Monday, November 22, 2010

Katy Perry's 'Firework' Music Video

Official music video for Katy Perry's "Firework" off her album 'Teenage Dream' 

I'm just seeing this video for the first time and I must say... Nicely done, Katy! What an inspirational video. A must-see!

What are your thoughts?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Final Day of our Camping Adventure!

Well, I made it to sunlight of our final day of camping! No maulings. No animal encounters. Honestly, I feel jipped! lol!

We woke up early on our final day to start packing up our campsite. No easy task, I assure you! It took a little over 2.5 hours to get everything packed up and in the car. I think Harley was the most excited about going home! We had a couple of pit stops to make though...

We were told about Kilwin's in Blowing Rock, NC and that we just HAD to check it out. Kilwin's is a chocolatier and fudge shop set in this darling, lively little town called Blowing Rock. After putting the address of the shop in our navigation system, we were shocked out the route it gave us! It had us going up the mountain on a dirt, gravel road. I should mention that I was driving for the first time on our trip and I was nervous! Why? Well, when am I not nervous?! ;) We thought at first I took a wrong turn but noticed the navigation appeared to be on target. Amazingly, after a few turns we were happy at the route it took us on. It was a beautiful 2.5 mile drive through back roads that had amazing views of the area around us. We kept noticing signs that read "No Hunting. No Trapping", so of course, the first thing that entered my mind was that we might actually see wild animals in a natural setting! I mean, if you were an animal, wouldn't you want to hang out in an area where it's pretty desolate where you wouldn't be hunted and/or trapped? But, again I was jipped! About 2.7 miles in we saw the turn-off for the Blue Ridge Parkway. What an odd but very beautiful route!

The route literally took us right to the Blowing Rock exit which was right around the corner from Kilwin's. We, I mean I, was so excited to get me some fudge! I had been thinking about it the entire trip! No kidding! We parked right in front and in we went. I knew what I wanted! FUDGE! Rich on the other hand went directly to the ice cream section. Ice Cream! It was cold out and he wanted ice cream. Hey, I can't blame him though... the ice cream was amazing, and homemade! I left with over 3lbs of fudge and a couple peanut butter cups and wanted to eat everything right then and there! Patience is a virtue...

We were now ready to head back to Raleigh. We set out for US 421 and hit the open pavement with the gorgeous Pisgah National Forest in our rear view mirror. Sad. I was now sad! I had a great time and it was SO relaxing (even with the anxiety attacks). I didn't want to get back to reality. But it was time.

I had heard about this wonderful vineyard in the Yadkin Valley off I-40 from a friend and after being unexpectedly surprised by the sign on the interstate I had to go! It's called Raffaldini Vineyards. After driving a few miles through the countryside, with the mountains still within our view, we came up to the most gorgeous piece of property I've ever seen... the vineyards themselves. Wow. The main house looked like something you'd see in Tuscany, Italy! Not that I've ever been to Tuscany, but if I had I swear this is what it'd look like! We had the doggies with us so they couldn't get out. Rich stayed in the car while I went in to take a look-see. I entered the main house where they were doing wine tastings and waited patiently for my turn. I was greeted very graciously by one of their staff and was offered a few different wines to try. I'm not much a red wine lover, more a white wine (chilled). I was almost immediately recommended to try one of their exclusives... Vermentino 2009. Exquisite! They mentioned that the grape that makes this particular wine is exclusive to their vineyard and they are the only vineyard on the east coast that grows it! I had to buy it! Then, they offered up their specialty and the wine behind their trademark, "Chianti in the Carolinas". Apparently this wine is only made/grown every other year so it's quite a rare wine... Sangiovese 2008. This is a red wine, but it can be served slightly chilled, thus the reason it was recommended to me. I loved it! And yes, I bought this one too! I also picked up some of their homemade marinara sauce and pesto. YUM! I couldn't wait to get home and make some spaghetti!

Now, we were really ready to get home. The car was packed and had NO more room for ANYTHING else! :)

Well, that's it... we're home. Safe. Warm. Relaxed. Happy. It really was a great vacation. I did really enjoy myself. I didn't get hurt like I (and so many others) thought I would! Harley is truly happy to be home and I think Murphy misses the mountains. No worries, we'll ALL be back! Soon!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our trip! I sure enjoyed retelling it!

