Glass Blows……Literally

Nestled in the Blue Ridge mountains, surrounded by rolling green hills that are full of “nature” you will find Asheville, North Carolina. We were planning staying in this area for 5 days before moving on to Nashville but due to some unforseen mechanical issues on our fifth wheel we stayed for 10 days. Although we would prefer not to have mechanical failures on our home, we felt like Asheville was a great place to have to stay longer.

The whole area has a lot to do both indoors and outdoors. The food culture has an amazing farm to table emphasis, and the people are extremely nice. We spent a day touring downtown Asheville. There are a lot of unique shops and restaurants including this double decker bus cafe’.

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We stopped in a local store and sampled a bunch of weird candy and confections that we haven’t ever had before.They had nice rocking chairs for us to rest on.

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It probably won’t surprise you to know that my kids didn’t love the ginger and licorice hard candies. We also determined that we aren’t much of a Moon Pie family.

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The highlight for us was Lexington Glassworks. You can see their awesome glass decor by going to the link. It’s great stuff.

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We really enjoyed it because the studio is open to the public. We were able to walk into the store and watch as they blew glass. It was really cool because they would explain what they were doing throughout the process. I could watch for hours and hours. It’s an amazing talent.

We don’t have room to fit anything really big in our fifth wheel, and glass doesn’t hold up extremely well in a moving house, but we did buy a glass Christmas ornament while we were there. Make sure and look up Lexington Glassworks in Asheville when you visit, they really blow.

~Michael~

The Not So Secret Garden

biltmore garden 5In my post about the huge 178,000 square foot Biltmore Mansion I mentioned that it was built upon an 8,000 acre estate. The grounds of the estate were designed by Frederick Law Olmstead who also designed Central Park.

The grounds are amazing and if I lived in the area I might buy a membership to the Biltmore Mansion to visit the gardens during different parts of the year as there are plants that grow and bloom throughout the year giving a different experience each time.

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There are several different gardens that you can walk through on the estate with paths that meander through. I was impressed by the variety and the beauty of the grounds.

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My favorite part was the huge greenhouse that houses several different types of plants.

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There were a bunch of different orchids….

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and cacti……

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and a bunch of tropical plants.

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I like gardens a lot so I think I actually liked the Biltmore Gardens even more than I liked the house. If you get a chance, visit the Biltmore Mansion and gardens in Asheville.

~Michael~

 

The Opposite of Minimalism

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Ten months ago we sold most everything we had and moved into a 400 square foot fifth wheel. We have generally enjoyed living a more minimalist lifestyle. Sometimes we miss having more room and more stuff but we recognize that we have a lot of benefits as well. While we were in Asheville, North Carolina, we visited the opposite of the minimalist lifestyle that seems to be taking the country by storm. No tiny houses or mobile abodes here. Instead we found opulence, riches, and an insanely huge home.

The Biltmore estate was the dream child of Charles Biltmore. It is the largest privately owned house in the United States weighing in at a respectable 178,926 square feet. It has more than 250 rooms and it is located on a mere 8,000 acres.

Unfortunately it was very dark inside the house and it was hard to take good pictures. I took a lot of them but I didn’t get a lot of great ones. My favorite room was the library. It had more than 10,000 books and all of them were personally picked out by George Vanderbilt.

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George Vanderbilts bedroom was huge and it had a marble tub that was carved from one piece of marble.

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The main dining area was huge. I think they said it was over 2500 square feet. Throughout the tour they make it a point to tell you what normal and down to earth family the Vanderbilts were. I’m sure they were nice but a normal person doesn’t decide to build this big of a house. I’m not buying that they were just normal people like the rest of us. I’m not saying it’s bad to build a house this big. If you have the means and you want to do it, go ahead. Just don’t do it and then try to convince me that you are a normal every day family when your house is more than 85 times the size of a normal 2000 square foot home.

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The pool in the basement was pretty cool. Since they really didn’t have chemicals to keep it clean they would empty it every few days and then fill it up again when they wanted to swim again.

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To give you an idea of the size of this place, look at how big the chandelier is in the stairwell. MUY GRANDE!

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The tour was pretty expensive but I felt that the uniqueness of the experience made it worth it. I imagine that we were allowed to see 25% of the house and we were exhausted by the time we were done. In my next article I will show you the grounds and gardens which were just as amazing.

~Michael~

What is a Slow Day?

I quit my job as an Investment Coach so we could come on this one year trip and our main source of income comes from Marisa and her Essential Oil business. She works on the business a little bit on most days, but Tuesdays are the days dedicated to the majority of her work. She has a lot of meetings and trainings on Tuesdays so we call them slow days since we try not to travel and we don’t usually do anything big. Last Tuesday she had a few hours between meetings and work so we were able to take a mini trip to a local waterfall. Check out the adventure in the video.

~Michael~

Colder Than a Tin Toilet on an Iceburg

Fifty to sixty degree water sure takes your breath away when you drop in over your head but you do get a rush from it on a hot day. There is a place near Asheville, North Carolina, that is aptly named “Sliding Rock” with extremely cold water and fun to be found for all members of the family.

Close your eyes and imagine what comes to your mind when you think of a place called Sliding Rock. What images does it conjure? Do you see a rock that you can slide on? Good imagination, oh creative one. You nailed it.

We travelled through some pretty windy roads to get to the famous rock of sliding. There was a little weeping, a small amount of wailing, and I might have gnashed my teeth a little bit as half the family started getting car sick. Nobody hurled but we came close.

Since no one in the family blew chunks the car sickness was worth it as at the end of our roller coaster drive, we were able to climb to the top of a 60 foot flat rock, slide down, and plunge into the freezing cold water. As my dad would say, it was colder than a tin toilet on an iceberg with a north wind a’blowing.

