You Drive Me Crazy: Driving In The Cape Fear Area

Young Old Fart says…

When I first arrived in Wilmington, one of the few things I was looking forward to was a more relaxed driving environment. I was so wrong. I never thought it would be possible, but I have actually found a place that has worst drivers than NJ. If you’ve ever driven on the NJ Turnpike, you would know that when I say this is unbelievable, it is honestly shocking. Lucky for me I was stuck on the UNCW campus Mon-Fri, and over weekends, I would just mooch off my parents for rides. However, my mother (YAH) realized how I was avoiding driving here AT ALL COSTS. I mean, I could only use “I don’t feel like going out today” or “My contacts are bothering my eyes and my glasses give off a glare,” for so long. But, who could blame me? I was terrified (honestly, I still get very anxious when I am behind the wheel here.)! Everyday we would see at least two accidents, and that would be just driving to the local Wal-Mart. Once, when we drove to the beach I counted SIX! Maybe I was/am being a baby…silly me, wanting all my limbs to stay functioning.

Anyway, I have this theory that all these accidents are due to two distinct factors:

1) Wilmington consists of mainly retirees (aka people who leave their blinkers on and drive 20mph under the speed limit) and college students (aka children who apply makeup and text while driving, go 20mph over the speed limit, and blast their music to the point that anyone who isn’t completely deaf can hear them coming from miles away…because obviously all of this is “like totally fine”)

2) There are some unusual driving laws/lights/road signs around here.

As far as the freaky rules go, the one I find the most disturbing is u-turns. Basically, it’s legal to u-turn around any median and at any light unless indicated otherwise (which honestly, it never is). Why is this a problem? Well, often you’ll get people wanting to do multiple things at the same time and no one knows who has the right of way/doesn’t care if you do. What does this lead to? A four car pile-up.

Something else that really bothers me is how people constantly sit in the back of trucks and don’t seem to worry about being ejected out. This wouldn’t give me the jeepers creepers if the average speed limit around here was below 45mph, but it’s not. If I were a parent, my child would never be in a car without airbags/safety belts.

Finally, some lights in the Cape Fear area make NO SENSE! Often, you’ll see a quadruple rowed light that is sporting three different arrows, all the colors of the rainbow, and five signs around it. Normally everyone just does what they consider is appropriate, and yet again, what does this lead to? No, not a four car pile-up. But, a head-on collision, two rear-enders, and one side swipe.

Well, hopefully, I’ve at least prepared you for the insanity that is driving in the Cape Fear area. I suggest you bring some good insurance, a car you don’t like, courage, and a helmet. God’s speed.

Kittens and fudge,

YOF

Young At Heart says…

It is my firm belief that we need a national driver’s license in the great old U.S.A. Living in many states for many years, I can personally attest to the aggravation of trying to get a new license every single time one moves…barring our military personnel of course. With a lot of states, one must take a written test to prove that one now knows the laws of the road for that particular state. Now mind you…one can still have had accidents, tickets, etc. but for some reason the bureaucracy believes that filling in little circles with a number two pencil or clicking on a little circle proves that one knows how to operate a car….NOT!

Wilmington is proof! It has the highest car insurance rate in the state of NC (not that knowing this prior to moving here would have changed my mind). My agent explained that it’s due to the demographics here. OK, let me explain this. Lots of seniors and lots of college students = lots of car accidents=high insurance rates in Wilmington. Now add this little tidbit to the laws of the roads here, a downpour of rain at any given moment (you know the term hydroplaning), and drivers that insist on texting and talking on their cell-phone while driving and you can imagine the pile up rate. It is high. Almost every single day I see at least one accident while driving, and more often two to three.

Now, let me count the causes for accidents. First, u-turns that confuse everyone (as YOF said). Personally, I always wait until I know any possible driver, doing any possible thing, has vacated the area and THEN, and only then, do I proceed to do my u-turn.

