Author: Valerie

Introducing: No Stress November

funny-no-shave-november-no-job-decemberHey readers! Can you believe it’s practically November? In the past month, we’ve experienced a major hurricane, countless Halloween parties, and the devastating aftermath of the Brangelina split — and yet somehow, it feels like October went by in a flash.

November tends to be one of my busiest months of the year at work and in school, with my calendar filling up with events and deadlines well before the month even begins. This year, to stay sane at an admittedly crazy time, I’m implementing No Stress November, a 30-day wellness challenge designed to decompress for a few minutes each day. I invite you to join me!

Below is my list of 30 items to complete throughout the 30 days of November. The rule is to do at least one of these things per day (with repeats allowed!), and you are welcome to customize the list to meet your own needs. Planning to tag along? Use the hashtag #NoStressNovember on social media and share what you’re up to!🙂

Below is my list for the No Stress November challenge. Feel free to use all of these or switch them up based on your personal preferences. I’ll check in throughout the month with my own progress and reflections. Enjoy!

  1. Go for a 30-minute walk outside.
  2. Cook a meal you’ve never made before.
  3. Color in an adult coloring book.
  4. Donate your time to community service.
  5. Get your hair professionally done.
  6. Spend 30 minutes meditating.
  7. Take a full day away from social media.
  8. Lay out by the pool.
  9. Buy yourself fresh flowers.
  10. Test out a new makeup tutorial.
  11. Practice 30 minutes of yoga.
  12. Visit a place you have never been before.
  13. Go out for brunch.
  14. Perform a random act of kindness.
  15. Clean out your purse/briefcase.
  16. Lift weights.
  17. Write a love letter (or kind note) to yourself.
  18. Watch a documentary or TED Talk.
  19. Take extra time to pamper yourself.
  20. Write down 50 things you are thankful for.
  21. Connect with an old friend.
  22. De-clutter an area of your home.
  23. Make a list of places to visit in the next five years.
  24. Dedicate 30 minutes to writing.
  25. Create a fun playlist.
  26. Revamp your monthly budget.
  27. Build something with LEGOs.
  28. Watch stand-up comedy.
  29. Use essential oils.
  30. Spend the day with family.

Participating with me? Let me know in the comments section below, and share your progress on social media with the hashtag #NoStressNovember!

Adventures in Florida: A Trip to the Christmas Tree Forest

Santa's Christmas Tree ForestAs part of my 26 at 26 bucket list, I was dying to visit a pumpkin patch this year. Like most young women between the ages of 18 and 35, I absolutely love autumn and everything that comes with it: the drop in temperature, the cuter clothing options (I live in Florida but somehow have an entire drawer dedicated to scarves), the seasonal flavors, and especially Halloween. In fact, I love this time of the year so much that I redecorated my apartment with fall/Halloween décor back in mid-September.🙂

In spite of my love for all things autumnal, I haven’t been to a pumpkin patch in years, so this year, I decided it was time to pick out a pumpkin of my own. Of course, I wasn’t going to go to just any old church or high school to do this. Instead, I decided to visit Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest in Eustis.

My sister and I made the trip out to Eustis and were surprised at how much fun we had. Santa’s Christmas Tree Forest had free admission, along with family-friendly activities that required ticket purchases, such as a zip-line, hayrides, and pony rides. We did purchase a pumpkin from their abundant patch, but we actually discovered something better: the petting zoo.

Santa's Christmas Tree Forest

Without a doubt, one of the happiest moments of my whole life!

Anyone who has ever come into contact with me knows about my love for animals, so our trip to the farm was a dream come true. At first, Julie and I visited the goats, my absolute favorite farm animals, and the pigs. We learned the hard way that pigs bite (sorry, Julie!) and that goats can bite a little bit too if they think you have food. Of course, our favorite part of the whole trip was when we had the chance to hold the baby goats!

One of my dreams in the next five years is to adopt a dog, but now I will need to get a baby goat as well. The one that I held was incredibly sweet (even though she loved to gnaw on my hair!) and clearly my favorite animal on the whole farm. I definitely plan to return, if only to play with the baby animals!

