Smile #177 – Emoji & Me

Apple’s new emojis are here!  The new emoji package added more gender diverse emojis and revamped some of the character faces.  My favorite are still the smiley with tears and the angry red face.

As I sat strolling through the long list of emojis, I discovered something remarkable…





Smile #176 – Nice to Meet You, Treehouse Vineyard!

Nice to Meet You, Treehouse Vineyard!  

The craft beer scene has been blooming in Asheville and Charlotte, but there is one more we missed out on – wineries.  From the mountain to the coast, there is literally hundreds of wineries across North Carolina.  Forget Napa Valley and explore the NC wine trail instead!

Bubble and I ditched our usual indoor plans (FYI, it was 89F degrees in Charlotte…so much for fall) for a date at Treehouse Vineyard.  Secluded in a residential neighborhood in Monroe, the winery was unexpectedly busy.  The line was actually out of the door!

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Treehouse Vineyard hosts a unique story based tasting on the weekend.  Our host began sharing a bit of the winery and the family history.  Once upon a time, Mr. Phil and Ms. Dianne were both living with Ms. Dianne’s mom.  Because Ms. Dianne’s mom was ill and required constant care, Mr. Phil built a treehouse right in their backyard for their quick date night.  I mean can they be any sweeter?!  The words about the treehouse got out.  Friends wanted to rent out the treehouse for their date night as well.  Mr. Phil decided he would build another treehouse with hotel amenities.  At the time, Ms. Dianne thought he was silly, no one would want to stay in a treehouse.  She was proven wrong when reservations filled up so quickly.  Just last week, they completed the final touches on their third treehouse.  All three are available for renting now.  Based on the photos shared with us, they look awesome for a weekend getaway.

Although Mr. Phil had made wine for years as a hobby, it wasn’t until 2005 when he planted brushes of muscadine vines.  Each of the wines are named after family stories.  Sweet Union – a sweet white Carlos wine was named after warm people of Union County.  Date Nite, of course, was named after Ms. Dianne and Mr. Phil’s date night on the treehouse.

We sampled a total of 8 different wines.  Bubble and I both ranked Sunset Hills, a sweet red muscadine blend as our top favorite.  I was actually surprised at the result since I usually prefer whites over red.  Sunset Hills is even better when it is mixed with frozen cider.  These wino-ritas are dangerously delicious!

Treehouse offers kits to make wino-ritas at home.  The recipe … shhh, is 1 bottle of cider and 1/2 bottle of wine (any of them will work).  Pour both into a galleon bag and freeze for3.5 hour.  Volia!  Enjoy the most perfect summer juice!

Another host took us behind the scene to all the machines and explained the process.  This process differs from our Italian Wine tour.  Apparently many wineries have switched to using a cold stabilization method to keep tartaric acid from forming after the wine has been bottled.  The tartaric acid is what is used in making cream of tartar – used in lemon meringue pie.  Who knew?!  Our host explained the manual process of bottling and labeling.  Also learned there is such thing as a cork tree and a whole industry in Brazil.  Real cock is expensive to use because it requires at least 40 years of growth before it can endure any cork extraction.  Who knew?!

After the tour, visitors can relax on rocking chairs.  Bubble and I opted for a swinging bench.  The picturesque vineyard scenery reminded us of the luscious green Tuscan hills of Italy.  We quite enjoyed our short day trip to Monroe.  🙂

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Our ticket also includes a bottle to share.  Of course we picked Sunset hill.  We also picked up a bottle of cider to make some Wino-ritas.  We are so in troubleeeee!


Smile #175 – I Said It

Checking my calendar, I realized I have been on quite a long Toastmaster hiatus.  I haven’t delivered a speech in almost half a year!  With my work assignment coming up, it is time to brush up on those presentation skills!


Project #4 – How to Say It presents a unique challenge.  The objective of the speech is to incorporate vivid, descriptive words and rhetorical devices while avoiding jargon.  I scratched my head searching for a topic fitting to the prompt.

After some time, a light bulb lit up and I got on writing.  Today’s speech is about traveling and donuts.  Some places you go for the museums, some for scenery, and others for the food.  But not me, I travel for donuts.  Almost all of my domestic travel itinerary includes a donut stop.  Hmmm, this might be a pattern of an addiction…never mind that, let’s get on with the speech.  Capture.PNG


For the first time at Toastmaster, I did not bring my speech clutch – AKA note cards.  I stood in front of the audience and words rolled off my tongue.  Soon I was flashed by the green card (speech met time limit).

Based on the evaluation received, I achieved the speeches’ goal with vivid description of each donut.  This made everyone hungry and those already came hungry, even more hungry.  Donuts for lunch, please!

Another speech down, just 6 more to go!

Smile #174 – Mystery Shopper

Our trip to the Scandinavia has officially drained my savings.  While it was totally worth every krone spent, I have revert back to my ramen and hot pocket budget.  Since my lotto luck isn’t so lucky, I decided to pick up a hobby to increase my savings.  Savings = traveling.  🙂  486472_10151401966811985_908605066_n1.jpg
I have heard of mystery shopper years ago. Mystery shopper goes in the store pretending to be a regular customer and secretly grading the store’s performance.  Well, it is like that plus a bit more.  There is a lengthy guidelines on what I need to do with scenarios and scripts.  I discovered this when I signed up to be mystery shopper at a fast food shop this past weekend.  My task is to evaluate the customer service, food quality, and overall cleanliness of the establishment.  Afterward, I have to submit my findings.

Bubble also joined me on this assignment. My stomach was grumbling just in time for dinner.  After we ordered our food, I stood beside the counter and really noted the staff working, the cooking progress, and any areas of improvement.

2 things are cool about this gig:  1.  I felt like I was a special agent under cover…I mean I kinda was, right.  2.  I get to eat on someone else’s dime.  Cha-ching!




Smile #173 – Global Entry Status

Recalled our trip to Denver a few months ago (Smile 141), I was shocked at the airport security line snaking through the massive crowds at 6 am.  We made it to our gate with only a minute to spare.  As we stood in line in slight panic mode, we saw people go through the much shorter line labeled TSA PreCheck.  I have seen the green check mark advertising the TSA PreCheck program for years.  But I had always thought if I showed up early and have the patience to stand in line, I can just pocket the money [for another trip].  Well, this hellish line at 6am changed my mind!

Traveling is my passion and I don’t foresee myself stopping any time soon.  Let’s be fancy and join the expedite lane.  When we returned from our trip, I immediately searched TSA PreCheck.  Apparently US Customs and Borders Protection offers several Trusted Traveler Programs, each customized to different type of travelers.


I decided to apply for Global Entry based on my travel patterns (domestic and international travels).  The cost is slightly higher, but it includes all of the benefits of TSA PreCheck while also allowing access to expedited CBP Entry kiosks.

Although the application was a quick process, getting an interview is a challenge.  According to a CBP officer, the wait used to be 4-6 weeks, but it grew exponentially when CBP offered TSA PreCheck as an additional incentive.  On average, the wait for an interview is about 4-6 months wait!  Well, no one told me that….

But the wait is finally over!  Because I am now a TRUSTED TRAVELER!  Hello Global Entry Status!  🙂



I finally get to use the new privilege my special power during my latest trip to Panama.  I got through the TSA PreCheck line within 5 mins and no more taking off shoes and taking laptop for extra check.  I am getting spoiled at the airport!  🙂