Wednesday, October 15, 2014

San Fran Plan

In 3 days, I'll be hoping on the longest plane ride of my life and heading to The Golden State. 

If you've ever been there, please please please send your recommendations because we're flying blind with only what we can find courtesy of Mr. Google. We're spending a couple days in San Francisco and a couple in Napa Valley. I don't think I would make this long of a plane ride without the promise of lots of wine. So far, I think we came up with a pretty good itinerary for the 5 days we're there but please send anything you know our way!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Choose to chance the rapids; dare to dance the tide.

After going out for sushi and "one" drink Friday night, I was left with an awful hangover Saturday. 
Thanks to some TLC in the form of water, Advil and Chick fila from the boyfriend, I was at least able to make it to the car for the ride to Jacksonville for the Garth Brooks concert. I definitely wasn't the most presentable person in the world, but we made it in time to enjoy some tailgating and BBQ before heading off to the show!
Garth Brooks played throughout my childhood and his songs bring back many memories for most people, myself included. When the option came to see him in concert, I was elated and knew it was a must see. I shouldn't be allowed to post photos because I my grainy phone photos do not do the show justice but they will definitely help me remember the fun that was had. Simpy put, he was the most energetic, humble and talented performer. 

He even joked that he listens to new songs from his favorite performers but when we goes to see them in concert, he is there for the old songs. And with that, he played every song that I remember hearing over the years and seemed genuinely shocked that people still knew all of the words to his songs. Dancing to "Friends in Low Places" at his concert was a blast but hearing "The Dance" and "Unanswered Prayers" live is something that is indescribable. Too perfect.

When Trisha Yearwood was singing, Garth found a little girl that knew all of her songs and they called her up there and signed his guitar for her. Whether or not they do that in every show, I don't know but I lost it. He genuinely seems like the greatest guy and the fact that his band members have been with him for 20+ years speaks volumes to me. 
After the concert we went to the closest bar called "City Hall" and decided to create our own dance party. By the end of the night, I was e.x.h.a.u.s.t.e.d and think I was sleeping before even hitting the bed, but I was certainly smiling.
There was no time to waste the next morning because we had to make it to Daytona Beach for the Wings and Waves air show that I excited to take my nephew too. The combination of planes and the beach (in October nonetheless) were a perfect mix for my favorite 4-year old. He loved playing in the water and watching the "super fast" planes. Love that sweet sweet kid. Ryan and I were equally surprised with how neat the air show was and I may have freaked a few times when I thought that they were crashing. There was definitely some talented pilots out there. 
When we got back home, we went to Outback for dinner and I tried the new Parmesan-Herb Crusted Chicken. I obviously subbed the broccoli for a loaded baked potato but I give the new menu item two thumbs up! 
We tried to see Gone Girl after dinner but found that it was unfortunately sold out by the time we got there. Instead, Ryan had the genius idea to get milkshakes at Shake Shack and watch the sunset. I'll never tire of a beautiful lake sunset. 
We ended the night on our big comfy couch watching the best onscreen combo in Blended. Perfect ending to a wonderful weekend with the best guy. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Asheville

Everyone has a place where they are are a happier person when they are there, Asheville is one of those places for me.

Everyone has spots that make them happier just being there. For me, Asheville is one of those places, along with St. Augustine and my beloved Downtown Orlando, but this post is all about the peacefulness that is Asheville, North Carolina. 
 I can't fully explain why but I think it stems from my many visits there as a child.  We always took a family vacation every Christmas and would sometimes head up there during the summer months too. Our Asheville trips hold some of my favorite childhood memories but also allowed me to forget about the outside world. Maybe visiting places where you have fond memories is good for the soul or maybe because it's neat to see a place in a different light. Kinda like a movie that you watched countless times as a child but only get the jokes when you watch it back as an adult. Ummm, Clueless anyone? Or maybe there is no real reason at all and some places just provide an unexplained sense of peace to certain visitors. And that's what Asheville does to me. It makes my heart happy for some reason that I can't yet explain.

