Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Christmas in July: Christmas Eve and Christmas Day

We didn't have Connor for the actual Christmas holiday this year, so we did things a little differently than we do in the years he comes home on Christmas Eve.

Adam and I went to my parent's house on Christmas Eve afternoon. My Grandma had insisted when she was in the hospital that my mom buy all of us Christmas presents on her behalf, and mom had told her everything she had purchased just a few days before she passed. We opened those gifts, which was super bittersweet.

After we were done with that, one of my sister's friends came over to join us for the evening. She snapped this fun photo of us in front of my parent's Christmas village tree.


We had dinner and then spent the evening playing games and drinking wine. This was definitely a different kind of Christmas Eve for our family, but it was really fun. I'm glad we did something different since it was our first one without Grandma.




When Adam and I got home, Tucker was glad to see us.


I think Adam and I watched a Christmas movie and then went to bed. It was sort of a non-traditional Christmas Eve, but we enjoyed it!

I don't have any pictures from it, but Adam and I spent Christmas Day relaxing and seeing movies. We started our day by sleeping in, and then we cooked a nice breakfast for just the two of us. In the early afternoon, we drove over to Green Hills. We had decided to spend the day seeing two movies, and one of them wasn't being shown at our town's cinema. We stopped into a CVS to grab some candy and first went to see Passengers. We really enjoyed it!

When we finished that movie, we went upstairs to buy tickets for La La Land, but it was already sold out. This was the movie we'd come here for, so I was kicking myself we didn't go on and get tickets before our first show.

Since we had nothing else to do, we drove across town to Opry Mills to see if we could get a ticket for it there. Fortunately, they had plenty. As we walked in, I said something about it being a musical, and Adam was surprised. He had no idea. Fortunately, in the end, I think he enjoyed it as much as I did!

We went home and watched Christmas Vacation while we drank Christmas wine from The Biltmore that we'd been saving for a while. Then, it was off to bed to rest up for Christmas with Connor!

Monday, July 17, 2017

4th of July Fun

Since Connor has two homes, he rotates his holidays each year. This means we only see him every other year for all of the major occasions, including the 4th of July. Even though he wasn't going to be with us on the actual holiday this year, we still went to a fireworks tent and got a few things to shoot in the cul-de-sac with him when he was home for two weeks in June. We've been doing this every year for the last few years, and he always enjoys it!

He's old enough now that he can help Daddy.


He still loves sparklers, but his favorite thing is shooting the Roman candles to capture a photo that makes him look like Harry Potter!



This year while we were out there, a lot of our neighbors came out. Connor loved having his friends outside with him to watch a few little fireworks... seriously, we buy a little package that's all of $15 each year. It's nothing to brag about, but he thinks it's neat. It was a fun evening, and we called our early 4th of July celebration a success.

On the actual 4th of July, Adam and I enjoyed a relaxing day hanging around our house until time to drive to Nashville to board the General Jackson!


It's been on our bucket list to do this for the 4th sometime because the boat parks on the river in downtown Nashville right beside where the fireworks go off. With one of the biggest and best fireworks shows in the nation, we knew this would be a prime spot to watch them some year. With Connor not being with us this year, we decided it was time.

Once we got on board, we found that our table was really close to the stage.


Dinner was served, and it was actually really good! You never know what to expect with mass catered food, but we enjoyed it and felt stuffed.

After dinner, we made our way outside to find a spot to watch the fireworks. We managed to get a spot right on the railing and found some chairs to pull over.


We had a good 45 minute wait before the show, but fortunately it wasn't too hot outside. I don't think I was even sweating. Once it was time, we quickly felt affirmed in our decision to spend a little money to see the fireworks in this way. They were right over us!




The show lasted over 30 minutes, and I definitely think it was the biggest and best show I've seen in Nashville (I've gone quite a few times over the years).


The smoke was crazy once everything was over, too!


After that show, we made our way back inside to our table to watch the General Jackson show. All of the singing and dancing was really great, and we were literally right at the edge of the stage to watch it!


It was definitely a splurge for us to do this, and it won't be something we do often. Honestly, now that we've done it, I don't know that we'll do it again. We're just as happy joining the crowds downtown and finding a good spot to sit on one of the bridges. But I HIGHLY recommend this experience, whether you're a local or want to come from out of town. Spending our 4th this way did not disappoint. The only negative was that it was pretty late by the time we got home, and that was tough when it was time for work the next morning. Alas, this is always true when the 4th falls on a weeknight.

If you want to do it, just keep in mind tickets go on sale months in advance and sell out fast. I had been watching the website pretty religiously starting in November when they finally went on sale in late January. We were glad to quickly snatch up a pair!


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Christmas in July: Annual Christmas Date

Adam and I are not big on doing a lot of presents for each other. We usually do something small for one another on special occasions and holidays, but we'd much rather enjoy an experience together.

We have a tradition of having a Christmas date, and this year I decided to be the one to plan it.

