1. Chili Cook-offs
Fall unravels a bit slower here in Charlotte than it ever did in New York – but there’s something about low-humidity, Sunday afternoon football and scarves that seems a little lackluster if you leave out the chili, no? I won’t sit here and toot my own horn – but I’m not above briefly mentioning the fact that I make a mean turkey pumpkin chili and that to me, this might be the very definition of Autumn. There’s nothing I love more than heading home after church to chop up fresh peppers, sautée some ground turkey, combine the perfect mix of Fall flavors in the slow-cooker and let it cook as I lounge on the couch with a good read and some Avett Brothers in the background. (Okay, there’s one part I love more – it’s the part where you get to eat it with the best souls around.)
2. Pumpkin Growlers
This might go hand-in-hand with the above – but it’s also perfectly lovely in its own right. If I’m being honest, my Fall drink of choice isn’t the highly praised Pumpkin Spice Latte, it’s unabashedly pumpkin beer. Grocery shopping is one of my favorite activities (super-duper lame, I know), but it’s made instantly more enjoyable when I start seeing pumpkin brews line the shelves of the beer aisle. Some of my favorites you ask? Gordgeous by Charlotte’s own NoDa Brewing Company, Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale (Smuttynose Brewing Company) and the infamous Pumking (Southern Tier Brewing Company). Slide me a cinnamon sugar frosted pint glass (or two) of one of these bad boys and I’m the happiest girl at the bar!
3. Book Lists
Lately, I’ve been craving to know what people are reading or what books have shaped their lives most profoundly. I’m the type of person who’s always half-way through a book and looking for the next solid string of words to get lost in. I feel like we all have THAT book that we could read over and over and over again – or the one that’s completely changed the way we think about the world around us and how our little lives fit into it all. I love hearing what that book is for people and I’m always intrigued by their answers. (I’m also a recovering list addict – so any type of highly-structured or numbered account of a person’s favorite books is something I just inherently drool over.) For me, the most profound book I’ve ever read was In a Pit with a Lion on a Snowy Day by Mark Batterson. If you’ve never read it, I highly suggest it – just be prepared to be fueled with the insatiable desire to pursue your passions by about page 15.
4. Making New “Traditions” in a New City
Gah-lee. Settling in Charlotte has been a process for me – but I’m finally arriving at the cusp of, “this place feels like home.” It’s been a transition unlike any other, but I’m joyously allowing myself to settle into the normalcy of this new city. Uncovering new treasures, finding places where I can become a regular and order “the usual,” having a genuine community of brothers and sisters who continually point me to the Cross and engaging in loving a city that I can take pride in have all been such blessings of allowing Charlotte to become a part of me. Part of this has been challenging – but on the flip-side, it’s been so refreshing to feel like I am actively involved in a community again – something I desperately craved since graduating college.
5. Hot Baths
Complete with candles, a glass of red wine and a Nora Ephron book. (Are you noticing a common thread across my interests here?) Contrary to the popular opinion that baths are really just people sitting in their own filth – I think baths are the single-most relaxing part of any day where you’re lucky enough to take one. I’m all about scents and ambiance and… well, books, so to me, this is the perfect way to wind down after a long day at the office or an even longer run. (For all the skeptics, don’t worry, I shower after every bath so all of my filth is completely washed away post-soak.)
Diana Palka is a Charlotte-based writer; runner; fierce lover of grace and the well-written. She has a hard and fast rule that there are three things in life you never buy cheap: shoes, beer and toilet paper. A New York soul, often times she wanders the streets of Charlotte (lovingly!) poking fun at people for loving franchise pizza and grocery store bagels. Additionally, she has been known to claim she is the actual female version of a hustler. If you’re brave, you can catch her blogging here and Tweeting (too much) over @diana_dawn.