Three Ways to Wear One Flannel

Hey guys!  What’s up?  I hope everyone had a great weekend.  We spent Friday night and Saturday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  If you follow along on Instagram stories, you know we had an added bonus of seeing our oldest daughter Saturday night.  She lives in Florida but happened to be about an hour away from the museum at a conference, so of course we drove up to see her and were thankful for the hour and a half we had with her.

I spent Sunday with a friend at the Covered Bridge festival in Parke County, here in Indiana.  We came home with nothing!! That rarely happens, but we had a great time just hanging out.

Alright, so today I’m sharing three ways to wear this flannel from maurices.  I hope it gives you some inspiration. Everything is true to size, although I would say the graphic tee runs big, so size down if in between.

Look # 1

These jeans are older, but the pair I shared last week are similar, so I will link them below.
Boyfriend jeans, graphic tee, flannel

Look # 2


I’m not convinced I’m cool enough for this half tucked in look, but hey we’re goin’ with it.
Jeggings, flannel 

Look # 3


I was going to say I wasn’t sure where I would wear this, but I think I can get away with just wearing it to eat out somewhere.
Black dress, flannel

That’s all!  I hope you enjoyed this #mauricesmonday post.  Let me know which look you like best.

Oklahoma, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi Travel Log, Part 1

Ready to go on another trip with us?  Prior to my most recent post, I hadn’t written anything since January of 2020.  That post was all about the cruise we had taken in 2019, so I am anxious to tell you all about our road trip this summer.  We touched ten different states, made stops in at least nine cities or towns, drove more than 2,000 miles, and had an amazing adventure!

What are you waiting for?  Come on, let’s go!! 🙂

Day One: Travel Day.  It was a dark and stormy night when the four of us left our small town….just kidding, no need to be that dramatic.  We wanted to get a head start, so we left after work on a Thursday evening and headed toward Saint James, Missouri.  Doing that knocked about 5 1/2-6 hours off our drive for the next day.  While it did storm, there’s really nothing else to say except that our airbnb for the night was right on Route 66.  Picture the scene from Cars with the Sh-Boom song when Lightning McQueen has helped fix all the neon signs.  Got it in your mind?  Yeah….nothing like that, but our airbnb was cute.

Day Two: Oklahoma, here we come!  Somehow we left EARLY this morning.  What?!  That almost never happens for us.  We made a quick stop at Master Donuts in Saint James.  I would say they were better than Krispy Kreme, but obviously not as good as Jack’s Donuts [IYKYK].  On to see the Blue Whale of Catoosa, one of a few stops we made on Route 66.  A little history on the Blue Whale – a husband built it for his wife as an anniversary gift, and it grew from there.  Please don’t get any ideas, babe. 😉  Whoops! How could I forget?  On our way to the whale, we were bombarded with billboards for a town called Uranus.  Did we stop as goofy as it was? Yes, yes we did.  Were there some inappropriate things?  Yes, yes there were as you can probably imagine.  Did the boys enjoy talking about Uranus for several more days?  Yes, yes they did.  Alright, moving on.  Next stop, The Center of the Universe in Tulsa, OK.  No, it’s not really the center of the universe, it’s just an acoustic anomaly in the middle of downtown.  If you stand on the center of this circle, your voice sounds amplified  & there’s kind of an echo, but the people outside the circle don’t hear it that way.  Pretty cool & worth the stop, in my opinion.  Lunch time!  We chose Mother Road Market since it was a food court with options for everyone.  We had food from Howdy Burger, Curds and Whey, and Andolini’s.  Of course, we couldn’t resist a cookie from Farrell bread and bakery and ice cream from Big Dipper.  Alright, gotta go, we have a lot more to see and do before we can end day two.  Time to go to Oklahoma City.  First stop, the Centennial Land Run Monument.  This was a lot larger than I expected with several exquisitely detailed bronze sculptures celebrating the land runs of 1889, posed along the Bricktown Canal.  I had read a book by Jeanne Bishop in preparation for our trip, and I couldn’t help but think of a passage she had written:

“Celebrating the Oklahoma Land Rush was an annual school ritual.  Students were urged to dress up like settlers and pose in wagons meant to look like the ones pioneers had ridden into the territory.  An unfortunate photo exists of middle school me in such a wagon, wearing a long orange paisley dress and matching cap, my unruly mane of brown hair sticking out from underneath.  Years later, I heard a radio interview of a man with Native American ancestry saying how uncomfortable he was as a boy during these commemorations.  In the privileged cocoon of my upbringing, it didn’t dawn on me that the event we were reenacting was, as University of Oklahoma anthropology professor Daniel Swan put it, “a desperate, dark day” for Native Americans.  I am ashamed of that ignorance now.”

That passage just made me stop and think about ALL of the history behind the monument.  Getting tired yet?  We were, so we checked into The Daisy Duplex [our airbnb for the night], and rested for a minute.  We chose Whiskey Cake for dinner.  This restaurant isn’t unique to Oklahoma, but, as I wrote in my vacation journal, “it was pretty darn good.”  One more stop to make on Route 66 – Pop’s Soda Ranch.  Pop’s has soda, souvenirs, a restaurant, fuel, and our main reason for going – the giant [66 feet tall – how fun is that on Route 66], lighted soda bottle.  Must.keep.going. Skydance Bridge was our final destination for day two.  This is a pedestrian bridge with a sculpture modeled after the Oklahoma state bird.  It is lit with LED lights which change colors and made for a nice way to end the day.

Day Three: We started this day on a somber note by visiting the Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum.  I thought they had done a wonderful job on such a heartbreaking event.  One of the things that stood out most to me were the letters that family members still leave along the fence just outside the memorial.  We took the time to read some of them and they were incredibly touching.  If there are any Karen Kingsbury fans reading this, I would highly recommend reading her book To the Moon and Back, which partially inspired our trip to the museum.  If you’re into researching things before you visit, I’d also recommend the book I mentioned above by Jeanne Bishop – Grace from the Rubble.

The sign at the Memorial reads – “We come here to remember those who were killed, those who survived and those changed forever. May all who leave here know the impact of violence. May this memorial offer comfort, strength, peace, hope, and serenity.”

 

We stopped for a quick lunch at Deep Deuce Bar & Grill, and then decided to risk it [we had plans in Fort Worth later] and try to make the other two stops in Oklahoma that we were interested in.  Those stops were Turner Falls and Travertine Creek.  *Tip- if you want to visit either of these places, get there early.  Turner Falls was at capacity for the day, and parking was full at Travertine Creek – 100% on us for not researching this better.  On to Texas!  I’ll share more about the rest of the trip soon!

P.S. We very much enjoyed our time in Oklahoma & would definitely go back for a long weekend trip to explore more!

Target Try-On Session No.1

Hello everyone!  It has been quite some time since I wrote a blog post, but I ran into Target last weekend & wanted to share all my finds.  Now keep in mind, I took most of these pics in the dressing room with no real thought of writing a post about any of this.  Why did I even take pics then, you ask?  Because I’m a terrible decision maker & was sending them to my waiting husband (who needed me to hurry up since he had a fantasy football draft to get to) to help me decide.  Love ya, babe 😉  The pics that aren’t in the dressing room were snapped right quick after I decided to share.  So without further ado, here is my first try-on post.  Hope you enjoy!

Let’s start with sweaters.

Up first, this Knox Rose cardigan.  The colors are more vibrant than this pic shows & I think I’ll wear it with several colors underneath this fall. I would say it runs a bit big.  Wearing in XS, so definitely size down if in between.

Beige Cardigan

Are you guys liking the shorter cardigan trend?  I wasn’t sure until I tried on this Universal Thread cable stitch sweater.  I’m sure to be wearing this on repeat this fall.  I also think you can wear a couple different colors with this one & dress it up with black pants.  I’m wearing it in the taupe color in XS.