In case you missed them, here are ALL the pics from our trip again! Enjoy!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Camping Trip - Day & Night #3

I had a great nights sleep the 2nd night... THANK YOU HEADPHONES! It's kind of sad that I didn't/couldn't take advantage of the "good" night sounds, i.e.: crickets, owls, etc., but hey... I was actually able to sleep without going completely crazy, so I'll take it! ;)

After quickly (still cold!) dressing and making some much needed coffee, we prepared for our final day at Grandfather Campground. I surprised Rich by telling him I wanted to try to start a fire on my own. This somewhat surprised him because, in addition to being a scarety cat of wild animals, I am deathly afraid of fire. I have been since I was a kid. I won't start a gas stove. I won't light a propane grill. I won't even flip a burger on a charcoal grill. Yup. I'm a BIG wuss. But, this was my time to "man up", so that's exactly what I did! I had gathered a pile of dry twigs and I was ready to go! After arranging the firewood the way my ex-boy scout hubby suggested, I had it lit! It even stayed lit! Yay! I had to pat myself on the back for this one!

After eating a quick breakfast and warming up near the campfire, we were ready to set out for our day. All we had left to do in the area was check out Linville Falls & Gorge, which was about 20 minutes away from the campground (20 miles south of Banner Elk). It was a beautiful drive through the mountain countryside that was LOADED with Frasier fir Christmas trees. I had never seen so many Christmas trees in my life! Curious to know where your fir tree comes from? More than likely from Boone, Banner Elk, or Spruce Pine! No kidding! I have a few pictures depicting the enormity of trees in the slideshow of my Day #1 post. Check it out!

If you haven't heard of or been to Linville Falls & Gorge you should definitely think of visiting! We both thought it was amazing. The waterfall isn't the biggest or most grand that I've seen, but when you couple it with the actual gorge and the surrounding landscape, it's stunning. The gorge is referred to as the "Grand Canyon of the East", and after seeing it in person we could see why. We were pretty worn out from our hike at Grandfather Mountain the day before, so we weren't looking for the hard or strenuous trails. The easy/moderate ones were just fine by us! Plus, Harley had just about had it with physical exertion! She's such a priss. We arrived around noon and set out for the trails that would take us to see several views of the lower and upper falls and the gorge itself. I'd say the whole trail, including the walk back, was about 2.5 miles of uphill, downhill, rocks, tree roots, etc. Not too bad. There were alot of stairs to get to the overlooks of certain areas, but again, not too bad. We took a ton of pics! I took this picture of Rich at 'Erwin's View', an area on the trail, and I feel it deserves a special post in addition to the slideshow simply because I LOVE THE PICTURE! You?

'Erwin's View' - Linville Falls & Gorge, NC
I'm a sucker for waterfalls so this place was especially rewarding for me. Very beautiful. Very serene. Next time we visit, we'll try the harder trail that runs alongside the river and gorge to see even better views! After about 2.5 hours we were ready to call it quits. We were ALL tired, Harley & Murphy included!

We got back to the campsite and did the usual... made dinner, cleaned up, and got ready for our last night of camping. I was alot more relaxed than I had been on night #1 & #2! The way I saw it was, if something did come after us, we could take it. Right? I mean, how bad could it possibly be?! Don't answer that! ;)

I did notice towards the end of the night that Harley was shivering alot. Poor thing. We really should have bought her a doggie sweater or coat. Pits don't have a second coat like labs do, and their hair is short. She spent the majority of the night curled up right beside me on a towel. I went into the tent and grabbed our fleece blanket that we had with us on the trails and then wrapped her up in it. She didn't even try to shake it off. She was quite happy I was helping her! She stopped shivering immediately. Thank goodness! It didn't feel that cold to us, but I guess she was more susceptible to the cold? Word to the wise... If it's under 40 degrees outside, put a coat or sweater on your furry child! Pits especially! I know I will next time.

