Note: This is part five of a series about our family lifestyle change and move from the coast of California to the country of North Carolina. In case you missed parts one, two, three, or four I’ve linked them here.
Is our life in the south very different from life in California? Definitely! That is one of the best parts of the move; it is the lifestyle change we were so excited to experience. We have had the opportunity to meet new people, experience a new environment, try new foods, travel to new places, and see new sights. It has been so much fun exploring the coast of North Carolina and the south.
Yes, living in the south is certainly different than living in California. The minute you step foot in the south you immediately feel welcomed with open arms. It’s like getting a big hug from your grandmother. With that warm welcome, you can’t help but notice most southerner’s accents. After spending time in the south, you begin to pick up some of the sweet sayings, so many of which I love and often use. I’ve also been told lately that I’m getting a slight southern drawl and I’m not mad about it.
My family can attest to the fact that my favorite southern word is “y’all.” In my opinion, the conjunction of you and all is genius and flows effortlessly off my tongue now. Another favorite southern saying of mine is, “bless your heart.” Commonly used when someone from the south is expressing genuine sympathy or concern. “I’m fixin'” to tell you some more of the biggest differences we experienced after moving to the south… (See what I did there?)
The landscape in North Carolina is much different from California, though equally beautiful. Live oak trees whimsically draped in Spanish Moss and beautiful Magnolia trees with their waxy leaves and giant white flowers have replaced the Palm and Eucalyptus trees of California. Bright Azalea and dreamy Hydregea blooms have replaced Birds of Paradise and Hibiscus flowers. Long, flat, peaceful country roads replaced busy freeways and windy roads through the hills. Romantic Antebellum style homes have replaced the beautiful Spanish architecture we once knew. All of these changes have been wonderful to experience.
The weather has been one of my favorite changes and I think the family will agree. Although seventy degrees and sunny sounds wonderful to most people, after forty years of it, I was excited about finally experiencing seasonal changes. In California, seasonal changes were more of a feeling than a visual change. Now, in North Carolina, we feel and see every seasonal change and we absolutely love it!
We moved here in July so the southern heat and humidity was the first weather-related change we experienced. Wow! Southern heat physically slaps you in the face the minute you step outside and it’s relentless, y’all. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it!? Believe it or not, you get used to it. There is no denying that air conditioning is one of your best friends during summertime in the south.
Just when you feel like you can’t take the heat and humidity for one second longer, the air suddenly changes. You can literally hear all southerners exhale and rejoice as the cool, crisp air pushes out the humidity to make room for autumn. Every morning you wake up to slightly cooler air and leaves slowly changing color. Rich amber, maroon, and gold tones take over the trees and with each passing day, autumn takes over the landscape. It’s breathtaking!
As those beautiful leaves slowly begin to fall, the air continues to cool. Soon the grass turns brown, the trees are bare, and no flowers can be seen. A clear sign that winter has arrived. Two out of the five years we’ve lived in coastal North Carolina we have experienced snow. It’s magical! Thankfully, the snow days don’t last long. They are just enough to cancel school, slow things down, and give you the chance to build a snowman. After a couple of days of snow, life resumes back to normal. Don’t get me wrong though, it’s still cold.
Alas, just when you are starting to tire of the cold, the barren landscape, and feeling blue, you begin to feel warmth in the air. Tiny signs of life begin to spring up outside and you feel a great sense of hope for warmer days ahead. The grass begins to turn green, birds can be heard in the trees that are forming new buds on them, and tulips and daffodils begin to emerge from the ground. Once spring has sprung, you know that with each passing day things will get greener and warmer.
With spring comes the dreaded pollen season in the south. This one was a surprise to us and not a welcome one. None of our past southern experiences or any of my research had warned me about pollen season. This is when tiny particles of pollen from the millions of pine trees (our state tree) rain down from the sky for weeks and cover every surface outside in a blanket of yellow. Cars, patio furniture, porches, plants… Nothing outside is spared.
We’ve now learned to designate an entire weekend in late spring for pollen clean up. The family knows it’s all hands on deck! The power washer comes out and the sneezing commences. Afterward though, all outside areas are clean as a whistle and can be enjoyed without a yellow residue clinging to you. Needless to say, I could definitely live without pollen season. Consider yourself warned. (You’re welcome!)