Second, we have another neat little ditty that I just know causes accidents: the middle lane (in some areas) that is for drivers to use when making a left turn/right turn. Unfortunately, I have seen drivers use this lane to pass in, park in, and just about anything else but its intended purpose.

All in all, the Cape Fear is a great place to live in. But unfortunately, it is also an accident just waiting to happen, and just as unfortunate…you will pay the price.

Dented KISS,

YAH

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Shopaholic Visits Wilmington: Review of Independence Mall

THE HEARTS: inside mall, lots of parking, good variety of stores, food court, clean, massage chairs, “resting station,” activities for kids, good rainy day activity

THE FARTS: cold pizza, odd layout

Young Old Fart says…

One of the few things I miss about NJ is the shopping. While Wilmington surpasses the Garden State in customer service and nearly everything else, fashion and a variety of size/shaped clothing is NOT one of them.

Being five foot ten and a size 12 in both dress, jeans, and shoe (Yes my foot is THAT big. No, Bigfoot is not a relative nor do I plan on becoming a clown), makes shopping difficult…to say the least. Honestly, I would rather do anything than go look for clothes. I’m not exactly sure what it is. Having to consistently take off and put on my clothes? Having to suck in my stomach to the point where I feel like I’ll pass out, just to learn that the jeans I was attempting to fit in were too short? Or, maybe it’s the unforgiving florescent lighting that reminds me of my many stretch marks (growth spurts and genetics…YAY!). D) all of the above.

Okay, I think I’ve made it quite obvious that malls are not my favorite place in the world. However, I am determined to give an unbiased and fair review of Wilmington’s Independence Mall, even if I’ve spent relentless hours there just to turn up empty-handed.

Right off the bat I appreciate the mall’s cleanliness and numerous parking spaces; I don’t see anyone having to battle over a spot. Good thing too, I’ve seen people lose body parts over more trivial matters courtesy Jersey attitudes and Black Friday outings.

The mall has four “main” shopping spots: Belk, JCPenny, Sears, and Dillards, with different wings leading to each destination. While Independence houses several stores, ranging from Forever 21 to Bath and Body Works to Victoria’s Secret, the layout is quite confusing. YAH and I often discuss how it seems that they had a normal X layout and then decided to add an additional wing later. Either way, it can be a hassle attempting to get where you want to be.

Like I said, the mall offers a pretty decent range of shops. However, my absolute favorite part is the food court. Mmmm, mall food courts. Where else can you get overly priced pizza and extra salty/soggy Chinese food? Okay, maybe the airport. But still, you don’t need a $200 ticket to experience this pleasantry. Pick your heart attack: Dairy Queen/Orange Julius, Starbucks, Auntie Anne’s, Chick-fil-A, Ming Tree, Sarku Japan, Sbarro, or Charlie’s Grilled Subs. On a tight budget (*cough* college students)? You can get all of this…

for the mere sum of $0.75 (there are two candy dispensers in the mall that offer a plethora of options, the above combo was reeses pieces and mike and ikes…I am pleased to say they were both very fresh and tasty!). Now that’s using your noodle!

Finally, I think EVERYONE can agree that they can’t stand when people go shopping with cranky and unruly kids (not blaming the kids…nobody wants to be there). Well, Independence obviously thought of this and smartly chose to house several activities to entertain the weebies.

Oh, and as for the unruly husbands who complain more than the two year olds, there is a “resting station” with tables, chairs, and soda machines. All a tired wife has to do is plop her husband down, buy him a Coke, pat him on the head, and tell him to be “a good boy.” Although, depending on the temperance of the husband, you may want to tie his leash to the chair.

Kittens and fudge,

YOF

Young At Heart says…

It’s raining, it’s pouring, the old man is snoring…what to do? Off to the mall to track down a fantastic sale. A fantastic sale on what you might ask? Well being the economy is out of gas lately, I do go with a list in mind. On this day I am hunting scent ports from Bath and Body Works. I tend to splurge on all things that make me feel good, including: smellies, food, and comfortable clothing.

