Raleigh’s Annual Beer Festival as a… vendor?

8 Apr

Every year, our amazing city of Raleigh puts on a world beer festival with dozens of brewers and vendors from North Carolina and beyond, and this year I was invited by the amazing All About Beer magazine to be a vendor at the festival to promote the party bus! Let me start off with the fact that I am really upset I lagged on my picture taking.. I always do that! #annoying 

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So, people get so excited about this festival that the tickets sell out every year for BOTH sessions, not to mention that the tickets are 45 bucks a pop! The cool thing about that is that I was able to set up a booth for both sessions (12 -4 and 6 – 10) which let me meet literally hundreds of people in just 12 hours. I knew a 12 hour festival day would be tough so I hired an assistant for the day. When I say hired I obviously mean slave labor begrudgingly given by my wonderful boyfriend.

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We started our day off with a healthy mango smoothie that I concocted on a whim.. I am so proud of how amazing this smoothie tasted that I instagrammed a picture of it and I am now reproducing it here:

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We were of course running late (Wes needs a lot of time to do his hair), so by the time we got downtown and realized there were roadblocks everywhere and no place to drop off our stuff we got a little stressed, Wes actually dropped me off 8 blocks away with 3 bags of crap and made me walk right through a walk for ALS that was also happening downtown that day – it took him 45 minutes to find parking! Cray.

By the time I found vendor check in I was about an hour late but all the other people seemed to be late too so it ending up working out perfectly. I was escorted to my booth right in the middle of all the North Carolina local brewers and I set up camp! Since we weren’t technically selling anything or giving out beer I knew I had to give out free goodies to get people to come talk to me, so I ordered green bottle opener key chains, (that the company messed up and didn’t replace in time so I had to give them out all crazy looking — see pics ughhh) and brought some of our awesome GT cups and the last of our Capital Ready Mix Coozies – oddly enough the capital coozies were the biggest hit! 

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About 2 hours into the first session we were starting to run out of free stuff but we met some awesome people who were really excited about the party bus! By 3:30 came around everyone was starting to get a little drunk and crazy, and we were fresh out of goodies so we packed up and walked to Starbucks to recharge, put our feet up for a bit and go to the bathroom in the Marriott since we were using DISGUSTING porter potties all day.. those things get nasty quick!

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I was really excited for session 2 to start because that’s the one all of our friends were going to be at! Learning from session 1 we decided to give out the rest of our goodies early and then when everyone was starting to get drunk, pack up the booth and enjoy the festival ourselves. Around 8:15 we packed up and walked around to all the brewers and tasted some awesome beers! By 9 we were so exhausted that we didn’t even go out for a drink with our friends after (I guess this is what it feels like to be getting old! haha!) so we hit up a food truck before leaving which was basically a food truck dedicated to GRILLED CHEESE AND FRENCH FRIES. Like, really? Heaven. We both got the one with Gouda and pesto mhmmmm. 

All in all, I am so happy we decided to be a vendor for the world beer festival! We met tons of amazing people and really got the word around town that we’re here and ready to party — woo hoo! I must admit though, I feel really cool that I have a business I get to promote! #dreamscomingtrue 

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A Year in Review… Asia, Europe and back to the States

9 Jan
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A truck in Hong Kong

One year ago from today I was packing my bags in Bangkok, Thailand and beginning the long trek back home to Florence, Italy. At this moment in time, I was a little confused about where my life was going. I was no longer sure that I wanted to stay in Europe, but I couldn’t think of another place that I was ready to call home. I decided to take the last few months I had before my sisters April wedding and just sit in Florence and think, feel, reflect. Things people normally do when they need to make a major decision in the course of their lives. Well a year has gone by and what have a accomplished? (So cliche using the passing of a year to reflect on ones life but get over it, its happening). In my life, according to my standards I’d say… a lot. More than I could have ever imagined on that day sitting in my Bangkok hotel room.

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Thai food in Thailand

1. I’ve let go of people in my past that had to be let go of (a tough thing to do in life). I think this is something I’m most proud of, since its a very hard decision to let go of things and people that no longer serve you. Sometimes we use the past as a safety net, not wanting to let go for fear of missing out on something that “might be”. But holding on to the past will only inhibit your future.

