DISCLAIMER: A huge "thank you" to Gatlinburg Falls Resort for hosting my family and me.
Have you ever visited a place that just felt like home, even though it wasn't? A place where you can unwind, relax and leave the day to day struggles behind. A place to make memories and laugh with your kids without having to worry about school or work or all the little things that bare down on us.
A place far removed from the sirens and traffic and busyness of the city. A place that feels like your very own little slice of heaven. A place with beautiful, serene views that you never tire of.
For me, this place is the Smoky Mountains. Every time my tires hit the Sevier county line, I feel like I'm back home. I see that beautiful mountain range come into view and all the worries of life fade away and my only concern is where to focus my attention first.
Being a native Tennessean, trips to the Smokies were a yearly occurrence as a child. Even now, I remember the feeling I had when we would get right on the outskirts of the main strip that runs through Pigeon Forge; the anticipation and excitement that would well up inside me as the putt-putt golf courses and fun roadside attraction started coming into view.
I can remember the feeling of driving "up the mountain" to get to Gatlinburg proper. The sheer awesomeness (for lack of a better term) of the mountain faces and the flowing creeks and the trees with their beautiful foliage and the longing to actually spot a bear. Even as a kid, I knew this place was magic.
The smell of funnel cakes and yummy street food permeate the air as you drive down the parkway. The sound of live music being played by a band and the smiles on the faces as you drive by.
The quaint artisanal shops and hand made candy shops are forever ingrained in my mind and I am so glad that I have a chance to share this amazing, wondrous place with my own children., because about a year ago, that was almost not a possibility when Gatlinburg became the victim of a horrendous wildfire.
The damage was pretty bad, and it looked very bleak, but I'm pleased to report; in the three times we have been to Gatlinburg since the fire, nothing has changed.
The people are still as friendly as ever, the scenery is still just as breath-taking, the homes that were lost are rebuilding bigger and better than ever. If anything, the fire has only strengthened the resolve of this beautiful, close-knit community. Gatlinburg is still open for business.
If you've never been to the Smokies... what in the world are you waiting for?! Within a day's drive for most of the eastern United States, the Smokies are the number one family destination in the south. For me, it's one of those places you can visit several times a year and never get tired of or run out of things to do and see.
On our most recent family adventure to the Smokies, we were fortunate enough to be hosted by the amazing folks at Gatlinburg Falls Parkside Resort. Voted #1 family resort in The Smokies, Gatlinburg Falls boasts over 400 cabins scattered throughout the Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Wear's Valley areas.
Whether you need a cozy one bedroom cabin or a monster 18 bedroom mountain mansion, Gatlinburg Falls has you covered. Amenities vary from cabin to cabin, but you can be assured no matter where you choose to stay, you will be surrounded by first-class accommodations and the best customer service anywhere.
The cabin we stayed in, Cypress Lodge, boasts 4 king sized master bedrooms, with a full bath in each room on the top floor. A fully furnished kitchen with updated appliances, enough dishes for a small army and seating for a family of 8 plus bar seating. I light up just thinking about the memories that were made over morning lattes at this bar.
Adjacent to the kitchen is a beautiful living room, complete with a fireplace, (electric, of course, for safety) a half bath, for convenience and a broom closet stocked with everything from extra blankets and pillows to an ironing board. (yes, people still use those things)
The entire bottom floor is a kid's dream come true. (The grown-up kids loved it too) With a pool table, air hockey table and several full-sized stand-up game consoles, there was never a cry of "Mooommmmm, I'm bored!" like in years past.
This floor also has a full theater room with a wall-sized HD screen and a surround sound system that will literally knock your socks off. (yes, I'm old, I use old people vernacular, sue me) The entire cabin is equipped with wi-fi (it actually works on all three floors of the cabin, which is tough to find that high in the mountains)
There's also a bunk bed downstairs for late night slumber parties and a deck off the entertainment room with a Jacuzzi tub that would easily fit six people. This floor of the cabin got lots of use, to say the least.
The only other place that got as much use as the game room would probably be the beautiful deck. It sounds so cliche', but watching the sun rise over the mountains is truly an experience one MUST have before they die. Even the kids were in awe of the beautiful show Mother Nature provided for us each morning.
I know I say this every time I go to The Smokies, but this was truly an adventure I will never forget. The views from any and every vantage point were amazing. The kids were good, there were no vehicular emergencies as in years past, (the time we glazed our brakes driving through the National Park), the weather was nice, even for winter in the mountains; there was just the perfect amount of snow on the ground, but not the roads... It truly was one of those "pinch me" moments.
