Saturday, January 13, 2018

Ripley's Aquarium Of The Smokies: Our #Review #Smokies #SmokyMountains #Gatlinburg #PigeonForge #Vacay #TravelBlogger



One of the highlights of our trip to Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg  was our trip to Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies! If I had to completely and totally honest, this was our favorite part of the trip! I will admit, I wasn't too sure at first... I knew that the boys were going to have a great time at the aquarium, but I didn't think I would. I am more of a "zoo" type of girl, and I honestly expected to be in and out and done within an hour or so.. I mean, it was just fish and stuff, right? 

WRONG! 

I think that I had the most fun of anyone during our trip to the aquarium, believe it or not!  First of all, the building itself is pretty spectacular. Even during the day, when it's not all lit up and cool, it is gorgeous! Just a really cool place! 

We went to the aquarium first thing in the morning on our second day of our trip. It was pretty chilly, around mid forties, but nothing like I was anticipating with snow, etc.. We actually had some tornado warnings, and the parking lot where we parked the car got completely flooded during our visit! Crazy Winter Weather!!! 


Anywho, back to the aquarium. First of all, we picked up our media tickets at the ticket desk. Everyone was so friendly and helpful! It was so nice to be able to chat and relax with the customer service people! Sometimes a review visit is ruined for me before I even begin by rude or just unfriendly service, but not this time! It was such a welcome change! 

I would like to say that this place is absolutely spectacular! It is so nicely done, big and spacious and airy. Not dark and musty like other aquariums I have been to. Like I said before, I had more fun than anyone else! We ended up staying for something crazy like four and a half hours! It's so nicely done, and being late January, the whole place was almost completely deserted, which I have to say that I loved! 




The jellyfish were one of our family's favorite parts! I got some great pictures of them and the boys were just beside themselves in amazement! They really couldn't believe what they were seeing LOL! The only jellyfish they have ever even heard of were from Spongebob, so seeing one up close and personal really did it for them! 



I really thought that perhaps the aquarium's wonderful ratings on TripAdvisor (#1 attraction!! Excellent!!) were overrated... I mean, how cool could an aquarium be? But, I was SO wrong! This place deserves every single award and word of praise! With over 10,000 sea creatures and more than 350 different species, my family really and truly did get a chance to see things that we have never dreamed of! 


Next favorite part? The tunnel! How could you not love a tunnel, with a glass top, and moving floor!? You can see everything in that tunnel,and watching the sharks, turtles, and other amazing creatures swim over your head was really amazing! You can stay on the moving floor and pass through on your own, or if you need to step off and get a closer look, you can do that too! 

The aquarium just keeps right on coming! The giant crabs were another awesome part that the boys really enjoyed as well! I think my sister and I had our own favorite part! There is this really cool shark tank, where you can stick your head up and see a shark up close and personal.. Well, this shark that was in the tank, we aren't sure if he loved us or wanted to eat us, but he really was interested in us. We would go from one side of the tank to the other, and he followed us back and forth and back and forth. It was so funny! I think he probably wanted to eat us, but I will pretend that we loved us and that's why he was hanging out with us! Haha! 

Another one of our favorite parts was the penguins! Who doesn't love penguins!? We spent a good hour at the penguin exhibit, checking them all out and having a great time! Be sure to check out the gift shop on your way out, we got some amazing treasures there that my boys really have enjoyed since our visit! 

I can't believe I underestimated this aquarium! If you have never been, you need to go NOW! You really won't regret it, I promise! I can't tell you much about crowds, but I hear that after 4pm every day is a great time to go... Of course with it being January/tornado/flooding/snowy weather on our trip, we didn't have to worry about crowds haha! 

If you get hungry, there's a great little restaurant inside the aquarium called The Feeding Frenzy! Combos are around $9 for adults, $6 for kids.. Not too pricey considering where you are and what you're doing! You want to also make sure to hang around to touch a stingray in the stingray bay! Divers bring them around every few minutes to make sure everyone gets a turn! 


