Food Blog Forum 2013 – Whole Foods Brunch & Toojay’s Lunch

On Sunday, we had one last event for Food Blog Forum 2013 – the Farewell brunch, hosted by Whole Foods Orlando. Whole Foods really did a wonderful job creating a delicious menu of innovative small bites – from key lime shrimp to quinoa breakfast salad. We enjoyed the eats whilst catching up with our blog friends before we all had to take off to head back to Disney for more theme park fun, or to the airport or the road for home.

Catching up? Here are the previous posts from our Florida trip:

Here are some photos from the brunch…

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I absolutely loved this breakfast quinoa salad and will be trying to re-create it to share the recipe!

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{Muse Gelato}

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Here’s the full group shot from Food Blog Forum 2013 in Orlando, FL (photo credit Jennifer Holt). Thank you to the event organizers and presenters – you guys were fabulous, and I hope I can make it in 2014!

***

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Hubby and I went back to Disney, but not to visit the parks. We had to pick up Bailey! I’m not sure who was more excited to see the other – me or Bailey!

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I ran into one of my new blog buddies, Michelle, at the kennel.

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We swooped Bailey up and hit the road bound for St. Augustine. We took a slight detour in the northern part of Orlando to drive by one of my childhood homes. I barely recognized the thing. They removed the short basketball hoop that used to be in front and had done major renovations on the back side. It looked like they added a whole second story to back part of what was a one level home.

I tried looking for a non-chain restaurant for a quick lunch bite, which is always a challenge on the road, especially with a pet. While we were in the area, we stopped by Toojay’s Gourmet Deli (a chain, yes, but only in Florida), since they had outdoor seating where we could sit with Bailey.

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I got the chicken salad over mixed greens…

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…and hubby got toasted sandwich with french fries.

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We had a spectator at lunch, but luckily, he didn’t try stealing our food or anything.

And with lunch over, it was time for a short drive to St. Augustine where we planned to continue our Florida road trip!

Food Blog Forum 2013 – Disney Kid’s Cuisine {Orlando, FL}

The conference day breakfast may have been light, but Food Blog Forum and Disney had a real treat up their sleeves for our lunch – Disney Kid’s Cuisine! That’s right, we got to sample some of the best dishes off the kid menus from all around Disney World – from Epcot to the Animal Kingdom Lodge. Not only did they bring the kid-friendly food to us with various stations set up in one of the Grand Floridian conference rooms, but they brought the chefs, too!

By the way, if you’re catching up, you can check out my previous posts here:

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We gathered in the hallway, excitedly waiting for the doors to open. As soon as they did, we rushed into the conference room where we were given tasting plates with blinking decorations. I got a green tinker bell and headed to the left.

I decided to post the photos from lunch in the order they looked best for the post, rather than the order I ate the related food. I’ll explain along the way…

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I tried these baked Florida coast fish sticks after eating the cheese soup and macaroni and cheese, so at first, the flavors were lost on me. I think the saltiness of the cheesy dishes prior kept me from really tasting all the subtle flavors of this dish. Luckily, I was slowing down on my eating since I was also chatting with fellow food bloggers, so I ended up inadvertently taking my time with this one. As I slowed down, I really started tasting the fish and the breading, which were delicious together. This one may have been my favorite of the lunch, mostly because of the fish. I also enjoyed the crisp-tender seasonal vegetables, and I liked how they snuck carrots into the whole-grain rice pilaf.

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The fish stick dish was presented by the Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s Boardwalk. Chef – Tim Keating, Manager – Stig Jacobsen.

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I’d like to say the mac and cheese was another favorite, and it was…but all the food was really so good, they were all favorites in different ways. And you can’t really go wrong with mac and cheese, can you? This mac and cheese was made with a white cheese sauce, which was a fun and tasty twist. I easily ate this one right up.

The mac and cheese came from Jiko – The Cooking Place at Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge. Chef: Jonathon O’Brien, Manager: Victoria Thompson.

