Thursday, January 28, 2016

My Kinda Conversion

One of my favourite things when traveling is to check out the local currency. And grocery stores, but that's another post. So anyhoo, I'm fortunate it's so incredibly easy to get foreign money for travel from our local supermarket exchange counter. Everything from euros to shillings to krona. Below is the money I'll be taking with us to Iceland next month. I love how colourful it is. 

Lest you think I'm gonna be flashing the big daddy-o wad of cash up north, be aware that the supermarket money exchange booth only has access to certain denominations. These were the smallest bills available. The 10000 is worth $76.91, while the 5000 is worth $38.46 per the currency converter. It will be interesting to get change once we're using them in Iceland to see if smaller bills and coins are equally eye-catching. I just hope we get some change since it seems everything costs a pretty penny kronur up there.

Ready? Okay!

Basketball season marches on, and so does cheering at home games. The 9th grader really enjoys watching all of the action on court while she's "on duty". This is a busy week - cheer bake sale today to raise funds for competition in Sheffield in early March. Then she's cheering at a boy's game Friday after school. Plus teaching at a cheer clinic Saturday for the lower school students. I think my favourite spirit bunny is looking forward to working with her assigned group of 4th graders. 

Below I've included this little video of an on-the-floor chant they do during time-outs. She's on the far left. Plus one of my favourite action shots while she's cheering, super blurry but I still love it. 

Friday, January 22, 2016

Sweater Weather

This week I sent the beast to school in a doggy sweater both days to keep him warm since morning lows were in the upper 20s. Every Friday his doggy daycare service sends a weekly blurb with some photos they've snapped. And there was Ollie boy sporting his blue patterned sweater in the slideshow of pics.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Dividing Line

For the past few days, we've had a hard frost thanks to nighttime temps in the upper 20s. I've noticed a divided back garden when I take the beast out for potty breaks. The side of the garden with the tall hedge casting a show never seems to receive direct sunlight at this time of year. So the frost on that side has been on the ground for a couple days now. 

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Fluffy Stuff

I had seen the orange scrolling warning on my weather app for several days, a chance of snow and ice. But by Saturday night nothing had materialized. Needless to say, I was surprised when we woke up to this Sunday morning.

I don't imagine Ollie recalls snow from his first stint in the UK. Since he was freshly bathed the day before, he only got to explore the light dusting of snow while on his leash.

I loved the way everything in our back garden received a layer of snow, precariously perched and waiting to topple or melt.

The 9th gr daughter's best friend had spent the night, so after I made them some chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, they hustled outside to take silly pics on their phones before the snow disappeared.

Friday, January 15, 2016

A Balmy Holiday, Part 2

The next day, the guys and kids hit the strip in Gatlinburg while the ladies hit the artisan's craft trail. That evening, we all went back over to Pigeon Forge to enjoy some picking and grinning at the Dixie Stampede.

Our first experience at the Stampede was in Branson many moons ago when the college junior was in middle school. I remember our experience at the Stampede because you're given a ton of food and no silverware. Not even the plastic sort. It was a neat-nick OCD nightmare come to life. So this time I smuggled in some plastic silverware in my purse and passed it along to others in the group that preferred to cut the food rather than use their hands. It's all pretty portable to the mouth - rotisserie chicken, boiled potato, corn on the cob, biscuit - but I still preferred using utensils instead of getting my hands all icky sticky and greasy.

The rest of our trip included a visit to Ober Gatlinburg to ride the mountain coaster and tube. Plus a few more trips to the strip for dining, window shopping, and moonshine sampling. It's a redneck mountain thang.

We absolutely enjoyed the lodge we found on VRBO. It was very spacious, made with real logs and had lots of great details like the mountain critters carved into columns in the living room.

On Christmas Eve and Christmas, we had a store-bought meal from Cracker Barrel. Then we lowered the AC so we could turn on the fireplace without breaking into a sweat, just long enough to snap some family pics.

A special treat during this trip was dinner at Paula Deen's restaurant in Pigeon Forge with an old family friend that lives in the area. She and my sister became best friends in elementary school. Such a sweet gal - loved getting the chance to visit with her and stroll down memory lane a bit. And Paula's restaurant was pretty good. Skip the cobbler and go for an extra helping of the meatloaf covered in homemade cheese sauce. With a side of homemade mac 'n cheese. It was carbalicious, artery-clogging good!

Almost as soon as we flew home to Texas the day after Christmas, a cool front hit and we were back to sweater wearing, fireplace burning weather, dontcha know. All in all, it was a great trip with family. The final pic, below, is one of my favourites and such an accurate representation of their generation. My husband's parents gave all of the kids a selfie-stick, so I captured our girls putting one of theirs to use out on the second story deck. Say cheesy, y'all!

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Balmy Holiday, Part 1

Since I booked the lodge LAST January and already put down a substantial deposit we were gonna lose, we were committed to a Christmas holiday week in the Smoky Mountains of eastern Tennessee. Never mind that we had moved to another continent in the summer and had to fly about seven hours to get within a three hour drive spitting distance of this place. Like the hardy pioneer stock of our forefathers, we trudged forth (or flew) over oceans and mountains to get to our destination. We were looking forward to s'mores by the fire, lounging by the fire, taking pics by the fire. You get the drift. 

Unfortunately, Mother Nature didn't cooperate with our plans to enjoy the multiple fireplaces in our lovely log cabin atop the hill since all we got was mild temps. I was afraid to go hiking for fear of running across a venomous snake or bear that had postponed hibernation to enjoy the warmer than usual weather. We had all of these fireplaces to enjoy in the lodge, but seldom got to crank them up. It was so warm that two of the girls and the brother-in-law were wearing shorts one evening. As native Texans, we've spent many a Christmas with the AC running instead of the heat. But still... disappointing.

When we initially kicked off our Fun, Old Fashioned Merry Christmas Vacation in the Smokies, it was freezing for the first 24 hours. So cold that we hit an outlet store for an extra coat. We toured Biltmore Estate in Asheville on our first full day of the trip. There were 65 beautifully decorated trees in this historic home, but pictures weren't allowed. Eh, at least we got a shot of both daughters plus our niece in front of the facade on a very chilly morning.

After the tour, we hightailed it over the mountains (and through a few via tunnel) to our lodge in Gatlinburg.

In the pic above with my husband's parents, you can see Gatlinburg in the background. It was a STEEP climb up a switchback trail to get to our lodge at the top for this fantastic view. The one lane cow trail was covered in asphalt, which was its saving grace. Otherwise, I'd have had to park the rental minivan at the first turnout and hoof it the rest of the way. This was the one instance when I was grateful I didn't have to deal with snow and/or ice on the roads. The white stuff would have been really festive and pretty, but not practical for getting around without snow tires or four wheel drive.

Our first full day in Gatlinburg, we drove over to nearby Pigeon Forget to enjoy a day at Dollywood. The Christmas decorations were lovely, especially at night when we could enjoy all of the lights. Roller coasters and funnel cakes - what's not to love.