Category Archives: Love of Travel


Bean to Bar | Jamie & The Chocolate Factory

Alright, alright, alright!

Man, did I have a good time over the 4th of July extended holiday weekend!

Mom and I, once again, journeyed to our favorite little small town in the heart of the North Carolina mountains, Asheville, NC. It seriously is the place, outside of my precious little town home in West Midtown, where I feel the most like myself and the most at home. Isn’t it crazy how a place can be that familiar and that homey and you have never actually lived there before?

Are there places and towns and destinations you feel that way about too? 

Anyways, I digress, but on our first morning there we had an amazing opportunity to go behind the scenes of our of favorite local businesses- French Broad Chocolates– and learn all about their bean to bar processes.Pictured above: the Cacao beans after roasting 

First, a little history lesson…

I absolutely love their story, their values, and their reasons for being in business and partnership with so many other fantastic local and international purveyors and you can read it in its entirety here, but I will also give cliff-notes version.

Dan & Jael, the owners, first fell in love with one another and then, secondly, with chocolate…

Isn’t that just so whimsical? I love that!

After they each left graduate school, they took a trip down to Costa Rica, where they were inexplicably drawn to buying an old, run-down cacao farm never to return to their average life back in the Midwest. It was there, in this tiny town in Costa Rica, where the pair opened their first cafe and dessert shop called Bread & Chocolate. It was while running this business that they first were introduced to interests in cacao, sustainability, and ultimately, to become self-ordained “chocolate missionaries.”

After they sold the thriving Bread & Chocolate business to one of their employees, Dan & Jael, along with 2 sons in tow, set their sights on Asheville where they began French Broad Chocolates (named for the French Broad River that runs through this region) out of their family home selling their chocolate confections both online and at the local farmer’s markets. The demand forced them to outgrow their space 2 different times and the official French Broad Chocolate Lounge, as well as their Chocolate + Milk Bar now reside on Lexington Ave. in the heart of downtown directly across the street from Pack Square. And each and every time that I have visited? There is a line outside the door.

And, I am one of them. Just a face in the crowd.

And then later, in 2012, another dream was realized and they opened their French Broad Chocolate Factory & Tasting Room.

And that’s precisely where Mom and I find ourselves today…

And y’all, a Chocolate Factory smells exactly like what you think it should smell like— the most heady, full-bodied, and bold chocolate scent you can possibly imagine. But, that is not even the best part… they give you samples throughout the entire tour.

That’s what you call “chocolate bribery.”

But, I needed no bribing to stay alert and attentive. It was so interesting and I learned so much about the art of chocolate making. From harvest to shipping to inspecting to roasting to processing to making it tasty, it was extremely interesting and much more involved than I ever imagined. 

Pictured above is the process of extracting that cacao and cocoa butter from the cacao bean and pressing all that deliciousness out.

And after the cacao has been hand-selected, roasted, broken open, processed, and finally churned into delicious chocolate confections, they produce 10 lb blocks of chocolate in dark, milk, and white chocolate varieties each with varying degrees of cacao percentage.

Now, those 10 ob blocks were such a head-turner, and the walls were lined with them! Just exquisite. 
Pictured above: The French Broad Chocolate Journey in Chocolate 

Overall, I walked away with such a genuine appreciation for these small local businesses that doing it right, networking in their communities, being sustainable, and treating others with fairness and dignity. I was so appreciative of their passion, their diligence to their craft, and the fact that they make lots of small batched for overall quality control.

And of course, you have to take some home with you…

It’s like a rule. 

I don’ make the rules, I just abide by them…

In order to share this love of organic, responsibly sourced, and sustainable chocolate, I have decided to do a little giveaway!

Up for grabs is a bag of Chocolate Sip! And it’s pretty much the best hot or even frozen hot chocolate you have ever had!

Chocolate Sip! - Dark Chocolate Ⓥ

Chocolate Sip is made with the finest direct-trade cacao, which is transformed into chocolate right inside the factory where we visited. They then add a touch of organic, fair trade sugar and the end result is nothing short of bliss. It is rich, intense, and decadent.

