Smile #32 – Nice to Meet You, Raleigh, NC!

Nice to Meet You, Raleigh, NC!  

Multifarious hot air balloons ascension to the clouds is undoubtedly a stunning view.  Seeing the view from the ground is beautiful, but the view from above is alluring.  🙂

Raleigh held the inaugural Balloon Fest over Memorial weekend.  I have been excited to see hot air balloons for the first time.

Started the day early to account for our three hour drive and any traffic in between. We safely arrived at the capital under my amazing driving skills.

The event was certainly busy.  People stretched out miles long at the bus station.  Limited tether rides sold out like a flash.  Lucky for us, the cards were playing our favors.

We drove to the event and were advised no parking available.  Just a street over, we found free parking at the mall.  🙂  Thanks to the hints from those who went the previous night, we made a quick stop at Staples to print the waiver forms.  With that, we were the only few who advanced to the balloon rides.  🙂

We arrived with plenty of time to take pictures.  Some vendors nicely captured an audience by letting us take picture with the basket.

Side Story:  My mom hasn’t progressed to smartphones.  So when I asked her to take pictures, she had no idea where to begin, leading to a series of funny images.  Pictures of random strangers, half of me, unfocused me, and others.  Her effort is comical  🙂

The process to set up the balloons took a while.  Pulling out balloon to setting up the basket and burners to inflating the balloon.  Everyone watched in awe.

Look at the view from above!

After our ride, we sat for a while to wait until sunset.  The mass of balloons lighted up for Balloon Glow.  🙂

Thank you Raleigh for hosting us.  After seeing that view, all the driving was well worth it.  🙂

Smile #31 – 50 Shades of Pink

Summer has officially kicked off with Memorial weekend.  The rising temperature means tank tops and shorts, summer dresses and bright color nail polishes.  🙂

A girl can never have enough bottles of nail polishes.  Even with every shades of pink and red overflowing my box, I couldn’t help purchasing yet another bottle.  My excuse this time is this bright rose pink is just the right refreshing transition into the summer.  🙂

Maybelline Color Show Rebel Bouquet #816 Rose Candy
Maybelline Color Show Rebel Bouquet #816 Rose Candy

Smile #30 – Sugar

In celebration of our 54th monthiversary, I requested donuts for our special menu.  Not just any donuts, but specifically donuts from Sugar. Handmade Gourmet Donuts Food Truck.

Bubble was sweet and thoughtful enough to bring the menu to me!  Just look at these super delicious donuts!  🙂

Top left corner: Apple fritter, vanilla bean, maple bacon, raspberry with sprinkles Bottom left corner: maple bacon, peanut butter rocky road, vanilla bean, caramel cinnamon
Top left corner: Apple fritter, vanilla bean, maple bacon, raspberry with sprinkles
Bottom left corner: maple bacon, peanut butter rocky road, vanilla bean, caramel cinnamon

After trying a bit of each one, my favorite is definitely the Maple Bacon donut.  It has the perfect combination of sweet and salty.  🙂  Followed by the caramel cinnamon donut.  Ahh!  No regrets for the 10 lbs I just ate!

Smile #29 – The End of Infinity

Every beginning has an end, even the one we cherish, evidently ends.  Four seasons later, Revenge officially drew its final conclusion tonight.  Since its debut in 2011, I have followed every step of Emily’s revenge plan as she strike through those who wronged her and her father.

Her journey was treacherous and arduous.  Her bravery and determination through it all is truly admirable.

“The value of life can be directly measured by our will to endure. That we have a remarkable ability to resist fatigue, to withstand pain, to keep fighting, as long as we don’t lose sight of what we’re fighting for”

The ending certainly did not disappoint.  It provided the perfect closure.  🙂 Surprising, intense, and absolutely satisfying.  🙂

David and Emily’s infinity times infinity love.  Emily and Jack’s love story.  Nolan becomes the next vigilante.  Each character ended just right.  🙂

Smile #28 – Nice to Meet You, Universal Studios AKA HARRY POTTER WORLD!!

Nice to Meet You, Universal Studios AKA HARRY POTTER WORLD!!

Experiencing the magic at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter has been on my bucket list since it was announced in 2007.  We couldn’t resist the urge anymore and booked our tickets.

A muggle’s adventure to Hogwarts, Hogsmeade, and Diagon Alley.

Hogwart rooftop peaked through in the distance.  We quicken our pace to enter the gates of Hogsmeade.  I was immediately charmed by the snowcapped village and cobblestone street.  The ground was occupied with patrons dressed in wizard robes.  Children and adults stood in front of shop windows waving their wands.  With the right swift, a box popped open or water spurted out.  Meanwhile I was lured in by the Butterbeer trolley.  🙂

We were excited to jump in line for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey.  The interior was nicely decorated with stage props such as the Mirror of Erised, the sorting hat and moving portraits.  We passed replicas of the Headmaster’s office and Gryffindor common room.  We were greeted by holograms of Harry, Ron and Hermione in the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom.  Universal made the queue into an unforgettable experience.  🙂

The ride took us through scenes and places around Hogwarts.  We flew in the Forbidden Forest, encountered Aragog, faced Dementors, attempted to fight off Malfoy at the Quidditch field and finished with following Harry back to the castle.  It was magical!  🙂

Flight of the Hippogriff was a short kiddie ride.  While we wait, we got to see Hagrid’s hut and Buckbeak’s nest.

I was tricked.  I was not prepared for what the Dragon Egg challenge brought.  It was a high speed roller coaster that goes on twists and loops.  I tried to keep my eyes open while I screamed for my life!  This thrill ride left me dizzy and breathless.  I had to sit down and gather myself afterward.  Climb aboard if you dare!  🙂

The newest addition, the Hogwart Express, is nothing short of amazing.  Scenes from the books and films played on the train window.  It was the best ride!  🙂  We rode it from Hogsmeade to King’s Station and back and again!

Universal spared no expense when building Diagon Alley.  It is elaborately detailed.  Hundreds of wands stacked in every shelf at Ollivanders wand shop.  I tried on a Gryffindor’s robe at Madam Malkin.  Burst of color invited us in to Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes.  Heard a bird chirping from the vanishing cabinet at Borgin and Burkes. Met the goblin at the Money Exchange. Had more butterbeer and a gily water with a elixir to induce euphoria
At the far end of Diagon Alley stands Gringotts. The bank lobby is glamorously decorated with chandelier and goblins. Exactly like the scene when Hermoine walked into Gringott to seek the vault. Goblins sat on each side working diligently.

From the lobby, we were shown a hologram of one of the Weasleys welcoming us.  We proceed down to the bank’s offices.  As mentioned by its name, Escape from Gringotts, the ride took us on an epic journey with Harry, Ron and Hermione as well as a fire-breathing dragon to escape Lord Voldemort and Bellatrix.  The 3D effects made the ride a unique experience and it is definitely one of my favorites.

The best part has to be the unexpected surprise when the performers came to dance.  We were standing close to the front of the stage.  I was busy with taking pictures when the main lead pointed to Chef Bubble.  Next thing you know, he is dancing on stage!  Haha!  🙂  I am sure that made his day.

I have officially cross the first item off my ever growing bucket list.  🙂

Thank you for allowing us to become a part of Harry Potter!  🙂   This place is magical for sure.