The Finished Product

Since mom had the car to check out the Wyndham Resorts (and earn our free tickets to the Dixie Stampede),  Hannah and I were left to our own resources for the morning (12/22/15).

We decided to have a girls’ dream morning.  Because I usually curl my hair, Hannah had wanted to try curling hers to see what it looked like.  So, in between getting set up to bake, we put her hair in hot rollers and gave her beautiful ringlet curls, which she loved.


Cataract Falls

We then set about baking chocolate chip cookies.  I am famous on a small scale for my chocolate chip cookies.  In reality, they’re simply the Nestle Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe on the back of the package, except I use butter flavored Crisco instead of butter, and I take then out right when they stop getting shiny, so they’re still soft and gooey.

If you’ve ever made cookies, you know after the initial preparation, it is a lot of waiting.  Since Hannah knows the tunes of the Christmas carols and can even hum along but doesn’t know the lyrics, I decided to write some out for her.  I’d really never considered how difficult some of these are to explain to those who don’t have English as a first language.  Things like :  Don we now our gay apparel (we put on our happy clothes?!?) or Troll the ancient yuletide carol (Sing the old Christmas songs)–so many words no one uses EVER–outside of Christmas carols. Sometimes it was hard, but we had a good time, regardless, and Hannah loves to learn!

Whose Secret Picnic?

When mom got back,  and it was no longer raining, we decided to head to the Sugarlands Visitor Center to hike down to one of the falls.  Since Hannah has a forestry degree in China, it was especially interesting to walk around with her and look at the various plant life labelled by the park service.  We ended our hike at Cataract Falls, a beautiful spot nestled about 3/4 mile from the Visitor Center or right down the road from the Park Headquarters.  When we arrived at the falls, we noticed a picnic blanket and a bright red basket in the woods.  We are too curious to not investigate, so we walked over to find out what it was.  It contained a bottle of wine or sparkling cider in a bucket–we weren’t sure what else it contained, since we did opt not to open it and see, but we all agreed it was very interesting that someone set everything up (for a proposal, maybe?) and left it unguarded in an area where we passed at least 20 people in the half hour or so that we were out.  It was, however, fun to speculate.

Finally, we headed home to do our own nestling with tea, popcorn, and Anne of Green Gables.  Truly a lovely day!



Kingdom Heirs

Kingdom Heirs

Today (6/16/15), we headed back to Dollywood to check out the new shows we had missed. Dollywood is celebrating 30 years in business this year, and The Kingdom Heirs are celebrating just as many as part of the park. Though members of the group have come and gone, from the newest member who has only been in the group two months to the oldest who was part of the group before it came to Dollywood, this group has a passion and professionalism that makes it easy to understand their success. They sing a mix of old and new Southern Gospel, blending hymns “From the Redbook” with newer songs, but always with the theme of loving and honoring Jesus. Definitely a tow-tapping experience, and a must for any lover of quartets. I also learned that The Kingdom Heirs had topped a number of Southern Gospel charts with several hit songs, as well as an album that’s sold over a million copies.  A bedrock of Dollywood, this group should not be missed!  You can check them out at Kingdom Heirs

My People:  Dolly's family

My People: Dolly’s family

After The Kingdom Heirs, we rushed over to hear a newer show, My People, featuring members of Dolly’s family including a brother and sister, 2 nieces, and 2 cousins (pictured left to right.)   This show blended live performance with video of Dolly herself.  Dolly shared a number of her childhood experiences, and other family members added special memories of Dolly or their family.  It was neat for me to watch the interactions of this portion of the Parton family (Dolly’s mom and dad had 12 children, so the whole family must be huge.)
It may just be good acting, but this family seems to genuinely like each other and be close knit.  Having spent so much time making music together in their childhood, they have a tremendous opportunity to make music together again.  One of the things that set this group apart was that they take the opportunity after the show to meet and speak with any member of the audience who desires to do so.  (The Kingdom Heirs normally do this, but today had to rush off to Nashville for an awards event.)  You can check out their show here: My People

Rhododendrons in bloor

Rhododendrons in bloom

We hadn’t planned on watching the Gazillion Bubble show, but the fact that it was in the largest theater made us curious.  I’m so glad we did!  Deni Yang is a one of a kind artist (or apparently a 5 of a kind, as it seems his whole family is in the bubble business.)  Deni himself has been performing for twenty years (though starting performing at age 4 makes him still very young.)  While Deni has amazing talent, (Since there’s no photography, you can check him out here: Deni Yang) the thing that most impressed me was the way that he interacted with the younger members of the audience.  He involved them in everything from dancing at the beginning to putting them inside of bubbles, to a wonderful story in which a little girl sees her dream of snow.  He kneels down to talk to children (gets on their level), escorts them to and from stage holding their hands, and gives them presents, all the while making them feel amazingly important.  It was a beautiful thing.  And, as I heard the gasps, laughter, and excitement of the audience as thousands of bubbles cascaded over them, I was reminded that there’s just something about bubbles that makes people happy!

