Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Smokey Mountains

We returned home from our trip to the Smokies on Wednesday.  We had a fantastic vacation that went by way to quickly.  The Smokies really are magical.
We stayed in an amazing cabin in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee with Nick's mom, dad and sister.  I had never been to this area of the country, so it was really exciting going somewhere new.  The Pigeonforge/Gatlinburg area was completely different than what I was expecting and very different from places we normally choose to visit.  It was totally crazy and fun with a strip similar to Myrtle Beach but it seemed larger in scale.  There were putt-putt golf courses, extreme rides, mini theme parks and go cart race tracks, restaurants of every style, outlets, bizarre attractions and museums every square inch of the strip.  It was totally packed with people having fun!  And normal people. Not wealthy, upscale, privlaged individuals... just down to earth, NORMAL people. Everything was totally campy, but you could really spend a week there and not see everything!  
The Smokies were beautiful.  We enjoyed a ride to Cade's Cove in Smokey Mountain National Park.  The creeks were laced with pretty little falls and at the Cove the mountain views were in abundance.  Unfortunately people were in abundance as well.  The 9 mile loop took almost 2 hours because of the large amount of cars stopping at every twig swaying in the forest.  And a single deer held up traffic for a mile or so!!  Holy cow! It was a little insane.  But it was very pretty none the less.
One of the highlights was the above Old Mill Restaurant and the shopping area that surrounded it. We found an amazing pottery shop there that spilled over with beautifully glazed vases, bowls and mugs.  And the restaurant was devine.  Best meal I have had in ages!  We also really had a blast at Dollywood!  It was the least campy thing in Pigeon Forge for sure, and the landscaping was beautiful!  There were fountains everywhere and sluices from old mountain town-themed buildings.  The kiddie area was packed with rides and there is one of a few remaining coal-powered train engines that took us for a scenic ride up the mountain.  The kids looooved the kiddie roller coaster and we all enjoyed a trip on the white water rapid ride.... where of course Isabel got completely drenched. The Dixie Stampede was also very fun! The kids loved every moment of it... even Kieran.  The bluegrass at the pre-show was stellar!  All the horses and riders were totally amazing!  There were a ton of surprises in the show and even "princesses" of sorts.

After our 4-night stay in the Pigeon Forge area, we headed over the mountains and through the woods to Mingo Falls on the Cherokee Indian Reservation.  Supposedly these are the tallest falls in the smokies, and the picture just doesn't do justice to how pretty they were. 

After Cherokee things went a little downhill when we headed into no-man's land to Hot Springs, North Carolina.  We had never been there before, and the drive to get there was pretty frightening.  Not only was it completely desolate in places, but we took this bizarre road that would go from two lanes to one lane with railroad tracks on one side and a river on the other. It was soooo scary!  Thankfully no trains or cars came or we may have ended up in the river. 

Hot Springs was very beautiful, but the rustic cabin we rented was beyond tiny!  There were three stories of bunks and while the kids loved it, the space was way too small to do anything but sleep.  So we enjoyed a walk by the river and catching fireflies until bedtime.

Our last full day was spent enjoying Black Mountain, North Carolina and the lovely creek-park beside Montreat.  I enjoyed all the artsy shops in the small, perfect town while Nick got some work done at the Dripolator.  I could totally live there.  We spent the evening in Asheville exploring different areas and ended up at the Mellow Mushroom for a perfect outdoor dinner of yummy pizza!!! It was a perfect day.  And we drove home the next day. After another night in the tiny cabin I was soo glad to be home in my own bed with some new fabric, some pretty handmade coffee mugs and a renewed love for our own tiny cottage.  And now that our trip is over, I feel like we can kick back and enjoy the rest of our summer! Bring on the sunshine and watermelon!  

Monday, June 11, 2012

Dolly dresses and diapers

 So a few years ago Anastasia had been gifted with an American Girl Bitty Baby doll that only recently becamse a well-loved member of our family.  For the past few months now, Isabel has been begging me for a Bitty Baby too which I told her she might get for her birthday in October.  Well, Isabel's wishing must have been heard by some little flea market fairies because on Saturday wee found a little blonde Bitty Baby for $3.  $3 DOLLARS!!!  I have never seen my little red head more happy!!! In fact this baby hasn't left her side for the past 2 days! The only issues were that there was a little, light green permanent marker line on the dolls nose and she had no clothes. From 2 feet away you wouldn't notice the marker but it was there. Isabel didn't mind but thanks to a Magic Eraser and a lot of scrubbing by Isabel, this doll is as good as new! And I made her some clothes:
 Anastasia begged me to make matching dresses for their dolls like the ones I had made them! Thankfully, I had just enough fabric to pull something together.  I didn't use a pattern... so they are a little funky-fitted, but that is okay!  Little girls don't mind imperfections.
 Anastasis also wanted me to take a picture of her and her doll.  So there ya go.
 And I made little matching cloth diapers and wipes and a wipe case from the tutorial here.  These were sooooo easy and quick and a perfect way to use up larger fabric scraps!
AND as if that wasn't enough I finished up my evening with a pair of pajama pants for myself from a vintage sheet.  As you can see, I had a lot of help!  In the end I have an amazingly comfortable, cute pair of pajama pants that cost me less than $1.  I still have quite a bit of sheet left... so I see some matching nightwear for kiddies coming soon! Oh Binge sewing is the best!!! Only I should be binge-packing for our roadtrip!! YIKES!