Yes, I’m a crazy animal lover, but for those of you who live in Central Florida, I fully recommend Santa’s Christmas Tree Farm for your next weekend excursion. The farm not only hosts events and attractions throughout the year, but is friendly for all ages (families included). I know I’ll be back in the near future!

What’s on your bucket list for this year? Share in the comments section below!

How is my bucket list progressing? Click here for links to recaps and to see what I’ve been up to!

 

26 at 26: My Birthday Bucket List

26at26Hey readers! For those of you who have been keeping up over the past year, I created a bucket list at age 25 to prioritize the fun things in life and to give myself something to look forward before my next birthday. I had a blast putting the list together and trying new things over the next 12 months, as recapped in my previous post, and the list brought me so much joy that I decided to repeat it at age 26. My birthday was just last month, and I’m excited to embark on new adventures in the coming year.

I’ll be crossing off each item over the next year on my 26 at 26 page here, and plan to write a few blogs in the next year about some of these experiences. Happy reading!

Things I’d Like To Do While I’m 26

  1. Take a stroll through the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens in Miami.
  2. Visit a fortune teller/psychic.
  3. Take a marshmallow-making class at Wondermade.
  4. Attend a tea party or visit a tea room.
  5. Take a behind-the-scenes Disney tour.
  6. Get my writing published somewhere new.
  7. Watch a Bollywood film.
  8. Play a game of Dungeons & Dragons.
  9. Visit the Plant Street Market in Winter Garden.
  10. Pursue new public speaking opportunities.
  11. Take a mother-daughter trip.
  12. Visit the Orlando Museum of Art.
  13. Finish an old writing project.
  14. Go to a performing arts show.
  15. Complete another round of Whole30.
  16. Take a day trip to Bok Tower Gardens.
  17. Visit my best friend in Omaha, Nebraska.
  18. Practice meditation every day for a month.
  19. Read Gone With The Wind.
  20. Take a candy-making class with my family.
  21. Go to a pumpkin patch.
  22. Visit the Audubon Center for Birds of Prey.
  23. Take an Art Deco Walking Tour in Miami.
  24. Visit the CARE Foundation animal sanctuary.
  25. Tour the Flagler House in West Palm Beach.
  26. Visit the Wynwood Art District in Miami.

What adventures are you looking forward to this year? Share in the comments section below!

25 at 25 Bucket List: My Year of Yes

happybirthdaytomeJust a few weeks ago, I celebrated my 26th birthday!🙂 I still can’t believe how quickly the time has passed or how weird it feels to know that I’m now inching a little closer to 30 than 20. It’s a weird transitionary time in my life: I still call my parents every time I need to know how to do something, but I also sometimes catch myself sharing really sage wisdom with a random college student and it truly feels like an out-of-body experience. (I’m pretty sure Britney Spears had a song about this.)

I started to feel this way leading up to my 25th birthday and was less enthused about turning another year older, so last year I created my “25 at 25” bucket list. I can get a little too wrapped up in the day-to-day craziness and find myself saying, “I wish I went there” or “I wish I had done that,” so at 25, I was determined to change this. I embarked on a Shonda Rhimes-esque year of yes, taking charge of my life and saying yes to new opportunities and adventures. I completed almost every item on my list, and many of those items led to new interests and hobbies. After attending a class on health and wellness at the East End Market, for example, I developed a newfound love for essential oils and aromatherapy. The class also led to my purchase of a gorgeous jade money tree, which brightens up my home and makes me incredibly happy every time I walk in the room, and a succulent — neither of which have died yet! My trip to Saint Augustine with my mom was one of the major highlights of my year, and visiting my best friend in the mountains of North Carolina was the exact change in scenery I needed.

Having this bucket list encouraged me to prioritize myself and be more open to new experiences. It translated to other areas of my life, as I found myself saying yes to local festivals and social gatherings I might not have otherwise attended (and having a great time).