Taupe Cardigan

This Knox Rose tie-dye sweater is at the top of the list for favorites from this try-on.  I love the fun colors.  It’s a thinner sweater (you will need to wear something underneath) which will be perfect for the transition from summer to fall.   Wearing in XS.

Gray Knox Rose Tie-Dye Sweater

Last sweater….I did not bring this one home, but that doesn’t mean I won’t go back for it later as I did like it but have to draw the line somewhere :).  This is also Knox Rose, in gray leopard print, although there are several colors available.  Wearing in XS.

Gray leopard print v-neck sweater

Moving on to pants.

This will be a short category as I only bought one pair.  These are A New Day brand, pull on (so comfy), and only $20!  I may go back for more.  Wearing in gray, size small.

A New Day pull-on pants

Okay, now for shoes.

Also, a short category as I only purchased these A New Day heels, but I also want these in rust & these in fresh white.

A New Day heels in tan 

Cover Ups

I know, I know it’s almost fall, but maybe you’re going somewhere beachy for fall break.  I loved the color of this Xhiliration cover up.  The website says white, but it’s really more of an off white or cream color.  I also really love the sage green.  Wearing in small.

Xhiliration cover up

Lastly, dresses.

Let’s start with this Knox Rose one I didn’t buy.  I liked the way it fit other than the length.  At only 5’2″, it just felt a little off to me.  I’m wearing the red in XS.

Knox Rose dress

This is also Knox Rose brand.  I love it.  We’re planning a trip to Charleston & Savannah, and I think it will be perfect.  Wearing in XS, but could’ve done the small too. *While I was writing this, I checked the Target site & it does appear to be sold out in a lot of sizes, but I turned the notice on to let me know when it was back in stock & was notified twice while typing.

Knox Rose 3/4 sleeve dress

Rounding out this try-on session, is this A New Day sweater dress.  Unfortunately, I do not see it on Target’s site yet, but will keep checking.  In the meantime, maybe it’s available at your local store.  *Yay! It’s finally online, updated with link.

A New Day sweater dress

That’s all for this first try-on post.  Hope you enjoyed it. Let me know what other stores you would like to see!

Carnival Eastern Caribbean Cruise Recap

Summer vacations.  Do you love them?  Are you a beach person, mountain person, cruise person?  A lot of times, we are a beach vacation family.  This past year though, we opted to go on a cruise, and I couldn’t be more happy with the time we had.  It was so nice to HAVE to unplug and relax.  We booked a seven night Eastern Caribbean cruise through Carnival that left out of Port Canaveral, FL.  So….let’s go, I’m excited to tell you all about it.

Carnival Breeze docked at Amber Cove, Dominican Republic

 

Day One:  Travel Day.  This was a long day for sure, but we wanted to give ourselves plenty of time in case of a flight delay, which meant we scheduled our flight for 5:10 am.  We landed in Orlando at 7:20 a.m. and had to just hang out until the bus company we were using to get over to the port opened.  Let’s talk about that for a minute.  We looked at several options to get us on to Port Canaveral which is about fifty minutes from the airport.  Ultimately, we ended up choosing Go Port which worked out really well.  Their counter is located inside the airport by the car rental companies.  Just check your group in, get tags for your luggage, chill in the waiting area until it’s your turn, and hop on the bus (think tour bus).  They run daily from the airport to the port from 10 to 1.  I believe it was $15.00 per person one way (we were doing something different when we returned which I’ll tell you about later).  Once we arrived at Port Canaveral, our luggage was unloaded for us (we did verify all of ours had been taken off the bus successfully;)), and all we had to do was board the ship.  We were at the port before our scheduled boarding time; however there were lines for early, late, and on time arrivals, and Carnival did a great job of getting everyone through quickly.

Waiting on Go Port to open.
If we look tired, we were….but some of us were doing better than others! 🙂

 

Once on the ship, we had to wait a little bit for our rooms to be available so we grabbed some lunch.  Most of us grabbed something from Guy’s Burger Joint (delicious, you’ll probably want to eat there more than once).

