Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Three Times The Surprise

My cousin Anna, yes, the same on who moved in down the street, turned 30 over the weekend and her sweet husband planned not one, not two, but three surprise parties for her. So, my weekend was more or less consumed with surprising Anna, although I don't think I yelled "Surprise" one time. 

The festivities kicked off Saturday afternoon at Shakalaka. You may recall I spent some time there for my own recent birthday. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Shakalaka has added a new area to the fun in the form of an obstacle course with ropes and bars and rings and tight ropes and all other manner of obstacle course fun. Remembering the trouble I had getting out of the foam pit at my birthday soiree, I elected not to participate in any activity that might land me in a foam pit. In other words, I only jumped on the regular trampoline and played some dodgeball. There were tons of people there, mostly children and to be honest, I didn't want to slow up their fun; nor did I want to fight my way out of the foam pit. They seriously need a step to get out of that madness. We jumped from 3:00 - 4:00 and burned a lot of calories and had even more fun. Sadly, I also walked away a case of Athlete's Foot which really isn't all that unusual as I tend to get it from time to time. 

After the jump around, I ran an errand for Jan, Anna's mom, and then went home to shower and change and prepare for party number two which was a gathering of some of Anna's friends from school, most of whom were from out of town. Jan made chicken enchiladas, taco meat and had a plethora of toppings. I made a five-layer dip (as opposed to a seven-layer) and some tortillas rolled up with cream cheese and Mexican spices that were apparently a big hit because they were all gone. I'm not sure how many people ended up at this party, but I would venture to say it was close to 40. Everyone seemed to be having a really great time and most importantly Anna was having a good time. 

There was so much food left over from the party that we gathered back at Benny and Jan's for lunch on Sunday which was great. After lunch, I headed home to take a nap which was more like a resting of the eyes more than anything. I also managed to get a few chores done around the house before heading out for the third and final party of the weekend. 

The last party was a family only party at Baumhower's (formerly known as Wing's) and seriously, the food there is sub par compared to when I waited tables there 137 years ago. Anna and Randy were the last ones to arrive and I think she was surprised, but honestly don't know because she made such a quiet entrance. There were about 15 of us in all and I am pleased to say we were served in a rather timely manner. I was hoping to be home by 8:00 p.m. that evening and, in fact, achieved that goal which made me very happy. It's not that I wasn't thrilled to celebrate with the family, it's more like I enjoy being home by 8:00 p.m. on work nights because I am old and set in my ways. 

It was a fun and eventful weekend celebrating Anna's 30th. Hope you have many more, cousin! 

Monday, March 30, 2015

Circus Time

It's that time of year again - The Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey Circus was in town the past few days and I for one couldn't have been happier. I think I've made it abundantly clear on several occasions that my love for the circus may be a wee bit unnatural. 

As is often the case, I got tickets the week they went on sale. I usually send my dad down to get tickets the day they go on sale, but I could never quite figure out what day that was going to be and so we missed it. Have no fear though, because I went the Monday (January 12) after they went on sale on Friday and managed to get great seats for me, my parents and my circus buddy Erika! 

Finally, the day of the show arrived. Erika picked me up about 5:30 and we met my parents and Ada at the VBC. My dad had bought Ada a ticket in the section next to us the day before the show. We went in when the doors opened at 6:00 p.m. and Erika and I made a pit stop before going to our seats and then venturing out the floor to get the up close and personal circus experience. When we arrived at our seats, we were surprised to find that our seats were not there because the Ringling folks had decided to set up their sound equipment in the handicapped section where our seats were. I turned to the usher and explained our dilemma and she took my ticket and immediately walked off - not saying a word. I chased after her, calling out, "ma'am" but she continued to ignore me and kept walking. We passed my parents who clearly had someone already on the case and I again tried to get the lady's attention and she again continued to ignore me. I followed her all the way to the stairs where you come in until I could go no further or else I wouldn't have been able to get back in. She finally came back with my ticket and declared she was making sure it was a valid ticket. At this point I was so fired up, it's a miracle I didn't hit this rude woman. 

