Christmas in America Recap

We’ve returned to China, so that means I’m back to updating y’all on the blog! Welcome back!

Before I jump into more posts about our life in China and the upcoming adventures we have planned (yay!), here’s a brief recap about our time in America during the holidays! (You can read about the specific timing of our vacation HERE.) Sorry if this post is a little jumbled. We did so much in such a short amount of time, so there’s a lot to cover.

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During the months of November and December, I visited all my friends and family in Pennsylvania while Taylor was still working in Florida/China! Here are some of the things I did:

img_5091Kicked off the holiday season with a delicious Thanksgiving dinner with my family.

IMG_53081Explored the city of Philadelphia with one of my best friends. You can read that post HERE.

6img_4692Snuggled with Bubba and Riley. a lot.

a.r. workshop spartanburg, scDrank copious amounts of coffee with friends.

img_5575Helped plan our annual Mast-Family Christmas party.

24135a05-5bd1-44af-b36b-1bc800d2a79c.jpgWhen Taylor met me in Pennsylvania at the end of December, he brought Maybelle along with him so she could meet all the other pups! I was in puppy heaven with three adorable yorkies under one roof.

Processed with VSCO with av8 presetimg_5764We celebrated Christmas with my side of the family, then drove down to South Carolina together on the 23rd. (We alternate Christmas each year.) While we were visiting the south for a month, here’s what we did together:

dsc_5855a.r. workshop spartanburg, sc-2Celebrated Christmas with Taylor’s side of the family.

img_6378img_6388Traveled to Dallas to watch the Clemson Tigers play in the Cotton Bowl against Notre Dame.

img_6981dsc_5964Visited Charleston. Twice.

5img_6643IMG_6619.jpg4Processed with VSCO with g6 presetimg_6694Flew to Portland and drove down to Santa Clara, California to watch Clemson win the National Championship against Alabama! We saw the Redwood National Forest and Napa Valley along the way!

3Snuggled with Maybelle.

img_6808Watched a few Clemson basketball games.

2img_6896Participated in an A.R. Workshop for the first time. We made a lazy suzan for the house we don’t have. ūüôā This was a lot of fun though!

In total, I was in America for 3 months and Taylor was there for 1. We’re so thankful for all the friends and family we have who support us on this crazy journey and welcome us into their homes for extended periods of time. We were able to return to China feeling refreshed and ready to conquer the new year!

Tigers on The Road: Raleigh, NC

 

 

Taylor and I left for Raleigh, North Carolina last Friday to see the Tigers play NC State. We live about an hour and a half away from the Orlando airport, so we had to get up around 4am to make our 7am flight time. Thankfully, we have TSA Pre-Check and don’t need to worry about standing in line at security. TSA Pre-Check has been a lifesaver for us, especially because we fly out of a very populated airport! The line is always wrapped around and full of Disney Tourists with their multiple kids and strollers, so investing in TSA Pre-Check has been a lifesaver.

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This flight was special because we got to bring Maybelle! She has only flown one other time, and she was still a little puppy. She whined a little when we first took off, but after a few minutes she went to sleep. There were two little kids in the seats in front of us and they LOVED her. They kept turning around to check on her.

 

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Maybelle lives in Florida with us, so she wasn’t used to the cooler weather!

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Once we landed, we met up with our great friend Rachel and headed to her place to change for the Clemson game! I was shocked at how beautiful Raleigh was at this time of year. I’ve only visited the city one other time, and it was during late summer. I’ve never seen such beautiful leaves before in my life! If you love fall and all the colorful leaves, then you’re going to love this post because it’s jam packed with red, orange, and yellow!

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Like every other Clemson game, we tailgated with friends and family before the game started. The weather was much cooler for us Floridians, but we loved it!

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The NC State stadium is one of the best I’ve been too! It was smaller in size, but very clean. Their fans were ROWDY during the game, and the school did an amazing job at pumping up their fans.

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This was such a close game, which made things tense. NC State put up a good fight, and we barely pulled out a win.

