Smile #109 – Climb to the Top

Strapped on our harnesses, clipped in our belts, and slowly pulled myself up rock by rock.  Higher and higher I climbed until I reached the peak of the climb ground and my hand finally touched the silver bar at top.  That was the greatest accomplishment of today.  🙂

2016-01-31 14.31.06.jpg

JB and I spent the afternoon learning the ropes at Inner Peak, an indoor climbing gym [pun intended!].  After we signed our lives away, our trainer introduced us to basic belay and rope management procedures.  We each took a turn at belaying and climbing.  Trusting our partner!  Don’t drop me!

2016-01-31 14.30.35.jpg

The whole facility is covered with walls with varying levels routes designed for beginners and advanced climbers. We started off at the auto belay station.  Since it eliminated the need for a belayer, it allowed our partner to capture a few action shots.  As it turned out, this photo-op wall was actually very challenging.  We didn’t make it much more than a few inches off the ground with these small round knobs.

2016-01-31 14.50.43.jpg

Although our first attempt failed, we were not defeated!  We found a quiet wall off to the side and tried again.  Each move must be considered carefully.  I tested each knob to see how well I can stand or hold it.  Slowly and steadily, I made it to the top!

2016-01-31 15.11.36.jpg

2016-01-31 15.13.17.jpg

With each try, we became more comfortable and confident climbing.  🙂

JB was quite talented at bouldering, rock climb without the use of ropes or harnesses!  I chickened out at the thought of no rope to secure my fall.

2016-01-31 14.55.19.jpg

It is certainly a great way to get into shape.  Hopefully our arms won’t regret our adventure today!  🙂


Smile #108 – Nice to Meet You, Asheville!

Nice to Meet You, Asheville!

Despite the distance between Charlotte and Asheville is just short of 2 hours, I have yet to step foot into the city limits.  Shame on me, I know.  So finally, no more excuses, Bubble and I planned a day trip to Asheville.  🙂

Started our visit with Asian-Mexican fusion tacos from White Duck Taco Shop.  Don’t be fooled by the offsite warehouse location.  Head on inside to try an exotic flavored taco or two!  We sampled Korean Beef Bulgogi, Mushroom Potato with Romesco, Fish, and Lamb Gyro. Bubble also ordered a side of Chipotle Grits, which he claims is the best grits in the world.  That’s a pretty big title!

2016-01-30 12.05.47-1.jpg

After we licked our plates clean, we walked our food baby to next door, Riverside Studios.  We wandered through the open gallery and spoke with a local artist about the surrounding River Arts District.  It is home to an array of artists and working studios within one mile radius.  We made our way to Cotton Mill Studios next and Yuzu Patisserie & Cafe.  Each studio we explored offer a different experience.  Some featured contemporary paintings and sculpture while others focused on vintage treasures.



For a firsthand taste of Asheville’s wide known hippy/eclectic vibe, we headed downtown.  The town celebrated the free spirit atmosphere all over.  Musicians played on every street corner.  Independent boutiques showcased local artists’ unique work.  We discovered vintage jewelers, independent bookstores, and speciality gift shops.

We were lured inside The Chocolate Fetish by the most intoxicating chocolate flavor.  Bubble and I were mesmerized by the decadent selection of truffles and chocolate covered everything behind the display counter.

2016-01-30 16.06.35 HDR.jpg

Needless to say, we indulged our chocoholics desires with a few.  🙂  One African Queen, one Raspberry Cheesecake, one Champagne and one Peanut Panache.  We were blown away by the rich chocolate flavor.  The Chocolate Fetish well deserved its title as Best Chocolatiers and Confectioners in America!

2016-01-30 16.11.34.jpg

P.S. I spotted their ultimate Valentine’s collection.  I’ll be your Valentine if you share this box with me!  🙂

2016-01-30 16.03.20.jpg

I suddenly received a call from Sis.  Coincidentally, she was in Asheville for the day as well.  We met up at Malaprop’s Bookstore.

Notice anything?  Living in separate city, still accidentally twinning.

2016-01-30 16.53.43.jpg

This independent bookstore is adorable.  With a small coffee shop embedded inside, readers can enjoy a cup of coffee or tea while flipping through a staff curated selection or wandering through aisles of unique gifts.  Or better yet, have a Blind Date with a Bookseller, a special section where all the books are wrapped in brown paper.  Clues about the book are written to give an idea about the book.  What a fun idea!

2016-01-30 16.30.21.jpg

After we parted ways, Bubble and I strolled through Grove Arcade, a historical shopping plaza featuring an assortment of shops and galleries.  The interior corridor reminded me a bit of London’s shopping plazas.

