Trip Recap: Tennessee

I thought I would briefly recap our trip to TN and NC, starting with the Tennessee portion.   But before I do, I wanted to mention that we just passed my 2nd bloggiversary on Sunday!  I can’t believe I have had this blog up and running for two years now.

Saturday, May 4

We got a little bit of a late start, and ended up driving through some crazy rain in Atlanta.  The rain continued as we made it through Chattanooga and into the mountains.  We made it to Tadd’s mom’s place in Cookeville, TN around dinnertime.  The first couple of days were quite dreary.  That night we just stayed in, caught up with Tadd’s family, and played Apples to Apples.

Sunday, May 5

More staying in…The rain was still coming down, and unfortunately Cookeville is one of those places where there just isn’t much to do in the rain.  The rain cleared up at one point, but it was still soggy and grey, so we decided to take a walk around Tadd’s mom’s property and took some pretty pictures of her garden and barn.

That night we had dinner at one of our favorite local spots, Char, then rented a movie and had another quiet evening in.

Monday, May 6

This is when the real sightseeing began.  Despite the still-cloudy skies, we made the almost 2 hour trek over to Lynchburg to visit the Jack Daniels Distillery.  If you are ever in the area, I highly recommend this tour!  It’s free, but if you would like to have a little taste of a few of the products after the tour, you can do that for $10.  It’s obvious that the Jack Daniel’s company takes great pride in their product and it was really neat to see firsthand all of the history behind such an iconic American brand.

After the tour, we had lunch and shopped around a bit in Lynchburg Square.  This town is teeny-tiny and very quaint.  And you will see references to Jack Daniel’s everywhere!

Tuesday, May 7

Finally the rain seemed to be behind us.  We woke up to blue skies and temps in the upper 50s F/low 60s F.  Tadd’s mom wanted to take a short hike to Cummins Falls, which had recently been made open to the public (previously it was on private land).  Cummins Falls is less than 5 minutes from her house, so it was a quick drive.

The ground was still muddy and it seems like some of the hiking trails were still being established.  So after a few minutes of (occasionally trecherous) slogging through the mud, and a few wrong turns, we finally made it to the falls!

Later on that day, Tadd’s mom had arranged for us to have a private tour of Calfkiller Brewery in Sparta, TN by the owners & founders Dave and Don Sergio.  I admit it was a little weird pulling up to what looks like someone’s house…

But we had nothing to worry about because Dave & Don were nothing but welcoming and warm.  They told us all about their history and let us try a TON of delicious beer.  Their operation is tiny, but extremely popular in the central Tennessee region.  I’m so glad we got to meet them!

We then had an amazing dinner at nearby Foglight Foodhouse, which was the first local place to offer Calfkiller beer.  We ended up purchasing a growler of Calfkiller’s Grassroots Ale at Foglight to take home with us.  Great end to the day.

Wednesday, May 8

Last full day in Tennessee.  We decided to drive west across the state and visit Hurricane Mills, which is a town owned by Loretta Lynn that has been set up as a dude ranch and tourist attraction.  We took a tour of a replica of her childhood home (log cabin with no running water), a simulated coal mine (where her father worked), then we got to tour the actual house where she lived during her heyday.  This house, a real plantation-era mansion with its own rich history, reminded Loretta of Gone With The Wind and has been featured on several ghost hunting shows.  After the house, we toured Loretta’s museum.  The grounds of the ranch are gorgeous, and we were able to see horses grazing in a field wildflowers behind the museum.

On the way home, we stopped for dinner in downtown Nashville, and ended up at Flying Saucer, which I would totally recommend.  Great food, interesting atmosphere, and extensive beer selection (made me smile to see some Calfkiller on the list).  I understand that they are a chain, so I would love to see one in Orlando at some point.

The next morning, we got up, said goodbye to Tadd’s family, and headed over to Asheville, NC for the second leg of our trip.  Stay tuned for that!

Instagram Link Party: Trip to Tennessee

We are finally back from our impromptu trip to Tennessee.   We drove up Wednesday, spent half of the trip in Chattanooga where Tadd’s family member is hospitalized, and half of it at my in-laws’ place in Cookeville (which is about halfway between Nashville & Knoxville), and then drove home on Sunday.  It was great seeing family, although I wish it was for a happier reason.  I do believe we were able to be of some help and comfort to Tadd’s family, so in that sense, our trip was very successful.

I was able to snap many pics via Instagram during our trip, and have compiled them here to share.  Tennessee is a very interesting place.  Definitely a big change of scenery from Orlando.  Everything looks like winter up there!  Although while we were there, the temperature fluxuated between the upper 70s and the upper 20s.  Good thing we packed a wide variety of clothes!  And I just love the mountains…nothing like seeing cliffs and windy roads to remind you that you are somewhere far away from Central Florida.