Instructions for how to make Chocolate Sip are on the package. This bag will make 5-6 servings.

To Enter:

Comment Below and tell me about your favorite chocolate treat or dessert! What makes it so special? Does it have a sweet memory {pun intended} attached to it? Share with me! 

1 lucky, chocolate-loving winner will be selected and I will post it right here on the blog as well as on my FaceBook page next week! 

Good luck!




You know those moments in life where you just stand in complete and total amazement?

One of those moments where it is hard to catch your breath, and His presence is felt so keenly? So closely?

Perhaps, it is in those moments of complete solitude and reflection where I feel my most real self. Where I feel completely whole, loved, and held. I have had a few of those moments lately, and I wanted to share them with you…

But, first of all, I have been somewhat absent, and I apologize for that, but life sort of took over and I haven’t had a lot of time to write and post lately, and even less to sit alone, quiet & still and have time to think. But, the good in all of that is the lessons that He teaches you when He can slow you down enough to see your little, seemingly insignificant, life in the prospective of his great, big, perfect plan. I love when He gives me experiences & moments, glimpses if you will, into how I can factor into it all. It’s like a little kiss on the cheek or a winking eye from your Savior that let’s you know to carry on, Mighty Warrior.

For me, It was in the landscape of Yosemite; a place that everywhere you turned was more beautiful than the vista you had just seen and experienced.

Can’t you almost just hear these rushing rapids? Such incredible power.

Above is Bridal Veil Falls, a waterfall dubbed that name because the mist looks like a wedding veil as it hits the rocks below and sprays up all around you. I wish I had gotten a closer picture, as we did hike right up to the base of the waterfall, but the mist was so thick that my glasses fogged over and the camera lens was covered in water drops, so this had to do, and I think it’s so picturesque.

How often do you get to hike with your boss amidst vast, giant sequoias and California Redwoods?

How can anyone not be awed by nature?

How can someone look at a waterfall or a mountain formation or giant sequoias so tall and so rotund than even the tallest  person in the group looks terribly tiny?

How can you not be in awe of the Creator amidst some of His greatest creation?

As I was rummaging through the gift shop, I was flipping through a book (mostly pictures) on the history and different landmarks in Yosemite, I was approached by one of the salespersons, an elderly woman who remarked that she had worked in the Park for over 30 years and knew an awful lot about the Park and did I have any questions about the book. I told her it was my first time here and I was interested in the history of it and the surrounding areas.

She began to tell me that “over 200 million years ago, scientists and geologists believe that Yosemite and all its natural elements were growing underground… and then after Pangaea occurred following the Big Bang, the rocks and the grounds beneath us receded, and Yosemite emerged from the ground.” She ended her science lesson with “And suddenly, there it was!” I smiled and replied, “Yes, I agree with you on one of those statements- it was suddenly there, but it was spoken into being by the Creator of the universe at the time of creation.” Immediately following my response, my heart hurt inside my chest as I watched her lips purse and her eyes blink back at me a few times, and then she very quickly told me that the book was $10.95 and if I wanted to purchase it, she would meet me at the front counter. And with a spin of her hips, she was off and away in the opposite direction. She couldn’t get away from me fast enough!

Having lost interest, I returned the book to its shelf and I prayed a seed as planted as I exited the General Store.

I feel humbled and truly grateful to commune and fellowship with my Savior as I enjoy His creation, and I hope and pray that He be made evident among the rocks, crags, waterfalls, river rapids, and even in the wildlife. Scripture says that even the rocks cry out in worship, and I felt it all so keenly on my day at Yosemite.

Feel blessed and truly grateful for these crazy coworkers of mine, pictured above, and the way they speak truth into me and over me almost daily. May we continue to be salt and light wherever our travels take us!

So, I encourage you… get outside, take a walk, take a hike, get out on a beach, or even in your own backyard and become still. Quiet. Reflective. And ask for Him to teach you a new lesson that day.

He will.