Smile #245 – Say Yes to Cake Tasting

Agree or disagree, cake is THE reason why people come to weddings.  It is the focal point of the wedding, aside from the bride, of course.  (Sorry not sorry, grooms)  Cake cutting is a classic wedding moment, up there with the first kiss and first dance.

What could be better than sitting down with a cake consultant and sample different cake flavors.  It is basically a dream comes true.  Bubble can attest to that.

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Let’s pig out!

This past weekend, Bubble and I scheduled a cake consultation and tasting at Publix Bakery.  Publix offers an incredible number of flavors and varieties.

We can customize any type of cake with any type of icing and any fillings.  The combination is endless!  We asked to sample three flavors – Marble with a raspberry filling and buttercream icing, vanilla cake with lemon icing and buttercream icing, and red velvet cake with cream cheese filling and cream cheese icing.

Wow oh wow, we had not expect them to actually bake us a cake of each flavor.  We thought it would be a slice or small bite size.  Oh no no no, it was a full 8in cake.  And Publix accidentally made an extra cake.  This one is red velvet with raspberry fillings and cream cheese icing.  Our pants are getting tighter as we speak.

Our consultant, Laura, served us a slice of each cake.  Bubble thought the red velvet was very smooth.  I liked the tartness from the lemon icing.  After sampling all the flavors, Bubble and I both agreed marble with a raspberry filling and buttercream icing is the best.  The frosting was not overwhelmingly sweet and it complemented the marble well.  Plus the chocolate and vanilla twirl looked gorgeous on the plate.

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We flipped through Publix’s catalogue of cakes.  All the cakes look way too pretty to consume.  Laura explained the cake can be decorated to match our wedding colors and we can also bring in designs from Pinterest.

When we started to discuss the cost, to our surprise, wedding cake doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Well, at least at Publix.  I had read that wedding cake can cost some serious dough.  Publix’s cakes are fairly priced.  As a way of cutting down cost, Laura suggested the option of having a nice cake for photo purpose and supplement with a sheet cake.

Overall, this was a tasty learning experience.  We get to eat and learn about cakes.  It can’t get better than that.  We thank Laura for her time and she helped packed up all four cakes.  We have a quite a bit of designing to do, but the imminent task is …how to get rid of all these cakes!

Smile #218 – Us the Duo

Through their Vine’s six second video clip of top hit covers, Us the Duo has amassed millions of followers across the globe.  They have toured with Oprah and Pentatonix and have performed live on Good Morning America.  For the first time, the talented and adorable duo, Michael and Carissa Alvarado, are headlining their own solo tour.  They are traveling around the nation.

Bubble has been a fan since those good ol’ Legends’ concert nights.  It has been years since we went to Michael’s concert at App.  We were excited to see they will be stopping in Charlotte.  I have been binging on their music on Spotify.

Before the doors were open, eagered fans already lined up outside of The Underground.  A room of 600 people stood waiting patiently for the night of music to begin.  Bubble and I were surprised at how intimate the venue was.  It was a nice sized room with seating on one side for VIP.  We found a spot with a clear view of the stage, even for fun sized people, aka me.

The night opened with songwriter and singer, Hailey Knox.  She began her music career on YouTube with unique acoustic covers of pop songs.  This is her second tour, first one with Charlie Puth last fall and now with Us the Duo.  She sang songs from her newest EP – Awkward.  Her songs are catchy and lyrics are relatable.

She came down to meet the guest after her performance.


Next up, Us the Duo.  The crowd roared in excitement.  The duo began with their  2014 pop song medley.  The pair wanted to show the audience, “where it all started.”  They used to jam in their living room.  What better way of bringing fans together than showing them their actual living room sofa and a standing lamp.


Carissa’s vocal and Michael’s multi-instrumental play, they were unstoppable.  They sang songs from their older collection and their latest Public EP.  In between their original songs, they also played covered of Sway and Build Their Me Up Buttercup.  Their acapella rendition of Meghan Trainor and John Legend’s hit song Like I’m Gonna Lose You capture complete attention from the room.

In between songs, they joked and teased.  Their love was contagious.   They set up a Q&A session where fans can ask any questions.  One fan asked for love advice.  Carissa joked to put toilet paper roll back in the roll instead of leaving it on top.