Smokey Mountains

Smokey Mountains

With three shows under our belts, we headed to the visitor’s center to plan our early morning jaunt to Cade’s Cove in hopes of seeing both fawns and bears, only to find out that the park wouldn’t be open until 10 tomorrow–they were opening early for cyclists.  So, that brought a change of plans.  We decided to take the Roaring Forks Motor Nature Trail to see if we could find Rhododendrons or wildlife.  The Rhododendrons were blooming gloriously, though the time of day didn’t provide the best light (We may head back here tomorrow.) But, no bears this trip.  After a beautiful drive beside babbling brooks and glorious flowering trees, it was time to say goodnight to the Smokies for another day.




Mom and I set out yesterday (6/15/15) for a few quick days in Gatlinburg before I leave for Poland on Saturday.   We arrived about 2:00 and set off in search of Rhododendrons, which my mom had been hoping to see in full bloom.  We drove a little ways up the mountain, but didn’t find the areas full of blossoms we were hoping for.  We checked out the chimney tops and headed back down to Dollywood.

100_4117We once again took the trolley from Patriot Park ($.50 each way!) and decided to check out the shows (Our favorite thing at Dollywood!). Our first show was Dreamland Drive-In.  This show features music of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s in the story which follows a group of classmates from their early high school years through reunions and eventually to modern times.  While I’m sure the show is especially enjoyable for those who lived through these times and for whom the montage of songs and pictures have special meaning, it is an enjoyable collection for any group.  The songs and dancing were both fun!

IMG_2329From the Drive-In, we headed to Country Crossroads by way of the Grist Mill to buy some incredible cinnamon bread to enjoy while waiting for the show.  This show features three men and three women and includes a number of country music’s greatest hits.  Though mom and I don’t “listen to country music,” we were surprised how many songs we knew.  One thing that impressed me about this show was that one of the singers was in a wheelchair.  That’s not the impressive part.  What was impressive was not only this young man’s beautiful voice, but also his ability to do all the choreography everyone else did.  Definitely an impressive performance and a reminder of Dolly’s commitment to provide opportunities to such a diverse group of people.

100_4125We had decided this would be the night to stay for the fireworks since it had the least prediction of rain, so we meandered through some of the shops on our way up to Timber Canyon.  Before the fireworks, Dollywood offers a Lite the Nite production.  This show boasts singers and dancers all in light up suits, in addition to a variety of street artists, jugglers, stilt walkers, etc.  They even choose a kid from the audience to “Start the fireworks.”  Definitely a fun way to start our trip!

Lower end of Rainbow Falls

Lower end of Rainbow Falls

Today, after celebrating Christmas (And planning for next quarter, which was making me stir crazy), we decided to set off on another adventure. We definitely got more than we bargained for. In light of the Christmas season, I have added two more items to the list of things I’m thankful for: guard rails and shoulders on roads.

We were attempting to find the spot labeled on the map as “Historic Nature Trail.” Had the Visitor Center been open, we might have avoided the hassle, but exploring is always an adventure. We discovered, after having to turn around on a one lane sized two lane road with no guard rail, lines, or shoulder–and on about a 55 degree angle–that Roaring Fork Road not only has several versions of itself, but also many of them involve treacherous driving conditions not for the faint of heart. After turning around, we decided to take the “through town” route, and turned at light 8, which ended up taking us right where we wanted to be.

However, even then, we were not in the right place. The “Historic Nature Trail” is merely a loop around town from light 8 back to light 6. Though hilly, there is not much “nature” to be seen–just a couple of condos.

Finally, we went back to light 8, to the fork, and this time took the Historic Motor Nature Trail. This time, we were greeted with beautiful falls and historic cabins. There are a number of pull-offs and many trails to explore. By now, however, it was starting to get dark, so we only had time to explore one of the streams coming off Rainbow Falls. Alas, perhaps another day…