Thursday, July 31, 2014

Unicoi saves the day!

Following our somewhat disappointing visit to Helen, GA, we decided to venture a little further and check out Unicoi State Park. More specifically, we wanted to see Anna Ruby Falls.

It was actually raining during our hike up to the falls so I didn't get a ton of pictures. Something about not wanting to get my camera wet since I can't afford to replace it was at the forefront of my mind. I did manage a couple of shots while standing under Craig's umbrella. Totally worth it. Even overcast and wet, the place was gorgeous. Bonus points for the fact that since it was raining we had the place practically to ourselves.

None of us are sweet enough to melt so we weren't extremely worried about the droplets. In fact, it was kind of refreshing.

The falls are actually part of a river system that extends from northern Georgia down to Florida. This particular section is a 150 foot drop, with a couple of shorter falls before and after this one. Unfortunately, the link that I provided at the top of this post doesn't give these specifics, but there was a park ranger stationed on the viewing deck and gave us the 411 on it between laughing at Canon busting his behind every couple of seconds. More on that in a minute.

The rain had made the viewing deck pretty slippery and Canon decided he wanted to sing and dance in the rain. Like mother, like son. Since we were the only visitors around, we thought it was more than ok and let him wear himself out. Boy, did he. He ran and jumped and fell and slid and spinned to his heart's content. He played so hard that he fell asleep within roughly 2.3 seconds after settling back in the car. Thanks, Anna Ruby Falls, for a quiet ride home!

 Upon leaving the park, we came across this sign from days gone by and we not-so-secretly lusted after the gas prices that have since ceased to be. RIP affordable gas. You were under-appreciated then, but we now long for your return.

Even with the rain, our trip to Unicoi redeemed our otherwise 'bleh' trip and I am anxious to go back and explore again. Mainly to take more pictures, of course, but I am sure the boys won't mind having another adventure.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wanderlust Wednesday

I stumbled upon this list of 100 Trips You Must Take In Your Lifetime according to Business Insider. Of course, being the obsessive stalker of all things travel, I had to take a look and well...they are right. You must see these, and oh so much more. In any case, I am adding a few events and destinations to my wanderlist. Who am I kidding?! Everything on this list is being copied/pasted to mine. 

A few of the must-do's on the list include:

Feel Inspired by Saint Basil's Cathedral in Moscow's Red Square

Marvel at the majestic scenery in Torres Del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile

Navigate the backwaters of Kerala, India on a houseboat

Navigate through icebergs on a cruise to Antarctica

Sleep in an ice hotel. There's one in Quebec, Canada and another in Jukkasjrvi, Sweden

Trek to the Salarde Uyuni, the massive salt flat in Bolivia.

So yeah, just go ahead and add everything on this list to my list. The ones that weren't already there, anyway. I'm looking at you, Antarctica.

Go check out the list and tell me which locations have you lusting to wander these days.

**All photos were taken from the Business Insider website and are definitely not my own. However, I fully intend to take some shots of these places when I visit, so there's that.*

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Put this one in the 'eh' column

Upon hearing that we were moving to Marietta, GA, countless people implored us to visit Helen once we arrived. It is a quaint German town, they said. It is so charming with its authentic side streets, street musicians, and architecture, they said. You will feel as if you have been transported to Western Europe, they said. 

Well, I am here to tell you - they were wrong.

I mean, I haven't actually been to Germany, but I have now been to Helen, GA and if that is an authentic representation of that country, then I don't really want to go. Not true, Germany, I totally wanna visit you and soak in your European-ness. 

That is now a word.

The thing about Helen is that while the architecture and food may be a good representation of the German/Austrian culture, the sheer consumerism is all American. Everywhere you look there are souvenir shops peddling SEC football-themed woodwork, blown-glass Mickey Mouse figurines, and lone wolf t-shirts. Sure there is the occasional true-to-the-point European shop - and those are delightful - but the bombardment of  neon green and pink inter-tubes floating down the river in the middle of the town sort of take away from the feeling that I think they were trying to invoke upon building this little -ahem - "gem".

Still the flowers were beautiful little pops of color, set against the brown and white buildings.

Please note : while pops of color from flowers is absolutely welcome and desired, the floating devices are not. Flowers are NATURAL, after all, while people floating in huge donuts down a lazy river are definitely not.

Like any good little American consumer, we searched our Around Me app on our phones to find the most "authentic German food" for lunch. The Old Bavarian Inn was recommended so we stepped in to find that we had the place basically to ourselves.

It was a charming restaurant, complete with an accordianist who sang a song for Canon. He used his name in it and everything. I don't think a bigger grin could have come on that four year old's face. Again, we were the only patrons in this establishment at the time.

