Catch the Moment: Wk 43

This week’s photos are ALL FALL. I realized what was happening about 2 days in and just kept going with it. As much as I loved being in Oregon and Tennessee this month, we missed their peak times for changing leaves. We didn’t miss it in Indiana though; the trees are ablaze with beautiful shades of red, gold, pink, and orange. There’s still quite a bit of green as well. We’ve had gorgeous fall weather so far up until this week, when Hurricane Patricia’s remnants apparently came to stay for awhile.

295/365: Thursday, October 22nd. I was home with the boys for the remainder of their fall break and we made the most of it with lots of fun activities. Thursday we bought Halloween costumes and picked our pumpkins to carve. 10-22-2015

296/365: Friday, October 23rd. On Friday we went to a bounce house and lunch with friends then later got haircuts and went out for dinner. While we’re driving around, I always point out the prettiest trees. The boys always point out that I won’t stop talking about how pretty the prettiest trees are…haha. That’s got to be better than complaining about how ugly and dead everything looks…coming up right after Christmas. Boo.IMG_7747

297/365: Saturday, October 24th. We did some not-so-fun activities like tile shopping and worked around the house. Dexter requested the Star Wars pumpkin (Ryan carved most of it for him), mine is the bat, and Theo designed the jack-o-lantern with a silly smile. 10-24-2015

298/365: Sunday, October 25th. For this week’s instagram fun #souperbowlsundays, I made THIS Chicken Cordon Bleu soup. It was very good but very heavy. 10-25-2015

299/365: Monday, October 26th. Before the rain started, Ryan carved a final jack-o-lantern on the back porch while the boys played outside. I walked around admiring the bright colors and watched leaves falling steadily in the increasing wind.10-26-2015

300/365: Tuesday, October 27th. Yep, I stood in the falling rain to take this – I needed a pic and I never get tired of this view as we are leaving home and driving down our street.10-27-2015

301/365: Wednesday, October 28th. At one point today, I thought the rain had stopped. The sun was actually peeking through the clouds and I even saw a couple of blue patches in the sky. But as soon as I stepped out of my office to take a quick walk, it started sprinkling again. This morning on the way to school, Dexter asked what happened to our blue sky and why the clouds were covering up the sunshine. It has only been dark and cloudy for 2 days – it’s going to be a long winter!10-28-2015

It’s been a very fall-filled week! Looking forward to Trick or Treating this Saturday (hoping the weather cooperates) and then moving on towards Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yikes! I can’t believe the year is almost over.



Smoky Mountain Getaway

Just 2 nights after we got home from Portland, we were packing up again to head south to Tennessee. We spent Oct. 16-21 with family in the Smoky Mountains as part of the boys’ fall break from school. We’d planned this trip long before the opportunity to go to Portland came up and while it was a little tricky managing 2 trips so close together, it was soooo worth it! We had several days away from home and were home in time for the boys (and me) to unwind before returning to real life.

Friday night, Oct 16: Dexter fell asleep at his regular bedtime (around 830) and slept the rest of the way…then went right back to bed. Crazy! Theo slept for maybe an hour and was ready for bed shortly after we got to my mom’s house as well.IMG_7191

Saturday, Oct 17th. We got to Pigeon Forge around lunch time and had some time to waste afterwards so we browsed the shops at Christmas Place. The boys enjoyed some fudge, ring pops, pressing some pennies, and a free train ride. IMG_7193 IMG_7207 IMG_7210 IMG_7211 IMG_7215 IMG_7217

We got to our cabin around 3 and started settling in. My sister and her family got there a couple of hours later. The front porch with rocking chairs and a swing was a popular hang out.IMG_7245

We went to the grocery then grilled burgers and brats, then spent time just hanging out together. My mom, Ryan’s parents, and my sister and her family all stayed with us at the cabin Saturday night. My sister and her family had to go back home Sunday night because of work and school. I’m very aware of how lucky I am and how unusual it is for my family – the one I was born into and the one I married into – to get along so well and enjoy spending this time together.