If you go to sliding rock, wear some old shorts as rocks aren’t easy on thin swimsuits. it’s $2 per person to park. I am told it gets really busy on the weekends so try and go on a weekday.

~Michael~

Warning: This Article Contains Truth

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When I was a kid my mom would always collect our photographs and put them in a scrapbook. We loved to go back and look through them and remember the good times that we had. Almost all of the pictures showed us having fun and getting along. We were on vacation, or eating good food, or opening Christmas presents, and it made it look like our lives were a wonderland filled with joy.

My mom never put pictures in our scrapbook of me trying to run over my brother with a power rake, or my sister falling off of a horse and breaking her tailbone, or the time we had to stay home all Thanksgiving  weekend because of the great chicken pox outbreak. Why isn’t there pictures of that? Who in there right mind is going to take a picture of their oldest son trying to run over another son with a dangerous piece of machinery?

I was thinking today about scrapbooks and social media. Social media is used for a lot of things but a majority of what people post is really like the scrapbooks that my Mom used to put together. It’s the good stuff. It’s the things that we cherish and that we want to remember. That’s also what I put on this blog. It’s a scrapbook. I don’t want to insinuate that everything is awesome but that’s how it comes across because I want to remember the good things.

I know you all probably assume this already, but it isn’t all sunsets and ice cream cones while we travel. I have a lot of worries and fears. It’s time for me to add some reality to this blog. Here goes.

I Don’t Know How to Parent: I don’t know what I am doing as a parent. I love my children and I want what’s best for them but I probably don’t always do what is best for them. Sometimes it is easier to let them have as many Otter Pops as they want than to say no. Sometimes I just want to buy them what they want and spoil them. It’s hard for me to walk the line between showing love and showing discipline. I’m worried that I am going to screw them up with my parenting. There are nights I can’t sleep because I am so worried about whether or not I am doing more good than bad.

My Kids Don’t Like Everything We Do: Do you remember the angst of being a teenager, or the boredom of being a child? Yeah, my kids have that too. I don’t really blame them but I want them to appreciate and love everything we do, and they don’t, and I need to get over it because I don’t even like everything either.

Marisa and I Get in Fights: When you are with each other almost 24 hours a day in a small space you best learn to communicate. At the beginning of our trip we fought a lot and we learned that we had to communicate a lot better than we did when I worked full time and we hardly saw each other. We couldn’t ignore the crap. We have learned to hash it out and communicate and forgive quickly when we have fights, because we will have them.

I Still Question Our Decision: Marisa and I put a lot of thought and prayer about this trip before we left and we know that this is what God wanted us to do. That doesn’t mean that on a day to day basis I question if we are doing what is best for our family. I worry about my kids and if it is good for them to wake up in a new town and state day after day. I question whether it was a good idea to quit a job I enjoyed. When things break down on our RV I wonder why we decided to live in a house on wheels when we had such a good thing going at home.

I Miss Living in a House: It was very freeing for us to get rid of most of our possessions and move into a small space, and I want to live a more minimalistic lifestyle for the rest of my life. I do miss having a bigger house. I miss not having having hot water always available. I miss having a shower I can fit in. I miss having more than 3 days worth of food in our fridge. I miss lazy Sunday afternoons in our neighborhood visiting dear friends. I miss being nearer to my parents.

I Am Not Perfect: I know that this is not surprise to anyone and I am not trying to imply that you think I am, but I need to admit it. I am quick to anger at times and I am slow to love. I still fight depression and anxiety even though I am on a long trip. I have a hard time eating healthy and I struggle with my weight. I often don’t have enough gratitude for the blessings that I have.

None of these things are earth shattering but I wanted to point out that life is not only what is on the blog or our scrapbook. I’m glad we are on this trip and I know that we are blessed to be able to do it. Just like you however, my life is not always easy and fun and there are days that I don’t want to get up.

I just hope that when our trip is done I can look back at this blog and remember the lessons learned and the wonderful experiences. I want to remember the many people that influenced me and helped me move forward. I hope I can do the same as I look back on my life. There will be good and bad, but I hope with all my heart that I have improved, and grown, and become better.

~Michael~

Better Plans are Those Unplanned

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Now don’t get me wrong. I have lived a life of planning and I think that it is necessary for us to plan our lives. You know the old saying, “if you fail to plan then you plan to fail.” However, one of the things that I have learned on my trip is that sometimes the best things that happen are unplanned. In addition, we can miss the best things in life that are around us right now, because our mind is planning for something in the future.

As our family travels, we don’t usually plan much more than the next stop we are going to make and more often than not, we decide where our next destination is the day before we leave our current camping spot. This usually serves us well and we don’t usually have a hard time finding camping spots. However, when we decided to come to the Asheville, North Carolina area we had a really hard time finding a camping spot that was open.

We finally found a place called Lake Junaluska campground in Waynesville and it was awesome. We had never heard of it and the night we pulled in it was across a busy highway from the lake. Even though we have a lot to do when we get to a new camping spot we decided to take some time and go walk around the lake.

It ended up being one of those magical unplanned nights. We weren’t at a destination spot and we wouldn’t rush to tell everyone to come here but it was a dream for us. We took a walk around the beautiful peaceful lake and just let the moment fill us. We marvelled as a mother duck watched her ducklings as they swam and played.

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We gazed upon weird topiary sculptures and guessed what they were supposed to be.

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Best of all we just spent time together.

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You don’t have to go to great places or spend a lot of money to find magic. You just need to focus on the moment and let it roll over you. Watch the wonder in your child’s eye as they see new things. Hold your lovers hand and appreciate them with all of their strengths and their flaws. Breathe in deep and cherish the fact that you had another breath in this beautiful tragic world. Forget about what comes tomorrow and experience what is happening now.

~Michael~