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They also had pineapple-chocolate Mickey Mouse pops at this table, which made for a light early-dessert-bite.

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The cheddar cheese soup was one of the dishes I was looking forward to least, though I was determined to try each dish at lunch. In my head, I imagined it to be something like a big bowl of thick, orange cheese dip. In reality, this soup was light, creamy, and just fantastic. The soup was also a favorite with many of the food bloggers at my table. The toppings of pretzel croutons and (I believe) green onions added great texture.

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Le Cellier Steakhouse from Epcot presented the cheddar cheese soup. Chef: Jay Derby, Manager: Rick Decicco

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One of the lightest dishes was the oven-roasted Atlantic shrimp with brown basmati rice, green beans, and red grapes, which was a great combination of savory and sweet. I liked how this dish had a trio of my favorite meal components – a lean protein, a whole grain, and vegetables, plus a bonus of fresh fruit!

This shrimp dish was from Narcoosee’s at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. Chef: Noah Estabrook, Manager: Brian Ruppe

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The multigrain grilled cheese dippers with tomato soup sounded simple enough…so simple, in fact, that I didn’t think much about them as I was perusing the list of eats. Of course, I got a plate to sample, and the grilled cheese part was pretty good but the soup! Wow! The soup caught me off guard with how good it was. I mean, it was “just” tomato soup, ya know? But this was special tomato soup. My friend Aly told me the soup was really good, but I didn’t realize how good till I was slurping down my mini cup. As I blog, I find myself wondering if this recipe is available in one of the many Disney cookbooks out there. Does anyone know? Anywho, I also appreciated that this plate came with some fresh fruits and veggies – great for the kiddos and adults, alike.

The dippers and soup were presented by Whispering Canyon Café of Disney’s Wilderness Lodge. Chef: Philippe Cuenin, Manager: Allyson Schleider

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I’m a big pot pie fan, so I was looking forward to trying the turkey pot pie. Not only was this one lighter than most versions I’ve tried in the past, it was also free of (I believe) 7 allergens, including dairy and gluten. I liked how the cheese biscuit toppers were shaped to fit the theme of the restaurant.

The pot pie came from Cinderella’s Royal Table at the Magic Kingdom park. Chef: Charles Dolson, Manager: Kenny Myers

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The pork tenderloin with roasted potatoes, apple marmalade, and broccolini was another hit at my table. Broccolini is probably my current favorite vegetable, so I was really happy to see it on one of the plates at lunch. This dish seemed like a pretty sophisticated kid’s meal and one adults would also enjoy. Can we order off of the kid-menus? Seriously though, the pork was super tender, and I liked how the potatoes and vegetables weren’t over-cooked. I know I say that a lot, but crisp-tender, just-right-cooked vegetables are big with me. Brownie points!

Citricos from Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa shared this dish. Chef: Phillip Ponticelli, Manager: Keith Gimbel

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The house-made meatballs with orecchiette pasta and marinara sauce was one of the last dishes I tried, so I asked some of my table mates about it before trying it myself. One said it tasted sort of like Chef Boyardee. I was intrigued, so I grabbed a small bowl to taste, myself. And you know what? It did taste sort of like Chef Boyardee…but much fresher and all-around better. I said it tasted “like my childhood.” This pasta dish is surely a favorite with the kiddos – pasta, meatballs, red sauce – what’s not to like?

You can find the meatballs and pasta at the Yachtsman Steakhouse at Disney’s Yacht & Beach Club Resort. Chef: Daniel Sicilia, Manager: George Sachs

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I was pretty full by the time I made it through all the previous dishes, but after passing the dessert table a few times whilst grabbing the savory plates, I spotted a couple things I knew I couldn’t leave behind. The Mickey Mouse chocolate-bomb-looking dessert was one of them. This one had chocolate discs for Mickey ears and looked quite rich. The inside was actually light and fluffy and almost mousse-like. We guessed the center to be cookies and cream, but we’re not sure. It was delicious either way, and my full stomach appreciated the lightness of this treat.

