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Lake Life

I don’t live it personally, but I sure could get used to it! Recently, a family friend loaned us their lake house for a weekend, to celebrate my father-in-law’s 70th birthday.

We drove up, about 2 hours from home, on a Thursday evening, and this was my view for half a day of work on Friday:

Screened porch view. I took my meetings from this table!
Morning coffee!

This is a lake in Tennessee, and even though it’s Spring in the South (and it’s in the 80’s as I’m writing this), it was cool yet comfortable all weekend, staying mostly in the 60’s. A couple of the grandkids even braved the water for a swim.

A girl could get used to this view!

Facing Fears & Jumping Off Docks

While recently at the lake (see my previous post, “Lake Life”), my 10 year old son, and his cousin of the same age, decided to try jumping from the second story of the dock. Don’t worry, the dock was designed for this, with a special gate opening up at the top, and the water was more than deep enough! It took just a couple minutes of coaxing them into it and cheering them on once they were standing over the edge, but once they worked up the courage, and faced their fears, they did it over and over again!

Check out these time lapse pictures of my son jumping, and a fun little YouTube video we put together for his channel, BenTube.

Born To Stand Out

We just planted new knockout roses the other day. They are a very pale pink to almost white in color. So it was much to our surprise when this lone hot pink rose bloomed among the others.

Why fit in when you were born to stand out? —Dr. Seuss

Anakeesta in the Great Smoky Mountains

Last week, my son was on Spring Break, and we decided to take a family trip to Pigeon Forge, TN. It is only about a 3 hour drive from our home. We rented a cabin on the river for several days, and were even able to take our Frenchie, Bella. The fishing wasn’t so great due to recent heavy storms, but there’s non stop entertainment in Pigeon Forge that kept us busy. We rode go karts, played putt putt, ate some really great meals, went to a comedy dinner theatre, shopped, etc. But, my favorite place that we went to was called Anakeesta.

Anakeesta is actually in neighboring Gatlinburg, TN. The word “Anakeesta” is a Cherokee Indian word meaning “the place of the balsams,” and refers to high ground. From the base of the mountain, you can either ride the sky lift up on a bench, in an enclosed chondola, or you can take the large ridge rambler up the road leading to the top. The ride up via the sky lift takes about 20 minutes. We did this our first time up, and I hate heights! But, I did it for my son.

Sky lift

Once at the top, there’s multiple activities you can choose from, plus there’s several dining and snack options, and a little village to pick up souvenirs from, or to sit, rest, and rock by the fire or water features. There’s a flat fee to enter the park, but there are 2 activities that cost extra if you want to do them: the mountain coaster, and the dueling zip lines. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to do either of these. The mountain coaster was down due to having been hit by lightning during the recent storms, and the zip line was booked solid all week long. But, I do have a pro tip for you….if you buy your tickets an hour before they close to the public, you can enjoy the last couple hours that evening and get in for free the entire next day! We did this, and it was well worth it. The views at sunset were gorgeous!

At the peak of the mountain is the AnaVista Observation Tower. It is 60 feet high, and provides 360 degree views of the surrounding mountains, allowing you to see as far as Kentucky on sunny days. It even has two glass panel floors to look down at the gardens below.

AnaVista Observation Tower

Another fun activity is the Treetop Skywalk. There are suspension bridges (with high rope sides) hung between the trees, about 50-60′ above the ground. Their website says it’s the longest tree based skywalk in the world with 880′ of bridges.

Me and my son on the skywalk.

There are 2 ropes challenge courses (made for kids, but parents did it too), Bearventure Challenge Course, and Treeventure Challenge Course. Here you can climb, swing, crawl, and slide through multiple levels.

My husband and son on a challenge course.

If you’re looking for picture opportunities, there’s endless places for great pictures at Anakeesta. Here’s a couple cool ones:

As a bonus, we even saw a bear below while we were eating on the deck of one of the restaurants. They say you can often see them roaming below while you’re on the decks and skywalks throughout the park.

All in all, Anakeesta is the one place I wanted to visit while on our trip, and it most definitely did not disappoint! They are still adding to the park, and it will be on our list to re-visit in the future. I give it two thumbs up, and highly recommend!

Food for Thought

Long time no see! I’ve been absent from blogging for a few months now. I have found it increasingly difficult to find the time lately. I have been working from home for over a year now, thanks to Covid, and the fatigue is setting in. By the end of the day, I don’t have the energy (or the will) to sit behind the computer any longer, even for something that brings me joy. I just want to close the lid and walk away. That means I’ve also not succeeded on my goal for 2021 of blogging more often…ugh. So, here’s a stab at me looking to change things around.

I will start off on this beautiful Easter Sunday with some food for thought…

Be like a tree. Stay grounded. Connect with your roots. Turn over a new leaf. Bend before you break. Enjoy your unique natural beauty. Keep growing.

Joanne Raptis

Get Crafty!

A new year = a new hobby for me. I’ve decided to get into the vinyl crafting craze, and for Christmas asked for a particular Cricut machine. After one cancelled order due to low stock, and finding out that these machines were hard to find during the holidays, my husband finally tracked one down for me. The best part is that it was an even better model than what I asked for! I got the Cricut Maker.

I have to admit, I was both thrilled and intimidated by it. I didn’t know where to begin after setting it up and registering it. What would be my first project? Would I get frustrated by my lack of knowledge on how to use it? Would I try something, fail, and put the expensive machine away for a while? Well, I’m happy to say that I pushed all those thoughts to the side, and gave it a go.