To make a long, aggravating story short, after an hour of the VBC talking and conferencing among one another, it was finally decided that they would give me my money back and put us in some other available seats. So, I had to walk back with the ticket manager to get my money and our new tickets. The new tickets were at the end of the arena, not the center where I prefer to sit, but at least we were at the circus. Also, we now were all five sitting together so Ada didn't have to sit by herself which worked out better. Some of the views were obstructed, some were closer than we have ever been and the best part of all was that we could see the curtain being pulled back and see what was coming next. 
This version of the circus (Circus Extreme) was good, but not the best one I've ever seen. For starters they didn't have what I love to refer to as The Globe of Death. There also weren't as many animal acts. They did have a lot of interesting human acts though and a lot f the time I got more enjoyment out of looking at the wonder on Ada's face than I did the actual show. 

All in all, after my blood pressure settled down and we finally had somewhere to plop our bottoms, I think we all five enjoyed the evening. I, of course, am looking forward to the next time the circus comes to town because I want all my days to be circus days! 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

There Goes The Neighborhood

Some new neighbors moved in this week and for once, I don't have to worry about who they are or what kind of ruckus they'll bring to the street. These new neighbors moved in four houses down across the street and I'm thrilled to welcome them to my hood. It's my cousin Anna and her husband Randy! They are moving here from Birmingham as they are both done with school (for now) and I hope they enjoy their time on our little street in Huntsville's hippiest neighborhood. 

A few months ago, Anna asked me if there were any houses for rent in my area and there were, there are always a few houses for rent and so I passed along some information. I don't know if she and Randy looked at any places at that time or not, but I guess they decided the liked the area. I guess I had mentioned at some point that the house across the street was empty and a rental (this is the house that has seen many a strange neighbor from Panties to Homeskillet) and so a few weeks ago, she asked me if it was available. I managed to get the owner's phone number from my neighbor Jeff and gave him a call to get some details. He was thinking about selling, but decided he would let Anna and Randy look at it (so gracious). That same day, the house down the street became available and so I got that phone number and passed it along to Anna as well. 

Anna and Randy looked at the house across the street, the house down the road, and a few others in a different part of town. The biggest house in the price range happened to be the one down the street and they made a verbal commit to the landlady. They moved in on Tuesday of this week and I'm super excited to have them as neighbors. With's Anna's move to the hood, there are now four of us Parker cousins living within a one mile radius of each other. I think it is so crazy and fun that we have all managed to live so close to each other in such an eclectic part of town. Just as Five Points is diverse, so are our personalities and we all fit well in our unique area of town.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Dogsitting Dilemmas - Solved!

I'm heading out of town soon as it is once again time for my annual vacation with my dad. This year we are heading to Washington, D.C., our nation's capital. I haven't been to DC in ages. We went when I was either 10 or 12 which was 1987 or 1989. I honestly can't remember when it was; but, I do remember that I enjoyed it despite the fact I have yet to find a picture of myself smiling on the trip. I'm beginning to think I was a grumpy kid. Anyway, DC has a lot of offer in the forms of museums and monuments and even more so than they did in the 1980s and so I'm looking forward to the trip and I think I will appreciate it a lot more at the age of 38 than I did as a grumpy pre-teen. 

The upcoming trip presented me with a dilemma in regards to Pippa. I didn't want to leave her at the vet's office again this year because as you may recall, that didn't work out so well last year. When I picked her up last year, she had no voice because she had barked the whole time I was gone. I paid extra for her to receive special attention and she was so frazzled when I picked her up, I'm inclined to think she received no special treatment. The Pip is a kind of dog that likes to be around people and also be free and I hate the thought of her being couped up in a crate all day, especially now that she has freedom from the crate at home. So, I have been on a mission to find a solution to the age old question, "What should I do about Pippa?" 

I had a friend who used to stay at my house with The Tide when I went out of town, but she has since gotten married and I doubt she would want to leave her husband and her own dogs to come stay with Pippa; so, I marked her off the list. One of the nurses at my chiropractor's office has kept Pippa for me before, but her dog, Hooch, is very old and probably in the last stages of life and so I marked her off the list too. Since my dad is going with me, I marked him off the list and the girl who stayed at my house and watched Pippa when I went to the Biltmore a few weeks ago couldn't do it so she was marked of the list too. I was basically starting from scratch. 

