We are now South Carolinians!

It's official....the boxes are unpacked and the move is complete!
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This is our fifth move in four years and every move is a little bit different.  Usually, I am super organized.  I start with my PCS binder and from there I organize every room and check every to-do list box.  Blame it on the holidays or the insanely hectic month or savoring every last minute but this move didn't happen that way.  This move I tried the "no-stress approach".  And guess what?  The movers came, everything got packed, and everything landed safely in our new home!  Sure, there were a few bumps in the road (like the HUGE truck not being able to fit into our neighborhood) but those are always going to happen!
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As for first impressions, I think we are going to LOVE our new home!  There are so many adorable restaurants and shops, lots of opportunities for riding bikes (my favorite!) and being outside, we are close to the water, AND the people are so so friendly.
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This story is the perfect example of why I already love Beaufort:  Our very first full day in town, we grabbed coffee from Common Ground and walked around a few shops downtown.  We went into an olive oil shop, Olive the Above, and were warmly greeted by two female employees.  They asked if it was our first time in the shop and when we told them it was actually our first day in town, they physically clapped and cheered "welcome to Beaufort"s to us.  It was like a scene from a movie and the joyous reaction that I always expect but never actually get.  I couldn't wipe the smile from my face -- I knew I could call this home!
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I think we are going to be just fine here :)

Military Move #5 Lessons Learned

This move was officially our fifth military move in four year.  We are no where near pros at this but every move I feel like I learn a couple new tips, tricks, or lessons to make things a little easier.  Our first move from Virginia to Florida we learned that DITY moves are not for us, no matter how much money you make.  Later we learned about Hire a Helper and the benefits of packing a new home box.
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This move, I feel like I learned three huge lessons:

1.  If you have the option, just pay the cleaning fee!

On base, the housing people encourage you to take the move out package where you pay a set cleaning fee ($120) instead of cleaning the house yourself when you move out.  We chose to do this and it was honestly the best decision ever.  Every other move, we spent so much time at the end trying to intensely clean baseboards and ceiling fans so that we would get our full security deposit back.  We also always had to set aside all of our clean supplies to clean all the room when our packers moved all of our furniture out.  This time, we wrote a check for the $120 and literally did nothing else.  We left the house in the condition it was in (just clean like a normal day, not scrubbed down), let the movers pack our things, and enjoyed our last few days with friends.  It eliminated something that is usually a stress and headache from our list and made move out so simple.  PLUS since we paid them to clean it, there is no way that they were going to charge us for something not being appropriately cleaned!  As for our budget, we simply calculated that into our DLA (dislocation allowance) money.


2.  Take advantage of TLE!

Every move before this, we would pack our air mattress in our car and sleep in our old/new home until our stuff arrived and our bed was set up.  Finally, I realized this is silly because of this wonderful thing called TLE!  TLE is travel lodging expense and what this means is that you (your husband) rate ten days of lodging expenses at your old and/or new duty station, not combined with your normal travel days.  In regular terms - you can stay at the Navy Lodge both at your old base while your stuff is being packed and your new base while you are waiting for your stuff to be delivered (up to 10 days total) and the military will pay for it.  Not only will they pay for it but they will also pay you per diem for those days to cover your meals.

TLE is an option whether you use it or not.  If you use it, you get reimbursed the money.  If you choose not to use it, you don't get the money.  I realized how much easier it makes a move to have a real bed, clean towels, tv, and wifi on those weird limbo moving days where everything is half packed and shut off.  Plus getting the per diem was awesome to cover all those meals out.  We will ALWAYS utilize this option now!


3.  Be nice to your movers!

Knock on wood, we have had really great luck with our movers so far.  I know this doesn't always matter but a lot of times I think a little kindness goes a long way.  Sure, our movers showed up a little late, complained about things that were in their job description and had a few hiccups but the least I can do (in my opinion!) is feed them lunch and tip them when they safely move everything I own from one state to another in just a few days.  I think the movers are always a little more considerate with your stuff (and your timelines) if they like you vs think you are a jerk ;)

Things to do while stationed in Meridian, Mississippi

So one way or another you have found yourself living in (or visiting!) Meridian and are wondering "What in the world is there to do here!?"  While there may not be a Starbucks or a Target for almost 100 miles, the answer is surprisingly a lot!  Looking back on my time in Meridian, we had a blast living here!  Wine Wednesdays, winging parties, spouse club events, weekend getaways, and impromptu neighborhood parties happened more often than not and I can say for sure that having a positive attitude and a willingness to make the most of everything matters.

