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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!

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