Virginia, Here I Come

say yes to new adventures, elaina avalos

I am excited to say that after a long stretch of searching for, applying, and interviewing for various positions, I have finally accepted a job offer and will be moving to Virginia in May. I am super pumped to move back to an area I love and for the opportunity to serve in this new capacity.

But the next month (my last day at my current job is just under a month away) will be wildly busy. I’m headed to California this weekend and by the time I head back here, I’ll have to finish my turnover, find a house (a state away) on the weekends, and pack up my house for a move. Phew. It’s a lot. I’m a little verklempt.

I’m keeping my eye on the prize though. I cannot wait to be back in a place that I have loved so much (I lived there before – about 1.5 years in total). I will try not to overindulge on posts about our Nation’s Capital being close, how much I love the Virginia countryside, or the sheer number of amazing restaurants at my fingertips (haha). I will also try to control myself the first time I go to Eastern Market on a weekend again. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am truly honored to have the opportunity I’ve been given, professionally. But it’s also a personal gift and one I’m excited to be embarking on.

Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all.

– Helen Keller

The Woods

“Reading about nature is fine, but if a person walks in the woods and listens carefully, he can learn more than what is in books, for they speak with the voice of God.” – George Washington Carver

I worked Friday evening and Saturday so I’m enjoying a Monday at home. I woke slowly and walked before doing anything – including having a cup of coffee. The weather is beautiful and coastal Carolina is green and lovely again. The woods always have a way of grounding me.

I grew up in Southern California – which is basically desert. By late spring and definitely summer, the world turned brown. Winter and early spring are the green seasons in SoCal – as the infrequent rains are more frequent in the winter. I love that most of the year here is green and lush. I live next to a river. But it’s also next to a highway and a bridge over that river. In the winter, I see the constant movement on the highway, as headlights can be seen through the woods. When I returned from California recently, the trees were full of leaves. I hardly see any headlights from the highway now. By summer, the less I will see the highway that borders the river and lies beyond the woods. The kudzu, that dies back in the winter, will once again cover the trees with even more green. The growth will increase so much in the next few months, that the river can only be seen from my second story.

Although I love the salt air and the constancy of the ocean. There’s something restorative about the woods. I’m looking forward to spending time amongst the redwood forests, soon.

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest termsโ€ฆ”

โ€” Henry David Thoreau

New Adventures?

The probability is high that I’ll be moving out of the Carolinas in the near future. As the chances increase that I’ll be preparing for a move, it’s easy for me, a person who likes change, to feel the excitement that comes with a new place and new opportunities. Especially when it’s somewhere I’ve loved living in the past.

But there’s also the easily accessible fear and doubt that comes from change. We are weird creatures – even if we love change (which I do). I love adventures. I am good with doing the unexpected (see last post), or the things society least expects. I like to do and try new things. I ain’t scurred. ๐Ÿ™‚ But when life knocks you around in ways you least expect, it’s easy to forget your once bold spirit, (that usually isn’t afraid to walk into rooms supposedly not meant for you).

If you’re anything like me and nearing change, but find yourself tempted to ruminate on all the hard parts that come with it, let me challenge you to think about all of the ways that it can or will work out. Put your focus on the positives and the way change can stretch and grow you and and positively impact your life and future.

If you believe it will work out , you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t you will see obstacles.

Wayne Dyer

Even when specific opportunities change in front of your eyes and things don’t work out quite like you planned, change is not inherently bad. Seasons change and bring with them beautiful and gifts. Even if things don’t work out, this time is a reminder of the opportunity that comes with change. The opportunity, however, lies in our openness and focus on what will or can work out, and the good lies ahead. If we’re focused on what we fear, what might not work out, or what we could lose – we certainly will face a negative future.

My #oneword365 for 2023 is fearless. I’m 100% certain there was a reason I knew that was my word for the year. What’s your “word” for 2023? Do you find it popping up in your life so far in 2023? I can’t wait to see what the coming months hold for me and my friends reading.

Road Trips to Asheville & Finding a New Path

Road Trips to Asheville & finding a new path . . . that sums up the first part of my week!

Blue Ridge Parkway, Craggy Gardens, Asheville NC, Blue Ridge Mountains
Craggy Gardens area of the Blue Ridge Parkway – Blue Ridge Mountains – outside of Asheville, North Carolina

I took a road trip this week. I didn’t end up in Charlotte as had been originally planned. It’s a long story. I spent two nights & three days in Asheville (and made a pit stop in Hendersonville). It was a really great few days away. But it was nothing like I planned or expected.

I stayed at the Log Cabin Motor Court – between Asheville and Weaverville. The Log Cabin Motor Court is a National Historic Landmark – originally opened in 1917. If I remember correctly, the cabins were built in the 1930s. These rustic cabins were a delight and if I go again, I might want to stay in one of the cabins with a kitchen. I previously stayed at the property next door (The Pines Cottages) and ADORE that place too, by the way.

