reservations there, but we were able to get a 2pm late lunch reservation.  So off to Husk we went!

It was in a charming Southern style home with the big front porch and balcony, and definitely delicious food!  Our favorite meal of the trip.

Also our only picture of the two of us together of the trip, standing in front of Husk!  A nice woman walking by offered to take it, and I’m glad she did!

After lunch we walked down to the waterfront park where Bryan took his first official pregnancy photos of me!  This was our first pregnancy photo shoot!  Only took 5 months!  Hopefully from this point on we’ll have more time and opportunities to take more pictures.

Speaking of which, on the day of these photos, I was exactly 21 weeks along – so, 5 months and 1 week for those who don’t speak in terms of weeks (I don’t.  I think it’s weird and much easier to think in terms of months).

Like I said, the weather was lovely during our trip.  Unfortunately for these pictures, there was a lot of cloud cover during the first part of the afternoon, but it made walking around much more comfortable since the sun wasn’t beating down on us.

And, unfortunately, that is the last that you will see of Bryan.  He took the remainder of the photos that day.  I should have grabbed the camera and taken some more with him in them, but I didn’t.  So, the rest of the pictures are of me and the scenery 🙂

We walked through the park over to the pineapple fountain, which had several kids swimming in it.  I took off my shoes and waded in the water because it felt very refreshing!

They actually had a sign posted explaining the rules for swimming in the fountain, so it was perfectly acceptable behavior, as long as kids were attended by adults and you showered before entering the water, haha!

From the fountain, we walked over to the marketplace.

We did not buy anything, and basically just walked through because it seemed like one of those things that you should do when in Charleston.

Halfway through the market, I started fading, and needed to sit down and get something to drink ASAP, so we cut out of the market, and walked into the first place we came to that looked like we could do both of those things, and it just so happened that we walked into Kaminsky’s!

And it just so happens that Kaminsky’s is sort of famous for their fabulous desserts!  So, we enjoyed an afternoon snack of pecan pie along with ice water, iced coffee (for me) and hot coffee (for Bryan).

Hooray for happy accidents!  When we walked past Kaminsky’s later that evening, there was a line about a dozen people deep stretched out on the street of people waiting to get in to get a taste of those desserts… and we had the luck of just walking in and sitting down not even noticing where we were!

After the refreshing pause, we decided to take a ride of the trolley, because it’s free.  So we walked back down to the end of the market were there was a trolley stop, and waited.

And waited.  And waited.  And waited.  I think we must have waited at least 20 minutes.  It got to the point where we were just waiting because we’d waited so long already that if we gave up now it would make all the rest of the waiting pointless.  In the time we spent standing there waiting for the trolley, we could have easily walked up the street to our next destination.  But by that point, we’d made a commitment, so we stuck it out.  Finally the trolley arrived.

And it was PACKED!  I was able to grab a seat next to someone else, but Bryan was left standing in the back, and so many people piled on that it was standing room only.  Not exactly the quaint little trolley ride that I had envisioned.

So we rode our 3 stops, and got off.  My recommendation for anyone going to Charleston: don’t bother with the trolleys.  You can easily and efficiently get anywhere you want to go by walking, and you can get there faster than the time you’ll spend waiting for the trolley!

After our awesome ride, we strolled through the streets, and Bryan snapped some more pictures of the pretty buildings and pretty flowers.

We made our way over to a French chocolate shop that the hotel concierge had highly recommended to me.  We were still full from our pie, but I wanted to buy chocolates and take them home with us to enjoy later, since I feel you should never pass up an opportunity to enjoy really high quality hand-made French chocolates.

The chocolates at Christophe Artisan Chocolatier were beautiful!  And so far they have all been really delicious as well!  We still have 3 left as of today (Sunday), but I’m assuming the last 3 will be quite yummy as well 🙂

After our stop at the chocolate shop, we walked back to our hotel to rest our feet and take a break before our 7:45pm dinner reservations for that evening.

We had dinner at Muse, which was good, and had a lovely atmosphere, but was not as tasty as Husk had been at lunch.

The sky at that point was looking especially lovely!

After dinner we went back to the hotel for another break and resting of the feet, and then went out at 10pm for a walking tour!  We opted for The Dark Side of Charleston, which was a pretty fun tour where we saw the old buildings that used to be brothels and saw the locations of illegal bars during prohibition, and where the public hangings happened outside of the courthouse.  We opted for that tour instead of a ghost tour since both of us had already taken ghost tours in Charleston in the past, and we wanted to try something new.

The tour lasted until 11:30pm, and on our walk back to the hotel we stopped and I got some frozen yogurt.  It was a fun and action packed day!

Saturday Bryan had to work again until around 1pm, so I read my book in the room, and then we packed up and drove back home.  And that is the conclusion of our Charleston trip!

We were in Louisiana March 9 through March 13 with my sister visiting my dad and Ivy.  We spent most of our time in Franklin, LA where they live, and then on Monday we drove back to New Orleans and spent the day exploring the city – which mostly means eating po boys and beignets 🙂

Here’s a sampling of a few pictures.  Eating po boys and other cajun food for lunch…

Walking through the market (can you pick us out?  It’s like Where’s Waldo!)

And eating beignets at Cafe du Monde!

(note in above pic the baby belly – baby got to eat some beignets!)

mmmmmm Cafe Au Lait and beignets… the only 2 things on the menu at the Cafe du Monde!

Here’s a little unedited video clip Bryan shot of us walking through the market.  You can get a good view of the baby bump here 🙂  I was 13 1/2 weeks along at this point.

We also had a bunch of other pictures and videos from our time in Franklin but we can’t find the camera card that has all that on it – it got lost somewhere during our 2 weeks of chaos.  I’m hoping it’ll turn up somewhere during the move…