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I’m actually not a big fan of cake pops, and I only had so much space left in my stomach, so I skipped this part of the dessert table even though it was interactive and looked like a fun dessert.

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But, you guys know I’m a cake-for-dessert kind of girl, so I hit up the cupcakes in search of “the one”.

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The turquoise in the frosting of this Monster’s Inc. cupcake caught my eye, but it looked like way too much frosting for me. Plus, it was also almost twice as big as a normal cupcake. My eyes said yes, but my stomach said no.

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I decided on this green monster eye cupcake – vanilla cake with vanilla frosting. It was SO good! The cake was moist and the frosting was a just-right buttercream. Yum! I would love to have another one of these to munch on while I edit this post.

The desserts were from Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa from pastry chef: Erich Herbitschek

***

How fun was this lunch?! I can’t believe they were able to pull all those chefs and teams from around Disney World to share their kid cuisine with us food bloggers. It was definitely one of the highlights of my trip. Thank you, Disney, for sharing your kids-eats with us!

Next up – hubby and I head to Epcot for dinner and make a quick stop into the Magic Kingdom!

American Tobacco Historic District and Foster’s Market {Durham, NC}

After our food truck stop and coffee break, we made our way to another outdoor adventure. Okay, we didn’t go zip lining or anything like that, but we did head over to the American Tobacco Historic District. The old American Tobacco Factory went through renovations to become an indoor-outdoor area for use for events, restaurants, businesses and general meandering. We did the latter, wandering through the green way, enjoying the water displays, and walking along brick wall after brick wall. The weather was perfect for being outside and just enjoying the day.

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One thought that crossed my mind while we were there was that I wished I had packed better outfits. The area would have been great for some outfit photos. Ahh…maybe next time?

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Since our previous eats were more of a snack than lunch, we headed over to Foster’s Market for some more food.

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We found a nice, sunny spot outside to wait with the dogs while we took turns ordering inside.

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And then, we moved to a picnic table to enjoy our meal – chicken salad over mixed greens for me. After the food truck eats and all the hot sun, I wanted something on the lighter side…and a giant glass of water. So refreshing!

Not too shabby for what seemed to me to be our first real spring day. We’re off to a great start. I’m looking forward to many more afternoons like this one!

Thanks for reading!

Spice Update Sale and Salad Love {Eats}

Our local Savory Spice Shop is featuring a great deal through the end of March. Bring in a competitor’s bottle and get $1 off a new SSS bottle full of fresh herbs or spices.

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I knew quickly that I wanted to cash in on this offer. So, I gathered the bottles that were empty (or mostly empty) or contained old/expired spices. The chili powder was pretty full, but it had some sort of questionable additive (that I’m too lazy to google/research), so I decided to replace it, too.

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Turns out, I didn’t have to replace the old bottles with the exact same spice.

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So, I ended up having a pretty good time picking new spice goodies to bring back home.

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I got a couple spice basics, plus a new blend. You guys know how much I love my spice blends.

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Goodbye old bottles. May you be recycled well.

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Hello, savings! I got $32.27 worth of spices, minus $8.00 for my 8 bottles, for only $24.76.

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Here are my new spices: Yellow mustard powder, Berebere Ethiopian style seasoning (I’ve been using this one a lot for breakfast), medium chili powder, turmeric, Hungarian sweet paprika, toasted white sesame seeds, hot smoked paprika, Mt. Eolus Greek style seasoning.

Given how fast I went through most of these before, I got regular sized bottles for all but the ground mustard. Woohoo! And yes, I’m excited about new spices. It’s the little things. ;)

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I took a pit stop for lunch while I was in the area at Luna’s Living Kitchen. This is one of my favorite restaurants in town, despite the fact that I’m not vegan or a raw foods enthusiast. I just love the delicious, healthful, and beautiful food. Plus, the place has really great, positive energy.

