Monday Morning 10/31/2022: Happy Halloween!

(photo credit: Szabo Janos/unsplash)

Happy Halloween! Long gone are the days when we used to decorate the house as well carved pumpkins, purchased, recycled, or created our own costumes, walked the neighborhood with the kids for trick or treat, bought bags of candy, etc. This year Brett and I will be enjoying a quiet evening at home and watching a scary movie (Dan Curtis’ Dracula, a favorite adaptations). The apartment complex usually holds a trick-or-treat event for the kids so that no one is knocking on doors all evening, but not this year so K will be trick-or-treating in a nearby neighborhood with friends.

Day One: A chilly morning at our Airbnb; then on to Grandfather Mountain to walk across the mile-high swinging bridge, followed by views of the Smoky Mountains from the Blue Ridge Parkway, and a stop at the Blowing Rock to view spectacular fall foliage in the valley.

We had an absolutely wonderful getaway and a fabulous fall experience in North Carolina. The leaves were just lightly past their peak, but still lovely and had enough color to have made the trip worthwhile. M picked up K early from school and we set out around 3:00 to make the drive over to Banner Elk, arriving there a little after midnight. It took over an hour to get clear of the traffic in Nashville, and we also made a stop for dinner, took bathroom breaks, and then wind our way through the mountains in the dark. The Airbnb, a cabin style condo, was very nice and cozy, complete with a fireplace. We all fell asleep soon after we arrived but were up early Saturday morning to visit Grandfather Mountain. Afterwards we went to the town of Blowing Rock for lunch and ice cream (the place was packed with tourists) then took a drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and finished our day with a stop at the Blowing Rock for a few more spectacular views of fall foliage and the Great Smokies. Other than at the town of Blowing Rock, we seemed to arrive at the right time to miss the hordes of tourists that were also visiting the area. We ate dinner at our Airbnb and went to bed early.

Day Two: Biltmore House in Asheville.

Yesterday morning we were up early again and had breakfast, got everything loaded into the car, checked out of the Airbnb, and headed west to Asheville to visit to Biltmore House. The drive over was easy, the scenery and foliage gorgeous, and we arrived at Biltmore House at 11:30. Biltmore House was nothing less than amazing – we all talked about how glad we were that we went, even K! M, K, and I toured the house first while Brett walked Kaipo around the grounds. When we finished we got (really good) sandwiches at the snack bar, then met Brett in front of the house and took Kai so Brett could take the house tour while we visited the gardens. We left Asheville just a little before 3:30 in the afternoon for the drive home, much easier than the ride over because it was interstate the entire way. Rain had been predicted for all day Sunday, but thankfully never showed up and was instead quite warm and the roads clear. We ate our sandwiches in the car on the way back and got home just a little after 7:00 p.m.

Kaipo was a great little traveler although he chewed right through his new sweater on the first day – sigh. For mostt of the car ride he sat on my lap and slept. We learned quite a bit about traveling with him though to file away for future reference. Otherwise, we are happy to be home and unpacked, and it was nice to sleep in our own bed again (the Airbnb mattress was too soft for us).