Sunday, Oct 18th: A view of the beautiful cabin. We were trying to decide what to do on Sunday. Since all my family lives within an hour of Pigeon Forge, there’s not much they haven’t done. IMG_7260 IMG_7262 IMG_7268

IMG_7271After searching Google and TripAdvisor, I kept coming back to this quirky sounding attraction called Goats on the Roof that I’d never heard of and no one had been to yet. They have goats (yes, on the roof), a gift shop, a mountain coaster, gem mining, and and ice cream shop. Free to get in and look around so we gave it a shot. It was an interesting and fun place. The coaster was kind of expensive but we decided to do it anyway and we were so glad we did. It. Was. Awesome. I don’t know how to explain it any better than the internet did so go HERE if you’re interested.  All the kids enjoyed the mining too.IMG_7279 IMG_7280 IMG_7285 IMG_7288 IMG_7298 IMG_7307 IMG_7315

Did you know you can still buy candy cigarettes? Only they are called “candy sticks” and they are still disgusting. But when they come in a Batman box and cost .99, you go for it. Smoke up, Johnny!IMG_7335 IMG_7344 IMG_7345

Another new-ish place in Pigeon Forge that’s super touristy and fun (what’s not touristy and fun in PF?) is The Island. Lots of shops and restaurants and overall just a nice place to walk around on a pretty day, which is what we were dealing with. Rocking chairs all the way around a big, beautiful fountain. Unique shops. Something for everyone-I think everyone really liked it there. We ate lunch at Margaritaville, which was ridiculously overpriced (what’s not ridiculously overpriced in PF?) but good. IMG_7368 IMG_7373 IMG_7379 IMG_7382 IMG_7396

Theo did this cute ropes course for little kids and really liked it. If I’d been dressed more appropriately for the activity, I would have taken him on the big one. It looked awesome!IMG_7404 IMG_7409

He did great! IMG_7421

Penelope and Dexter were too small for the ropes so they got to ride the Ribbit thingy. Look at those little faces. Pure joy. So cute.IMG_7431

This is a stunningly good photo considering the number of people and the fact that it was taken by a stranger. To his credit though, he was carrying a camera similar to mine, which is why I trusted him in the first place to do a decent job. I love this picture and I LOVE my family!IMG_7463

Penelope, Steve, Cher, Malachi, and Isabella.IMG_7465 IMG_7467

My mom and all of her grandchildren. IMG_7473 IMG_7478

Back at the cabin, it was chili for dinner and games for fun. My sister and her family left after dinner. Early to bed for me, knowing we had a big day at Dollywood the next day. IMG_7488 IMG_7489

Monday, October 19th: Dollywood day! I was a little worried that the park had short operating hours (10-6) but that proved to be more than enough! I couldn’t believe it and I have never seen Dollywood so deserted. I’ve been to Dollywood a lot – we walked onto every ride or maybe had to wait 1 turn. It was fantastic. Dollywood is wonderfully themed and maintained which means a lot coming from someone so obsessed with Disney and their standards of excellence. Dollywood is right up there for me. IMG_7501 IMG_7503 IMG_7507 IMG_7514 IMG_7523 IMG_7534

Other than looking pretty and having cool rides, there’s even more that I love about Dollywood now that I have kids. There are a handful of rides that they are still too small to ride but Ryan and I don’t want to miss. My mom and Ryan’s dad were all about riding while Ryan’s mom browsed through Craftsmans Valley. We were able to take turns riding things while 1 or 2 people stayed with the boys at one of 4 different play areas. They also do the parent/rider switch thing (similar to Disney) but with no lines, it wasn’t necessary. It kept the kids moving and occupied so the person who stayed behind with them wasn’t getting bombarded with a million complaints about being bored. IMG_7543 IMG_7544 IMG_7558 IMG_7567 IMG_7580

We rode every ride, ate a sit-down lunch, and were basically done by 5pm. We milled around until closer to 6 just because it seemed like the right thing to do.

