Foodie Paradise: Food Blog Forum

Two months ago I went to the Food Blog Forum, an amazing conference for food bloggers that was being held in my hometown of Asheville, NC. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since — all the things I learned. The wonderful people I met. And the food. There was exquisite and amazing food. Truly a foodie paradise. Here’s just a taste from my few days of paradise.

Food Blog Forum Highland Brewing EventWe were treated to a food tasting lunch at Highland Brewing where they had restaurants from around Asheville talking about their menus. Each table had a different sample. Every single table was amazing, and just simply too many to mention all of them here. Simply know that Asheville is a foodie town that doesn’t disappoint.

Top left is from Biscuit Head. It’s a fried chicken biscuit with sriracha slaw (you could eat just the slaw and walk away satisfied) and topped with nothing less than a piece of bacon. This is one of the most amazing breakfast spots in all of Asheville. It’s true that the biscuits are the size of cat heads. Everything I’ve ever had from there has been divine.

Next, are ribs from the place President Obama made famous with his more-then-once stop at 12 Bones. You must try their jalapeno cheese grits. Amazing. Just slightly spicy, but mild from the cheese. They are my favorite part about 12 Bones. Visitors take note: 12 Bones is only open for lunch. I know! It’s a crime, really. And, their River Arts District (near downtown) location is only open for lunch on the weekday. So, if you are visiting Asheville during a weekend and you insist on a 12 Bones stop, you can go to their south-side location for lunch on Saturday. Both restaurants are closed on Sunday.

They also had local vendors like the honey display from The Asheville Bee Charmer. So much of what we learned during the Food Blog Forum was about local food. Asheville is a great town for it.

And, of course, since it was at a brewery they were showcasing some of Highland’s craft beers. They were served in the cutest miniature beer glasses.

Food Blog Forum salted honey caramelsI saved my favorite for last in this part: salted honey caramels from the French Broad Chocolate Lounge. It’s really hard to describe these amazing chocolates. Maybe it’s best to just tell you that I ate 3 of them, and I wanted more. I tried one and immediately went back for another. They are soft and chewy and are packed with rich caramel flavor. The sea salt is the perfect combination that throws the taste over the top. I had to get one more, you know, for the road — before the bus took us to our next stop. The Chocolate Lounge is a must stop on any trip to Asheville. Local tip: there is usually a long line out the door so plan ahead — it’s well worth the wait! Oh, and you must, must, must try one of their liquid truffles. It’s tiny, but share it with a friend because it’s so decadent that a few sips and you’ll die and go to Heaven. Amen.
Food Blog Forum Hickory Nut Gap FarmNext was a tour of the Hickory Nut Gap Farm. It’s a local farm that offers grass-feed and antibiotic-free beef and other meats. We hoofed it up the hill to meet the lady cows who were having their afternoon stroll.Food Blog Forum Looking Glass CreameryAnd, then we stopped at a local creamery, Looking Glass Creamery. They make cheese and caramel. Inside this barn is where the magic happens.

Food Blog Forum Looking Glass CreameryAfter a lovely tour, the bus came back to bring us back to the hotel. At the last second, I jumped back into the creamery and bought this cheese. Look at how creamy, and gooey it is. It’s perfectly lovely. We sampled this and I couldn’t get enough. Kind of like the salted caramels from earlier in the day. I had to remind myself this was a sample. You don’t pig out on samples. So, I purchased a $10 block of this cheese and brought it home to share with those less fortunate souls who weren’t invited to this creamery tour (i.e. my husband). The cheese is aptly named, Elllington. It’s sophisticated, dreamy, and memorable.

Next Friday I’ll take you behind the scenes of The Biltmore House. We had the pleasure of being hosted by Biltmore and got quite the royal treatment.

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.

Fall Color Has Arrived

Just over a year ago we moved to North Carolina so we would experience seasons, but still have a mild climate. Do you hear that ‘ol Man Winter? We want a mild winter! Consider this my official request!

