Five Hikes To Take In The Smokies

We try to squeeze at least one hike in every year when we go to the Smoky Mountains, so I’m sharing five of our favorites with you.

Rainbow Falls.  This trail is rated as moderate in difficulty, however you are climbing up most of the way to the falls.  That just means the way down is easier, right?!  It is 5.4 miles round trip and takes between 3-5 hours to complete.  You will likely hear  water flowing several times and think you’re close.  Just be patient… you will get there.   About half way to the actual Rainbow Falls, there is a smaller, but very pretty, waterfall that is worth taking a break and snapping some pics.  If it is a sunny day and you are lucky when you make it to the falls, you may get to see a rainbow created by the mist.  Be careful on the rocks around the falls, they do get very slippery due to all the mist.

Grotto Falls.  Another trail rated moderate in difficulty.  I would say that is more true on this one.  It is only 2.6 miles round trip.  Terrick was fairly young when we hiked this one, and didn’t have any trouble.  You are able to walk behind the waterfall which is a cool experience.  We did get to see some black bears in the distance, too!

Laurel Falls.  Laurel Falls is one of the most popular trails in the Smokies, so it can get pretty crowded.  I would recommend going early.  The trail is paved and is probably the easiest one we have hiked.  Depending on how much time you spend at the falls, you can make it there and back in less than 2 hours.  Of these five hikes (four with falls), Laurel Falls is the prettiest in my opinion.  The falls are 80 feet high, and flow down into a stream at the bottom of the upper section.  They continue under a walkway bridge and form the lower section.  Great spot for pictures!

Baskins Creek Falls. Phew!  This is definitely the most difficult hike we’ve taken in the Smokies, although it is rated as moderate as well.  This is a good hike if you don’t like crowds, as it is not one of the most well known trails.  Definitely take plenty of water and wear good shoes on this one!  There are a few places you will need to use both hands to steady yourself going up or down some rocky areas.  The waterfall at the end is neat, although getting closer to it is a little tricky.  Let’s just say one of us ended up with some wet pants, socks & shoes.  The trek back is mostly uphill, and we’re talking pretty steep.  If you hike this in the winter or spring, there are some decent views of Gatlinburg at the beginning of the trail.  We also spotted two deer on our hike. *Hint:  Don’t cost yourself extra time looking for the Baskins Creek Falls sign (it doesn’t exist).  The sign that says Baskins Creek Trails is indeed what you’re looking for.

Cucumber Gap.  I think this may be my favorite of these five.  There are two trail heads – Little River Trailhead or Jakes Creek Trailhead.  We started on the Little River which literally runs parallel to the river.  It was so peaceful, and this half of the trail is flat making it very easy.  I love listening to the sound of the water flowing and watching it flow over the rocks.  Beautiful!  About an hour in, if you start on the Little River Trailhead, you come to a bridge and will see a stream that is fed by Huskey Branch Falls.  Get off the beaten path just a little bit if you’re able and take the short climb to get a better view of the falls. Although not as large as some of the other falls in the park, they are worth seeing.  The second half of the trail is a little more difficult, but not bad.  There are a few exposed roots that you have to make sure you don’t get tripped up on.  There are also a couple streams you have to cross which, for me, just makes it more fun!  Be on the lookout for ruins of the early Elkmont settlers.  At 5.6 miles and about three hours to complete, it is well worth the hike.

Read my other post on what to do in the Smokies here.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls
Baskins Creek Falls
Cucumber Gap
Cucumber Gap

What to do in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg

Spring Break 2019 was spent in Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg.  Spring Break 2018 was spent in Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg.  Spring Break 2017….are you starting to see a pattern here?  We enjoy going year after year.  There are so many things to do.  You can spend as much money as you want or as little as you want and have a great time either way.

What we like to Do:

Oh goodness.  Where to start?  There is so much to do.