Tuesday, October 20th: Me, Ryan, my mom, and the boys went for a hike up to Laurel Falls in Gatlinburg while Ryan’s parents checked out the Old Mill area and restaurant. We’d planned to eat together but there was construction traffic and the 1.3 mile hike up to the Falls took longer than we thought. It was really fun – I was worried the boys would be super lazy and make it miserable for all of us but it went better than I expected. No complaints on the second half of the hike which was all downhill. If you have to take little kids hiking, that’s definitely the way to do it! Unfortunately I didn’t realize my camera battery was about to die so I only had a chance to snap a handful of photos Tuesday. IMG_7588 IMG_7590

After our hike and a late lunch, we went back to the cabin. We played games and started packing up for the trip home Wednesday.

Wednesday, Oct 21st: Packing up and moving out. When I planned this trip, I was thinking Sat-Wed in Pigeon Forge was more than long enough but there’s so much to do and our time there really went by so quickly. The end of vacation is always a little sad! IMG_7595 hIMG_7598 IMG_7601 IMG_7611 IMG_7615

Until next time, Smoky Mountains!




As promised in my Catch the Moment (Week 41) post, I’m back with an entire post jam-packed with photos and details from our trip to Portland and Cannon Beach, Oregon from Oct 9-13.  Ryan and I had a rare opportunity to get away to the Pacific Northwest when my best friend and her fiancee decided to get married out there while on vacation. It was cost-prohibitive to take the boys anyway but it worked out well that we were able to have a mini-vacation sans littles.

My mom came up Friday to stay with the boys for the weekend (my in-laws and a good friend helped out Sun-Tues). They dropped us off at the airport around 6pm or so and our 745pm flight went smoothly with a short layover in Denver. While we’re on the subject of flying, I just want to say 2 words. Southwest Forever. That is all about that.

We arrived in Portland at 11:10pm Pacific time, which is 2:10am Eastern time. OUCH. Then of course by the time we got our rental car, got to the airbnb that Emily and Lauren had rented, and hung out for a respectable amount of time, it was 430am Eastern time. Having been up since 6am that morning, I was d-o-n-e.

Saturday morning, Emily and I took a few minutes to sneak away and catch up before everyone else in the house got up. We walked a few blocks to one of a bazillion cute coffee shops. The front porch was a nice place to relax and enjoy the fall air before we all went to brunch. IMG_6536 IMG_6539

After brunch and debating over what to do next, we took Ubers to a nearby cultural district and hung out at a local brewpub for awhile as the rain poured down outside. There were lots of selfies and stories and catching ups to take care of.IMG_6547 IMG_6549 IMG_6554 IMG_6558


After the brewery, we took public transportation to the heart of downtown where we stuck out like sore thumbs in our rain boots, rain coats, and umbrellas among a city full of people standing around, chatting casually as the rain gently fell…people riding bikes in the rain…people waiting in line for donuts in the rain. I almost felt silly and over prepared for the Pacific Northwest weather. We ate, drank, and were merry before returning to the airbnb for the night. IMG_6566 IMG_6570

Sunday morning, Ryan and I were up at the crack of dawn – I guess it takes a few days to adjust to that time change – so we ventured out and found the most amazing bagel shop in the history of bread. I’ve never been a bagel enthusiast, but now I am a Portland Bagelworks enthusiast. IMG_6575 IMG_6583 IMG_6588

Afterwards we went to Washington Park and saw the beautiful rose test garden. The thick fog made for a spooky yet gorgeous backdrop. My goal was to hike somewhere to see great views of Portland, but I didn’t realize that the fog wouldn’t clear until around noon. IMG_6593 IMG_6599 IMG_6613 IMG_6616 IMG_6629