If your time in Meridian is just starting, I'm kind of envious; make the most of it!  Take advantage of your time in the Deep South and stay involved.  Here are some of my favorite things to do in and around Meridian:
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Geyser Falls Water Park:  Geyser Falls is a 23 acre water park with a wave pool, a lazy river, a "beach" pool with cabanas, 13 water slides, a beach club restaurant, and tiki bars in Philadelphia, MS (about 45 minutes from the base, right past the casinos).  We lucked into hearing about this place, took a drive out to check in out, and were totally obsessed!  We bought season passes that day and highly recommend them!  The summer in Meridian gets HOT and going on a day trip to the waterpark felt like we were on vacation a world away from Meridian.
TIP: Get season passes early-it pays for itself in three trips!  The park opens in March and closes during the week in September so go early in the season to take advantage of your passes!

Pearl River Resort: Two big casinos with tables and slot machines, with normal casino style buffets/bars/restauants, a hotel, and the nicest golf course in the state of Mississippi, Dancing Rabbit.  Pearl River resort is about 45 minutes from the base on the Indian reservation in Choctaw/Philadelphia, MS.
TIP: Sign up for the rewards program (it's free) and they often send out vouchers for free rooms at the hotel!

Neshoba County Fair:  One part state fair, one part party cabins -- the Neshoba county fair is an experience!  Held one week in July, people pour into town from all over to stay in one of the 600 party cabins and 200 RV spots.  While you probably won't be lucky enough to get an overnight spot, it is still worth the trip for the evening!  This fair, referred to as Mississippi's giant house party, has been a staple in Mississippi since 1889 and is the perfect way to immerse yourself into local culture.
TIP: Do not miss the Neshoba County Fair!

Trivia: Tuesday nights trivia is at the Balcony Bar, upstairs in Weidmann's and Wednesday nights trivia is at the Brickhaus Bar, both downtown.  It is free and both give away restaurant giftcards as prizes.  (Brickhaus also gives away free pitchers of beer to all teams who beat the bartender!)  There are always people you know at trivia and it's a fun way to break up the week.
TIP: Weidmann's trivia gets packed so get there early to get a table.

Earth's Bounty Festival: There is a small farmers market held under the bridge near the train station each Saturday morning, June through November, from 8am-3pm.  The first Saturday of each month, there is a larger farmers market called Earth's Bounty.
TIP: The first Earth's Bounty of the season is always the largest and the one I would recommend!  Last year, it overlapped with the Three Foot festival which meant mimosas and bloody marys ;)

Also, if you are a fan of local farm raised meat, eggs and produce, Beaverdam Farms is incredible.  Get on there mail list HERE and every other week you have the option to place an order to be picked up that Saturday.  (No requirements to ever order buy joining the buying club mailing list)  We love getting their bacon and eggs and making a big brunch on Sundays.

Ralph Morgan Rodeo: The rodeo is held multiple times during the summer, right here in Lauderdale county!    
TIP: Dressing in redneck attire and riding in the back of a pickup truck makes it even more fun ;)

Dunns Falls: A beautiful waterfall, just 10 minutes south of downtown Meridian!  This location used to power the Stetson hat factory however now is just a great spot to relax on a hot summer day. 

Eat, Drink, Meridian:  We attended Eat, Drink, Meridian on a whim, convinced that we would grab sushi afterwards because there wouldn't be much food at the event.  Boy, were we wrong!  For a five dollar ticket, we were able to sample food from over 25 local restaurants, everything from Waffle House to Harvest Grill!  On top of that, we were also able to help ourselves to drink samples (in most cases a full beer, cider, or cocktail!) from 5+ bar/distributor stations.  We must have consumed 10x our $5 tickets and had a blast!  The event was held in a hotel ballroom in April so keep an eye out for any advertisements about this!