Below is a quick recap of my 25 at 25 bucket list. Stay tuned for my 25 at 26 list, coming soon to a sporadically-updated blog near you.🙂

  1. Leave the state of Florida for a vacationI took a trip to Boone, North Carolina, from 3/6 to 3/10, with a stop in Tennessee. Check out my recap of the trip here and my day trip  to Asheville here!
  2. Go to the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford. Anyone who knows me can probably guess that the goats were my favorite animals at the Central Florida Zoo when I visited with friends on 11/7/15. Read more about my experience here!
  3. See a local performing arts show. I went to see the Orlando Ballet’s Beauty and the Beast at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts on 5/1/16. It was beautiful, and I can’t wait to attend another performing arts show at such a gorgeous venue.
  4. Visit my sister in her new apartment once she leaves for graduate school. I visited Julie’s apartment for the first time on 11/27/15.
  5. Go to the planetariumI visited the Emil Buehler Planetarium at Seminole State College and attended The Star of Bethlehem show on 12/12/15. Read more about my experience here! We had such a great time that we ended up attending the Winter Sky Festival in January and have been keeping an eye out for more planetarium events this year.
  6. Pursue public speaking opportunities. This was a big one for me! I participated in several guest speaking opportunities that allowed me to get out of my comfort zone and become more accustomed to public speaking. Here’s what I did during that time:
    • Taught Junior Achievement classes focused on identity theft prevention for high school seniors (9/21/15 and 2/16/16)
    • Spoke as guest panelist on career panel at Seminole State College (9/22/15)
    • Presented as guest speaker for the Knights Special Events Society (10/14/15)
    • Participated in OCPS Teach-In to teach elementary school students about how to be a “super saver” (11/18/15)
    • Spoke as guest panelist for the Month of the Woman Panel at UCF (3/14/16)
  7. Roam around Leu Gardens in Orlando. I visited Leu Gardens on 7/24/16 and had an amazing time. If I ever meet the right guy, we are getting married in the rose garden. I decided this the moment I saw it. 
  8. Take a wine and painting classI loved this! The ladies in my family and I attended one of these classes and painted the Eiffel Tower on a starry night background on 4/8/16. The painting is up in my apartment now and is such a great reminder of a wonderful night.
  9. Spend the day in St. Augustine. My mom and I ventured out to St. Augustine from 1/9-1/10/16 and had so much fun. Check out the recap here! We are planning more mother-daughter trips for the future.
  10. Visit the Morikami MuseumI visited on 10/16/15 with my parents. The gardens were beautiful, and I learned so much from my visit. Read more about my experience here!
  11. Go on a behind-the-scenes tour of Magic KingdomThis one did not happen because of scheduling conflicts, but it is on the list for 26.😉
  12. Apply to MBA schoolI not only applied, but I officially began my MBA program in May 2016 and am now in my second semester. I have a great cohort and am excited to see where this program takes me!
  13. Start a small side business for career coaching and resume writingThis one did not happen because my priorities changed. I realized with growing responsibilities at work and school, I didn’t want to add to the mix at this point in time.
  14. Ride the swan boats at Lake EolaI’ll be honest… I sort of forgot about this one. Maybe next year!
  15. Take a Spanish class. I took a “Spanish for Tellers” course through CUNA Professional Development Online, focusing on banking and financial terms, and completed the course on 12/22/15.
  16. Tour the Lakeridge Winery in Clermont and attend a wine tasting. I went to Lakeridge Winery for the Annual Grape Stomp Festival on 8/13/16, which included complimentary wine tastings.
  17. Go berry picking. I picked 2.5 pounds of blueberries at the Tom West Blueberry Farm on 5/22/16. U-Pick was such a fun experience, and my only regret was not doing it earlier in the season so that I could go back. Check out my recap here!
  18. Attend a class at the East End Market. I attended “Be a Resolutionary” workshops at East End Market on 1/30/16, which led to a new love for aromatherapy and houseplants. Check out my recap!
  19. Try a meal from a food truck. I attended Jazz on a Green in Lake Nona and ordered a grilled chicken gyro from It’s All Greek to Me on 11/14/15. It was pretty good!
  20. Host a murder mystery partyThis was too difficult to coordinate while juggling new responsibilities, but it may happen in the future.
  21. Embark on another round of Whole30I completed a round of Whole30 from January 1-30. Always a great way to detox my system!
  22. Drive out to New Smyrna BeachI spent the day out at New Smyrna Beach on 7/30/16, received a parking ticket after parking in the wrong spot on the actual beach (oops), and enjoyed a late lunch at Breakers.
  23. Watch a mob movie. I watched and enjoyed Key Largo on 9/3/16, among other movies featuring mobsters in the past year.
  24. Eat a macaron for the first timeI tried a vanilla macaron from Le Macaron on 10/17/15 and have since had them several other times in other flavors as well. I can’t believe that a year ago, I’d never eaten a macaron in my life!
  25. Treat myself to a spa dayI spent a morning at Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa on 3/27/16. So relaxing!

