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Painting at OriJENals

This weekend my friend Allyson and I finally tried out a canvas painting class at OriJENals in Nashville. I was a little worried about keeping up with the instructor, but it was actually a very relaxing evening of painting.

For $30 (or $15 if you have a Groupon), you get a 2-hour lesson with step-by-step instructions on how to paint a particular piece of art with all supplies included. It may look hard, but anyone can do it. By the end, I felt like a real artist…

And now for the finished product. Not bad huh?

Thanks to this fun night out with Allyson, I am officially halfway through my 101 List (just finished #53 - paint a large canvass). 584 days to go, and still ahead of schedule!

Til next time,

Lu

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Illinois, apples and ice cream

This weekend I decided to drive up to Illinois to see the family. My little cousin was having his birthday party on Saturday night, and everyone always gets together to celebrate. We spent the night eating hotdogs, taking hayrides through the farm and hanging out around the bonfire. It was perfect.

The next morning I woke up to the smell of my mom’s home cooking. She knows I love her french toast, so she whipped me up a batch for breakfast. The trick to her french toast is the bread. She buys it homemade from the local Mennonite store where they make the world’s most amazing bread. This way the slices are extra thick and chewy…

Doesn’t it look delicious?

After breakfast we packed up and headed to Flamm Orchards, the apple orchard in town. Nothing like getting apples straight from the tree!

I definitely had my eye on the caramel apples there. I’ve never seen them dipped in chocolate before. Now why didn’t I think of that?

Mom ended up getting a bag of each color and let me steal a few to take back to Nashville. I can’t wait to eat them.

After stocking up on fruit, the parents and I settled down at the orchard’s patio and got ourselves some ice cream. I had the most amazing ice cream sandwich, mom had an ice cream cone and dad had some homemade apple pie. Mmm…

What a perfect way to start the fall season. Can’t wait to see what else it has in store.

Happy fall!

- Lu

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A day in the Bay

I recently took a trip to San Francisco to celebrate my best friend’s wedding. After spending days in the kitchen making her wedding cake (pictures and blog here) and fulfilling my duties as a bridesmaid, I had one full day to enjoy the city before heading home. My friend was nice enough to loan me her car, so I set out on my own to explore.

First stop on my list - Sausalito. I’d been here before on past visits, but it’s just too pretty not to see again.

The center of Sausalito is at the bottom of a very steep incline, making for a spectacular view as you head into town…

The downtown area itself is so adorable. I spent half the day here walking around, taking pictures and reading. It was so peaceful.

I even caught a farmers’ market in the park while I was there!

For lunch, I stopped at one of the cute little sidewalk cafes and had myself a grilled cheese sandwich and the most amazing peanut butter chocolate ice cream. Mmmm….

After lunch, I headed over to the Golden Gate Bridge, where I spent the next 4 1/2 hours walking all the way across the bridge and back (click here for blog and pictures). It was such a pretty walk!

Then I headed up into the Marin Headlands to do some more exploring. I came across a short trail that led to this amazing rock out in the bay, so I set out on a hike!

The view along the way was pretty spectacular too…

After the hike, I drove a bit further and found a beach - Rodeo Beach. Here I spent the last part of my day reading and watching the sunset.

All in all, it was the perfect last day in the city, and I definitely made the most of my one day of site-seeing. Now I can’t wait to go back and do some more exploring!

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Walking the Golden Gate Bridge

After my friend’s wedding in San Francisco this weekend, I had a day to go site seeing before heading home. First item on my agenda: walking across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Looking back, it was quite an undertaking for a pansie such as myself. I’m not much for physical activity - although I did just join a gym, which even shocked my own mother - but for some reason I thought it would be cool to say I walked across the whole thing.

So Sunday afternoon I set out by myself, snapping pictures along the way.

They definitely weren’t lying when they said it was crowded. There were people everywhere! I thought for sure I’d get run over by a biker or two. And just a word of warning - be sure and stay on the “walking” side of the sidewalk. Some bikers scream at you if you stray over to their side (which I learned from experience).

One of my favorite things about walking the bridge was getting to see all the details you miss when you’re driving. Plus you can stop and watch dolphins, seals and people out wind surfing below. It was quite an entertaining walk.

(Bikers watching dolphins below…)

At the halfway mark, I debated turning around. Not only was it still quite a ways to the other side, but once I got there I knew I’d have to walk all the way back. (Picture at halfway mark.)

Fortunately I decided not to give up, and I’m so glad I didn’t because the view from the other side was amazing!

So now I can say I’ve walked across the Golden Gate Bridge and back. Even though it took me four hours to do it (probably because I stopped to take so many pictures), and I ended up with blisters on my feet and really awkward half-arm sunburns, I loved the whole experience.

