#HashtagLunchbagCLT

Have you heard of HashtagLunchbag? It’s a movement that’s not unique to Charlotte, but fortunately has been adopted here. A group of volunteers meets at Triple C brewery each month and swiftly puts together hundreds of lunch bags that contain a sandwich, a cookie, a piece of fruit, a granola bar and a bottle of water… and an inspirational note.

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I went for the first time in March and was amazed at how quickly this group worked to fill the bags and handwrite notes of hope and love for Charlotte’s homeless neighbors.

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After the lunches are all packed, the volunteers box them up and head into the streets of Charlotte to deliver them to those in need.

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As a first timer, I was grateful to have Danielle and Jacinda swoop in and give us the scoop on how the morning would go. All of the volunteers were pleasant and helpful as well and truly worked together as a team.

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Once we signed in and made our donation (volunteers are asked to bring $10 to help with food costs), we were added to one of the sandwich making tables. After all of the sandwiches were made, I moved over to the note making station and eventually moved into the box-packing group.

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There are several prime locations to hand out these lunches which are identified before leaving the brewery. Everyone goes in groups and for safety reasons, it is recommended to have a male in each group. That being said, I never felt unsafe while delivering the bags.

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At the men’s shelter, we started approaching the neighbors and handing out bags but were quickly told that we couldn’t do that. We either had to donate the bags to the facility or stand outside of the gates to distribute. One gentleman kept following us and asking for a bag (I wanted to give him the whole box) but we had already been told to move off the premises. Once we made it outside the gate, we were able to distribute the bags freely. We also stopped at Urban Ministry Center and were able to donate a ton of bags to them and also hand out many more to the neighbors who were already lined up waiting to get in.

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It took our group 35 minutes to make 275 lunch bags and pack them all up to be distributed. We started at 8 A.M and were home by 10 A.M. My heart was so full after those two hours. There are many volunteer roles where you’re working in the background and know you’re doing good but with #HashtagLunchbagCLT, you are on the front lines. You’re not only doing the pre-work but you’re actually engaging with those in Charlotte who need a hand up.

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Starting in April, there will be two opportunities to volunteer. #HashtagLunchbagCLT will meet on April 2nd and April 16th at 8 A.M. at Triple C. The goal would be to have sessions weekly and keep Charlotte from going hungry. Let’s make it happen. Go, volunteer, do something good for your community. Email lunchbagclt (at) gmail (dot) com to let Danielle know you’re coming. And I’ll see you there!

*If you’re not in Charlotte, check out the website to find opportunities in your area!

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King of Pops

There have been at least 10 occasions this summer where I’ve claimed I *need* a popsicle to get me through another day of this North Carolina heat… and King of Pops has saved me from the brink of dehydration every time… quite possibly saving my life. Okay, maybe that’s a tad extreme but this heat has been unbearable at times and King of Pops happens to make incredibly refreshing popsicles and is conveniently available in areas that I frequent.

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King of Pops is actually a chain and can be found in many cities in North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia (just in case you’re dying of heat in a city other than Charlotte). Three brothers started the company years ago after falling for popsicles while vacationing. I am so thankful they took that vacation!

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The pops are either milk based or fruit based. I tend to go to for the fruit based ones since I limit my dairy intake, but I must say, the Chocolate Sea Salt one is INCREDIBLE. You can check out all the flavors here, and see which ones are made with your favorite flavors (and which are gluten free!).

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Business is obviously booming as more and more carts are “popping” up around town. They’re always in NoDa and Plaza Midwood, but more recently, they’ve been seen in Ballantyne at the corporate park.

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The pops are all natural and made with the freshest ingredients, their website even says you can catch the owners shopping at local farmers markets for fruits and herbs! For sweetening, they use organic cane sugar, honey and agave.

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If you don’t want to drive around town to find a cart, you can visit their shop in Noda, just behind Noda Brewing and Birdsong’s old building. They have a storefront there with a nice porch where you can enjoy your pops. Prices have jumped around a bit, last summer they were $2.50, I’ve paid $3.00 for most of mine this summer, but did go up to $3.50 at the NC Music Factory during a show. Still, for fresh, quality ingredients and a cold popsicle, it’s totally worth it.

Free Range Brewing: Let your taste buds roam

Saturday seemed like the perfect day to check out Noda’s newest brewery: Free Range Brewing.