Asheville is not only known for the stunning scenery and famous attraction, it also has become the craft-brewing center of the Southeast, which made Ryan giddy like a schoolboy.

We didn't even check in our hotel before going directly to Highland Brewery Company, a reco we were given by every person who knew we were visiting Asheville. 
While we waited for the tour to start, we sipped on their famous Gaelic Ale and enjoyed the adorable setup. 
Protective goggles on and ready to go! Cheers to my first brewery tour! :)
We had the best tour guide. He had us laughing the entire time with his dry and sarcastic humor. We also learned a lot about the process of making beer. 
Beer flights after the tour!
Without fail, every Christmas my parents took us to The Grove Park Inn and to this day, it's the most grand hotel I've ever been to. The history behind the place and the Christmas decorations during the winter make it a must see for anyone that visits Asheville.  When we decided that Asheville was going to be a stop on our 7 day road trip, my first thought was that The Grove Park Inn had to be on the agenda. My sweet boyfriend happily obliged and seemed genuinely excited to see this place I talked so highly about. 
When we first arrived, we grabbed drinks and sat outside by the fire to enjoy the cool crisp air and the beautiful decor. I obviously opted for the souvenir glass that was never offered to me as a child.
The holiday decor at this place is unlike anything I've ever seen. They have over 100 differently themed Christmas trees decorated and spread throughout the estate. Talk about a beautiful sight. 
They also host an annual Gingerbread contest and walking around to look at the different talent from all ages is something I always looked forward to. Yes, every piece of these are edible. So amazing!
You can always tell when someone has fun and wasn't just doing it to make you happy when they bring it up to their friends on their own. That was the perfect satisfaction to me :)
Later that night we met up with some of Ryan's friends at a place called Bens Tune Up. We ordered the pupu platter, which is an imperial platter of Tune-Up ribs, chicken wings, shrimp skewers, Bad Buddha pork dumplings, shrunken egg rolls, house pickled veggies, tofu skewers and seasonal salad.
It had been a very long day but we didn't want to leave until we explored some nightlife. We wondered into Scully's for some drinks and dancing then hit LAB before calling it a night. I will say that I wish we spent more time in LAB because it had a really great vibe. 
The next day we got up bright and early to walk around downtown in the perfect weather. Sure it was a tad chilly but nothing beats the mountain views while stopping in the cute little downtown shops. We also spent a good 45 minutes walking around looking for this arcade we saw signs for, who doesn't love a little friendly competition? Come to find out, while we were searching for a place that houses games, we were in the arcade/mall/gallery the entire time. 
We did find another brewery during our hunt the arcade and decide to drown our sorrows in a few brews after our unsuccessful search. The Thirsty Monk is a world famous pub & brewery that was voted the #2 American Beer Bar in the South. If we hadn't already grabbed salads, I would have indulged in some of their delicious looking food.

Unlike the pretentious bartenders you find in craft beer bars and speakeasies in Orlando, we experienced amazing and quality interactions with all of our servers and bartenders in Asheville. I don't know what it is about these historical cities but everyone seems to genuinely enjoy sharing their knowledge about their offerings and the city itself.
After our downtown experience, we took a ride up the Blue Ridge Parkway. I may or may not have had a meltdown the entire way up but boy was the view worth it in the end. We went on my first hiking adventure and I was just in awe of the scenery. 
Later that night, we went night skiing - definitely a bucket list item! I knew I found the best travel buddy ever when he suggested we go skiing in the same location I went as a child, Cataloochee in Maggie Valley. My happy place is the bunny slope, but I did get adventurous at Ryan's request. Sure we aren't skiing down Mount Everest type trails but their Blue Diamond still gives me quite a scare.
Our Asheville time had come to an end because we were heading to Nashville the next morning to celebrate New Years Eve.

Little did we know, it would only be a few more weeks until we took a spontaneous trip to Asheville for the long weekend. Stay tuned for scenes from both of those trips :)


Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Great Escape!