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Drinking a watermelon smoothie on the Island of Koh Chang, Thailand

2. I decided that I needed to return to the States. After more than 2 years of constant travel, I finally realized that I had to go home for “a little while”. This has since turned into a long while, being that up until a few months ago I was still convinced that one day I would be returning to my old life in Europe (more about that later).

2. I started my first business with my dad and finally listened to his words of wisdom. Examples of Dad’s words of wisdom:

  • “If you make enough money, you’ll always be able to return to Europe”
  • “If you don’t get a job I will stop paying for your shenanigans”
  • “Listen to what I say, not what I do”
  • “Just listen to me, I am the boss”
  • “You probably don’t need to be eating that second piece of cake”

He’s so wise in so many ways. Especially about the cake.

3. okay, get ready, this is going to sound super corny. Reason number 3: I fell in love. When I never thought I would. Did I just get lucky? Was I in the right place at the right time? Did I have anything to do with making this happen at all or did the universe just slowly guide me to that bar in downtown Raleigh? Maybe my dad was right all along, “listen to me and I will find you a husband”. (and he’s the one that convinced me to move to Raleigh, coincidence?)

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Working the Hong Kong metro

I always believed in the power of love, that love could move mountains, heal illnesses, stop a war if you loved hard enough. But I never thought love in all its power could keep me from Italy. But if you asked me now which I would choose, love or a life in Italy? Well, I’ll let you answer that one.

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Wes and myself on his birthday

This past year has taught me a lot about myself and my life. I’ve learned that I can order vegetarian food in thai, traverse my way through the Hong Kong metro system, that the laws of the Italian visa system don’t apply to you if you don’t want them to, that I can give up on old dreams and begin working on new ones, that I can feel so much love in my life that if I think about it long enough it will bring me to tears. All this and more has happened in just 12 months and I wouldn’t change a single second of it, because it brought me to where I am right now, still not completely sure of where my life will take me, but unafraid of where its leading.

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Ashtanga Yoga with Kino MacGregor

9 Dec

A few weeks ago, My mom and I took a little road trip to Asheville, North Carolina for an Ashtanga Yoga workshop with the one and only Kino MacGregor. For those of you who aren’t into yoga, Kino is a famous yoga teacher who is actually one of the first women granted the title of Ashtanga yoga teacher. She studied for many years with a famous yogi named Guruji and over the last decade has basically become a yoga MASTER. She’s traveled back and forth to Mysore, India learning from the original masters of Ashtanga, how cool is that? So when I found out that she was going to be holding a workshop only a four hour drive from me, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be there. I didn’t want to go alone so I signed my Mama up for the workshop as well.

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We drove up the night before and checked into our hotel right in downtown Asheville (the yoga center was walking distance which was perfect). We were so excited to be on a mini vacation and to have some nice quality time, just the two of us. My mom and I have a tradition of going on a trip together every year in May since our birthdays are 2 weeks apart. The first year we went to Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and had a blast. The next year, I was volunteering at an orphanage in Ecuador for a month so we decided to get a little crazy and meet up in Peru. We had the most amazing trip ever exploring Lima and of course the magnificent Machu Picchu!

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At Machu Picchu!

Well since then, we haven’t been able to keep up with our little mother daughter tradition – life just gets in the way sometimes, with busy schedules, babies being born, weddings being planned and daughters living across the world in other countries. So finally, after 3 years we finally had another trip to ourselves! So while I was stoked to take a class led by Kino, the part I was most excited about was having my Mama all to myself for 2 days.

Heading to class

Heading to class

Anyway back to the yoga thing. So friday night we had an amazing Italian meal with pasta, red wine, homemade bread and a giant slice of cheesecake (great diet before two days of yoga I know). The next morning we woke up bright and early and walked to the Asheville Yoga Center. Kino came in and we started our first of four classes for the weekend. Since I practiced Ashtanga in Italy – and did my teacher training in the Ashtanga style, I know the deal. It gets sweaty, it gets tough and sometimes you just want to stop and take a nap on your mat for the next hour but you push through and you always feel amazing in the end. Well my mom.. she practices yoga. Like at a gym in North Raleigh. She goes when she feels like it and practices a different sequence every time she goes. So when she found herself in the middle of a 2 hour traditional Ashtanga primary series class she was a little shell shocked, to say the least. I mean I was dying within the first 30 minutes also don’t get me wrong, but I at least knew what to expect. For example, before we even got to our second set of sun salutations a woman passed out twice and had to be escorted out of the room.

