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Europalooza Trip Report Part 2: Family Time in North Carolina (updated)

on February 1, 2019

When we last left off, DH and I had figured out the keyless rental and arrived at my sister’s place in North Carolina.  After much hugging and kissing and settling in, we set about making plans for the next several days.  It had snowed the week before our arrival, but the weather was clear for our whole stay, much to DS’s disappointment.  Ah, a small child’s dreams of snow…little did we know that heavy snow would make an appearance in our trip, later on and thousands of miles away…but we’ll get to that.

We had a wonderful 4 nights in the Raleigh area.  My parents were there, the kids got along, delicious food was eaten, and Christmas morning was enjoyed.  Highlights:

  • holy crap the groceries were cheap!  We went to a supermarket I had only ever read about called Harris Teeter.  Such a funny name.  But anyway, I swooned at the price of milk, fruits/vegetables, and canned items.  My shopping list for NC included getting my hands on a locally made BBQ flavoring, and I found one there.  I settled on a dry rub with this great name:


    It made me LOL right in the store.

  • Speaking of seasoning: my brother-in-law frequents this cool establishment, where they have a Steak of the Month Club. They also sell a House Seasoning, which I got a small tub of and have since used.  It was really tasty- a smoky, balanced flavor.  If I lived around there, I would totally be a regular shopper…they even had great-looking prepared items.bmarket
  • We had some to-die-for garlic butter snow crab at the Cary Crabhouse.  Mmmmmmmmm….you pick the seafood, pick the sauce, and enter crustacean heaven.  It was dangerously delicious.  It reminded me of my absolute favorite local restaurant, the now-defunct Irifune on Kapahulu Ave.    The friendly waitstaff also provided Sharpies so you could leave your mark on the wall.


    DD leaving our family’s autograph at the crabhouse.

  • I love a museum, as you know, so I decided that a visit to the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences would form part of my itinerary.  It’s really 2 museums in one, with a Nature Exploration Center wing and a Nature Research Center wing.  General Admission is free! We all really enjoyed it.  DS got to do some interactive robotics and astronomy at one of the Research Labs, and DD even found a slice of home:


    A rainbow!

  • Ladies Night at the ballet!  My mom, sister, DD, my niece, and I attended the Carolina Ballet‘s production of The Nutcracker at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts.  It was WONDERFUL!  Truly, one of the best I’ve seen.  My niece loved the show, and also the stairs:


    Just like Dash from The Incredibles!

  • DH had a friend from childhood that he hadn’t seen since high school days who’d moved to Raleigh.  They communicated on Facebook and set up lunch at The Shiny Diner.  Recall that I grew up in New Jersey, and my husband/his friend in NYC…we know about diners.  So we gave this one a shot.  It certainly looked good from the outside, with the traditional chrome look, hence the name.  Huge menu? Check.  Handmade milkshakes?  Check.  Countertop jukebox?  Check.  Huge portions of great food?  Welllllll, I’ll say the food was good, but not great.  The portions were indeed huge.  I enjoyed the hash browns.  We definitely left full, and my husband and his friend had a great time catching up.
  • This adorable thing happened:


    Cousins in matching pajamas!

  • The Great Clear Plastic Ornament Search of 2018: backstory first.  We have a small plastic Christmas tree because I’m not that into holiday home decor.  Anyway, besides a few child-made crafts and ornaments gifted to us, the only things we hang on our tree are Disney Castle light covers, and my homemade Disney Trip Ornaments.  ornamentWhat I do is take 2 photos from a Disney Adventure, print and laminate them, then use a template I made years ago to cut them the exact size of the ornament’s diameter.  I remove the top and slide them in (have to bend them a bit to get them in, but because they are laminated they pop right back into shape once in), replace the top, and then write the year and location on the ornament using paint markers.  To make a long story short (too late!), I needed a new clear ornament to commemorate the Disneyland Paris trip 🙂

Before the trip, I headed over to my local craft shop, Ben Franklin, where I had always purchased these.  They had every other size but the one I needed.  Womp, womp.  I complained to my sister, and she reminded me that craft stores like JOANN and Michael’s exist on the mainland.  She picked one of these babies up for me:


Oh no!  Wrong shape!

Ack!  Thus began The Great Clear Plastic Ornament Search of 2018.  We went to every big craft store in the Raleigh area, I looked in every sad picked-over Christmas ornament bin, etc.  Finally, enchanted by the idea of shopping in a Dollar General, I skimmed their nearly empty Christmas decor area (it was December 24th!), and hit pay dirt.

Thus the search was completed.  I obviously went to great lengths to get this $1.00 ornament.  Now how to get it back to Honolulu safely?  I left a shopping bag with the ornament, the BBQ dry rub, and various other items we wouldn’t need while traveling in North Carolina.  My parents took those items with them when they went home to NJ, and I picked them up when we stopped there on the way home from Europe.  Easy peasy, thanks to my thoughtful parents.

  • We had a wonderful Christmas Eve (the bigger celebration for Latino families).  Christmas Eve saw us eating the traditional pernil with salsa de cebolla, with a special kids table for DS and my niece.  We chatted, played some music, and PACKED!  My family group were leaving for London the next day.  I checked us in online for that flight, plus checked in for our Vueling flights later on in the trip (because you can check in up to 7 days in advance, and the earlier you do, the more likely your “free but random” seat assignments will be together).  I got lucky there, as our Vueling seats were assigned together- I didn’t have to pay for the seat assignment.  Our printed boarding passes went into the document holder in my carry-on for easy access.  I finished up some laundry using my sister’s enviable washer/dryer setup…ahh, the suburbs 🙂
  • Finally, we had a fantastic Christmas morning.  DD got a little something to help with impulse purchases in the Euro Zone…euros

and we had a Christmas Day walk, in the UK tradition.  Soon enough, it was time to say goodbye to my sister, niece, brother-in-law, mom, and dad, and head to the airport, where we had a bit of a snafu with returning the rental car.  See why my blood pressure spiked in the next installment…

3 responses to “Europalooza Trip Report Part 2: Family Time in North Carolina (updated)

  1. VivaLaDiva405 says:

    Don’t forget family movie day to see Mary Poppins Returns! Got ME in the London spirit 🙂


  2. Gina I Valle says:

    We had a great time with all of the family.


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