I crossed several things off my bucket list on this trip... Share a blanket with the hubby on the deck of a beautiful cabin in The Smokies while the sun rises, get my obligatory picture in front of the sign at the entrance to the National Park, step out of my comfort zone and explore new places, say "yes" to every adventure, no matter how crazy and the best of all, just be in the moment and enjoy whatever life has to offer.
If these chairs could talk, oh the tales they could tell. The stories shared and memories made here will last me a lifetime... or until the next time I can make it back.
For more info on Gatlinburg Falls, and to stay up-to-date on all their seasonal specials, you can follow them on Twitter, "Like" them on Facebook and see all their beautiful pictures on Instagram.
Keep an eye out for next week's post when I will be sharing my list of fun, free, family-friendly things to do in The Smokies. You can subscribe to my weekly emails here, if you like or you can find me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
DISCLAIMER: Shout out to Cost Plus World Market for sponsoring today's post.
Every year, on December 9th, the world takes time to celebrate its favorite camelid; the sweet, doe-eyed llama. In celebration of National llama day, Cost Plus World Market (and myself) would like to cordially invite you to come out to our National Llama Day Event at your local store. (participating locations only, see HERE for full list of stores)
And, if you happen to be in the Middle Tennessee area, you can come see me at the Murfreesboro store, located at 2615 Medical Center Pkwy. suite 2400 and grab a FREE cup of our amazing Llama Dulce De Leche White Hot Cocoa while crossing a few names off your "nice" list.
Cost Plus World Market has more llama goodies than you can shake a stick at... but you probably would not want to shake a stick at a llama, they might find it threatening. They have llama ornaments, llama pillows, llama art and even llama lamps.
In addition to the yummy hot cocoa, there will also be 5k in gift card giveaways, a lotta llama love selfie contest, and a Golden Llama Treasure hunt reboot. For one day only, each of the participating stores will have 5 Golden Llama Treasure Hunt tickets stashed somewhere around the store, each worth $100.
You can stalk the World Market page on Facebook, follow them on Twitter, or sign up for email updates for clues as to where the tickets will be hidden. Orrrr, you could just be a rebel and wait until you arrive at the store, but where's the fun in that?
(*Limit one (1) reward per person throughout the Promotion Period, regardless of store location(s) visited. EMPLOYEES NOT ELIGIBLE. See Terms of Participation for complete details. For full rules please visit: www.worldmarket.com/hunt)
After you've had some hot cocoa and snagged a llama ornament for your favorite Aunt, stop by the #lottallamalove selfie booth for a fun llama selfie. Post your selfie to the Cost Plus World Market Facebook, Twitter or Instagram page with the hashtags #lottallamalove and #WMEntry in the description and you will be automatically entered to win one of (10) $500 gift cards!!!
So, to recap, because I know that was a lotta llama info... This Saturday, December 9th, join me at the Cost Plus World Market store located at 2615 Medical Center Pkwy. # 2400, Murfreesboro, TN for a whole lotta llama shenanigans. (If you're not in Middle Tennessee, you can check here for a participating store near you)
We will have a hot cocoa giveaway (while supplies last) from 1-3p and a LIVE LLAMA meet and greet from 10a-12p and 1-3p. You will have an opportunity to take a llama selfie as well. I didn't even know llamas had opposable thumbs or knew how to use cameras, but I'm not judging.
And, don't forget about the Golden Llama Treasure Hunt or the epic #lottallamalove selfie contest... Ahhhh, so much llama love, so little time. Here's a little tease to get you out of the house and into your local Cost Plus World Market store...This amazing Llama Dulce de Leche White Hot Chocolate beverage, created by Vanessa Coppola of seevanessacraft.com.
Note: Not all locations will have live llamas, but each participating store will have a llama cutout to take selfies with. You can get more info, find a full list of participating locations, and RSVP via Facebook here.
"Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother's house we go"... We all know these familiar words to the old tune, depicting a fun, horse driven sleigh ride through the woods to visit family for the holidays, but what should be a Norman Rockwell-esque trip could quickly turn into a Wes Craven-like nightmare, if you don't prepare accordingly.
Road tripping with kids is not for the faint of heart, but don't let that dissuade you from trying. With a few (common sense) tips, you too can be getting your kicks on Rte 66 or I-40 or whatever road gets you to family this holiday season.
Before you even plan which route you will take, you should get it in your head: this will not be like the spontaneous road trips you took with your girlfriends, in your 20's. Nope. This is your Mama's road trip, literally. This road trip will be full of spilled drinks, impromptu bathroom breaks, hitting, whining, tears and at least five "Are we there yets?".