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Doors opened at 5 PM and the place was pretty packed by 5:30. They offer half pints, which is a great way to try each of their eight brews without having to drink eight beers, I mean, unless of course you want to drink eight beers.

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Jenny Bought a Farm and Pure Intentions were my favorites, while I felt the Caroliner was lacking a bit in taste. It’s nice that they also offer non-alcoholic drinking options.

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The space was well utilized inside. There’s plenty of seating, a long bar, and you can see up close where they brew the beer. There’s also a good amount of standing room outside on the patio.

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While this may be one of the smaller breweries, they actually have a pretty good space for starting out. And if you remember, OMB, NoDa and Birdsong all had smaller first spaces and have moved or are moving into larger facilities. It’s exciting to have a new brewery in the area since Birdsong moved earlier this year farther down N. Davidson and NoDa Brewing plans to move in the near future.

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It’s worth checking out this new spot next time you’re in the neighborhood. Grab a bite to eat from the food truck outside, grab a pint or three inside and take a break from this heat.

High five, Free Range! See you again soon!

At the Summit

In my best Chris Traeger voice, I literally loved everything about The Summit Room. We arrived 45 minutes early for our reservations and decided to grab a drink at the bar.

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That quickly turned into two drinks because they were so smooth.

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The Summit Room’s Cucumber Collins is the ONLY gin drink that I have ever liked. And by liked, I mean, I downed this drink in a matter of minutes. Then I had this Mango-Strawberry Splash which included a prosecco topper. Always say “yes” to prosecco toppers.

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My husband went with the Chocolate Old Fashion, but he assured me it was not like dessert, and I would not like it. He, however, liked it so much that he got the same thing twice.

IMG_5412To keep us from getting tipsy before dinner, we decided to order an appetizer to accompany our drinks. My husband, the expert food selector, picked the grilled zucchini flat bread. Definitely one of the more filling appetizers you could order but it was so delicious that I think we could have ordered a few more and called it a night.

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Because the first appetizer was so amazing, we ordered a second. Both the bartender and our waitress recommended the BBQ Shrimp, so we figured they had to be good.

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And boy, were they good! The shrimp were served over a corn pudding cake and were DEFINITELY a good choice.

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We got a quaint corner seat inside, and even though there was a big party sitting close by, it was still quiet enough for us to enjoy ourselves and to hear each other over dinner. There’s also a darling outdoor seating area and the cutest rocking chairs on the porch.

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My husband ordered the duck for dinner and it came with delicious blueberry grits and spinach. I had the salmon, which was thick but cooked perfectly.

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Since we over-indulged in appetizers, cocktails and our entrees, we decided to skip dessert, but not before at least taking a peek at the dessert menu. We decided then and there that we’re going back for drinks and dessert very soon.

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If you’re looking for a fun and semi-fancy place for dinner, I definitely recommend The Summit Room. They have a cool backstory and their tables were created from local landmarks. Plus, the cocktails… amazing… smooth… yum.

Little Sugar Creek Greenway

Charlotte’s greenway system is one of the greatest things about the city – at least for active / outdoorsy individuals. The greenways offer trails and asphalt for running/walking, allow pets, and give you the feel of nature while still being in the city.

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Yesterday, I took a easy three-mile run on Little Sugar Creek Greenway, which goes behind the Metropolitan shopping center near 7th street. This is urban hiking at it’s finest.

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The city was in view for most of my trek, and the greenway felt safe and open. I passed at least 25-30 other walkers/runners, including people with dogs and kids. There were a few underpasses which I feel the need to call out for single ladies who might run solo – you could see through them all the way and they weren’t long, but it’s always a good idea to keep your eyes open and be aware of your surroundings.

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There are a few water fountains strategically placed on the greenway, and restrooms, too (although, the doors were locked to the restrooms yesterday!). The greenway runs along side a creek, which adds some nice scenery to the run. But Springtime in Charlotte is pretty scenic on it’s own.

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The trail is wide and well maintained. This particular greenway goes by CPCC and all the way through to NoDa. You can really add up the miles if you go from start to finish and back again.

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For anyone not looking for a strenuous “hike” but wanting to get outside and walk, I HIGHLY recommend checking out the greenways and exploring our city. The greenways offer some of the best views of the city (unless you’re pulling over on the side of the Hawthorne bridge!).