If you’re ever in San Francisco, make sure you take the time to walk the bridge too. You won’t be sorry!

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Cake, cake and more cake

The past week has been quite an adventure, to say the least. Last Tuesday I flew out to San Francisco for my best friend Nang’s wedding. In addition to fulfilling my bridesmaid duties, I was also in charge of making the cake.

I’ve never done a cake for a wedding before, so I had no idea what I was getting myself into. All she wanted though was 150 iced cupcakes and a small 6 inch fondant-covered cake for the top. Simple enough, right?

Just to be safe, I started baking as soon as I got to town on Tuesday. The wedding was on Friday but we had a whole day of bridesmaid stuff scheduled for Thursday, so that gave me two days beforehand to worry about cake.

By Tuesday evening, I was completely finished baking. It went by a lot faster than I had thought, making me very optimistic about the whole undertaking.

The next morning I got an early start on making my buttercream icing, assuming it would be another fast job. Boy was I wrong. It took me 6 hours to make 22 batches of icing - enough to fill an entire pot - and an extra hour to color it blue. By the end, my feet ached, my arms were killing me, and I was completely covered in powdered sugar.

Once the icing was made, I had to ice all the cupcakes. Another hour spent…

Then I added tiny little paper butterflies to each cupcake that Nang had made beforehand. She used a butterfly cutout, scrapbook paper and glued them to the tips of toothpicks. They looked awesome.

I finally finished the cupcakes around 7pm, and at this point all I had left was the top cake, which I was sure would only take an hour or so. Yeah, that didn’t happen either. I didn’t finish with the top til around midnight. At least the finished product was rewarding.

All in all, I spent 13 hours in the kitchen Wednesday and 7 the day before. I’ve never done so much baking in my life.

The next day, the groom graciously volunteered to taste-test, and thankfully they passed inspection.

It might’ve taken me 20 hours to make the wedding cake, but it was all worth it. Nang and Chris are worth it. And on the day of the wedding, it was quite a hit. I can’t say I’d do it again any time soon, but I’m glad I could help out my best friend on her special day.

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World’s largest treehouse

Did you know the world’s largest treehouse happens to be in Tennessee, just two hours outside of Nashville? That’s right. This massive 10-story, 97-foot treehouse is located just off I-40 and is open to the public free of charge.

And since the boyfriend and I were passing right through Crossville last weekend, it was the perfect opportunity to stop by and check it out for ourselves.

I have to say, it’s quite an impressive treehouse. I’ve definitely never seen anything like it before.

We spent some time climbing to the top and exploring each level. I have no idea how one man built this all by himself.

In the center of the treehouse is a multi-story chapel, where I believe they even hold church services.

Not a bad pitstop on our quick roadtrip out to Gatlinburg. I’m not sure I’d make a special trip to go here, but if you’re already passing by, you may want to take a detour.

If you’d like to check it out yourself, the “Minister’s Treehouse” is located at the end of Beehive Lane in Crossvile, Tennessee.

Happy climbing!

Lu

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Finally, my first CMAFest

Every June, Nashville is invaded by country fans decked out in their cowboy hats and cowboy boots, and they’re all here for one reason - CMAFest. I’ve watched them trek past my office on their way to concerts, parades and meet and greets for five years now, wishing I could follow them. And this year, I finally did.

Since my parents’ birthdays are both in June, I ended up buying the three of us tickets to Friday night’s show at LP Field. Not a bad birthday present if you ask me.

The lineup that night was amazing: Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Reba. Of course my personal favorite was Sugarland - they did some hilarious country covers of Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time,” Cee Lo’s “Forget You” and Destiny’s Childs’ “Bootylicious.” And to make the night even more exciting, Shania Twain made a quick guest appearance on stage. Kind of hard to beat a concert like that for $30!

After the show, we got to enjoy fireworks on our walk back to the car…a perfect way to end the night.

And now I can mark a couple more things off my 101 List - #49: Go to the CMAFest in Nashville and #83: See someone new in concert (Reba & Lady A).

Of course, that won’t keep me from going back again next year. I can’t let them have all that fun without me, now can I?

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The Elkmont Synchronous Fireflies

This weekend I finally made it to the Elkmont Synchronous Firefly Show. In case you aren’t familiar, every June a rare species of fireflies synchronize their blinking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park near Gatlinburg, filling the sky with millions of tiny lights.

Since the light show didn’t start til sundown, we spent the day enjoying Gatlinburg. What a cute little town!

We started out at the famous Pankcake Pantry, and boy was it delicious!

After breakfast, we took a ride on the Gatlinburg Skylift. It was such a relaxing way to enjoy the gorgeous view of the city.