On every trip we've taken, I always allot for at least this _____ much BS. It's inevitable; something will happen to irk your nerves or ruin your car's interior, so if you go ahead and prepare for it, it's won't be such a huge deal when it does happen.
That being said, be mindful of how you react to simple things like spilled drinks and the extra potty break when you juuust asked if anyone needed to stop. Yes, cleaning up a spilled drink is a pain in the behind, but it is not the end of the world. Remember you were little once too. Don't ruin an entire trip over spilled milk. Bitch about it later, to your partner, like a normal couple.
What?! You say you don't have ESP? Every parent is supposed to have ESP... or so thinks our children. It is your job to plan ahead for any and every situation you could possibly encounter on your journey and pack every single thing they will ask for, especially that one stuffed animal they haven't played with, in at least seven months... yeah, grab that, they will surely ask for it.
Since most of us don't have ESP, you will probably want to make a list. Thinking about how many days you will be gone, you will need one outfit a day, per kid, plus an extra for that one super dirty kid, who always finds a mud puddle to stomp in, even in Arizona.
Other than clothes and the basic necessities (shampoo, deodorant, shaving cream, diapers, wipes, etc), you will also need to remember to pack any medicine or vitamins you will need for the duration of your trip.
Some people suggest using the weekly pill thingies but I DO NOT, they are not safe for children and just because your kids know not to mess with Daddy's blood pressure meds, other kids you may come in contact with, may not.
B.Y.O.S. ... Bring your own snacks. Trust me on this one. A little bit of prep before you go will save you a ton of money and headaches, while you're on the road. Before the trip, ask each child what their favorite snack is, then forget what they say and just buy what's on sale. Take it home and put it in snack size baggies and be done with it.
Entertainment (and noise cancelling headphones) could quite possibly be the number one, most important thing that will keep you sane, when traveling with kids.
When we went to the mountains last Summer, I packed allll kinds of stuff... reading books, activity books, coloring books, crayons, markers, travel bingo and wouldn't you know it; the only things that actually made it out of the backpack were the video games and the tablet.
Lucky for me, this wasn't my first rodeo and I had planned accordingly by adding a ton of Micah's favorite movies to the tablet, before we left for the week.
Think about the electronics you will be taking with you... phone, game boy, cameras, etc. They will need chargers. Don't forget the chargers!!! You can not imagine how bad you will feel if you try to take a picture of little Susie with Great Granny Ethel and all of a sudden your camera says... "Nope, not today. You forgot to charge me!" Devastating to say the least; Great Granny Ethel might not be here next year. (Do people even use Game Boys anymore?!)
When your drunk uncle Fred starts bitching about politics or "the gays" or the immigrants or the price of tea in China; take a second, breathe in, hold it, breathe out, then remind yourself the reason you're all together in the first place and just let it goooooo.
At the end of the day it's really just about making new memories with your kids, whether they be Norman Rockwell or Clark Griswold, they are all worth making. Happy holidays from me and mine to you and yours! May Santa bring you everything you wish for and then some.
DISCLAIMER: A huge "thank you" to Cost Plus World Market for sponsoring today's post.
Ever since we visited a drive-through safari park last year, I have had a special little place in my heart for the often underappreciated llama, so you can understand my excitement when I rounded the corner of my local Nashville West Cost Plus World Market store and saw a ton of adorable llama goodies. Everything from llama pillows to llama art to llama lamps, it was all there, at my local Cost Plus World Market store.
Everything's coming up llamas for the release of Cost Plus World Market's new "Golden Llama Treasure Hunt" program. What exactly is a "Golden Llama Treasure Hunt", you ask? Well, only the most fun scavenger hunt since the one you participated in back at Summer camp when you were twelve and it has better prizes too.
From November 1st through November 22nd, I will share one clue daily, on Instagram, as to where you can find one of five golden llamas at your local Cost Plus World Market store, redeemable for a coupon worth $20, $50 , or $100.
Not sure where a Cost Plus World Market store is near you? Check out this handy dandy store finder for help. Once at the store, use the clue provided below and scour the store for the golden llama, find it and return it to a cashier for a prize, easy peasy.
How to play:
● Every day beginning Wednesday, November 1st through Wednesday, November 22nd, your local Cost Plus World Market store will hide 5 Golden Llama pieces throughout the store.
● Each day, we’ll share the daily clue in-store, via email and on our social media channels. Use the clue to help you find a Golden Llama and you could receive a reward.
● Locate (1) Golden Llama piece and bring it to the nearest store associate to exchange for a reward coupon valued at $20, $50 or $100. Reward is valid only on the day it is awarded.
*Limit one (1) reward per person throughout the promotion period, regardless of store location(s) visited.