One of the ladies at my chiropractor's office recommended a friend of hers who does dogsitting in her home. So, I contacted that lady and set up an interview for this past Saturday. I took Pippa to her house to meet her and her dog, Scooter. My first impression was of the backyard and it wasn't that great. Scooter was a poodle but was very dirty and the backyard seemed a little unkempt as well so I was skeptical. She then asked if I wanted to go inside and so I did. The house smelled like animal and was filthy. I have a nose that can smell things a mile away and I thought I might gag while I was there. Thankfully I kept it together. There was pet hair all over the floors and clutter everywhere and dust an inch thick. As someone who dusts every week and vacuums and mops multiple times a week, I was horrified. She invited me to sit down and I politely did, much to my chagrin. Pippa sniffed around and I don't know if her allergies were acting crazy of what, but by the time we left, she had slobber all over her muzzle which usually only happens after she has been running round outside acting a fool. 

Needless to say, I was torn because I certainly didn't want to leave her in a dirty smelly house (even if the people were going to take good care of her) but I was running out of options. Fast forward to Sunday night when I went out to dinner with the Denney's. Mrs. D. and I have birthdays one week apart and her sweet husband had agreed to take us out for dinner to celebrate; but, with the bad weather and conflicting schedules, we haven't been able to set a date until this past Sunday night. We talked about all sorts of things and somewhere along the way, she mentioned that their granddaughter K dog sits for people in their homes. She is in college at UAH and pet sits for extra money. She will stay at your house and will even let the dogs sleep with her. Y'all, it was like a sign from God. I got so excited I almost leaped out of the booth. I got Kelly's number and called her not long after I got home. Thankfully she is available the dates I'm going to be gone and she is going to stay at the house with Pippa and Pippa will be able to stay at home and will have someone to cuddle up to at night. 
Mrs. D. and K are coming by Tuesday night to meet Pippa and ask any questions about routines, etc. 

I'm so happy that this has worked out so well. I hate leaving my house empty for long periods of time and so I'm glad K will be able to stay there and Pippa will be able to stay home too. It could not have worked out any better. 

Monday, March 23, 2015

It's the Official Drink of Rhode Island, Y'all!

A few weeks ago when I was in North Carolina for my weekend getaway to the Biltmore, my friends and I stopped by a grocery store to pick up a few items for breakfast. While we were perusing the dairy section in search of coffee creamer, we came across an intriguing item called Coffee Milk. Lauren and I were the two who were most interested in this concoction and so we bought a quart to try. 

I don't remember if we popped it open that night or waited until breakfast the next morning, but whatever the case, we really liked it and were sad that we had never seen it at home. We assumed our coffee milk days were behind us and that we would look upon that time fondly. 

Well, for whatever reason, I decided to Google coffee milk last week. My original intent was to try and find out if it might be sold in one of the grocery stores nearby and in my search, I discovered that coffee milk is the official drink of Rhode Island and then it made perfect sense as to why I had not yet seen this delicacy in the deep South. I then ended up searching for recipes and came across several, all involving coffee syrup. I don't know about you, but I had never heard of coffee syrup. I did find some on Amazon but it was kind of pricey and so that led me to search for recipes for coffee syrup and in the process I found a recipe for coffee syrup and the proportions needed to make coffee milk. 

Since I had all the ingredients on hand to make both the syrup and the milk, I made this my Saturday morning project. I brewed two cups of coffee, added one cup of sugar and brought it to a boil on the stove top. Then I reduce the heat and let it simmer until it was reduced to about 1 and a half cups. The recipe says this should take about 30 minutes, it took me a little longer. I then removed from the heat, poured into a glass bottle (you can use a Mason jar or whatever you have on hand) and placed in the refrigerator. Once cool, you combine 2-4 Tablespoons of coffee syrup to one cup of cold milk and mix to get coffee milk. 

I think I put a little too much syrup in my glass  because it was a lot sweeter than I remembered it, so in reality, two Tablespoons is going to be plenty. The syrup will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks. It was really easy to make and now we can have coffee milk whenever we want which is a bonus indeed! 

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Prayer, Babies and Gunshots

My crazy busy weekend continued Saturday, starting with the Ladies' Tea at Mayfair. The tea started at 9:00 a.m. and I managed to get a couple of loads of clothes washed before leaving the house that morning. The tea was late getting started because of some technical difficulties; but, we had some ladies who could speak loudly and at least got us started with a prayer before breakfast. The breakfast was catered by "Let's do Lunch" in Decatur and it was really delicious. There was a breakfast casserole (eggs and sausage), some of the most amazing grits I've ever had, biscuits, and a fruit cup. To drink there was fruit ta, water, and coffee. The coffee and fruit tea were both very tasty. 

