Mountain Getaway {Trip Review}

When we moved to Charlotte two years ago there were a lot of draws, one of them being the proximity to the beach and mountains. You see the mountains hold a special place in my heart, as well as my husband's, we both have a lot of fond memories associated with this region. Needless to say, we barely made it a month before we planned our first day trip. We had a blast, but knew our kids weren't ready for a whole weekend hiking, fishing, tubing etc. A short two years later, and several day trips later, we decided our youngest was up for it. We booked a small cabin in the woods for 3 nights. Eek, I was excited, but nervous that they wouldn't love it as much as we did. I over thought and over planned the whole visit...

But it was worth it, when we walked onto the front deck of our rental cottage. Just look at that view, breathtaking. Wine at night, coffee in the morning, even playing a 45 minute game of Chutes and Ladders - the view made it all good.

We stayed just outside of Blowing Rock, only 90 miles outside of Charlotte, a quaint little town with tons of great restaurants, shops and galleries. 

We tried to balance the adult activities with the more kid friendly activities as much as possible. In other words, before anything else could happen we spent several hours at Tweetsie Railroad, a wild West themed amusement park with rides catered to the little ones in our lives (and some for the young at heart, too). 

The girls have fished a couple of times on family vacation up North so we decided to give it a try in the mountains, too. We put the odds in our favor by visiting a stocked pond, Grandfather Trout Farm, but it still took us over 2 hours to hook a fish!

Keeping the kids interested in hiking is always a challenge. We've found having a destination or at least something interesting to look at goes along way. The Moses H. Cone Memorial Park hit all the right notes for us. A grand home, a lake, horses - it had it all - and kept the kids interest for a couple of hours. 

For our last day, we ventured away from Blowing Rock for a day of exploration. First stop was Valle Crucis and a look around the original Mast General Store, which didn't disappoint with a live bluegrass band playing on the back porch. We tried to get into the Mast Farm Inn, but alas it was booked solid so we detoured to Over Yonder where I had the best tomato cobbler ever. 

Later in the afternoon, we toured Banner Elk and the Beech Mountain resort area as well. While these areas certainly were nothing shy of beautiful, I'm still a sucker for Blowing Rock. What can I say, I'm sold.

The final stop on our day of exploration was the Linville Caverns.  We thought the girls would love to see the "inside of a mountain" and we were right - so fun, for all of us. 

It's probably fairly obvious, but we had a great time during our Mountain getaway and while the sun has officially set on this trip,we're feeling ok with it because we've already booked another trip in October! 

What We Saw/Did:

Where we Ate:
Town Tavern ( great lunch spot with an incredible burger)

Where we Stayed:

Fall Colors

Just when you (and I) thought my fall posts were coming to an end, I'm back with another one (and…shhh…I'm putting the plans together for one more later this week). 

But with fall colors like this, how could I possibly resist?

Over the weekend we packed up the kids and day tripped it to the mountains via the blue ridge parkway, which didn't disappoint, once again, providing awesome views of the blue ridge mountains and fall colors. The blue ridge parkway offers over 450 miles of roadway connecting the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in NC to the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. 
Read more about it here.
Over the years, we've found ourselves on the parkway, sometimes intentionally and sometimes not (yes, I get lost easily and a lot) and it's always nothing short of stunning. If you find yourself in this area, do yourself a favor and take a drive. 

Of course, the blue ridge parkway was just a means to an end as our ultimate destination was Grandfather mountain, one of the highest peaks in the blue ridge mountains. We enjoyed the Grandfather mountain attraction (paid entry) which included a nature museum, cafe, hiking trails, fudge shop, wildlife habitats and the mile high swinging bridge. Not that I went on the bridge (too scary for me), but the rest of our group did. 
You can read more about grandfather mountain here.

If you're in NC and in the market for a great, family oriented day trip, definitely check out the Blue Ridge Parkway and Grandfather Mountain. 

Hope you had a great weekend. 

until next time, 

Chicago and Vertical Inspiration

Oh my goodness! I tried my best to keep up with the blogging while I was away, but eventually time got away from me and so did the posting. 

girls at the beach

Fortunately, it was all worth it to enjoy special time during each of our weekly visits. Chicago was no exception. We had an amazing  time. Seeing family and friends, lots of drive-bys (our old house, twice, Tessa's school, etc), hitting favorite spots (Chalet Nursery, nail salon, restaurants, parks, the beach and more). We even managed to squeeze in a night downtown -- no rare feat for a suburbanite -- dining at a french influenced steak house called, Bavette's Bar & Beouf. So good.

us at Bavette's

Old, dear friend's of ours (our first daughters were both born in London just 3 months apart!) had us over for a lovely BBQ on Saturday night- we loved touring their new-to-them Evanston home. Their home has so many interesting architectural details, but one detail really stopped me in my tracks. 