1.  Mini Golf.  We always end up playing mini golf at one of the many places to choose from.  One of our favorites is Professor Hacker’s Lost Treasure Golf, where you ride the mining train to the first hole.   There are two 18 hole courses to choose from. Crave Golf Club is one of the newer attractions in Pigeon Forge.  There is an indoor and an outdoor course that put a new twist on how you play.   They also offer mini bowling, which we’ve played the last two years.  If you are craving (pun intended) something sweet, grab a milkshake or a treat from the candy store.

Riding the mining car to the first hole at Professor Hacker’s.
The “twist” on how you play at Crave. Spin to see what you have to do…putt on one knee, close your eyes, etc.

 

Cocoa cliffs milkshake at Crave.

 

2. Parrot Mountain. Parrot Mountain is a sanctuary for birds that have been abused or just need a new home.  We went for the first time in 2018, and it was a request to go again this year.  I cannot say enough good things about it.  It is such a neat experience.  There are so many birds…parrots, toucans, peacocks.    In one area, you can feed, hold, or pet several of the birds.  We have not eaten there, but there is a snack bar area if you get hungry.  If you are really liking these birds, there is a baby bird nursery where you can pet the babies and make one yours if you’d like.

So much fun. Pretty sure we were having a deep conversation in the bottom right pic. Some of them will talk to you though…”whatcha doin?” has been my favorite.
Feeding the lorikeets nectar.

 

3. Anakeesta.  Anakeesta is a theme park located in the heart of Gatlinburg that offers several things to do.  Start by riding the enclosed gondola [one of us was a little apprehensive, so we did this the first time up] or the open-air chair to Firefly Village  where you can grab a bite to eat or do some shopping.  Take a humbling stroll along the Memorial Forest Walk area and read about the devastating 2016 fires and the resiliency of the people of Sevier County.  Sit in one of the many rocking chairs and take in the beauty of the mountains.  If you have little ones [or big ones…the boys may have checked it out], they will love to play in the Treehouse Village Playground.  Then, it’s on to the Tree Canopy Walk which is a series of sky bridges amongst the trees.  This was especially cool in the evening.   If you are feeling really adventurous, try the mountain coaster or zipline adventure.  One of the great things about visiting Anakeesta is the admission price is good all day long, so if you want to go back for dinner or to watch the sunset you can definitely take advantage of the opportunity!

Our daytime trip to Anakeesta.
Beautiful sunset from atop Anakeesta.
Tree Canopy Walk at night.

 

4.  Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies.  Now, it has been a couple years since we went to the aquarium, but I’m sure we will make it back soon.  I hear they have a new glass bottom boat adventure that we need to check out.  I think my favorite part is the Penguin Playhouse.  The penguins are just so cute and always look like they’re having fun.

5.  Escape rooms.  While there are several of these to choose from too, we opted for Kryptology Escape Rooms in Pigeon Forge.  We did Da Vinci’s Challenge, and although we didn’t escape (bummer!) we had a blast.  I felt like it was family friendly, and the staff was great!

We had to blame someone for not escaping…sorry babe! 😉

 

6. The Island in Pigeon Forge.  We always end up here, if for no other reason than to take in the sights and sounds.  This is one place you can go that won’t cost you a dime, yet you will leave still having had a great time.  The dancing fountains are so pretty to watch.  There are so many stores to wander in and out of.  The Beef Jerky Outlet, Sweet! candy store, and the Parrot Mountain store (because you know…we didn’t get enough of the birds when we went to Parrot Mountain) are some of the stores we always seem to go in.  If you are wanting to spend some money, there are plenty of activities like The Island Ropes Course, The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel, or the Island Mirror Maze to name a few.

Dancing fountains with The Great Smoky Mountain Wheel in the background.

 

7.  Chimneys Picnic Area.  Back to Gatlinburg for this one.  This is one of our favorite areas, and also won’t cost you anything.  It’s so serene, but full of rocks to climb on.  Just be careful…they are slippery when wet!

Cades Cove, gem mining at the Pigeon Forge Gem Mine, racing at Nascar Speed Park, and taking the challenge at Magiquest are a few more of our favorite things to do.

Stay tuned for our favorite places to eat, shop, and hike.