What was on your bucket list for the year? Share in the comments section below!

Summer Snack Challenge: Fun Fruit Sliders

Hey there, readers! Today marked the last day of my first semester of MBA school, and I can’t believe how quickly the time flew by. Juggling two graduate-level business classes with a full-time job was no joke, so I’m definitely looking forward to having a nice little break from school between semesters. July may be nearly over, but it feels like my summer is just getting started!🙂

Every good summer requires a trip to the beach, time spent outdoors, and at least one cookout with family and friends. I love creating fun little side dishes to bring out to social gatherings, so when I heard that Nuts.com was holding a recipe contest to create a summer snack using specific ingredients,  I knew I had to participate!🙂

From there, these fruit sliders were born. Sprinkled with super foods like goji berries, which are filled with antioxidants, and chia seeds, which are rich in Omega-3, this snack is the perfect combination of healthy and delicious. These fruit sliders are so easy to make that they barely require a recipe, and the best part is, you can swap out the fruit depending on what you are in the mood for. I chose bananas, but apple slices would also go great with these ingredients!

This recipe serves one person as an individual snack, so adjust your quantities accordingly.

Healthy Fruit Sliders

Ingredients:

Instructions:

  1. Peel and slice banana.
  2. Spread each slice with cacao butter as desired.
  3. Top with cacao nibs and goji berries (about one goji berry per banana slice should suffice, depending on how big your slices are).
  4. Sprinkle with chia seeds.
  5. Serve. (It’s really that easy!)

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For more fun summer recipes and other cool food products from a family owned business, visit Nuts.com.🙂

 

All Or Nothing Day: Creating A Life You Love

doallthingswithlove

Timing is a fickle thing. It is rarely convenient, and yet it controls so many of the decisions we make in life. We talk about timing when we tell our friends why we’re going to have to put off travel plans for another year. We blame timing when we think about why things didn’t work out with our exes. The trouble is this: No matter what path we choose, no matter how stressful life may be, time continues to move forward — regardless of how we choose to spend it.

I’m thinking about timing a lot today because it happens to be All Or Nothing Day, a day that is dedicated to giving your all and celebrating your passion for life. I first learned about this day from Heather Von St. James, a truly inspirational woman who survived a harrowing cancer diagnosis and has dedicated her life to raising mesothelioma awareness and educating others on the dangers of asbestos. Heather received her diagnosis soon after giving birth to her daughter, and after a difficult battle with the disease, has survived cancer-free for ten years. (You can read more of her story here!) I was so inspired by Heather’s journey and the meaning that All Or Nothing Day holds for her, and her story helped to shape my own perspective.

all or nothing dayWhen we turn down an opportunity that challenges us, it is so tempting for us to blame timing and other external factors. Deep down, we tell ourselves we have all the time in the world to do the things we hope to accomplish someday, without realizing that we could lose everything in the blink of an eye. We take a lot of things for granted, including the fact that we can always pursue our dreams next year.

In Jen Sincero’s book, You Are A Badass, she writes:

“When it comes to the creatures you love and the things you love and the life you love, what on earth could possibly be more important than soaking them up right now while you still have the opportunity?”

