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Spring is here! Though it is a little earlier than we expected, we are excited to welcome in the warm weather. In spite of losing an hour of sleep this month with Daylight Savings on March 12th, it is hard to be upset with the pool officially open and the flowers in bloom. Here is how we plan to enjoy the beginnings of spring this month with the other locals we love:

The green isn’t just showing on the trees this month, but all over with St. Patrick’s Day! We will be spending time in downtown Raleigh for the annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade on March 11th at 10:00 am followed by all sorts of festivities on both Glenwood South in front of Hibernian Irish Pub and in City Plaza on Fayetteville Street. Vendors, craft booths, live music, kiddie rides and more will all be available, more details can be found here.

As the season changes, so does our art gallery, and we are thrilled to welcome back Lynn Boggess as our featured gallery artist. Join us on March 16 as he steps en plain air for a live art demonstration at 4:30 pm followed by a wine reception for the opening of his exhibit, Stillness. The exhibit is available for viewing complimentary, with his pieces available for purchase in The Gift Shop. More details available here.

We’re going back downtown on March 18th and 19th for North Carolina Comicon at the Raleigh Convention Center. Whether you are going to meet the writers and animators or just to see the costumes, it is worth at least walking by. Special guests this year include not only the DeLorean from Back to the Future but Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters will also make a special visit. Unfortunately, where we are going we still need roads. Tickets and details available here.

On March 23rd you’ll find us enjoying a night at the museum for the N.C. Natural Sciences Museum Nocturnal Nights Series. They are throwing it back to the 90’s, where you can conduct experiments with “Bob Nye”, play retro arcade games, and explore other scientific discoveries of the 90’s. Beer, cocktails, and food will be available for purchase, more information available here.

We will be winding out the month with the North Carolina Art Museum’s annual “Art in Bloom” exhibit beginning on March 30th. A week long special exhibit filled with floral art, trunk shows, classes, lectures and tours, you will not want to “leaf”. After enjoying the flowers, be sure to pop into the Ansel Adams exhibit, available through May 7th. Details can be found here.

Speak with our concierge if you are looking for more details or other suggestions. Be sure to take advantage of the complimentary bike rentals and hiking maps through the nearby Umstead State Park. A perfect way to enjoy the spring.

Are there any locals you love or events you are excited about? Tag us in your tweet or instagram and be sure to mention #localswelove.

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photo by Laura and Tulle PhotographyWedding Wednesday: Where to Begin

Wedding season is about to begin, but engagement season has already started! Maybe you or your best friend, or sister got engaged on one of the most popular recent holidays. You’ve screamed, you’ve cried, you’ve gone out to celebrate, you’ve bought every bridal magazine and pinned your heart out, and now everyone has begun to ask questions other than “how did it happen?” giving you the question “where do I begin?” Here are a few helpful tips to start the wedding planning process:

Budget talks: The first thing you should sit down and do as it helps determine everything else in the planning process - from the date to the venue to the number of guests to the decor. It is also time to determine who is contributing financially, be that just yourselves or parents. Standard traditions need not apply in today's time, but it is good to have an idea of wants to help. Once an amount is settled, take advantage of wedding budget apps, books, and binders, there are plenty of useful resources to help figure out how much you should allocate to what area.

Expectations and Vision: another top priority is a talk with your partner about each other’s expectations for the wedding - a private conversation with no one else's opinions but your own. It's time to discuss how you envision your wedding. Do you want a large wedding or a more intimate setting? A destination wedding or outdoor location? Do you have your heart set on a designer dress or suit? One thing my husband was very particular about was having plenty of natural light, while I wanted to get married downtown. Knowing both helped us narrow down our venues and select the perfect location for us both. And since you have already discussed the budget, you can decide what you need to compromise on and where to place funds to have the wedding of both your dreams.

The Dress: definitely something to start thinking about at the beginning is your dress. While your pinterest board may be filled with gowns, go ahead and schedule a few appointments at local bridal shops to try on different styles. Speaking from experience, the dress you think you want is almost never the dress you walk down the aisle in. And your dress choice will help determine the overall decor and style of your wedding. A romantic gown may encourage an outdoor garden wedding, where as a boho dress may make you want to walk barefoot in the sand. And again, since you have decided on your budget you know what you can spend which will help determine the gown selection too. Remember, most dresses take 6-9 months to arrive and altered, so make sure that is priority. Gentlemen note- it is quicker to get a suit than a wedding dress, so we say count your blessings, but this isn't section isn't just for her, as your suit will also help determine your style. Do you want rolled up sleeves and vests for sleek reception, or seersucker suits on the harbor?

Pick your team: You may have started asking everyone the day your got engaged, but in case you didn't, it's time to start thinking about who you want by your side. This can be one person or twenty, male or female, but they should be people who have been supportive of you and your relationship, not someone you feel obligated to include such as a childhood friend, sibling, or cousin. It is also good to ask in advance, as it is time consuming to be part of the wedding party, and you don't want them to be planning a summer long euro-trip when you plan on getting married in June!

The Date: though you will be asked this question right off the bat, most couples do not pick a date until a little bit into the planning process, so no one is really expecting you to have it nailed down. If there is a date you have your heart set on, then you may have to sacrifice the time of day or be more lenient on venue if it isn't available. But start thinking about a time of year, and since you have decided on the budget, your vision, and the style of the wedding since you said yes to the dress, the time of year won't be that hard. And once you have a time frame, you can start looking into venue's that fit with all the above.

These are just some tips to get you thinking in the beginning and starting the process of planning. Remember to communicate with each other, as that is really the most important thing to do and will make the process that much easier.

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Ah, Valentine’s day, you either love it or you hate it. But if you hate it because you can’t think of the perfect gift, we might be able to help. Whether you are shopping for yourself, your friends, or the special person in your life, here are a few of our favorite things everyone can enjoy straight from our Gift Shop:

Chocolate: If you want to go the traditional chocolate route, kick it up a notch with the Francois Pralus chocolate bars. These pure origin bars are thick and full of decadence, from the almond to pistachio, we love them all. The price point is higher than your average Hershey, but once you taste it you’ll understand why.

How about the gift of a good night’s sleep? That may not sound romantic, but as I get older, I just want to sit back, breath deep, and relax. Slip into a Peruvian cotton bathrobe lined with plush terry or a pair of silken pajamas, and let your head sink into a luxurious king size feather pillow. Paired with our signature sheets, you can bring The Umstead home with you.

Wine or Champagne: a bottle of our custom blended Pinot Noir or Aubrey Champagne is a wonderful way to celebrate. You can extend the celebration with a Coravin and enjoy not only our bottles but any bottles by the glass without worrying about ruining it for later.

Custom gift basket: Let us help you create the perfect gift basket. Add a few house made bon bons, a botanical spa product, perhaps earrings from Alexis Bittar or candle from Dayna Decker. With a wide selection for you to choose from, we can arrange it all together beautifully for you.

Still at a loss? Grab a gift card and call it a day. Our gift cards come in any dollar amount you prefer, never expire, and can be used anywhere. Let them decide how to indulge.

For more options, visit our Gift Shop. This jewel box of delights is filled with clothing, accessories, artwork, and more. You won’t leave empty handed.

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