 

The night ended with their wedding vows song – No Matter Where You Are.  Of course, the audience wouldn’t let them leave that easily.  All the chanting brought them back on stage for one last song – Medley of 2016.

Bubble and I both enjoyed the concert.  Carissa and Michael’s performance definitely satisfied every expectation.

Smile #216 – Bechler by Night

Many can recognize the shiny disco mosaics sculpture on S. Tryon, but how many can tell you about the museum behind it. I admit, I can’t…I have passed by the building numerous time over the years, but not once have I stepped inside.  This statement will change after tonight.


The building referred to is the Bechtler Museum of Modern Art.  The famous sculpture is titled the Firebird or Le Grand Oiseau de Feu sur l’Arche by an artist named Niki de Saint Phalle.

I stumbled across Bechler by Night program via Charlotte Agenda’s Agenda Weekender. In partnership with Bank of America, the Bechtler Museum hosts Bechtler By Night.  On the third Friday of each month, the museum opens its four gallery floor to allow guests who don’t normally have the opportunity to see the galleries during normal hours.  February’s theme is Travel Abroad.  The title was enough to convinced we must go.


Unsure of what to expect, Bubble and I were greeted by quite a crowd.  People clustered around the welcome table for their passport and bingo card.  With the passport, you are to search for arts and artists from different parts of the world.  The bingo card is basically a scavenger hunt.  Mark down the floor the image was found on the card and return for a prize.

We headed straight to the fourth floor and began our walk through Bechler Collection: Relaunched and Rediscovered collection.  The expansive collection includes work from a variety of different artists.  Bubble and I both enjoyed the pop art section.  One painting poked fun of consumerism.  Another mocked America’s democracy.  We then made our way down to Alberto Giacometti: 45 Drawings Portfolio exhibit.  His work includes sculptures and paintings.


As we strolled through the museum, we hunted for items on our bingo cards.  We had a lot of fun competing against each other.  Bubble and I managed to find all the images, except one.  We have no idea where it could be from.  All the big prizes were already given out, but we are free to pick up a postcard.  Bubble picked one with the Small Swiss Female Head and I picked the Alberto Giacometti, Annette.  Both were on our Bingo sheet.


We both enjoyed our night at the museum.  It was a unique way of engaging with the art.  🙂

Smile #212 – Nice to Meet You, New Orleans, Louisiana!

Nice to Meet You, New Orleans, Louisiana!  

Bubble and I scratched our heads trying to nail down on a destination for our annual domestic vacation.  We went to Philadelphia, PA in 2015 and Denver, CO in 2016.  We debated whether we should visit the west coast – Seattle/Portland or Las Vegas/Grand Canyon or should we stay on the east coast and visit the Big Apple?

The decision was clear when I learned of Allegiant Air’s newest service offering.  This budget airline offers unbeatable low priced non stop services departing from Concord Regional Airport to several cities in Florida.  But in November, it added a new service lane to New Orleans, Louisiana.

The news arrived at a perfect time.  Off we go to NOLA, the Big Easy!

Since we have never flown from this airport, Bubble and I left bright and early to avoid any chance of missing the flight.  When we walked in, the entire airport was empty.  This is definitely a first.  Leigha arriving wayyyy too early, that’s almost unheard of.  Note to self, arrive two hours to departure time, not boarding time.

Unlike the typical budget airline, the plane is surprisingly large with three seats on each side.  The seats are a bit stiffer with no leaning back or personal entertainment center, still the flight is still well worth the price.  Pretty soon, I dozed off.

In a little over an hour and 30 mins, we landed smoothly in NOLA.  We hopped in an Uber for our hotel.  Once again, we are too early for check in.  We dropped our backpacks and went out exploring.

Routing error and we ended up in the residential area.  Pretty sure we were warned not to wander there….Oops.  We eventually found our ways to the French Quarter.  St. Louis Cathedral dominates Jackson Square at the heart of the French Quarter.  It is the oldest cathedral in the country.  The square was surrounded with artists and performers.

Over the course of this trip, we ate sooooo much food and drink wayyyy too much.

Starting with Napoleon House, a highly recommended restaurant.  The atmosphere felt like we had slipped back in time.  Our hostess led to our their charming courtyard.  We ordered their specialty Italian muffuletta to share with a side of jambalaya and a Primm’s Cup.