Tough Girl (or guy)…You’re Not Alone

Anxiety, depression, self doubt, panic attacks….all words that, before late summer or early fall of 2016, I probably would have rolled my eyes at to be honest.  Not that I didn’t believe people could go through these things, I guess I just thought I was immune to them or maybe too strong for something as ‘simple’ as that to get me down.

Well….I was wrong, and wrong in a big way. We had just returned from a beach vacation, so I should have been relaxed, but instead I kept not feeling well.  My symptoms started out like this….I would be sitting at my desk at work and would feel dizzy.  I actually described it as somewhere between dizzy and passing out.  I told Dan if it kept happening I was going to have to go to a doctor.

So…go to a doctor I did.  In the middle of the night, to the ER.  I had gone to bed with a headache.  I was having terrible ones at this point (worse than usual as headaches had been a part of my life for awhile).  I woke up, head still hurting, heart racing, sick at my stomach, in a cold sweat.  If I remember correctly, the ER diagnosis was heart palpitations.  The reality of it was, it was a panic attack.  The first of many to come.  I just didn’t know it yet.

I had no family doctor because, well…I wasn’t sick a lot.  A sinus infection here or there, but that was about it.  So I had to start making phone calls, find out who was accepting new patients, etc.  A few weeks and several panic attacks later, I was finally in.

Before I talk about how things went at the doctor, let’s talk about what a panic attack looked like for me.  If I’m going to write this, I might as well share the whole ugly truth.  It was rough.  I would get one of those dizzy feelings and that would start the panic attack.  I would pace the floor (sometimes for hours), I would have trouble swallowing.  I couldn’t be still, I played with my hair, or was just fidgety in general.  I had to have people go with me, and/or drive me places. I missed work, or if I was at work, I would spend a good portion of the day fighting off whatever symptom I might be having that particular day.  Thankfully, I had been employed at the same place for quite some time, so they knew this was totally out of character for me.  My poor family couldn’t do anything for me.  Trust me…they offered, they asked, they tried to distract me when I was in the throes of a panic attack.

I went through lots of blood work, took a heart scan, wore a heart monitor, made another trip to the ER.  I kept telling my new doctor I was not an anxious person, there was nothing in my life to be anxious about, on & on.  He believed me…or at least I thought he did.  But when test after test kept coming back A-okay, there wasn’t a whole lot left that could be wrong with me.

Talk about frustrated…I KNEW something wasn’t right, and it wasn’t anxiety.  I didn’t want to see a counselor, I didn’t need to work anything out.  I was tough and could get through anything.  Come to find out, maybe I had been too tough for too long.

I tend to take on a lot of responsibility (especially at work).  I’m usually the one to call when there’s something that needs done…like rushing a parent or grandparent to the hospital, or picking up a niece when the other niece is in the hospital.  Yep, all of the above happened during the time I was having all these issues.  Every week, I would go in to the counselor having endured a new crisis, none of which would’ve been enough to get me down under normal circumstances.  But man, it was like I couldn’t catch a break, and these were definitely not normal circumstances.  At some point, I know I told the counselor I was exhausted.  I was on constant alert, trying to stop the next panic attack before it could start.

So what did I learn through all this?  Several things.  It’s ok not to always be the responsible one.  It’s ok to accept help.  It’s ok to take days for yourself.  But most importantly, I learned I was not alone.  So, so many people let me know they had been through something similar.  And that’s my sole purpose for sharing my story…to let you know you’re not alone.  I know it may feel that way, I know you think absolutely no one understands, I know it feels like it’s never going to get better.  It will though, and trust me there is someone out there who understands.

There were two songs I listened to on repeat during this time, “Chain Breaker” by Zach Williams and “Eye of the Storm” by Ryan Stevenson.  Sometimes it’s hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but these songs were two more reminders that I wasn’t fighting this battle alone.

7 Ways to Wear Burgundy Pants

 

 

I don’t know about you, but we have to dress up at work every day except Friday.  I tend to get in a rut of wearing the same pants with the same shirt, and a lot of times it’s black pants….so here’s a few ideas to add a little variety to your work outfits.

