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Painting at OriJENals

This weekend my friend Allyson and I finally tried out a canvas painting class at OriJENals in Nashville. I was a little worried about keeping up with the instructor, but it was actually a very relaxing evening of painting.

For $30 (or $15 if you have a Groupon), you get a 2-hour lesson with step-by-step instructions on how to paint a particular piece of art with all supplies included. It may look hard, but anyone can do it. By the end, I felt like a real artist…

And now for the finished product. Not bad huh?

Thanks to this fun night out with Allyson, I am officially halfway through my 101 List (just finished #53 - paint a large canvass). 584 days to go, and still ahead of schedule!

Til next time,

Lu

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World’s largest treehouse

Did you know the world’s largest treehouse happens to be in Tennessee, just two hours outside of Nashville? That’s right. This massive 10-story, 97-foot treehouse is located just off I-40 and is open to the public free of charge.

And since the boyfriend and I were passing right through Crossville last weekend, it was the perfect opportunity to stop by and check it out for ourselves.

I have to say, it’s quite an impressive treehouse. I’ve definitely never seen anything like it before.

We spent some time climbing to the top and exploring each level. I have no idea how one man built this all by himself.

In the center of the treehouse is a multi-story chapel, where I believe they even hold church services.

Not a bad pitstop on our quick roadtrip out to Gatlinburg. I’m not sure I’d make a special trip to go here, but if you’re already passing by, you may want to take a detour.

If you’d like to check it out yourself, the “Minister’s Treehouse” is located at the end of Beehive Lane in Crossvile, Tennessee.

Happy climbing!

Lu

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Finally, my first CMAFest

Every June, Nashville is invaded by country fans decked out in their cowboy hats and cowboy boots, and they’re all here for one reason - CMAFest. I’ve watched them trek past my office on their way to concerts, parades and meet and greets for five years now, wishing I could follow them. And this year, I finally did.

Since my parents’ birthdays are both in June, I ended up buying the three of us tickets to Friday night’s show at LP Field. Not a bad birthday present if you ask me.

The lineup that night was amazing: Keith Urban, Lady Antebellum, Dierks Bentley, Reba. Of course my personal favorite was Sugarland - they did some hilarious country covers of Britney Spears’ “Baby One More Time,” Cee Lo’s “Forget You” and Destiny’s Childs’ “Bootylicious.” And to make the night even more exciting, Shania Twain made a quick guest appearance on stage. Kind of hard to beat a concert like that for $30!

After the show, we got to enjoy fireworks on our walk back to the car…a perfect way to end the night.

And now I can mark a couple more things off my 101 List - #49: Go to the CMAFest in Nashville and #83: See someone new in concert (Reba & Lady A).

Of course, that won’t keep me from going back again next year. I can’t let them have all that fun without me, now can I?

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The Elkmont Synchronous Fireflies

This weekend I finally made it to the Elkmont Synchronous Firefly Show. In case you aren’t familiar, every June a rare species of fireflies synchronize their blinking in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park near Gatlinburg, filling the sky with millions of tiny lights.

Since the light show didn’t start til sundown, we spent the day enjoying Gatlinburg. What a cute little town!

We started out at the famous Pankcake Pantry, and boy was it delicious!

After breakfast, we took a ride on the Gatlinburg Skylift. It was such a relaxing way to enjoy the gorgeous view of the city.

The view from the top was pretty amazing too…

While the boyfriennd and I were reading and enjoying the view, we were surprised by a little visitor…a ground hog. He darted under our table, and I jumped up on the bench and started screaming, not sure what to expect.

Turns out there was no need for alarm though. Apparently he was a local “pet” of sorts named Crackers who visits each day to beg visitors for food. He kept us all entertained for quite some time.

And in case you were wondering, ground hogs DO eat ice cream cones.

After the skylift, the boyfriend and I headed into the Great Smoky Mountain National park to do some hiking up to Laurel Falls. So pretty.

And again, more beautiful views from here as well…

Finally after a long day of exploring, it was time to see the fireflies. I have to say it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. Sitting in the pitch black forest, we were surrounded by millions of blinking lights. It was spectacular. And now I can finally mark it off my 101 List (#11 - See the Elkmont Synchronous Fireflies).

Photo from “Inside Gatlinburg.”