Their signature drink, Primm’s Cup, is a make of British Gin based liqueur and lemonade, splash of lemon-lime soda and cucumber garnish.  It was light and refreshing.

Let me warn you, this muffuletta is HUGE!  It is basically the size of my head!  The freshly baked bread is so buttery and fluffy.  With a perfectly layered of meats, provolone and olive salad (well, I scraped mine off..), it was delicious!

Stuffed to the max, we walked it off with our French Quarter Walking Tour.  Our guide, Matthews, shared the history and significance of New Orleans.  The city has definitely been through a lot.  From 1700s to now, quite a number of wars occurred and the city has exchanged hands between the French to the Spanish, back to the French and finally landed in the hands of the Americans.  The tour was informative and certainly helpful to learn our coordinates.

The tour ended down the street from the iconic, Cafe du Monde.  A trip to NOLA is not complete until you have an order of beignet.  The fried dough covered in heaping mounds of powdered sugar is a NOLA staple.  We found a seat and ordered an order of 3 beignets with orange juice.  We devoured the beignet.  It is a challenge to keep the powdery mess to a minimum.

When I was doing research for New Orleans, every other post listed bars after bars as must-visit attractions.  So here we go!

Bourbon Street is known for its bars and clubs.  With Mardi Gras right around the corner (Feb 28th), the party scene has hyped up even more.  It seems like there is a party at each of the 13 blocks.   We learned that beads is a HOT commodity down here.  Ladies and gents both go wild for a strand.  Crowds stood on bar balcony ready to toss beads to anyone willing to show some action.  We did managed to see some chest actions.   HAHA!  It is definitely an experience not to be missed.

The Old Absinthe House is one of the oldest and most historic dive bar on Bourbon Street.  The walls are covered with business cards.  Football helmets hang from the ceiling.  Despite the rampaging parties happening just right outside, it is calm and relaxing in here.  We tried absinthe for the first time.  It is neat how they served the drink by mixing and burning a sugar cube.  At 138 proof, it tasted delicious.  A couple of this drink can definitely get you in trouble.

Next, we headed to Pat O’Brien.  The place is packed with tourists.  The drink to order here is the Hurricane.  Innovator, Pat O’Brien, originally created the Hurricane as a way of concealing cheap rum.  It is now one of New Orleans classic.  I The drink was named after the glass that looks like a hurricane lamp, not the natural disaster that plague the region.  was excited to try the distinctive ruby red, rum based punch at its birth place.  We ordered two Hurricanes from its ‘local’/original bar before headed to the piano bar area.  Antique Bavarian beer steins hang from the ceiling.  The dueling pianists played songs of popular artists of all decades and all genres, from Bruno Mars to Billy Joel.

The final bar for the night is Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop Bar.  Built during the 1720s, it is considered the oldest bar in the United States.  The small rustic establishment has a dusky ambience lit by candles.  If you are a fan of licorice/grape…cough syrup favor, their famous Voodoo Daiquiri is the right up your alley.  This purple daiquiri is made with Everclear served in a Styrofoam to-go cup.

Smile #211 – 6 Months and Counting

We are down to the 6 months mark!  My usual response to ‘when is the wedding or how is the wedding planning’ is no longer ‘Ohh, don’t worry, it is far from now’.  Time is ticking and we need to get down and dirty to finish planning.


Her

At the moment, pressure is not too intense.  I have signed us up for quite a few DIY projects.  I have been gradually completing them while binging on the Netflix.  The ones left all have a rough draft.  I have assembled the ladies to come and help crank it all out.  I have a goal of finishing all the details by July so we can enjoy our remaining time being engaged.

What I truly need to work on is a beauty and fitness plan.  I also need to narrowing down on all wedding accessories.  Did you know a veil is the same cost of your first born?!  Jk, but it is shocking to how a veil that costs hundreds and up to thousands.  And only wear it for 30 minutes.  Don’t even get me started on head pieces.  The wedding industry is definitely a well flourish one!

Let’s ask the groom how he is feeling right now.

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Initial thought – I feel like we have been planning for a long time.  But really, I think we are doing quite well timing wise.  We have a few things that we need to work on, but overall at a very good place.

I wish I had lost more weight, but that is working progress.