Sunday, June 26, 2016

Annual NC Pilgrimage: Overview {1 of 3}

We spent the last week in North Carolina on our requisite annual pilgrimage. Bonnie Blue tried to block my early packing efforts :-D
When the kids were little, packing was the biggest trip struggle - it was like going on safari! :-P Now, it's getting all of our obligations handled or put on hold (Annelise had to get an official absence waiver from cheer approved, Will missed a week of junior high football camp, it took me 3 weeks to find Zumba subs, it's the most intense time in my cheer program's registration period, etc.) - it's hard to leave in the summer now, esp. every year the kids get more committed, so we have to enjoy & revel in EVERY SECOND!!! ❤️

As usual, vacay was heavily focused on food! :-D Inizio Pizza was AMAZING our first night:

We smoked two giant pork shoulders for barbeque dinner another day #smellslikerodeobbqcookoff

I had to make time to work out a little literally EVERY DAY - life is all about balance, and I'm so thankful I didn't dig myself into a deep hole! I did this YouTube video a couple times, the kids & I used the fitness center in the hotel we stayed in one night & the next morning in the mountains, I got to do a workout with my BFF, Wendy:
And I even got to take *AND TEACH* a Zumba class!!! I went with my friend (who's also my parents' neighbor) to her regular class; she had told the instructor that I'm also an instructor, so they asked if I'd teach half the class! OF COURSE!!! :-)

Yay for actually finding & achieving balance between eating insane amounts of crazy food and not shame spiraling or feeling awful! :-D :-P

Our two big excursions (the mountains & Charleston) have their own posts, but we also made more kids' dreams come true around town: Joe Gibbs Racing shop (their fave NASCAR drivers & my ÜBERFAVE NFL coach ‪#‎httr‬) Shop & awe...
With Kyle Busch's latest Texas trophy! #texasrepresent

Our last night in NC, my other grade school BFF came down to my parents' for dinner with all our family. I love seeing our kids grow together each year!

Annual NC Pilgrimage: Mountains - Tweesie, Mini Golf, Horses {2 of 3}

We stayed overnight in the NC mountains around Boone on Monday. First thing - of course - was the kids' BIGGEST reason for coming on the whole trip: Tweetsie Railroad! Y'all have heard me wax poetic about this place for years. It truly holds my family's heart. My brother, Andy, and his son, Matthew, met us up there for the day, too. ❤️

I looooove taking the ski lift to the top of the mountain!

Feeding all the animals in the Deer Park

Cousin ride share

With our train engineer BFF, Mr. Scott

Backstory before the next pics: on a Tweetsie trip when my brother & I were little (5 & 7ish?) my mom & dad decided to have us do one of those old time western photos, where everyone dresses up like the 1800's. Andy refused to be in the photo after we had already committed to doing it, so he literally sat out...and we had *THE* CUTEST pic of me, my mom, & my dad looking like a precious pioneer family framed in our family room the entire time we were growing up! :-P It was there until after my dad passed away, and I took it after Mom & Hershel were married. Guess what I just found, again???
So when my mom suggested us doing it this time, now with all of her biological progeny in one pic, Andy finally got 30-year redemption. :-D Here's Big LaLa's clan!
It was so funny - we did tons of poses, smiling/not smiling, different props, etc. For the last two shots, they said, "Everyone hold a gun!" I thought, "This is stupid. It's too cheesy..." And darn if that one wasn't the best pic of the bunch! :-P

Andy & Matthew went home, but we stayed in the mountains overnight! We ate at our family-fave teppanyaki ("cook on the table") restaurant, Makoto's, and when we got to our hotel, the kids & I actually went down to the fitness center to work out a little! #needed We went back first thing in the morning, too, before breakfast. #proud

Mountain Day 2: Will has been begging to mini golf for months, (it's one of his most fave things!) and mountain mini golf is the ultimate! This course was GREAT! All hills, really challenging, and so scenic:
(This was hysterical!!! He's just posing - he had a great attitude about it, but the ball TRULY DID stop there!)

After mini golf, we headed over to Dutch Creek Trails. My mom grew up showing horses but hadn't ridden in 25 years. I love riding, Annelise was in heaven, and Will was initially nervous but ended up traversing the super steep mountain passes like a champ! Happy horse day riding Pistol, Bubbles, Chiquita, & Grady!!!
Annelise said this was her favorite part of the whole NC trip...even more than Tweetsie! :-O :-D

We had lunch in Valle Crucis and let the kids explore the Mast General Store before heading back to Charlotte. I hadn't been to the Mast since I was in grade school, and Annelise had a neat connection: when we went on her Texas pioneer field trip in January, they had a late 1800's calendar on the wall...from the Mast General Store! I flipped out & told her about it then, so she actually got to see the real thing in person!

Final treat on the drive home: Cook-Out milkshakes #heaven

Annual NC Pilgrimage: Charleston, SC in 6 Hours {3 of 3}

My mom & I have perfected the Charleston day trip from Charlotte. We arrive for lunch, exploration, dinner, and get back by around 9 PM. This time, Will stayed home with Grandaddo for "man time" (read: eating wings :-D) so we were just THE GIRLS! Mom researched the highest rated places via Bon Appétit, and then I went through all their menus to find the best two to suit our moods (& Annelise ;-)) that we'd never been to before.

Lee Lee's Hot Kitchen was our lunch stop. "You went to Charleston for Chinese?" YEP! And it was GREAT: I had an Asian kale salad with cold, 5-spiced chicken, roasted cashews, & caramelized onions. Annelise's "plain" chicken fried rice blew my & mom's minds - the chicken chunks were like PILLOWS! I can't even explain it. I know that Chinese chicken is velveted, but this was masterful. The décor, by the way, was also fantastic!