After we ate breakfast we got underway with a series of prayers, singing, and our first speaker, Linda Goode, who was quite funny. After Linda spoke, the ladies had 30 minutes to visit the different prayer stations before we returned to the gym for tea. While we had tea (and cookies for the sweet eaters), we had another speaker, Janice Greenleaf. Mrs. Greenleaf was also good, but considering she didn't start until noon and she spoke for almost an hour and then breakfast was supposed to be over at noon, I think she probably lost the attention of a lot of people in attendance. I think it would have been much better if the ladies had been given more time to visit the prayer stations, and then we wrapped up with prayer and tea. Good points to remember for next year. Everyone was given cute canisters (for storing tea of course) as a remembrance of the day. 

Once the tea was over, I made a quick stop by the grocery store and then home where I began cooking dinner for my cousin Lauren who had a baby earlier this month. At some point, I took a break in the cooking to check the mail when I noticed that there were a ton of police cars and a firetruck a couple of blocks down the road. This isn't necessarily the most unusual sighting in my neighborhood, but what I did find unusual was that almost everyone on the street was standing out in their front yards looking down the road. This was my first sign that something out of the ordinary was happening. I went in and checked Twitter, but couldn't find anything so just put it out of my mind. 

I left to drive the one mile over to Lauren's about 5:20 p.m. and the road was still blocked so I had to take a detour to get to her house. We ate dinner and visited for a while and I held that sweet baby for an hour or so while we had "family movie night" with G (the four-year old). His choice for the night was "The Croods" and I'm still a little confused about it, probably because I wasn't paying close attention. 

I left Lauren's to head home a little bit before 8:00 p.m. only to discover that the road was still blocked. We had since found out that there was an officer involved shooting and internal affairs and all other sorts of folks were investigating the incident. Apparently the police were called for a domestic dispute and the man came out onto his porch with a gun and officers fired shots and the man dropped the gun. They are either really bad shots or missed on purpose because the man was not injured; but, he was arrested. He apparently made bail though because I saw him outside of the house on Monday evening when I drove by there. 

So, that was my rather interesting Saturday, full of prayer, food, babies, and gunshots. There's never a dull moment in Five Points. 

Monday, March 16, 2015

Decorating and a Movie

Well, it was a super busy weekend for me and I feel like I need another day just to recover. It started at soon as I got off work Friday with a haircut at 5:00 p.m. Thankfully my salon is rather close to work so I didn't have to drive across town or anything. I love going to see m hair stylist as he often has a hilarious story to tell me and we have a big time during our visit. 

After my haircut was over, I went to the church building where I was meeting up with my friend Lauren to set up our table for the Ladies' Prayer Tea for Saturday morning. While I was waiting on her, she called and said she was going to be late because she still needed to run by Target to pick up a couple of things. Since I was just sitting in the parking lot at church (which is close to Target), I volunteered to run by there and just meet her back at the building. I went and picked up some flowers for our table and some Sharpies which were needed for Saturday. It worked out perfectly as we both got back to the church building about the same time. 

Our friend Margaret Ann met up with us as well and it took us about 30 minutes or so to set up our table. Our table was the thankfulness prayer station and we had broken pieces of china (don't worry, the plates, etc. were from thrift stores and already had cracks, etc.) on which the ladies wrote an answered prayer or something for which they are thankful. We laid out the broken pieces of china and Lauren had a chalkboard with our Bible verse on it and Margaret Anne arranged the flowers in the vase and when it was all said and done, it looked nice. It was a lot simpler than some of the other tables, but it still looked great. 

The three of us left the church building and went to Little Rosies to feast on Mexican food. It didn't seem as crowded as I have seen it on other Friday nights, but then it was difficult for us to find a table, so I guess it was rather crowded after all. We took our time eating and then went to the movie theater where we saw the 8:15 p.m. showing of Cinderella. Y'all, 8:15 p.m. is late for me so I wasn't sure if I would even make it through the whole film, but luckily, I did. 