Check out their vertical garden! 
They were looking for a solution to pretty-up their garage doors, which they no longer use, and came up with something amazing - in my opinion. 
A vertical garden, on casters, made from stair treads.
Isn't that smart?

Here's a better look at the details. 
Two sets of treads stacked, per side, backed with plywood. They attached boards across the front to create the planting pockets. Fill with potting soil, add plants - the options are endless. I could see herbs, hanging plants, bright colors, all greens, succulents even - literally anything!

Not only has our road trip been so great in terms of spending time with family and friends, but it's also provided loads of inspiration, too - fairy gardensinflatable jet skis, French inspired plantings, and now vertical gardens. 

Thanks to everyone in Chicago, especially my SIL and BIL for putting up with our crew, for a great visit!

until next time, 

Week 2: Michigan

We're well into the 3rd week of our epic road trip and time is really flying. So fast, I realized, I hadn't even popped in to share some of the details from week 2, spent in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan. 

While we enjoyed our full week in Michigan, there was one day in particular that was most memorable. A day spent on the small lake at my brother and sister-in-law's home. 

They are so lucky to live right on a lake. And, our kids took full advantage. They loved jumping off the dock, relaxing in the flotation station, swimming to the floating island and most of all - scootering around on the inflatable jet skis.

Truth? The jet skis are the entire reason I'm sharing this post. They are just so cute and the kids loved them! They only hold up to 100 pounds so I just had to trust them on this one :) 
A tiny motor powers a small fan under the jet ski that scoots them around at a snails pace. Just enough for them to think it's fun, and slow enough for us to feel like it's safe.

Oh, one more thing. We discovered a new cookbook while we were in the Detroit area called, Ribs, Chops, Steaks and Wings by Dr. Ray "DR.BBQ" Lampe. We made several recipes from the book and they were all amazing. We'll be adding this book to our collection soon. 

We're in Chicago now - having a great time catching up with family and friends - more details to come, including a feature on a cool vertical garden a friend made. I also heard the final stage of construction on our back porch makeover is starting this week. Hoping it will be done by the time I get home… a short 8 weeks after the project started. Zoinks.

until next time,

Week 1: The Cuyahoga Valley

Our epic road trip is well underway, with our first week in the Cuyahoga Valley area of Ohio already behind us. 
Beyond being an area of outstanding natural beauty, there are loads of cute shops and towns to check out, too. 
I've been visiting this area with John's family for the last 15+ years, so I thought I might share some of my favorites as well as some new finds from this trip.

First things first, we always find time to squeeze in a hike. This time we enjoyed a walk through a local quarry along the river. 

We signed the girls up for an art camp in the mornings at the Richfield Art Studio. If you are local and don't know about this place, you seriously must check it out. Classes for kids, and adults too, covering everything from painting, to pottery, to tie dye, and everything in between. The studio itself is small and quaint, the staff couldn't have been nicer or more accommodating, and the projects turned out super cute! It's a framer!

With the big girls in camp during the mornings, the adults were free to check out the local towns (Hudson above - great farmers market and fun bandstand concert for the 4th of July) and pop into a couple of our favorite shops.

The Yellow Creek Trading Company, in Peninsula, has been a favorite for the last couple of years. Their Christmas displays are especially nice, but their curating and selection is always outstanding.

One thing I noticed while shopping around, was the huge amount of fairy related items. I had no idea fairy gardens were so popular! I loved the fairy houses pictured above from the Precocious Dandelion in Bath, but unfortunately they were a bit out of my range at $150. I also loved the cement leaf shaped bird baths, found at Somerville Antiques, and was so inspired that the girls and I might make our own fairy garden when we get home.

We had loads of good home cooked meals, but this one really stood out. Not only because it was a great idea, but it tasted great too. Chipotle inspired, make your own burrito bowl. 
Burrito bowl recipe care of Melissa d'Arabian, plus cubed avocado, lightly dressed green salad, shredded cheese, warm flour tortillas, and lime wedges. Yummy! This is definitely happening again in our home.

One other notable highlight from this trip was our visit to the Akron Zoo. It's a smaller zoo, which makes it perfect for the kiddos, that is really well maintained and beautifully planted. Don't miss the snow leopard cubs on display every morning!

Thanks to John's family for a great week in the Cuyahoga Valley! 

until next time,