If you ever get a chance to see it yourself, I highly recommend going. This year it runs through June 12, so there’s still time! And since finding info about it online is almost impossible, I’ll leave you with a few tips:

  • In order to go to the firefly viewing area, you must be parked in the Sugarlands Visitor Center in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park. Once the lot is full, you’ll be turned away. Be sure and get there early. I’d say by 3pm at the latest.
  • To be on the safe side, you could park here in the morning and take the tan line trolley into Gatlinburg to kill time til evening. It runs every 1 1/2 hours. (Click here for schedule.)
  • The trolleys for the firefly show will start leaving from the parking lot around 7pm.
  • Be sure to bring a flashlight. They’ll give you red cellophane to cover it with at the firefly viewing area.
  • Bring a jacket or a blanket. It gets cold after sunset.
  • I’d recommend sitting just off the main pathway inside the woods. It’ll be darkest inside the tree line allowing you to see the fireflies better.
  • Be aware that it’s going to take awhile to catch a trolley back down to your car. We packed up to leave at 10pm and stood in line for a trolley until 11:45pm. 
  • To find out when the firefly festival will take place each year, start googling “Smoky Mountain Synchronous Fireflies” in May for the announced dates.
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Niagara Falls

One of the great things about driving on vacations is having the flexibility to stop and enjoy places along the way. On our recent trip to Maine, we decided to spend a night in Niagara Falls, which was about half way between Portland and Nashville.

We got there just in time to see the nightly light show. In case you aren’t familiar, each night around 9:00 pm the Canadian side shines lights on the falls, illuminating them with gorgeous colors. In my opinion, it’s prettiest at night. Photos can’t even do it justice…

The next morning before heading out of town, we went back to the falls for a couple hours to take the Maid of the Mist boat tour beneath the falls (another thing I can mark off my 101 List: #69 - ride on a boat). Boy was it spectacular from below. It’s so much bigger than I imagined!

I would’ve loved to take my nice camera out there, but I couldn’t bear to risk getting it wet. So here are a few mediocre shots of our voyage from my point-and-shoot…

And a few more from my even more high-tech disposable water camera…

All in all it was a great pit stop, even though we only stayed a few hours. My only regret is not having time to get a passport before going so I could see it from the Canada side, which I’m told has an even more amazing view of the falls. I guess that just gives me a good reason to go back someday.

To see other posts from our trip, visit…

Inn on Carleton: Portland, ME

Food finds in Portland, ME

Portland Head Light

Portland, Maine

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Portland Head Light

Located in Fort Williams Park, this place was our first - and favorite - stop during our vacation in Portland, Maine. The entire park is gorgeous, from the beautiful lighthouse to the breathtaking view of the ocean.

I loved how nothing was roped off or restricted in the park, so you could go anywhere you wanted. Tanner and I spent hours exploring the shoreline around the lighthouse. And the second day we came here, I spent much of it sitting on the cliffs gazing at the ocean. There’s just something I love about a rocky coast.

Of course, Tanner’s favorite part about the park was the history. There were tons of old forts lining the park, most of which were remnants of World War I & II. It was fascinating to learn how these were used so long ago.

Before we headed out on our last day, I begged to come back one last time. Of course, it didn’t take much begging since Tanner wanted to do some more exploring. We ended up spending another half day here before driving on to Niagara Falls (more on that later).

In just two short days, this park and lighthouse has become my new favorite place. And I can now mark another thing off my 101 List (# 7 - visit a lighthouse). If you get a chance to visit Portland, don’t leave without seeing it. You won’t be sorry!

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Road trip!

In two days the boyfriend and I are headed out on our most ambitious road trip yet - an 8-day tour of the upper East Coast. I’ve never planned a trip quite this intense. It’s definitely going to be an adventure!

Our first pit-stop is in Philadelphia where we’ll check out the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. Then we’re spending a day in in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and a day in Boston. And our final destination - Portland, Maine!

Ever since my photography class last fall, I’ve been obsessed with going to Maine. Now that I know how to take good pictures, it seems like a beautiful place to practice. I’ve also developed a thing for lighthouses, and I’ve mapped out about six I’d like to visit (another thing on my 101 List). Here’s hoping the boyfriend doesn’t get tired of lighthouses next week.

After exploring Maine for three days, we’re driving home a different route to stop in Niagara Falls. I’m so excited to see the falls - definitely something on my bucket list. And I’ve heard it’s even more impressive at night!

So all in all, it should be an amazing week. We may spend a small fortune on gas and tolls and I’m sure we’ll come back completely exhausted, but it’ll all be worth it. I’ll tell you all about it as soon as I get back!