Though my intention had been to spend Tuesday sight seeing & eating out at some restaurants I’ve been looking forward to trying, turns out I didn’t feel so great. But that ended up being a good thing. I rested in the cabin, wrote (more on that later) and napped. I didn’t turn on the TV or music (the entire time). It rained and it was a glorious nap – one of the best I’ve had in ages. ๐Ÿ™‚ I didn’t eat out a single time. WHAT? That’s nuts. I literally ate what I could eat from my little log cabin. It was perfect.

sarah addison allen, other birds, magical realism

On Tuesday evening, I headed to UNC Asheville for the book launch of Sarah Addison Allen‘s latest book, Other Birds. Sarah is one of my favorite authors. This is her first book in 7 years and I’m thrilled she’s back! If you want a chance to win her book (not an autographed copy), you can enter a contest, here. Sarah’s writing is (though I don’t write magical realism) the kind of writing I aspire to. The way she writes the settings of her books is one such example. Her settings become a character themselves. I’m sure the “Dellawisp” is too. I’m looking forward to reading it this weekend (I started it before driving home yesterday).

The event, “Sarah Addison Allen in conversation with Wiley Cash” was a joy to be at. I was surrounded by huge Allen fans – who were just as happy as I was, to be there. Wiley Cash, who teaches fiction and literature at UNC Asheville, is now on my “TBR list” too. I look forward to checking out his books, too. He was hilarious by the way. I had a really wonderful night.

On my drive up to the mountains, I began to re-work my now finished novel “A Thousand Years.” As I drove and the closer I got to the mountains (where the book is set), the more clear it became – I had much to slash and re-write from this book. So much so that by the time I got to the event on Tuesday evening, the book didn’t even have the same name. I don’t know what it will be called, but it’s not “A Thousand Years.” My protagonist is the same, the name of her love interest may remain the same but it’s an entirely new character. The town remains the same – but much else has and will be different. I am 100% certain of this and I’m entirely confident in the new direction. So much so that while I was away (and last night before going to bed) I wrote more than I have in quite some time.

On Wednesday, I checked out of my cabin drove to the Blue Ridge Parkway, spent some time there, had a picnic at Craggy Gardens Picnic area and then made a pit stop in Hendersonville, before driving home. If I move, west may be best – for me. Western Carolina definitely seems more my speed. While I was up on the parkway, it was 62 glorious degrees. It made me long for autumn.

On my drive home, I stopped in Hendersonville, at Justus Orchard. It’s a lovely little spot. If you’re in or visiting NC, it’s a great stop if you’re in the mountains. They have some activities for the kids, goats, u-pick apples, a small store, and their famous apple cider donuts. The cider was delicious by the way. I’m looking forward to eating my honeycrisp apples!

This trip was definitely needed, restful, and honestly – enlightening. I had no idea that what came from these few days away is what would happen during this trip. It was a gift, in many ways. While I’d expected to interview for a job and consider a move, it became something else entirely. The writing boost was the icing on the cake.

Sometime this weekend, I want to share a few of the things Sarah Addison Allen shared in her talk – including the answers to one of my questions. For now, it’s time to sign off and prepare for a long weekend of reading (Other Birds, of course) and writing. I hope you’ve had a great week so far.

Road Trip Time

Asheville NC, Asheville NC skyline, explore asheville website, elaina avalos
Asheville, NC skyline – Photo credit.

It’s road trip, time. I’m heading out to Charlotte & Asheville this week. I’m looking forward to a little break from the norm. I have no idea what I’m doing – except for one exciting event on Tuesday evening in Asheville. I hope to share more about that later. What I will tell you, is that I’m ridiculously excited about it. I ordered a ticket for it (the second I heard about it). I had no clue if I could make it, however. Asheville isn’t exactly a quick trip (over 6 hours) on a Tuesday evening – in a typical work week. But I just had to order the ticket – hoping I’d find a way. All the pieces fell into place and I will be four hours closer on Tuesday, now. Have I mentioned I’m excited? ๐Ÿ™‚

Charlotte NC, Queen City, Charlotte, elaina avalos
Charlotte, NC – Photo credit.

My quick few days in central & western NC are kind of blank slate at the moment – except for Tuesday evening. I had a few recommendations for places to eat or check out. Here’s some of the recommendations:

Charlotte

Amelie’s French Bakery — The menu looks awesome! There’s a location in NoDa.

NoDa — Charlotte’s North Davidson neighborhood. This arts & entertainment district is right up my alley.

Leah and Louise — Wow. This menu looks amazing. Leah and Louise is in Camp North End which was recommend overall. You can find more info, here.

Asheville

Chai Pani — I’ve wanted to go to Chai Pani since I saw the restaurant on “Samantha Brown’s Places to Love, early this year. Now that the restaurant has been deemed “Outstanding Restaurant” for 2022, by the James Beard Foundation, it may not be easy to get into, but worth a shot. The Chicken Pakoras sounds amazing! As do the Uttapam! Butter chicken is one of my favorite Indian dishes. So, that might be hard to pass up. But man, I just saw that Chai Pani appears to be closed on Tuesdays so that stinks.

Grove Park Inn (for lunch or dinner) — I think the view might be the draw . . .

Asheville NC, Grove Park Inn, Asheville, elaina avalos

Mela — More Indian food (which I love)

Rosetta’s Kitchen & Buchi Bar — Vegan soul food! What??? Oh my. Sounds amazing.

Bouchon — French food always sounds good. Beef Bourguignon sounds pretty delish right about now.

Tupelo Honey — I wouldn’t hate trying this place. However comma – it’s southern fried kind of food and it doesn’t appear there are many gluten free options (which are available other places).

If you’ll be visiting my adopted home state, anytime soon – I highly recommend checking out NC Tripping! Their site is a treasure trove of info about The Old North State. Here are a couple of their guides for Asheville & Charlotte (open in new tabs).

Got any other recommendations?