We made smores and hot chocolate again and relaxed the night away. We talked for hours and just stared at the entrancing fire. The night slipped right on by us and before we knew it, it was almost midnight. We hadn't stayed up this late since we had arrived! We had to get an early start packing up the next morning so we prepared to call it a night.

Once again Murphy and Harley knew exactly where to go in the tent. Once Harley had laid down I covered her up with a blanket to keep her warm. Headphones went IN, lantern ON, and in the sleeping bag we went. I was starting to get used to this! But, I was really looking forward to getting home to my warm, cozy, SAFE home! I think Harley was too. Murphy? He was in his element. Big time. I don't think he wanted to leave. ;)

T69, I think I'll see you again. Maybe not for awhile, but soon.

One more day... stay tuned!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Camping Trip - Day & Night #2

OK... onto Day # 2...

After surviving night #1, I was much more confident about night #2 & 3, especially knowing that I would most certainly be using the headphones Rich suggested!

We woke up around 9AM to a beautiful COLD day. It was in the low 30's and I don't think I've EVER gotten dressed as quickly as I did on Day 2! Rich immediately went to start a fire while I took care of Murphy and Harley. We then started with making the all important, must-have camping breakfast: bacon, eggs, and toast! I had the eggs in a very nifty "egg holder" especially for this purpose, and yeah, OK... so they didn't get crushed. ;) I gotta tell you though... making scrambled eggs and bacon outside does lend credence to the suggestions and comments we were told! Breakfast was awesome! The toast? Not so much. Because we had plans to be away from the campsite during lunch, we heated up the chili I made prior to leaving home and packed it up in the very nifty thermos Rich bought. I'll hand it to him, the thermos was a great idea!

Shortly after breakfast we set out for our day.... Grandfather Mountain!

We arrived at the entrance to the mountain and payed our $15 EACH. Yes, $15 each! I know, it's a lot and yes, we moaned and groaned, but I do believe it was very much worth it. The admission included an audio CD that we listened to while driving up the mountain. I don't think it was completely necessary if I do say, but anywho... moving on.

The dogs seemed to be getting a little car sick with all the hairpin turns up and through the mountain. Yup. Carsick. About 1/2 way up to the Cliffside Overlook we smelled it. Doggie puke. Nasty. Good thing we had rolls and rolls of paper towels in the car. Did I mention that our dogs are complete goofballs when it comes to traveling in the car? Murphy specifically, just can't ever seem to be sure footed. It was kind of hilarious. Doggie puke cleaned up... time to get going!

We got out of the car at Sphnix/Split Rock to look around. What beauty! Due to it being a completely clear and beautiful day, you could see rolls and rolls of hills and valleys. Simply breathtaking. We then drove a little farther up to Cliffside Overlook. It seemed to keep getting better and better. We let the dogs out to explore and they were spellbound. They had no idea what to do or think! We took a TON of pictures (see previous post for slideshow).

After a few more hairpin turns, we were on our way to the very top of the mountain, The Top Shop to be exact.  This is where they had the store, info center, restrooms, and of course, the Mile High Swinging Bridge. THIS, I was excited to see! Murphy and Harley in tow, we proceeded with climbing the awkward 50 stairs. (yes, 50!) Once up the stairs you could immediately see the bridge and let me tell you, it was a sight to see. I had to stop to soak it in. Did I really want to cross it? Could I? Hell yes I could, and DID, with Murphy right beside me. Rich was behind me with Harley. We stopped midway on the bridge for a few pictures and then proceeded to finish crossing the bridge. It creaked, it swayed, it hummed. None of that bothered me, but I think it would for some. I'm also not that afraid of heights, but if YOU are, just DON'T LOOK DOWN! Seriously! Once we crossed to the other side, something very, very strangely frightening happened...