This line rings especially true for me, having recently experienced a loss in my family, and as someone who also got out of an unhealthy relationship not too long ago, I know how important it is to make time for the things and people that do bring you happiness and love.

As Sincero says, “If it’s something you want to do, don’t wait until you’re less busy or richer or ‘ready’ or twenty pounds lighter. Start right now. You’ll never be this young again.”

To me, that’s what the spirit of All Or Nothing Day is all about: taking charge of your life and creating a world that you love with the people (and animals!) that you love. If any of you who are reading this are looking for a sign that it’s time to move forward — in whatever way makes sense to you — please consider this your sign. Tell someone that you love them. Apply for that internship in London. Take that improv class that you’ve always been curious about. End the relationship that is making you unhappy. Do something, because life is too short not to.

 

The Weekend Five: Movie Night Snacks That Won’t Throw Your Diet Off Track

Ever since I began my MBA program in May, schoolwork has consumed a lot of my free time on the weekends that I would normally spend with family or friends. As I start to develop more of a routine, I look for little ways to add balance to my life so that work and school aren’t my only focuses. From a beach day with one of my best friends to berry picking adventures in Ocoee, I still try to make time for myself to enjoy the world and everything it has to offer.

On the weekends when it’s harder to get out, there’s nothing better than a night in with the perfect movie, a warm blanket, and delicious snacks. Of course, when we think of movie-related snacks, we tend to think of super-buttery popcorn (admittedly a guilty pleasure of mine), giant soft drinks, and boxes of Junior Mints — all very high in calories and not particularly good for you. Luckily, I’ve mastered the art of selecting guilt-free movie night snacks that still pack a lot of flavor, and I’m excited to share those with you this week!

The Weekend Five: Movie Night Snacks That Won’t Throw Your Diet Off Track

Healthy Movie Night Snacks1. SkinnyPop Popcorn.
Anyone who has ever lived within a 5-mile radius of me knows how much I love popcorn. What I don’t love is seeing how much my skin breaks out and how bloated I feel after I eat it! SkinnyPop has been a deliciously satisfying alternative for me. Their popcorn is low in calories (just 39 calories per cup) and doesn’t have any of the hard-to-pronounce artificial ingredients that comprise so many of our grocery stores’ snack aisles. They offer several flavors (the white cheddar is another one of my favorites!), and they also sell individual 100-calorie packs if you want to have them pre-portioned for you. SkinnyPop was the perfect treat for last night’s viewing of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof!

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2. Bowl of fruit.
I love to wash a bowl of grapes for an easy, no-mess movie snack, but the world is your oyster. Slice up a banana and combine with strawberries and blueberries for another healthy choice, or raid your fridge to mix up a fun fruit salad. That way, you’re getting plenty of nutrients while still enjoying yourself, and even if you go a little overboard, you probably aren’t doing yourself a whole lot of damage.

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The Better Chip3. Vegetable chips.
I’m obsessed with The Better Chip‘s Spinach and Kale chips, which have very few ingredients and still fulfill any chip cravings you might have. They have a variety of flavors to choose from, or you can go ahead and make your own. Love sweet potatoes? Try the Minimalist Baker’s Sweet Potato Chip recipe for something healthy, delicious and homemade.

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4. Veggies and hummus.
I don’t know about you, but I love to dunk baby carrots and other raw veggies in hummus! Hummus is filling enough that you’re likely to stop yourself from going completely overboard, and although there is some debate on the health benefits of legumes (sorry, paleo friends!), there is no denying that they taste absolutely amazing.🙂

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ApplePizza5. Apple pizzas.
Cut up some apple slices, lather with almond butter, and sprinkle on raisins, unsweetened shredded coconut, and cinnamon! I could eat these for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, but they also make for a delicious movie night snack. These are as much fun to make as they are to eat. They are filled with fiber and healthy fats, but will still satisfy your sweet tooth when you are looking for a healthy dessert.

