Friday, July 18, 2014

Food and Wine Conference, Orlando!

Now that's... Spudtacular!
Don't you think?
I'm here in Orlando at the Food and Wine Conference!
I arrived a day early yesterday to meet my brother for a little fun!
We started at Universal Studios and...
Played like we were kids again... And, ran our feet off!
We rode the rides in Potter-land... Twice!
After a few hours of sleep, we hit Disney World this morning!
It was a spectacular day!
Someone even wanted us to know that Jesus Loves Us over the castle!
I love Cinderella's Castle, don't you?
In fact...
I stopped for a brief chat with my Fairy Godmother...
Mostly, I just encouraged her to keep up the good work!
On our way back to the resort before I had to check
in for the conference, we stopped at Basin White...
To stock up on all my favorites!
These especially!
Fortunately, they had plenty!
Which, like seeing my brother...
Made me extraordinarily happy!

More to come... Stay Tuned!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Grandfather Mountain, Mt. Mitchell and Chimney Rock, North Carolina... A one-day Mountain Crawl!

After learning that a trip to the coast for the Fourth of July weekend
might result in meeting the season's first hurricane, we decided to go in
the opposite direction and crawl around the mountains of North Carolina!
Of course, we wanted both our mountain crawl adventure and the full
holiday weekend at home to enjoy our pool and the amazing weather
forecasted for our area! Therefore, we decided to cram all three mountains...
Into one day!
Since our first stop, Grandfather Mountain is two'ish hours
from home, we were up and on the road by six o'clock... AM!
And, there was a very good reason too...
Not only were we on a mission to visit all three mountains in one day...
But after seeing photos of the mile-high swinging bridge in a brochure...
I knew the only way I would have the nerve to cross it was alone... Without the
help of a bunch of bouncy kids! And, as you can see from this shot of the parking
lot... Our plan to arrive first and to have the bridge to ourselves really worked!
As if on cue, the clouds parted just as we climbed the steps to the bridge!
It was a spectacular day to brave the mile-high swinging bridge!
By the way, this bridge is also known as the singing bridge!
Seriously! As the wind hits it, this bridge really does sing!
It's a lovely sound that accompanies a lovely view!
Here I am venturing out across the bridge!
I never looked down and I moved rather quickly!
This was about as far as I was going to venture...
Because I'm not as brave as my dear husband over there!
I had no plans of joining him on that rock... Until he mentioned
that I'd have to... If I wanted to see Grandfather Mountain! So I
inched a little closer until I could see the old Grandfather...
See him reclined over there on the side of the mountain?
Hey... Wait for me!
We heard a car door slam and worse... We heard children approaching!
On the way back, I looked down!
Fortunately, I made it back over the
bridge before the bouncy kids could reach it!
Grandfather Mountain is a must-see!
After a quick stop at the gift shop for post cards...
And a quick look at Forrest Gump Curve...
We made our way back down the mountain!
And over to the museum...
And then out to the habitat exhibits!
Although there is plenty here at Grandfather Mountain park to
hold your attention all day, we still had two mountains to explore...
So we took a quick peek at the teddy bears...
And a spent a few minutes looking at the bald eagles and river otters...
Mailed my post cards and hit the road!
Off to Mount Mitchell via the Blue Ridge Parkway!
Like the famous Route 66, the Blue Ridge Parkway is
something you have to experience at least once in your life!
Especially in the Spring and in the Fall!
A stop in Little Switzerland for lunch was also a must!
What it lacks in population, it more than makes up for in views!
And, food!
The shopping at Books and Beans wasn't bad either!
Books and Beans is a three-story shop full of books,
and it literally hangs off the side of the mountain!
Incredible!
Back on the Parkway we stopped at several of the overlooks...
To take in the scenery and inhale deeply!
Soon we reached destination number two... Mount Mitchell!
Mount Mitchell summit lies at the crest of the Black
Mountains and is the highest point east of the Mississippi!
Another spectacular view... Courtesy of very
cooperative cloud-cover, which followed us all day!
Many say the best way to experience the Parkway is by motorcycle...
I'll take their word for it!
It was still early when my FitBit let me know that I had
reached my daily 10,000 step goal on the trail at Mt. Mitchell!
I love the coast but I love the mountains just a little bit more!
Here we are!
Just a little ways from home!
Love it!
Nothing like cool morning mountain air!
Now you know why it's called Mt. Mitchell!
Natural nature...
Isn't it cool?!
If you've never crawled around this mountain, you should!
Just be careful and lean into it!
This is the stop I'd been waiting for all day!
Chimney Rock State Park, just outside of Asheville, North Carolina!
There is a very specific reason I've always wanted to
visit Chimney Rock Park... But more on that in a moment!
By the way, speaking of Asheville, I am so excited about attending next
month's Food Blog Forum at my Biltmore, I can barely stand it!
Once again, the clouds parted just for us!
Did you know that 17 minutes of the film The Last
of the Mohicans was filmed here at the park?
It's true! Also, that beautiful brick bridge scene was filmed at Biltmore!
They say Kansas is the last of Oz but I think North Carolina is the land of...
Ahhhhhh's!
Another marker to check off our list!
We could have stayed in this spot staring at heaven all day!
But there was a few more spots I wanted to explore...
One that is very personal to me!
You see up these steps is what they
call the Opera Box at Chimney Rock...
Here it is! But I am not the first person in my family to stand here...
Nope!
Long before I came along...
Someone else I know stood in this spot...
My mom!
And, my dad too, of course!
Yes! In September 1964, fifty years ago this year, my parents traveled
from Ft. Riley, Kansas were my dad was stationed in the Army,
to Ft. Bragg in North Carolina where my mom's older sister's husband's
was stationed. And, along the way they stopped at Chimney Rock! My sweet
parents were YOLO'ing it long before YOLO'ing was cool! How cool is that?!
After sitting in the Opera Box for a while, wishing with all my heart
that my parents were here with us, we set out to find the Falls!
By this time in our day it was approaching ninety degrees!
The hike is about 3/4 of a mile each way...
But so worth the effort!
Because as soon as you reach this area...
Nature's air conditioning kicks in
and you forget all about the hot trail!
But don't stop here...
Take the steps just a little further...
For the real blast of refreshing air at the base of the falls!
Wet and Wild theme parks have nothing on Mother Nature!
Stunning!
From both directions!
We've already decided to come back this Fall!
I so wish we'll be able to make this trip with my parents one day soon too!
My sweet Jeep was a sight for sore eyes!
And, so was this!
A quick stop at the post office to mail more post cards...
And a final peek at Lake Lure...
And it was off to South Carolina!
More specifically, to the Pottery Barn Outlet in Gaffney!
I was surprised to learn that it was less
than a thirty minute ride from Chimney Rock!
The 4th of July sale rocked too... Exactly what a girl
who just crawled three mountains in one day deserved!
I also deserved this deal on flatware!
I picked up a service for eight for less
than the price of three place settings!
After the Pottery Barn Outlet there was
only one last stop separating us from home!
After all, a few illegal fireworks were a necessity!
Have you ever seen more fireworks?
Kinda made me wish I had an invitation to that party!
We didn't get home until midnight, but we accomplished our
goal of crawling three North Carolina mountains in one day!
Which is why I spent the following day like this!