There was a seven minute Frozen episode that aired before the movie came on and previews before that so it was 8:50 before the movie even started. The movie was absolutely wonderful. It followed the Disney animated movie more closely than an other adaptations I have seen. The scenery in the film was gorgeous and the casting was great as well. Lady Rose from Downton Abbey played Cinderella, Helena Bonham Carter was the crazy fairy godmother, the guy who played Rob Stark on  Game of Thrones was Prince Charming, Daisy the kitchen maid from Downton was one of the step sisters, and Cate Blanchett was fabulous as the wicked step mother. I never got bored and the time passed quickly and I loved it from beginning to end. It's great for girls of all ages and stages. There were even a few dads in attendance and I heard no moaning or groaning from any of them, 

When the movie was over, the three of us parted ways and I went home for the first time since I had left that morning. I'm sure Pip was glad I was home, although she had probably rather had some time to play rather than just go straight to bed. It was a fun night to kick off such a busy weekend. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Molding Young Minds

This past weekend, I took a break from "normal" life to chaperone the senior high school spring church retreat, otherwise known as Festivus. I believe I've mentioned a time or two that I'm a Huddle Leader (aka mentor) for the ninth graders at church and since I only see these kids once a month, I wanted to spend a little more time with them in hopes of getting to know them a little better. 

We were scheduled to leave the church building at 4:40, but I got there around 3:15 to help get the registration tables set up and also organize and set up the pizza tables (we had pizza prior to our departure). The kids started arriving around 4:00 and after eating and then cleaning up our mess, we were off to Camp Lee in Anniston, Alabama. I didn't ride the bus to camp, but instead rode with my friend Margaret Anne (who drove) and a couple of our other girlfriends. It was nice to have some time with these friends before the weekend got underway. 

I honestly don't know what time it was when we arrived at camp; but, after arriving, we spent time getting set up and us adult girls spent time moving cabins because we originally bunked down in the wrong cabin. Come to find out, the cabin that was assigned to us only had one working hot water heater so there were two showers available for about 60 girls. The evening ended with a worship session and then we were assigned groups for the Saturday sessions and by the time it was all said and done, it was after midnight before I got to bed. As you can imagine, I was pooped. Unfortunately, the girls from one of the other churches bunked down in our room and so we were separated from our girls the whole weekend. What's worse is that the girls who were in our room were so stikin' rude and loud and I was not happy about it. 

Saturday morning we started with breakfast at 8:30 a.m. I had gotten up around 5:00 a.m. (out of habit) and taken a hot shower and then laid back down until time to get up. We had a morning worship session and then broke off into our groups for three other activities/study/discussion times. We had lunch and then some free time where I napped until I was woken up by a call from my mother (thanks, mother!). 

Saturday evening, there were games, dinner, and a final worship session and then a bonfire to end the night. I opted out of the bonfire and hit the bed early instead. It worked out well because I was able to get to sleep before the loud girls came into our room. 

Sunday morning after breakfast, we had our final worship session for the weekend. The guest speaker for the weekend had wrapped up on Saturday evening; so, Sunday morning was singing and then a wrap up by our own youth minister. After that, we packed up, cleaned up and hit the road towards home. 

It was a fun weekend and I'm glad I went. I got to know some of the kids better which was great, and I am looking forward to continuing to get to know them throughout the coming months and years. 

Me and my cousin Bennett at Festivus

Monday, March 9, 2015

Ice and Rain

Just when I started hoping that we were done with the winter weather, we were hit with a mini ice storm of sorts. It started late Wednesday night with rain and then turned to sleet early Thursday morning. I smartly elected to stay home because it wasn't long before the roads were a solid sheet of ice and I didn't want to wreck, get injured, die or get stuck at my work place for the night. Thankfully, I had the good sense to bring my computer home with me on Wednesday and was able to get some work done while I was at home. 

It sleeted for most of the morning, followed by rain which quickly turned to ice once it hit the ground because of the low temps. When it was all over, I easily had and and come back  inch or more of ice in the yard. Thankfully I didn't lose electricity and I had food on hand so I didn't go hungry either. Truth be told, I actually enjoyed the day at home and was able to get quite a bit of work done, even with Pippa staring at the computer screen. 

