Adventure

Chimney Rock, NC

August 4, 2016

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One of the things I really like to do when traveling is to take side trips to great scenic venues.

Our most recent vacation to Asheville was a tough one for us. While I wanted to love it, we ended up feeling somehow misplaced in Asheville and so left a day early. Yep.

As we left, we took one of the scenic detours to Chimney Rock.

Chimney Rock is one of those cool attractions not too far from Asheville. It’s maybe an hour or so outside of Asheville. You drive through a lot of small towns to access the area and it’s just cool to see so many new places along the way.

Once at the Chimney Rock park entrance, we paid about thirty bucks for an entry fee. While this is kind of steep, the fee gives you access to different trails, a play area, and of course the giant Chimney Rock.

Typically, there is an elevator that takes you part of the way up the cliffside to the “Chimney” but unfortunately it was out. So we took every single stair. Let me tell you, my bum looked great that day!

Along the way, there are different stopping points. This allowed us to catch ur breath and to take in the views. It was very foggy but also just incredible.
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We continued to the top little by little.
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Once there we got a view of the entire county. It was so impressive and honestly the photos don’t do it justice.

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Can you imagine building and traversing such a high cliff sans stairs? Woof.

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All in, the hike up took us about 15 to twenty minutes with stops. It wasn’t too bad and was well worth the view  and the commemorative magnet I brought home from the adventure.

Facts to know about Chimney Rock:

  • Website and hours of operation here.
  • About 55 minutes to 1 hr and ten minutes from Asheville
  • Gift Shop and Visitors Shop at Trail base
  • Sky Lounge Deli halfway up the trail
  • Nature stops detailing birds and bats of the area
  • Camp grounds and small town shops nearby

If in the Asheville or Greenville area I would recommend a track to Chimney Rock. I can’t imagine how beautiful it would be in the fall.

Adventure

Blue Ridge Parkway

August 3, 2016

During our Asheville trip I informed the husband that he needed to pick an activity to do.

His pick: The Blue Ridge Parkway and an associated trail.

My pick: Getting Doughnuts prior to our journey.


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Prior to setting off on our daily adventure, we enjoyed our daily bread at Vortex Doughnuts.

Vortex has both yeast and cake doughnuts and the prettiest lattes.

I had read about Vortex on a trip forum and added it to our list.

I woke my husband up at 6:50am – on vacation – and we headed over to the shop. Located in a slightly industrial setting, the shop has an industrial feel with cool accents such as velociraptor and triceratops artwork. I cannot make this stuff up. The accents fit the vibe perfectly though.

We looked at the doughnuts for a couple of minutes and had the chocolate yeast and salted caramel cake doughnuts. They were so so good and I in my semi-gluten-free state was in a food coma.


Once full, we began our drive along the Blue Ridge Parkway. The parkway begins right outside of town and continues for miles and miles. We traveled about 13 miles of the parkway up to the Craggy Gardens trail. This trail begins right after the visitors center and is a short and easy hike. Again, we thought it would be strenuous and it was not too bad at all. On the guide it is an “easy” hike at 1.2 miles.

The drive up was lovely and the trail was a nice way to start our day.

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It’s like hiking in heaven.

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Again, how in the world do these tunnels and roads happen!?

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The Craggy Gardens lower view below.

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The view from the top.

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I’m a sucker for wildlife and flowers.

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Can you imagine this place in the fall? Unreal.

Adventure

Highlands NC and Dry Falls NC

August 1, 2016

IMG_20160624_1231147_rewind When we headed down to Greenville last month, I planned for a side journey to the Highlands, NC area. I had read and seen many beautiful wedding photos set in Highlands, specifically at Old Edwards Inn, and was dying to see the small town in person.


Let me start first with the journey to Highlands. We came from Greenville thru the mountains and wound up and down steep mountainsides to visit. How does one describe being in absolute awe but being terrified at the same time? Heights y’all. The drive, while slightly terrifying, was so beautiful. Everywhere you turned was just encased in pretty.

Before going to Highlands, we traveled a bit past to Dry Falls, NC. Dry Falls is a waterfall located in the state park system. You can look at these beautiful falls from afar, or hike (as in stroll) to the falls and stand under them. My sister had gone here last summer while expecting a baby and I figured if she could do it then we certainly could.