My Chinese truth ;-)

We were then thrilled to try Sugar bakeshop, another stellar place we saw on our fave Cooking Channel show, "Unique Sweets" - one mint chocolate & one coconut lime curd cupcake! (+ a ginger molasses cookie to go, b/c GINGER!!!)

Satiated for now, we went to explore a little...

So moved, paying our respects at Mother Emanuel AME Church. We walked in the same basement side door that hate did a year ago this same week... My stomach dropped at that realization. But everyone in that room was HAPPY - doing a voter registration drive! ❤️ We then climbed the stairs to the GORGEOUS sanctuary and happened upon choir practice!!! An even more joyous peace washed over me, and I sang my heart out with them (from the pew - I didn't ask for a mic ;-)) for 15 minutes while they rehearsed "Amazing Grace"! God is alive and well there!!!!! How perfect:
"Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
'Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home."

After feeling the Spirit, we went to our beloved City Market on a mission to replace my mom's purse. There are always so many cute wears to explore...even if you don't buy any. ;-)

Our last culinary adventure of the day: Leon's Oyster Shop. Check out my exquisite heirloom tomato & peach salad with corn, onion, herbs, & a little cream sauce!
I also had an amazing barley salad with currants, diced veg, parmesan, & pecans, and of course, the fried chicken they're famous for.

Another 6 hours of Charleston day trip success!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Friday Night Lights 10-Year Cast Reunion in Austin

Y'all - I had *THE* quintessential fan girl experience last Friday night!!! Backstory: Friday Night Lights is one of our most favorite series of ALL TIME. EVER. JB & I watched every episode together - it was one of those rare shows that couples both truly love. Back in February, I heard about a 10-year cast reunion being planned during the ATX Television Festival in Austin. I'm only two hours away now! How amazing would it be to see whom I could see? Not two days later, my BFF Angie texted me: "Do you know the show Friday Night Lights?" It. Was. On.

I've always been a bit jealous of girlfriends who go on trips together. The only TWO kid-free trips I've ever taken with girlfriends in the last 12 years were two one-night MOPS retreats in 2007 & 2008! :-O [FWIW, I'm not an I-can't-ever-leave-my-kids mom; it's just über-difficult to hit the rare jackpot of mom friends all having 1) enough extra $, 2) time off normal commitments, and 3) husbands able to take the kids, all at the same time. Usually someone is in a rough financial patch, or someone's husband is traveling for work, or someone has too much that they can't get away from when others suggest. I think it will also become a much more viable option now that my kids are older and - apart from driving & mommy snuggles - virtually self-sufficient. ;-) Expect more!!!]

So Angie & I planned our overnight to Austin. Super bonuses: her brother is an Austin police officer, so we had a lovely guest room to stay in for free at his house, and we knew we'd be safe, with him just a call away. ;-) I made us our OWN super fan shirts as a surprise gift for Ang with our two favorite show sayings:
Also, this whole Friday Night Lights Tailgate & Pep Rally Reunion event was 100% FREE!!! No tickets - just show up. The only $ spent was on food.

Before the event we had an AMAZING dinner at the Elizabeth Street Café, a neighborhood Vietnamese bistro & French bakery. It's so crisp and adorable!
We sat here under this mirror, and here's our view down to the right:
Barbeque pork belly steam buns with cucumber & mint! HEAVEN!!!

After dinner, we drove to the Pep Rally Reunion at the old football field where they ACTUALLY FILMED the show. I was so impressed - parking was simple & free. It was well-attended (a few thousand people?) but it wasn't like a claustrophobic concert. Everyone milled about with tons of space. I didn't think we'd actually get face-to-face with any of the stars - just that we'd see them all from afar you can imagine the fan girl adrenaline coursing through our veins when we heard someone behind us say, "Yeah, Jason Street is right over there taking selfies." AIIEEEEEEEEEE!!!! :-P

With Scott Porter (Jason Street) - who, BTW, is the kindest, most generous guy. It was almost our turn for a pic, and the event planners whisked him away (for this most-famous-of-the-night photo op) but he *promised* he'd be back...and he did not lie!

With Gaius Charles (Smash)

With Matt Lauria (Luke Cafferty)

Entertainment Tonight set up right in front of us while we waited for Scott Porter to come back...and there appeared Connie Britton (Tami Taylor) and Adrianne Palicki (Tyra Colette). When we first moved to Texas, I was most excited, b/c "Now I was *really* going to be Tami Taylor!" :-P :-D

This was when Scott Porter came back and saw Gaius Charles for the first time that night. Everyone standing in our little pod awwwed. :-P They did the most genuine buddy handshake:

With (now shaggy) Jesse Plemons (Landry)

Angie & me!

Here's the MOST AWESOME video overview of the whole thing:
  After meeting so many stars, they had a cast Q&A onstage, and we watched an episode outside on that football field where they filmed it! 🏈❤️ ‪#‎texasforever‬ ‪#‎cleareyesfullheartscantlose‬ ‪#‎fnl
Saturday morning, we had brunch at Magnolia Cafe South:
Eggs Zapatino for the win!!!! (Scrambled eggs on top of an English muffin smothered in queso with home fries. Yes, please.) One last treat before heading home: Gourdough's - big fat crazy gourmet donuts! One with Nutella & cinnamon sugar strawberries and another with cream cheese icing, homemade strawberry jam, bacon, and candied jalapeños! WHAAAAAT?!?! ‪#‎saltysweetheaven

I'm not gonna lie - I'm still GLOWING over our experience!!! 💙💛💙💛 And Angie & I are pretty sure producer Jason Katims is obsessed with us. :-P He kept appearing right beside us throughout the event and staring for noticeably-long moments. We're pretty sure he wants to write a new docu-show based on us running youth cheer in Texas... ;-)