Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Festivities

Our Thanksgiving was fabulous as expected.  For me it is always kicked off by watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, it's one of my favorite traditions, and for Chris it is playing in the Turkey Bowl.  Chris and I played host and hostess to this years dinner, but we ensured that everyone participated in making it extremely special.  We had a total of 10 guests which included:  Vince, Ashley, Mya, Jake, Casey, Kari, Nixon, Jordan, Erin, and Hayden.  Early in the week I had created a menu and had delegated certain tasks and food prep to individuals.  Everyone pulled their weight and by the time Thanksgiving day rolled around we found ourselves seated in front of the most delicious Thanksgiving feast.  Every inch of our table was filled with rolls, jams, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potatoes, cheesy green beans, stuffing, deviled eggs, relish and veggie trays,  bottles of sparkling cider, and center stage was the prime rib.  We all must have been ravenous because not a single person brought out their camera for a picture.  How sad because the table was set beautifully.

After our tummies were stuffed to near full capacity the desserts were brought forth, and boy were they aplenty.  Ashley out did herself again with 4 pumpkin pies and I focused on the apple, pecan, and pudding pies and then I also threw in some pumpkin bars.  We sort of got a little carried away, but when you have a husband like mine, who is constantly in your ear about ensuring there will be enough dessert for him, it's really easy to go a little overboard.  Case in point:  He has already asked me when I plan on making our traditional Christmas cookies.  It can be a little exhausting.  He's just extremely lucky that I really enjoy baking.

So besides the massive amounts of scrumptious foods, we enjoyed a full day of relaxing, playing and watching football, learning new card games and playing old ones, laughing, talking, and simply enjoying each others company.  Chris and I have been so lucky here.  We have managed to center ourselves around some amazing people and it is just great that we all get to experience living here in the south together.  

Chris and I enjoy participating in the absolute chaos of Black Friday.  We find it completely entertaining.  We love laughing at the insane people who take shopping way too serious and we find quite the rush in venturing out and fighting our way through the crowds and nabbing the last of a certain item.   I guess our sense of humor is a little weird.  This was our 4th year to do this and with all the stores opening at midnight we were a little frustrated.  We were in no way going to sacrifice our holiday to go wait in line at Target, so when the last of our guests left around 11:00 Chris asked, "Are you ready?" and I simply answered "Yep."  I hurriedly threw off my flats and slipped on my running shoes and off we went.  We knew our odds were very slim that we would get anything we wanted.  The store opened at midnight and we got in line around 11:30.  The line was seemingly endless, but at long last we made it in the store and somehow managed to get everything we wanted and then some (we were trying to stock up on prizes for our company Christmas party).  Everything went so smooth, that we were in bed and fast asleep before 3am.  Couldn't have asked for anything more.  

And what would Thanksgiving be if you didn't mention what you are Thankful for?

I am Thankful for..........

a selfless husband, who I know loves me more than anything
all our experiences (even the trials), they have strengthened us beyond comprehension
my healthy body, it's not perfect by far but it's mine (if it was up to me I would have 2 babies already)
all our travels, we have seen so many parts of this country
a good book, nothing soothes me more than cuddling up to a great story
food,  I love food, let's just leave it at that
family, they keep me grounded
the gospel, it helps keep me humble 
our company, it provides not only for us but many families
my animals, they listen better than anybody
you, for coming back and ready my silly stories and thoughts

I am thankful for Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 27, 2011


The Halloween season was "spooktastic" as always.  With all that we had going on in October we were a little rushed on all our Halloween festivities, but none the less we were able to squeeze them in.  First up was the traditional carving of the pumpkins.

Vince, Ashley, Mya, Chris, and myself all set out to decorate our perfectly picked pumpkins.

Ashley carefully carving detail into hers.

I am adding a starry night to my bat design with the assistance of a drill.

Mya with her beautifully painted pumpkin.