Friday my workplace didn't open until 10:00 a.m. and I had already planned to leave at 2:00 p.m. to go on the senior high fall retreat with my church youth group. I went out around 9:15 to warm up the car and remove the ice from the windshield, etc. Being the graceful person I am, I fell and landed on my knee (yes, the one that was operated on just a couple of months ago). Then about 9:40 a.m. I headed out and after slipping and sliding all over the road and seeing three wrecks within a mile of my house, I made the decision to turn around and go back home. I wasn't willing to take the risk to go to work for just four hours. 

Now, after a beautiful weekend, we are stuck with at least five straight days of rain. My yard is already so muddy and I fear there is no end in sight. I am so ready for some sunny days and dry land and nice evenings that are prime for taking a walk. Between all the snow and the continuous rain I can hardly remember what a dry day looks like. Fingers crossed, we'll have some nice spring days and evenings before too long!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Book Review and Giveaway: The Pirate and The Firefly

~~ This Giveaway is now Closed ~~

I have a great children's book to review and giveaway for today's post. The name of the book is "The Pirate and The Firefly" and it was written by Tara McClary Reeves and Amanda Jenkins. 

The book is about a little boy named Oliver who dresses like a pirate and runs with a gang of scalawags (my words, not the authors'). Oliver's friends are often up to no good and try to pressure Oliver, who goes by Ollie, to join in their mischievous adventures. Ollie starts questioning the bad behavior of his supposed friends and talks to his mom about it. The friends start pressuring Ollie into more bad behavior and ask him to "walk the plank" at a birthday party but Ollie doesn't want to do any of these things. 

A firefly named Phineas befriends Ollie and tells Ollie that he should let the Bible be his guide. Phineas reminds me of Jiminy Cricket a bit. Instead of the crew turning Ollie into a bad pirate, he turns the crew into a good gang and they go about helping others. 

The story is based on Psalm 1:1-3 which states, "Blessed is the one who does not walk in the step with the wicked or stand in the way that sinners take or sit in the company of mockers, but whose delight is the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night. That person is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither - whatever they do prospers."

This is a great book to help teach children to make the right decisions and stand up for what is right. It has very colorful and adorable illustrations by Daniel Fernandez and would be a great addition to any child's library. It is available from Amazon as well as other retailers. 

If you are interested in a copy for yourself, just leave a comment on this post. I'll leave the comments open until Sunday evening at 9:00 p.m. Central and the winner will be announced that night. 

Thanks for reading and good luck!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Biltmore Girls Trip - Part Two

On Saturday morning I rose bright and early before any of the other sleeping beauties who were on the trip. Once everyone was up, we got ready and hit the road around 9:00 a.m. (we had an hour plus drive from Lake Lure). We had planned to go to the Farmer's Market in Asheville before we went to the Biltmore. Someone had read online that the Farmer's Market had a deli and that it was super large. We had big expectations for this outing.

When we got to the Farmer's Market, there were hardly any booths open and the deli was closed. However, we didn't leave empty handed. Amber bought some jams and jellies and Leah came away with a basket.

We then headed on in to Asheville and grabbed some lunch at Jimmy John's before making our way to the Biltmore. We all had made our reservations online for 11:45 a.m. which was more or less the time we arrived at the will call to pick up our tickets since the traffic was bumper to bumper going into the estate.

After we got our tickets, we parked and took the tram to the estate and immediately went in for our tour. Most of us got an audio tour which was a good decision since there were no signs about the rooms in the house. The audio tour provided a history of the rooms and the Vanderbilt family and was very interesting.

The Downton Abbey costumes were scattered throughout the tour and placed in various rooms. They were the actual outfits worn in the show and the plaques about the outfits told who wore them and in what season and described what materials, etc. they were made from. Unfortunately, we couldn't take pictures inside the house, so we were't able to photograph the costumes either. There were a couple of costumes at will call and the gift shop, but none of us thought to take a photo at those places.

The house was absolutely gorgeous! I had never been before and was amazed at the grandeur and architecture. It took five years to build the house and still looks incredible to this day. I am constantly amazed at how grand buildings like the Biltmore were built so many years ago without the modern day amenities that we have today.

After the tour of the estate, we perused the gift shop, walked around the grounds and then headed over to the Antler Hill portion of the estate where they have a winery and a farm. We hadn't previously scheduled any tours and some of this part was under construction; so, we didn't stay long, but just walked around for a little while before leaving for the day. We ended the adventure with dinner at a local Asheville restaurant and a trip to Trader Joe's before heading back to Lake Lure for the night.