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What are your favorite guilt-free movie night snacks? Share yours in the comments section below!🙂

Adventures in Florida: Blueberry Picking in Ocoee

Hey there, readers – it’s been a while! A lot has happened since my last post, most notably that I started an MBA program and seem to know more about regression analysis these days than who’s who on The Bachelorette. It has been a wild ride so far, hopefully to be shared in another blog post soon!

Last month, as a much-needed break from studying, I decided to knock another item off my 25 at 25 bucket list. Just days before the season’s end, I took a little road trip out to Ocoee and stopped at the Tom West Blueberries U-Pick Farm.

TomWestBlueberries

I may stumble in and out of the world of paleo living, but one thing is for certain: I will always love my fruits and veggies. Therefore, it makes perfect sense that – as someone who lives in a warm climate hospitable to many types of produce – I would have to go berry picking someday.

In Florida, the peak strawberry and blueberry seasons run in the early springtime from around March to May, depending on your farm and crop of choice. Tom West Blueberries is a family owned and operated farm, offering activities for all ages during the U-Pick season.

TomWestBlueberriesThe process, while simple enough, was a whole lot of fun. Once I arrived, I grabbed a bucket and hopped on a tractor, which dropped me off in the nearby blueberry fields. There I had the opportunity to taste and pick the emerald blueberries, a very large and sweet variety of blueberry that I would highly recommend to anyone who visits in the future.

Tom West Blueberries

By the end of my blueberry-picking adventure, I picked and purchased about 3 pounds of delicious, perfectly blue blueberries, which I shared with friends, classmates and family over the next week. In hindsight, I wish I’d picked more so I could freeze them and enjoy even longer! Not only were the blueberries perfectly in season, but there was something so rewarding about eating something I had personally hand-picked at the farm, rather than in the grocery store. (Sorry, Publix – I still love you!)

tomwestblueberries2

Whether you’re looking for fresh produce or simply a fun way to spend the afternoon, I highly recommend visiting a local U-Pick farm! The experience really does appeal to all age groups, and if I ever have children, this will be a must-visit for them too. I look forward to returning to Tom West next season, and can’t wait to visit other local farms for different U-Pick experiences soon!

What types of U-Pick farms have you visited? Share in the comments section below.🙂

For recaps of my other bucket list adventures, click here!

Asheville Adventures: A Day at the Biltmore

During my North Carolina vacation last month, my friends and I decided to take a day trip to the beautiful city of Asheville. After a two-hour drive from our hotel, our first stop was the Lexington Avenue Brewery for lunch.

Things To Do in Asheville, NC

Brice’s brother had suggested the brewery prior to the trip as one of the best sandwiches he’d ever had, and the place did not disappoint. I ordered the chicken caesar salad — a safe though seemingly boring choice — and was surprised by how delicious it was! Never will you hear me rave about a caesar salad more than I did that afternoon (and for the rest of the trip). We were excited to learn that a percentage of the proceeds from our meals actually benefited the local humane society. It was nice to enjoy a delicious meal while giving back to a great cause!

After lunch, we meandered around downtown to check out a few of the shops. At one point, we spotted this gem, which I may forever regret not purchasing.

Asheville Take 1 05

Our afternoon continued at the Biltmore Estate, a highly anticipated point in the trip. This mansion was built by the Vanderbilt family and reawakened my dream to someday marry into old money. If the Moses Cone Manor was Charlotte Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, then the Biltmore Estate was definitely Thrushcross Grange.

Things to Do in Asheville, NC | Biltmore Estate

For a single admission price, we had the opportunity to tour the 33-bedroom/43-bathroom mansion. The Biltmore features a bachelors’ wing, an indoor pool, a gymnasium, countless kitchens, a breakfast room, and a Halloween room with bizarrely terrifying artwork. We also strolled through the gardens and the greenhouse. Most of the plant life in the gardens was still dead from the winter, but the greenhouse was in full bloom.