Not looking too shabby after 4 hours of Yoga

Not looking too shabby after 4 hours of Yoga

I’ll give it to my mama though she is a warrior! She pulled through and did the entire two hour sequence without hardly any extra rests. This woman is amazing! Even the experienced practitioners at the end were getting tired. It didn’t help that this tiny room was PACKED OUT with yogis. The rule for setting up our mats was no more than 3 fingers apart from each other. With this many bodies in one tiny, closed off room with 2 lousy fans, things got a little hairy. For example, so many people were breathing and moving and sweating that by the time the class was over, everyone was laying in a giant pool of each others sweat. (cute. right?) When leaving the room, people had to tip toe out so they wouldn’t slip and fall on the soaking wood floor. (yummy). Well to say the least we were pretty beat at the end of that sequence. We were also sweaty, hungry and tired. Day one, class one down. 3 more to go? We didn’t know if we could handle it but we had a two hour break so we decided we’d figure our shit out then. We ran back to the hotel and showered instantly. Then scarfed down some noodle soup and spring rolls and headed back to our human sauna maker.

My fortune after our 2 hour class! #irony

My fortune after our 2 hour class! #irony

Well the next 3 classes were a lot more relaxed so we were thanking Kino for that. She talked more about philosophy and the history of Ashtanga and then we broke down a select number of poses and just worked through them over and over. Before we knew it, 2 days and 8 hours of Ashtanga had gone by… I completed my first workshop with Kino MacGregor! Brillant.

Kino doing her thing

Kino doing her thing

All in all, my mom and I had such a wonderful time just being together, and enjoyed the fact that we had each other so we didn’t feel dumb not being able to jump in handstands and balance on our forearms like everyone else in the class seemed to be able to do so effortlessly. At least we can say we tried! Kind of. yeah actually we just watched and even watching them made me too tired.

Martinis and pasta for dinner

Martinis and pasta for dinner

I am thankful that we were able to practice alongside some wonderful and talented yogis and that I had the opportunity to see Kino in the flesh, and know that no, none of her instagram pics are photoshopped.

So thanks Kino for spreading your knowledge with the world, and for allowing us neophytes to step into your classroom. Namaste.

The perfect anecdote to a hard weekend of Yoga

The perfect anecdote to a hard weekend of Yoga

Panthers vs. Buccaneers – I guess that makes me a football… fan?

5 Dec

So I know its been awhile since my last post but if you want me to be honest with you its kind of hard to stay committed to something when it takes a lot of time but you don’t get paid for it. But since I now know I have at least one person who is a fan of my writing I am going to persevere as best I can to please the masses. With that being said, last weekend Wes and I went to my very first Panthers game in Charlotte! My friend Marissa and her fiance, also Wes (hehehe) came with us! Apparently I was the only one who wasn’t really a follower of football games, I didn’t think Marissa was that into football but when we got in the van she starts naming all these players and dropping stats and totally left me out there in the dark with the rest of the female population who couldn’t really give a rats behind about football. But anywho,  I’m so proud I have a friend who can talk to my boyfriend about football so I don’t have to! Thanks Marissa!

Sold Out Stadium

Sold Out Stadium

So we started the day leaving Raleigh at 8am to get to Charlotte by 11. Of course Marissa and her Wes were totally prepared with breakfast, coffee, 5 bottles of champagne, orange juice and panthers cups to drink our mimosas in. Me and my Wes showed up hungry, thirsty, tired and cold looking like a mess and completely unprepared for anything. Figures! i’ve decided to make my New Years resolutions 1. to be more prepared for fun events and 2. to wake up earlier everyday 3. to not be such a mess. Easy enough, right?

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Looking all cute in her Panthers gear

The one thing we did do right was get to Charlotte a little early so we had time to stop at a bar for some food and drinks.. we ate at a cute little Irish pub, where the two Wesley’s were bribing the waitress to serve us beer before 12. The game started at 1 so after eating we briskly walked to the stadium with plenty of time to spare. Until I was told that my bag was too big to be brought into the stadium. of course I would be the one to not realize they had bag requirements! Luckily darry and the van were only 5 minutes away so I was able to drop my stuff off and run back towards security! After waiting on a ridiculous line we finally made it into the arena and to our seats! We were in the nosebleeds but we got out tickets for $32 — can’t beat that.