Independence Mall is the only inside mall in the Wilmington area. So of course, during downpours, it makes sense to head to there. Although I have gone to Mayfaire Mall, I would not recommend it during inclement weather. I mean who wants to be wandering out in the rain from store to store?

This mall has a good selection of what I consider “affordable stores” (see YOF lists above) and one big plus, it does have a food court for refueling and some fun activities for the young at heart (tweenies and teens in particular for these activities): All About Jumping and Game On, an arcade place.

For the older Young At Heart, such as myself, one can equip themselves with walking sneakers and hit the air-conditioned trails. I saw several people doing just this! And for those of you that don’t want to exercise, one can also find a massage (both for pay and for free). (Check out the massage chair in Brookstone!) And yes, frugal readers, you can do a cheap date…they have two chairs. I’m just not sure whether they allow you to bring champagne and strawberries on this free date.

And last, I did break down and hit their refueling station, I opted for pizza. I have yet to find a New York style pizza to my liking in Wilmington (not that I am done looking). So I stayed the course and went with something safe (Sbarro) but unfortunately is was a tad cold : (

Saucy KISS,

YAH

Holy Schnitzel: Review of The German Cafe

THE HEARTS: German ambience, Napoleon, close to free parking

THE FARTS: Dry chocolate cake, closed Monday evenings and Sundays

Young At Heart says…

I was transported to a quaint little cafe in Germany this afternoon. Upon entering The German Cafe, my visual senses were surrounded by all things Deutsch. The walls are peppered with cuckoo clocks, signs and artwork reminiscent of a vintage village cafe. I am delighted to say that even the waitresses are clothed appropriately. Yes, definitely a mini vacation getaway.

On this day, we did not indulge in the full lunch menu but instead dove right into dessert. I did let my eyes meander the full dinning area to “scope out” what others where eating and all the fares looked appetizing. YOF kept scolding me about my sleuthing abilities and insinuated that I was checking out the “meat” next door (a young gentleman taking two elderly ladies to lunch). In fact, I was checking out a schnitzel dish past the party next to us. Oh well….I guess it’s all in the eyes of the beholder.

Our “German” waitress recommended the Napoleon for dessert and I obliged. It was delicious, I am happy to report. And yes, it was a twist on the traditional Napoleon, but one I thoroughly enjoyed. It was layered with fresh whip cream and Philo dough and then topped with an almond icing drizzled with chocolate. A fine combination to my palette. But, I am a lover of all things almond. If you don’t like the taste of Amaretto or almond, I would suggest you try one of the other desserts. All of them looked yummy!

So for a total check of $12, excluding tip, we were transported to a small village haus in Germany. And yes….I will be back for the full fare in the future.

Küssen,

YAH

Young Old Fart says…

Guten Tag! Have you ever wondered what it would be like to nibble on some wiener schnitzel while whispering sweet nothings into your lover’s ear? Yeah, neither have I. But that’s besides the point. Wilmington’s The German Cafe (located behind The Cottage Exchange downtown) is like going on “It’s A Small World” in Disney World and stopping to have a meal when you spot the kids in lederhosen. In other words, it’s a German dream come true. Both the decor and the music were notable additions to the authentic ambiance the restaurant was trying to create.

Like YAH said, we only stopped by for some dessert (the best part of the meal anyway). While I went in intending to purchase the Napoleon I changed my mind upon seeing the chocolate cake (what can I say? I have a weak spot for anything choco-related…). I dove my fork in and shoved it into my mouth expecting a chocolate explosion to ensue, however, I was thrown for a loop. This cake isn’t all that chocolatey. I can’t put my finger on it, but it’s almost like the gingerbread man cheated on his wife with the neighbor, Devil’s food, and spawned this concoction . Though the flavor wasn’t what I expected, my biggest problem was the dry cake. I’m sorry, I thought Germans were supposed to make the best chocolate cake. They have their own version named after them for goodness sake! While this cake left much to be desired, I enjoyed my mom’s dessert and spotted other meals and goodies that definitely warranted a second visit.