    Pants ( I size down one in these to a 6)  Sweater ( I size down one in this to, wearing in XS)  Boots ( I sized up a half size to 7.5, probably should’ve sized up a whole size)  Similar Necklace (if I remember right, I bought this one from a school fundraiser 🙂 )

Same look, just different shoes, and I liked the boots better so I’m sharing both.  Similar shirt and scarfSimilar purse.

Sweater ( I sized down to XS in this one)

Floral shirt (TTS, wearing in small)

Cowl neck sweater (TTS, wearing in small)  Belt (wearing in small)

Sweater (TTS, wearing in small)  Heels (I sized down a whole size, wearing in 6)

Hopefully these ideas gives you some inspiration!

Jenni

Weekend Getaway – Asheville, NC and Biltmore Estate

 

Dan recently surprised me with a weekend getaway to Asheville, NC.  I had no idea where we were going until we got a little closer.  All he told me was the weather forecast, how long a drive it was, and to request a certain Friday off.   We’ve went on plenty of trips, but never one that I didn’t know the details of.  I was pretty excited, and honestly didn’t try to guess the destination.  The Biltmore Estate has been on my list of things to do, and it didn’t disappoint.

Day 1:  We had plans to leave Friday morning after getting the kids off to school, so of course there was a two hour fog delay.  After a little re-arranging, we headed out around 8;30.  It was about a seven hour drive which, for us, is not bad at all.  We usually drive everywhere we go.  If you prefer to stay on property there are several choices.  The Cottage on Biltmore Estate, The Inn on Biltmore Estate, or Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate.  Dan had booked us a room at the Country Inn & Suites  near downtown Asheville, and about 15 minutes from the Biltmore Estate .  When we arrived I found out that we had tickets for the Candlelight Christmas Evenings at Biltmore.   How romantic 😉  Before making our way there, we went to Bone & Broth for dinner.

Steak Frites for me, and Lamb Chops for Dan.

 

On to the Biltmore.  A little history before we get started….George Vanderbilt started building the house in 1889, and it was finished in 1895.  He was single when the construction started!  The house boasts 65 fire places, along with 35 bedrooms, and 43 bathrooms.  If you are interested in the history of it at all, I would highly recommend doing the audio guide.  It was very informative.

Driving onto the property.

 

Choir performing for the Candlelight Christmas.

 

One of the many Christmas trees throughout. This one was in the banquet hall.

 

These fireplaces were also in the banquet hall, and although they are massive the room still felt cozy and was one of my favorites.

 

I pretty much had to share this picture since it has Jennifer and Ginger on the list. I do not want a puppy or a horse, however!

 

Looking like a tourist, listening to my audio guide.

 

This picture was in the basement on our way to see the bowling alley, indoor swimming pool, and workout area.  How crazy is that since this house was built in the late 1800s?!

One of the 1st residential bowling alleys, the workout area complete with showers, and the swimming pool which still has the original underwater lighting!

 

That wraps up day 1.  Our tickets were for 9:15PM, and we finished  the tour up at about 11:30 , to give you an idea of how much time you will need.

Day 2:  We were up fairly early to eat the complimentary breakfast.  We’re always willing to save a little money, so we can go on more trips. 🙂  Then it was back to the Biltmore to tour the grounds and gardens.  Unfortunately the rain from day 1 continued into day 2, but we made the best of it.  A little info on the grounds, the estate covers 8,000 acres!  Sounds like a lot, right?  But, it originally covered 125,000 acres.  Since we were visiting for the Christmas tours, we didn’t see a lot of the gardens.  The flowers and plant life in the conservatory were beautiful, however, so I can imagine the gardens are as well.

This is the front of the Biltmore house, although it doesn’t capture the enormity.

 

 

A few of the flowers and plants in the conservatory.

 

After leaving the garden area, we drove over to Antler Hill Village & Winery where we had reservations for lunch at Cedric’s Tavern.  There are a few restaurants to choose from on property, along with some shopping, and an exhibit on The Biltmore Legacy.  Also in the Antler Hill area is the barn where you can see some of the farm equipment that was used in the 1900s, woodworkers, and blacksmiths.