Having lived in Florida for most of my entire life, it’s been adjustment to say the least (last winter was fairly challenging). While it’s not always easy moving from one state to another, it’s an exciting adventure that we’ve been able to experience as a family. And, this time of year — FALL! — we’re particularly excited to be here. So, I thought I’d share some of the beauty that we’ve seen in the past couple of weeks.

All the following photos were taken on my iPhone so I hope the quality will suffice until I remember to strap that DSLR on my arm every. single. time. I go out in October!

fall in Asheville via BalancingMotherhood.comThis is a farm not too far from my house. I took this while on a rare morning walk with my husband. I say rare because I am not known to exercise, but the fall colors and cool temps are great motivation.

Cows in a field via BalancingMotherhood.comThese cows are in the farmland adjacent to the photo above. This, too, was on my morning walk, but get this … it was a walk from a different day. Do you know what that means? Yep, I walked twice in one week! Yay me!

cows in the mountainsHere are more cows. MOOO! This is one of the views as we round a bend on the way to school every day. Amazing. This time of year I have to be extra careful to not swerve off the road because I’m looking at all of the color. Pay attention! Focus on the road! No distractions! MOO!

fallparadeThis beauty shot was taken from a home showcased in the local Parade of Homes. The POH is a local event where home builders open up their homes for people to “parade” through. Get it? Parade. of HOMES! I love snooping in new homes. And, this kind of snooping is legit. They want you to snoop! This is the view from the deck of a home that is nearly a million dollars. OK, I think it’s only $799,000, but close enough!

fallparadehouseThis is inside that home, from the upstairs loft. Guess they’d call it a million-dollar view. Or, a nearly-million-dollar view. Pretty sweet either way. Someone is going to be very lucky living in this house.

fall4This one is a view as I pull into my driveway. Yep, lucky girl here. It’s not a million-dollar home, but is much larger than our Florida home so we feel very fortunate. It’s breathtaking this time of year as the leaves are all changing into their brilliant magnificence. Did I just put two adjectives together like that? Just can’t figure out how else to talk about its beauty.

fallcat And, this one? This lucky lady gets this view every day. This is one of her favorite spots. I can’t imagine why.

P.S. I use my phone a lot for photos so follow me over on Instagram to see more.

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese

pumpkin cream cheeseLast month I started seeing pumpkin-flavored food items in all the grocery stores: pumpkin coffee, pumpkin spice coffee creamer, pumpkin granola bars — you name it. Then, I found pumpkin cream cheese. AND pumpkin bagels. I bought both!

I blew threw the tiny tub of cream cheese within a couple of days. It was good, and very, very — orange. An unnatural orange. So, I set out to make a version that uses ingredients I could pronounce. It’s super easy and makes twice as much as that little tub I bought at the store.

pumpkin cream cheeseThis version is fluffy and delicious. I used 3 tablespoons of brown sugar for the sweetener. It gives the slightest sweet taste without turning this into a sugary dip. The brown sugar can be reduced or even eliminated. Or, you could substitute maple syrup so that it’s “real” food. This recipe is also a great opportunity to use organic ingredients to make it more healthful. Either way, it’s a great fall morning treat.

My version isn’t orange, but is packed with pumpkin flavor. Try it for yourself and see what you think.

Pumpkin Cream Cheese


  • 8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie spice)
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla


  1. In a stand mixer, blend cream cheese and pumpkin puree
  2. Add brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice and vanilla
  3. Blend until combined
  4. Spoon into air tight container and store in refrigerator
  5. Cream cheese will firm as it's chilled.

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.

Halloween Children’s Book Roundup

Halloween children's books

Every year I pull out seasonal books and put them in our reading nook for the kids. Last month we rounded up all our Halloween and fall books and started to get into the mood of the season. I’m not a big fan of horror themes, especially for the little ones, so all our books concentrate on sweet themes and celebrations.