The line up.  Somehow mine turned into the Bat Signal, followed by:  Chris' spider, Vince's moon, and Ashley's zombie hand

This Halloween I attended a little get together put on by our friends Jordan and Erin.  Unfortunately Chris was unable to attend, but he didn't mind, he found entertainment in his Monday night football and handing out candy to our neighborhoods trick-or-treaters.  

The girls.  We were told to pose like our character.  Ashley- the sweet elderly lady, Mrs. S (face blurred due to job reasons)- the purrty cat, Erin-  the scariest Wednesday Adams, and Daneile-  the nicest cowgirl.

Say Cheese!

We all had a blast.  We ate way too much, suffered from sugar highs, played a serious game of Apples to Apples, and had fun taking the kiddos Trick-or Treating.  

These next outfits just had to be mentioned. 

My Sister- Coolest Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

Tay and Kelsie-  Letting us know we are missed and loved.

Hayden and Erin (dressed as a geeky teenager) at our wards trunk-or-treat party.  Best costume of the season goes to little Hayden-  Best Nacho Libre Ever!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Down By The Bay

One of Twinkee's favorite past times is going for walks down by the bay.  

Making our way to the water.

Twinkee wondering why we are walking so slow.

She loves to fetch sticks out of the water.

Chris and I like it too.  While she's off exploring, it gives us a moment to enjoy the beautiful sunsets.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Shrimp Festival

At the return of our trip, we found ourselves just in time for the Gulf Shores Annual Shrimp Festival.  With all the many things we sampled last year, there was only one thing that stuck out among the rest, and that delicious morsel was the oh-so-yummy Cajun Pistol.  We bought about 20 of them this year.  They are so good, and in our eyes the only reason to go back to the Festival at all.  The weather was so hot, and the event is always crowded.  But we were in good company with family and friends, so they, along with those little "Pistols", helped make it fun and bearable.

Mmmm...... Fried Food.

So many choices.

Fighting through the masses.

Mya, Ashley, and Vince

Our friends Jordan, Erin, and Hayden

The little ones patiently waiting for their balloon animals.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Smoky Mountains Continued

On the last day of our Smoky Mountain Getaway, I found myself in still a lot of pain from the previous days adventures.  Our intentions were to hike a couple shorter trails, but I knew that with the condition I was in, that there was no way that was happening.  So instead we referred to another area of the park map and decided to do a tour of the Mountains from the comfort of our car.

This took us to Clingmans Dome.  You drive for quite a while then simply park and hike on a paved one mile trail to the top of an observation tower.  Sounds simple enough..... but take a real close look at the description.  That final little word that sort of blends in and doesn't fully register..... STEEP.  And while we are at it, "moderate" in no way describes the difficulty.....  they need to change it to "near impossible"...... okay maybe I'm exaggerating, but I took more breaks on this one mile then I did on the other hike.  But the views from the top were worth the pain and return of my leg spasms.  They were very pretty.

Views of the Smokys at 6,643 feet.  Clingmans Dome is the highest point in Tennessee.

That face gets me every time.  LOVE him!

Next we drove down to another popular area of the park.  And that's were we stumbled upon this entrance to the Appalachian Trail.  

Anybody up for walking to Maine?

We walked the trail for about 10 minutes and then called it good.  

Then after a little snack we headed to our last little excursion, Cades Cove.  This was an 11 mile car loop that we had heard great things about.  

The scenery was great and the loop provided you with opportunities to get out and explore original old cabins and read the stories of the people that lived there.  It was really fascinating to walk in the cabin and see how they lived.

It was on this loop that we got to experience what, until now, had only been a rumor to us.  

 We saw BEARS!  Da "Real" Bears!

  A Mom and her cub just eating some dinner.

And then all of a sudden we stumbled across 4 more, a mom and her 3 cubs.  We were so up close and personal that I could have hugged one if I wanted.  Well, I did want, I just really know when it's appropriate to resist the urge.  They were moving a lot so the pictures are awful.  When they were crossing the street Chris was just steps away from them.  It was really cool.