After touring the grounds, we drove over to the Antler Hill Village and stopped in the winery for a wine tasting (also included in our admission). While my palate isn’t exactly sophisticated enough for reds, I enjoyed the Century Sweet White wine that the winery had to offer. Harry, Brice, and I had a lot of fun rating the different wines and filling out our comment cards.

Things To Do in Asheville, NC | Antler Hill Winery

We ended our day with dinner at the Noodle Shop in downtown Asheville. I enjoyed a curry chicken while we listened to live music outdoors with a scenic view of the city. If you’re stopping in Asheville and have any Chinese food cravings, the Noodle Shop is a must-try!

Things To Do in Asheville, NC | Noodle Shop

The verdict: Asheville is a cool, artsy city with great food and beautiful architecture. It is the perfect place to stop during any North Carolina trip!

Cheers Before Mountaineers: Adventures in Boone, NC

Sometimes a change in scenery is exactly what you need to experience before you conquer the world. At least that’s what I told myself earlier this month, as my friend Brice and I jetted off to North Carolina just a week before my graduate school interview and a guest speaking appearance. It was my first time leaving the state of Florida since 2012 (something I made sure to prioritize on my 25 at 25 bucket list this year!), and the perfect opportunity for us to visit Harry, one of our best friends from college.

Harry moved to Boone for graduate school a couple of years ago, so we were excited to visit his new stomping grounds and create brand new memories in such a beautiful place. Of course, the photos and descriptions from all of my Pinterest research didn’t even begin to do this mountain town justice.

Adventures in Boone, NC

We took the roads less traveled as we hiked through the woods and forged new (unpaved, possibly dangerous) paths. We sipped strawberry-flavored imitation moonshine on the side of a mountain. We crossed a mile high bridge, said hello to a bear, and decided that nearly everything is a metaphor when you are in the wilderness. Being with two of my closest friends truly made the trip nothing short of an adventure.

For those of you planning a trip to Boone or the surrounding areas, here’s a quick recap of what we did!

Adventures in Boone, NC

Howard’s Knob.
This mountain has the best view of the town and was the perfect place for us to get our first taste of Boone. Our visit to Howard’s Knob was when it truly hit me that we were in completely new terrain, and that mountains were not just some vague shadows in the distance. (Bonus: There was still snow on the mountain, so a snowball fight just might have taken place.)

Adventures in Boone, NC

Moses Cone Park.
First of all, if your last name is Moses, then you’re basically breaking the law if you don’t visit Moses Cone Park! Though we did not go inside the house (pictured above), we felt completely haunted by its beauty. It reminded us of Wuthering Heights, and we half-expected to see the ghosts of Heathcliff and Cathy Earnshaw. From the house, we followed the winding trails for a few miles and found ourselves at Bass Lake (all to a very inspiring soundtrack of Taylor Swift and Donnie Darko music), before beginning our treacherous journey back to Moses Cone Manor. There was not a single bad view in sight, and there was something so invigorating about being out in the crisp air among nature.

Adventures in Boone, NC

Linville Falls.
We took the intermediate and advanced trails to various lookout points to see the waterfalls of Linville Falls. Just look at the picture. Do you even need another reason to go?

Adventures in Boone, NC

Grandfather Mountain.
Grandfather Mountain is not named for the many old men who inhabit it, but for its shape — from various angles, the mountain looks a lot like the profile of a man. This stop was nearly an all-day activity. After driving in, we purchased a CD that guided us on our way. We stopped at various lookout points and rock formations, took a tour of the museum, and visited a few animal friends: a bear who came out of hibernation for us, two very happy otters, a mountain lion, and a pair of eagles. Soon, we crossed the Mile-High Swinging Bridge (yes — we were a mile above sea level!) and stood at one of the peaks. It may not have been the smartest decision to do this while wearing Vans (and I swear the wind almost took me!) but it was truly a breathtaking experience that I would recommend to all visiting Boone.

During our time in North Carolina, we also spent a day in Asheville, which I’ll discuss more in a future post.🙂 For now, I leave you with this quote, which perfectly summarizes our trip:

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, and leading to the most amazing view.” – Edward Abbey