We met up with all of our peeps a couple hours later at Multnomah Falls recreational site. we ended up hiking about 10 miles and with every ascent and every turn, the scenery was more and more breathtaking. I would put my camera away in my backpack and within seconds, I’d pull it back out just positive that THIS, no THIS, was the prettiest thing I’d ever seen.IMG_6637 IMG_6653 IMG_6661 IMG_6679 IMG_6680 IMG_6687 IMG_6693 IMG_6713 IMG_6720 IMG_6742 IMG_6745 IMG_6768 IMG_6791 IMG_6792 IMG_6801 IMG_6815

We were starving after our long hike, so we stopped in the adorable town of Troutdale on our way back to Portland and ate at this general store.IMG_6837

Once we arrived back in Portland, I wanted to try one more time for those beautiful views of the city. Google told me to follow the path to Pittock Mansion and we were not disappointed. IMG_6860 IMG_6872

After a long day on our feet, we relaxed back at the house for a couple of hours before having a big group dinner with everyone who had flown to Portland for the wedding.IMG_6912

Monday morning we were checking out of the house and into our hotel so we got up early once again to try to see some more sights before getting ready for the wedding. Surprise, surprise, more eating and hiking. IMG_6947 IMG_6950 IMG_6951 IMG_6952 IMG_6959 IMG_6962

An online friend suggested that we try Salt & Straw and I’m so glad we did. At 10am, there’s no line. 🙂 And the people who work there are super friendly and let us try almost every flavor on the menu. I had the Strawberry Balsamic w/Black Pepper ice cream and Ryan had the special Halloween flavor of the month-Candy Corn. So amazing. Really, everything we ate in Portland was amazing!IMG_6966

We visited the NikeTown store in downtown Portland before checking in at our hotel by the airport and heading an hour and a half west to the Oregon coast.  It was about 45 minutes before the wedding was supposed to start and Emily and Lauren were putting the finishing touches on their wedding day looks. IMG_6987 IMG_7007 IMG_7030 IMG_7032 IMG_7040 IMG_7047 IMG_7051

They had their photographers from 4-6pm so they took a few photos, had the ceremony, and then continued with more photos while some of us toured the beach and others headed on over to a cozy pub where we all had dinner afterwards. I didn’t take many pictures of the ceremony as I wanted to be in the moment (bawling) and knowing that the photogs’ pics would blow mine away anyway.IMG_7059 IMG_7061 IMG_7063 IMG_7079

This beach is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and any place I’ve ever been. It was truly spectacular.IMG_7087 IMG_7089 IMG_7101 IMG_7103

After spending a couple of hours hanging out at the pub in Cannon Beach, we drove back to Portland before having to get up early for our flight home Tuesday.

We did end up getting to the airport early enough to turn in our rental car, get through security, eat breakfast, and browse through some shops. I really like the Portland airport. Everything seemed so easy and smooth, but I guess it helped that we arrived there 2+ hours before our flight. There were a bunch of reports about Southwest having technical problems that delayed flights the day before so I didn’t want to take any chances or be in a rush. Everything worked and both 2+ hour legs of our flight were uneventful and relaxing. IMG_7137 IMG_7149 IMG_7153

The first thing I did when I got home was kiss my boys. I might have kissed them a little extra hard, hoping they’d wake up but they didn’t budge. It felt fantastic to have been away on such a wonderful trip and it felt equally as fantastic to finally be home.

In a nutshell, in case you can’t tell, I loved Portland. I could totally live there. I can’t imagine that the beauty there would ever get old. Maybe the rain would – but we only experienced one dreary day. We were very lucky with the weather the rest of the time. People seemed so much friendlier and more conscientious. I know there’s a local food scene everywhere you go – maybe I need to explore the food in and around Indy more, but oh the food in Portland. I barely saw anyone smoking cigarettes-it seemed like such an active and health-conscious town. It was big but not too big. It felt like Chicago or Vancouver at times without the stress. We never experienced bad traffic or drove through a bad neighborhood. I’m sure our perception of the city is a little rose-colored but from what I know, I’m in love. When can we go back for a longer visit?