When we arrived, we “hiked” down to the falls… I looked so silly in my Kavu backpack. I full on thought it would be a trek. Anyway…

The falls were beautiful.

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Just really doable and really pretty. We putzed around the area for about 20 minutes and then headed toward Highlands.

Upon arriving in Highlands, I could easily see why anyone would want to get married there – it’s charming and beautiful. While I really don’t have any photos from in town (or they are all awkward turtle cellphone shots), I do have recommendations of cool shops to look at.

My favorite – Bardo 

Everything in the shop was gorgeous and tasteful.

Additionally, Dutchman’s Designs was another great home store.

A couple things about Highlands, it is fairly touristy and there are a lot of shops that cater to that. The nice thing about the tourist thing – the salespeople are fairly friendly. Highlands also has the cutest and coolest churches around. There was one with a Joanna Gaines vibe and I was so tried to take photos.

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While Highlands was certainly a cute town, we did not stay the night and instead headed on toward Asheville, NC.

Stay tuned for an Asheville area recap!

Adventure

Greenville Travel Guide

July 29, 2016

You all. I may have found one of the sweetest, barely scratched-surface, cities around – Greenville, SC.

About a month ago, we traveled to Greenville as part of our yearly vacation. I had wanted to go since realizing two of my favorite bloggers are based out of Greenville. Check out their sweet blogs The White Buffalo Styling Co. and For All Things Lovely . Not only are these two amazing bloggers, but they just seem so warm and personable in their writing and sharing.

Okay, back from my tangent.

For those unfamiliar with Greenville, it is a smaller city located not far from the Blue Ridge Mountains. It is in upstate South Carolina and is less of a that typically thought of South Carolinian coastal feel. We traveled to South Carolina’s coast last year (Charleston and Hilton Head) and while I loved that experience, I almost felt more at ease in Greenville.

We started our trip with a stay at the downtown Courtyard Marriot.You all, the staff was so kind here. I know hotel staff is supposed to be hospitable, but we all know that isn’t always the case. This staff was accommodating, gave great recommendations, and were just so helpful in general. The location was also great as downtown Greenville is pretty active.

Following our arrival, we ate lunch at Grill Marks. The restaurant specializes in burgers and milkshakes. While we didn’t go the milkshake route, the burgers were very good and had special branded grill marks on them. It took me halfway through the meal to figure that out. Shake my head.

We then decided to do some adventuring by heading to the local Mast General Store. Mast has locations all around the Carolina’s and I believe one in Tennessee. The premise is that you can buy outdoor gear, kids stuff, clothing, etc. at their stores. You can also buy my favorite mug ever.

Downtown Greenville has a lot of cute shops and restaurants. The week we were there, a soccer tournament was happening and that added even more energy with all the teens and families.

Along the edge of downtown Greenville is one of the prettiest parks, It’s called Falls Park by the Reedy and well…I will let the photos do the talking.

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There’s a suspension walking bridge across the falls that offers pretty views. We went back at dusk and it was just perfect. Alongside the park, there are a couple of restaurants that overlook the area. Additionally, there is a portion of the park with an outdoor theater stage. We saw college-aged kids practicing for a performance and it looks like something fun for the community.

After walking around for a little bit we were beat. We went to wash up and rest before heading out to dinner.

For dinner we went to Smoke on the Water. I’d describe this as a classier barbecue joint. The menu included pulled pork and chicken, ribs, and brisket. The food was very good, but what set the restaurant apart was really the service. Our waitress was so professional and nice. I was so impressed by this because we often go to restaurants around our own town and the wait staff acts like we are a burden. I hate that feeling and thus naturally really appreciated the kindness. In addition to the kindness, the restaurant had great dessert and appetizers – loaded potatoes with barbecue anyone?

We finished the night with another walk along the Falls and through downtown. It had a nice energy but was also very peaceful. Hands down enjoyed Greenville.

26 x 26 Recently Read

Recently Read: Room

July 28, 2016

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Reviews Here

I haven’t mentioned this yet, but one of my overarching goals this year is to complete a 26 x 26 list. This list is compiled of 26 things I would like to achieve prior to turning 26.

One of the items is to read 26 non-school books. Easy enough right? Ehhhh….harder when in school and in a world filled with Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime.