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Pretty Fairytale Dresses

Once in a while, right in the middle of an ordinary life,
love gives us
     a  fairytale...
 Its been so very long since I have sewn anything more than pants or a skirt.  This week we finally laid low and enjoyed a week at home after a month of excitement. So I finally had a little extra time here and there to piece these little dresses together!
 Excuse the bizarre facial expressions and wild hair! I was trying to grab these pictures while chasing an 18 month old around the yard, and bribing my children with lollipops! I was lucky to get any pictures at all!
 I used my absolute favorite pattern that I always use: the Portobello Pixie "Claire" pattern. I used a bright blend of Woodland Friends for Riley Blake, Amy Butler's Lark, and Apple of my Eye by Amanda Herring (the yellow at the bottom).   
 To say my girls love them would be an understatement. I had to stop the twirling just to snap these pictures.  They ran around outside twirling together all afternoon... like little fair maidens in the Springtime.
 And they did some swinging, and singing.
 I have another dress in my mind to start on as well! I find I now dedicate Kieran's naps to sewing.  I read in one of Dr. Sears books many years ago, that mamas should spend nap time doing something they really enjoy and not doing housework or some other form of drudgery. It has taken me 3 kids to really take that to heart, but now I relish every moment Kieran sleeps... because it means I can whisk myself away into my craft room and make beautiful things. I try to set the girls up with a craft or movie and use that time to recharge for the rest of the day. Kieran has been such a handful lately, but I know this too shall pass. :)
Oh these girls, their handmade dresses, the curls, and the holding hands melt my heart a thousand times over. We mothers have the best job in the entire world...  even if we only get a few naps worth of time to ourselves.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

lightning and ballerinas

 We had another fantastic, yet busy weekend last weekend! My brother Andy came to town for a quick visit before heading off to Colorado, Wyoming, and then a quick little 4-month hike along the Pacfic Crest Trail in California.  He just finished the very CRAZY and not-so-well-known Hayduke trail through beautiful canyons in the desert. Yes, the desert. Where people are scarce and water is scarcer.  He is a little bit on the crazy side I suppose... but who wants to be normal anyway?  You can read his trail journal from the Hayduke Trail here.
 Of course when given a choice between Busch Gardens and a hike, he chose Busch Gardens... maybe because he is spending the rest of the summer hiking! Kieran took an instant liking to his long-lost uncle, and pretty much wanted nothing to do with anyone else whenever he was around.  It was endearing to say the least, and I am so glad these two got so much bonding time. We had a great day at Busch Gardens, despite the downpour.  After the downpour most of the park was cleared out so Andy and I spent the most terrifying few minutes of our lives on the Verbolten!!! 
We watched the Irish show again during a downpour that closed the animal area of the park. The show was stellar all over again. Totally worth the price of admission! ;) 

 Isn't that picture great?  Yeah, that was 5 minutes before I realized I had lost my wallet at Busch Gardens!  I ran to the lost and found after searching where I had been, and it wasn't there. As I ran back my mom and Andy and the kids had rode one ride before realizing that the park was being evacuated and shut down due to severe storms. They advised everyone to seek shelter. WOAH. And I decided to run to the back of the park and ask all the park attendants if they had seen my wallet. I was running in as everyone else was trying to get the heck out!  Finally I found a lady who had in fact turned my wallet over to security, so as the sky darkened I ran back to lost and found where I waited FOREVER!!! The park called a CODE RED meaning no one was allowed out of the buildings. there was a wild storm and then came the CODE PURPLE which meant tornadoes were on the horizon.  They made me stand in the middle of the building away from the windows... I was the only one left in the park it seemed and my wallet was somewhere with some security guard.  Finally, the storm let up about an hour after the park closed. I went up to the lost and found people and asked if it was logistically possible to get my wallet before the next wave of bad weather came.  Then the head of security picked up his walkie talkie and 2 minutes later I had my wallet, my license and all my credit cards in my hands!! THank God! I grabbed my wallet and ran through the lightning bolts to the van! I am so happy that story ended well. And from now on, I am only bringing cash into the park with my pass!  You should have seen the buckets of cell phones (and really nice ones), wallets, purses, debit cards, hats, and oh, the cameras that were hanging out in the lost and found. I felt a lot less dumb because I am sure some of those lost cameras or phones were worth more than everything in my wallet put together! lol!

 On Sunday Anastasia finished up her year of ballet with her performance of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star!  She did a great job and wasn't a bit nervous. In fact she said afterwards, "I wish I could be on stage forever!" Someday little one, maybe someday.  Sadly I had issues with my camera (user malfunction! haha) so I didn't get a video. :(  But I did sign both girls up for ballet next year so I will have to be better prepared!  And you should have seen all the tiny ballerinas in their fluffy tutus. It is enough to melt your heart ten times over! :)
 My oh my is my little Anastasia growing up so fast!
We had a fantastic feast after the ballet show with the whole family over.  On Monday I drove Andy to the airport... twice. We ended up at the wrong airport and drove into DC to Reagan National.  It was actually fun driving near our old stomping grounds and Kieran and I enjoyed watching the planes take off for a while before leaving the airport with a cup of coffee in hand.  What fun!  And now I am waiting on my cherry jam to finish up...  YUM! Have I mentioned that I loooooove summer? Because I do.

Happy trails Uncle Andy. And Happy trails to you all!