Kai’s first big adventure! He was a great traveler.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Our trip to NC involved an ambitious schedule over a short period of time but we did and saw everything we hoped to and we had a great time. 2) I finished two more books and have started two more. After these ones I just finished I was hoping to slow down a bit and catch my breath, but no – three more books came off of hold in a two-day period. The past few weeks have been intense trying to make sure I get books finished on time before they have to be returned (while still enjoying them) and it looks like this will have to continue for another week or two. 3) Brett set up our post-Tennessee spreadsheet and we’ll begin evaluating different potential locations/ideas soon.
  • What we’re looking forward to this week: 1) K and I are going to make a cherry pie this week! We will be using a refrigerated crust and canned cherry pie filling, but we’re going to do something fancy with the top crust. 2) We again have no appointments on our calendar but will do half of our monthly shopping at Trader Joe’s and Costco toward the end of the week.
The aroma from the pine needles as we walk by these days is intoxicating.
  • Healthy eating and exercise: 1) We did five two-miles walks in the apartment complex last week and then two days of walking (at least four miles each day) in North Carolina. 2) Meals last week were Chef Tom Colicchio’s one pan pasta with broccoli and bacon; spinach and onion pizza with fresh mozzarella; lobster macaroni and cheese and wedge salad; kalua pork spring rolls, steamed pork buns, and peanut coleslaw; Mandarin orange chicken, steamed rice, and leftover coleslaw; Sonic cheeseburgers and small milkshakes on the road; barbecue pulled pork sandwiches, traditional coleslaw, and potato chips; and a Cuban sandwich from Biltmore for lunch/dinner last night in our drive home. While I’m normally very careful about portion size, I truthfully ate too much on our getaway.
Operation Overeat on Day One: bespoke (and huge) ice cream sandwiches from Blue Deer in Blowing Rock. From top to bottom, snickerdoodle with apple pie ice cream (Brett); oatmeal raisin with pumpkin ice cream (Laura). and double chocolate cookie with chocolate ice cream (M & K). We ate these right after lunch, and then had dinner later. Too much! The ice cream sandwiches were a highlight of our getaway though.
  • What we saved: 1) We replaced Kai’s harness last Tuesday and received a 10% discount because it was the pet supply store’s Senior/Military discount day. 2) We brought along our own food to the Airbnb in NC for two breakfasts and one dinner; otherwise, our DIL bought our all our lunches and paid all our admission fees on Saturday as well as half of the Airbnb cost. 3) We put $33.04 into the change/ $1 bill bag this week. It’s way more than usual because we decided to start putting $5 bills away as well as $1s this past week. 4) Our efforts at saving energy this month paid off: the combined total for electric, water, and Internet was $47.70 under budget. 5) No food was thrown out and all leftovers were eaten.
Our new piece of art. This photo really does the piece no justice because it’s hard to see the abstract detail in the drawing.
  • Good things that happened: 1) A friend I have known since childhood is a gifted abstract artist, and it has been one of my life goals to own one of her works. I’ve been wanting to buy one of her paintings, but Brett doesn’t particularly care for abstract art, so we could never agree on anything. However, this past year she did a series of ink drawings of the woods behind her Massachusetts home, and we decided to purchase one we both love. It arrived this week so goal achieved! 2) We had a great time traveling with M & K and are looking forward to doing it again in the future!

Brett and I had talked before we left about possibly adding Western North Carolina to our list of post-Nashville locations. The whole area was stunningly beautiful, and we loved being in the mountains, but it just didn’t feel right to either of us, mainly because of the isolation. We drove through so many towns that didn’t have a market, or much of anything else, and we couldn’t see ourselves having to drive on winding roads in the winter to buy food, etc. We did like Asheville though, and it’s big enough to have everything we want and need, so we’re adding it to our list of potential locations.

That’s all from last week! It was a very good week, but we’re happy to be home and are looking forward to what should be another great week coming up. Happy Halloween!


16 thoughts on “Monday Morning 10/31/2022: Happy Halloween!

  1. You were in some of our favorite places – we love Banner Elk, Blowing Rock and the whole Blue Ridge Parkway! Asheville not so much – too crowded and too touristy for us. I could live in Blowing Rock though. (Except for the fact that, especially this time of year, there is no time to go into town without hordes of people.) Glad you enjoyed Grandfather and the Biltmore. Both are extraordinary in their own way.

    That pasta sounds amazing! And those ice cream sandwiches! Haven’t been to Blue Deer, but will stop by next time we’re up that way.


    1. Brett’s family come from the area: Boone, Bamboo, and a couple of other places, so this was a return to his roots for him but a first visit for me. I would love to check out Blowing Rock again when it isn’t filled with tourists. After living in places filled with tourists year round, we are more interested in places that don’t or won’t get overrun. Tourists could be a problem as well in Asheville, although it didn’t seem crowded when we were there.

      The Tom Colicchio pasta is EASY and delicious. I substituted bacon this time for the ham and it worked well. And Blue Deer – oh my! I highly recommend a stop. They have shops in Blowing Rock and Boone, and a camper trailer on the road between the two (no coffee drinks available there however).


  2. There are a ton of Key West ex-pats living in Asheville. I cannot tell you how many of my friends moved there when Key West became too expensive. They all stayed and love it there. I think that could be perfect for you guys! Glad you had a good trip and you should know that you have inspired me to walk more. I am up to about 2.6 miles per day but would like to do more.


    1. I am going to have to dig deep into the cost of living in Asheville because it seems like it would be expensive, or maybe close to what it is here in Tennessee. It sure is a beautiful place though.

      This month Brett and I are going to add another loop onto our walk so that we do three miles intstead of two. Time for us to kick it up a notch. I still feel like I am gaining weight here so I’m going to have to get back to tracking calories again.