Neither Craig nor I are big on German food, but when in Germany...errr, Helen. So we ordered some German beers (excellent), a huge pretzel for an appetizer (amazing) and some random dishes that were recommended by our lovely waitress. At least the beer and pretzels were good. Our original standings on German food remains. At least until we taste the real thing in the real country. Still, the restaurant itself was our favorite part of the town. We had so much fun interacting with the musician and our waitress, who of course was dressed in a traditional dirndl. Not the sexy kind. Naturally.

After leaving our meal, and in complete buyer's remorse for spending a small fortune on food that we didn't necessarily love, we passed this place, at which time both Craig and I stopped and cursed the moon and stars that we didn't see it sooner. I mean, seriously. Fried Cheese Cafe?! Really?! I would have died and gone to Heaven in there. We will be making the trek back to tourist-trap Hel...en just to eat here one day.

Despite our disappointment with the town, we had a wonderful time with each other.

Canon is still working on his camera skillz. Here he is cutting off his dad's head...again. #shortieforthewin

As I said before, the flowers were really beautiful. Maybe it was the drab backdrop of the buildings or the overcast and rainy skies, but they really stood out that day.

I know I sound really harsh about this place and I probably shouldn't because the architecture alone is worth a look. There were just so many people and I felt like I was in just another random tourist trap instead of a well-kept secret as I had imagined it would be.

Can't win 'em all, Georgia.

Well, actually we continued our journey that day and this great state redeemed itself very quickly. I will share those findings with you soon!

Monday, July 28, 2014

A Week with Grandmama

When I was a child, my brother and I would spend a week with our grandparents every summer to attend Vacation Bible School at their church. Those weeks were spent hiking their many acres, climbing trees, baking goodies, and playing with cousins. As soon as we had Canon four years ago, Grandmama began asking when he could come for VBS. This year, he was finally old enough to attend and no one was more excited than me to spend the week in Reform.

VBS was held in the evening every day so we spent our days doing the things that I did as a child. We explored our surroundings.

Craig stayed the first weekend with us. The weather was beautiful so we pulled out the slip 'n' slide. It was Canon's first time to try it out so Craig had to show him  the best way to maneuver down the slide.

When talking him through the correct methods didn't work...

...he took to demonstration.

When the pupil decided he was ready, he went for it. He ran as fast as he could and dove...and went exactly one foot down the slide so Daddy came to the rescue and pushed him the rest of the way.

Once Craig left for the week, Canon was able to show off his mad slip 'n' slide skillz to his cousins.

We encountered strange creatures while playing in the dirt.

 We ate fresh veggies and fruits from neighboring farms and gardens. These green beans came from my uncle's garden and they were the absolute best beans I have ever eaten.

Fresh blueberries from Grandmama's garden are the best. We picked gallons of them and kept some. The rest were eaten as we were pulling them from the bushes.

Spending the week with Grandmama was such an amazing experience. I am so thankful that Canon got the opportunity to spend that time with her and with his cousins. Not gonna lie - it was amazing for me too.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Laughter, Love, and Light Creatures

After spending the evening of July 4th witnessing a wizardly battle of good vs. evil playing with sparklers, we packed up and headed to hang with my in-laws' for a while. We decided to head back down to the bay so we could play in the water some more. 

*It should be noted that we played in the water more during this trip than we ever did when we lived down there. We can only assume it's because we were "on vacation" and wanted to take advantage of  the amenities that we no longer live near. Weird, I know. Moving on.*

My father-in-law recently purchased a Jeep Wrangler and Canon was dying to ride in it, so the three of us took it down to the water. As you can see, Canon thought he was hot stuff in a vehicle that was completely open. 

We had a blast once again splashing and swimming whilst spending time with more family. Everyone, and I mean everyone, joined in the festivities.

After spending a few hours playing, we headed back to their house but not before stopping at a place that holds special meaning to us. Craig and I said our "I do's" in this very spot in 2007. I know. We're sappy. Sue us. Canon's getting pretty good at taking our picture though, don't you think?

After arriving back at the house, we ate and played the Wii for a while.

Sidebar: Heading soccer balls on the Wii Fit is much harder than you think. Take note of flying shoes and pandas for they shall inhibit your score.

Laughter and drinks ensued. Then, of course, we decided to play with sparklers some more. Canon was feeling a little braver - not much but a little - and wanted to show his grandparents what he could do.

He was so proud of himself for doing this, but would drop each sparkler on the driveway before it finished, well, sparkling. 

Normally I would stomp them out pretty quickly, but I did try to capture one and it reminds me of a creature of light. Weird? Yeah, probably, but hey that's me.

*Sidenote: Canon just walked up and saw this. He immediately exclaimed "what is that?! is it a fairy?!" So, see? A creature of I said. 

Our Independence Day weekend was full of family and fun and we couldn't have asked for a better time.

So how did you celebrate our country's independence? If you aren't in the US, never fret. I'd love to hear how you like to spend your weekends!