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Once the game was over, we stopped at Cookout (because we can only get this when we’re in the area) and we crashed back at Rachel’s. The following morning we went to the State Farmer’s Market for breakfast.

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If you’re in Raleigh and need a good breakfast/lunch place, the State Farmer’s Market is the place to go! The line was out the door when we got there, but we only had to wait an hour for a table. It looked extremly busy from the outside!

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Our Server, Daniel, was so good to us and made the wait enjoyable. He brought us biscuits and hush puppies, while keeping our coffee full.

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Taylor enjoyed seeing all of his friends!

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Once we were done eating, we walked through the Farmer’s Market.

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We don’t get all the colorful leaves in Florida, so I made Taylor take a picture of me with the leaves.

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The face of pure happiness ūüôā

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Once we got back from the State Farmer’s Market, we checked in on the pup and took her for a long walk. We were driving back up the following weekend, so we left Maybelle with Taylor’s mom for the week. This way we didn’t have to buy her another plane ticket.

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We sat around on Sunday afternoon, thinking about what we wanted to do during the day, and we decided to grab some coffee at Cocoa Cinnamon, then walk around the gardens at Duke.

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Walking through the gardens was the best way to spend a Sunday afternoon. The weather was perfect and the grounds were breathtaking. It was a relaxing Sunday and we were glad to see Duke’s campus!

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Going to the gardens and walking around Duke was the best decision we made on Sunday! It was difficult choosing which photos to use for this post, because they were all so beautiful.

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To end the night, we drove into the city and ate dinner at Trophy Brewing Co with Rachel and Ben. We were flying out early the next morning, so we needed something quick and filling.

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They had indoor and outdoor seating available, and the service was quick but relaxed.¬†It wouldn’t make sense for us to travel somewhere and not order some pizza, so that’s what we did! I ordered the Margarita and Taylor split the Most Loyal with Rachel and Ben.

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I’m so glad we travelled to Raleigh to see Clemson play and meet up with friends and family. It can be exhausting living in Florida with all the heat and humidity, so this was a nice break from it all. ‚̧

 

Life Update: Moving, Wedding & Football

Hello Everyone!

Taylor and I have been¬†MIA on our blog lately because we’ve been super busy and adjusting to new changes. After three years of having a long distance relationship, we are finally living in the same city!! The closest we’ve ever lived to each other, was 3 hours. It is so surreal being able to date like a “normal” couple. Now, we’re only a 15 minute drive away. We’re very thankful to be where we are today, and wouldn’t be here¬†without the love and support from our friends and family.

We’ve both officially moved from South Carolina to Florida! Taylor accepted a graduate assistantship with the University of Florida, where he will complete his Masters in Athletic Training, which will take him two years to finish. He’s also¬†started doing research in hopes of going on to complete his PHD. Needless to say, he’s been busy!

A lot of people have been asking us about our living arrangements while we’re down here. Before Taylor moved, he wanted to stay somewhere comfortable without spending his entire salary. He did a lot of research and nothing stood out to him. One day, he came up with the idea of living¬†in my parent’s camper at a local campground!! Ha! I was completely against the idea, so I rent an apartment. However, Taylor¬†has spent the past 3 months living in a camper. If you know Taylor, you know that this is right up his alley! If you want to see a post on how he does this, just let us know in the comments.

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As for myself, I moved at the beginning of September. It was difficult leaving the job I loved and my new friends, but I’m happy we’re finally together. I’ve been working with a company located in Jacksonville as an SEO content writer. The position allows me to work remotely, while incorporating my love for writing. I’ve also taken a full-time position with Chick-fil-A! I had several interviews with companies around the area, but after a lot of prayer and direction, Chick-fil-A was the best place for me and my career goals. I look forward to growing professionally and making advancements.