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I found a nice sunny spot next to the window and spent some QT with my Fire Starter Sessions book. I know I’m going through the book at a snail’s pace, but I’m really trying to take my time and digest the various sections.

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Since I opted for a salad for my main dish, and I’m a bit of a carb-aholic, I ordered a side of the cranberry walnut bread. It’s just so good – lightly sweet with chewy pieces of dried cranberries. You can get it with a side of homemade nut butter, but I like it straight up. It comes out warm and lightly toasted.

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I almost always get the quinoa burger at Luna’s, but I decided to try something new – Kale Cornucopia. “Zesty orange-marinated kale, garnished with teriyaki almonds. Served with cauliflower rice and a local green salad”.

I love the side salad with the simple hemp dressing, so this was like having the best of both worlds since I got the kale salad, too. I really enjoyed the light flavors of the dish overall. The orange marinade gave the kale a bright, spring-inspired taste that I’m looking forward to enjoying again very soon.

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I wasn’t sure what I’d think of the cauliflower rice, but it was great, too. The flavors of this one were very light, but I thought it went well with the other flavors in the overall plate and had a refreshing bite to it.

And now, after looking at all that beautiful plant-based food, I really want a salad. Too bad Luna’s isn’t closer to my office! Or, maybe that’s a good thing…for my wallet, at least.

I do feel like I’ve fallen off the healthy-eating wagon a bit. I’m only a couple months out of Eat in Month, and I’m already eating out fairly often. But regardless of whether I’m eating in or out, what’s bothering me is that I feel like I’m not eating enough fruits and vegetables. Time for another Project Veg-Up? But, seriously, I am trying to make a more concerted effort to get more fruits and vegetables into my day.

For the last several months, I’ve switched my pre-workout snack from a Larabar to just an apple. The change has been great. I really feel like the apple helps give me an energy boost before I teach (or take) Zumba class, and I even feel healthier and better, overall. Plus, even though I think Larabars are pretty close to clean eats and do contain a fruit serving, the apple definitely is a 100% clean eats choice. I’ve even gotten into having one apple on days I don’t work out. So, there’s one fruit serving. Now, if I could just get more fruit incorporated into breakfast. And more vegetables incorporated, in general. I’m hoping to prepare more eats at home like the ones I enjoy at Luna’s. And, I’d like to come up with more fruit and vegetable based recipes to enjoy and to share with you guys!

*Local readers – there are still a few more days to update your spice cabinet and save. Head to the Savory Spice Shop in Southend with your old bottles!*

Reader question: How do you keep fruits and vegetables in your daily eats?

Corner Kitchen & Biltmore Wines {Asheville, NC}

After our big breakfast, we decided on something light for lunch. Since Sunday was our last full day in Asheville, NC, we had a couple more to-dos on our list – get wine from Biltmore and visit a dinner fave from our last trip.

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With a trip to Biltmore in mind for the afternoon, we headed to a place we’d visited near the estate last time – Corner Kitchen (click for photos from our last trip).

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{fan in the spoon}

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At first I was a little unsure of what to get from the menu. Since it was Sunday they were featuring mostly brunch items that reminded us of our previous meal. I didn’t know how many breakfast meals I wanted to have in one day. But then, something caught my attention – the Roasted Beet and Tempeh Salad.

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The salad turned out to be perfect and really hit the spot. From the menu: “Seasoned with walnuts and pickled onions, this vegetarian salad is served on arugula and topped with grilled haloumi cheese”. The flavors were subtle but went together nicely. The tempeh was mixed in with the beets and just as vibrantly fuschia thanks to marinating in the their juices. And who’d have thought to add the haloumi cheese, but yes yes yes. It was great! I seriously need to try to re-create this one at home. Yum!

