Weekend Recap (Aug. 4-6)

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a simple weekend recap on the blog. Last weekend (August 4-6) was so refreshing so I thought I’d share a bit about it.

One of Brendan and my intentions for the month of August is to have a date night at least once a week. We already spend a lot of time together, but we wanted to focus on spending some quality time together outside of our apartment. Friday was the night we planned to have date night.

During the summer Brendan gets off work a little earlier on Fridays, so we were able to head out for dinner around 5:30 p.m. We chose Olive Garden for our dinner destination.

For dinner I ordered whole wheat linguine with traditional marinara sauce, salad (with no dressing or croutons) and, of course, breadsticks. Since going vegan in November last year, I’ve learned different things you can order from chain restaurants that are vegan friendly. I was surprised and happy to find out that the breadsticks at Olive Garden are vegan!


After dinner we decided to walk around downtown for a bit to get some exercise before going for dessert.

A storm ended up rolling in just as we were walking back to our apartment. So we watched and waited it out from our apartment before walking to get dessert.

We had dessert in downtown Roanoke at Altus Chocolate’s newest location. Altus Chocolate is a charming local artisan chocolate shop/cafe that originated in downtown Lynchburg. Their story is so inspiring and I love that the idea for the shop was conceived after the owners watched the movie “Chocolat”.

Altus Chocolate has been around for about five years now, but since I’m not a big chocolate person I never went when I was living in Lynchburg. When I heard that they were opening up a new location in downtown Roanoke, I was delighted and knew that we would have to go check it out.

Brendan and I had a wonderful experience at Altus Chocolate – the employees were very helpful and friendly, the desserts were rich, flavorful, and pure, and the atmosphere was charming (I especially loved the French inspired music).

I ordered the Rich Hot Chocolate and had it made with coconut milk and no whipped cream, and I also got one of their vegan Coconut Cranberry Macaroons. Brendan got a chocolate chip cookie. The chocolates are a bit on the expensive side, but they are handmade by the staff with the highest quality ingredients. I love the fact that they have dairy-free and vegan options for people like me!

Photo by Brendan
Photo by Brendan


I would definitely recommend a trip to Altus Chocolate if you are in the Lynchburg or Roanoke area and are looking for an authentic chocolate treat. I can’t wait to go back and try some of their coffee.

I am currently reading Chocolat by Joanne Harris, so I thought it was very fitting for me to sit a read a chapter while I was at Altus Chocolate.

Nothing too exciting happened on Saturday (August 5). I spent the whole day working, so didn’t feel like doing a whole lot that evening. Brendan and I ended up getting dinner to go and enjoyed a nice cozy evening in our apartment.

Sunday (August 6) was a gorgeous day filled with spontaneous adventures. After church Brendan and I came back to the apartment and went over all of the chores and different things we wanted to get done that day. But the weather was so nice, we both decided that it would be fun to grab some food and then go on a little drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Well, our little drive ended up taking us all the way past the Peaks of Otter and into Lynchburg. And I didn’t mind one bit. I decided to let go and just enjoy wherever the day would take us.

By the time we go to Lynchburg it was about 2:45-3 p.m. and we were in need of a pick-me-up, so we decided to go to Starbucks. And since we had both brought a book along with us we sat outside in the sunshine and read for a little bit before moving on with our adventures.

Next we ended up driving over to Riverside Park near Rivermont. Brendan and I had never been to Riverside Park before. I can’t believe I lived in Lynchburg for 5 years and there are still so many places that I never explored. The trails were nice in this park and we even came along some pieces of Lynchburg history as well.

Brendan was especially excited about this steam engine we found in Riverside Park.

As we were walking down one of the trails, we stumbled upon the big train trestle over the James River. This is the same train trestle that has seen so many lives taken over the years, including the life of Liberty University student Jon Gregoire. I had never seen the trestle in person, only pictures of it. There was such an eerie hush that hung in the air. We paused for a moment there in silence, remembering those who have lost their lives at that spot.