We started our Christmas date (this year on 12/23) at the Nashville Zoo. We had decided to renew our membership, and the weather was pretty mild for being outside for a few hours.

There was hardly anyone there, and for the first time we were able to pet some kangaroos!



There weren't a ton of animals out, but it was neat to see the ones we could.

Then, I surprised Adam with a dinner reservation at The Old Spaghetti Factory.



We enjoyed a delicious meal together and then walked around downtown for a while.

Then, I surprised Adam with a reservation to have dessert at The Melting Pot!


After dessert, we drove over to another part of town to find some Christmas decorations that are sort of "Nashville famous."



We ended our night sneaking a few of the cookies I had made that morning for Christmas!


All in all, it was a really fun Christmas date with my love!


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Race Report: July Neighborhood 5K

This past Saturday, Adam and I knocked out our July race by running a 5K in our neighborhood. This is the third month in a row now that we have done our "race" by going for a 5K run around our subdivision. We just haven't had many great race options that were budget friendly, so we're continuing to just make it work.

We took it easy on Friday night, getting to bed at a pretty decent time what with being worn out from work and all. To be honest, we were still really tired from a late night on that Tuesday for the 4th of July (post about that to come soon). We decided to not set an alarm and just see what happened.

We woke up around 8am, got dressed, and headed outside. It was pretty cloudy, so the heat wasn't as bad as it could have been. However, the July humidity had arrived in all its force. We were sweating almost immediately, and we were definitely running slower as a result of being warm and sticky.

Not being an actual race, there's not a lot to report on. We ran a lot, but we did take some walk breaks as well as walked up the big hill. We're slowly but surely getting ourselves into better shape, but we definitely have a ways to go.

We finished up in a little under 37 minutes. It's not a great time by any means, but I was proud of us for getting out there and doing it.

It's looking like we'll be doing our August race in the same manner, and honestly it's very possible we'll do it this way for September as well. We like our goal of running a race every month to help keep us running regularly, but it was just starting to get too expensive. I like our modified goal just fine, especially since we're also both working out in other ways, too. We sometimes go to the gym to lift weights, and I also have been doing some of the Beachbody workouts since I got Beachbody On Demand.

At the end of the day, the whole point of our goal was to get ourselves back into shape/decent fitness this year after getting out of shape while we were in grad school. We have more room for improvement, but it's nice to see some progress!

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Christmas in July: West TN Edition

Adam is originally from West TN, and his mom lives there now. In mid-December of last year, we headed that way for a Christmas shindig with his family there.

We made it to town in time for the family Christmas party.


We enjoyed lunch and a rousing game of Dirty Santa! After the party was over, Adam and I joined some of his cousins at the Moose Lodge in town for a bit (small town TN for the win) while Connor went with Gram to see her new house. While at the lodge, the power went out. It had been about 70 degrees that day, and some bad storms moved in.

Adam and I made our way back to Gram's. After sitting in the dark for a while, we decided to drive over to the next town to see the new Star Wars movie. After the movie, we made our way back and found the power was still out as we all went to bed.

Fortunately it came back on overnight. We spent the morning doing Christmas presents with Gram.




A little later in the day, we had to make the drive back home. It was nuts because it was suddenly 20 degrees and icy! Typical TN weather.


It was a quick trip, but we enjoyed getting to celebrate Christmas with family in West TN!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Christmas in July - ICE! and Santa Claus

One of our favorite Christmas traditions with Connor is to go to ICE! at Opryland and to see Santa Claus at the Bass Pro Shop (don't judge - we live in TN).

This year's theme for ICE! was Rudolph!



We had fun being silly as we explored all of the sculptures.




It's really neat how colorful and well done everything is in ICE!


After we finished, we made our way over to the mall to go see Santa. I know this was probably our last year to pull this off. To be honest, I think Connor already knew how the magic of Santa works by this past Christmas, but I appreciated being able to get another family photo like this.


While this wasn't the same day as our ICE! and Santa excursion, I love this photo of Tucker curled up on me with the tree behind him. I insist on us hanging out more downstairs during December so we can enjoy the tree.


I also get a kick out of this photo of when Adam insisted on putting a tiny Santa hat on the cat!


For those who have been keeping up, my Grandma passed on December 2. All of these activities took place right after she passed away. It was definitely a bittersweet time of balancing trying to engage in family holiday activities while mourning the loss. I'm glad that we still did some of our favorite things with Connor. I know Grandma would have wanted it that way.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Blog Going Private Soon

I have decided that I will be making my blog private sometime in the next few weeks.

If you're still reading my blog and want to continue to be able to do so, then please send me an email at melanie0513 [at] gmail [dot] com so I can add you to the list to provide you with access once I make the blog private.

There's not really a specific reason for making this decision. Nothing specific has happened to cause it. But it's been on my mind ever since I started blogging again this year, and I have finally made a decision to do it. I love being able to blog and read other blogs, but life is definitely different now than it was when I first starting blogging 10 years ago.