EMPLOYEES ARE NOT ELIGIBLE.
See Terms of Participation for complete details.
Now, for your first clue...
*Shop This Post*
Below is a collection of all the products featured in this post, so you can grab them before they're gone. Click on the picture to be taken to the product page on Cost Plus World Market's site.
DISCLAIMER: A huge "thank you" to Savings.com for sponsoring today's post. All opinions are my own and do not reflect the sponsor.
"Being a parent is one of the hardest jobs you'll ever love." It's a simple quote, but the truth it holds is so deep you will never truly get it, until you actually become a parent.
From the time your child is born, you are responsible for keeping them alive, for making sure they are happy, mentally stable, well adjusted citizens, who eat an organic non-gmo diet of kale and soy burgers and take probiotics with their aspartame-free food based vitamins while driving an eco-friendly zero-carbon vehicle to their ivy league pre-school where they will excel at Lincoln logs and nap-time.
But, in reality, kids have their own agenda and give zero craps about your or society's grand ideas. The truth is, kids don't care what they eat or what kind of clothes they wear, the car they ride to the park in or which exclusive preschool they do or don't go to; kids just want to play, have fun and eat yummy treats. (Don't we all?!)
Being a low-carb household, we don't usually stock up on sugar-y treats often. Not because I feel kids shouldn't have them, but because I have zero willpower and if it is in the house, I will eat it (and then blame it on the kids), so we try to reserve treats for weekends or when we have parties and get-togethers.
When we do splurge and get treats, we try to make sure they are something relatively healthy adjacent with selections like make-your-own banana splits or sundae bar. I mean, bananas are fruit and ice cream is dairy, dairy has calcium, therefore, banana splits are healthy... ok, healthy-ish. Whatever, don't judge me.
Whether you're a "sweets are a sometimes food" household or a "give me allllll the treats" household, we all have one thing in common... everybody loves ice cream!
Right now, you can score an awesome $1 off coupon good for Blue Bunny novelty treats like the Bunny Snacks or Mini Swirls, redeemable at Publix.
Take everything you ever knew about ice cream sandwiches and throw it out the window. Blue Bunny's amazing bunny snacks are like old school ice cream sandwiches on steroids. (steroids are bad, kids, just say "no"). With flavors like salted caramel pretzel and cookies and cream, how can you possibly say "no"?! (Warning: Eat treats responsibly)
And, for the ice cream purist, there's the classic caramel mini swirls. Delicious Blue Bunny ice cream enrobed in a yummy hard shell chocolate coating with a caramel ribbon inside or the birthday party mini swirls with their frosting swirl and white chocolate coating in a yummy sugar cone.
No matter which delicious Blue Bunny novelty snack you choose, you are sure to win... I mean, what's not to love, it's ice cream and chocolate. Also keep your eyes peeled for the Valpak circular in your mailbox for a bonus Blue Bunny coupon.
*Huge shout out to Fabletics for supplying today's post*
Aside from sleep, the major thing that all new moms are short on is time. Even when you are able to get a moment to yourself, it can be difficult to force yourself to focus on yourself. However, if you never make time for your own health and personal needs, you will quickly find yourself run down and too out of sorts to be at your best as a mom. The importance of recharging your mind and body cannot be overstated.
Squeeze in Short Bursts of Activity
For example, if you are folding laundry, you can do one deep squat with each piece of clothing that you fold. It will take your mind off of menial tasks and make you feel more accomplished about doing things around the house. Another way to squeeze in some extra calorie burn is to try doing push-ups off the kitchen counter. Even if you are only able to do small pulses against the countertop for about 10 repetitions, you will be burning calories as well as building strength and stamina at the same time.
Making Your Wardrobe Work for YouGiven that you are already devoting all of your time and energy to a new baby, the last thing you need standing in your way of working out is your wardrobe. The good news for new moms everywhere is that athleisure clothing is now stylish and available at affordable prices. Some of these companies will even deliver your new wardrobe to your home, eliminating the hassle of shopping in a store with a little one (or little ones). For example, Fabletics is one such company that specializes in providing trendy and durable exercise clothing for women that can be worn for multiple purposes. Fabletics has a great monthly subscription program, which allows VIP customers to select a new outfit each month for a low membership fee. The styles are always changing, which means that you can feel fresh and stylish as you go about your daily errands and intermittent exercises.
The most important thing in picking out the perfect athleisure outfit is whether you will be able to wear that clothing for more than holding planks or doing squats. You want to invest in lounge clothing that can double as street wear. This will save you money in your clothes budget and give you the maximum amount of freedom to move around during your day.
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