After the park, we headed to Rivermont Pizza for some dinner. Rivermont pizza is one of our favorite places to eat in Lynchburg. The food has been excellent every time we’ve gone.

Before we headed back home to Roanoke, we made a quick stop to see my brother Jon and his new apartment in Lynchburg. He’s in a nice spot in town and I can tell he’s loving it already. Lynchburg really is a great city and I love going back for a visit every chance I get.

We got back home around 9:30 p.m. It was such a fun, rejuvenating day. Sometimes it’s important to leave the dirty dishes in the sink and the laundry unfolded to get out and explore!

 

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30 Days of Lists Challenge Catch up

Since I was busy with my birthday and traveling this weekend I’m now playing catchup with my 30 Days of Lists Challenge. Here are days 9, 10, 11 and 12. 

30 Days of Lists Challenge

Day 9: Favorite Songs

These are just a few of my favorite songs that I could think of on the spot. Some of my favorite artists include Amy Winehouse, Michale Buble, Frank Sinatra, Vanessa Carlton, Nickel Creek, Punch Brothers, Stacey Kent, Michael Jackson, etc. I love a wide range of genres, basically all besides Country music – although I do really like Nickel Creek and Punch Brothers (who are considered Progressive Bluegrass). I love Jazz, French Jazz, Pop, Classical and Folk. I could literally listen to Amy Winehouse and Michael Buble every single day and never get tired of it! 🙂

  • “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse
  • “Back to Black” by Amy Winehouse
  • “Feeling Good” by Michael Buble
  • “I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz (First dance song at my wedding <3)
  • Moon River” by Audrey Hepburn
  • “Come Fly With Me” by Frank Sinatra
  • “The Way You Look Tonight” by Frank Sinatra
  • “It Might As Well Be Spring” by Stacey Kent
  • “New York New York” by Frank Sinatra
  • “Patchwork Girlfriend” by Punch Brothers
  • “White Winter Hymnal” by Fleet Foxes
  • “The Hand Song” by Nickel Creek
  • “When You Come Back Down” by Nickel Creek (I danced with my Daddy to this song at my wedding)

Day 10: Odd facts I know 

I honestly can’t think of any odd facts I know at the moment, but when they come to me I will be sure and add them here.

Day 11: Things I miss

  • My Bunny cat ❤
  • New York City
  • Living with my grandma in Lynchburg
  • Liberty University
  • October days at my parents’ house
  • Movie and games nights with my siblings
  • Working at the Morris Campus Farm (best job ever)
  • Weekly trips to the library with my mom

Day 12: Places I want to travel to

  • Boston, Massachusetts
  • San Fransisco, California
  • Chicago, Illinois
  • Paris, France
  • London, England
  • Jane Austen’s House Museum in England
  • Bronte Parsonage Museum in England
  • Charleston, South Carolina
  • I just want to travel all over the world!

 

An Engaging Visit to Philadelphia

This post is long overdue. I wanted to be able to actually sit down and take the time to put some thought and feeling into it. Unfortunately school kept me from doing that for two months. But with the year winding down I thought that it was time that I got around to writing a post about my engagement. That’s right, I’m engaged!

It seems like it happened so fast, but at the same time it also felt like a long time coming. I knew that there was something different about Brendan when I first met him and started hanging out with him back in the fall of 2012. When I came back to school in January of 2013, I knew that I liked Brendan, but was too scared to do anything about. Little did I know that Brendan felt the same way about me! I’m so thankful that Brendan had the courage to tell me his feelings and that we were both brave enough to start dating in February of 2013. After we had been dating for 3 months, we both had a feeling that we might end up getting married one day. I know that sounds crazy to have that feeling so early in the relationship, but when you’ve found the right person you just know.