Here's some more important info: 


Hours: OPEN DAILY 365 Day a Year

January – February: Mon-Thurs 9am to 8pm; Fri-Sun 9am to 10pm
March – Memorial Day: Mon-Thurs 9am to 9pm; Fri-Sun 9am to 10pm
Memorial – Labor Day: Mon-Thurs 9am to 10pm; Fri-Sun 9am to 11pm

Labor Day – New Year’s Day: Mon-Thurs 9am to 9pm; Fri-Sun 9am to 10pm
Adult — from $21.99
Child (3-11) — from $13.99
Children 2 & under — FREE

disclosure: i received complimentary tickets to this attraction in exchange for my honest review. All opinions, as always, are my own! 

Friday, January 12, 2018

Our Stay At The Music Road Inn- Pigeon Forge, TN #Review #PigeonForge #Gatlinburg #Smokies #Vacay #TravelBlogger

Well, now that we are back from vacation and everyone is done throwing up, (more on that later!), I can finally tell you guys a little bit about how it went! In a word-fabulous! We had such a great time, and can't wait to go back again soon! 

We had the privilege of spending our time at the Music Road Inn in Pigeon Forge. The hotel itself was absolutely beautiful, and the people there, even better! The hotel itself is just beautiful, and the lobby looks like something out of a movie set! The giant fireplace just made the whole place feel so warm and cozy, like coming home! Check in was an absolute breeze, and Michelle at the front desk was super helpful and friendly. I have to say that we felt welcome right away, and that is definitely a nice feeling! 

Our room was a standard double queen room, and it was beautiful! My sister decided to come with us, so it was three adults and two kiddos, and the room was plenty big enough for all of us! I have two favorite parts of the room: the first one is the bathroom! I know, I know, that sounds crazy, but really! The bathroom is split off into two parts. One half has the toilet and shower, and the other half has a huge vanity with double sink, bench seat, and huge mirrored closet. I loved that! It was so nice to have room to spread out and even sit down when getting ready, because I sure don't get to do that here at home in our tiny house LOL! 

My other favorite part? The view! We had a waterpark view room, which would have been fabulous in the Summer, to watch everyone on the water slide and in the pool from our balcony, but alas, it was still Winter.. However, the view of the mountains in the background absolutely made my stay! I spent most of my time out on the balcony looking at the view! What a beautiful sight to be able to wake up to every morning! 

The beds in our room were fabulous! They were too tall for my small guy, however, and we had to end up asking for extra pillows and blankets to make him a bed in the floor.. This was after he fell off of the bed like five times in the first hour we were there.. I guess he will just always be my clumsy one lol! But, for everyone else, the beds were great! Just ask my dear sweet hubs, who wanted to sleep til noon everyday! 

We had a great time at the Music Road Inn, and I am so glad that we did decide to go in the Winter, although I had my doubts before we left home... It was so peaceful and quiet there and I bet we probably only encountered ten other guests the entire time! I know this is a big difference from what it is like during the busier times of the year, so I enjoyed the peace and quiet, and the perks of being the only ones around! 

The boys had a blast in the indoor pool (and me in the hot tub LOL!), even though us adults thought it was freeeeeezing! I swear, my kids would swim outside in the snow if there was a pool out there! They just don't care! We really liked the fact that the indoor pool was open 24 hours. It was a great treat to be able to just take Tater down to the pool and leave Bean upstairs with Nanny at night time, and be able to spend some one on one time with him. He hardly ever gets a chance to not have his little brother shoved in his face, so he really reveled in his "alone time" LOL. 


We, of course, also spent a lot of time in the arcade, winning all sorts of prizes. My boys (and hubby too!) all have weaknesses for video games, and arcade games, especially the ones where you win a prize... Needless to say, $15 later, we won Bean a ball, and that is about it. (Hey, I said they like games, not that they are good at them! ha!) Oh, and I can't believe I forgot to mention FREE HBO! I am so cheap, I refuse to pay for both HBO and Showtime at home (got to have that Showtime for Homeland and Dexter!), so I was thrilled to be able to watch HBO :) Ahh, perks of vacation! 