Here’s a list of our favorites:

I Am a Witch’s Cat by Harriet Muncaster
I was unsure about this title, but it is a very sweet tale about a little girl who dresses like a cat and thinks her mother is a witch. Not a bad witch, but a witch none the less. Her mom is a witch because she keeps lots of strange potion bottles in the bathroom. Her mom is a witch because once a week she gets out her broomstick and cleans her room. What makes this book unique is the use of mixed media as illustrations.

Click, Clack, Boo by Doreen Cronin and Betsy Lewin
The cows fromĀ  one of my all time favorite books, Click, Clack, Moo, are at it again. Farmer Brown doesn’t like Haloween, but the cows and the other farm animals want to have a Halloween Party. Find out what mischief they are up to this time in this sweet Halloween tale.

Halloween Bugs by David A Carter
This pop-up book has been a favorite in my family for years now. Although my kids have kind of outgrown it, it still has a place on our Halloween bookshelf. Every page has a door to open. One yellow with green polka dots, another is a rusty iron door, and another is a dusty old door. Six doors in all, each with a different “scary” bug behind it. The little bugs are actually cute. There’s a lollipop bug, an orange hairy bug made of yarn, and even an itsy, bitsy pumpkin bug.

Fancy Nancy’s Fabulous Fall Storybook Collection by Jane O’Connor
This book includes 6 Fancy Nancy stories all about fall. There’s one called Halloween … or Bust!, Apples Galore!, the 100th Day of School, and Our Thanksgiving Banquet, and two more. In the Halloween story, Nancy has to decide her costume. Should she be a caterpillar, or a butterfly, or a glittering silvery snowflake? She ends up with a choice that “pops” during the party and she has to act quickly to decide what to do.

Splat the Cat and the Pumpkin-Picking Plan by Rob Scotton
Splat’s back at it in this paperback book with a page of stickers. Who doesn’t love stickers? Splat is on the search for a very round and very orange — perfect pumpkin. This Splat version helps small children with differences (colors and sizes) and offers problem solving opportunities as Splat tries to figure out how to get the biggest pumpkin home.

Be sure to read my Halloween children’s book post from last year where where I mentioned a Marley the dog Halloween book, and the funniest book of them all!

Disclosure: I received some of these titles as review copies from the publishers. Affiliate links are used in this post which means, if you make a purchase a small percentage goes to the development of this site — at no additional cost to you. Opinions are my own.

About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.

‘Leading the Life You Want’

This is not a book review, although it may seem like one. Last week I saw a description of this book, Leading the Life You Want, in my Facebook feed. Of course I had to stop the scroll to read since it’s about work-life balance and all. Although the title is very Oprah’s live-your-best-life-ish, this book seems to have serious substance.

So, since this is not a book review — I haven’t read the book — I wanted to instead talk through some of the points in the HBR (you know, Harvard Business Review) summary:

The author, Stewart D. Friedman, says, “If you’re seeking “balance” you’ll never achieve it.” I stumble across statements like this quite frequently, and in fact, just wrote about it in this post where Robert Herjavec says, “work-life balance is one of the biggest misconceptions people have.”

So, here we have … “you’ll never achieve it,” and “it’s one of the biggest misconceptions people have,” all in one blog post.

Friedman says, “The goal is to create harmony among them (the four areas of your life: work, home, community, and the private self) instead of thinking only in terms of trade-offs.” Harmony. This is better.

I think we get hung up on the definitions of work-life balance. That everything is a trade-off like Friedman says, or the fact that everything needs to be perfectly balanced. The truth is that it doesn’t. It just has to be balanced to you.

Friedman uses illustrations from famous people (from Michelle Obama to Bruce Springsteen) to illustrate the points in his book, which make me wonder how translatable they can be. After all, people with money have more means to have assistance in their daily lives. More assistance can easily equate to more balance for the things that are important.

I am intrigued, however, and will be looking forward to finding a copy of this book to read to get his full insights. For now, I’ll stick with the theory that work-life balance is obtainable — you just have to properly define it, and work toward that goal.


About Alicia: Alicia is the founder of Last year, she managed to stay sane while completing an MBA, working full-time, blogging, and still baking amazing birthday cakes — all while raising a young family at home.