Bonita Lakes: Great walking and biking trails around the lake near the mall.  Lots of picnic tables and outdoor swings.  4th of July fireworks are also held here!

Blueberry picking at Johnson's Farms:  A fellow spouse, Alyson, passed along this suggestion and it was a great one!  Johnson's Farms is open in season, Tuesdays through Saturdays, for blueberry picking.  The farm is large, the blueberries are plenty, Joe is sweet as can be, and the prices can't be beat.  Go early in the season for the best selection!
TIP: Head out early in the mornings when they open to avoid the crazy Mississippi heat!

Mal's St. Patricks Day parade: When I heard that one of the country's largest St. Patricks Day parades was held right down the road in Jackson, Mississippi, gathering crowds of over 70,000 people, I thought it was a mistake.  Turns out, it is true!  What looks more like a Mardi Gras parade mixed with a college football tailgate, this is the real deal and worth the drive!
TIP: Bring the full tailgate spread: tents, coolers, tables, etc.  We showed up with just an umbrella (it was pouring!) and were shocked to see miles and miles of tailgates set up for hours before the parade!

Binachi Shooting Sports: Sporting clay, skeet shooting, and archery.  The location is pretty, the owner is knowledgeable, and they have guns (and everything else you need to shoot!) to rent if you don't have your own.

SEC Football: Mississippi State and Alabama are both within an 1.5 drive and Auburn and Ole Miss are also both within bounds.  On a long weekend, Knoxville is an option too! It is definitely worth the drive for a football game or at least the tailgating during the fall.  Sometimes, ITT even has free tickets for Mississippi State games!


Looking for more to do in Meridian?
Check out "Where to Eat" and "Where to Roadtrip" while living in Meridian, Mississippi!

Weekend Trips {within Liberty bounds} from Meridian, Mississippi

Meridian has to be in the best location in terms of being in the center of a ton of fun southern cities.  There are places within six different states that fall within a few hour drive and more importantly, within bounds (meaning no leave required to go!)  Here is my favorite getaway in each of those states!
Weekend Roadtrips from Meridian, Mississippi
Pensacola, Florida
Eat: Coffee at The Bodacious Brew, Grits a Ya Ya at The Fish House, or a ramen bowl at Nom
Drink: An Irish Wake at McGuires or a specialty cocktail at 5 1/2 Bar.
Do: Palafox Market, a trip to the beach, and gallery night
Stay: The Gateway Inn on base (can't beat the price!)
See more: here and here

New Orleans, Louisiana
Eat: Three course lunch (with 25 cent martinis) at Antoine's or pizza at Domenica.  And of course, beignets at Cafe Du Monde.
Drink:  Water...in between all of those sugary hurricanes on Bourbon St, of course!
Do: Drink and Learn cocktail tour
Stay: The Roosevelt (make sure to ask about the military rate!)
See more: here and here
 
Jackson, Mississippi
Eat: Tacos and tableside guac at Babalu
Drink: A cocktail at the speakeasy, The Apothecary at Brent's Drugs
Do: Check out Livingston Merchantile
Stay: No need--we always just drove home!
See more: here and here

Birmingham, Alabama
Eat: BBQ at Saw's Soul Kitchen, pizza at Post Office Pie's, or sushi burritos at Wasabi Juan's
Drink: A beer at Avondale Brewery
Do: Indoor rock climbing at First Ave Rocks, hiking at Ruffner Mountain, or shopping at The Summit
Stay: Renaissance Ross Bridge Resort
See more: here and here

Memphis, Tennessee
Eat: Rendezvous and The Commissary BBQ, so that you can compare and pick a favorite or anything at SOB, South Of Beale
Drink: A 40oz at Raifords while playing the drumset!
Do: Beale Street, the duck parade at The Peabody, or a Grizzlies game at FedEx Forum
Stay: The Exchange Suites
See more: here and here

Atlanta, Georgia
Eat:  A burger and pimento cheese friends from Farm Burger
Drink:  A cocktail at Top Golf
Do: The College Football Hall of Fame
See more: here and here

Where to eat while stationed in Meridian, Mississippi

Meridian, Mississippi has just about every chain you can imagine: Outback, Chili's, BWW, Applebee's, Olive Garden, etc, but it's the local restaurants that I really enjoy.  While there aren't a ton of options, there are enough to try them all and find your favorites.