Along with seasonal changes came weather changes. We moved from California during the height of the drought. I honestly can’t tell you the last time we saw rain in California before we left. Precipitation falling from the sky was a rare event (often resulting in a major story on the local evening news). Not in North Carolina.
Weeks after we moved into the farmhouse tropical storm Juaquin ran up the coast. It never made landfall, but it did dump tons of rain. I wish you could see how many “rain videos” of that storm I have on my phone. We were in awe. There were puddles so big in our yard that the kids were skimboarding and boogie boarding on them. That’s a lot of water! I’ve seen more rain in the last five years than I had in the first forty years of my life combined.
It wasn’t until we moved to North Carolina that I discovered my true love for thunderstorms. There is nothing like an evening thunder and lightning storm in the summer! We love to sit out on the front porch-swing listening to the booming thunder, watching the bright flashes of lightning, hearing the pitter-patter of rain, and the chorus of croaking frogs in the pond. It’s a true southern pleasure.
Side note: As much as we love thunderstorms as a family, we discovered that our Pug, Frank, (who moved with us from California) is terrified of them. In Part Six I will share how we discovered his fear of storms and what his new nickname is since moving here. It was a messy discovery, that much I’ll tell you!
As beautiful and peaceful as it is to watch an afternoon storm rolling in, the opposite can be said about hurricanes. From June to November in coastal North Carolina you pay extra close attention to the weather and Chris Cantori, from the Weather Channel, becomes a household name. Essentially, we traded the earthquakes and wildfires of California for tropical storms and hurricanes in the south. All of them are equally unnerving, I can tell you from experience.
Last year, we experienced our first evacuation due to the severity of a hurricane which was anticipated to be a direct hit on Wilmington. You can read more about that experience in my post Weathering the Storm. It was incredible, stressful, and terrifying in so many ways.
Southern food. I love it. Well, let’s be honest, I love food in general. I love to cook and I especially love to eat. It’s been such fun discovering and trying the delicious cuisine of the south. If you love to eat, as I do, the south is the place for you. Southern food is rich, flavorful, and steeped in tradition. Most recipes have been handed down through families for generations. If healthy eating is a priority, you may want to set that aside when you’re eating in the south. Butter and cream are staples in every recipe. A few of my favorite dishes include Shrimp and Grits, Low Country Boil, Chicken and Dumplings, BBQ, Hushpuppies, Biscuits, Chess Pie, Tomato Pie, and so much more. Not only do I love to eat these dishes, but I also love to cook them and look forward to sharing some of my recipes with you soon. Needless to say, my workouts at the gym have definitely increased since moving.
Although I have thoroughly embraced just about all things southern when it comes to eating and drinking, the one thing I still have not grown to love is sweet tea. Did you just hear that?? All southerners just gasped and dramatically exclaimed, “Bless her heart!” Sweet tea is just SO…sweet. I genuinely believe it’s something you have to grow up drinking in order to love. I will continue working on embracing it and until then I will enjoy the many delicious unsweet teas I’ve had here. A word of advice: if and when you find yourself at a restaurant in the south, when ordering iced tea, you must specify you want “un-sweet” tea. Sweet tea is the default, every time. (Again, you’re welcome!)
Since moving, we have met so many wonderful new people and enjoyed incredible environmental and seasonal changes. We have also experienced different weather patterns which have made life exciting. It has been so fun exploring new places and trying delicious new food. We have loved every new experience since moving to the south. North Carolina has the best of everything: breathtaking mountains to the west, majestic central plains, and stunning beaches to the east.
We went from a tract home in southern California (with a postage stamp sized backyard) where we had two sweet Pugs and a Beta fish named Superman, to a five acre farm in coastal North Carolina where we now have twenty-five animals. You can’t imagine the stories I have about how we acquired all those animals on our farm. Talk about a serious learning curve!
These are the stories I’ve been so anxious to share with you. Get ready, the stories behind the animals will be in the next part of the series (Part Six) and they’re the best!
Until next time…