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After lunch, we headed over to Biltmore. Since we still had our annual passes from our last trip, we were able to drive onto the property and head to the winery. (Though, you can purchase and sample wines from the gift shop if you’re more interested in a quick trip)

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Since we were already at the winery, we decided to do a quick wine tasting to pick out what to re-stock.

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Last time we were here, my goal was to get a box of wine. This time, my goal was the same. I really enjoy Biltmore wines, and I love having them around to crack open to enjoy or to entertain.

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{all re-stocked}

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After our wine shopping trip, we headed back to the B&B.

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I spent some more QT with my Fire Starter Sessions book…

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…and Bailey.

Next up – dinner and chocolate!

Reader question: Do you have a favorite winery? What’s it called and where is it?

Asheville Thinking Retreat, Mela, Tea & Cake

We took a mini vacation in Asheville, NC this past weekend for a thinking retreat. I wanted to leave my laptop behind and unplug and spend more quality time reading, relaxing, and doing some soul searching.

But, first…we swung by my parents’ house to say hi.

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Also, I had this belated birthday gift to give my mom.

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Also-also, she just had surgery on her shoulder, and I really wanted to see her and see how she was doing. She seemed to be doing pretty well, though she has a few more weeks to recover form surgery.

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As for the gift, I custom made a spice gift set with some of my favorites. Dad said she was looking for new things to do with chicken, so I selected a couple different Savory Spice blends to help them out.

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We enjoyed a delicious breakfast with the fan before hitting the road.

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The trip went smoothly…

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…and it just started snowing as we drove into town. Our B&B, Louisa’s Porch, let us check in early, so we dropped off our bags and Bailey (it was pet-friendly!) and headed into town to visit one of my fave spots.

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The B&B was just a few blocks from downtown, so it was a quick walk for us.

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We decided to do a quick lunch at Mela where they thankfully let us in late. It seems like many places in town close at 2:30pm, but Mela accommodated us right at 2:30pm. I normally don’t like arriving at restaurants so late, but it was cold, we were really hungry, and it was a buffet, so I hoped we wouldn’t take too much time or effort.

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I had a small cup of spicy tomato soup.

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And I had one delicious plate of eats – chicken tikkia masala, tandoori chicken, naan, rice, and a couple veggie dishes.

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I loved the giant windows at the front of the restaurant. We got to settle in, enjoy our eats, and watch the snowflakes float by.

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Next, we headed to my fave – Dobra Tea (which was right down from Mela).

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The place was packed, and we almost didn’t have anywhere to sit. Finally, we noticed the two last seats in the building, which happened to be across from Laurel from our B&B.

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So, we got to hang out with Laurel and her friend who informed me that Dobra now has bubble tea. Do you know how hard it is to find bubble tea made with brewed tea and not the weird powdery stuff?

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I got the iced matcha bubble tea, and it didn’t disappoint. Yum! I so wish I had one of these right now.

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I noticed they had their lavender cake (from Short Street) in again. I almost couldn’t resist getting a slice, and I did great…until I saw that Short Cake had just dropped off fresh baked cakes.

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I decided to take a slice of the vegan coconut cake to go.

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The walk was definitely cold, but it was nice being able to walk to and from the B&B.

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The cake didn’t last long. I ended up digging into it back at the B&B.

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I also cracked open the Fire Starter Sessions by Danielle LaPorte, which I’ve been slowly reading over the last few months. Spending some QT with this book was high on my priority list for the weekend. I feel like I usually spend most of my time doing things and not enough sitting back, thinking, analyzing, and planning.

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The cake was delicious, and I enjoyed getting to spend some time really focusing on the lessons in the book.

Next time – dinner in Asheville and a special shopping event for local, Charlotte readers.

Thanks for reading!

Reader question: Do you take your pet(s) with you when you travel? I’ve started looking for vacation places using trip advisor.com and filtering for pet-friendly places. I’ve found some great places that way!

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