I just feel like it's time that I make my blog more of a space to keep up with people I know (whether in real life or via the internet) as well as more of a personal documentation space as opposed to something available to anyone and everyone.

It's also possible that I'll eventually stop blogging altogether if I decide being private isn't working for me. I'll just have to see how I end up feeling about it after being private for a while. It's also possible that I am able to better document life and share thoughts if I know my readers are limited to the people I've approved.

Time we'll tell what direction I'll go, but for now let me know if you'd like to keep reading!

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Christmas in July: Decorations!

In working through catching up on blogging the year of 2016, all I have left now is Christmas. So I've decided that I'll do Christmas in July and share about last year's holidays throughout this month!

First up - decorations!

I LOVE decorating our house for Christmas. Since Connor was home for Thanksgiving this year, we spent the day after turkey day decorating inside and outside of our house. I like adding a little something each year, and for 2016 we splurged a bit and bought a Christmas village. Connor helped Adam set it up in our dining room.


This Christmas village is actually a replica of Lynchburg, TN and the Jack Daniels Distillery. We are born and bred Tennesseans, so this is a good fit for our dining room where we have a ton of prints of Nashville sights.


Tucker helped us with checking the lights to go outside! I didn't take a picture of them this year, but we draped our bushes and front porch rails with lights and garland with lights.


We got the tree up, and I was pleased with how it came together.


We got all of the stockings hung up on the fireplace.


We placed other decorations around the house.


And we put a small tree in the front window. I'd LOVE to have our main tree in the front bay window, but that's our office... which doesn't really scream Christmas morning to me, so the main tree stays in the living room.


I love seeing our home decorated for Christmas. It always makes everything feel so cozy!

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Summer Vacation with Connor

We have taken Connor to the beach the last three summers, so we decided it was time to do something different this year. While Adam and I have been to Gatlinburg together quite a few times, we've never taken him - so it was time!

We surprised Connor first thing Monday morning and told him we had taken the week off work to go on vacation! We loaded up the car, grabbed a biscuit at Chick-fil-A, and hit the road!

As we pulled into Pigeon Forge, he finally figured out where we were going and was excited. Our first stop of the trip was at WonderWorks. He'd been there before with his other family, but it was several years ago. Since Adam and I had never been, we knew it'd be fun to do with him.



There were a lot of interactive things to do, and there was a huge indoor ropes course. We explored it all before heading out!


We stopped at the Christmas store and the Apple Barn winery, and we had dinner at Mellow Mushroom. We got checked into our hotel, and we ended the evening exploring The Island since it was within walking distance.


We were up bright and early on Tuesday to spend the day at Dollywood!!


I have always loved theme parks, and I'm so glad my boys do, too! We were there open to close, and we rode everything (and some things twice!). Connor had never been there before, and it was so fun to watch him get so excited about all the rides. He exclaimed how awesome they were each time we got off of a new one!




It was a super fun day, and Connor loved all of the roller coasters! It was really neat when we were on one at the end of the night while the fireworks were going off.

On Wednesday, we made our way into Gatlinburg and started the day with breakfast at The Donut Friar, another place he'd never been. He was pleased with his raspberry donut.


We wandered around some shops for a bit before taking him up to Ober Gatlinburg on the tram, another spot he'd never been. We spent several hours up there riding the Alpine Slide, taking the chairlift to the mountain top, riding the swings, playing putt putt, and going through a maze.






When we got back to the strip, we had dinner before meeting up with my cousin who was also in town to grab a drink with him and his crew.

Then, we took Connor to his very first real haunted house - The Mysterious Mansion. He loves all things creepy and Halloween, and he's enjoyed some of the smaller "haunted things" we've done geared toward kids. So we decided it was time for a real one. Here's the thing about kids - you truly have to teach them how to have fun. We went into it telling him how it was just going to be silly and that people would jump out and startle you, but you just have to laugh. He held on to me for dear life the whole time, but he did so great and was laughing and saying how awesome it was the whole time. I think he did better than some of the other adults in our group.


On Thursday, we checked out of our hotel and grabbed a biscuit at Hardee's before making the drive into the national park. It was a little rainy, but that wasn't going to stop us from having fun.


We drove all the way to Clingman's Dome so we could take him to another spot he'd never been - the tallest point in the Smokies!


He thought it was really neat that you could be in TN and NC up there!


We drove back to Pigeon Forge and had lunch before exploring a few more favorite spots around town. It was fun taking him into all the neat little shops and letting him explore areas of town that we have grown up going to!


We left later that afternoon to make the drive back home. It was nice that we were able to enjoy more of the Smokies before heading home since we didn't have to get back in any hurry. We got home just in time to go to bed.

We took it easy at home on Friday, especially since we were worn out and it was a rainy day. Tucker was glad we were home and enjoyed an afternoon nap on the couch with us.


We had a really great time, and it was so fun to take Connor to a place we have always loved. He had a blast and told us it was better than the beach! We'll definitely be taking him back again!