Currently I am at 16 books. Not too shabby considering some of these books are monsters.

One of the 16 books I have read is Room by Emma Donoghue.

I could hardly put this book down.

It was just so interesting and was told from such an interesting perspective.

The story is about a mom and son duo, Ma and Jack, who live in “Room”. Room is a small space where Jack learns things from a handful of books, a TV, and Ma. However, Jack has never experienced the world. Ma and Jack’s experience in Room and after are not only profoundly interesting but heartwarming as well.

I would highly recommend this book.

What books have you read recently that you’d recommend to a friend?

DIY

Add a Little

July 27, 2016

One of my favorite things to do is to add simple updates to already cute pieces. Sometimes there are ways that you can just add a little pizazz or extra oomph to something that make an item even better.

This was the case for a little baby blanket that I updated for a family member.

Often you can buy swaddling blankets like the one below on sale at Kohls, Marshalls, or even Target. I purchased this one as a set at Kohls for $5 for the set.

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While the blanket was cute, I wanted to add a little more to it. Luckily I had some navy blue poms on hand that matched the blanket perfectly. As you can see above I laid the poms on the blanket to get an idea for look prior to pinning and sewing.

Once I found a design I liked, I pinned the poms and used my sewing machine to quickly add them on.

Here is the finished product:

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Once finished, I folded this cutie up and sent it to a family member who just had her first little girl! It was a simple way to say “thinking about you” and a simple and easy update project.

I will caution, with any product and kids, use discretion and safety. While the poms are anchored on, you should always watch a child near small objects. Safety first you know.

What kind of items do you like to update or put your own spin on?

 

Smart Buys

Recent Purchases from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale

July 26, 2016

I’m a bit late to the game to post about this – and understandably as I am not a fashion blogger – but I wanted to offer some reviews on my most recent purchases from the Nordstrom Anniversary Sale.

This year I went ahead and signed up for the Nordstrom debit card. This allowed me early access to the sale both in store and online. I SO appreciated this because things do tend to sell out. In fact, some of my purchases no longer exist on the website and so I am giving you a loose version of purchases.

So here we go:

Nixon Watch

Nixon ‘Ragnar’ Watch

Favorite purchase. Hands down. This watch is that perfect blend of classic, unisex, and just awesome. I am not a watch person but was willing to give it a go for this beaut. I have no regrets about this purchase and at it’s current price point it is a really good buy.

BP top

BP. Stripe Top

I actually purchased a short sleeve version of this striped top but it is no longer available. This longer sleeved version is a great alternative though. I love this top as it is so so soft and a little longer in the back. If you can find it in stores, I would recommend long or short sleeve versions. It also comes in a variety of colors.

Sole Soc

Sole Society ‘Thalia’ Crossbody

Again, the actual color I purchased is out of stock, but this is the same bag in grey. I purchased the plum version and just love the color. The inside also has a lovely dalmatian print. It reminds me of those Chloë bags that are so expensive but at a fraction of the price.

While I like this purchase, I’m not sure if it will stay or go back. I’m fairly short and the bag is a big saddle bag that hits awkwardly at the top of my thigh. We shall see.

In addition to the above, I also picked up a Halogen cardigan (no longer available), a Panacea necklace (no longer available but I’m taking mine back – it just isn’t me- and the cutest free people sweater. The Free People sweater is still available here but the photo won’t link :/

The last add on purchase I made was these wonderful Voluspa Candles. They are at a great price and smell SO good. I typically buy a large Voluspa candle at some point during the year but they are so pricey. For this price point I can enjoy them a little bit more.

So there you have it. Any Nordstrom picks that you’d recommend?

Recently Read

Recently Read: The Royal We

June 14, 2016

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Alright. So I have a big fat confession to make. I could not stop thinking about this book.

I even shushed my husband during it like it was a television show or something.

No shame.

This book was thoroughly enjoyable. While there were some plot holes and a couple of moments where it was like “Where the hell is the other main character?????” it kept you reading.

A brief description of this book:

Bet Porter is an American exchange student at Oxford. She happens to get placed in the same small dorm as His Royal Highness, Prince Nicholas of Wales. The two hit it off and a budding romance emerges. Along with the ins-and-outs of their relationship are the trials they face maintaining privacy and learning how to  progress the relationship.