Linking up with a {little} dash of ash’s weekly Instagram Link Party!



Just a quick post to let my readers know that we are currently in Chattanooga on a family emergency. Tadd and I are ok, so no need to worry…we are here to support a family member going through some major medical issues.

I thought I might have more downtime to blog, but that just hasn’t been the case. We should be home very soon, and then my blogging schedule will return to normal.

In the meantime, please keep our family in your thoughts during this difficult time.

Incidentally, Chattanooga seems like a wonderful town, and I would love to spend more time here under better circumstances.

Family Vacations & Staycations

I had hoped to get a post up last night detailing how I make my double layer pumpkin cheesecake, which is Tadd’s favorite thing ever and something I usually make several times between Halloween and Thanksgiving.  However, my work Thanksgiving potluck was canceled (bummer!), so I no longer had a reason to make it, and I have been so busy getting ready for my mother-in-law’s visit that I needed one less thing on my plate anyways.  So that post will have to wait for another time.

But I CAN talk about how excited I am that my mother-in-law Peggy is coming to visit tonight!  I know people often complain about their mothers-in-law, but I really lucked out with mine.  She is sweet and easygoing, and we always manage have fun and make some fantastic memories when we are together.  We take turns each year having her and occasionally some of Tadd’s other family members visit us here in Orlando, and going to visit them in Tennessee.  But no matter where we are, we always try to do new and interesting things to make each trip memorable.

Several years ago, she and Keith came to visit us during this same time of year and we spent 3 whole days touring the Disney parks, doing all of the special events for the holidays.  It was exhausting, but fun!

Check out Keith's long hair!

The following year, in the springtime, right around my birthday, we visited Tennessee.  On that trip we took a side trip to Pigeon Forge and visited Dollywood!  And the following day, we got a tiny taste of Gatlinburg (which I kind of fell in love with).  We also went to The Lost Sea, which is an underground lake in a cave in Sweetwater, TN.

Peggy, Keith, Tadd, and Tadd's uncle shooting water guns at innocent passers-by on the River Battle ride in Dollywood.

The following year, Peggy, Keith, and Tadd’s two uncles came to visit around Halloween time.  We rented a cabin at Fort Wilderness and spent four lovely days at Walt Disney World, doing Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party and Epcot’s Food & Wine Festival.  We all LOVED the cabin and had an amazing time!

This was the deck of our cabin. I cannot say enough good things about the cabins at Ft. Wilderness! If you are coming to Disney with a family larger than 4, this is the way to go!

Yes, we wore matching shirts to Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party! They each had a different character in a Halloween costume on them. Mine was Minnie dressed as a witch!

We were planning on going to visit Tennessee for Thanksgiving the following year, but we bought our house and closed on November 16, almost exactly two years ago!  So we were busy moving/unpacking/painting and all that fun stuff.  So Peggy, her boyfriend, and Keith drove down for a very brief trip over Thanksgiving weekend.  There wasn’t much time for sightseeing that year, but it was nice to at least have the holiday together and to get to show them our new house.

Last year, it was finally our turn to go up to Tennessee to visit, and we decided to go the 2nd week in October in the hopes of seeing some fall color in the mountains.  We spent part of the week renting a cabin in Gatlinburg, which was just amazing.  We used Mountain Laurel Chalets to rent our cabin and couldn’t have been happier.  If you are interested in a mountain vacation, you need to check out this property management company!  We stayed at the Lucky D Lodge, which was inexpensive and SO roomy and nice!  We did a lot of fun stuff, including a chair lift to the top of Crockett Mountain, touring the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies, visiting the Gatlinburg craft fair, and a beautiful ride through Smoky Mountain National Park.

You can see a lot of the beautiful mountain pics we took from that trip in this post.

We have a lot of fun stuff planned for this year’s family visit, which starts tonight!  Tadd and I both have the next week off of work, so we are psyched to get through the work day so we can start celebrating!  I can’t wait to just relax and have fun spending time together and making some more memories as a family.

Let the staycation begin!

Fall in the Smokies

I’m sure if you have read this blog or know me in any capacity, you know I love fall.  It’s my favorite season.  Beautiful weather, fun activities, the start of the holiday season, the tastes and smells (pumpkin, apple, cinnamon…mmmmm); all are on my list of favorite things.

But here in Florida something BIG is missing…Fall leaves!  It makes me sad that we go without that key component each year, but we make do.  Last year, we were fortunate enough to spend the second week in October in a log cabin in Gatlinburg, Tennessee and got to see some beautiful fall scenery during a drive through Smoky Mountain National Park.  The leaves were JUST starting to turn at that time, but as we got higher in elevation, the colors just got more and more fantastic.  I loved every minute of it!

In the spirit of the season, I thought I would share a few photos from that trip with you.