Our Rooms:  We had two rooms on the ship since we had a total of 7 in our group.  One room was a deluxe ocean view, and the other was an interior room that slept four.  The deluxe ocean view room had four closets, a vanity area, a queen size bed and a couch that served as a twin bed.  It also had two bathrooms, one full with a shower, sink area, and toilet and the other with a sink and tub/shower combo.  All in all, it was very spacious for a stateroom.  The interior room had four twin beds (one upper and one lower on each side), three closets, and one full bathroom.

Deluxe ocean view room

 

We opted for late dining so we could spend as much time ashore as possible, so after dinner in the Blush Restaurant, we called it a night.

Day Two.  Fun day at sea.  Our first full day on board.  We chose to eat breakfast in our dining room (Blush Restaurant), rather than at the Lido Buffet.  This seemed to be a less crowded breakfast option most days.  After eating, we hung out on one of the decks and soaked in the sun.  Some of us had lunch/snacks at BlueIguana Cantina, while others ate at Pizza Pirate.   One thing I was really excited about doing onboard was playing bingo! ( I know, I know…we were going to all these fantastic places and I was excited about bingo).  No one won, but we had fun.  We also purchased the pass for the Thrill Theater.  At the time of our cruise, it was $5.50 per showing or $14.95 (adult) and $11.95 (12 & under) for the unlimited pass. Since most of us wanted to take in more than one show, it made sense to buy the pass.  I think my favorite was the Level 1 show.  This ship has a video arcade that we checked out this first day and added some money to the boys’ sail and sign cards so they could play throughout the week.  Camp Ocean (ages 2-11), Circle C (ages 12-14), and Club O2 (ages 15-17) are the club options onboard for kids, so we checked the two for older kids out the first day.  Nate (17) took advantage of hanging out in Club O2 a few times during our cruise.  Before changing into our “fancy” clothes (this night was one of two elegant dinner nights), we took in the Jodi White PG comedy show at The Punchliner Comedy Club.  After dinner, we were down for the count again.

*Side note:  Dan and I opted to dress up both elegant nights because…why not?!  I mean when else do you get to dress up?  I wore a dress both nights, and Dan wore a tie and suit jacket.  Some were just as dressed up as us, and others were a little more casual.

Our dining room and the limelight lounge where the comedy shows & bingo were held.

 

Watching Friday the 13th in the thrill theater…frightening! Just kidding. 🙂 This is the waiting area to go into the theater.
First elegant evening. My favorite picture of the entire cruise.

 

Day Three.   Amber Cove, Dominican Republic.  We were up and at ’em early this morning so we could go ashore quickly.  We did not do an excursion at this port since there is a large pool area, two waterslides, a lazy river,  a swim-up bar, and several lounge chairs.    The Coco Cana Lounge is located right at the port as well if you’re hungry.  We did not eat but we did buy some non-alcoholic drinks from the restaurant.  Of course, we had to buy some souvenirs before getting back on the ship. Not to worry, there are plenty of stores to shop in.

There are several items that can be rented and activities to participate in that do not have to be booked through an excursion.  WiFi, kayaks, zip lining, and cabanas to name a few.  Prices ranged from $5 (pool noodles) to $1,170 (grand cabana).

Back on the ship, we ate a late lunch/snack and got ready for our late dinner time.  This was the night that Terrick decided to start trying all the crazy food options.  I was both impressed and disgusted.  After dinner, some of us watched the Motor City show, and a few of us took in the over 18 comedy show afterwards.  If you are easily offended, just skip this.

Looking out from the ship at some of the cabanas available to rent and part of the pool area.

 

On the left…the ox tongue that Terrick ate all of, and in other news…my fried chicken.