Oh my goodness, I can't forget breakfast! Part of the reason that drew us to the Music Road Inn in the first place was the complimentary breakfast. No one in my crew (except me of course) is a morning person. Getting my three guys up, dressed, and off to breakfast at a restaurant is a real chore. Plus, once I get them to breakfast, I pay for all of these meals that no one eats. I mean really.. Bean wants like a tiny drop of scrambled egg and a piece of bacon, and Tater will eat one piece of toast and a banana. Is that really worth me driving the car to a restaurant, sitting down, ordering, waiting, and all that? I think not. The breakfast here was AWESOME! I had heard about the homemade cinnamon rolls before we even checked in, and yes, they do live up to the hype! I loved the fact that the breakfast room was big enough for a bunch of people,and you didn't have to feel crowded and claustrophobia didn't set in! I give breakfast a definite approval here, and that is a big deal coming from my crew! 

I have to say, we really enjoyed our stay at the Music Road Inn, and I especially enjoyed the great job that the maid service did on our rooms while we were there. Super clean, all the time!  Our initial plan was to check out Music Road this time, and then try out a different hotel when we come back during the Summer months, but I really think after our experience there this time, that this will be our new home away from home when we come to The Smokies. I don't even think we need to try to search for another hotel. The staff at Music Road Inn was so nice and really made us feel welcome, I don't ever want to go anywhere else! I can't wait to come back in the Summer when we can swim in the outdoor pool and check out the water slide! (I don't know what I'm talking about, I will be in lazy river for the duration of the next trip, watch and see!) 

I do wish I would have gotten a few more pictures of our room, though. I had big plans to do a bunch of photos of the whole hotel on Saturday morning before we were heading out, but... we had an issue that involved my oldest son catching the flu and throwing up on every tourist attraction in the state of Tennessee (Okay, I am exaggerating, but only a little!) Needless to say, when coupled with the impending Snowstorm Of Doom that was hitting later in the day on Saturday,we decided it would be best to just head on home before things got worse. So, I am going to post a few pictures of Music Road Inn from their website too, just so you can see the things I missed! 

If you are looking for a real family friendly hotel in the Smokies, Music Road Inn should be the one that you pick! I know how happy I am with our stay, and my family really had a great time! If you are interested in checking out their website for yourself, you can click here to go there directly. Or, you can be sure to follow Music Road Inn on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news, discounts, and promotions! Thanks again, Music Road Inn staff, and we will be seeing you again real soon! 

We received a complimentary stay in exchange for this post. However, all views, thoughts and opinions are 100% our own. 

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

How To Have An Awesome Baby Shower. For Cheap. #Baby #BabyShower #Games #Party #Shower #CheapFun



Today I'm going to tell you how to have an awesome baby shower. *Your results may vary.*

My first advice would be, do not wear THIS shirt. 

Now that you have that down, let's go on. 

1. LOCATION. Location is important. We kind of ran out of time and opportunity when planning my baby shower, so by the time we got serious about planning it, all our locations were already full. So, we had my baby shower at my sister's townhouse. It was very cramped and crowded, but we had a great time! And it was free to have it there. Definite Plus. 

So, start early if you want a certain location! For free or cheap locations, try your local parks, a friend's backyard, a church, or check with your local Chamber of Commerce. Rule of thumb, though: Start early! 

2. DECORATIONS.  There are SO many cute baby shower decorations, you could spend your entire budget on that in no time! But, you don't have to... We went online and found a few really cute things to order, to make a certain "theme." These are some of the things we found online below. I would recommend checking out the images below:




After we ordered a few things, we bought everything else from the dollar store in the same solid colors. It was much cheaper that way, and we still had a "theme". 


Here's another one of my favorite baby shower decorations: hang baby clothes and socks on a clothesline, and use it for a decoration! This is super cheap and cute. We just used clothes that I had already bought for the baby, so it didn't cost anything! Everybody really loved this idea! You can totally browse Pinterest for more baby shower DIY decorating ideas!

Another thing we did, but forgot to take pictures of: we put water in old baby bottles and used them as balloon weights. It was really cute, and also FREE! Bonus points if you tint the water pink or blue :) 

3. FOOD. Perhaps, for this fat girl, the most important part! We just made a lot of little "snacky" type things, so everybody could just eat whatever. We're talking sub sandwiches, dips, veggie trays, fruit kabobs.. Nothing hard to put together, and nothing expensive. There are literally thousands of Pinterest ideas out there, so I am sure you will come up with something exciting! If you would like to check out my other post on a Complete Baby Shower/ Party Menu for Under $100, click that link! 