So far, transitioning to Florida has been smooth. As most of you know, Taylor and I are huge Clemson football fans! We moved from the ACC to the SEC and we’re trying to love the Florida Gators as much as we love the Clemson Tigers. It’s tough, but we’re working on it. ūüôā

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The two teams keep our weekends filled with A LOT of football. When we’re not in Gainesville, we’re traveling to¬†Clemson games. So far, we’ve¬†traveled¬†to see Clemson play Auburn and Georgia Tech.

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As for¬†the wedding, the big day¬†is quickly approaching! Our time as an engaged couple is flying, but with all the holiday’s drawing near, the time is only going to pass quicker. So far, we’ve locked down a date, venue, florist, theme, guest list, dress, and¬†photographer. For those of you who don’t know, the wedding will be held in South Carolina during May 2017. You can read about our engagement here.

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Every time I think we’ve got everything under control, I realize there’s¬†50 other things to do! Currently, we’re working on save the dates, our registry, and our honeymoon destination! We’ll be honest, we had NO IDEA how difficult it would be to pick a honeymoon location. We’ve been scouring the internet looking for the best hotels, flights, and accommodations. There are a few destinations we’ve been eyeing, but nothing has really stood out to us yet. We’re ready to find that “wow” place! We’re always welcome for suggestions!

Thank’s for reading! ūüôā

 

 

Las Vegas & 2016 National Championship

Hello! This is Taylor speaking (writing)… I am not too great with writing so Ashley is helping me write this post. Ashley wasn’t able to make this trip so I was tasked with taking the pictures and remembering what all we did. Luckily for everyones sake Ashley is going to help me get my thoughts onto the page in a way that is understandable and readable. So here we go…

Bright and early Friday the 8th we flew from Charlotte to Chicago with Southwest Airlines. We had a 2-hour layover scheduled, but it ended up being about 6 or 7 due to a delay. To kill time, we got snacks and walked around the World War II Museum inside the Chicago Midway Airport. Our delay meant that we would miss our tour of the Hoover Dam, but we made the most of the day we had left.

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We landed in Las Vegas around 1pm¬†local time and needed to get our rental car and luggage. Unfortunately, Southwest lost my grandma’s bags by putting it on a different plane. While they were figuring out the baggage situation, I tried my hand at the slot machine (spoiler alert Vegas was the winner). Once they were finished, we hopped in the car and went to find lunch.

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This was my first trip to Las Vegas, and although I was only there for a short amount of time, I was very excited to explore and see what it had to offer. We went to the old strip where we ate at Coney Island Gourmet Hotdogs and visited some casinos. After lunch, half of our group went back to the airport to pick up grandma’s lost bag, while the others went to the new strip and visited New York, New York (where I proceeded to lose a couple more dollars).

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When we were all together again we wanted to watch the Bellagio Water Show. This is one of the most popular attractions in Las Vegas and after watching, you’ll quickly realize why. This free show takes place outside the Ballagio Hotel- Casino and choreographs the water to with catchy songs that will have you staring in amazement. After the show, we were exhausted from our long day of traveling and the time difference, so we started our drive¬†to Kingman, Arizona. Thankfully, the drive only took about 1.5 hours, but of course we stopped along the way for sight seeing and dinner.IMG_1584

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The views were unlike anything that I am accustomed to. Everything is so dry, there are valleys that go on as far as the eye can see, and mountains that pop up out of nowhere. Which is the exact opposite of South Carolina. Nobody could put their cameras down!¬†After driving for a while, we stopped and ate dinner at Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner.

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I was on a hotdog kick this day! When I saw that they had a hotdog with mac and cheese AND bacon, I knew I had to try it. I also ordered a side of sweet potato fries. Any restaurant that serves sweet potato fries is the kind of restaurant I want to eat at. Not pictured is the chocolate shake I ate for dessert…

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After we ate dinner we finished our drive and checked into our hotel at the Springhill Suites by Marriott. This was such a comfortable, spacious, and beautiful hotel that we all enjoyed staying at. With such a long and exhausting day, we fell asleep pretty quickly.

The following day was dedicated to driving down Route 66 and seeing the Grand Canyon.