We shared the fish & chips, and bison burger.

 

That wraps up day 2 at the Biltmore Estate.  It is somewhere we both said we would visit again in warmer weather to experience the gardens in bloom, and more of the property.  There are also several outdoor activities to choose from when the weather permits, such as hiking, horseback riding, and river float trips to name a few.

We weren’t finished yet though….on to Asheville for a comedy bus tour with Lazoom .  We learned some things about Asheville we otherwise would not have, all while laughing and having a good time.  We enjoyed the downtown area.  It was very walkable, albeit a little hilly (or maybe we just need to get in shape), so many stores to look in, coffee shops like City Bakery where we enjoyed a cheese danish and coffee.  Dinner was at white duck taco shop, and no trip would be complete without a stop at an outlet mall.  We didn’t have much time there, but the Asheville Outlets looked like we (who am I kidding…I really mean I)…I could’ve spent some more money…er, time there.

Me and the man responsible for this trip.

 

If you have the chance to visit Asheville and the Biltmore Estate, I would definitely do it.  It made for a great weekend getaway, and it’s only a short 90 minute drive from the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area if you happen to be visiting that area, and want to venture a little further away.

 

What’s In A Name?

Picking a name for the blog was probably the most difficult thing to do to get started.  I feel like I’m starting a little late in the game, so every name was already taken.  If the “.com” wasn’t taken, then the Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram was.  I knew I either wanted the name to have something to do with the beach or Ginger.  I used name generators, I asked my family, I made lists, I looked at everything I could think of that might give me some inspiration.  Every time I thought I was on to a good name, I would check and it would be taken.

Have I drawn this out enough? 🙂  Would you like to know why Ginger?  Ginger is my husband’s nickname for me…I guess because it sounds a lot like Jen.  The Just For Fun part is simply because this blog is just for fun, and I don’t want to lose sight of that.  So, there you have it…the reason behind the name of Ginger Just For Fun.

Coworker Christmas Gifts

 

Do you usually give presents to all your coworkers?  Or more specifically the ones that you work most closely with?  We usually do, and I struggle every year trying to figure out what to get without breaking the bank and still having it be something they will enjoy.  Here are a few things I have received over the years, and I use them all.

Spove Polka Dot Flip Flop Design Manicure Kit (Set of 6 Kits)

I carry this one in my purse every day.  I actually liked it so much I ended up buying for stocking stuffers as well.  It has come in handy a time or two….maybe even to open a mayo packet that was impossible! (Don’t worry I hadn’t used the scissors on anything else)


Coffee Mug Cozy Oatmeal

Grey and Mint Heart Cup Cozy Coffee Sleeve

I have one very similar to the oatmeal one.  I use it on weekends when I can take a little longer and enjoy my cappuccino.

RoyAroma 2PCS 30mm Car Aromatherapy Essential Oil Diffuser Stainless Steel Locket Air Freshener with Vent Clip 12 Felt Pads

I must admit I have not actually used this one yet, although I do own it and keep intending to.  I love the idea of it since I use some essential oils anyway.

Wrapables Unisex-Adults Plaid Print Infinity Scarf, red/Green, One Size

And if all else fails, who doesn’t like a scarf?

These would also work well for teachers, babysitters, neighbors.

Kitchen Remodel – The Final Reveal

It could not have turned out any better! I love it just as much today as when it was first completed.  I love how much brighter it is.  We added several can lights, the pendant lighting [you can find them here: Feiss P1261ORB Urban Renewal Glass Industrial Vintage Pendant Lighting, Bronze, 1-Light (6″Dia x 10″H) 100watts] over the island, and under cabinet lighting.

Countertops in New Venetian Gold granite.

We wanted the bar stools to fit under the raised portion of the island.  We found these at Pier1, but here are some similar ones: Winsome 94089 Satori Stool, 29″, Walnut

So happy we chose the contrasting island.  We think it really ties the whole kitchen together.


