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Asheville, North Carolina

July 30, 2013
My sister Denise and I had not been able to see each other for almost a full year, and the last time was did actually see each other was at a funeral, so we wanted to plan something special and fun for when we did finally get to meet.  About two years ago we talked about how we wanted to make a trip out to Asheville and see the Biltmore.  My sis has been a resident of North Carolina for years now, and she had not yet made it out to the Biltmore, so we thought this would fit the bill of being special!  We tried to do this several times, but it just never worked out, mostly because of my hectic schedule.  An opportunity finally arose so that I was able to take three days off of work, so my sis drove about 6 hours, and I drove about 9 and a half, and we met in Asheville!  We were lucky enough to stay right downtown, so everything in the city center was within walking distance for us.

The first day, we just spent strolling around Asheville.  We checked out some stores, took in the sights, and just enjoyed each other's company.

It was pretty rainy, and I had no umbrella, but I found a pretty cute one.  :)

 I loved how everywhere you turned, there was art!  Whether it be a street artist performing or a mural or a statue, it really added to the character of the city.

One of the very best things about Asheville were the restaurants!  Many of the restaurants use fresh, organic produce right off the farms--it's called Farm to Table.  I'll link all of the restaurants/cafes Denise and I ate at while in Asheville...

The Laughing Seed Vegetarian Restaurant
Dobra Tea
Jerusalem Garden Cafe
Twisted Crepe
Farm Burger

I would recommend all of those restaurants.  The only thing that I didn't like about Farm Burger was that they had all these pictures of cows hanging everywhere.  I really felt terrible and guilty for eating a burger with all of those cows "looking" at me.  It did not affect my sis, but I do get weird about meat.

We also really wanted to try Tupelo Honey Cafe, but every single time we tried to get a seat there was at least a 45 minute wait, and we were told that they do not take reservations.  This cafe sure seems to be popular at all times.

Enjoying the pasta of the day from The Laughing Seed Cafe

 On our 2nd day, we visited the Biltmore!!!  It is as great as it looks!  In case you have no idea what the Biltmore is, it used to be the private mansion of the Vanderbilts, and is the largest house in the whole United States.  A Vanderbilt still owns the estate, but it is open to the public and the funds from tourists are used to maintain the property.  Some parts were so lavish that it reminded me of Versailles, which parts of the home were modeled after.

View from the balcony at the Biltmore

No photography is permitted inside, so if you want to get a look, you'll just have to visit in person.  I'd love to go back during the holidays because I heard they go all out with Christmas decorations!

If you do end up visiting the Biltmore, you can save money by purchasing tickets advance online.  We saved $15 each since we booked our tickets more than a week ahead of time.  The tickets are good for the estate, gardens, winery, and Legacy exhibition.  We made a whole day out of our visit, which was easy to do.  Do not miss the winery--you get an unlimited number of wine tastings at no extra cost!

We visited the Asheville Mall, and I went into Ulta for my first time ever!   I'm going to do a haul post on that and my other purchases in Asheville later, so be on the lookout if you are interested in that.

On our very last day, we went on a food tour through a company called Eating Asheville. We met at The Battery Park Book Exchange and Champagne Bar, and then went on to taste small samples of food at five more places: Zambra, Gourmet Chip Co.,Strada, Laurey's, and The Chocolate Lounge.

On the tour we learned fun facts like:

*The owner of Strada is Italian who cannot tolerate gluten, so there are gluten-free options available, which is not that common in an Italian place. 

* The staff at Laury's knows how much everyone else makes and where all of the money goes.  It is also one of the few restaurants that offers its staff with health insurance and a living wage (meaning enough $$ to live on.)

* Zambra doesn't have a menu, really.  They base what they will make for the night on what fresh food is available, which can change on a daily basis.

We both had a really great time on our trip to Asheville.  We were going to go on a hike, but it was storming out, so we had to pass.

I'm also linking up this post with Found Love, Now What? and A Compass Rose, who host Travel Tuesday together.  I can't wait to hop around because I'll never get sick of reading travel posts!