  3. The area around Appalachian State University is a place I considered for retirement. My cousin’s kids went there. It has markets bc of student population and it is beautiful. Gorgeous pics and the ice cream sandwich looks fabulous!


    1. I considered Huntsville, AL because it is high tech, has UAH, and it does have a large military presence bc of the space center. All the places I considered had a university which also meant they had a decent size hospital there. They were all also relatively inexpensive because I am on a budget. I also wanted somewhere within a day’s drive to the beach.


      1. More good reasons to consider a college town, especially that colleges (universities) can offer hospitals and good health care. However, many of the places we’ve looked at, having a college in town has meant higher housing costs so we have to weigh that has well.

        I like your idea of being within a day’s drive of the beach. The closer to the ocean, the more expensive the cost of living, so this is a great way to have the best of both worlds. I grew up about an hour’s drive from the beach, and depending on the location, closer than a day might be doable.


    2. The Boone area was lovely but the one drawback for us is getting in and out for visits to our children, and vice versa. But who knows? One of our daughters is already hinting she might move back out west. So, our children’s locations might not end up playing as big a role as we thought. College towns are always a plus too. Besides amenities there are loads of cultural offerings as well.

      Those ice cream sandwiches were incredible, and exceeded our expectations.


    1. LOL, I know and thought the adjective was a fun way to describe these sandwiches as they are made just for you (they offer five different cookie choices, and five different ice creams and then the customer gets to pair them up however they want).


  4. Hi Laura:
    My husband and I have been following your blog for a VERY LONG TIME!! I don’t comment too much. Really enjoy your adventures especially your trip to Asheville. We live in Charlotte, NC metro. It is nice but not for us because it is too crowded and the roads are horrible. We are also looking for a retirement area and have considered Boise, ID or Vancouver, WA.

    I recently read that you were going to settle in Mazatlan, Mexico after you leave Nashville. Have you reconsidered your decision to move to Mexico?


    1. Thank you for being such a loyal reader – I appreciate hearing from you so much.

      I know a little about Vancouver, WA, and it’s a great location although it’s getting crowded as well. It’s the best of both worlds though, the tax benefits of Washington State with sales tax-free shopping in Oregon (for cash and carry shopping, that is).

      Mexico remains at the top of our list for a post-Nashville location, but because we have the time we’re evaluating other places in the U.S. that could be a good fit for us. We plan to have a firm decision in place at the beginning of 2024.


  5. Love all the pics of your trip. We have good friends who recently visited the Biltmore House and were blown away by the opulence. He enjoyed it and she found it to be “too much.” 😉 I’d still love to see it someday.

    Halloween was a quiet event for us. We had dinner and then watched the last two episodes of “The Sinner.” What a strange show…we wanted to see what happened once we were into it, but we’re both glad it’s over. Ha! I think the first two seasons were the best. Bill Pullman’s character really needs some hard core therapy. 🤣

    Those ice cream sandwiches look amazing.


    1. LOL – more pics coming tomorrow and Friday, but in more of a picture diary format. We loved Biltmore House – the guy had money to burn and decided to spend some of it on his house and collections. Better in my opinion than a private rocket flight or buying Twitter. We enjoyed learning about all the new technology that was incorporated into the house while at the same time women stood over sinks doing laundry all day because there were no washing machines. The whole place was fascinating, and the furnishings and art sumptuous.

      We had a few kids knock on our door but didn’t answer, and K had a blast doing “real” trick or treating. M was pleasantly surprised by how kind everyone was, but I explained that’s a big part of why kids and families continue to keep up the tradition.

      Jack Palance’s 🧛‍♂️ is as scary now as it was back in 1975, when I first watched it. I got goosebumps several times as we watched. We watched The Sinner before but don’t remember anything about it other than Bill Pullman starred.

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  6. Glad you had a fun trip to NC. These must be really interesting adventures for M. I really like to visit the Asheville area. Some friends of mine are planning a retirement move to that area. They like Brevard. It may be worth checking out some of the smaller towns that are just outside Asheville and Hendersonville.


    1. We loved the Asheville area, and yes we will definitely be looking outside of the city. One of our daughters is currently looking at Asheville as a potential location as well, so who knows what’s going to happen.

      M is game for anything we suggest and we love going places with her. She gets out on her own though – a few weeks ago she and K went to Cade’s Corner on their own and had a great time!


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