After our awesome encounter we left the park and went back to prepare for our drive home the next day.  The trip was in no way a rest and relaxation trip.  But we knew that going into it.  We had a blast and it was nice just being able to get away.   

Friday, November 18, 2011

Smoky Mountain Getaway

After our very short stay in Chattanooga we continued to our destination of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  To be honest we did not do much research when planning this little trip.  All we knew was that we were going to the Smoky's and intended to do nothing but hiking.  So you can imagine my surprise when we pulled into Pigeon Forge and all I could see around me was something that was kind of comparable to that of the Las Vegas Strip, except way more centered around kid entertainment than adult.  It was a mess and I was honestly sickened at what they did to these beautiful mountains.  It was so commercialized it really disappointed both of us.  We knew that the mountains were where we wanted to be, so we set out to find the best trails.  This took us into Gatlinburg, TN (about 10 miles outside of Pigeon Forge) which is basically the entrance into the  Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

We were a few weeks too early, so the foliage hadn't really begun to change into their fall hues, but that didn't stop the drive from being breathtaking.  It was exactly what one thinks of when you think of the Smoky Mountains.  We located a visitors center and hunted down a hiking map.  But then we sort of faced a predicament.  We were only there for 2 full days, so we had to choose our trails wisely in order to maximize our experience and time. 

But with so many options we were a little overwhelmed and didn't know where to begin, so we sought the advice of a true professional....... a Park Ranger, and kindly asked, "Out of all the trails on this map which one would you most highly recommend?", to which he quickly responded, "Ramsey Cascades."

So we took his advice and planned to hike it in the morning.  We still had a couple hours before nightfall so we headed out to find the beginning of the trail, and to do a little off map sightseeing of our own. 

This is like the "Pride Rock" of the Smoky's.

The water was so clear and beautiful.  I just had to put my feet in.  The water was cold, but I adjusted to it fast enough.

The next day Chris and I woke up early, packed the backpack full of the essential (map, water, flashlights, food, camera, and a gun), and set off to the trail head.  The trail itself was 8 miles round trip.  It's difficulty level was labeled as strenuous, but we knew it wasn't anything we couldn't handle. 

This is why we felt compelled to bring a gun with us.  I was told that the chances of you seeing a bear in the Smoky's is much higher than not seeing one.  They are only aggressive when provoked, but we just wanted to be prepared.

When I saw that this was the trail my heart dropped.  I was thinking that there was no challenge here.  I was so naive.

Chris searching for his little friend the newt.

Oh.  There he is!

You've got to love self timers.  Prop it on a rock, set the timer, run, pose, and smile.

The picture above was basically one mile in.  That mile, I would soon find out, was basically a very kind warm-up for the next three miles.  It was literally, all up hill from there.  

It was very "Strenuous" indeed.  I get exhausted just looking at these pictures.  

Finally, we made it to the Falls.  When you have seen the grandeur that Mesa Falls presents you with it is easy to take little falls like these for granted.  It wasn't quite what we expected, but it was really beautiful and peaceful.  When I was able to catch my breathe and really look around, I was able to appreciate the scenery fully for what it was.  It was very lush and full of life.  There was nothing there that would compromise the view, no buildings, paved walk ways, or information posts.  We were truly secluded deep in the heart of the Smoky's.  It was a beautiful realization.

After that hike I was ravenous.  A sandwich has never tasted so good.

Lunch with a view.

Then came time for the descent.  I felt like it was way more tiring to go downhill than up.  It was a great 8 mile hike.  One I'm proud I was able to accomplish.  But by the time I reached the bottom my legs had had it.  I was experiencing the worst spasms.  And to top it off, I tripped over a root and fell.  It was sad but it also gave Chris a good laugh.  Needless to say that once we got back to the room we were beat and pretty much didn't move the rest of the evening.