Panthers1Even though watching football on TV isn’t my favorite activity.. I LOVE going to the games. The energy, the crazy fans, the beer, the NACHOS. Its all great! When we got to our seats we realized we were seated right in front of 4 psychotic fans.. they were great don’t get me wrong but apparently we were one of the only people who found them amusing. (Now that I think of it I’m pissed I didn’t get a picture with them!). They all had tattoos and gauges in their ears and were probably mid 30s, large and in charge men. They were drinking and screaming and making fun of every single person in their line of sight. I found them hilarious but the girls next to me didn’t agree.. a few words were exchanged but in the end no one got punched in the face so it was a success! I considered the events double the entertainment value. The Panthers ending up having a great game and beat the buc’s 27 – 6 which brought the Panthers to their 8th consecutive win! Not too shabby if I say so myself.. GO PANTHERS! I think I picked a good year to become a Panthers fan, and I’m pretty sure this is the reason they’ve been winning. You’re welcome Cam.

panthers4All in all we had an amazing day with our friends watching our team win! And it worked out for me in the end because Wes bought me the cutest little Panthers hat with a pom pom on it to celebrate our victory.. woo hoo!!!

 

 

A night at the NC State Fair (fried oreos included)

28 Oct

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Its that time of year again! The North Carolina State Fair… rides, pig races, games, ginormous vegetables and lots of food that is fried, fried, FRIED. While I like to pride myself on being healthy, I am secretly a fried food, cheese puff, dessert loving poor excuse of a  vegetarian. While I absolutely love fruit smoothies and vegetables, I’ll be the first to tell you that ANYTHING tastes better fried. Including oreos. Therefore, I dedicate this post to the NC State Fair and all of its versions of fried food. This list includes, oreos, candy bars, cheese, vegetables, dough, and BUTTER. Yes, there is such a thing as fried butter and it can be purchased for a ridiculously over priced fee at the State Fair (I don’t know, however, what this fee is because I knew that by asking the butter frier how much his fried butter costs I would have been too easily convinced to purchase and consume the fried butter- as an avid baker and semi trained pastry chef I have a strong bond with butter)

List of fried foods

List of fried foods

Now lets get to the Oreos —  Even though I just went on a rant about how much I love terrible food, for obvious reasons I do not consume them on a daily basis and only reserve myself one night a year to indulge in fried Oreos. If you haven’t already guessed that night is the State Fair (or any fair that has fried Oreos – so yes I ate them a few weeks ago at the MNO Party — hehehe!!)

Dousing my beloveds in powdered sugar

Dousing my beloveds in powdered sugar

After having to wait an excruciating 4.5 minutes for our Oreos to be freshly fried , my little babies were finally in my hands. They were fresh out of the frier and piping hot.  But that didn’t stop me.

HERE THEY ARE

HERE THEY ARE

Next are a series of photos documented by my little Wesley

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Next, a picture of Wes and Myself after the massacre.

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 He’s terrified and disgusted at the same time. His face explains it all, he is definitely rethinking his choice in women. He’s not sure wether to laugh or cry, stay or leave. Just eat an Oreo Wesley, just eat an Oreo.

He eats an Oreo and his faith in our relationship is restored.

Giant pumpkin winners

Giant pumpkin winners

 We finish walking the rest of the fair and saw the winners of the giant vegetable challenge (that may not be the actual name of the event). The biggest pumpkin was over 700 pounds!

After moseying around in the cold a bit more, we finished the night off with some fried mozzarella sticks and a vow to never eat like that again. Until next year. At the North Carolina State Fair.

A surprise visit to Toronto, Ontario

24 Oct

This past weekend I was granted the pleasure of surprising one of my friends, Laura Aloise, in Toronto, Ontario (In case you weren’t sure, yes, that’s in Canada). She is currently living there after moving from Florence, Italy where we met!

Little piece of the Toronto skyline

Little piece of the Toronto skyline

Let me do a quick recap of how this all came together. A few weeks ago, Laura’s boyfriend Mikey found me on Facebook and asked me to help him plan a surprise for his beautiful girlfriend. At first, the plan was for him to send Laura down to me in Raleigh so she could have a little getaway, but after some deliberation we decided that it would be nearly impossible to pull that off since she would eventually have to find out where she was going. Example, you can’t just force someone to go through customs at the airport and get on an airplane bound to God knows where with them blindfolded. It just wouldn’t work. So we changed the plan to me flying to Toronto to surprise her! Makes much more sense.