The view from the top was pretty amazing too…

While the boyfriennd and I were reading and enjoying the view, we were surprised by a little visitor…a ground hog. He darted under our table, and I jumped up on the bench and started screaming, not sure what to expect.

Turns out there was no need for alarm though. Apparently he was a local “pet” of sorts named Crackers who visits each day to beg visitors for food. He kept us all entertained for quite some time.

And in case you were wondering, ground hogs DO eat ice cream cones.

After the skylift, the boyfriend and I headed into the Great Smoky Mountain National park to do some hiking up to Laurel Falls. So pretty.

And again, more beautiful views from here as well…

Finally after a long day of exploring, it was time to see the fireflies. I have to say it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Sitting in the pitch black forest, we were surrounded by millions of blinking lights. It was spectacular. And now I can finally mark it off my 101 List (#11 - See the Elkmont Synchronous Fireflies).

Photo from “Inside Gatlinburg.”

If you ever get a chance to see it yourself, I highly recommend going. This year it runs through June 12, so there’s still time! And since finding info about it online is almost impossible, I’ll leave you with a few tips:

  • In order to go to the firefly viewing area, you must be parked in the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Once the lot is full, you’ll be turned away. Be sure and get there early. I’d say by 3pm at the latest.
  • To be on the safe side, you could park here in the morning and take the tan line trolley into Gatlinburg to kill time til evening. It runs every 1 1/2 hours. (Click here for schedule.)
  • The trolleys for the firefly show will start leaving from the parking lot around 7pm.
  • Be sure to bring a flashlight. They’ll give you red cellophane to cover it with at the firefly viewing area.
  • Bring a jacket or a blanket. It gets cold after sunset.
  • I’d recommend sitting just off the main pathway inside the woods. It’ll be darkest inside the tree line allowing you to see the fireflies better.
  • Be aware that it’s going to take awhile to catch a trolley back down to your car. We packed up to leave at 10pm and stood in line for a trolley until 11:45pm. 
  • To find out when the firefly festival will take place each year, start googling “Smoky Mountain Synchronous Fireflies” in May for the announced dates.
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Niagara Falls

One of the great things about driving on vacations is having the flexibility to stop and enjoy places along the way. On our recent trip to Maine, we decided to spend a night in Niagara Falls, which was about half way between Portland and Nashville.

We got there just in time to see the nightly light show. In case you aren’t familiar, each night around 9:00 pm the Canadian side shines lights on the falls, illuminating them with gorgeous colors. In my opinion, it’s prettiest at night. Photos can’t even do it justice…

The next morning before heading out of town, we went back to the falls for a couple hours to take the Maid of the Mist boat tour beneath the falls (another thing I can mark off my 101 List: #69 - ride on a boat). Boy was it spectacular from below. It’s so much bigger than I imagined!

I would’ve loved to take my nice camera out there, but I couldn’t bear to risk getting it wet. So here are a few mediocre shots of our voyage from my point-and-shoot…

And a few more from my even more high-tech disposable water camera…

All in all it was a great pit stop, even though we only stayed a few hours. My only regret is not having time to get a passport before going so I could see it from the Canada side, which I’m told has an even more amazing view of the falls. I guess that just gives me a good reason to go back someday.

To see other posts from our trip, visit…

Inn on Carleton: Portland, ME

Food finds in Portland, ME

Portland Head Light

Portland, Maine

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Portland, Maine

The boyfriend and I recently spent a week in Portland, Maine, and we both quickly fell in in love with its historic charm. It’s such a cute, quaint town full of old brick buildings and stone streets. I just love cities like this!

Of course the scenery is just as beautiful as the town. To get a better glimpse, the boyfriend and I took a 3-hour ferry ride from Portland to all the surrounding islands. It was breathtaking!

One thing we found from the ferry was another lighthouse to explore - Spring Point Ledge Light. Much to my surprise, you could actually walk all the way out to the lighthouse on the rocky pathway. It was awesome.

Similar to Portland Head Light, this lighthouse was also surrounded by old forts from past wars, which kept Tanner entertained for hours.

Since we had a car, we also did a lot of exploring in nearby towns. We stopped at Old Orchard Beach to see this unique pier…

Our next stop was Ogunquit to explore the Perkins Cove area. Here we discovered this long canopy full of white wooden beach chairs - what a find! We spent quite a long time sitting here reading and enjoying the view of the ocean.

Our last pit stop was in Cape Neddick to see Nubble Lighthouse. Sadly the lighthouse sits out on an island, so you can’t actually get to the grounds. It was still beautiful to see from across the way though.

If it wasn’t for their arctic winter, I’d move to Portland in a heartbeat. Guess I’ll just settle for visiting in the summer.

Til next time,

Lu

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