All in all, I really liked this outing, even if it didn’t subside my constant fatty cravings. Besides, I learned two important things:

1) My mom is an undercover cougar who enjoys ogling young dashing lads.

2) I should work here…I would look bangin’ in some pigtails and dirndl (the female equivalent of lederhosen).

Kätzchen and fondant,

YOF

For the Young At Heart: Review of Wilmington’s Children’s Museum

THE HEARTS: Variety of Activities, Fairly priced

THE FARTS: Parking (depending on time)

Young At Heart says…..

Ahoy Mattie! Today we are off for an adventure to The Children’s Museum in Wilmington, and what an adventure it will be. This treasure chest of gems has rooms filled with wonderful things to do, explore, and interact with for children up to the age of ten (not counting YAH..I will always be a child at heart).

With two six year olds, we headed out to the museum mid day. Traffic was lighter than expected but I must admit, parking was a bear. We wound up finding a parking lot around the corner from the museum, paying $5 for the day. Meter parking is available but we couldn’t find any available within walking distance on this particular day.

The cost to get in is $8 ea. for adults and children. One might strongly consider membership if you are a local or return for more than one visit (and you probably will if you are here for the entire summer). And don’t forget to mention if you are military or a senior, both offer $1 discounts.

Upon entering the museum, one is greeted by a friendly local who can give you an overview of what is available to dabble in for the day (they do offer intriguing options such as playing in the mud but unfortunately on this day mud wrestling was out for me). My imagination burned wild! From becoming Captain YAH to doctor YAH, I was able to vicariously explore their wonderful rooms: pirate ship, camp site, doctor’s office, dentist office, arts and crafts room, grocery store, restaurant and the list goes on. And that’s just a dabbling of the inside stuff to do here. I could tell from the excitement in my great neice and nephew that they were also having a “shimmer me timbers” good time.

And the best for YAH….we spent over 2 1/2 hours there. I’m happy to report that they do have a fee based refueling station including a good selection of coffee for adults and healthier drinks and snacks for the kids. And last….do check in with their gift shop….we purchased two t-shirts for the kids. Their mom is planning on making a memory quilt some day from all their t-shirts.

Ah Matties…YAH definitely recommends an excursion to this pearl of a place during the hot summer months here in Cape Fear!

Painted KISS,

YAH

Young Old Fart says…

I unfortunately didn’t get to experience the “sheer awesomeness” (as stated by BOTH my cousins and my 53 yr old mother) that is The Children’s Museum. My day consisted of my 9am-2pm part-time job at UNCW, reading Sophie Kinsella gems, and munching on delicious Dove dark chocolate. While I am disappointed I didn’t get to be a doctor, pirate, and artist all in one day, my cousins brought back mile-wide smiles, stinky feet, and a priceless souvenir…

that is now proudly taped to my fridge.

Kittens and fudge,

YOF

Living Like The Locals: Common Stores In The Cape Fear Area

Young Old Fart says…

Whether you’re visiting, relocating, or attending college in the Cape Fear area, there are several things you must become accustomed to. While I’ll tackle other norms another day, I want to focus on the types of stores you’ll see around here.

I spent the majority of my childhood and angsty years in Edison, NJ where Applebee’s was the Friday night hotspot and chillin’ at Menlo Mall (until it became all ritzy and too expensive for my broke bum) was the place to meet new friends and wreck havoc. Basically, I knew where to go, what to get when I got there, and the specials of the day. When I first moved to Wilmington and started attending UNCW, I underwent “culture shock.” Who the heck were these happy people that called me “ma’am” and offered to help me with my groceries? Why was everyone always smiling and asking me about my day? (I doubt natives to the Cape Fear area understand my confusion, but notherners get where I am coming from). Worst of all, I was missing the stores and restaurants I had gotten used to, I missed my “homes away from home.” Ultimately, I had to suck it up, get over my losses, and embrace my new area like a true local.