Okay, Dammit, now you know Bean's real name. But don't EVER tell, k?

Here is our blue ducky punch, also a big hit!  

It's so easy and cheap, you won't believe it!
Here's how to make it:

Baby Shower Duck Punch: 

1 bottle (container/jar, IDK what to call it) Blue Hawaiian Punch
1 Two Liter of Sprite or Seven Up
Vanilla Ice Cream Scoops
Ducks, of course! 

Pour the Sprite and Hawaiian Punch together. Float several (8-10) scoops of ice cream on top. The ice cream will melt and have this bubbly, cloudy effect. Don't forget to add your ducks to the top! You can use Pink or Red Hawaiian punch instead if you are looking for a pink duck punch for a girl baby shower. :) 


4. GAMES. Well, you probably already know that almost everyone hates baby shower games. But, you still have to have SOMETHING. We tried really hard to come up with shower games that were not overdone, and not embarrassing for anyone, like the chocolate diaper poop game, or drinking from a baby bottle game. Those are not fun for everyone! Here's what we did at my shower;

*Candy Game* this one was a little cheesy, but overall pretty cute. You print out a list of clues, and then everyone has to write down the candy that is associated with the clue. Here are some of them:

Time Alone After Baby= Zero

Mom's Tummy After Baby= Jelly Belly

You hope the OB doesn't have= Butterfingers

Hospital Bills=100 Grand

Breastfeeding=Milky Way

Contractions= Now & Later

Some of these were easy, some were super hard! Click here to find the complete list.

*PlayDough Babies* 
This one was probably my favorite! At the beginning of opening presents time, everyone gets a little ball of Play Dough and a toothpick. Everyone has to make a baby out of Play Dough and nothing else.  This is good because it keeps everyone from getting bored. The mommy to be gets to judge the best baby at the end of the shower. Here are some pics from our Play Dough babies:



This was so funny! Some really looked like babies, some like frogs, and some like, well.. balls of play dough! Don't forget, with this game, the mom to be is supposed to judge all the babies and pick the one she likes best for the winner! :)

*Paper Sack Game*
Also a very cheap one. Take a certain number of  brown paper lunch sacks and put one baby item inside each. Some of the things we did were diaper, sock, bottle, pacifier, hairbrush, rubber duck, etc.. Staple the bags closed. Now have everyone pass the bags around without looking inside, feeling to see what they think it inside the bag, and writing down their guess. This one was pretty cute too. Bonus that the mom to be gets to keep all of the props that were inside the bag :)




**ETC.** 
Another thing we did at my shower, which was REALLY helpful was to include on the invitation for everyone to bring a package of diaper to be included in a prize drawing. We put everyone's name in a hat, and drew a name out. That person got a $25.00 restaurant gift card. Everyone really liked this. The person who won got their money back for buying  the diapers, and we got enough diapers to last 2+ months! 

I've never done favors at a baby shower, just the prizes for the games, but there are so many cute things you could do.



*FUN* 
My main advice for your baby shower is to just have fun. Try not to stress about details. The people who are at your baby shower are there because they love you and care about you, not because they want to see how much money you spent. Take lots of pictures and enjoy your day! (Also, if any of you are wondering about great supplements and vitamins to help increase your chances of getting pregnant, or just staying healthy in general, you can read more about that by clicking here!)





Monday, January 8, 2018

Back In the Game! $10 PayPal Cash Giveaway! Ends 1/31/18 #Giveaway #PayPal #Cash #Win


Hey yall! If you read my previous post,  you know that I recently quit my real job to stay at home with my babies and focus on my blog full time, as well as take on more freelance and work from home gigs. I am so excited about this chance to change my life and also life for my kiddos, but I am also so very nervous! 

But today, we are throwing those nerves out the window, and we are celebrating the exciting opportunities that are coming our way! 