Til next time,

Lu

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Chocolate brownie muffins

Yesterday I spent the day in the kitchen with quite an ambitious agenda: my mom’s famous homemade rolls, a lasagna to go with them for dinner and chocolate brownie muffins to eat for breakfast all week. Let’s just say things didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped.

First on the agenda were homemade rolls - something I’d been dying to learn how to make now that I have a KitchenAid Mixer. I waited and waited…and waited, but the rolls never rose. I finally got frustrated and threw them in the oven anyways. It wasn’t pretty. Obviously I messed something up along the way, although I have no idea what.

My second endeavor wasn’t much more successful. I’ve made lasagna a number of times and it’s never gone badly before, but for some reason the bottom layer of noodles turned out tough. At least it was more edible than the rolls though.

At this point I was 0 for 2. Here’s hoping the muffins go better (another recipe I’ve never done before.) Things were going smoothly until I got to the last step - add chocolate chips.

Now let me explain that chocolate chips are my favorite snack. I always have plenty on hand, which is why I failed to check on them before I went grocery shopping. When it came time to add them, I realized I was down to about 10 chips. Great.

So I had to drop what I was doing to run to the store (for the second time that day) and pick up more chocolate chips. Luckily they turned out beautifully after all that trouble. At least I got to end my exhausting day in the kitchen on a high note.

And if I can pull these off without messing them up, it must not be too difficult. Here’s the recipe if you want to give them a try yourself…

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup oats
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Directions:

  • Combine all dry ingredients in a mixing bowl and set aside.
  • Beat eggs, add milk, oil and vanilla.
  • Stir liquid ingredients into dry ingredients.
  • Stir in 1 cup chocolate chips until blended.
  • Scoop into muffin pan. (They don’t rise much, so fill almost full).
  • Bake at 350-375 degrees for 16-20 minutes.

And since I mastered the muffin recipe, I’m one step closer to marking another item off my 101 List (#51 - Add 4 new recipes to my “usual meal” rotation). Three down, one to go.

Til next time!

-Lu

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My birthday photoshoot

I’m beginning to see the downside of being a photographer. I’m never in any of the pictures. It’s been quite awhile since I’ve gotten any good shots of me and the boy now that I’m always behind the camera. And that just won’t do.

So to fix this little issue, I asked my good friend Meghan for a couples shoot for my birthday. Of course, she gladly agreed.

And since I just got the batch of images yesterday, I thought I’d share some of my favorites. I may be a little biased, but I’m in love with them.

Sadly my amazing massive red balloon blew away in the middle of the shoot. I’m definitely going to have to invest in another one of those. That thing was awesome!

And with that, I can mark another thing off my 101 List (#9 - Get my picture taken by a photographer). That’s right Meghan - I think we’ve done enough practicing now to be real photographers!

Hope you all enjoyed them!

Lu

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Roadtrip to nowhere

I’m not the type of person who plans trips to the middle of nowhere or who travels without a detailed itinerary. I typically go somewhere big and exciting, packing my days full of everything I can think of and heading home completely exhausted. That’s my kind of vacation.

But what do you do when your life gets so hectic that you’re already exhausted before you ever leave home? How about a trip to a cabin in the middle of nowhere.

Last week my boyfriend and I packed up with no plans at all and headed to Helen, Georgia, with our friends Brendan and Stacy and their 3-year-old son, Max.

Our cabin was completely amazing. Three floors of wonderfulness with huge rooms, comfy beds, two living rooms, a huge kitchen, a fire pit and best of all, a hot tub out on the deck. Maybe a few days of seclusion wouldn’t be so bad after all.

The first night we had a weenie roast, followed by s’mores of course - another thing I can mark off my 101 List (#73). Then we ended the evening in the hot tub. The next day we went out to the little German-looking village in Helen, Georgia, where we ate lunch at a cafe on the river, took a carriage ride and got some ice cream.

Then we took a quick hike to Anna Ruby Falls. What a gorgeous trail!

The next day Tanner and I headed to Atlanta for a couple days where we saw a performance of Peter Pan, did some shopping and hit up IKEA before heading home. All in all, it was a great trip.

Looks like I can mark another thing off my 101 List (#61 - take a roadtrip to somewhere new).

Time to get back to my hectic life. Luckily I have another vacation planned in the very near future.

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