 

Day Four.  St. Thomas, USVI.  Excursion time!  We took an open air bus to Sapphire Beach. The water there was absolutely beautiful.  While there, you could relax in the chairs that were provided or take time to snorkel.  The snorkeling equipment was provided as well.  Four of us (I’ll let you guess who) went snorkeling, and three of us relaxed on the beach.  Those that went snorkeling were able to see a huge (10-12 feet, no joke!) stingray, among other cool creatures.  Unfortunately, the underwater camera we had purchased broke, so no pictures.  Sounds like a big fish tale now, right?  But I promise, if you go and ask the snorkel shop gentleman, he will tell you the stingray exists and has a name!  We had about two hours on the beach before it was time to head back to the ship.  On the way back, our bus made a stop at a spot that overlooked the port area.  Once back at the port, it was souvenir time again so we ran to some of the stores that are located close by.  Dinner and the Love & Marriage Show wrapped up the evening.

*If you care about connecting with anyone back at home, your phone will work on St.Thomas since it is a U.S. Territory.

Some of the scenery from St.Thomas, and Terrick’s crazy food choice….rabbit.

 

Day Five.  San Juan, Puerto Rico.  We weren’t sure we were going to get to stop in San Juan with all the political protests going on at that time, but we did and what an historical day it turned out to be with the governor resigning the evening we had been there.  I’m not going to lie, there were a few times we felt just a little uncomfortable seeing the grafitti, boarded up windows, and some protestors,  but never really felt unsafe.  We walked around Old San Juan, went to several of the shops (which felt a lot more authentic & not so touristy), and just took in the sights.  We stopped for lunch at El Jibarito, after asking for recommendations from some of the locals, and grabbed an iced coffee at Cuatro Sombras just before getting back on the ship.  My only wish is that we had had a little more time to explore.   Not really sure what we did back onboard, other than it was the second elegant evening of the cruise.

*Your phone will work in San Juan as well 🙂

A snapshot of our day in San Juan.

 

Day Six.  Grand Turk.  This was an all day beach day for us.  We had read that the chairs were free, despite the numerous people that will insist you pay for them.  We tried the tactic of refusing to pay, until Dan went and asked the port attendant who confirmed that only a certain color of chair was reserved for the Carnival ship. Who knows? Maybe she was in on the scheme too.  🙂  Regardless, we negotiated a price that seemed fair and enjoyed the day!  The water is beautiful and crystal clear.  There are several places to shop before or after relaxing on the beach.  We wrapped up the day back on the ship with dinner, the Cowboy Comedian comedy show, and the Country Road production.

The beautiful beach and water at Grand Turk….and one last look at Terrick’s food (frog legs)

 

Day Seven.  Fun Day at Sea.  More like sad day at sea. 🙁  We tried to squeeze everything in that we hadn’t done or wanted to do one last time.  That included participating in several of the trivia games, going to the Thrill Theater a couple more times, and playing miniature golf to name a few.  Oh! We also attended Tea Time.  Other than that, the day was spent packing everything up.

Day Eight.  Travel back home day.  We were up early so we could eat breakfast in our dining room which was served from 6:00 am – 8:00 am.  I haven’t mentioned it, but if you eat breakfast in the dining room, make sure you try the pineapple juice.  Yum!  We kept our luggage with us so we could immediately leave the port after disembarking.  We took a short shuttle ride (Enterprise shuttle, just tip the driver) over to Enterprise to pick up the van we had rented since our flight back home wasn’t until 4:40, which was the only reason we did not use Go Port like we did at the beginning of our trip.  From there we headed to Disney Springs, had some lunch, and spent some time looking around before heading to the airport.

*If your group is on two different decks, make sure you communicate your plan well prior to the debarkation morning.  It got a little hectic for us just making sure we knew where everyone was.

Overall it was an amazing cruise with a great itinerary.  There wasn’t a single destination that we wouldn’t want to go back to and explore even more.  If you have any questions, I will most definitely try to answer them, just leave them in the comments!

Five Simple Hiking Tips

If you had told me 10, 15, 20 years ago that I would like hiking, I would have thought you had lost your mind.  I am, by nature, (haha) not an outdoorsy girl.  The older I get, the more I seem to enjoy being outside though, and there is something about starting a task and seeing it through that appeals to me.  We are no experts (my husband & I), however we have learned a thing or two that might be helpful.