2016-01-30 17.14.35.jpg

The food scene is huge in Asheville.  Lesson learned:  Make reservations early.  Rather than waiting over an hour for dinner, we headed to Farm burger, where the crowd was a bit more manageable.  It is a highly rated local burger chain.  Bubble ordered No 6 Blackboard Burger with pine street bacon sunny side up farm egg, pepper jack cheese and salsa verde.  I tried No 3 The Pastured Pig with hickory nut gap pasteurized pork burger, chilli-garlic braised Moonshine meats pork belly, and mustard bbq.  Although it was a sloppy experience, the burger was very tasty!  🙂

2016-01-30 18.26.36.jpg

Asheville is much more than a typical mountain town.  There are so much left to see, to eat and to do.  I am sure we will be back before long!  🙂

Smile #107 – Snowmaster

Table Topic Master here, reporting for my duties!

This week, I branched out to a different role at Toastmasters!  Who knew being the Table Topic Master is so much fun!  I had fun brainstorming ideas!  🙂

Thanks to the impromptu snowstorm this past weekend, today’s topic will be all about snow!  I decided to research a bit about snow facts.  Here is what I learned:

  • The world’s largest snowflake was reported to be 15 inches across and 8 inches thick at Fort Keogh, Montana 129 years ago on Jan 28, 1887!
  • Over 76 inches of snow fell within 24 hour period in Silver Lake, Colorado.  New York’s 26 inches is nothing!
  • Residents of Bethel, Maine, USA built the world’s largest snow woman in 2008!  She stands at 122 ft in tall.  What a record!

Between my fun facts, I also prepared some questions.

  • If you can choose, would you rather stay in Charlotte during Storm Jonas’ visit or hide away elsewhere?
  • Describe your favorite childhood winter activity.
  • Despite snow is magical, tell us a time when snow was nothing but a nuisance.

The responses were great!  I learned quite a few things about our fellow toastmasters.  🙂  … FYI- Don’t stick you tongue out to see if it will stick to a frozen flagpole, the answer is yes, it will.

First time exceeding expectation on all criterias!  🙂


Smile #106 -Keep It Organized

Practice makes perfect.  So bring on Project #2!

Today’s speech is titled -From the Peak.  Let the world know my obsession of seeing the world at a great height.  There is no substitute for views from a romantic European city, endless mountain range and a sprawling tower cityscape.

No, it wasn’t the perfect speech.  I still held on to those clutch words. I was still nervous.  But I managed to give another speech in front fellow Toastmasters!  🙂   I met all the speech objectives with only 2 ‘ums’!

Based on the feedback, everyone seemed to enjoy my speech.  🙂  According to my evaluator, I have a nice ‘stage presence’.  I used the stage more this time.  I appeared more confident.  Overall, I was praised for my speech.  🙂

2016-01-20 13.37.08.jpg

I already signed up for my next speech!!  Let’s see what I come up with this time!

Smile #105 – Say Yes to Carolina Bridal Fair

Hoping to see more wedding inspiration, Bubble and I signed up for the bi-annual Carolina Bridal Fair.  As first time attendees, we had no idea what to expect.

2016-01-17 13.10.42-1.jpg
Look at our cute badges!

Venues, jewelers, event planners, entertainers, photographers, videographers, and caterers joined under one roof.  We wandered aisle after aisle.  We stopped at a few tables for tasting, perused photographers’ portfolios and chatted with a few vendors.  This atmosphere reminded me of meeting recruiters at career fairs.

David’s Bridal hosted a bridal runway shows featuring the spring collection. Classic, vintage, open back, ball gown, mermaid, there are so many styles to choose from!  After seeing a few of these dress, I think I have narrowed down a few styles best suit me.  We shall see!  🙂

Side story:  Today is Football Sunday.  Unlike other Sundays, this Sunday is more significant because our very own team, the Panthers are playing and this game determines whether we will continue in the playoff (Update: Panthers 31 – Seahawks 24).  Since there is no cell reception in the venue, a TV was specially set up to broadcast the game.  Cheers echoed the hall with each score update. It was amusing to see some men were happily released of duty to enjoy the game by the TV while other unfortunate men trudged behind the bride to the next booth.  I guess this is the perfect test of love.  If your man didn’t ditch you, it meant he really loves you.  Bubble passed the test!  🙂

After two hours, we collected a bag of brochures and marketing materials.  Proud to announce, we survived our first bridal show!  🙂  And Bubble has been released from his groom duties.

2016-01-17 19.18.15.jpg