Brendan and I agreed to wait until we hit the 18 month mark before we decided to take the next step in our relationship. That step being figuring out if and when we would get engaged. We had also read that couples should at least date for 18 months before deciding whether to get engaged or not because that gives the “butterfly” stage time to wear off. Well, this past August we hit that 18 month mark and our feelings hadn’t changed. Our hopes and expectations had stayed the same and our love for one another had only grown stronger. So naturally we started talking about when we thought we might want to get engaged. We even went to look at engagement rings together ( a first for me that felt so strange lol ). After talking about it a lot and not really coming up with an answer, I told Brendan that whenever and whatever time of year he decided to propose would be fine with me. So it was kind of left up in the air as to when we thought we might want to get engaged.

When October (of this year) rolled around Brendan mentioned going to Philadelphia for the weekend just for a fun getaway. My first thought when he mentioned this was that he might be planning something like a proposal. But then he explained that since his dad had gotten a new job near Philly that we might get the chance to see him. So it made sense why he chose Philly rather than another city. With this trip in mind, I worked hard to get ahead in my school work so that I would not have anything to distract me from the pleasure of a weekend road trip. After classes on October 16, Brendan and I packed up our rental car and headed to our destination. We actually stayed in New Jersey with Brendan’s aunt and uncle and then drove to Philly the next day.

The car ride to New Jersey was so lovely. It was the perfect autumn day, with mild weather and that crisp clear blue sky that only appears in the fall. Our road trip consisted of a stop at Starbucks for some coffee, my acquainting Brendan with Edgar Allan Poe’s short story “The Black Cat”, and singing along with songs on Spotify. Brendan drove the whole way, so the ride might not have been as enjoyable for him. But it’s a drive I’ll never forget.

After spending the night at Brendan’s aunt and uncle’s house, we woke up bright and early on Friday (October 17) so that we could head out and start our adventures in Philly. Even though I had this feeling that Brendan might propose that day, I really just believed it was wishful thinking. Little did I know that wishful thinking would become a reality that afternoon. I had been to Philly twice before this trip, so I was not a complete stranger to the city of Brotherly Love. We both have a passion for exploring cities and capturing their mystery and beauty on camera, so we had just planned to spend the day roaming around the city.

We had a few specific places that we planned on visiting such as the Love statue, Independence Hall, and Edgar Allan Poe’s house. But besides that we were just wandering around hoping to stumble across unique places that we may not have found otherwise. I’ve always loved to wander around the city and soak in the surroundings. I love to people watch and learn about the area around me. There is just something thrilling about being a stranger in a new, unfamiliar city. It’s like a feeling of new beginnings where nobody knows your name or who you are and you have the fleeting chance to be whoever you so desire to be. That’s the feeling I get when I’m in the city. I simply forget about every other care for awhile and just enjoy the moment. I left all of my worries and cares in Lynchburg, Virginia that weekend and came to Philly feeling free.

The weather was absolutely perfect for a day of exploring the city. Brendan and I had been keeping an eye on the weather and originally the forecast said that there was a ninety percent chance of rain on Friday. We had been praying that the rain would clear up just enough so that we could enjoy our time in the city. And by the time we left Lynchburg on Thursday there was zero percent chance of rain in Philly on Friday. God really did bless us with a lovely day.

After wandering around the city all afternoon, Brendan said that he wanted to drive over to the Philadelphia Museum of Art to take some pictures. Even though the outside of the museum is beautiful, I wasn’t that excited to go take pictures of it because we had done that a few months ago when we were in Philly with Brendan’s family. Plus the wind was blowing and the sun was almost too bright to take decent pictures. It was at this point when my suspicions about Brendan possibly proposing grew stronger. Once we made it to the front of the museum, Brendan had me stand next to the fountain while he set up the camera and tripod. Little did I know that while I stood posing for a picture, Brendan had started videoing with the camera. He then joined me by the fountain…carrying his jacket with him. I thought it was a little odd that he would bring his jacket over with him while we were about to have our picture taken, but I let it slide. After we posed for a “picture”, Brendan turned to me and said “You know, I didn’t want to come up here just to take a picture. There’s something I want to ask you…”. At this moment I knew what was coming, but I still felt myself caught off guard. This was the moment I had been dreaming of for a long time and I couldn’t believe that it was really happening. After Brendan gave a little heartfelt speech, he got down on one knee and asked “Ashley Blair Bunner, will you marry me?”. I didn’t think I would cry, but as I said “yes” I couldn’t hold back the tears.