Where to eat in meridian, mississippi

Gas Stations: Might seem a little crazy but eating at a gas station became a pretty regular experience for us while living in Mississippi.  We even took my family to eat in a gas station (or two!) when they came to visit!

Seafood Express II: some call these the best seafood po-boys in the state!  While your immediate instinct might be "seafood in a gas station? no way." get over it because these po-boys are worth it.  Huge and hot, they are made to order and delicious.  My advice is to go for lunch because it is not the nicest gas station in town and to call ahead your order so that you can just walk in and pick it up (otherwise you are waiting inside for your order to be made and it can get pretty crowded!)

Pappy's BBQ:  This bbq joint is inside of one of the better gas stations in Meridian and also THE CLOSEST food place to the air station.  If you arrive and they aren't out of peach cobbler yet, don't skip it!

Magnolia: Your typical greasy, hangover food diner that just so happens to be in a truck stop gas station. 

Lunch:  While there is McAllister's Delis and Deli on 5th, the only lunch spot worth mentioning is:

Cater's Market:  The best!  Their chicken salad is amazing, their pimento cheese is delicious, and you can pick up a fresh made casserole for dinner or a cake for a special occasion while you are eating lunch.  They also carry a small market of specialty foods (gluten free flours, ezekiel breads, cheese straws, etc).   They are only open for lunch and closed on Mondays so plan accordingly!

Date Night or Girls Night:

Weidmann's:  This is technically THE Meridian restaurant.  Open since 1870,  it is a classic and a must try.  They are also one of the only places that serves Sunday brunch (with mimosas and bloody mary's!)  On the weekends, reservations are recommended however if you did not make a reservation, you can usually get a spot at the Balcony Bar upstairs.  It has a more casual atmosphere but serves the same full menu as downstairs in the main dining room.

Harvest Grill:  Personally, my favorite restaurant in Meridian and the place where we celebrated every birthday, date night, and girls night.   This is the closest thing here to a "foodie" style restaurant you would see in other places.  Try one of their "Mississippi Mules" or split a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.  Their brussels are fantastic (I dream about these, I swear!) and you have to do the table side s'mores at least once!

Sake Sushi:  It's pretty much impossible to go to Sake and not see at least one other person you know.  Half sushi restaurant, half hibachi tables...it is a typical Friday night spot.  Don't forget to take your receipt next door to Yoo-yoo for 10% off fro-yo.

Taste of Thai: A tiny hole in the wall Thai restaurant downtown if you need to get your pad thai fix.  Don't be scared off by the outside appearance,  the place is clean and the food is good!

Other food options: Squealers (bbq), Mugshots (burgers and beer), El Norte (mexican), and Nick and Al's (pizza).

22 Minute Hard Corps Test Group

Rob was gone on detachment for almost month of November which meant lots of wine and lots of girls nights.  When he got home, we anxiously awaited his winging and his orders.  If I'm being honest, I let the unknown of where and when we would be moving completely consume me.  I couldn't think or talk about anything else and I let my meals, my workout routine, and my business fall to the wayside.  Looking from the outside we know the cycle: stress --> skipping workouts --> unhealthy meals --> MORE stress, but I still couldn't shake myself out of it.  Rob's winging came which meant celebrations with family in town and that was quickly followed by more celebrations and travel over the holidays.  Something needed to change!  I ordered Hammer and Chisel and decided that January 1st, I would commit to this program.
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However an even better opportunity fell into my lap!  In the middle of our trip, I got an email letting me know that *I* had been selected to be in the official 22 Minute Hard Corps test group and asking me if I was in.  This is Tony Horton's, the man behind P90X, unreleased military bootcamp inspired program coming out this spring.  Before each new program is released, a super select group of coaches are chosen to go through the program first at 100% effort to see the results and be able to share them with others when the program becomes available to the public.  These exclusive corporate test groups are also where the before and after pictures and testimonials in the infomercials come from.  Out of 400,000+ coaches, I was selected as one of just ~30 coaches to be in the test group and go through this program in full before it is released!  AH!  I could not believe it and honestly am so humbled by this opportunity.  This was just the spark I needed to get out of my fitness rut and I knew that I was ready to commit 110% and really see what my body and mind were capable of.
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There is so many specifics that I cannot share until the program releases (those confidentiality and non-disclosure agreements I signed are no joke!) but I am excited to document and share my journey with you!  So here we are at week one....before pictures taken, meals planned/prepped and ready to get my butt in shape!