My first, and second, projects were both requests from my son. He loves the Atlanta Hawks, and was inspired by their uniform and court tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that they debuted on MLK day. That same day he had a basketball game as well, and asked for something special. So, we decided to put the letters MLK on a shooting sleeve for him. We hopped in the car and made a trip to our local Academy (a sporting goods store.) He picked out a white sleeve. “A” white sleeve was mistake #1, because later I ruined it with the iron. Mistake #2 came with the letters that I ended up having to cut out twice. So, after a second trip to Academy, where this time I purchased 2 additional sleeves just in case, I finally succeeded in finishing the project. He loved it, and his teammates thought it was pretty cool too! (Ignore the crazy hair from after the game, and yes, his team name is the Armadillos, the Fighting Armadillos to be exact, lol!)

As I mentioned earlier, my second project was also something my son asked for. He got a laptop for Christmas, and a hard case to go on it, and wanted to put stickers on the case. The case is red, because he loves the Georgia Bulldogs, and so he wanted to put a UGA sticker on it. So, that’s what we did! I didn’t mess this one up this time, and got it on the first try!

What fun, and I was so proud that I actually made something that I previously would have had to buy from Etsy before! After making these, I was so pumped that I took all the rest of my Christmas money and loaded up on supplies from Amazon. They should be here today, and I’m going to put them to good use.

Nora Mill Granary

Four minutes down the road from where I grew up, is the Alpine town of Helen. Before you reach the actual town itself, alongside the Chattahoochee River sits a historic gristmill, Nora Mill, dating back to 1876. It is still operational, using the power of water and the original 1500 pound mill stones to grind all kinds of corn and wheat products. It also houses an old fashioned country store.

Over the Christmas holidays, while visiting my mom, my family took a quick trip to the mill. Most of my pics are waterside, but this is a fun little adventure if you are ever in the area.

My top 3 Christmas Guilty Pleasures

Guilty pleasures, we all have them, those things you love to do most in your down time, when and if you ever get down time! Or, the things you love to eat or drink, or your favorite products to buy. During the holidays I have 3 that stand out to me the most. Let’s see if these made your list too…

1.) Hallmark Christmas movies:

Ok, I have a confession to make…I watch Hallmark movies all year round. But, I especially love them at Christmas! Even though the stories are cliche, the girl always gets the guy, and everyone’s happy in the end, (which is not like most people’s real lives at all) I can’t help but get sucked in to the romance of it all.

2.) Peppermint Bark:

Ok, this is my all time favorite candy! Lot’s of people don’t like the peppermint and chocolate combination, but I sure do. Love, love, love.

3.) Pine Scented Candles:

I’m a sucker for candles anyway, but at Christmas I love the ones that smell like a real Christmas tree. My family and I put up an artificial tree each year, so I like to light the candles that make it feel like we are in the middle of a Christmas tree farm. The Fresh Balsam from Bath & Body Works is one of my faves.

3 Quick Holiday Gift Basket Ideas

If you’re looking for some Christmas gifts with a personal touch, here’s some ideas for you. I wanted to do something a little different this year for some family members, and had a ton of fun putting together some unique gift baskets. Check them out…

1.) Holiday Baking Basket:

I have a niece starting a new chapter in her life, in her first home, so I put together this baking gift basket with some kitchen essentials, and cookie making supplies. You could do something similar for any time of the year, for a great gift!

Includes: Batter bowl with 2 nesting mixing bowls (Walmart), wooden spoon and turner (Walmart, Pioneer Woman), gingerbread man spatula with snowflake cookie cutter (TJ Maxx), sugar cookie mix (Kroger), chocolate chips (Kroger), icing (Kroger), and Christmas sprinkles (TJ Maxx).

2.) Ice Cream Basket:

I put this basket together for another niece who is currently in college. All she will have to do is add her favorite ice cream!

Includes: wooden crate (TJ Maxx), 2 “enjoy” ice cream bowls (TJ Maxx), 2 rainbow spoons (Walmart), ice cream scoop (Walmart), Christmas mug (TJ Maxx), Starbucks cocoa (TJ Maxx), Santa napkins (TJ Maxx), rainbow worms (TJ Maxx), chocolate sauce, caramel sauce, and sprinkles (all Kroger).

3.) Spa Basket:

For this one, I found some locally made soaps and soaking salts, and threw in some other bath items and fun little wine sign and Santa wine bottle topper.

Includes: (All from a local boutique) Lemongrass and Sun Damaged Skin soaps, bamboo soap dish, pumice stone, peppermint foot soak, sponge, 2 natural loofahs, wooden wine sign, and glass Santa wine bottle topper.

I hope these gift baskets have given you some ideas for making your own. Once you decide on a theme, the skies are the limit. Have fun with your gift basket making! I’m sure the recipient will love the personal touch that you give it.

The Lights Are On!

After our Thanksgiving festivities, my family drove just a couple minutes up the road from where my mom lives, to the small town of Helen, GA. It was built to replicate an Alpine village. It has changed a lot over the years, but it’s a tourist attraction all year round, especially during Oktoberfest! My first job was in Helen, at an outlet mall that used to be there, but has since closed down. *sigh*

They had their Christmas lights ready to go for the annual town lighting the next day, which usually draws over 5,000 people. Of course, this year, that wouldn’t be the case. Here’s a few that sparkle!

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