We celebrated that evening by going out to eat at Panera Bread and visiting the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site. That kind of sounds like an odd way to celebrate, but it was a night full of some of my favorites! Fortunately for us the Edgar Allan Poe Historic Site was open that evening for free tours. At dusk we were able to enter Poe’s house in Philadelphia with many other Poe enthusiasts. We got a tour through the house as characters from Poe’s short stories and poems recited fragments from some of his best known works. We were even able to go into the basement that is believed to have inspired Poe’s short story of “The Black Cat”. It was an amazing experience for a literature geek like myself.

We made one more stop on our way back to New Jersey that night. I really wanted to see the beach in autumn, so Brendan took me to Ocean City. It was rather windy with a strong chill in the air, so we only stayed for a little while. But we were able to get a few pictures and reflect on everything that had happened that day.

The fact that I was engaged to my best friend really didn’t sink in until after the first few weeks of our engagement. I had so much fun receiving congratulations from friends almost everyday on campus and showing off my gorgeous ring. I am not usually one who enjoys attention, but it felt different this time. I loved telling people about me and Brendan’s engagement and future wedding plans. We’re a little more than two months into our engagement now and it is still just as exciting as it was the day it happened. I look forward to sharing more about our wedding details and the planning process in the year to come. As 2014 comes to a close and I reflect on everything that has happened this year, I can definitely say that my engagement to Brendan was the highlight of my year and one of the most memorable moments of my life!

Take care everyone. I’ll see you in the new year!

 

I Left My Heart in New York City

It has been a little over two years now since I went to New York City for my first (and only) time. It seems like it was only yesterday I was there though. I have been longing to go back ever since I left. And now, since I am thinking about that glorious city, I have decided to dedicate a post to it.

Here are a few of my favorite pictures I captured while I was in New York City and some feelings I happened to scribble down two years ago:

Lights, lights every where you look. Some of them flashing, some as still as the night itself. People always surround me here, never seeing the same face twice. People from every race and every nation. Faces of sorrow and hate, of experience and inexperience. Some of these faces look lost; they may know where they are at in the vicinity but they know neither where they are at in life or where they are going. People dressed in all different types of clothes; some in suits, some in heels, others in rags crumpled up on the ground. It amazes me that these people let nothing get in their way. They keep moving in rain or shine because they have to make a living.

The people of the city are so beautiful to me, in their many colored clothes and fancy accessories. Some of them kind, others that act like you’re not there. Old men in the park reading the morning paper, colored men on the side lines filling the air with sweet notes of Jazz. They smile at the people that pass by them and hope that somebody will throw some change into their box.

As funny as it may sound, I think I liked the city best in the mist and rain. The city had an air of mystery and wonder that hung about it in this weather, wonder that made me feel that if I had conquered this city, I could conquer the world. But conquer the world as I might, I did not want to be anywhere but there, in the city that never sleeps. Any store and any kind of food can be found in this glorious city. In this magical city one can travel forwards or backwards in time. It is the one place I have felt nearest to the big Hollywood stars. Standing where Miss Audrey Hepburn stood, walking where Amanda Seyfried walked. Many before them and many more to come after them.

Written: June 2012

Pittsburgh Photos

Brendan and I made a second trip to the Golden Triangle, only this time we did not go downtown to take pictures. We decided that we would wander around the area of the University of Pittsburgh instead. I like this area of Pittsburgh; while it still has that wonderful atmosphere of the city, it is a bit more calm than the hustle and bustle of downtown.