Christmas Roadtrip: 17 days, 11 states, and over 2,599 miles

If the first half of December could be characterized by celebrations and parties, the second half of December would have to go down in the category of travel.  Because Rob did not receive orders until the very beginning of December (aka we had no idea where we would be moving or when we would need to be there!), we knew that air travel was out of the question.  This meant we would be making the 14 hour drive home to Virginia for Christmas.  While I love to travel, long trips in the car are definitely not my favorite.  Four hours is about all I can handle.

So what is the only logical thing to do?  Break it up and add fun stops along the way!  17 days, 11 states, and over 2,599 miles later -- we survived!
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Our roadtrip started with a tiny leg.  I teach p90x live at the gym on Monday nights so after class we left straight from the gym and drove to Birmingham.  While it's only 2.5 hours away, it jump started our trip and made the next day much more reasonable.  We went straight to sleep and woke up the next morning to make the seven hour drive to Beaufort, South Carolina.  While Beaufort was not truly on the path to Virginia, it was a necessary stop: we needed to find a place to live!
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habersham south carolina
We made it to Beaufort and checked out a few neighborhoods before the sun set.  First impressions of Beaufort -- I think we are going to love it!  It was adorable and quaint, with plenty of local shops and restaurants.  I could not get enough of the spanish moss!  We ended up loving the first place we looked at and signed a lease the next morning.

From there, we drove to Charleston and spent the night at Rob's parents house.  Again, a short 1.5 hour trip but made the next day more do-able.  We woke up the next morning and made the seven hour drive home to Virginia.  We spent a few days at my parents house, eat all of our old Stafford favorites.
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quirk hotel richmond va
Next stop was Richmond for my friend Anna's bridal shower.  It was a beautiful shower and I felt so lucky that I was able to attend.  That night, a bunch of us rented a hummer limo to do the Richmond tacky lights tour.  This has been on my bucket list for several years!  There are tacky lights everywhere but Richmond really does it right!  We loaded the limo with champagne and headed to several of the best houses.  It was a lot of fun.  While in Richmond, we celebrated Christmas with Rob's mom's side of the family, as well as his grandpa's 80th birthday.
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richmond tacky lights tour
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From Richmond, we headed back to Stafford (our home base) and then on to Maryland for Christmas Eve and Christmas morning with Rob's dad's side of the family.  From there, it was off to Pittsburgh, PA to celebrate Christmas with my dad's side (Christmas night) and my mom's side (the day after).  Ever seen the movie Four Christmas?  Yup, that is our life at the holidays!
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Needless to say, when we started the drive back from Pittsburgh to Mississippi, we felt like we needed a vacation from our vacation.  Our first stop was Charlottesville, Virginia for a night to stay at Rob's parent's condo.  We decided to hit a winery while we were there and I don't know if it was the wine talking or the fact that finally had a minute to relax, but we decided what is the rush to get home?!  What was supposed to be a quick stop in Charlottesville turned out to be a four day vacation in Virginia wine country and honestly, it was exactly what we needed!  We did hot yoga in the mornings, wine tasting in the afternoons, had leisurely dinners at the downtown mall - it was perfect.
review of pippin hill winery
trump winery
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king family vineyards
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oakhurst inn cafe charlottesville va
brunch at oakhurst inn cafe in charlottesville va
We finally dragged ourselves back to reality and started our last and final trek of the trip.  We stopped in Blacksburg for lunch at El Rods and a walk down memory lane before finishing the final painful 12 hour drive home.  While that last leg was rough, it felt incredible to wake up in my own bed the next morning!