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I was pleasantly surprised with this greenway and definitely plan to explore it more in the future. All of the greenways that I’ve been on have been fantastic and offer an exciting option compared to running/walking sidewalks. Plus, when you’re done with the greenway, you can head over to the Metropolitan shopping area and have something to eat at Hickory Tavern, Zoe’s Kitchen, Pisces, La Paz, Smoothie King, or Cherry Jerry. It’s all so convenient!

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Would love to hear what your favorite greenway is (and why!). Feel free to share in the comments!

Pisces (and I’m not talking about your horoscope)

Although we’re at least 3 hours from the closest shoreline, Charlotte has some pretty delicious sushi. I’ve already told you about Nikko and Ru Sans, and professed my love for strip-mall sushi (and take out) at Masa Sushi in South Charlotte, so today’s post is all about Pisces, near uptown in the Metropolitan shopping center.

IMG_7770The inside makes it feel elegant and classy. You really have your choice of restaurants in this shopping center, you can go for cheap with Zoe’s Kitchen or Revolution Ale House, or take it up a notch with Pisces or La Paz. We were thoroughly impressed with the inside. And somewhat amazed by the jelly fish in the aquarium.    IMG_7768There’s also a fantastic bar to sit at if you’d rather. And there are large tables to accomodate big parties. I think this would be a fantastic place to take a group of friends for a celebration!

IMG_7769There are a few TVs dispersed throughout, but not enough to make it feel like a sports bar. We started off with spicy edamame to share, and it did not disappoint!

IMG_7764We split three rolls which were MORE THAN enough for two people. The rolls were big but not as big as Ru Sans (which are sometimes hard to eat!). They were filling, delicious, and tasted like they were made with quality ingredients.

IMG_7766While this was a little expensive for a random weeknight dinner, it was worth it. I would highly recommend checking out Pisces if you’re looking for good sushi away from the coast. Also? The service is fabulous!

Never Coast [#flywheel]

When I first heard about FlyWheel, I thought, it can’t be that different than other spin classes. I taught spin in college. I’ve taken classes at more than a dozen different gyms/studios. So what’s so special about FlyWheel? I’ll tell you. In FlyWheel, I can compete with myself and with the other riders by watching the torq board and seeing where I fall in the class. The men and women are separated on the board, and participation is all by choice, and nicknames are used. While I am proud of my rides, and feel exhausted at the end of class, I quickly learned that the other women can kick my butt on these rides.

IMG_8176FlyWheel is a workout where you can push yourself to new limits. Each teacher has a different style of workout. Some like faster rides where you sprint until you’re out of breath. Others have you climbing imaginary hills until your legs feel like jello. And because each workout is so amazing, people keep coming back and paying large sums of money for class passes ($180 for 10 classes).

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The teachers ride on a stage in front of the class which is shaped in a semi-circle. When the ride starts, the room goes dark. No one is looking around at the other riders, you’re focused on your own torq and RPMs. Rides typically last for 11 songs in the 45 minute classes (60 minute classes are also offered). One song is a break for your legs and work for your arms with weighted bars. Another difference in FlyWheel and other cycle classes.

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In FlyWheel, you are given shoes that clip into your bike. Most classes at other gyms, you wear your own tennis shoes. The clip in shoe really gives you the feel of cycling. It can be tricky to get the hang of clipping in and out at first, but the stability of this is much better than riding in your own shoes with non-clip pedals. Have you ever slipped off the pedal and had it hit your leg? OUCH.

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Towels, changing rooms, and lockers are also provided. With the lockers, you set your own code each time, so only you can access it. No worries if you forget the code, a master key does exist for those cases. When you arrive to FlyWheel, you check in at computers in the front. You select your bike when you reserve the class, so there’s never any waiting to see if you have a bike. You also have pre-loaded your shoe size and your shoes are waiting for you in a numbered cubby (matching your bike number) when you arrive.

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The water station is a nice alternative to water fountains and allows 3 users to get water at the same time. I have to fill up at least twice while there. Whatever you do, don’t forget your water bottle when you go for class.

IMG_8181If you’re in the mood for new workout clothes after sweating through class, they have quite the selection and generally have a good sale going, too.

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If you’re looking for a sweaty, excellent, indoor workout, check out FlyWheel on Providence road. Your first class is FREE (for both FlyWheel and FlyBarre). I tried my first FlyBarre class yesterday and it hurts to type this today but now I understand how all of the instructors have arms that make women everywhere jealous. It’s a free class, what are you waiting for? Here’s a link to get you started with signing up for your first class. Let’s ride together!