Pittsburgh – A Different Side of the Golden Triangle

Ah Pittsburgh. It was so good to drive back into this beloved city once again. After leaving Ocean City, New Jersey, I came to spend a week in Pennsylvania with Brendan and his family at their house. I had no idea that I would have the opportunity to visit Pittsburgh as much as I have in the past year. This was my fourth time traveling to the Golden Triangle and I could not have been more pleased.

Since I have photographed the city of Pittsburgh several times before, I wanted to try to capture a different side of it. I particularly wanted to focus on the street life and details of the city. So here is what I ended up with.

Also, I’d like to point out one of the highlights from my day. Brendan and I wandered over to the fountain near PPG Plaza to sit down for a moment and do some people watching. People watching is one of my favorite pass times simply because human beings are so fascinating. As we stood taking in our surroundings, we saw a little girl approaching the fountain. This little girl was the most adorable girl with blonde bouncy curls and bright eyes. And I couldn’t help but smile as I watched the little girl run, jump, dance and flit about through the fountain as her mother stood by keeping a watchful eye on her. This little girl, so care free and happy, shared some of her joy with the people around her as they looked on with smiles on their faces. If only I could be more like this little girl and learn to dance and be joyful about the simple things in life. I also admired the mom’s patience as she watched her daughter playing in the water. She never yelled or fussed at the little girl, she simply watched her play and enjoy herself until it was time for them to leave. I want to be a fun and patient mom like that when I have my own children in the future.

Exploring the Streets of Philadelphia

During my stay in Ocean City, New Jersey with Brendan and his family, we decided to make a trip to Philadelphia since it was only a little over an hour away. I had been to Philadelphia once before during the summer last year with Brendan and his family, but we were only there for a couple hours and I did not have time to leisurely wander the streets and explore the city. But during this trip I had the opportunity to wander the streets with Brendan and take some photos of this delightful city.

There was an event taking place in Philly that evening called Night Market Philadelphia. Here is a brief description of what the night market is according to visitphilly.com:

A popular series of outdoor street festivals, Night Market Philadelphia is a seasonal celebration of food, music and community held in the city’s vibrant neighborhoods.

Attracting thousands of visitors from around the region, the preeminent celebration of street food features dozens of the city’s best food trucks and restaurants along with live entertainment from local musicians, artists and more.

In 2013, Night Market hosted four wildly successful outings in Fairmount, West Oak Lane, South Street and Chinatown. This year will be just as phenomenal with Night Markets planned for Old City, West Oak Lane, Lancaster Avenue and Chinatown.

The Night Market was a beautiful array of local tastes and talents. I was feeling a bit picky with my food choices that night so I did not get much more than a taste of food from the market, but I was more than delighted to wander the streets with a cup of coffee in my hand and soak in the atmosphere. I love being an obscure observer in the crowded city streets. The streets were teeming with life; people of all different kinds strolled through the inner corners of the city while Amy Winehouse music swirled through the air and the aroma of freshly cooked local foods tickled my nose. To me, being surrounded by tall buildings was a refreshing change after living seaside for a few days. That may sound strange because I am sure most people find the sea more refreshing than the congested streets of the city, but being in the city makes me feel so alive. I do not know why, but it excites me to be surrounded by strangers in the city.

After leaving the Night Market, me Brendan and his family decided to drive over to the Philadelphia Art Museum. Brendan and I had never been to the museum before, so we ran up all of the stairs to the Art Museum like I am sure many first time visitors do. I grew up watching the ‘Rocky’ movies, so that was an exciting moment for me and it also gave me one more thing to scratch off my bucket list. Iconic stairs and Rocky statue aside, the parts of the Art Museum that I had never seen before were much more beautiful and impressive. I enjoyed walking around to the back side of the museum and seeing the scenery there. I would say that it was a very lovely evening spent in Philadelphia. I look forward to going back again someday.