We knew we did not want a stainless steel sink, so we chose a granite composite sink by Blanco in cafe brown.  The faucet is Cassidy, by Delta in venetian bronze.  My husband (yep, he’s the dish washer for what doesn’t go in the dishwasher) loves the soap dispenser which is also by Delta in venetian bronze.  You can find  both of those here: Delta Cassidy Single-Handle Pull-Down Bar-Prep Faucet with Magnetic Docking Spray Head, Venetian Bronze 9997-RB-DST, Delta Faucet RP71543RB Cassidy, Soap/Lotion Dispenser and Bottle, Venetian Bronze

Just a couple more features to point out.  The appliance garage keeps the counter a little more tidy.  Several of our drawers have pull outs which is super handy.  The spice cabinet was a must.  It keeps things so much more organized.  We have an outlet above the cabinets just in case we want to decorate with anything that needs plugged in.  Speaking of plugging things in, I am typing this at our island.  Not only do we use it a lot when we’re preparing food, but it is usually where we do any work at home so we made sure to have plenty of outlets.

Backsplash includes subway tile in almond gloss, mosaic accent with stone and glass.

 

I know I said it in the first post, but it’s worth repeating….patience is key.  We started planning the remodel in August, began the demo in February of the following year, and the project wrapped up at the beginning of May.  It was so worth it though, take your time, hire a contractor with a good team, and go with the flow – there will be things that come up that weren’t expected.  And have fun!!

Kitchen Remodel – Work In Progress

Picking up where we left off.  We got back from spring break, and walked in to this beautiful new floor.  We went with an engineered hardwood by Anderson with mixed width planks, in cabrillo gold.

It was so exciting to come home from work every day and see the progress that was being made.  We chose to go with Waypoint cabinets.  The perimeter cabinets are cherry chocolate glaze, and the island is the painted maple hazelnut glaze.  Don’t they sound delicious? 😉

Appliances!  Whirlpool was what we chose to go with, and 2 1/2 years later we’re still happy with that decision.

One of the most important things we wanted in the new kitchen was somewhere to drop our coats, backpacks, keys…all that stuff you use on a daily basis.  We ended up going with this cubby since we don’t have a mud room area, and this is where we all come in to the house.

Up next, the final reveal complete with all the finishing touches including backsplash and lighting fixtures.

 

Kitchen Remodel – Before/Demo

We completely remodeled our kitchen about 2 1/2 years ago.  There was a lot of planning and picking out of finishes before hand.  We don’t plan on doing this again for a vvveeerryyy long time, so we wanted to make sure everything was just how we wanted it.  We hired a contractor who also had a designer working with their team.   Here are some before pictures:

My least favorite thing?…that light! I could only see a chipmunk every time I looked at it!

Who is that girl standing around, playing on her phone?

 

The demo was something we felt like we could take on ourselves though.  We started with taking the upper cabinets down.   This was really pretty simple…just remove the screws and make sure you’re ready to catch that cabinet.  Up next…bottom cabinets.  The hardest thing about that was the counter top.  A good sawzall was really helpful.  We did salvage as much as we could.  What we or our other family members didn’t use elsewhere, we donated to our local Habitat for Humanity.

Our family room is connected to our kitchen, so we had to move everything out during the remodel.  The refrigerator, microwave, and crock pot went to the dining room for the next few months.  That was okay for the first week or so, but it does start to get old fast.  Patience is key! 🙂

The dining room/temporary kitchen. Oh my! Um..and there I am again doing nothing but messing around on my phone. I promise I really worked!

 

The bulkhead ( my other least favorite part of the old kitchen) was next to get demo’d.  This wasn’t terrible either, that sawzall came in handy again.  Luckily, there was nothing but a return air vent to deal with.

Terrick wanted to “help” too.
Return air vent. Simple re-route to the other side of that half wall.

 

Electrical and dry wall were finished next, and then it was our turn again.  We thought this would be the easiest part…nope!  The flooring was that peel and stick vinyl, and sticky was an understatement.  As soon as the floor was up, we had to hurry and paint as we were leaving for spring break and our new flooring was getting installed while we were gone.

Stay tuned for the completion!