Download the AllTrails App.  I’m sure people have been hiking for years without technology, but it’s available so why not take advantage of it?  We use this app on almost every hike we go on. Some of our favorite features are the maps, trail reviews,  personal statistics tracker (miles hiked, elevation gained, calories burned, etc.). The app will show you trails near you or you can search by destination. The map feature is handy so that you can keep track of how far you have left (or how far you’ve already come!).  Just remember to download the map before you hit the trail as you may not have signal once you get out in the boonies, and many trails aren’t well marked.  Some features require subscription to the “Pro” version, but many are free.

Pack a bag.  Unless it is a super short hike, we always take at least one bag.  Most of the time, we each take one.  What do we take with us?  Water, water, water, and more water.  I know 2, 3,…5 miles doesn’t sound like a lot, but you want to make sure you have plenty (now, you don’t want to overdo it and drink too much either).  Snacks.  We usually take some granola bars, slim jim sticks, or snack crackers, just something to get a little boost of energy if you need it.  This is especially helpful if you have kids with you.  I mean they think they’re starving on a regular day, let alone on a 2-3 hour hike.  Rain gear.  We’ve been rained on more than once, so we now take a cheap poncho with us, just in case.  1st aid kit.  We have a small one with just some band-aids, wipes, and antibiotic ointment.  Bug spray and sunscreen.  If you’re not going to be out long enough to reapply, I would put some on before you head out and leave it behind.  No need to have extra weight to carry around.

Wear the right clothes.  Obviously, you will want to check the forecast ahead of your hike, if possible, so that you can dress for the weather you will encounter. Having said that, there are some basics that will apply regardless. First and foremost, wear shoes appropriate for the hike. We recommend hiking shoes or boots. They will be more likely to provide the traction, support, and durability you will want.  Maybe more important than the shoes is a good pair of socks. Merino wool is a good choice as it will provide cushion while also keeping your feet from getting too sweaty. As we said above, plan for the weather if you can, but dressing in layers will allow you to adapt to unexpected changes in weather.

Start early.  This will help you avoid a crowd on the trails.  Depending on the length of the trail, it will also help to avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day.

Let someone know where you’re going.  Last, but certainly not least, tell someone where you are going.  Goodness forbid something unforeseen happen, but if it does you want to make sure someone knows where you are.

Resolution or Improvement: You Decide

Resolution.  Definition:  a firm decision to do or not do something.

Improve.  Definition:  make or become better.

Last night (at this point, last night was 3 days ago) I wrote a few things down as resolutions for this new year, most of which I had written down at the start of 2018, and didn’t even bother with in 2019.  There’s the obvious lose weight or exercise more, be more organized, etc.  But as I was writing, I started thinking about my day to day routine and what I could do to improve my life one day at a time or maybe even help improve someone else’s day.

So many times , I get up (late most of the time) and am just blah about going to work, and then by the time I get there (late) I’m already frustrated.  One look at the piles of papers and I’m overwhelmed, which leads to more frustration.  I find myself just having a bad attitude.  Ouch!  Not what one likes to think about themselves.  It’s true though! Someone will compliment me, and instead of just receiving the compliment and being thankful, I’ll come back with “it could’ve been better”, or “well thanks, but….”  Gah!  Why do we do that?  Just say thank you!

Which leads me to one of the things I wrote down last night….pass out at least one compliment daily.  Be it at home, at work, out for lunch, wherever.  Do you know how many times I see someone wearing something I like, or I see someone do something nice, or a co-worker does a really great job on something and I just keep my mouth shut?  Why??  Maybe because I know how I react to compliments, maybe because I tend to be reserved…whatever the reason, it is my hope that this year I improve my attitude, pass out the compliments, and in doing so maybe improve someone else’s day.

So, for me, that’s what 2020 is going to look like: improving.  Rather than making resolutions that I’m bound to fail at, I’m going to work on improving one minute ( to work earlier) , one pile of papers, one workout, one blog post, one compliment at a time.

What about you?  Is there anything you hope to improve on in 2020?  Maybe you could join me in giving out daily compliments.  Imagine how many days we could improve if we all speak up when we see something we like or to recognize a job well done.

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