Mikey was suppose to pick me up from the airport, bring me to their apartment, then wait in silence until she arrived totally unsuspecting. But when I landed Mikey surprised me with a giant stretch limo and a driver! Very fancy.

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A few hours later Mikey and I were anxiously waiting with glasses of champagne to hear Laura’s footsteps down the hall. Our plan when she opened the door was to jump out and and attack her like female fight club (Bridesmaids anyone?) but we ditched that plan at the last minute for lots of hugs and champagne toasts!

Champagne Toasts!

Champagne Toasts!

When she opened the door and saw me standing there she screamed like a hyena then became utterly confused and said “wait, I don’t understand, how did you get here??” and I responded, “an airplane and a stretch limo brought me!”

Fresh juice at fresh!

Fresh juice at fresh!

 

We spent the remainder of our weekend basically just stuffing our faces. The food in Toronto is utterly divine. Our favorite restaurant is a vegan/vegetarian place called Fresh that we ate at twice in 2 days. Everything is local, organic, vegan and delicious! Our first trip I had the world’s greatest veggie burger and a fresh juice, (Apple, carrot and coconut water) and the second day I had a vegan breakfast made up of a tofu scramble, toast, baked beans and hash browns. Yummmyyy!!

 

 

 

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My second favorite restaurant was an Italian place called Ciao that had amazing Gnocchi! I had it with a fresh tomato sauce instead of the Gorgonzola and I devoured the entire thing in seconds.

After a weekend of lots of eating, drinking, shopping and talking we woke up to Monday morning when I was scheduled to return back to the States. I had such a great weekend with Laura and her wonderful boyfriend Mikey! I can’t believe its been almost a year and a half since she left me in Florence…

 

As for Toronto, its a beautiful city with amazing restaurants. It reminded me a lot of NYC, which also reminded me that I am definitely not a city person. I love visiting them but I am so happy to be back home in Raleigh, with my car and my fried food! hehehe

 

Dundas Sqaure, Toronto

Dundas Sqaure, Toronto

Just in case anyone plans on visiting Toronto soon the addresses of my too fav restaurants are below:

Fresh: 894 QUEEN STREET WEST

Ciao: 133 Yorkville Ave.

Ending note: Canadian money is plastic and un-rippable… how genius is that??

Did you know Canada shares Queen Elizabeth with England?? She loves being on their money!

Did you know Canada shares Queen Elizabeth with England?? She loves being on their money!

The Business, The Bus and The Party

3 Oct

Good Morning and Happy October! I’m still blown away that its already October, before we know it its going to be Thanksgiving, then Christmas and 2014! But before all that happens I wanted to fill everyone in on the new business my dad and I have been working on for the last few months. Its called Grand Touring Transportation and it is basically the coolest party bus you have ever seen. We remodeled an old DWI bus that we bought from the government and completely customized with cool gadgets and luxurious materials. So you can understand what I am talking about when I say completely customized here is the before:

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and here is the after:

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Crazy, right?! We used an amazing local business here in Raleigh, NC for the transformation called Capital City Customs, they do some awesome work and have pictures on their website of past renovations. 

Some of the bus features include a flat screen TV with satellite, surround sound, screen sharing capabilities, state of the art bathroom, ice maker, microwave and mini fridge…. all packed into one moving bus! INSANE. Did you notice we also have granite counter tops and leather ceilings? Like, really? 

To finish everything off we wrapped the entire thing in a design made by our family friend Michael Cantwell (who is a top notch graphic designer, he also did our website and logo).

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Since we were so excited to see this thing finished after months of being worked on, we picked it up and packed it out with supplies for a 2 day party in Rocky Mount last weekend for its maiden voyage! Here he is a sneak pic of the party, more pics will be posted soon…

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While this business took a lot of work to set up, I am so happy we are finally rolling! We are officially taking reservations in the Raleigh area which is pretty exciting to say the least… 

Be sure to check out our website that just went live two weeks ago GrandTouringTransportation.com  

I think the best part about this whole thing is that I get to work with my wonderful Dad EVERY SINGLE DAY. In the same office. With desks across from each other. Great things happen when we get together as you can see from the finished product, so thanks Dad for your fantastic entrepreneurial spirit! (that hopefully got passed down)

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