Here is just a sampling of what you may find in the Seahawks’ hometown:

  • While I was used to Starbucks being located on every corner, the most popular coffee chain down here is Port City Java. But do not fear Starbucks lovers (fyi they are SOME Starbucks locations around here), PCJ  offers the same types of caffeine-induced concoctions that are just as overly priced. The one difference: you can actually pronounce the names of these products.
  • My favorite “fast food” place in Edison was my beloved Baja Fresh. Notherners, don’t even ask natives about this place, they’ll have no idea what you’re talking about. Instead, they’ll refer you to either Moe’s Southwest Grill (which we also have in NJ) OR the collegians’ absolute fav Flaming Amy’s.
  • The one way to truly torture me was to force me to go grocery shopping on a Sunday in NJ. It was an experience that guaranteed to supply an elbow to the face, poor customer service, ten naughty curse words, and at least two cart-to-ankle run-ins. While Shoprite, Pathmark, Stop and Shop, and Wegmans were the destinations of my Hell…Food Lion, Lowes Foods, and Harris Teeter are the pleasant grocery stops of Wilmington.
  • Finally, one of the saddest losses of living in NJ IMHO were the few happy memories I would have during the Christmas season. One of my fav holiday activities was going to Macy’s and checking out their Xmas department after dropping off my letter to Santa (don’t judge, Santa’s my homeboy). Unfortunately, Wilmington does not have a Macy’s and there doesn’t seem to be any in the neighboring towns. While you can find JCPennys, Sears, and Kohls, the next closest thing to Macy’s is Belk. Sadly, I went there this past Xmas and was highly dissapointed…it just ain’t the same : (

Well, while there are many other things newbies will need to learn about Wilmington, the above list will just have to do for now. Until then, A WARNING TO ALL NEW JERSYANS: If a Cape Fear native offers to help you with your bags, or gives a cheery “hello”…PLEASE bite your tongue and force back the urge to give them the one-finger salute (it gives everyone from the Garden State a bad rep…

unlike the popular NJ-based reality tv shows, Jersey Shore and Jerseylicious, they just make us seem so clASSy).

Kittens and fudge,

YOF

The Apple of My Eye – Review of Apple Annie’s Bake Shop

THE HEARTS: good variety and selection, chocolate croissant, Reese’s peanut butter bar, mocha fudge bar, pretty reasonable, good customer service, pastries aren’t too sweet

THE FARTS: nowhere to sit, everything is refrigerated, SOME selections are skimpy for the price, carrot cake square

Young Old Fart says…

Bakeries. The yin to my yang, the Sonny to my Cher, the light of my life…the reason my lower stomach (which I fondly call “my pooch”) has taken on a mind of its own. All joking and stretch marks aside, pastries, cakes, and desserts of all sorts are my reason for existence. Therefore, when we moved to Wilmington, NC, I was heartbroken that the delicious goodies I had scoured and labeled as “my babies” would no longer be accessible. What is a chubby, choco-craving girl to do? FIND NEW GEMS, BUT OF COURSE!

Apple Annie’s is a well-known bakery in Wilmington that has two locations, one on South Kerr and one on Military Cutoff. I have yet to try the Military Cutoff location, so I can only vouch for the other. The first thing I noticed about AA’s was its selection. Everywhere else that has offered desserts in the Cape Fear area has had slim pickings, this is definitely not the case with AA. Whatever you dream is your hearts desire here…from german chocolate squares (delicious) to the cinnamon croissant (amazing) to white chocolate macadamia cookies (have yet to try), AA’s will surely have something for everyone (they even offer sugar-free goodies!). The customer service is absolutely amazing as well. Not only do the employees allow you to take your time, they also offer words of encouragement to lead you along your artery-clogging way!

