Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Weekend in the Smokies: Mt. Leconte

Last weekend, I did the first hiking... of my entire life.  Prior to this, the closest thing I had ever done to hiking was walking up a slight incline to a cute little mountain in Connecticut or a paved trail at Makapuu Point in Hawaii
When our friends asked if we wanted to hike over Memorial Day Weekend (what started when it was first described as a three-hour hike), I honestly asked Mike how bad it could possibly be.  Well, apparently I misheard or they were trying to bait us into it (which was it Jeff?? yes, I know you read this blog!!), but somehow it turned into five hours, then five miles, and finally ended up being 8.8 miles up and 5.2 miles down (different trails... I swear I didn't fall of the side and just miss 3 miles on the way down). 

 I can honestly say that I had the best time of my life.  We left Charleston on Thursday afternoon, carpooling with our friend, Brian.  It took us six hours (with almost all of the traffic we hit being within 5 miles of our house), and the time flew by.  Roadtrips with friends are seriously the best.  I sat in the back seat, wore my Burger King Queen crown, and played third wheel to all of their movie and tv show jokes.

We arrived in Gatlinburg on Thursday night and headed right to the distilleries.  We got a good night sleep, picked up sandwiches for the hike in the morning, and dropped cars at two different trailheads so that we could hike up and down different trails.
We planned on a rainy hike on the way up Thursday, so everything in our packs was in gallon zip-lock bags... clearly we had highly technological hiking equipment.  My sneakers and I stayed dry for about 3 of the hours of the Trillium Gap hike before it began torrentially down pouring.  Honestly, we didn't care.  We knew we'd get soaked through and powered through it, stopping at Grotto Falls for some beautiful photos (and saw the llamas that bring supplies up and down the mountain three times each week)!
We stayed at the top of the Leconte Lodge, a compound of cabins.  This was my kind of "roughing it."  We didn't have electricity in our cabin (though we did have gas lanterns and bunk beds!), we got water from a pump outside, and were fed tons of amazing food for dinner and breakfast.  We played cards, enjoyed the view, and drank whisky.
The next morning, after breakfast, we started down the Alum Cave Trail.  It took a few hours, and when we got back down, we drove to Pigeon Forge for the night. 

On the way back on Sunday, we stopped in Asheville to reward ourselves with doughnuts at Vortex and beer at Wicked Weed's Funkatorium - yum!
What I learned from camping: 1. Bears don't like to be surprised, so you should always hike loudly.  If we ever had a lull in conversation, we would yell "bears! hey bear!" every few minutes.  2. I can absolutely deal with no electricity as long as I have cards to play (and booze).  3. Hiking is really fun!

Monday, May 28, 2018

On Memorial Day

... I am thinking about all of America's soldiers who lost their lives fighting for our country.  I studied abroad twice in college, and both times, I spent American Memorial Day in ways I will never forget. 

In 2009, while in Luxembourg, I visited the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial, near where the Battle of the Bulge took place.  It was beautiful to see all of the wreaths laid by the Luxembourg and American governments.  Most powerful was definitely witnessing General Patton's grave at the front of the cemetery, overlooking all of the soldiers who fought and died together with him.
In 2010, I spent the day in Normandy, visiting the beaches where Americans stormed into France.  My uncle was killed on D-Day, and I even though I couldn't find his grave at Omaha Beach, I wrote his initials into the sand to honor him.
Visiting these sites truly showed me what Memorial Day is for, and I thank each and every one of our military who have given our lives to protect Americans as well as people around the world.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Charleston Lunch: The Grit Counter

Happy Friday, friends! The Grit Counter might be my absolute favorite lunch spot in Charleston. It's walking distance from my office, and they have so many amazing lunch options.

If you're in Charleston, you might have heard the hype around Grace & Grit in Mount Pleasant last summer. My colleagues and I were so excited to have a new restaurant nearby but were so disappointed when we learned that they wouldn't be open for lunch. The space currently occupied by the Counter (at the back side of the main restaurant) started as a coffee and beer bar for a few months, but when they went out of business this winter, the owners of Grace & Grit jumped in to create this perfect lunch spot.
They opened last month with an array of sandwiches, soups, salads, and the best sweet peach iced tea anywhere, all in the same Lowcountry style as Grace & Grit's dinner menu. Their most popular offering is definitely the grits bowls. I have to admit, I wasn't really a fan of grits before moving to the South (or after, I guess), but they do it right. Those smoked gouda grits could be my favorite thing ever.
On the grit menu, you can choose from signature creations, which is a curated bowl of grits, protein, fixins, and sauce or make your own. If you choose to make your own, here's my go to: smoked gouda grits, grilled shrimp, roasted corn, butterbeans, and red eye tasso gravy. Talk about ultimate comfort food! My other favorites are the pimento grits, fried chicken, house bacon, and southern bbq sauce. 
The whole decor is fantastic, too. Much of it was already decorated by the previous coffee shop, and it's modern, bright, and has the best patio. The Grit Counter added some of their own touches, and it's definitely my happy place.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Wordless Wednesday

Happy Hump Day!  A couple of weeks ago, I stopped at Colonial Lake for a walk before work.  The Peggy Martin Roses on the palmetto trees that line the Rutledge Avenue side of the park were in full bloom and just asking to be photographed!  This time of year in Charleston could not be more colorful and beautiful. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

I'm Loving...

Happy Monday, friends!  I always keep a note in my phone of things I want to blog about, and recently, it's been a running list of everything I'm loving.  To be honest, it's a fun little piece of positively every day to intentionally write down something that makes my day a little brighter.  You'll see, there's definitely a variety from snacks I think you'll enjoy to

These dried apple chips have been my sweet snack of choice recently.  You can buy giant bags at Costco, and admittedly, they only last a few days.  If I'm looking for something salty, I love these vegetable chips (also in giant bags from Costco). 

The weather has been perfect for tennis recently, and I am obsessed with this awesome Panthers vibration dampener Mike got me!
Did you see that you'll be able to shop online soon with Loft Outlet?!  Just take all. my. money.

My favorite makeup staple recently has been the TooFaced Little Black Book of Bronzers that I've been hoarding since they stopped making them a couple of years ago.  It has so many of their best colors in one place: Chocolate Soleil, Pink Leopard, and Sun Bunny.  I love this palette this time of year because I'm definitely not tan yet and love getting a little extra color. 
I still haven't tried a full charcoal mask yet, but I have been loving these Biore charcoal nose strips.  I use them on my chin, too, and they work wonders!

My absolute favorite app right now is 1 Second Everyday.  At the beginning of year, I started recording one second of video each day, and hopefully I'll remember all year.  So far I'm 140 for 140! 

Did you see the sunnies that I highlighted in this post last week?  I absolutely love the tortoise shell, and they go with everything: workout gear to anything dressed up.
And, because it's a Monday, a couple of funnies to start your week on the right foot...

Design Poppiness Designs