We cleared the bridge and made our way to the far right corner to get out of others' way and stopped. I had Murphy on my left and Rich was to my right with Harley. I glanced over to Rich to acknowledge the beauty we were both a part of and then, *tug*. I had instinctively pulled down on Murphy's head collar because I felt him jolt ahead rather quickly and in that split second I realized that Murphy's hind legs were OFF the ground and damn near OVER the rock wall separating the bridge path from the thousands of feet of mountainous terrain below us.... MY HEART ALMOST JUMPED OUT OF MY CHEST! Because he started to "jump" while my head was turned looking at Rich, I didn't see it, but the other people in the area said he was almost OVER the wall before I had pulled him back. My dog almost committed doggie suicide! Everyone was panicking, sighing over the fact that I had "saved my dogs life". It happened so quickly. I couldn't believe it. We had just finished crossing the bridge, moved over to the side, and then I look at Rich, and TUG. It was that quick. We think that Murphy was just excited to "keep going" and he thought we were getting ready to "climb another stair". What a goofy, LUCKY dog! I don't even want to think of what would've happened if I hadn't pulled back on his leash. OK... enough about that.

With TWO dogs safely with us, we went slightly down the hill to the Black Rock Nature Trail entrance. Rich had read about it online and thought we should give it a try. It said 'Moderate', but honestly, we had no real idea what that meant. This was a great time to break out the good 'ole thermos and eat our chili. Wouldn't you know that it was STILL piping hot! Yup. My hubby's a genius! Now full of proteins, we were ready for it!

About .2 miles into the 1 mile (2 miles r/t) trail I wanted to turn around. Honestly. Not because I was tired, but because I didn't think the dogs could do it, or would do it safely with ME, and not kill klutzy me! It was rocky, hilly, had tons of large boulders, HUGE tree roots, and it was through the woods... Moderate? I guess so, but for me it was HARD! But you know what? I DID IT! And so did the dogs, well, Murphy more than Harley; poor thing held Rich back. However, with her following "the pack" (Murphy and Me!) she did A-OK! A little banged and bruised, but OK. Murphy was outstanding! I had never seen him like his, so in his element! He guided me up and down and through like he had done this before. He knew the short and easy ways, he knew when to be slow and when to speed up... he was my miracle! After what felt like forever, we made it to the end only to find that the "destination" was a huge rock/boulder we had to climb up and on to get the views, but with the dogs we couldn't do it, so turn around and go back we did. At this point, yes... I was getting tired. But, once again, Murphy pulled me through. You should all know that I didn't once think about a wild animal encounter while on the trail. Not once. And let me tell you, they WERE out there! ;)

It was closing time, so back to the campsite we went for night # 2. We got back a little too late to make our full dinner we had planned, so we just snacked and drank beer. Not a bad combo, right? We were a little colder on night # 2, so we prepped some hot chocolate! YUM! Hot chocolate, snacks, TWO healthy dogs, the toasty campfire, SMORES, and my wonderful husband by my side keeping all the critters away... life was good! 

After having an eventful day we decided to turn in early and this time, I had my headphones! With Murphy and Harley in their doggie corner, LED lantern on low, and all bundled and cuddled up in the double sleeping bag with headphones in TIGHT, it was time to sleep the night away without a care in the world...


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Camping Trip - Day & Night #1

OK, I survived. Barely! I might be exaggerating a little bit *wink*

After spending just about three weeks gearing up and buying anything and everything camping related, and turning our living room into a Mecca of sporting goods, we were ready! Around 8am on Sunday, October 31st we set out for the beautiful area of Boone, NC. (notice the date we left?) We packed up Murphy & Harley and off we went...

After a couple of stops here and there, we had arrived around noon to the very welcoming Grandfather Campground. We checked in and received the map to our site. So far so good...

We took a couple of pictures to capture our excitement of how impressed we were so far and then made our way to our campsite. After driving up the gravel road and seeing the campsite markers we finally found ours. At first sight we were like "Whaaaaaat? Is this IT?" It seemed to be just a flat area and nothing special. We were told many, many times campsite T69 was the BEST site and the most recommended, but really? We weren't convinced. That is until we actually got out of the car and walked around. WOW. What we had seen was just the parking space for T69! *facepalm* The entire campsite, including the fire ring, picnic table, and creek (yes, a creek!) was actually down a small hill past the parking area. It was beautiful! We knew now why this particular site was a favorite! It's a three-tier campsite with the tent area being in the middle area, and the picnic table and fire ring being on the bottom running along the Granny Branch Creek. It was truly stunning! The creek was dried up but that didn't matter at all. We knew this was our site!