I really do love this place. However, like everything else, there are SOME drawbacks. First, there is nowhere to sit in the bakery, it is set up so that everything you buy is to be eaten at home or somewhere else. Second, all of their offerings are refrigerated, even items that should be warm (such as a croissant). This could definitely become an inconvenience to anyone who would like to enjoy their selection pronto. My suggestion is either wait till you encounter a microwave OR kindly ask one of the employees to heat it up for you (I don’t see why they wouldn’t). Finally, while YAH may disagree, I think that though their quality is always worth the price, their quantity isn’t. I understand that not everyone wants a cupcake the size of their head (you would be stupid not to), but selling a cheesecake morsel for $3 seems outlandish. Again, this last complaint could be due to my pooch’s impressive mind control and constant need for fatty goodness.

Today I sampled their chocolate croissant.

Right off the bat I was pleased with it’s size and obvious cholateyness…I mean, check out that drizzle and ooze seeping from the middle!

When I got home, I ripped this sucker out of its pretty package, stuck it on a plate, and microwaved it for 1 minute. I used a fork to eat it, but most people would just grab a napkin and shovel it in. The pastry itself wasn’t crunchy but light and fluffy (not soggy at all). The chocolate middle was warm, gooey, and sinful. This baby is not meant for the kiddies or wimpy milk-chocolate lovers…this one is stuffed to the gills with semi-sweet chocolate. The richness of the chocolate paired with the mildness of the pastry (it wasn’t very sweet), makes for a yummy snack, and dare I say it? A rewarding breakfast treat? (It’s acceptable as long as skinny french people keep eating them for le petit déjeuner as well.) Overall, I definitely recommend this beauty. It’s worth both the $2.50 I spent AND the extra mile I’ll have to run tomorrow.

Kittens and fudge,

YOF

Young At Heart says…

Apple Annie’s is definitely one of the best bake shops, if not the best in Wilmington. I have purchased goodies from many bakeries (NJ, NY, SC, and California) and this one ranks right up there. So far (third visit so far as we just recently discovered this little local gem) almost everything I have eaten there was delicious, the service was great and the prices reasonable for the quality of their smaller treats. Hats off to this bakery!

Today I ate their Reese’s peanut butter bar and it was out of this world. It is layered with a yellow cake and what I presume (hate the word assume) is Reese’s peanut butter mousse surrounded by a delicious dark chocolate. Nestled on top is a small Reese’s peanut butter cup. This delectable goodie is not overpowering with sweetness and allows the diner to walk away without that heavy feeling. You can be sure I will be buying this baby again in the future. For $2.50 plus tax I think it is definitely a sweet dream!

Now on the down side, I was completely disappointed with their carrot cake square. Oh bombs! And a big one at that! Now I will fess up that I am a traditionalist when it comes to certain desserts but willing to give a new twist a try. But….this twist just turned me the wrong way.  It was composed of carrot cake with this foreign substance in the middle. After some contemplating I determined that the baker had choosen to layer in either a pineapple or orange marmalade. Gross!!!! And then to add to my dismay, the icing was buttercream instead of the standard cream cheese icing. All in all, a terrible combination in my opinion. Maybe if the icing was the traditional cream cheese icing, I might have been able to stomach the marmalade but with that combo it was way too sweet for carrot cake. Oh well…back to the drawing board for this one!

But have heart dear readers….I ate this scrumptuous goodie last night that rocks! Their Mocha Fudge Bar is well worth the drive! It was layered with white cake and mocha mousse…great combo but then wrap that  in dark chocolate and you have a home run. Again for $2.50 plus tax, I think it is worth every penny! Yum…yum…yum is all I can say! Just thinking about this and the Reese’s goodie makes me want for more. And you can be sure…I will be buying again from AA!

Chocolatey KISS,

Young At Heart