Along with the actual romance, there is a cast of supporting characters such as Bex’s twin sister, Lacey, a more attention seeking individual. There is also Prince Freddie, a Prince Harry type, who enjoys a good time and pretty girls. While these two help make up a lot of the story, they are not alone. The friend group that Bex and Nick have from Oxford also play a key role in their relationship. A bunch of lovable and human characters in this group.

While I personally really really enjoyed this book, I will warn you that if you are a stickler for accuracy in royal details or whatever that this may not be for you. Additionally, it has to be read without a Kate and Will thing in mind because while similar it isn’t their story you know?

But overall, I would Highly recommend this book.

Oh and PS – Lauren Graham (that’s right Lorelei or Sarah Braverman) and Mae Whitman are turning this bad boy into a movie. Winner winner chicken dinner.

Recipes

Gluten Free Snickerdoodles

June 13, 2016

Before I get into why I take poorly lit photos at night, I’d like to share the night time recipe that led to these photos.

Back in high school, before everyone had a food allergy or aversion to certain products (myself included), I would help make baked goods for homeroom birthdays.

*You know you went to an all girl’s school when…*

To be fair, I probably butchered half of my attempted baking treats. I tried, but I usually got distracted with homework and left things in the oven too long. I digress.

When I did succeed at baking, my success was usually snickerdoodle related. While I still love snickerdoodles, regular flour sometimes makes my stomach knot up. Thus, I went hunting for a gluten free snickerdoodle recipe and went even further to abridge it with coconut sugar.

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Here is what you need:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 & 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup butter softened
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 2 cups GF all purpose flour (I used Krusteaz)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In large bowl, combine and mix 1 cup sugar, the butter, the shortening, and eggs. Add the Krusteaz flour and mix.
  3. In a separate bowl (small) combine the remaining sugar with the cinnamon.
  4. Form the dough into 1/4 inch balls and roll each ball into the sugar/cinnamon mixture.
  5. Place the balls onto cookie sheet (uncreased) 2 ” apart.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on racks.

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This recipe was adapted from the Betty Crocker website. See here.

My recipe is essentially the same but uses coconut sugar in lei of regular sugar. If you want them to test fairly normal I’d recommend using the Betty Crocker recipe with regular sugar, however if you are going for a health-conscious approach (I wish I could claim that’s what I was doing ….I was out of sugar lol) then the coconut sugar route is a great substitute.

Here is what I have found eating the coconut sugar version.

  • They are great frozen.
  • I tend to eat less because they are just sweet enough but not addicting.
  • The dough does not spread out like typical snickerdoodles may do. In other words it stays pretty much as formed.

There you have it! An accidental but pretty fortunate ingredient swap to make a summer snickerdoodle just a little bit healthier. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Recently Read

Recently Read: Karen White

June 12, 2016

I recently mentioned tearing through the “Tradd Street Series” written by Karen White. As much as I loved those books, I am also loving the rest of her fiction.

The lovely thing about the Karen White books I’ve read so far is that they are all set in the south. I know this may seem somehow limiting, but I love the charm and the hospitality that the characters have. I think a lot of this charm comes with the quintessential southern hospitality  – and  the sense of community and looking out for others.

The most recent reads are The Color of Light After the Rain.

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This book was great. It was a mystery but also a romance. The main character is a  young woman named Jillian. Following a divorce, Jillian moves back to her childhood vacation spot with her young daughter, Grace, and another child on the way. She arrives to find an old friend there, who in the past was accused of her best friend’s disappearance. Working together, Jillian, Linc (the friend), and her daughter Grace figure out after all these years what really happened to her best friend years ago.

Spoiler alert: toward the end you can kind of put things together, but the story is good and the characters are very likable.

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This too was a great story. It started out a bit slow and the mystery element of it was left a little wanting, but the characters were very likable and the story was satisfying. I think that’s what I like most about White’s books – that you always feel like you got a fair ending and a good journey.

This story was about Suzanne. Suzanne stumbles upon the town of Walton, GA looking for answers. She is trying to find out more information about where her mother received a locket years and years ago. The journey leads her to meeting a widower, Joe, and his six kids. As her relationship with Joe and the townspeople develops, she ultimately must release some of her secrets.

So there you have it! My most recent Karen White reads.

What is on your list this year?