Sunday morning we got up and got ready and hit the road towards home. We stopped for lunch in Knoxville where we parted ways with Katie who drove back to her home in Murphreesboro while we headed south to Huntsville.

It was such a fun weekend with my friends! The Biltmore was so great and I would love to visit again when I have more time, maybe at Christmas where I hear it is so beautiful with all the Christmas trees and decorations. If you've never been, I would definitely recommend a trip. It's a great weekend getaway.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Biltmore Girls Trip - Part One

I had the privilege of a weekend getaway this past weekend. Some of my favorite girlfriends and I hit the road early Friday morning and headed east to North Carolina for a trip to the Biltmore. I had never been to the Biltmore before, but quite a few friends had told me I needed to go. So, when we found out that the Biltmore was hosting a Downton Abbey costume exhibit, we made plans to attend as soon as we could.

We had originally thought about staying in Gatlinburg for the weekend and driving over to Asheville for the day on Saturday. The parents of one of the girls who went (Amber) had a time share and one of the locations they could choose from was Lake Lure, NC which is about an hour away from the Biltmore and they let us have it for the weekend which was super nice of them.

Four of us left from Huntsville on Friday morning around 8:00 and we met up with our friend Katie in Knoxville for lunch at Chipotle before continuing on to Lake Lure. Amber had directions from the resort and also from Google Maps and she took us in the Google Maps way. In the words of Leah, I perfected the three-point turn that day because we had to turn around and reroute ourselves on more than one occasion. The roads Google Maps took us down were a little frightening at times. Some were not paved, others were not plowed and were basically a solid sheet of ice and snow and all of them were curvy I think it goes without saying that I was thrilled when we reached our destination.

The name of the resort where we stayed was Rumbling Bald - I cannot make this stuff up, y'all. We had a two story condo with plenty of room for the five us us and more. There were two bathrooms, plenty of beds and pull out couches and a kitchen and a kitchenette. It was right on a golf course where I saw no one shooting for par.

Friday after arriving, we got settled in and then looked on Trip Adviser for a place to eat dinner, We left the condo and first found a grocery store where we rented a movie at the Red Box and bought a few things to eat for breakfast the next morning. We then decided to eat dinner at Larkin's on the Lake which was more or less the only restaurant open for miles. The off season is not conducive for a lot of dinner choices.

The dinner was good and hit the spot after a long journey. We then went back to the condo and watched the movie we had chosen earlier and I actually went to bed before it was over as I had seen it before and was tired and could hardly keep my eyes open. It was an enjoyable first day to our weekend getaway.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Review: Lucado's Treasury of Bedtime Prayers

I'm just back home from a weekend visit to the Biltmore which was wonderful and I will certainly write about soon. Today, however, I want to start off the week with a book review. I actually have quite a few books I need to review, so don't be surprised if there's more than a fair share of reviews posted this week. One good thing is that some of them have giveaways as well so be sure and check back throughout the week.

Today's review is of Lucado's Treasury of Bedtime Prayers by Max and Denalyn Lucado. I'm sorry to say I do not have a giveaway for this book as it is absolutely lovely and I wish I had an extra copy for one of you. This book would be absolutely perfect for any toddler or young child in your life to read to them before bed at night. It is a collection of Bible verses and poems (some original by Max and Denalyn) that are sure to warm not only the heart of your child, but your heart as well.

The book is divided into 10 sections which are:

  • Good Morning, God
  • God, You are Great!
  • My Family and Friends
  • In My Play and Through My Day
  • My Mealtime Prayers
  • God Takes Care of Me
  • Teach Me, God
  • Prayers for Special Days
  • Thank You, God!
  • Good Night, God!

In addition to the prayers, poems and scripture, the book has gorgeous illustrations throughout the book which will no doubt make it very appealing to children who pick it up. Prayer is such an important and essential part of being a Christian and there's no better time to start teaching prayer than when children are young and impressionable. I feel like this book would be such a useful aid in helping children understand the importance of prayer. After reading some of the sections from the book, you could encourage your child to pray and help get them in the habit of talking to God daily and throughout the day.

Lucado's Treasury of Bedtime Prayers is available at Amazon for less than $20 and would make a great addition to any child's library.