Share your thoughts on Asheville, NC in the comments below.

Summer Beauty Wishlist

July 27, 2013

Cara Box Reveal July 2013: Nautical Theme

July 25, 2013

I learned about the Cara Box months ago when browsing Kaitlyn's blog, Wifessionals.  Basically, you are e-pen pals with two other bloggers all month, although non-bloggers can also participate with others who don't blog.  You get to know your partners and then send them a box containing no less than five gifts by the 20th of the month.  The value of the all of the gifts should be $15 or more, but Kaitlyn has explained all this and more on her blog, so be sure to check it out if you are interested. 

When I first found about about this exchange, I was so pumped to join, but it just never seemed to work out for me.  I was bogged down with homework and papers and then I was in South Africa so I couldn't sign up for the May or June box.  I was determined to sign up for the July installment and then found out that the theme was a nautical one, which floated my boat. (Get it?  Float my boat?  Nautical theme?)  Okay, enough with the corniness and onto the reveal!

My partners this month were Kim and Suree.  Kim is a busy working momma of two from New York.  I had a great time e-mailing back and forth with her, and she received her gift from me last week.  If you are interested in knowing what the contents entailed, head over to her blog.  Kim is a new blogger who blogs about her family, her weight loss journey, and life in general. 

Suree currently lives in Las Vegas and we bonded over being raised in the Midwest, our interest in Korea, and over our love of blogging.  Suree blogs over at Tucker Joy about beauty, fashion, books, her dogs, travel, you name it!  One of my favorite posts that I've read by her is this DIY project she completed.  It's so cool...you have to check it out to see what I mean.  :)

Today my Cara box arrived in the mail, and I couldn't be more pleased with the contents!  Suree did such a terrific job with the box, and I truly love everything in it.


Suree knew my favorite color was red, so I'm loving that nail polish.  I love that she included gifts from Asia, too!  Those Lucky Sticks bring back memories of Pepero Day in Korea, and in general Missha products have been a win for me.  In Touch magazine is my guilty pleasure, and I can't wait to read it.

I really lucked out this month with my partners, I hope to stay in touch with them, and I also want to try to take part in next month's Cara Box!

What do you think of this exchange?

Blogging Goals

I remember last year my pal Courtney and I were talking about starting our own blogs.  The idea seemed daunting to me at first, especially when I looked at successful blogs that seemed to have it all--a great blog design, spectacular content, and tons of followers.  I started my blog last January when I was feeling like all I was doing was working, going to classes, and doing homework.  I wanted something that would "ameliorer la vie" or make life better; a fun hobby just for me.  Now I've been blogging for almost 7 full months, and I have to say that I'm really enjoying myself!  One of the main things that I learned was to take it slow and to set small goals so that I can take things one step at a time.

I've been making some great blog buddies from all over the world, but Courtney who blogs over at Passionately Curious is the only person I see on a regular basis who has a blog.  I cannot stress enough how awesome it is to have someone to talk to who just gets it!  We talk about blogging at work as soon as we get a chance to.  The other workers just kind of laugh at us because with all the talk about layouts, buttons, sponsors, and swaps, we just kind of "lose" everyone who is not familiar with the blogging world.  One day we started talking about our short term and long term goals as bloggers and decided to do a joint post listing out our goals.

Here's what we came up with:

It really is encouraging to have someone like Courtney to talk to about this.  She has already been giving me tips on how to make better graphics to enhance my posts.  I know that this is an area I could use some help on.  

Work and blog buddies!

What are some of your personal goals as a blogger?  Do you have any real-life blogging buddies?

Cape Town Diaries: Stellenbosch and Africa Day Concert

July 24, 2013
My professor's husband taught at Stellenbosch University when the two of them lived in South Africa, so naturally a visit to Stellenbosch was in order.  Stellenbosch is considered "Afrikaaner Country," and it is a famous wine region in South Africa.