Random happenings as I wait for the weekend to come :)

We went to Bonefish last night because we were both craving Bang Bang Shrimp and it was Bang Wednesday, kinda like Christmas for your mouth. 
Bonefish has always been my restaurant of choice but I haven't always been a fan of the lackluster main course options, but the Potatoes au Gratin are out of this world so I stayed mum. Right when we sat down I noticed a new menu with TONS of new dinner options and almost squealed when I saw Shrimp Pad Thai. My favorite food at my favorite restaurant - what could be more magically than that?
Ryan wasn't thrilled with the taste but I thought it was good. It's definitely a more Americanized version of Pad Thai but that's what I would expect from a restaurant like Bonefish. It was definitely a nice break from my normal pasta and breadsticks meals as of late.

We're leaving work early today for a team building event. Remind me again how I get so lucky to have worked for two awesome companies that know the importance of team building.

I got to plan the event for my team and was thrilled when others agreed to The Great Escape Room. A real-life escape game where we're locked in a room with no way out and we must search for hidden compartments, secret passageways, and clues to plot our Great Escape. It is a hybrid of a scavenger hunt and a puzzle game. The trial is timed and teamwork is essential.
The room looks harmless enough yet only 23% of people successfully make the great escape! How embarrassing it would be to be apart of the 77% that do not get out. There are 20 of us split into 2 teams and we'll be facing off to see which team is wiser. Really hoping I'm part of the winning team!

Over and out.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My 7 Week "Diet"


I'm one of weirdos who waited ever so patiently online to be one of 1,000 people who got the #PastaPass from Olive Garden. I'm now a self-proclaimed OG VIP.
I was thrilled to live off of pasta, soup, salad and breadsticks for 7 straight weeks. The ladies that take to-go orders have come to know me in the last few weeks and I've yet to go in the for an actual sit down meal, but free lunch every day it right up my alley. The days of making sure I have leftovers after dinner are gone, at least for another 5 weeks and I'm pretty happy about that. 

My lunch lately has been the most amazing Pasta Fagioli to ever be made. Yes, Olive Garden's is the only kind I've ever tried, but if it ain't broke don't fix it!
And my go to meal has been Chicken Fritta with Alfredo
That's basically been my lunch every single day for the past 2 weeks. I'm definitely nearing the end of my pasta lunch streak. I'm not a huge fan of the other sauces or toppings but I have tried Spaghetti & Meatballs, Shrimp Fritta & Alfredo, Alfredo & Meatballs and I've even gotten adventurous with Italian Sausage Alfredo. 

Am I the only person you know who bought into this craze?  I will say that not stressing about leftovers allows me to make some of my favorite recipes, like Chicken Pot Pie, which is on the menu tonight :)


Monday, October 6, 2014

Bleed Garnet and Have a Heart of Gold

The weather this weekend was my kind of perfect, along with the company and an FSU win!

We started tailgating around 11:00 and we're able to hit two tailgates before the game!
My sweet preggo soulmate. Love when I get the chance to hang out with her :)
Ryan's first time at Doak!
After the game, we stopped by the Palace (a bar near the stadium) then headed back to my families RV for a celebratory bonfire. 
We decided it was too beautiful to stay inside yesterday and decided we were going to spend our entire day outside. The second we hit the driveway, we grabbed our bikes and rode to the downtown farmers market to meet my mom, nephew, sister and some of her friends to walk around the lake, listen to live music and check out local vendors. Ryan always gets a fresh coconut and Landyn thinks it's the coolest thing ever, bonus points because it's healthy too!
After the kids went home, we met up with one of my best friends who decided to show her Mom what Sunday Funday was all about. 
Ryan took the top down from the Jeep and we took a ride to Gnarly Barley to watch the game outside. Jackson thinks this is totally normal.
Tonight I'm making Chicken & Dumplings and we're going to eat dinner on the patio to enjoy the cooler weather while it lasts.