We let the dogs out to explore and they loved it! We then proceeded to "set up camp" and boy, I did NOT expect it to be this hard! It was like I was at home doing yard work! I had to clear the area around the fire ring with the small rake we brought and then clear a path down the incline area for us and the dogs, because it was loaded with leaves! It is Autumn after all! Rich started with the tent while I did "yard work". We had arrived at the campsite around noon and it took us until around 4PM to just get camp set up! Wow, this day was blown. Nah... we hadn't really planned on going anywhere the first day anyway.

Rich thought since we were losing daylight (sunset was around 6:30) I better head to the store to get the essential groceries we would need for the next few days. I wasn't too thrilled to head out on my own in an area I wasn't familiar with, but hey... this was a trip about NOT being a wuss, right? ;) I went to the local Lowe's Foods store about 3 miles away and got everything we needed. What beautiful sights I saw on the way there! You could really see Grandfather Mountain in all it's glory from NC Hwy 105. I made it back to the campsite around 5'ish and Rich already had the campfire going. Toasty! The dogs had somewhat settled in and we proceeded with making night #1's dinner: Hamburgers, Hot Dogs, and pork & beans! Yum!

We cleaned up and did our dishes and put everything away right before sunset. It got dark fast! It was becoming obvious that it was going to be a clear night for star gazing. As soon as it was really, really dark we set out to the main field of the campground to look up... and OH MY GAH! It was the most stunning thing I've ever seen... my science loving husband pointed out that you could actually see the Milky Way! Beautiful. You don't see things like this in the city. No way. It was then that it really set in that we were really far away from home, in the woods, on Halloween, in an area with wild animals. *shiver*

I should mention again that up until this trip, I had NEVER been camping before. I had NEVER even slept outside. NEVER. I was nervous to say the least. What was I nervous about? Well... Critters! Not so much bugs because I knew with it being colder they wouldn't really be a problem, same for snakes. What I WAS nervous about was bears, mountain lions, coyotes, raccoons, opossums, and the like. OK... really anything and everything that could creep up on me and maul me. Yup. I'm a wuss. I can't help it. This brings me to what my first night camping was like...

Once we got back from stargazing it really hit me:  we were in the woods. We sat by the campfire and kept warm. We had beer of course, yay! The dogs started to calm down and relax, more Murphy than Harley. I don't think she knew what to do. We sat around the campfire and just talked. There would be several minutes that would go by that there was no talk at all. Just silence. I was kinda too nervous to talk. I wanted to be able to hear anything, other than the sound of my own voice. Call me crazy. Rich knew I was nervous/scared and kept trying to reassure me we were fine, but this was new for me and I had to soak it all in. We decided to call it an early night since we were up so early, and due to being tired from the long drive and the exhausting set up of camp... this is where it gets crazy.

We changed into our PJ's in the tent, set up the doggie blanket in the corner, and invited the dogs in. They went to their area immediately like they knew exactly what to do... so far a-OK. That is until we zipped up the tent, turned down the LED lantern light, and were all snug-as-a-bug in our double sleeping bag. As soon as everything was quiet out in the campsite and we were in our tent, I heard what I didn't want to hear... the sound of leaves crackling under a critter's footsteps! I WAS SCARED SHITLESS. I couldn't see it. I didn't know what it was. I didn't want to. The dogs weren't even making a peep, which freaked me out even more! Weren't they supposed to protect us!? Weren't they supposed to have a sense for stuff like this? Rich kept telling me it was something small based on the sound of the footsteps... what was he? Daniel Boone? I didn't care, it was something and that was enough to freak me the hell out! I was shaking profusely. I couldn't stop. I tried. Rich tried. The more Rich tried to help me, the more I freaked out. Deep breath in... slowly exhale out. I never found out what it was, but I don't think I slept more than 2 hours all night. Rich told me to put in my headphones to block out the noise but I couldn't get up and I didn't want him to get up. I was frozen.

I was overwhelmingly excited to see daylight in the morning, puffy eyes and all!

We had a big day planned... Grandfather Mountain and the Mile High Swinging Bridge!

Day/Night #2 coming up...

For now, here are all the pics from our trip! I hope you enjoy seeing them just as much as we enjoyed taking them!