Our first stop was to Vergenoegd Winery, which was on the way to Stellenbosch.  This historic wine farm has been run by the same family for six generations!  We had a few wine samples on site; mostly dry, red wines, as this is what this particular winery is known for.  The estate itself is a classic example of old, Dutch architecture.

Our second stop was to the Ken Forrester Winery.  Ken Forrester does export wine to the United States, and the Chenin Blanc is probably the most famous type from this winery.  The winery itself is very old, but the Forrester family first started producing wine here in 1994.

We had a short, driving tour of Stellenbosch and drove right through the university.

We were given some free time away from the group to wander off and have some lunch.  We chose to stop at a place called Dipped Confections, which was a cafe that also had outdoor seating.  It was the cutest little place and the food was excellent!  My roasted vegetable and brie sandwich was extremely tasty, and all four of us that ate there really enjoyed our food.

The last winery we visited was Beyerskloof.  They make a lot of pinotage, which was initially created and first produced in South Africa.  Pinotage is a red wine, that when done right is supposed to be rich and even a little spicy.

At night, we had booked tickets to the Africa Day concert.  I don't think any of us were really looking forward to going that much because sitting there for 3 hours on a Saturday night seemed like something I wasn't really into.  When the show started, though, the time just flew by.  The performers were so, incredibly talented and it most definitely exceeded my expectations.  We got to see groups like the South African Youth Choir, the Khayelitsha Mambazo, Indigenous Ensemble, the Youth Orchestra, and Trenton & Free Radical. 

This concert was outstanding and a real treat for us!

Ipsy Glambag July 2013 First Impressions

July 21, 2013
I got my Ipsy Glambag in the mail last week, and oh-so happy with it.  First of all, can we just stop and take a moment to admire the actual bag itself?  Is it not the cutest?  I love that it is see-though and I'm a girly-girl, so the color is to my liking for sure.  I wouldn't carry it around with me on a day-to-day basis, but feel like it would be appropriate to use to tote along a few things when I go swimming.  It really feels "beach-y" to me, too which aligns with this month's theme of "Beach Beauty."  

 What I got:

Coola Mineral Sunscreen SPF 20- I received some Coola sunscreen in a Birchbox a few months back, and I haven't actually tried it yet.  I just am too pale to be wearing only SPF 20 in the summer because I need something with a higher SPF.  I will use this product, but I'm probably going to wait until the fall because I don't want to get burnt.  I might also use it only as a moisturizer on summer days when I know I'll be inside for most of the day (i.e. every day I work.)   

Derma e Microdermabrasion Scrub- YAY!  I was hoping I would get this!  The formula is 100% vegan and exfoliates skin so that it's nice and soft.  It also is supposed to help reduce the appearance of fine lines.  I think I'll be trying this out tonight...can't wait!  The lemony-lime smell alone is divine if you like citrus-y scents, which I definitely do.  I hope this product is a win for me!

Sexy Hair Weather Proof Humidity Resistant Spray- I don't typically wear a lot of hair spray because I work 5 out of 7 days, and for work my hair must be up, and therefore, I do not style my hair on these days.  I am going to use this the next time I straighten my hair because it is supposed to combat frizz, which I have plenty of despite a keratin treatment!  

Pop Beauty Pouty Pop Crayon- I got the color in coral crush, which looks great from the swatch.  I'm so excited to see that I don't have to sharpen this baby and can just easily twist down more product when I need to.  I'm sure that I will be wearing this a lot seeing as how coral is very in right now.

BH Cosmetics Eyeshadow Sample:  It's nice that we get three eye shadows to try!  I like all three colors, but just wish that they were a bit more pigmented.  Don't worry, I'm still going to wear them...I'll just put on more so that it looks darker.

Once again, I'm loving what I received from Ipsy this month, even though I was really hoping for some Benetint.  Although it probably was not my favorite month, I still think it was worth the $10 I paid for it.

Is there anything you would like to try from this month's Ipsy Glambag?