We are going to celebrate with a giveaway! We will be giving away $10 PayPal Cash this month to celebrate getting back into the blogging game! I'd love to have all of you enter, and I'd love to have all of you come back here to help me on my journey and let me share my life with you! 

Want to win the cash? Follow the instructions below for how to enter! 


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Guys, I Did A Thing. #Blogging #Comeback #JobLoss


Guys. I need to talk to you. 

You know I don't have like "people" that I talk to. 

I don't have a mom, I don't have a ton of friends. It's mainly just me, and my guy. And my kids. 

And Y'all. Y'all are always here. 

That's why I'm here. To tell you guys something. 

I did a thing, guys. 

A scary thing. A potentially bad thing. A potentially life changing, life altering thing. 

But also, a potentially great thing. 

A thing that could change all the things going forward. And could change my life. 

It could change life for my kids, and get me out of this hole I have been in for most of my life. 

I quit my job guys. 

Yep, I just quit it. 

You know how you have one of those like "epiphany" like out of bodyish almost moments? 

Yeah, I hadn't either. Til last week.

And I stood there. At my job. The same one I have been at since I was 16 years old. (Yes, that is 15 years. I am aware of this). 

Waiting tables, doing the same things I have been doing every day of my life. 

Getting talked to in ways that no human should ever be talked to. 

Getting talked ABOUT in ways that no human should ever be talked about. 

Dreading each and every day of waking up and going there.

Barely making enough money to pay the very, very minimal bills that my income needs to pay at this point. 

And, really, yall, it was like an out of body experience. As stupid as that sounds. 

I was done. I had had enough, and I didn't even think I could get out of there fast enough. It was almost like I was physically sick. 

So, that was it. 

I quit my job. 

And here I am. 

My wonderful boyfriend, of course, is the most supportive man on the face of the planet. All he said was "it's about time". 
When I started applying for jobs, he stopped me. 

And he turned me back to this laptop. 

He knows how much I love blogging. 

He knows how much I love you guys.

I have had this blog for eight years now, since before my little baby Bean was born. Now, hes getting ready to go into third grade. 

This blog has given myself, my family, some amazing opportunities that we wouldn't otherwise have. 

However, in the past few years, I have put it on the back burner. Almost to the point of being nonexistent. 

It simply wasn't important anymore. Work was important. Getting up and getting out of the house was important. Paying the bills was important. The rat race was important. 

I lost it guys, I lost my passion for what I love to do, and I lost my love for blogging. 
I want it back. I want it back so bad. I want to get it all back to where I was before. 
My wonderful boyfriend has my back. He handed me my laptop and told me this is the job I need to be doing. A job I love, a job where I am at home with our four kids, where I'm not standing on my feet all day, where the stress isn't literally killing me. 
Me, I'm not so sure. I've never believed in myself worth a shit. So, can I do this? Can I make blogging my full time real life job? Idk. But I'm going to give it a damn good shot.

I'm going to try my very hardest and see what I can make of this blog. I'm going to give it my all. I'm going to work it morning, noon and night. I'm going to network. I'm going to grow my social media. I'm going back to my real life posts. I'm going to share my life with you guys. I'm going to make something of this, and of myself. 

And I'd be honored if you would come along for the ride. I know I haven't been around much, I know a lot of you have probably given up on me. But, if you have it in your heart, give me another chance. Give me a chance to show you how important this blog and my family are to me. 

If you are a fan, that hasn't visited my blog in awhile, come back and see me. Give me another chance. If you are a client or a company that I have worked with, and you have also given up on me, give me one more try to make it right. Let me show you guys exactly what I can do! 

I'm excited to take this journey with you guys. Thanks for all of the love and support. It means more than you will ever know! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

#TBT ThrowBack Post: The Best Day Ever: Dollywood- Pigeon Forge, TN! #Smokies #Dollywood #DollyParton #SmokyMountains #Vacay #TravelBlogger

*With this never ending winter we've been having, our thoughts have been drifting to vacation, and our most favorite place on earth- The Smoky Mountains of Tennessee! I thought this would be a perfect time to revisit one of our favorite old posts- our review of Dollywood! Enjoy!*

One of our favorite things that we have gotten to do on this trip, has been our visit to Dollywood, hands down! We are a theme park family by nature, and would spend just about every summer weekend at a different theme or water park if we had the choice, but we don't get to theme park it up nearly as often as we would like! So, when our chance came to visit Dollywood, we were thrilled! It turned out to be, hands down, our favorite theme park we've ever visited, and that says a lot! 