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While it was really neat to travel on Route 66, the Grand Canyon was closed due to bad weather. Apparently it was snowing pretty hard in some locations and the roads were closed off. This was a huge bummer because we were really looking forward to it.

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As we were driving around, we weren’t seeing any snow, but the the higher in elevation we got the more snow we saw. We could have gone a little further, but we were in a rental mini van and didn’t want to take our chances.

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Route 66 is full of strange oddities along the way. We past a dinosaur park, the worlds largest map, some unique stores, and several towns claiming to be the birth place of route 66.

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We made several stops along the way for pictures and then lunch! We chose to eat at Rosa’s Pizzeria in Prescott, Arizona. The restaurant was fantastic with a wonderful staff. We split mozzarella sticks, garlic knots, a Sicilian style pizza, eggplant pasta, a chicken Alfredo pizza, and a cannoli for dessert. We love our pizza places.

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After eating until we stuffed ourselves full of food, we drove to the Sonoran Dessert where we watched the sun go down.

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The following day we work up early from excitement because it was GAME DAY!! This was the first time Clemson had made it to the National Championship since the 80’s!!

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Whenever we travel for away games, we always like to pick up chicken and easy finger foods to tailgate with. We like to get there at least 4 hours before the games (sometimes earlier) so we have time to relax and enjoy good food and company. Clemson has such a dedicated fan base and it’s always really fun to see all the orange and purple!

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When it was time for us to go into the stadium, half of us sat down on the lower level, and the other half sat in the upper corner. No seat is a bad seat at the National Championship!

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The game was back and forth and very exciting. Although we lost, the players put up a great fight from start to finish. They gave us an awesome undefeated season with many great memories. We’ll be back next year and stronger than ever!

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It was late when the game ended and we went straight back to the hotel. The next day we had the whole day to see the Hoover Dam. Trust me there were several dam jokes made.

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We also made an absolutely necessary trip to In-N-Out to end our time out west.

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This whirl wind of a trip ended on a crazy note! Upon arriving in Chicago on our return home, our flight was over booked for our final connection and Southwest was offering a voucher to anyone that was willing to give up their seat, which could be used for future flights and they would arrange another flight home. I volunteered to give up my seat and was awarded with a nice voucher that I will be using for more travel in the coming future!

Miami

After spending time with our families for Christmas, it was time for another adventure. We were headed to Miami, Florida for the Orange Bowl! Clemson was playing the Oklahoma Sooners in the College Football Playoffs. We left Spartanburg, South Carolina bright and early at 4am! The drive would take about 10 hours depending on traffic and the amount of times we¬†stopped. By 7:30 we were HUNGRY, so we agreed to stop at Chick-fil-a for breakfast. This is one of our favorite places to grab a quick breakfast while on the road. We both got their chicken biscuits, two waters, and then I had a large vanilla iced coffee. ūüôā

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Yum!

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We met Taylor’s family at the hotel at 2pm! We were staying at the Embassy Suits in Boca Raton, just an hour outside downtown Miami. Unfortunately, our room wasn’t ready when we arrived so we waited around the hotel lobby for 2 hours. Our room still wasn’t ready at 4… so we did some more waiting. When we were finally aloud in, we quickly changed so we could go downtown for dinner.

We ate at one of the best Italian restaurants ever, Nando! This is a great place to go with a ton of people to simply enjoy an evening out. You are guaranteed to eat loads of yummy carb-filled goodies. I wish we would have taken pictures of the delicious food, but trust me when I say it was phenomenal.

Next day was GAME DAY!!

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We left our hotel, picked up tailgating food at our local Publix and headed to the stadium. We were blessed with a day full of warm sunshine!

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This was such a fun and exciting game. We’re so glad we got to watch Clemson kick butt!

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It was New Years Eve and around 11pm by the time we all made it back to the hotel. Taylor decided to go out and celebrate with his friends, but I was too exhausted from the long day in the sun.

We can’t wait to watch Clemson play Alabama in Arizona next week!! Go Tigers!