We arrived at Dollywood as soon as they opened for the day, and when it was time for them to close up, we still weren't done for the day! We could definitely have spent two days there! The entire place has a "country fair" type theme, and I love that the whole place sort of just "goes together"! It is very homey, and has a very welcoming atmosphere! What more could you ask for than a HUGE theme park that feels like a down home country fair? It's perfect! 

Okay, one thing you're going to have to know... When you're at Dollywood, you're not just there for the rides! You're there for the shopping and you're there for the food too! It's like a package deal! Aunt Granny's All You Care To Eat Buffet is a MUST STOP, but be warned, you'll be stuffed to the brim when you leave! We also ate a bite at the Red's Drive In, which is an adorable 50's style diner, and the boys loved it there! Make sure to stop by Miss Lillian's Chicken House, even if you don't eat there, for a chance to meet Miss Lillian, one of Dollywood's most famous faces! 

The rides are great, we had so much fun! My oldest son and my hubby are the "thrill seekers" in the group, and they like to ride the big coasters and the scary thrill rides. My little Bean and me, however, we are a little more laid back, and we like small, easy going rides, walking around, and snacking! Well, this was no problem, because Dollywood had something for everyone, and plenty of things that we could all ride together and have a great time! We really made some amazing family memories here, and I can't wait to come back every year from now on to build on those wonderful memories that we made! 

My boys didn't get a chance to ride Wild Eagle, and they were very disappointed, but there was some sort of issue with bees (!?!?), so I don't think they would have wanted to ride it like that anyway! They did however, get the first seat on the wooden roller coaster, Thunderhead, and my big guy was absolutely petrified! After he got out of there though, he said it was the most awesome thing ever! He was also thrilled that he got to ride the Mystery Mine.. He had been watching YouTube videos of that coaster for MONTHS before our trip, and it was his one "MUST DO" on our visit! 

I have to say that I think the Dollywood Express was the highlight of our trip! My boys had never been on a real train before, so a steam locomotive was a real treat! They were completely in awe, and I was too! We really had a great time on our trip, everything was so homey there and we felt so comfortable, never rushed, and never bothered. Every staff member that we came into contact with were so professional and so genuinely kind, it was so nice to see! We will, without a doubt, be heading back to Dollywood next year, so that we can check out the things that we missed and make some more family memories! 



Things To Know Before You Go: 
  • If you have any food allergies, just let the staff know, and they will accommodate you, no problems at all! Don't forget to pack plenty of hiking snacks
  • Near the Market Square area on Showstreet, there is a Centralized Measuring Area where your kiddos can get measured and receive a wristband, so they will know what they are tall enough to ride without standing in line- this is great and saves LOTS of tears! 
  • Parent Swap is awesome! If you have a big kid, and smaller kids (or kid!), one parent can ride, and the other can wait with the little ones. Then the other parent can ride with the bigger kid again, without waiting in line! A GREAT option to make sure that both parents get quality time with their kids on the rides! This saved us SO much time, and everyone was SO helpful! 
  • If you think you'll be heading to Dollywood in the afternoon, here's a GREAT deal for you!! If you enter Dollywood after 3pm, you get in the next day for FREE!!! That's right, FREE!!! Nothing better than that, and a great way to get extra fun hours without paying big money!! 
  • If you buy something at the shops, you don't have to lug it around all day! The Package Pickup service allows you to buy whatever you want throughout the park, and then have all of your packages delivered to the Dollywood Emporium for pickup at the end of the day. A great way to keep from carrying a bunch of stuff around all day! 
Bottom line, if you are heading to the Smokies, you need to take an extra day and hang out at Dollywood! Don't miss it for anything, or you will be very sorry! If you want to find out more info about Dollywood and plan your trip, check out their website HERE

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